Ninth Diversion

Of the Fifth Day

Cenzullo objecteth to take a wife, but cutting one of his fingers upon some curdled milk, he desireth to have one, red and white like unto that which he hath just made of curdled milk and blood; and for this reason he wandereth like a pilgrim through the world. Coming upon the Island of the Three Ghulas, he receiveth three citrons, and in cutting one of them he gaineth a beauteous damsel as he desired. She is slain by a black slave, and he taketh in change the black for the white, but discovering the treachery, he commandeth the slave to be slain, and the fairy, returning to life, becometh queen.

It is impossible to say how much the story of Paola pleased the company; but it being now Ciommetella’s turn to speak, the prince having given her the signal, she spake thus:

Spake sooth that sage who said, ‘Say not what thou knowest, and do not what thou canst do; for both the one and the other carry unknown danger and unexpected ruin;’ as ye will hear of a certain slave (speaking with respect of our lady the princess) who, attempting to do all the evil in her power to a damsel, caused so much wrong in the question that she became the judge of her own error, and sentenced herself to the punishment she well deserved.

The King of Torre-longa had a son who was his right eye, and upon whom he had laid the foundations of his hopes; and he longed for the time when he could choose his son a fair and wealthy bride, and have the joy of being himself called grandsire. But this young prince was so wild and cold an exotic that, whenever they spake of his taking unto himself a wife, he shook his head, and was distant an hundred miles from that purpose, so much so that the poor father, who beheld his son headstrong and obstinate, fearing that his race might be lost, became wroth, and spiteful, and ill-humoured like a whore who bath lost her account, or a merchant whose partner hath failed, or a farmer whose donkey is dead. Neither could the tears of his father move the prince, nor the prayers of his lieges soften him, nor the rede of men of weal take him off his feet; it was idle to put before his eyes the wishes of him who had begotten him, the need of the people, his own interest as he was the last and the full stop of his race; for with the perfidiousness, and obstinacy, and ostentation of an old mule that hath a skin four fingers thick, he stuck down his feet, stopped his ears, and hardened his heart so that no one could sound the alarm, try as they might. But because as much is sure to happen in an hour as in an hundred years, thou mayst not say, ` I shall not pass this way.’ It so fortuned that one day of the days, the table being spread, and as all were sitting to their midday meal, the prince, wishing to cut some curdled milk in the middle, and chattering the while, and hearkening to the gossip that went round, accidentally cut his finger; and two drops of blood fell upon the curdled milk, thus causing such beauteous and such graceful blending of colours, that, either it was a punishment of love, that waited for him at every step, or the will of Heaven, to console that man of weal his sire, for, though he had never been molested by the domestic colt, he was molested and tormented by this wild colt of finding a damsel so white and red like that curdled milk and his own blood; so one day he said to his sire, ` O my lord, an I do not win my wish I am lost. Never had I any longing for womankind, but now I long with sore longing for a damsel like unto mine own blood. Therefore do thou resolve to allow me to fare around the world, and lend me thine aid, and provide me with the needful, that I may go and seek this beauty like unto this curdled milk, an thou desirest to see me in health and in life, otherwise I shall end the course of my existence, and go to rack and ruin.’ And the king, hearing this beastly resolution, felt as if the palace had fallen upon him, and he was stunned and amazed, and his colour yellowed, and when he came to himself and could speak, he said, ` O my son, core of my soul, eye-babe of my heart, crutch of my old age, what hath turned thine head? Hast thou lost thy wits? Hast thou lost thy brains? Either ace or six; thou wouldst not take unto thee a wife to give me an heir, and now thou longest for her, to drive me out of this world. Where, 0 where dost thou wish to wander in exile, consuming thy life, and leaving thine home: thine home, thy fireside, thy resting-place? Dost thou not know to how many travails, and troubles, and dangers thou exposest thyself in travelling? Chase away from thee this whim; be thou corrected; do not wish to sec this life struck to the ground, this house fallen, this realm ruined.’ But these and other words which he said entered in at one ear and came forth from the other, and they were all cast into the sea; and the unhappy king, seeing that his son was a church-steeple owl, gave him leave to depart, presenting him with a bagful of golden crowns, and two or three servants to serve him, and feeling his soul departing from his body, he looked out of one of the terraces of his palace, and followed him with his eyes till he was lost to sight.

The prince, having left his sire wretched, and in despair, and embittered, wandered on through wilds and wolds, hills and valleys, forests, and plains, and declivities, seeing various countries,treating divers peoples, and always keeping his eyes open to see if he could find the target of his desires. At the end of four months he came to a port in France, where he left his servants at the hospital with a pain in their feet, and embarking alone aboard a Genoese ship, and passing the strait of Gibraltar, thence he took place in a larger vessel, and sailed towards the Indies, seeking from realm to realm, and from province to province, and from land to land, and from street to street, and from house to house, and from den to den, if he could meet with the original of the beautiful image he cherished in his heart. And he wandered, and twisted his legs, and moved his feet so long that he arrived at the Island of the Ghulas, where casting anchor, he went ashore. There he met an old dame, very thin, and with an hideous face, to whom he related the cause that had brought him in those countries. The old woman was struck with amazement, when she heard the fine caprice and the capricious chimera of this prince, and the travails and the risks he had passed to gain his end, so she said to him, ` O my son, do thou swiftly disappear, for an thou wert seen by my three daughters, who are the slaughter-house of all human flesh, thou wouldst not be worth three coppers; because half living and half roasted, a pot will be thy bier, and a belly will be thy grave; but let thy feet be an hare’s, and thou wilt not have to fare far to find thy fortune.’ When the prince heard this, he was affrighted with sore affright, and wondered with excessive wonder, and therefore he hastened in his way, without even saying by your leave, and he well rubbed his shoes till he came to another country, where he found a second old woman more hideous than the other, to whom he related the affair, and she said to him, ‘Melt, depart from here, an thou wilt not serve as breakfast for my children, but hasten thee on, for night is near, and a little further on thy way thou shalt find thy fortune.’ When the prince heard this, he wended on his way without tarrying a single moment, just as if he had a couple of bladders tied to his tail, and he fared so long that he met a third old dame, who was sitting by the side of a wheel, with a basket full of sweetmeats and comfits, and she was feeding some asses who, after eating, capered and jumped by the shore of a river, kicking at some swans that were there. The prince, coming to the old woman’s presence and saluting her, related to her the story once more, and the cause of his pilgrimage, and the ancient dame with fair words consoled him, and gave him a good breakfast, so that he licked his fingers, and arising from the table, she consigned to him three citrons, which seemed to have just been gathered from the tree, and gave him also a fine knife, saying, ‘Thou mayest return at once to Italy for thy spindle is full, and thou hast found what thou seekest; wend thy ways therefore, and as thou art not far from thy realm, at the first fountain thou comest to cut one of the citrons, from out of which will come forth a fairy, saying, “Give me a drink;” and do thou quickly supply her with some water; otherwise she will melt like quicksilver; and be solicitous with the second, and quick with the third so that she escape thee not, giving her to drink at once, and thou shalt have a wife according to the desire of thy heart.’ The prince, overpleased, kissed that hairy hand, which seemed like a porcupine’s back, an hundred times. Then, taking leave of her, he departed from that country, and fared to the sea-shore, and there he took ship for the Pillars of Hercules, and arrived at our sea: and after a thousand storms and tempests he entered port one day’s journey from his own kingdom. And he arrived at a charming grove, where the shadows formed a palace for those prairies which desired not to be seen by the sun; and he dismounted at a fountain, which with its silvery tongue called the folk to drink the cool, crystalline water, and sitting on the grassy carpet purflewed with flowers, and drawing forth the knife, he began to cut the first citron, when behold, a beauteous damsel sprang forth white like milk and cream, and red like a strawberry, who said, ‘Give me a drink.’ And the prince was so amazed that he gazed open-mouthed at the beauty of the fairy, and was not dexterous enough to give her the water, so that she appeared and disappeared at one and the same time. Whether this was a staff laid upon the prince’s head and back may be considered by him who, longing for somewhat, hath it in his hands and loseth it.

Then the prince cutting the second citron, the same thing happened, and this was the second blow he received; so making two rivulets of his eyes, the tears rained down his face and kept time with the fountain, yielding in naught to its flowing, and thus weeping and lamenting, he said, ‘Alas, how wretched am I, whenever shall I gain some good? twice have I let her escape, just as if I had the rope round mine hands; let the devil take me, for I move like a rock, when I should run like a greyhound. In sooth I have done it finely. Wake, thou wretched man, there is only one more left; and at the third winneth the king; and this knife must give me the fairy, or do a deed which slayeth.’ And thus saying, he cut the third citron, and the third fairy came forth, and said like the others, ‘Give me a drink,’ and the prince at once gave her some water, and behold she remained in his hands, a fair, tender damsel, white like curdled milk, mixed with red that seemed an ham from the Abruzzi, or a sausage from Nola, a beauty without compare and without peer, a whiteness and fairness beyond measure; and upon her hair had rained the golden rain of Jupiter, from which love pointed his arrows to wound the hearts. In that face love had painted all his wiles, so that some innocent soul should be hanged in the gibbet of desire; in those eyes the sun had lighted two luminous bodies, so that in the breast of whoso saw them fire should be set, and lightning and fire-works of sighs should be drawn; Venus had passed near those lips, giving them the colour of the rose to prick with its thorns a thousand enamoured souls; in those breasts Juno had squeezed her own, to feed with their beauty all human desires. In very sooth she was so beauteous from head to foot that ye could not behold a more comely and graceful being. The prince’s wits forsook him, and he knew not what had happened to him, and he gazed in wondering ecstasy upon this charming child of a citron, this beautiful damsel, fair in form and of stature symmetrical, this tasteful fruit, and said to himself, ‘Dost thou sleep, or art thou awake, 0 Cenzullo? Is thy sight charmed, or have thine eyes been turned, that thou gazest upon a white thing, that came forth of a yellow? What a sweetmeat is this out of the sour juice of a citron?’ At last finding that it was no dream, and that the game was true, he embraced the fairy, giving her hundreds and hundreds of kisses and pinches, and after a thousand loving words interchanged between them, that like a song were counterpointed by sweet kisses, the prince said, ‘O my soul, I will not take thee to my father’s country without that pomp and luxury worthy of thy beauty and worthy of a queen; therefore do thou climb this oak, where it seemeth that for our need nature hath formed it in the shape of a chamber, and await for my return. I will fare with all speed as if I had wings, and before this my spittle shall have dried, I will be back to carry thee, arrayed in sumptuous raiment, and accompanied as it needs should, to my own kingdom;’ and kissing her fondly, he took leave, and departed.

In the meanwhile a black slave-girl had been sent by her mistress to that fountain with a juglet, to fetch some water, and she by chance beholding in the waters the reflection of the face and form of the fairy, and believing that it was herself, wondered with extreme wonder, and began saying, ‘What is this, O wretched Lucy; thou be made so beautifully, and thy mistress sendeth thee to fetch water, and me must support this thing?’ And thus saying, she brake the juglet, and returned home, and the mistress asked of her why she had done this bad service, and she answered, ‘Me gone to little fountain and knocked the juglet against a stone.’ The mistress believed this tale and swallowed this lie, and the next day gave her a fine cask, to take to be filled with water; and she returning to the fountain, and again beholding the same beautiful image in the water, sighed deeply, and said, ‘Me is not an hideous slave, me is not a good for naught, me is nice and genteel, and yet must carry to fountain barrel?’ and saying thus, she brake open the cask, and made a thousand pieces of it, and returned home to her mistress grumbling, and saying, ‘An ass knocked against the barrel, and it fell and brake to pieces.’ When the mistress heard this, she lost her patience, and taking up a broomstick, laid it on the slave’s back with a good will, so that she felt the effects for many days. The next day the mistress took up a leathern pipe, and said to the slave, ‘Haste thee, run, thou beggarly slave, cricket-legged, broken-behind, haste thee and tarry not, and do not pick and choose, and bring me this full of water, if not I will weigh thee and slice thee like a many-feet; and I will give thee such an hiding that thou shalt for ever remember it.’ And the slave ran in haste, carrying her legs like lightning that is afraid of thunder, and filling the pipe, saw again the beauteous image, and said, ` Me should be silly, if me carried this water; ‘tis better to marry than to be a slave; and this is not a beauty to make me die a wrathful death, and to serve a coloured rnistress.’ And when she ended speaking, she took a large pin, and began to prick the leather pipe, which seemed a garden with a fountain that opened so that the water poured out in an hundred smaller fountains. And the fairy, seeing this, laughed loudly and heartily, and the slave-girl, hearing this laugh, turned her gaze upwards, and perceiving the ambush, and speaking to herself, said, ‘Thou art the cause that me got a flogging, but never mind,’ and she said aloud to the fairy, ‘What art thou doing there, O beauteous child?’ and the other, who was the mother of politeness, related all that she had within, without leaving out one iota of what had fortuned her with the prince, whom she expected from day to day, and from hour to hour, and from moment to moment, with raiment and suite to company her on her journey to his sire’s kingdom, where she would enjoy her life with him. When the wicked slave-girl heard this, she bethought herself to gain this prize, and replied to the fairy, ‘As thou expectest thy husband, let me come up and comb thine hair, and make thee fairer;’ and the fairy answered ‘Thou art welcome, like the first of May;’ and the slave climbed up, and she held out the small white hand to her, which, caught between those black paws, seemed a crystal mirror within an ebony frame, and thus she rose up by her side, and beginning to unfold her hair, the blackamoor stuck a large pin in her head in the site of memory. The fairy, feeling the pin, cried, ‘O pigeon, O pigeon;’ and forthwith became a pigeon, and flew away, whereupon the slave undressed herself, and remained mother-naked, and making a little bundle of her apparel of rags which she had been wearing, cast it far from her; and there she remained upon that tree, and she seemed a statue of black stone within an house of emerald.

In a short time the prince returned with a large cavalcade, and finding a cask of caviare where he had left a tub full of milk, for a time his wits forsook him. But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘Who bath made this blot of ink upon our royal papers, whereon I believed I should write the happiest of my days? Who hath covered with mournful hangings the newly painted white dwelling, wherein I believed I should have enjoyed my pleasure? Who causeth me to find this black touchstone, when I had left a silver mine which would have made me rich and blessed?’ But the cunning slave, perceiving the wonder and exceeding surprise of the prince, said, ‘Do not wonder, O my prince, that I am ensorcelled, and made white by bindings but of black behind.’ The unhappy prince, seeing that the evil had no remedy, like an ox growing horns, swallowed this pill, and bidding the blackamoor come down, dressed her from head to foot, beginning with her anew. Then swelling and choking with rage, and with face distorted by wrath, he returned to his own country, and when six miles distant from the capital he was met by the king and queen, who had come forth to him, ye may suppose that they were received with that pleasure with which the prisoner receiveth the intimation of his sentence. And they were saddened to behold the fine proof of madness in their son, who had wandered the world over to seek a white dove, and had brought back instead a black crow; but as they could not do otherwise, they renounced the crown in favour of the bride and bridegroom, and put the golden circlet upon that hideous black coal face.

Now whilst bridal feast and banquets the most magnificent were preparing in all pomp and sumptuousness, and the cooks were plucking geese, slaying young suckling pigs, flaying lambs, making mince-meats, roasting capons, and preparing many other tasteful viands, a beautiful pigeon came to one of the kitchen windows, saying,

'O thou cook of the kitchen,
What doth the king with that Saracen-woman?

And the cook took no heed of it; but the pigeon returned a second time and a third time, repeating the same words, when the cook, marvelling with excessive marvel, hastened to his mistress to relate the matter as somewhat wonderful; and his lady, hearing this music, ordered that the pigeon should be caught, and slain, and made a stew of. And when the pigeon again returned, the cook did all in his power to catch it, and when he caught it, he obeyed the command of the blackamoor, and having scalded the bird to pluck it, quickly threw that water and the feather into a flower-box on a terrace, where three days had not passed before a beautiful citron-tree sprang forth and grew in four pinches’ time, and so it fortuned that the king looking out of his window from the terrace, and perceived this which he had not seen before, called the cook, and enquired whence it came, and who had nurtured it. And hearing from Master Ladle all the matter, suspicion entered his mind; and therefore he ordered that the penalty of death should be adjudged to whoso should damage that tree, so that no one should touch it, and that it should be tended carefully. And at the end of a few days three beautiful citrons began to grow, the same as those given to him by the ghula, and when they were ready to be gathered, he gathered them, and shutting himself within a chamber with a large cup of water, and with the same knife that he always carried hung at his waistband, he began to cut. And it happened to him with the first and second citron as it had occurred before; lastly he cut the third citron, when the third fairy came forth, and he gave her to drink, and as he had sought, the same damsel that he had left upon the tree remained with him, and he heard from her the tale of the evil and treachery of the slave.

Who can explain the joy felt by the king at this good turn of fortune? Who can describe the fond embrace, the kissing, the sweet epithets, the proud content, the exhilaration, the trembling of ecstatical bliss? Ye may think that he was swimming in sweetness, and could not stay in his skin, and his senses left him; and supporting her in his arms, he made her array herself sumptuously, and taking her by the hand, led her into the saloon, where the courtiers, and the grandees, and the nabobs of the land were gathered together to honour the bridal feast of their lord; and he called them to him one by one, and said, ‘Tell me, O my lords, what chastisement would deserve whoso would do any hurt to this beauteous lady?’ And the reply was, from one, that such a person would deserve a rope necklace; another, that he should be cast into the sea; another, that he should be hooted and stoned by a mob of ragamuffins; and one said one thing and one another. At last he sent for the black queen, and putting to her the same question, she answered, ‘They deserve burning, and their ashes scattered from the top of the castle-walls.’ The king, hearing this, rejoined, ‘Thou bast spoken thine own sentence, and bast thrown the axe at thy feet, and thou hast built thine own gibbet, and sharpened the knife, and mixed the poison, because no one bath done her harm but thyself, thou ungrateful, wicked woman. Knowest thou that this lady is the damsel in whose head thou stuckest the large pin? Knowest thou that this is the beauteous pigeon that thou badest be slain and cooked in the baking-pan? What dost thou think of this? Shake thyself free an thou canst. Thou hast done a fine filthiness, and whoso doeth evil deeds evil expecteth, and whoso cooketh shrubs eateth smoke.’ And thus saying, he bade his followers take her and cast her alive upon a pile of burning wood, and when she was burnt to ashes, they scattered them to the winds from the castle-walls, making the old saying true in the end, that

'Whosoever soweth thorns,
let him not walk bare-footed.'

Il Pentamerone Contents

Publishers' Note

First Day
  1. Story of the Ghul
  2. The Myrtle-Tree
  3. Peruonto
  4. Vardiello
  5. The Flea
  6. The Cat Cinderella
  7. The Merchant
  8. Goat-Face
  9. The Charmed Hind
  10. The Old Woman Discovered
Eclogue--The Crucible

Second Day
  1. Petrosinella
  2. Verde Prato
  3. Viola
  4. Gagliuso
  5. The Serpent
  6. The She-Bear
  7. The Dove
  8. The Young-Slave
  9. The Padlock
  10. The Gossip
Eclogue--The Dye

Third Day
  1. Cannetella
  2. Penta the Handless
  3. The Face
  4. Sapia the Glutton
  5. The Large Crab-louse
  6. The Wood of Garlic
  7. Corvetto
  8. The Ignorant Youth
  9. Rosella
  10. The Three Fairies
Eclogue--The Stove

Fourth Day
  1. The Cock's Stone
  2. The Two Brothers
  3. The Three Anamal Kings
  4. The Seven Pieces of Pork-Skin
  5. The Dragon
  6. The Three Crowns
  7. The Two Cakes
  8. The Seven Pigeons
  9. The Crow
  10. Pride Punished
Eclogue--The Hook

Fifth Day
  1. The Goose
  2. The Months
  3. Pinto-Smauto
  4. The Golden Root
  5. Sun, Moon, and Talia
  6. The Wise Woman
  7. The Five Sons
  8. Nennillo and Nennella
  9. The Three Citrons
  10. End of the Tale of Tales