From Tales from the Italian and Spanish, Vol. III, Stories of Humor and Adventure, The Review of Reviews Co.; New York; 1920; pp. 180-186.180
IN our city, abounding always with people of different tempers and nations, there dwelt, not long since, a painter called Calandrino, a simple sort of man, and a great original. He was almost always in company with two of the same profession, the one named Bruno, and the other Buffalmacco, both facetious and merry persons, but shrewd and wary enough; and they liked to be with this man on account of his oddities. There lived also in the same city a young man, called Maso del Saggio, one of the cleverest wags in the world, who, hearing much of Calandrino’s simplicity, longed to divert himself at his expense by some monstrous hoax. Finding him by chance once day in St. John’s Church, and observing him very intent on examining the carved work and painting of the Tabernacle, which was just put over the high altar, he thought he had now such an opportunity as he wanted. Acquainting one of his friends with his intentions, they came near to the place where Calandrino was sitting by himself, and pretending not to see him, began to converse together upon the virtues of different stones, whereof Maso discoursed as weightily as though he had been a professed lapidary.
Calandrino soon began to listen, and finding that their conversation was not of a private nature, he got up and joined them. This is what they wanted; and as he was going on with his discourse, Calandrino asked him where these stones were to be found? Maso replied:
“The greatest part to be met with in Berlinzone, a city of the Baschi, in a canton called Bengodi, where they tie the vines with sausages, and you may buy a goose for a penny, and have a gosling into the bargain. There is also 181 a mountain there of grated Parmesan cheese, and people upon it who do nothing else but make cheese-cakes and macaroons, which they boil in capon-broth, and keep constantly throwing down, and those that can catch most have most; and there is a river too of the best Malmsey wine that ever was tasted, without one drop of water.”
“Surely,” says Calandrino, “that must be a fine country indeed! What becomes of the capons after they are boiled?”
“Oh,” quoth the other, “the Baschi there eat them all.”
“And were you ever there?” said Calandrino.
“Was I ever there, do you say? If I have been there once, I have been a thousand times.”
“And how many miles is it off?”
“Then,” said Calandrino, “it is farther off than the Abruzzi.”
Calandrino, observing that Maso had told all this without changing countenance, or so much as a smile, received it for gospel, and said:
“It is too long a journey, or else I should like to go and scramble for those macaroons and help myself to sausages. But tell me, pray, are there none of the precious stones you were speaking of in those countries?”
Maso replied; “Two there are, which are found to be of great virtue: one of these, which comes from Montisci, they make into mill-stones, which will grind flour of themselves; whence they have a saying, That grace comes from God, and mill-stones from Montisci. Such plenty there is of them, and yet they are as lightly esteemed among us as emeralds are there, of which they have whole mountains bigger then Monte Morello, which shine gloriously all night long. Now, these mill-stones they set in rings and send to the Sultan; who gives them, in return, whatever they ask for them. The other stone is what we lapidaries call the heliotrope, which renders invisible those who have it about them.”182
“That,” said Calandrino, “is a rare virtue indeed! But where is this stone to be found?”
“It is usually met with upon our plains of Mugnone.”
“Of what size and color is it?”
“They are of different sizes, some large, some small,” said Maso, “but all of a blackish hue.”
Calandrino took care to remember all he had heard, and pretending to have other business, he went away with a design of going to seek for this stone; but first he had a mind to consult his two dear friends, Bruno and Buffalmacco, and he spent all that morning in seeking after them. Hearing at last that they were at work in the monastery at Faenza, he ran thither, and calling them aside, he said to them:
“Comrades, if you will believe me, we have in now in our power to be the richest people in all Florence: for I am informed, by a very credible person, that there is a stone in Mugnone which makes those that carry it about them invisible; therefore, I wish that we should go and look for it without delay, before anyone else finds it. We shall certainly meet with it, for I know it very well; and when we have it, what else have we to do but put it in our pockets, and go to the bankers’ shops and carry away what money we please? Nobody will see us, and we shall grown rich all at once, without having to smear walls all day just as snails do.”
Bruno and Buffalmacco were ready to burst with laughter; affecting, however, to marvel greatly at what they had heard, they highly commended their friend’s wisdom. Buffalmacco then asked him what was the name of that wonderful stone? Calandrino, having no great memory, had forgot that.
“But what have we to do with names,” he said, “so long as we know the virtues of things? I think we should go and look for it immediately.”
“But,” quoth Bruno, “what sort of stone is it?”
“They are of all sizes, but generally black; therefore I am of opinion that we should pick up all the black stones 183 we see till we meet with the true ones: so let us lose no time.”
“Stay a bit,” quoth Bruno; then turning to Buffalmacco: “Calandrino speaks very sensibly,” said he; “but yet I do not think this a fit time, for the sun is now very hot, and shines with such luster that those stones may appear whitish at present which are black of a morning: besides, this is a working-day, and many people are now abroad who, seeing us employed in that manner, may guess at our business, and perhaps get the stone before us, and we lose all our labor. We had better, I think, go about it in the morning when we can more clearly distinguish colors: and on a holiday, because then no one will see us.”
Buffalmacco was decidedly of the same opinion; Calandrino acquiesced; and so it was agreed that they should all three go out on Sunday morning; and, in the meantime, Calandrino begged above all things that they would speak of the matter to no one, because it had been told him as a secret. At the same time he let them know what he had heard of the country of Bengodi, swearing that every word was truth.
As soon as he was gone, they agreed between themselves what to do. As for Calandrino, he was on thorns till Sunday came, when he rose at daybreak, and called upon them; and going through St. Gallo’s gate, they went into the plains of Mugnone, and began to look for the marvelous stone. Now Calandrino stole along before the other two, skipping from one place to another, where he saw anything of a black stone, and putting them all into his pockets. And whilst his companions were picking up here and there one, he had filled his pockets, bosom, and coat-skirts, which he had tucked up for that purpose with his belt. Seeing him thus laden, and it being now dinner-time, one of them said to the other, just as had been previously concerted between them:
“Where is Calandrino?”
“I do not know, but he was here just now.”184 “Here or there, I warrant he is gone home to his dinner, and has left us here upon a fool’s errand.”
“We are rightly served for being such fools as to believe him. Who but ourselves could ever have thought of finding such sort of stones here?”
Calandrino, hearing what passed between them, took it for granted that he had the true stone, and so was invisible: and being overjoyed at his good luck, he resolved to go home without speaking a word, leaving them to follow if they would. Buffalmacco, perceiving his intent, said to Bruno:
“What shall we do? Why not go home, as he has done.”
Bruno replied: “what should we stay any longer for? But I vow to God, Calandrino shall put no more tricks upon me. If he was as near me now as he has been all this morning, I would give him such a knock on the leg with this pebble that he should have cause to remember it.”
As he was speaking the words, he let fly at him. Calandrino cut a caper, and clapped his hands to his leg, but never said a word, and got along as fast as he could. Buffalmacco took up another stone and said:
“And I would touch him on the back with this.”
So they kept pelting him all the way to the gate of St. Gallo, where, throwing down the rest of their stones, they let the guards into the secret, who humored the thing, and let Calandrino pass as if they had not seen him. So he went on, without stopping, to his own house, which was near to the mills; and fortune was so favorable tot his joke of theirs that nobody said a word to him all through the city: and indeed he saw but few persons, because they were mostly at dinner.
Coming thus loaded home, he met his wife at the top of the stairs; and she being provoked at his long stay, fell upon him in a violent manner, saying:
“The devil sure has possessed the man, that he will never come home till everybody has dined.”185
Hearing this, and being sensible that he was now see, he roared out in wrath and vexation:
“Oh! thou wicked woman, art thou there? Thou hast undone me; but I will be revenged on thee for it.”
And, throwing down all his stones, he ran violently at her and bear her most unmercifully. In the meantime his two friends, after they had laughed a little with the guards at the gate, followed him, at a distance, to his house; and on coming to the door, heard him beating and abusing his wife. Making believe s if they were just come back, they called aloud to him, whilst he, all in a heat and weary, looked out of the windows and desired them to come up: this they did, seemingly much out of temper, and seeing the stairs covered with stones, and the wife beaten and bruised and crying piteously in one corner of the room, and Calandrino in another, all unbuttoned and panting like a man quite spent, they said:
“Why, how now, Calandrino! Are you going to build, that you make all this preparation? And you, madam, how comes it to pass that you are so misused?”
Btu Calandrino, quite fatigued, and vexed also for his supposed loss, could not muster breath enough to make them any answer. Buffalmacco therefore began again.
“Calandrino,“ said he, “if you were angry with any other person, you ought not to have made a jest of us, as you have done, in leaving us yonder like a couple of fools; where you carried us to seek for a precious stone, and then went away without saying a word; but be assured you shall serve us so no more.”
“My friends,” replied Calandrino, after much ado, “do not be in a passion; the case is different from what you imagine. Indeed I found the stone; and observe, I pray, whether it was not so. When you inquired after me the first time, I was then close to you; and as ou were coming away without seeing me, I then walked before you.”
He then repeated to them everything that they had said and done on the way, nd showed the bruises on is back and legs; after which he went on to say:186 “And as I was coming through the gate, laden with these stones, the guards let me pass unmolested, though you know what a fuss they always make, and how they examine everything. Besides, I met with divers of my friends in the street, who are continually teasing me to go in and drink with them, but not one of them said a word, because they never saw me. At last, when I cam home, I met with this devil of a woman here, who straightway saw me, because women, you know, make everything lose its virtue; and so I, who was on the point of being the happiest man in Florence, am now the most unfortunate; and it was upon that account that I beat her as long as I could lift my hands, and I could tear her to pieces for it. A curse upon the hour I first saw her, and when she came into this house.”
During this narration Buffalmacco and Bruno seemed to wonder very much, and frequently corroborated what Calandrino said, though they were fit to die with laughing. But when he was going to beat his wife a second time, they interposed, telling him that she was not the person to blame in the case, but himself, for he should have given her notice to keep out of the way all that day; and that his disappointment was owing either to his ill-fortune, or else it was a judgment upon him for deceiving his friends; for after he knew that he had found the stone, he ought to have told them of it. At last, with great difficulty, they made peace between him and his poor wife, and left him still sad and moody, with his house full of stones.
* Elf.Ed. — Thomas Roscoe is not credited as the translator, but this story is included in his book, The Italian Novelists, also here on Elfinspell. In this series, the spelling is Americanized and there are minor changes in punctuation and format, mostly more paragraphs than in Roscoe’s translation. To see the original version go [here].