From Tales from the Italian and Spanish, Vol. III, Stories of Humor and Adventure, The Review of Reviews Co.; New York; 1920; pp. 230-243.230
NOT many years have passed since there lived in Salerno a youth of noble ancient lineage, who was called by name Giacomo Pinto. He, although he sprang from the Seggio di Porta Nova, a district which is commonly reckoned to be the school of good sense in our city, would have found a dwelling more fitting and agreeable to his condition in the mountain regions of our land, whence, according to what men say, the greater part of our ancient families derive their origin. Now this young man, albeit his purse was ill-garnished and his brain not overcharged with wit, was nevertheless endowed with the spirit of a gentleman, which led him to become enamored of a certain widow, still young and very fair, and mother-in-law to the governor of our city.
It chanced that he had never before this been in love; wherefore he began to set about his wooing in such crafty wise that there was not a child in all Salerno who was not advised thereof, and on every side, and in every place where ladies and gentlemen were wont to foregather, they discoursed concerning the same in marvelously pleasant strain, every one framing jests thereanent. But he, being pierced by a dart which he had never felt before, took little or no heed of their jesting, and pursued, albeit with no success, the emprise he had begun, inflamed the while by the strongest passion.
Amongst the other young men of the quarter in which he dwelt, who were wont every day to go gathering up some fresh matter of diversion from the follies he committed, was a certain one named Loisi Pagano. He, being a man of great talents, a pleasant companion, and of the finest 231 manners, soon won the complete confidence of poor Giacomo, so that the latter would frequently discourse with him concerning the passion which was consuming him. Loisi, becoming every day more fully acquainted with the wanderings of Giacomo’s brain, was seized with the notion that he might, by turning to mischievous jest the humors of his lovesick friend, bring to bear by means of these a sound chastisement upon a certain rascal, another Gonnell, albeit he was a Salernitan. This fellow, who took to himself the name of Misser Angelo, had never yet been punished as was his due for the cheats and juggling tricks he had been wont to put in practice all his life. Though he was nothing better than a farrier, he would go running about all parts of Italy, now in the character of a physician and now in that of a merchant, and would ofttimes return home with a pocketful of money.
It chanced one day that while Loisi was holding converse with Giacomo on the wonted topic, he addressed the lover in these words:
“My Giacomo, you must in sooth feel little or naught of discomfort by reason of your amorous pains, and have no wish to have done with the same, seeing that you might so easily put an end to them all. You know well that Misser Angelo is the most mighty and potent necromancer now alive in the earth; in good sooth I myself can bear you worthy testimony of this, seeing that in many adventures which I have taken up I have brought the same to a successful issue by reason of his aid. Moreover, this man is a natural kinsman of yours on the side of your mother. Why do you not betake yourself to him, and, plying him well with flattering words, beg him to exercise his art on your behalf, so that this affair of yours may come to a prosperous issue? As far as this matter is concerned, you will assuredly be fully satisfied with the result, supposing that Misser Angelo should be willing to help you. But, on the other hand, if it should happen that he should show himself minded to add you to the score of those others whom he may possibly have duped in the past, see that you 232 lay hands upon him in such a fashion that for the future he may never scheme how to put a trick upon a gentleman without calling you to his memory.”
Giacomo, when he heard these words, was mightily glad of heart thereanent, and gave to his companion unbounded thanks. In sooth, he was half persuaded that everything he desired was already accomplished, and declared that he would not fail to do everything which had been commanded. Then Loisi, after he had laid bare his project with considerable trouble, went as fast as his legs could carry him to find Misser Angelo, and, overjoyed the while, gave him a full account of the trap which he proposed that they two, working together, should duly set in the course of the next few days. Misser Angelo, rejoicing greatly over this new prey thus delivered into his hands, and recking naught that Loisi was to the full as desirous that he should get his hide well basted as that a trick should be put upon Giacomo, did not quit the company of his new comrade until they had duly set the affair in order and come to an agreement as to when and how it should be carried out by them.
Not many days after this, Giacomo sent for Misser Angelo, and, almost choked with tears, laid bare to him the secret of his amorous passion, which was already known at the four corners of the market-place, and then spake to him thus:
“Good kinsman, in our need those who are in truth our friends offer their help. I have just lately heard that you yourself are a great necromancer; wherefore I doubt not at all that by the help of your knowledge you will be able, supposing that you are disposed that way, to extricate me from all my troubles. So, in the name of God, I beseech you that it may be your good pleasure to set about the satisfying of my need in such fashion that I may be able to tell all men that I have not only got possession of the lady through your help, but that, along with her, I have received from you my very life as a gift.”
Hereupon Misser Angelo spake with a friendly face, and 233 made answer that he, on his part, was fully equipped with everything he would need for the complete execution of the service which was demanded of him, and, passing on from one subject of talk to another, he said, at last:
“My Giacomo, I do not fully know whether you are to be trusted in this affair, seeing that what you will have to endure will require the most dauntless courage to face.”
Then answered Giacomo: “But how can such a thing be? I would have you know that I am ready to go to the depths of hell itself, so much has love fired my spirit for this enterprise.”
Misser Angelo answered him and said: “But then a worse thing than this must needs be done, forasmuch as it will be necessary for you to go and speak face to face with a very fierce demon whose name is Barabbas, a demon whom I alone have power to make subject to my will.”
Then answered Giacomo: “If it be your will, and if necessity demands, I will hold speech with Satan himself, who assuredly is the greater.”
“Well, may God grant that it shall be as you say!” replied the necromancer; “but tell me how are we to furnish ourselves with the other implements which are necessary for the despatch of our business? To begin, we must have a sword with which a man has been slain.”
Giacomo hastened to answer: “Oh, I have a sword, one belonging to my brother, which has been the death of ten men or more.”
Then said Misser Angelo: “Since we have got this, we have got the thing which seemed to me the hardest to come by; everything else we may need we shall find without difficulty. Nevertheless, see that you have in readiness, at the time when I shall require them of you, a black wether of good size, and four capons well fattened. For the rest, you must wait patiently till the moon shall be on the wane, and leave all else to be done by me. I, in sooth, will deliver the spoil into your clutches, and you may make of her your mistress or your wife, whichever you list.”234
Giacomo, almost out of his wits for joy at the offer of such service as this, made answer that he would duly set himself to work to get everything in readiness according to the directions laid upon him. Misser Angelo then left him and went straightway in search of Loisi, to whom he set forth a complete account of the instruction he had given to Giacomo, in order that there might arise between himself and Loisi no misunderstanding as to the business, and they frequently came together, before the day came when they should set to work, rejoicing mightily the while upon the task they had in hand. When a few days had passed, during which time Giacomo never ceased importuning Misser Angelo to make a beginning, the necromancer said one day:
“Good kinsman, I on my part have all things in readiness; now have you sought out everything I directed you to provide?”
“In sooth I have,” replied Giacomo, “and in this case fortune has assuredly been kind to me, forasmuch as my sister-in-law chanced to have just now some of the finest capons in the world, and out of these I have made them bring four of the best. And, besides this, I have happened, by a very strange chance, to come upon a wether as big as a bull and as black as night, and, as he has got four horns on his head, he is indeed a thing of terror to behold.”
Misser Angelo mightily pleased at what he heard, then answered: “Kinsman, since the last few days you seem to have become quite another man; it appears, indeed, that Love has sharpened your wits in such marvelous wise that you might well go teaching sea-crabs the art of arithmetic. What man besides yourself would have known how to get in readiness so many things and in so short a time? Now I, for my part, will set you in the way we have laid out, and this very night I will come to fetch you.”
Misser Angelo then left Giacomo and went to settle with Loisi how he should await their coming at the place already determined between them when he should be assured 235 that the appointed hour had struck. As soon as night had fallen, he went to Giacomo’s house and said to him:
“Shall we set forth, forasmuch as the time is now come?”
“Certainly, Misser Angelo,” replied the lover.
And thus Misser Angelo, when the man-slaying sword had been handed over to him, and when he had hoisted the wether on his shoulder and hung a pair of the capons on his arm, led the way towards a spot where stood divers ruined houses, in one of which was already concealed Loisi, who had brought thither with him certain other gentlemen so that he might not enjoy such fine sport without letting others share it. When they had come to the place, Misser Angelo, turning towards Giacomo, said:
“Good kinsman, you must understand that we are now come to such a point in this affair that we cannot turn round and retreat without the gravest danger to ourselves; therefore see that your courage fail not. And I must not refrain from exhorting you at all times, that however dreadful may be the things you see or hear, you will never utter the name of God or of the Virgin, or even make the sign of the cross, for if you do we shall all of us be hurled forthwith into the jaws of Lucifer. If, indeed, you should feel some qualms of fear, such as are wont to creep over men in cases like these, then you may commend yourself to the burden which the ass in Egypt bore upon his back, which burden was the Holy Mother and her Son, your Redeemer, and by these means, we may, peradventure, deceive this one accursed of God.”
In answer to this speech Giacomo promised that he would well observe everything which had been arranged.
“Come now,” said the necromancer, “and take care that you repeat after me every word which you hear me say; and, as soon as we shall have conjured up Barabbas, and you have heard him cry out, ‘Give me the things with tails,’ you shall at once throw to him the capons. Likewise you shall throw him the wether as soon as he cries out for the thing with horns.”
All these directions Giacomo promised most willingly to carry out, and Misser Angelo, having fully given his orders, drew forth the sword and made a great circle on the ground, inscribing also certain mystic characters therein. Then, by means of some fire which he had brought with him for the purpose, and certain boxes of fetid gums, he made a horrible smell, and making believe to mutter his incantations with strange movements of his head and his mouth, of his hands and his feet, he said to Giacomo:
“Now put your left foot within the circle, and tell me truly which of these two things you would prefer: to see him here close before you in all his horrible deformity, or to hear him speak from that house over there?”
The poor young fellow, who, showing no little courage the while, had been led thus far by love and by his own simple nature, when he saw that the beginning of the sport promised to be of a very fearsome character, began now to feel somewhat of dread and horror, and gave answer to the magician and said that it would suffice him in the meantime to hear the demon speak. Then he put forward one of his feet within the circle, and, shaking with fear from head to foot, clean forgot all about the Jerusalem ass and called upon every saint in heaven for succor without leaving out the name of a single one.
The necromancer, perceiving by this time that the lover was persuaded they were transported into another world, said to him:
“Now call three times for Barabbas.”
Whereupon Giacomo, fearing lest something worse should happen to him, called out the name for the first time. Loisi, who was garbed in the disguise of a devil, here made a blaze of fire, and then let follow the noise of an explosion terrible enough in sooth to have stricken fear into the breast of the bravest man you can think of. It is not for us to inquire whether or not Giacomo may have wished himself safe at home; in any case, he, being nerved to the deed by Misser Angelo, called out the name of Barabbas a second time; whereupon Loisi, in the character 237 of the devil, let blaze up a greater fire than before and frightened the poor wight more than ever.
Misser Angelo, although he failed not to perceive that the little wretch was half dead, did not give over urging him to keep his heart up and to say to him:
“Have no fear, good kinsman, for we have bound him in such fashion that he will not be able to do you mischief of any sort or kind; therefore now call upon him the third time.”
Giacomo, however, in obeying the direction made his invocation greatly against his will, and spoke so faintly and his voice trembled so that his words could only be heard with difficulty. Then Loisi cast forth his third thunderbolt, and made such a horrible screeching that it wanted little more to let poor Giacomo fall to earth a dead man. Said Misser Angelo:
“Stand firm and do not fear, for he is our captive. Besides this, you must know that through me you must work the conjuration; wherefore I bid you give out in a loud voice the words which I shall tell you under my breath.”
Then, having concocted a conjuration of his own, he once more bade Giacomo take courage, and urged him on to recite the same; whereupon Giacomo, as soon as he made ready to open his mouth, felt his teeth chatter mightily and his legs quake in such wise that he could not maintain himself upright on his feet. In sooth, in such piteous case did he show himself to be that Misser Angelo began to fear whether the poor wretch might not die of alarm, and, perceiving that they had at least let the affair go far enough this time, he himself began to invoke Barabbas.
In the meantime Loisi and his companions were half dead with laughing over the fool’s play, and as soon as they perceived that the disposition of things which had been settled by Misser Angelo was not like to go on to its appointed issue, they, in order not to be tricked out of their sport by Misser Angelo, cried out, yelling fiercely:
“Give me now the things with tails and the thing with horns.”238
Then said the necromancer: “Throw him at once everything you have, and take to your heels the quickest you can, and, as you do not wish to be struck dead on the spot, do not turn to look behind you.”
Giacomo, who indeed fancied by this time that he was in the infernal world, was pleased amain to hear these words, and having flung the capons and the black wether into the ruined house, he gave his legs such free play that not even the Barbary horses who are victors in the races could have kept pace with him.
Giacomo having got back to his house, Misser Angelo after a short space of time made his appearance there, and said to him:
“Well, good kinsman, what think you now of my skill as a necromancer? Keep a good heart, however, and the next time we will carry out our intention to the full.”
Then answered Giacomo: “Nay, I would rather that those who wish me ill should go there, for I would not go back thither were I to gain the empire thereby; and on this account, good kinsman, see and use your best efforts to bring my desire to pass by some other method. Then I shall be beholden to you in an eternal obligation.”
Misser Angelo answered: “So let it be, in God’s name! I will go back to my house at once to consider the cure of your passion, so that you may in the end be thoroughly satisfied with what I shall do on your behalf.”
And after treating Giacomo to many other cozening speeches he went his way to his home.
Now Loisi, having taken possession of the animals which had been offered to him as a precious oblation, and bidden farewell to his companions, went home to get some rest. And when the morrow came he gave orders to his servants that they should, with the provisions aforesaid and with divers other good things, get ready a sumptuous repast to which he might bid Giacomo, and, besides him, certain of his friends who were privy to the affair. When they were seated at the banquet it seemed that not a single one of them could contain his laughter, and, going 239 beyond this even, they all began to cry out, “Barabbas! Barabbas!” and to utter gibes of all sorts and of such a nature that Giacomo straightway perceived how he was being mocked and flouted by every one of his convives. Whereupon Loisi, taking note of what he saw, determined that the moment had now come when his original and foreordained project might be put in execution, meaning thereby that the trickster should be punished on account of his cheating in the past by the hands of his victim.
Therefore, as soon as the banquet was finished, Loisi called Giacomo and recounted to him in a friendly wise, in the presence of a good number of the company, in what fashion Misser Angelo had contrived to befool him: whereupon Giacomo, keeping well in mind the chief purport of Loisi’s words, believing entirely in the truth thereof and with his mind filled with a deadly purpose, started off at once at the top of his speed in search of the pretended magician. Having found him, without uttering a word concerning aught else, he seized him by the hair of the head and, having cast him down upon the ground, he set to work to beat him in such savage fashion, and with such a shower of blows and kicks, that it was a marvel how the man attacked could endure them. And for the reason that his blood became mightily heated over his work, he caught up a stone with which, if he had not been seized and bound by the hands, with no small difficulty, by the crowd which assembled, he would assuredly have treated Misser Angelo in a way which would have put an end to all his knavish tricks for the future.
When he had shaken off the fit of rage which had thus taken hold of him, and had become conscious of all the follies he had committed, he was overcome with so great shame thereanent that he no longer felt he had the heart to sally forth from his abode, and on this account he made up his mind to depart from the city for good. Wherefore having sold a little farm of his which was all the property he possessed, he bought with the proceeds thereof a horse and arms, and then took his way to the wars in certain regions 240 beyond our borders, where, by the favor of fortune and by his own vigor and valiant deeds, he acquired a great sum of money in a short space of time, being reputed likewise a famous man-at-arms and marvelously wise and prudent. And, seeing that Love and Misser Angelo together were the cause of all this good luck, and that one of them received just payment for his deeds at the hands of Giacomo, it now only remains for us to ratify for ourselves the truth that wonderful, incomprehensible, and miraculous is the power of the quiver-bearing god. How happy are they upon whom he and fortune look with smiling faces!
* Elf.Ed. — Another translation of this story, by Thomas Roscoe, is included in his book, The Italian Novelists, which is also here, on Elfinspell.