From Tales from the Italian and Spanish, Vol. III, Stories of Humor and Adventure, The Review of Reviews Co.; New York; 1920; pp. 114-116.114
A CERTAIN Persian peasant chanced one morning to be carrying a fine kid to market, riding upon his ass with the dainty animal following him. The better to secure his charge, he had tied a little bell to its neck. He had journeyed about the distance of two miles when he had the ill luck to fall in with three robbers, famous in those parts for the audacity and cunning of their thefts.
“Lo!” said one of them to his companions, as he beheld the countryman approaching, “here comes a fine fish for our net; I think he is worth hooking. I will bet you what you please. I can run away with that pretty kid without the stupid wretch perceiving it.”
“And I,” said the other, “that I will take the beast he rides upon with his own permission, and he shall moreover thank me for it.”
“Pshaw!” cried the third, “why boast of this? It is mere child’s play, unworthy of our skill and of the reputation we enjoy. For my part, as you have left me nothing else, I will strip him of the very clothes he has on his back, and he shall salute me by the tender names of benefactor and friend.”
“To the trial, then,” cried all three at once.
“Let the first boaster,” said the last, “proceed to work first.”
So forth he stepped, following the poor rustic quietly at a distance. Soon unloosing the bell from the kid’s neck with infinite dexterity, he tied it to the ass’s tail, and away he went with the kid in a contrary direction. The poor man, still hearing the tinkling of the bell, concluded all was safe behind him, and merrily jogged along his way. 115 At length, however, he happened to turn round, and hearing the bell but not seeing the goat, he was greatly puzzled what to think or which way to look, running hastily in different directions, and inquiring of everyone he met whether they had seen his kid and the thief who had stolen it. The second robber, upon this, coming forward, said:
“It is true I saw a man running away in that direction just now: he had a goat, and I will be sworn it was yours.”
So away went the countryman, leaving his ass in the thief’s care, and thanking him at the same time for his kindness. After running himself out of breath, he found his search was all in vain; and making a few more unavailing efforts in various directions, he was fain to return, as he fondly dreamed, to his ass, which he had left in the kind stranger’s protection.
“Alas!” he cried, “where is my friend? where is my donkey? Surely, surely the thief has not stolen them!”
Perceiving at length the full extent of his misfortune, he began to blaspheme bitterly, cursing the day he was born, and Mahomet, and all the prophets.
“But the next rascal who imposes upon me,” he cried, “must be made of very different stuff.”
Whilst he was in this way defying all the powers of mischief to league against him in future, and committing a thousand extravagances, he happened to hear a deep groan uttered not far from him, and going a little farther, he found a man weeping bitterly. The rustic said:
“What is the matter with you that you make such a lamentable noise? Do you think that you are as unfortunate as I am, who have lost two beautiful beasts, a goat and an ass, at a single throw? I was going with my kid to market, when, lo! two detestable monsters in the shape of thieves have robbed me of all I had in the world, the foundation of my future fortunes.”
But the third robber only replied: “Get thee gone, fool, and do not pretend to compare miseries with me! Why, I have dropped a case of the most precious jewels, directed to the cadi, into this well; the value of them would not 116 only buy all the asses and goats in the world, but all Persia into the bargain; and what is more, if I do not find them, the cadi will hang me up by the neck.”
On saying this, he again commenced his cries, to such a doleful tune that not even the unhappy rustic was proof against them.
“Then why not strip and dive for them, instead of raising all this clamor?” he cried; “the well is not so deep as to drown you, nor to break your neck if you should fall.”
“Alas!” said the thief, “I can neither dive nor swim; I should assuredly perish! Would anyone take compassion on me and go down, I would give him ten pieces of gold to find them.”
“Would you so?” exclaimed the joyous rustic, snatching at the offer; “This is an opportunity to redeem my losses with a vengeance. It will pay me double, both for the goat and the ass.”
Forthwith he proceeded to strip himself; then balancing himself on the edge of the well, he sprang in, plunging and diving, and swimming in all directions; yet all in vain, for no treasure was to be found.
At length, having explored all the corners, he was glad to get out again, and looked somewhat anxiously for his clothes, as he found it beginning to be very cold. What a consummation of his sorrows! He beheld neither his friend nor his garments; and, for the third time, he perceived too late that he had been cheated. To crown his misfortunes, he was compelled to return home in this pitiable condition, where his wife first began to ridicule him, and then gave him a sound beating.
* 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].