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From Tales from the Italian and Spanish, Vol. III, Stories of Humor and Adventure, The Review of Reviews Co.; New York; 1920; pp. 78-80.



[Translated by Thomas Roscoe*]

The gruesome humor of Italy is well represented by this sixteenth-century joke. Other specimens of this kind of comedy, which has a peculiar fascination for the Italians, are The Courier’s Defense, a few pages back, and The Fearsome Man, A Fifteenth-Century Spiritualist, The Gallows Ghost, A Shouting Corpse. The nearest approach to it in modern humor is some of the stories of funerals told in Scotland.

IN olden times, at least some ninety years ago, there lived a certain shopkeeper named Girolamo Linaiuolo, who was remarkable for some green beauty-spots upon his visage. His shop was situated exactly opposite to that of mine host of the “Bell,” a favorite resort of travelers, one of whom, crossing the way, addressed him one day as follows:

“Surely I saw you hanged the other day at Milan. How have you contrived to rise again from the dead?”

But Girolamo denied that he had ever been hanged, and that there was any resurrection in the case.

“Don’t tell me so,” returned the other, “for I saw you stretched out upon your bier, and I counted exactly the same number of marks upon your face, just sixteen, as you have now. The priests were singing In die illâ tremendâ; and, moreover, I tell you that you have had two wives; you have such and such marks on your arm and on your side; and your second wife, who told us so, is now married again to Ambrogio da Porta Comasina, my own servant. What think you of that? Do you think I should say so much if it were not true?”

At these words Girolamo turned very pale, exclaiming, “Alas! what did I die of then? I was never hanged.”

“Well, if you do not like to call it so, I am sure you died very suddenly; thousands can bear witness to that, and 79 you ought still to be dead; take a looking-glass, look at yourself, and you will find how it is.”

Trembling in every limb, the poor shopkeeper stole a hasty glance at the glass, and beholding himself looking so like a corpse, without further disputing the truth of what was said, he wrapped his mantle about him, and, drawing his hat over his eyes, made the best of his way towards Cestello, where he had a house. By the way he tried to console himself, saying:

“At all events, there will be no more trouble in this world for me; no more ‘Buy, buy, please to buy!’ ‘Sell, sell!’ ‘Please to try this, signor,’ and, ‘Run, you rascal boy, with these to the gentleman!’ No, my shop must be shut up; there is an end of all this now.”

So, convinced that he had departed this life long ago, as it had been so clearly demonstrated by the traveler, he immediately pulled his clothes off and laid himself out the moment he reached home. Placed in his winding-sheet upon a large table, with a taper burning, and a cross at his head, with two more blessed lights, which he had borrowed for the purpose, burning at his feet, he patiently awaited his interment. His wife coming in, and seeing him thus ready prepared for his funeral, far from showing the least inclination to disturb him, sounded the alarm, and affected to weep over her dear husband’s death. Of course no one pretended to dispute it, and it was determined that our hero should be interred in all due form.

Fortunately, however, two of his friends had witnessed his interview with the traveler, of whom one agreed to take the care of his shop, while the other followed him to observe the result. Finding he was so intent upon being buried, they resolved to humor him, and prepared him a vault in San Lorenzo, where they actually interred him. But, at the same time, they had the kindness to furnish it also with a table of provisions, and two other persons were interred alive to keep him company and take care of him. After enjoying a good sleep, our hero opened his eyes in his new abode and saw a table full of refreshments, 80 with two guests seated there enjoying themselves. Gazing round him some time as he lay there in a state of suspense, he at length began to feel extremely hungry, and addressing himself to the guests, said:

“Do the dead eat, then?”

They replied, “Yes, indeed they do, signor!”

Upon which Girolamo immediately rose and joined them, doing ample justice to the good things he found there. “What shall we do next?” he inquired, when they had concluded their feast. “Why, I think we had better go home,” replied one of the others; “let us think of looking after our business according to the Lord’s commandment; for those who will not work shall not eat, you know.”

“Blessed be the name of the Lord!” cried Girolamo; “if I can only contrive to accomplish my resurrection for the second time, I shall be truly delighted.”

“Come then,” said the other, “I dare say it may be done, if you will lend a hand here”; and so saying, all the three put their shoulders to the task, and at last removing the covering of the vault, they walked quietly home together.

But though our hero afterwards committed a thousand follies and extravagances, to the no small entertainment of the neighborhood, he had never again the good luck to rise from the dead. The next time of his disappearance, which was caused by a cruel malady, he was no longer so fortunate. It was by far the most serious decease of the three, and having already continued about ninety years, he may possible during that time have got the megrims out of his brain.

*  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]

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