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From "The Italian Novelists" translated from the originals with Critical and Biographical Notices by Thomas Roscoe; Frederick Warne and Co.; London; [undated, <1900>]; pp. 82-93.

Novels of Sacchetti Continued




IN the castle of Pietra Santa, belonging to the state of Lucca, there resided a certain castellan of the name of Vitale, who was an honourable man, and stood very well in the world. His wife was lately dead, leaving him a son of about twenty years of age, and two girls from seven to ten years old. The boy understanding his grammar well, was thought entitled to an university education, and sent to study law at Bologna. During his studies there, his father again married, and being pleased from time to time to hear of his son’s extraordinary progress, supplied him with books and money, to the value of forty or fifty florins at a time. Now this lessening the income of the house, his father’s new wife was by no means pleased with it; and after many sour looks, she began to express her aversion to the plan more openly, saying in the true language of a stepmother, “This is money really thrown away; you may send as much as you please, but you do not know who pockets it all. ” “Why, my love, what can you mean?” said the fond father; “reflect how much we are ourselves interested in it; for if my son should happen to become judge or doctor at law, 96 we may consider our fortune made.” “Our fortune made, indeed!” returned his wife, “I think you are deceived there; he is a mere dead weight upon you, and will pull you down before long, you will see.” Continuing to revile her stepson in this strain, whenever her husband made him a remittance, she was in the habit of repeating her phrase of his being a dead weight upon the family. Such was the extent to which she carried her enmity in this respect, that it at length reached the ears of the young man, together with the appellation she had bestowed upon him. Though he said nothing, the phrase was not lost upon him; and in the course of some months, having made great progress in the civil law, he returned to Pietra Santa to see his relations. His father, overjoyed to behold him, directly ordered a warm supper to be prepared, in which was included a fine roasted capon, and invited the neighbouring parson to sup with them, who, in consideration of his cloth, took his station at the head of the table; next to him sat the father with his new wife, and then his two daughters, while the young student took his station by himself at a distance. As soon as the capon made its appearance, the stepmother, eyeing him askance with the utmost malignity, began to whisper to her husband, “Why do not you ask him to cut up the capon in a grammatical style, and you will know if he has learned anything;” which he did, observing, “As you are going to carve, my son, let us see you do it by rule of grammar.”

The youth, who had sense enough to see what was going forward, answered he would do so very willingly; and taking his knife, he cut off the capon’s crest, and handed it on a plate to the priest, saying, “As you are our spiritual father, and wear a priest’s shaved crown, I present you with the shaved crown of the capon.” Then decapitating it, he gave the head to his father. “Being the head of the family, sir, the head is justly your own.” He next cut off the bare legs, and handed them to his stepmother. “As it is your business, madam, to go up and down looking after your household affairs, and this cannot be done without a pair of legs, please to accept them for your share.” The wings were then separated, which he very politely handed to his sisters, saying, “As these young ladies ought to fly out of the house, and settle elsewhere as speedily as possible, I am happy to present them with wings to fly away with. For myself,” he added, taking the whole of the breast and body of the capon for his share, “as you know I am a corpo morto — a dead weight, madam, I rest satisfied with what is left;” and he proceeded to feast very heartily upon the tenderest parts of the bird. If the lady had before shown herself offended, she was now almost mad with vexation, murmuring, “The devil give him good of it! do you see what you have done?” she whispered to her husband, “It is all your own doing.” Nor were some of the rest of the company much more pleased; in particular the priest, who sat contemplating the capon’s crown as if it might have been a mitre. But before setting out on his return to Bologna, the youth so very humorously explained the meaning of what he had done, that he won the good-will of the whole party, not excepting his stepmother, who only wished he might never live to return.




ABOUT the time that the republic of Florence, with the assistance of its allies, succeeded in depriving the Church of Rome of a great part of the Marca, Count Luzio arrived there with more than a thousand lances, and took up his position at Macerata, on the side that goes by the name of the Gate of Santo Salvadore. On the other side was stationed Messer Rinalduccio da Monteverde, lord of Furmo, supporting his position at another gate called Porta del Mercato. On the third day they gave the assault, disputing for the possession of the city. Count Luzio, at the head of his troops, made a breach in the walls near the gate of San Salvadore in three places, though not without great loss. Now, the whole army retiring on the succeeding day into the province of Fermo, it happened one night shortly after, during the third watch, that a large watercourse, bursting its boundaries, inundated the roads, obstructing the course of the common sewer, and filling the adjacent houses, for want of another vent. A woman having occasion to go and draw some wine, suddenly found herself half immersed in water, and crying out loudly for help, many of her neighbours ran down the steps after her, and found themselves surrounded everywhere by water in the roads and houses, without knowing which way to turn. Believing a second Deluge was at hand, they all joined in a general chorus, very plainly heard by the watch, who passing it along to the guards, they hastened on their part to rouse the chief magistrates, declaring that at the gate of San Salvadore the people were crying to arms. The magistrates then said, “Listen again: what is really the cry?” The watchman soon answered, “The cry is, that the people are all in.” “In!” cried the magistrates; “where, where? It is the enemy — sound the great bell; quick — it is an onset!” The guards stationed in the square immediately beat to arms, running to the difference entrances with chain-bars and crying to arms. The whole populace, hearing the bell, turned out in mass, supposing the place was assaulted by Count Luzio; and they found the soldiers at their posts, shouting, “Who goes there?” “Who goes here?” and some cried, “Long live Ridolfo!” and others, “We are friends — we are all friends!” Such was the tumult, that nothing could be understood; the people every moment awaiting the attack of the enemy in the square. Some declared that he had already reached the Church of San Giorgio, and was on his way. But no one arriving, the magistrates at length had the boldness to send out scouts as far as the great gate; and many were those thus sent who, like the crow in the fable, with difficulty found their way back again. Among these was a certain Brother Antonio, of the order of his saintly namesake, boldly bearing a shield upon his arm, with a bell-clapper about his neck, which had that day fallen from its noisy appendage. Trying in vain to obtain some tidings, he chanced on his return to fall, like a brave man, upon his own shield; and being almost as big as a giant, he could not contrive to get rid of it, nor even to rise, lying in this situation not far from the square. Now, a person was standing 98 at no great distance from the spot, who, on hearing the horrible fall, the noise of the shield, and the vain efforts of the poor priest, gave the signal that the enemy was at hand. Upon this a party sallied forth, scouring the way, with loud cries of “Death to the enemy!” and on approaching the place where the friar lay, they exclaimed “Yield, traitor, yield!” which the good brother answered with “Help! for the Lord’s sake, help!” and appearing to entertain no hostile intentions, the party with some difficulty raised him up. They found the poor friar in a piteous plight: he was shaken to a mummy and covered with mud; for the handle of his shield coming in contact with his skull-cap in the fall, hooked fast together; it was thus impossible for him to rise without knocking himself to pieces, as he had almost done. Carried back into the presence of the priors, he there related the affair of the great inundation, and how he had nearly fallen a victim to his patriotism; for if the watch had happened to hear the tremendous noise of his fall, they would infallibly have run in upon and despatched him where he lay. As it was, however, he would never more bear a shield in battle, Providence having thus miraculously snatched him from his impending fate; and he vowed in gratitude that he would break it up into firewood on his return home. The magistrates now began to breather a little, and mustered courage enough to send the citizens home. The news of this invasion of the water quickly spread through Macerata and the adjoining country, with the particulars of Friar Antony’s fall, to the no small entertainment of the people, and more especially of the enemy.




THE neighbourhood of San Lorenzo, near Santa Orsa, in Florence, was the favourite haunt of certain blind mendicants, who were in the habit of rising early to take their respective rounds. Some took their station at the Church of the Nunziata, some in St. Michael’s Gardens, while others sang songs in the suburbs; all, however, agreeing to meet at St. Laurence’s Bell to dine, after having made their morning calls; for the host of the said inn wholly devoted himself to the entertainment of gentlemen of their cloth. It happened that two of the party were sitting together one morning after taking some refreshment, talking over the state of their affairs. “I first became blind,” said one, “about twelve years ago, since which time I have made, perhaps a hundred pounds.” “Then what an unlucky fellow I am,” cried the other, “not to have blinded myself sooner! for I have only saved about twenty.” “Why, how long have you been blind?” inquired his companion: to which the latter answered, “Not more than three years.” During this conversation, another beggar of the name of Lazzero da Corneto joined them, saying, “God bless you, my dear brothers!” “What are you, friend?” inquired they. “I am in the dark like you; what is it you were discoursing of?” and they told him. Lazzero on this said, “Well, I was born blind, and I am now forty-seven years old; if I 99 had saved all the money I got, I should now be one of the richest blind men in all Maremma.” “I can find no one,” said the three years blind, “who has not done better than myself.” He soon, however, added, in the course of conversation, “What is done is done; let us leave the past to itself, and enter into a new company. I think we three should do very well together; and we might make a common fund. We can sally out together, and take care of one another should one of us happen to get into straits.” The other two approved of the plan, and they shook hands, and swore a good round oath over the table to play each other fair. The new firm continued for some time; but a person who had happened to overhear the terms they had made, seeing them standing one Wednesday at the gate of San Lorenzo, bestowed upon one of them a farthing, saying, “ Divide this shilling among you,” a gift which he frequently repeated in the same words. The man who received it at length said, “Faith! I think it feels more like a farthing than a shilling, from its size.” “Where is it? said the others; “do not let us begin to impose upon each other already.” “How impose?” replied the man; “I put what I get into the bag, and so do you, I hope.” Lazzero here observed, “Good faith, my brethren, is a fine thing;” and so the affair stood. Though it first infused suspicions into the whole firm, still they continued to meet, and to unite their spoils every eight days, and to divide them afterwards into three parts.

About the middle of August they resolved as usual to attend the feast of our Lady at Pisa, each preparing himself for the journey with his little dog, his money-dish, and a correct version of the Intemerata, which they sang in every village through which they passed. They arrived at Santa Gonda on the Sabbath, the day fixed for the division of their spoils; and going into an inn, they requested a private room for the evening to settle their accounts. Taking possession of it along with their four-footed guides, with their cane knots in their hands, about the time of going to repose, one of them, called Salvadore, inquired what would be the best time to settle business; which it was agreed to do as soon as the whole family was gone to rest. When the time came, Grazia, the three years blind, said, ‘Come, let us sit down, and each count what he has got, and whoever has most must make it up to the others.” This being understood, they set to work, and having enumerated the whole of their gains, Lazzero said, “I find I have just five shillings and fourpence.” “And I,” continued Salvadore, “have exactly three shillings and twopence.” “So far good,” cried Grazia, “very good; and I myself have just two shillings.” “But how can that be, in the devil’s name?” exclaimed the others. “Indeed, I cannot tell,” answered Grazia. “Cannot tell!” said they; “but you must have some more shillings somewhere; you are playing us false; do you think it is the firm of the wolf and the sheep? Your name is indeed Grazia, but I think it will be Disgrazia, a disgrace, sir, to us.” The other replied, “I know not what you mean by that, sir; but if you will recollect, I told you before, that whenever that fellow said he gave me a shilling, I thought it was only a farthing. However, I put it into the bag, such as it was, and I would have you to know 100 that I am just as fair and honourable as yourselves.” “No, you are a perfect Judas,” said Salvadore, “and you cheat us in every way you can.” “Then you lie in your throat,” replied Grazia; and the next moment they began to shake their fists and to cuff each other terribly, while all their money fell upon the floor. Lazzero, hearing the strife begun, took his club, and hazarded some hearty blows in the dark to part them. Feeling the superior effect of the cudgel, both the combatants had recourse to theirs, and they all fell to work, while the whole of their spoils lay scattered on the ground. The action becoming rather warm, the dogs began to take part in it, barking and pulling at their masters to persuade them to desist. Loud was the concert they made amongst them, for their masters, feeling the effects of their teeth, began to return the compliment with their clubs, upon which the dogs howled out still more piteously. The host, sleeping in the room below, said to his wife, “Surely the demons of confusion must have broken loose above-stairs; did you ever hear such an infernal noise since you were born?” Both of them rose from bed, and taking a light, went forthwith to the room door calling for admittance. But the blind combatants were too deeply engaged to attend to them, though they heard them knocking all the while. So the host burst open the door, and proceeding to separate the party, he received a pretty smart blow over his face, on which he immediately knocked one of them down, and seizing the cudgel, he began to apply it with so much more precision, swearing all the while, that in a short time, with the help of his wife, who screamed and cuffed as women do, he remained master of the field. He ordered the whole party off, but they were scarcely in a condition to move, and one of the dogs seized the landlady’s petticoat, which it tore clean away. The floor was now strewn with the wounded and their spoils; while Lazzero declared to the host that he believed he was a dead man. “I wish you were,” replied the host, “you make such an infernal noise; so up and be packing; I will have no such doings in my house.” The blind men, in the utmost distress, entreated to be permitted some hours’ grace, being beaten black and blue, and their money being dispersed on all sides. “Money! what money?” cried the host; ‘you have nearly knocked my eyes out with that huge club.” “I lament that,” Lazzero said; “pardon us, my dear sir, for we are all of us as blind as a stone wall.” “That is no reason you should blind me too,” said the host; “so get out of my house, you rascals.” “Then be so good as to gather up our money for us, and we will go,” said one of them: which the host did, amounting to about half the original sum, observing there might perhaps be near five shillings, of which he must keep two for their entertainment, leaving them one each. He would then, he said, appeal to the vicar for damages against their dogs, which had torn his wife’s petticoat; and this would be something more. Great was the lamentation now raised by the blind men, beseeching him, for the love of Heaven, not to ruin them utterly, but take what they could afford to give and let them go. “Rogues,” said the host, “you must give me something to cure my eyes, or I shall probably be as blind as you. Besides, my wife’s petticoat cost me ever so much.” In short, they 101 were compelled to come into his terms, and give up the whole of the money which had fallen, amounting to more than half of their profits. They were then obliged to turn out, more dead than alive, well bruised and beaten, so that they cut a still more piteous figure than before, which somewhat helped to replenish their purse as they journeyed along towards Pisa. Arriving at an inn near Marti, they began to abuse each other afresh, when the host, commiserating their forlorn appearance, inquired who could have used them so. “Never mind that,” they replied, “but bring each of us a pint of wine to wash the remembrance of it away.” They had likewise to dress their wounds and set their broken legs and arms; after which Grazia thus addressed the others; “Now I will tell the honest truth. I never thrust a thief’s hand into the money-bag since we entered into partnership, and broken bones are all the rewards I have earned, besides being nearly ruined. But short folly is better than long, and I will even verify the old saying” ‘Uno, due e tre, io mi scompagno da te.’ I will have nothing more to do with you, and be witness to it, our good host.” So he afterwards proceeded on his journey to our Lady’s festival alone, leaving Lazzero and Salvadore to fight their own battles in future. As they were now all of them both lame and blind, great was the harvest which they reaped at our holy Lady of Pisa’s shrine, and they always considered their engagement as the most fortunate event in the world.



IT happened that a certain Spanish cavalier of the name of Messer Giletto, just returned from the holy sepulchre, arrived at Milan, bringing with him a beautiful ass, one of the pleasantest animals ever seen; for he would rise upon his hind-feet like a French dancing-dog, and caper as long as his master pleased, and when requested to sing, he would utter notes far more loud and sonorous than any of his race; indeed, such was its compass, that it displayed much of the variety of the human voice. Nor was this the least of his great accomplishments which attracted notice; and when his master paid a visit on him to Messer Bernabo of Milan, such was the fame thereof, that after their first introduction he immediately inquired to whom the ass belonged. The cavalier answered he was his, and one of the most amusing animals in the world. Being very richly caparisoned, after a close inspection, Messer Bernabo declared that he appeared worthy of his master’s praises, and admired him greatly. So he seated the cavalier by his side, who ordered the ass to display his paces, requesting to know if his lordship would like to witness one of his tricks. “If it be anything new, let me see it, I entreat you,” said the other, which the cavalier immediately did, to their no small diversion; M. Michelozzo, a Florentine, at the same time being present. Messer Giletto observing his lordship so amazingly diverted with his tricks, said, “You will do me great honour, sir, as I have nothing better to give, would you deign to accept him at my hands, not indeed for his value, which 102 is little, but in order to afford some amusement to your lordship’s family.” Messer Bernabo, highly gratified with the offer, accepted it, and the very same day the donor received a noble charger with more than a hundred florins in return; and after receiving many other honours, he continued his journey.

Now our friend Michelozzo, having witnessed the whole of these proceedings, also took leave of his lordship and returned to Florence, where a bright thought struck him, that if he were to present the governor with a pair of fine asses, it might be no bad speculation, and perhaps advance him greatly in his favour. So he sent his emissaries through the Roman territories, and they had the good fortune to meet with two of a superior size, which cost him forty florins. On their arrival in Florence, he had them both very exactly measured by a saddler, commissioned to purchase the requisite quantity of fine scarlet and cloth of gold, who decked them out in the most splendid style, not omitting even to adorn their comely ears. The arms of the Visconti were likewise emblazoned on the neck and crest; those of the owner being placed lower down, approaching the feet. Two handsome pages, one on horseback and one on foot, with a groom to urge them from behind, were next ordered to convey these beautiful animals very carefully, to be presented on his part to the said lord.

Great was the admiration of the Florentines as the procession passed along the streets; and what it was, and where it was going, was the general cry. “They are asses, cannot you see?” replied the page, “a present from Michelozzo to Lord Bernabo.” Some thought it very fine, some made faces and shrugged up their shoulders, while others declared it was all a piece of folly, such as they should not easily see again; with other commentaries, of which the mouth of the people is usually full.

Having reached the gate of San Gallo, their splendid accoutrements were removed and carefully packed up, until they were about to enter Bologna, when the asses were again equipped, in order to attract the admiration of the citizens; among whom the same questions as before took place: except that they were here mistaken for chargers going to enter the lists. This favourable opinion one of the animals, however, destroyed by braying in a most discordant tone, which elicited a shrewd remark from an old citizen: “Faith, I believe they are only a pair of stupid asses.” “Yes, sir,” said the page, “which a gentleman of Florence is going to present to my lord of Milan.” “But,” rejoined the citizen, “he ought to have put them in a cage, as they sing so well.”

On arriving at the inn of Felice Ammannati, the entertainment was doubly renewed, every one declaring it the greatest wonder that had ever been known. “But I trust,” said the facetious host, “that though these carcases are really going to the governor, they will leave behind them what I value much more for the benefit of my fields, unless it is to be forwarded to your master in Florence.” After a hearty laugh, the beasts proceeded on their journey; and such was the impression their appearance everywhere made, that their fame travelling before them, several miracles were said to have happened 103 as of old in Parma, Piacenza, and Lodi ere they reached their destination. When they at length arrived there, the groom knocked at the city gate, informing the porter they had brought a rich present to his lord Bernabo on the part of Michelozzo, a gentleman of Florence.

The castellan observing through the wicket two asses thus gorgeously arrayed in scarlet trappings, hastened to acquaint his master with the fact. The governor, in no little perplexity on hearing this, gave orders that they should be admitted, when the head page explained the nature of his embassy, presenting the asses on the part of Michelozzo to the lord of Milan. The latter immediately replied, “You will tell your master that I am sorry he should think of thus depriving himself of the company of his companions, leaving himself behind; and so I bid you good day.” He then sent for one of his officers, of the name of Bergamino da Crema, commanding him to take the scarlet cloth, and to get a dress made of it for himself, and another for one of his muleteers; and to place the emblazoned coats of arms, one in the front, and one on the back of each dress, with those of Michelozzo below, when they were to await his further orders. Bergamino then went, and disposing of the asses in a stable, took possession of their rich accoutrements, sending the same day for a tailor to measure and cut them up into dresses for himself and three other muleteers of the court. This done, they proceeded to load the asses, and going out of Milan, they soon returned with them, bringing corn, and attracting the attention of the people wherever they passed along. On inquiry into the occasion of these fine scarlet dresses, “Michelozzo,” replied they, “a Florentine gentleman, presented them to us, and so we wear them out of regard to the donor.” Bergamino next ordered the clerk of the governor to return a suitable reply to Michelozzo, how they had received the asses adorned with scarlet robes, and speedily put them under a course of burdens, finding them exceedingly useful in the service of his master, while their drivers had arrayed themselves in the rich trappings they formerly wore, besides displaying his coat of arms below that of their master, with all which, in honour of the donor, they had that day made a solemn procession with their burdens through Milan, attributing the whole honour to himself. This letter was signed and sealed, and sent, bearing the signature in proper form of “Bergamino da Crema, Equipage-master and Mule-driver to his Excellency the Lord of Milan,” &c. &c., directed “To my brother Michelozzo, or Bambozzo de’ Bamboli, of Florence;” and delivered to the messenger, who, after lingering in vain for a pecuniary gratification, set out with his despatches for Florence. On perusing he direction, Signor Michelozzo began to change colour, and proceeding to read, he grew worse and worse, till he arrived at the name of his correspondent, the master of the mules. Clasping his hands in a paroxysm of despair, he inquired of the messenger to whom he had delivered the letter, “To the governor,” replied the man. “And what answer did he give?” “He said he was sorry you should deprive yourself of your companions for his sake.” “And who gave you this letter?” “His servant,” replied he, “for I could never get to see 104 his master again.” “Heavens!” cried Michelozzo, “you have ruined me! what know I of Bergamino or Merdollino? get out of my house, and never come near me again.” “I will go or stay, just as you please,” said the man; “but I must tell you the truth: we have made fools of ourselves wherever we appeared; it is impossible to say how much you were laughed at; you would be quite astonished if you knew.” “Why, what could they say? Did no one ever make a present to a lord, think you, before?” “Yes, sir, but never of asses, I believe,” said the man. “But,” returned his master, “you were with me yourself when the Spanish cavalier made a present of his.” “True, sir, but that was mere accident; besides, his was a knowing beast, and yours are as stupid as asses need to be.” “I tell you, you lie,” said his master; “one of their feet was worth the whole body of the other ass, equipped as they were: you have ruined me, I say; and get about your business,” which the man was glad enough to do. In a short time after, our hero grew melancholy and sickened from the vexation of his adventure; in which, as the present which he made was of a novel nature, he was in return treated in a manner perfectly novel and appropriate.



THERE have generally been enumerated in the class of painters a few eccentric characters not often to be met with; and among these we may mention a Florentine of the name of Bonamico, whose surname was Buffalmacco, a great artist, who flourished in the time of Giotto. Hearing of his fame, Bishop Guido d’Arezzo sent for him to ornament one of his chapels at the time when he was governor of the same place. Bonamico immediately waited upon him, and entered into terms of agreement, commencing his task upon the spot. Before the next Saturday night, he had succeeded in drawing the figures of several saints, which he left in an unfinished condition. Now there was a monkey, or rather an immense ape, belonging to the bishop, who had observed the painter’s whole process from beginning to end, the mixing and refining of the colours, the beating of the eggs, the easel and the pencils in hand, with the daubing on the wall; so that, comprehending the whole, and seized with the spirit of mischief, he contrived the next Sunday to visit the chapel during the hour of dinner, having rid himself of the encumbrance of a clog usually attached to his hinder leg. Mounting with the greatest ease up one of the columns of the scaffold, he soon stood upon the painter’s stage, where he industriously commenced the same operation as he had before witnessed, mixing and confusing the colours in a strange way. Then taking the pencil in his paws, he proceeded to complete the labours of his predecessor in the style that many a pupil of a great deceased master has been known to do. By no means confining himself to a mere varnish, he laid a very heavy hand upon the figures, which he disguised in a hideous manner. In a short time, believing 105 he had completed the painter’s task, and that there could be no further use for the oils and colours, he threw the whole of them away, brushes, cups, and eggs flying abroad on all sides. On the Monday morning our friend Bonamico walked into the chapel, with the intention of putting a finishing hand to his figures, and when he saw the scene of confusion which lay before him, and cast up his eyes to behold his own painting, it is quite impossible to convey an idea of his sensations: they were such as only an artist in like circumstances can understand. He truly thought some Aretino, some devil of malice had been at work, and that his errand was sped. Covering his face with his hands, unable to bear the sight, he turned away, and hastening back to the bishop, informed him that his altar-piece was ruined for ever.

Greatly incensed to hear this, his Grace replied, “My friend Bonamico, you must repair the damage done, and I will reward you well. Moreover, I will give you six of my guard, with their sabres drawn; with these you shall lie in wait, and when the wretches appear, fall upon them, and cut them to pieces in a moment.” “Allow me to do that,” said the enraged painter, “and I will go. When the work is repaired, if indeed that be possible, I will send word to your Grace, and you must send me the soldiers instantly.” With much difficulty poor Bonamico’s task was at length accomplished, and, fired with the hopes of revenge, he despatched a messenger to the bishop, who gave him six armed men to lie in ambush with the painter beneath the altar. They repeated their watch several times, however, before the vile offender made his appearance; but they at last heard a noise in the church of something rolling along, and believing the wretches were come, Bonamico and his myrmidons rushed out, and beheld the ape making his way, as well as his clog and chain would permit him, towards the altar-piece. Upon this they stopped, while the offender went on, and mounting the stage with difficulty, began to repeat the very same business he had before done, assuming the brush, and proceeding methodically to work. At this sight, Bonamico, instead of taking a deadly revenge, began to laugh outright, and turning towards his myrmidons, said they might put up their weapons and retire; “for I see how it is,” he continued: “the bishop’s own painter has adopted a certain style of composition which his master does not altogether like, and so he has sent me to introduce another. But we painters can never agree; the rogue has been beforehand with me, and got his revenge.” On approaching the scaffold where he stood, the ape, having first painted his visage, rose on his hind legs, and tried to frighten them away; but soon after, dismounting from his eminence, he took to flight. Hastening after him, lest he might prejudice his Grace against the new painter, our friend, Bonamico went to tell his own story, and addressed the bishop in the following words: “There is no necessity for your lordship to invite painters to come from Florence, while you entertain one at your own court, who seems resolved that you shall paint in his manner, as he has twice destroyed the figures I have made. Your Grace’s ape has to answer for this sin; and if you think I deserve to be recompensed for my loss of time and 106 labour, give me what you consider just, and I will return home.” The bishop was so mightily entertained with the whole affair, more especially with the serious way in which Bonamico requested his dismission, that so far from consenting to his departure, he entreated him to proceed with his task, adding, that as he appeared so piqued with the success of his rival, he should likewise have his revenge. For this purpose the bishop directed a large cage to be provided, into which, however reluctantly, the painter’s rival was forced to enter, when he was carried to the place which had been the scene of his offence, and there doomed to the most ignominious punishment a painter can suffer, namely, to watch his rival, Bonamico, proceed with his design, while he sat chattering and grinning at him from his cage until the whole work was completed. His impatience and indignation were sometimes truly ludicrous, his strange grimaces not a little interrupting Bonamico, while they excited the laughter of all the spectators. The painting being completed, and the stage removed away, the author of the mischief was set free, though he afterwards frequently haunted the spot with the view of giving fresh specimens of his art. But finding he could no longer perform upon the same stage, after anxiously gazing at the picture for some time, he began to turn his thoughts to some more feasible plans of mischief, the exploit we have recounted serving the whole court for amusement during several days.



A BLIND man of Orvieto, of the name of Cola, hit upon a device to recover a hundred florins he had been cheated of, which showed he was possessed of all the eyes of Argus, though he had unluckily lost his own. And this he did without wasting a farthing either upon law or arbitration, by sheer dexterity; for he had formerly been a barber, and accustomed to shave very close, having then all his eyes about him, which had been now closed for about thirty years. Alms seemed then the only resource to which he could betake himself, and such was the surprising progress he in a short time made in his new trade, that he counted a hundred florins in his purse, which he secretly carried about him until he could find a safer place. His gains far surpassed anything he had realised with his razor and scissors; indeed, they increased so fast that he no longer knew where to bestow them; until one morning happening to remain the last, as he believed, in the church, he thought of depositing his purse of a hundred florins under a loose tile in the floor behind the door, knowing the situation of the place perfectly well. After listening, for some time, without hearing a foot stirring, he very cautiously laid it in the spot; but unluckily there remained a certain Juccio Pezzicheruolo, offering his adoration before an image of San Giovanni Boccadoro, who happened to see Cola busily engaged behind the door. He continued his adorations until he saw the blind man depart, when, not in the least suspecting the truth, he approached and searched the place. He soon found the identical tile, 107 and on removing it with the help of his knife, he found the purse, which he very quietly put into his pocket, replacing the tiles just as they were; and resolving to say nothing about it, he went home.

At the end of three days, the blind mendicant, desirous of inspecting his treasure, took a quiet time for visiting the place, and removing the tile, searched a long while in great perturbation, but all in vain, to find his beloved purse. At last, replacing things just as they were, he was compelled to return in no very enviable state of mind to his dwelling; and there meditating over his loss, the harvest of the toil of so many days, by dint of intense thinking a bright thought struck him, as frequently happens by cogitating in the dark, how he had yet a kind of chance of redeeming his lost spoils. Accordingly in the morning he called his young guide, a lad about nine years old, saying, “My son, lead me to church;” and before setting out the tutored him how he was to behave, seating himself at his side before the entrance, and particularly remarking every person who should enter into the church. “Now, if you happen to see any one who takes particular notice of me, and who either laughs or makes any sign, be sure you observe it and tell me.” The boy promised he would; and they proceeded accordingly, and took their station before the church. There they remained the whole of the morning, till just as they were beginning to despair, Juccio made his appearance, and fixing his eyes upon the blind man, could not refrain from laughing. When the dinner-hour arrived the father and son prepared to leave the place, the former inquiring by the way whether his son had observed any one looking hard at him as he passed along. “That I did,” answered the lad, “but only one, and he laughed as he went past us. I do not know his name, but he is strongly marked with the smallpox, and lives somewhere near the Frati Minori.” “Do you think, my dear lad,” said his father, “you could take me to his shop, and tell me when you see him there?” “To be sure I could,” said the lad. “Then come, let us lose no time,” replied his father, “and when we are there tell me, and while I speak to him you can step on one side and wait for me.” So the sharp little fellow led him along the way until he reached a cheesemonger’s stall, when he acquainted his father, and brought him close to it. No sooner did the blind man hear him speaking with his customers, than he recognised him for the same Juccio with whom he had formerly been acquainted during his days of light. When the coast was a little clear, our blind hero entreated some moments’ conversation, and Juccio, half suspecting the occasion, took him on one side into a little room, saying, “Cola, friend, what good news?” “Why,” said Cola, “I am coming to consult you, in great hopes you will be of use to me. You know it is a long time since I lost my sight, and being in a destitute condition, I was compelled to earn my subsistence by begging alms. Now, by the grace of God, and with the help of you and of other good people of Orvieto, I have saved a sum of two hundred florins, one of which I have deposited in a safe place, and the other is in the hands of my relations, which I expect to receive with interest in the course of a week. Now if you would consent to receive, and to employ for me to the best advantage, the whole sum of two hundred florins, it 108 would be doing me a great kindness, for there is no one besides in all Orvieto in whom I dare to confide; nor do I like to be at the expense of paying a notary for doing business which we can as well transact ourselves. Only I wish you would say nothing about it, but receive the two hundred florins from me to employ as you think best. Say not a word about it, for there would be an end of my calling were it known I had received so large a sum in alms.” Here the blind mendicant stopped; and the sly Juccio imagining he might thus become master of the entire sum, said he should be very happy to serve him in every way he could, and would return an answer the next morning as to the best way of laying out the money. Cola then took his leave, while Juccio going directly for the purse, deposited it in its old place, being in full expectation of soon receiving it again with the addition of the other hundred, as it was clear that Cola had not yet missed the sum. The cunning old mendicant on his part expected that he would do no less, and trusting that his plot might have succeeded, he set out the very same day to the church, and had the delight, on removing the tile, to find his purse really there. Seizing upon it with the utmost eagerness, he concealed it under his clothes, and placing the tiles exactly in the same position, he hastened home whistling, troubling himself very little about his appointment of the next day.

The sly thief, Juccio, set out accordingly the next morning to see his friend Cola, and actually met him on the road. “Whiter are you going?” inquired Juccio. “I was going,” said Cola, “to your house.” The former then taking the blind man aside, said, “I am resolved to do what you ask; and since your are pleased to confide in me, I will tell you of a plan I have in hand of laying out your money to advantage. If you will put the two hundred into my possession, I will make a purchase in cheese and salt meat, a speculation which cannot fail to turn to good account.” “Thank you,” said Cola;’ “I am going to-day for the other hundred, which I mean to bring, and when you have got them both, you can do with them what you think proper.” Juccio said, “Then let me have them soon, for I think I can secure this bargain; and as the soldiers are come into the town, who are fond of these articles, I think it cannot fail to answer; so go, and Heaven speed you.” And Cola went; but with very different intentions to those imagined by his friend — Cola being now clear-sighted, and Juccio truly blind. The next day Cola called on his friend with very downcast and melancholy looks, and when Juccio bade him good day, he said, “I wish from my soul it were good, or even a middling day for me,” “Why, what is the matter?” “The matter!” said Cola, “why it is all over with me; some rascal has stolen a hundred florins from the place where they were hidden, and I cannot recover a penny from my relations, so that I may eat my fingers off for anything I have to expect.” Juccio replied, “”This is like all the rest of my speculations. I have invariably lost where I expected to make a good hit. What I shall do I know not; for if the person should choose to keep me to the agreement I made for you, I shall be in a pretty dilemma indeed.” “Yet,” said Cola, “I think my condition is still worse than yours. I shall be sadly distressed, and shall have to amass a fresh capital, which will 109 take me ever so long. And when I have got it, I will take care not to conceal it in a hole in the floor, or trust it, Juccio, into any friend’s hands.” “But,” said Juccio, “if we could contrive to recover what is owing by your relations, we might still make some pretty profit by it, I doubt not.” For he thought, if he could only get hold of the hundred he had returned, it would still be something in his way. “Why,” said Cola, “to tell the truth, if I were to proceed against my relations, I believe I might get it; but such a thing would ruin my business, my dear Juccio, for ever: the world would know I was worth money, and I should get no more money from the world; so I fear I shall hardly be able to profit by your kindness, though I shall always consider myself as much obliged as if I had actually cleared a large sum. Moreover, I am going to teach another blind man my profession, and if we have luck you shall see me again, and we can venture a speculation together.” So far the wily mendicant; to whom Juccio said, “Well, go and try to get money soon, and bring it; you know where to find me, but look sharp about you, and the Lord speed you: farewell.” “Farewell,” said Cola, “and I am well rid of thee,” he whispered to himself; and going upon his way, in a short time he doubled his capital; but he no longer went near his friend Juccio to know how he should invest it. He had great diversion in telling the story to his companions during their feasts, always concluding, “By St. Lucia! Juccio is the blinder man of the two: he thought it was a bold stroke to risk his hundred to double the amount.”

For my own part, I think the blind must possess a more acute intellect than other people, inasmuch as the light, exhibiting such a variety of objects to view, is apt to distract the attention, of which many examples might be adduced. For instance, two gentlemen may be conversing together on some matter of business, and in the middle of a sentence a fine woman happens to pass by, and they will suddenly stop, gazing after her; or a fine equipage, or any other object, is enough to turn the current of their thoughts. And then we are obliged to recollect ourselves, saying, “Where was I?” “What was it that I was observing?” A thing which never occurs to a blind man. The philosopher Democritus very properly on this account knocked his own eyes out, in order to catch objects in a juster light with his mind’s eye.

It is impossible to describe Juccio’s vexation on going to the church and finding the florins were gone. His regret was far greater than if he had actually lost a hundred of his own; as is known to be the case with all inveterate rogues, half of whose pleasure consists in depriving others of their lawful property.

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