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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. 210-212.



[Translated by Thomas Roscoe*]

THE wife of the good citizen Dore having lately been confined to the house, her kind-hearted husband went out to purchase a couple of capons for her, though he had not to boast even the value of a brass farthing in his pocket. But, bent upon his purpose, he tuned his steps towards the market-place, where he found a jolly countryman, who showed him a fine fat pair of birds, for which he had the modesty to ask him only six livres. To this demand Dore replied:

“Come, then, to save trouble, I will give you five;”

After some little demur, it was a bargain. Then seizing his prize, Dore said to the honest man:

” Just come a little way along with me; you shall have your money in a moment.”

So, turning into the Church of San Martino in their way, they found the prior busily engaged in confessing a young woman, and Dore said to the countryman:

“Wait her a moment, for I wish to show them to our friar, as they are for his table; and I will tell him to pay you the five livres as soon as he shall have done confessing that woman.”

Soon after, approaching the prior, he whispered in his ear:

“Holy father, you will do me a great service by confessing a poor sinner, a gossip of mine, who stands there;” and he pointed him out with his hand. “Poor wretch! he has never been at confession during the space of five years, and now he cannot find a priest that will hear him. Oh, bestow this special charity upon him; let him not go away as he came, but bid him wait until you have dismissed the lady, and speak a word of comfort to him!”


“Well.” said the friar, addressing the rustic, “brother, you may tarry a little; I will attend to you directly.”

Upon hearing this, Dore again said to the countryman: “When he has confessed the lady, he will pay you, and in the meanwhile I will take his capons into his cell.”

“But have you told him how much he is to pay me?” inquired the other.

“Certainly,” replied Dore, “I said five;” and turning again to the friar, he cried aloud, shaking his head at the poor fellow as he spoke, “Yes, it is five, father, — even five!

“True, I hear you,” returned the prior, in a mournful tone, while the happy Dore left the place; and when he had cleared the gate, proceeded as fast as his legs could carry him towards his own house. So the prior, when he had finished the lady’s confession, turning to the rustic, beckoned him to approach, which the latter, eager to be paid, lost no time in doing. The friar supposing him bent upon confession, said:

‘Kneel with humility and reverence, kneel down!”

“Humility!” cried the astonished rustic; “what humility? Give me the money for your capons first, that are just gone into your cell: did not your man tell you you were to pay me five, and you said, ‘True, I hear’; and that is what we agreed for, good father.”

“Heaven help us!” cried the friar, “what is all this? The man with the capons told me thou were his gossip, a foster-brother of his, and wert much in want of confession, which I promised thee, and will give thee. So down on thy knees, brother; what are thy sins?”

“Do you think to make a fool of me, father? Do you think I did not hear when he said ‘five,’ as loud as he could?”

“But do not I tell you,” said the friar, getting into a passion, “that he meant five years — yes, five, you rascal, since you were last confessed?”

“No, no,” said the unhappy rustic; “but if you will not pay me the money, at least let me have my capons back.”


“But I have not got them” said the friar; “I wish I had: how can I give you back what I have never taken?”

“Ah! this is very fine,” said the other, quite in a passion; “the man bought them for you, and he carried them just now into your cell, — what say you to that?”

“I say,” returned the priest, “let us go and look for them; there will be one apiece; but if they be in my cell, I will eat them both without sauce, and pay thee thy price into the bargain; nay I will give thee ten livres. Here are the keys: come and search! Do you think the rogue got through the keyhole,” he continued, addressing the wretched rustic, as he opened the door, “without me and my lock and key? There now, look till you are tired; you see every place is open; and if you find them, call me a greater thief than the thief himself.”

The countryman bustled, and searched, and swore, but all to no purpose; no capons were there. So he at last said to the friar:

“But surely you will tell me who the man is who cheated me.”

“I know him not,” answered the good father, “any more than I know you. I never saw either of you in my life before, and, in my opinion, you are a couple of arrant rogues.”

And with this compliment, the poor countryman was obliged to take his leave.

*  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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