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From The World’s Wit and Humor, Vol. XIII, Italian — Spanish, The Review of Reviews Company; New York; 1906; pp. 3-12.


Giovanni Boccaccio [1313-1375]

The One-Legged Crane

MASTER CURRADO GIANFILIAZZI, as most of you have seen and know, living in the estate of a noble citizen, being a man bountiful, magnificent, and within the degree of knighthood, continually kept both hawks and hounds, taking no mean delight in such pleasures as they yielded, neglecting for them far more serious employments, wherewith our present subject presumeth not to meddle. Upon a day, having killed with his falcon a crane near to a village called Peretola, and finding her to be young and fat, he sent it to his cook, a Venetian born, named Chichibio, with command to have it prepared for his supper. Chichibio, who resembled no other than (as he was indeed) a plain, simple, honest, merry fellow, having dressed the crane as it ought to be, put it on the spit and laid it to the fire.

When it was well near roasted, and gave forth a very delicate pleasing savor, it happened that a young women dwelling not far off, named Brunetta, and of whom Chichibio was somewhat enamored, entered into the kitchen, and feeling the excellent smell of the crane to please her beyond all savors that ever she had felt before, she entreated Chichibio very earnestly that he would bestow a leg thereof upon her. Whereto Chichibio, like a pleasant companion, and evermore delighting in singing, sung her this answer:

“My Brunetta, fair and feat, no, no.
  Why should you say so? Oh, oh!
4   The meat of my master
  Takes you for no taster.
  Go from the kitchen — go!”

Many other speeches passed between them in a short while, but, in the end, Chichibio, because he would not have his mistress Brunetta angry with him, cut off one of the crane’s legs from the spit and gave it to her to eat.

Afterward, when the fowl was served up to the table before Currado, who had invited certain strangers his friends to sup with him, wondering not a little, he called for Chichibio his cook, demanding what was become of the crane’s other leg. Whereto the Venetian, being a liar by nature, suddenly answered, “Sir, cranes have no more but one leg each bird.” Currado, growing very angry, replied, “Wilt thou tell me that a crane hath no more than one leg? Did I never see a crane before this?” Chichibio, persisting resolutely in his denial, said, “Believe me, sir, I have told you nothing but the truth; and when you please I will make good my words by such fowls as are living.”

Currado, in kind love to the strangers that he had invited to supper, gave over any further contestation; only he said, “Seeing thou assurest me to let me see thy affirmation for truth by other of the same fowls living — a thing which as yet I never saw or heard of — I am content to make proof thereof to-morrow morning. Till then I shall rest satisfied. But, upon my word, if I find it otherwise, expect such a sound payment as thy knavery justly deserveth, to make thee remember it all thy lifetime.”

The contention ceasing for the night, Currado, who, although he had slept well, remained still discontented in his mind, arose in the morning by break of day, and puffing and 5 blowing angrily, called for his horses, commanding Chichibio to mount on one of them; so riding toward the river, where early every morning he had seen plenty of cranes, he said to his man, “We shall see anon, sirrah, whether thou or I lied yesternight.”

Chichibio, perceiving that his master’s anger was not as yet assuaged, and that now it stood him upon to make good his lie, not knowing how he should do it, rode after his master fearfully trembling all the way. Gladly he would have made an escape, but he could not by any possible means, and on every side he looked about him, now before and after behind, to espy any cranes standing on both their legs, which would have been an ominous sight to him. But being come near to the river he chanced to see, before any of the rest, upon the bank thereof about a dozen cranes in number, each standing upon one leg, as they use to do when they are sleeping. Whereupon, showing them quickly to Currado, he said: “Now, sir, yourself may see whether I told you true yesternight or no. I am sure a crane hath but one thigh and one leg, as all here present are apparent witnesses, and I have been as good as my promise.”

Currado, looking at the cranes, and well understanding the knavery of his man, replied, “Stay but a little while, sirrah, and I will show thee that a crane hath two thighs and two legs.” Then, riding somewhat nearer to them, he cried out aloud, “Shough! shough!” which caused them to set down their other legs; and all fled away, after they had made a few paces against the wind for their mounting. So, going unto Chichibio, he said, “How now, you lying knave! hath a crane two legs or no?” Chichibio, being well near at his wits’ end, not knowing now what answer he should make, but even as it came suddenly in his mind, said, “Sir, I perceive 6 you are in the right; and if you would have done as much yesternight, and have cried, ‘Shough!’ as here you did, questionless, the crane would then have set down the other leg, as these here did. But if, as they, she had fled away, too, by that means you might have lost your supper.”

This sudden and unexpected answer, coming from such a logger-headed lout, and so seasonably for his own safety, was so pleasing to Currado, that he fell into a hearty laughter, and, forgetting all anger, said, “Chichibio, thou hast quitted thyself well and to my contentment, albeit I advise thee to try no more such tricks hereafter.” Thus Chichibio, by his sudden and merry answer, escaped a sound beating, which otherwise his master had inflicted upon him.

“The Decameron”

Three Girls and Their Talk

BY a clear well, within a little field
    Full of green grass and flowers of every hue,
    Sat three young girls, relating (as I knew)
Their loves. And each had twined a bough to shield
Her lovely face; and the green leaves did yield
    The golden hair their shadow; while the two
    Sweet colors mingled, both blown lightly through
With a soft wind forever stirred and stilled.
After a while one of them said,
     “Think you, if, ere the next hour struck,
     Each of our lovers should come here to-day,
Think you that we should fly, or feel afraid?”
     To whom the others answered, “From such luck
     A girl would be a fool to run away.”

“The Sonnets”


The Stolen Pig

CALANDRINO had a little farm, not far from Florence, which came to him through his wife. There he used to have a pig fatted every year, and some time about December he and his wife went always to kill and salt it for the use of the family. Now it happened once — she being unwell at the time — that he went thither by himself to kill this pig; which Bruno and Buffalmacco hearing, and knowing she was not to be there, they went to spend a few days with a great friend of theirs, a priest in Calandrino’s neighborhood. Now the pig had been killed the very day they came thither, and Calandrino, seeing them along with the priest, called to them and said, “Welcome, kindly; I would gladly you should see what a good manager I am.” Then, taking them into the house, he showed them this pig. They saw that it was fat, and were told by him that it was to be salted for his family. “Salted, booby?” said Bruno. “Sell it, let us make merry with the money, and tell your wife that it was stolen.” “No,” said Calandrino, “she will never believe it; and, besides, she would turn me out of doors. Trouble me, then no further about any such thing, for I will never do it.” They said a great deal more to him, but all to no purpose. At length he invited them to supper, but did it in such a manner that they refused.

After they had come away from him, said Bruno to Buffalmacco, “Suppose we steal this pig from him to-night.” “How is it possible?” “Oh, I know well enough how to do it, if he does not remove it in the meantime from the place where we just now saw it.” “Then let us do it, and 8 afterward we and the parson will make merry over it.” The priest assured them that he should like it above all things. “We must use a little art,” quoth Bruno; “you know how covetous he is, and how freely he drinks when it is at another’s cost. Let us get him to the tavern, where the parson shall make a pretense of treating us all, out of compliment to him. He will soon enough get drunk, and then the thing will be easy enough, as there is nobody in the house but himself.”

This was done, and Calandrino, finding that the parson was to pay, took his glasses pretty freely, and, getting his dose, walked home betimes, left the door open, thinking that it was shut, and so went to bed. Buffalmacco and Bruno went from the tavern to sup with the priest, and as soon as supper was over they took proper tools with them to get into the house; but finding the door open, they carried off the pig to the priest’s and went to bed likewise.

In the morning, as soon as Calandrino had slept off his wine, he rose, came down-stairs, and finding the door open and his pig gone, began to inquire of everybody if they knew anything of the matter; and receiving no tidings of it, he made a terrible outcry, saying, “What shall I do now? Somebody has stolen my pig!” Bruno and Buffalmacco were no sooner out of bed than they went to his house to hear what he would say; and the moment he saw them he roared out, “Oh, my friends, my pig is stolen!” Upon this Bruno whispered to him and said, “Well, I am glad to see you wise in your life for once.” “Alas!” quoth he, “it is too true.” “Keep to the same story,” said Bruno, “and make noise enough for every one to believe you.”

Calandrino now began to bawl louder, “Indeed! I vow and swear to you that it is stolen.” “That’s right; be sure 9 you let everybody hear you, that it may appear so.” “Do you think that I would forswear myself about it? May I be hanged this moment if it is not so!” “How is it possible?” quoth Bruno; “I saw it but last night; never imagine that I can believe it.” “It is so, however, “ answered he, “and I am undone. I dare not go home again, for my wife will never believe me, and I shall have no peace this twelve-month.” “It is a most unfortunate thing,” said Bruno, “if it be true; but you know I put it into your head to say so last night, and you should not make sport both of your wife and us at the same time.”

At this Calandrino began to roar out afresh, saying, “Good God! you make me mad to hear you talk. I tell you once for all it was stolen this very night!” “Nay, if it be so,” quoth Buffalmacco, “we must think of some way to get it back again.” “And what way must we take,” said he, “to find it?” “Depend upon it,” replied the other, “that nobody came from the Indies to steal it; it must be somewhere in your neighborhood, and if you could get the people together I could make a charm, with some bread and cheese, that would soon discover the thief.” “True,” said Bruno, “but they would know in that case what you were about; and the person that has it would never come near you.” “How must we manage, then,” said Buffalmacco. “Oh!” replied Bruno, “you shall see me do it with some pills of ginger and a little wine, which I will ask them to come and drink. They will have no suspicion what our design is, and we can make a charm of these as well as of the bread and cheese.” “Very well,” quoth the other. “What do you say, Calandrino? Have you a mind we should try it?” “For Heaven’s sake do,” he said; “if I only knew who the thief is, I should be half comforted.” “Well, then,” quoth Bruno, “I 10 am ready to go to Florence for the things, if you will only give me some money.” He happened to have a few florins in his pocket, which he gave him, and off went Bruno.

When he got to Florence, Bruno went to a friend’s house and bought a pound of ginger made into pills. He also got two pills made of aloes, which had a private mark that he should not mistake them, being candied over with sugar like the rest. Then, having bought a jar of good wine, he returned to Calandrino, and said, “To-morrow you must take care to invite every one that you have the least suspicion of; it is a holiday, and they will be glad to come. We will finish the charm to-night, and bring the things to your house in the morning, and then I will take care to do and say on your behalf what is necessary upon such an occasion.”

Calandrino did as he was told, and in the morning he had nearly all the people in the parish assembled under an elm-tree in the churchyard. His two friends produced the pills and wine, and, making the people stand round in a circle, Bruno said to them, “Gentlemen, it is fit that I should tell you the reason of your being summoned here in this manner, to the end, if anything should happen which you do not like, that I be not blamed for it. You must know, then, that Calandrino had a pig stolen last night, and, as some of the company here must have taken it, he, that he may find out the thief, would have every man take and eat one of these pills, and drink a glass of wine after it. Whoever the guilty person is, you will find he will not be able to get a bit of it down, but it will taste so bitter that he will be forced to spit it out. Therefore, to prevent such open shame, he had better, whoever he is, make a secret confession to the priest, and I will proceed no further.”

All present declared their readiness to eat; so, placing 11 them all in order, he gave every man his pill, and coming to Calandrino, he gave one of the aloe pills to him, which he straightway put into his mouth, and no sooner did he begin to chew it than he was forced to spit it out. Every one was now attentive to see who spit his pill out, and while Bruno kept going round, apparently taking no notice of Calandrino, he heard somebody say behind him, “Hey-day! what is the meaning of its disagreeing so with Calandrino?” Bruno now turned suddenly about, and seeing that Calandrino had spit out his pill, he said, “Stay a little, honest friends, and be not too hasty in judging; it may be something else that has made him spit, and therefore he shall try another.” So he gave him the other aloe pill, and then went on to the rest that were unserved. But if the first was bitter to him, this he thought much more so. However, he endeavored to get it down as well as he could. But it was impossible; it made the tears run down his cheeks, and he was forced to spit it out at last, as he had done the other. In the meantime Buffalmacco was going about with the wine; but when he and all of them saw what Calandrino had done, they began to bawl out that he had robbed himself, and some of them abused him roundly.

After they were all gone, Buffalmacco said, “I always thought that you yourself were the thief, and that you were willing to make us believe the pig was stolen in order to keep your money in your pocket, lest we should expect a treat upon the occasion.” Calandrino, who had still the taste of the aloes in his mouth, fell a-swearing that he knew nothing of the matter. “Honor bright, now, comrade,” said Buffalmacco, “what did you get for it?” This made Calandrino quite furious.

To crown all, Bruno struck in: “I was just now told,” 12 said he, “by one of the company, that you have a mistress in this neighborhood to whom you are very kind, and that he is confident you have given it to her. You know you once took us to the plains of Mugnone, to look for some black stones, when you left us in the lurch, and pretended you had found them; and now you think to make us believe that your pig is stolen, when you have either given it away or sold it. You have played so many tricks upon us, that we intend to be fooled no more by you. Therefore, as we have had a great deal of trouble in the affair, you shall make us amends by giving us two couple of fowls, unless you mean that we should tell your wife.”

Calandrino, now perceiving that he would not be believed, and being unwilling to have them add to his troubles by bringing his wife upon his back, was forced to give them the fowls, which they joyfully carried off along with the pork.

“The Decameron.”


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