From Count Lucanor; of the Fifty Pleasant Stories of Patronio, written by the Prince Don Juan Manuel and first done into English by James York, M. D., 1868;; Gibbings & Company, Limited; London; 1899; pp. 69-84.
OUNT LUCANOR, conversing one day with his friend Patronio, addressed him in the following manner: —
“Patronio, for a long time I have had an enemy who has done me much injury; nor can I say that I have not done the same to him — in fact, we live in a state of constant warfare with each other. And now it happens that another man, much more powerful than either of us, is about to commence a war against him and me; and this man is in a position to do us both a serious injury. Seeing this to be the case, my old enemy comes to me to say that we should lose no time in defending ourselves against this our common foe; for that, if both unite against him, it is certain that we shall be safe: but, if one keeps apart from the other, it is equally certain that whichever of us he might first select would easily be conquered by him; and, that one being vanquished, he who remained would become an easy victim. So, you see, Patronio, that I am in great perplexity as to how I shall act. On both sides I have much to fear; my former enemy is not wanting in will to injure me, and, should he at any time find me 65 in his power, I am not sure of my life. Whatever arrangement we may make, I shall feel no confidence in him, or he in me; and these considerations keep me in perpetual anxiety. On the other hand, as you will perceive, if we are not friends, as he wishes, we shall both be seriously injured. Now, as I have great confidence in your abilities, I pray you to advise me how to act under such circumstances.”
“My lord,” said Patronio, “your position is very critical and not without danger. In order that you may better understand how to act, it is desirable that you should know what happened at Tunis to two cavaliers who lived with the Infant Prince Henry.”
The Count desired to be informed, and Patronio proceeded: —
“Two cavaliers who were in the service of the Infant, at Tunis, were such excellent friends that they resided together in the same house. Each had his own horse; and, in proportion as these friends loved each other, so did their horses appear to detest each other. Now, these cavaliers were not rich, and consequently, were unable to maintain separate establishments; but, owing to the viciousness of their horses, they found it impossible to reside any longer together, so very reluctantly separated. Things had gone on in this way for some time, when, finding nothing could be done to remedy the evil, they spoke to the Infant concerning it, and begged he would give their horses to a lion 66 which was kept by the King of Tunis. The Infant implied with their request, and spoke to the King, telling him how the cavaliers were annoyed by the viciousness of their horses, and asking the King’s permission to have these horses turned into the lion’s court.
“When the two vicious horses found themselves loose in the lion’s court, but before the lion had sallied forth from his den, they commenced kicking and biting more violently than ever. While they were so fighting, the door of the lion’s den, leading into the court, was thrown open.
“As soon as the two horses saw the lion leave his den for the court they began to tremble violently, and by degrees approached each other till they were so close together as to appear almost one. They then conjointly attacked the lion, kicking and biting him so furiously that he was compelled to retreat into the den from whence he came.
“From this time the two horses continued good friends. They ate together from the same crib, and lived together in a very small stable.
“Thus, you see, my lord, from the great and common terror these two vicious horses had of the lion arose a lasting friendship. And you, Count Lucanor, if you believe that your old enemy fears so much his and your common enemy, and requires your assistance so urgently as to induce him to forget the feuds which have hitherto existed between you, knowing that he cannot defend himself without your 67 assistance, then I hold that, like the two horses, it will be advisable that you approach each other by degrees until you have so united your forces as to lose all fear and distrust of each other. But, mark you! until you acquire this necessary confidence in your ally, you must proceed with a certain amount of caution. If you find him acting at all times with good faith and loyalty, and know for certain that he has no intention to revenge himself on you, or do any injury to you, then it will be better that you unite with him in earnest, in order that the stranger may not conquer or destroy you; for it is even better to suffer the ills you now complain of than those of your new enemy, the extent of which you cannot foresee; but, should anything occur to give you reason for doubting the sincerity of your ally, then it would be wrong to assist him, for he might lead you into great peril to secure his own safety. It remains, therefore, that you be vigilant, whilst preparing to guard against the combined danger threatened you by a new adversary and your former enemy.”
Count Lucanor was much pleased with what Patronio had related, and found that he had given him very good advice. Also Don Juan thought this a very good example, so he commanded it to be written in this book, and wrote these lines, which say thus: —
The Infant Prince Henry mentioned in this chapter was the son of Ferdinand III. (called the Saint), and his queen, Beatrice. Being persecuted by his brother, Alfonso X, after many dangers, sought refuge in Tunis, about the year 1259. The Bey, knowing his rank, and admiring his courage, gave him, after a time, the entire command of his army; a position he held for a period of four years, during which time he became renowned for many acts of valour, so that many Castilians sought for appointments in the army under his command, and fought with him under the flag of Tunis. Of these were the two cavaliers spoken of in this narrative. The Moors of the court, becoming jealous of the position held by the prince, conspired to impress the Bey with the notion that there existed a plot to murder him and place the Infant on the throne. Hearing this, the king became alarmed, and, judging any means of escape justifiable, made an appointment with the Infant for a secret conference, which, being punctually kept by the unsuspecting prince, he found himself face to face with the lions of the Bey. The prince, seeing the peril of his position, drew his sword and awaited the attack. Happily, however, the animals remained immoveable and allowed him to retire uninjured. The Bey, frustrated in his design, and ashamed of his intentions, ordered the Infant to immediately leave his territories, together with all the Christians: which was done, resistance being impossible. After an adventurous life, this hero returned to Spain on the death of his nephew, Sancho the Brave, and he there forced the people to name him tutor to Ferdinand IV, and died in 1304. This history is interesting in so far that it leads us to the source from whence Don Manuel has doubtless derived the relation given in his narrative. The Infant Henry, to whom this affair in Tunis happened, being his uncle, it may be that the circumstance as related did actually occur to the two cavaliers of his retinue.
NOTHER time, when Count Lucanor was conversing with Patronio, he spoke to him in the following manner: —
“Patronio, as I know that death is unavoidable, I would now, while I have yet time, found some work of charity which may hereafter be applied for the benefit of my soul, and of which good act all the world may be cognizant. I pray you, therefore, to advise me how best to accomplish this end.”
“My lord,” said Patronio, “whatever you do, whatever may be your object, or whatever your intentions, act always with honour and justice. But, as you desire to know how a man should act so as to benefit his soul and increase his reputation, I should be much pleased by being permitted to relate to you what happened to a Seneschal of Carcasona.”
The Count desired to be informed what that was.
“My lord a Seneschal of Carcasona being seriously ill, and informed that he was not likely to recover, sent for the Prior of the Dominican Friars 70 and the Guardian of the Franciscan Order, and informed them what he wished they should do for the salvation of his soul, and desired that if he died they would see fulfilled all the dispositions of his will. They, on their part, willingly agreed, for he left much for alms, prayers, and masses. Now, when all his charitable dispositions had been complied with, the friars were well satisfied, and hoped trustingly for the eternal salvation of his soul.
“It happened some short time after this that there was a woman in the town said to be possessed of the Devil, and who spoke most extraordinary things. The friars, hearing this, thought it advisable to go to her and inquire if she knew anything respecting the soul of the Seneschal, and they did so.
“As soon as they entered the house where the possessed woman lived, and before they could put any questions to her, she cried out, that she well knew why they were come, and that the soul of the Seneschal was in hell, where she had left it a short time ago.
“When the friars heard this, they told here she lied, for they were certain that the Seneschal had humbly confessed and devoutly received the sacraments of the holy Mother Church; and that, since the Christian faith was infallible, it was not possible that what she said could be true.
“She replied, that, without doubt, the faith and law of Christians are very true, but that he had not acted as a sincere Christian before his death; that, 71 however much he might have given, hoping thus to secure the salvation of his soul, still it was not given with a good grace — for he had commanded that the charitable dispositions of his will should only be executed in case he died, when he could no longer retain possession of his riches nor carry them with him to the grave. Had he recovered, he never intended fulfilling any part of these charitable intentions. Moreover, he regarded only the opinion of those around him and of the world, hoping thus to obtain fame and honour by his charitable donations. Therefore, although he did a good act, it was not well done, since man must be judged by his intentions; and the intentions of the Seneschal were not good, although they may have appeared so; therefore he has received his reward.
“And you, Count Lucanor, since you desire my counsel, I give you that which appears to me most valuable. It is, if you wish to do good, to do it while you have life, if you hope for a reward hereafter. The first thing required of you is to repair the wrongs you may have done, for little will it avail you to steal the sheep and offer the feet to God. So, likewise, you will benefit little by holding the fruit of robbery and spoliation, although you may give alms out of your ill-gotten gains. In order that your alms may be worthy of acceptance, it is necessary that they partake of the following conditions: — firstly, that the gift be a part of your own rightful property, given under the influence of a true 72 and contrite spirit, not from the superfluities, but from that which the giver is in need of himself. Again, the donation should be made during life; and, lastly, it should be done simply for the love of God, and not through vain-glory or worldly feeling. The fulfilling of these conditions constitutes righteous almsgiving, for which a man may expect to be well rewarded. Nevertheless, neither you nor any one else should fail to do good, although they may not be able to fulfil all the above conditions; that would be very weak and unwise, for certain it is that a good action always claims its reward. Meritorious works draw men from sin, induce to repentance, and to the well-being of the soul, tending even to fame and worldly advantages. All good actions tend to good; nevertheless, they will be more available for salvation and more profitable to his soul if a man act under the influence of the conditions above mentioned.”
And Count Lucanor, considering what Patronio said was true, resolved to follow his advice, and prayed to God for grace to enable him to do so.
And Don Juan, finding that this was a very good example, caused it to be written in this book, and made these lines, which say: —
The lesson taught in this tale was a severe one for the superior clergy, who were at this period not noted for their humility or abnegation; as it was also a reflection upon the tenacity of some men, not only to life, but to life’s treasures, by the illustration of an attempt to cheat Providence into the salvation of his soul, by giving what the dying man could no longer retain. It reminds us of the Spanish anecdote, where a dying bequest records that “if the missing cow was found it should be for the children; if not, it should be for God.” The same nation has also a saying referring to the Abbot of Bamba, on spurious benevolence. “El Abad de Bamba lo que no poede comer lo da por su Alma.” — “The Abbot of Bamba gives away for the good of his soul that which he cannot eat.”
In his fable of The Sick Man and the Angel, Gay has powerfully illustrated the moral conveyed by Don Manuel in this history — the futility of the hope that heaven may be purchased by a posthumous legacy for pious uses of the wealth that has been hoarded during life for selfish purposes.
NOTHER day, Count Lucanor, conversing with his friend, Patronio, said, “Patronio, you know that I have an elder brother. We are sons of the same parents, and, because of his seniority, I look 74 on him as if he were my father; and, as such, he expects me to obey him. He passes for a good Christian and has credit for being prudent, but it has pleased God that I should be richer and more powerful than he is; and, although he is careful to disguise the feeling, yet I am certain he is jealous of me. Whenever I need his assistance, or require anything from him, he gives me to understand that he cannot help me, because it would be sinful, and always breaks off the affair by excusing himself in this manner; while at other times, when he requires my assistance, he tells me it is incumbent on me to serve him, although, in doing so, I might lose everything in this world; in fact, he says I ought not to hesitate in risking even my life in his service — and all this to oblige him only. Under such circumstances, I pray you to advise me how to act, and what is my real duty.”
“My lord,” said Patronio, “it appears to me that your brother’s actions, to say the least of them, are selfish, and much resemble those of the sister of a certain Moor, which I would relate to you.”
The Count desired him to do so.
“My lord, a Moor had an over-indulged sister, who prided herself in appearing timid; and to such an extent did she carry this whim that she feigned alarm at the most ordinary occurrence, even when she drank water out of one of the narrow-necked earthen jars (such as were then generally used), and heard the water gurgling as it flowed, she pretended 75 to be very much afraid of it. The Moor, being informed of this, was much annoyed. Now the brother was a fine young man, but very poor, and was compelled by necessity to follow a most disgraceful way of obtaining a living. Poverty often compels a man to do that of which he would otherwise feel ashamed, and such was the case with the Moor, who did thus: when he heard of any rich person being buried, he would go by night to the tomb, disinter the body, and strip it of its shroud and all else of value; and, by the sale of these articles, he maintained himself and his sister, she, all the time, knowing that her brother supported her by the proceeds of this sacrilege.
Now it happened about this time that a rich man died, and was interred in very valuable clothes and other costly things. When the sister knew of this, she told her brother that she would assist him that night in taking away the valuables from the rich man&38217;s tomb.
“When night came, the young man and his sister repaired to the tomb containing the corpse, and opened it; and, when they had helped themselves to all that was worth taking, they found that the clothes could not be removed without tearing unless they broke the neck of the corpse. The sister, seeing that this would deprive them of much of their value, took the head in her hands, and, without evincing any feeling or pity, broke the neck and drew away the clothes. They then, with their booty, returned home.76
“Some little time after this, when they were sitting at table, the sister drank out of the water-jar, and again hearing the gurgling sound feigned alarm and declared that she should faint. Upon this the brother, remembering that without fear she had broken the neck of the dead man, said, in Arabic, ‘A ha ya! hati, tassa niboa valo tassa ni fortuheni;’ that is to say, ‘Ha, ha! sister, you fear then the sound of the water-jar, which says, “batu, batu,” but were not afraid to break the neck of a dead man.’ And this saying is even till this day a proverb amongst the Moors.
“And I should say, my lord, that your elder brother, if he excuses himself in the selfish, unjust, manner you have described, resembles, in a great measure, the sister of the Moor.
“Now, for the future, should your brother demand your assistance, in return giving you only fine words and excuses, do not retaliate, but, more than this, do all that he requires of you, taking care that you do not fall into sin, nor act against your conscience or interest by so doing.”
The Count considered this advice to be good, and, acting accordingly, found it to answer well.
And Don Juan, being of opinion that this was a good example, caused it to be written in this book, and made these lines, which say as follows: —
This is not one of the author’s happiest productions, in so far, however, only, that the narrative does not illustrate (as it evidently was intended to do) the moral it purports to convey. Legrand D’Aussy has given a very free imitation of this tale under the title of “The young Lady who could never hear a certain exclamation without fainting,” — “De la Demoiselle qui ne pouvait, sans se pâmer, entendre un certain jurement.” We find another version of it in the Collection of Berbazan.
NE day Count Lucanor was conversing with Patronio, whose advice he sought under the following circumstances. “Patronio,” said he, “a man came to me and begged I would assist him, knowing I was able to do so, promising to serve me in return, at any time, either for the promotion of my interest or honour. I rendered him all the assistance in my power, when, before his trouble was removed (although he believed it to be so), a circumstance happened in which I knew he could render me 78 assistance, which I begged him to do; but he made me some excuse. Since then another case has arisen where he could have been of service to me, but again, as before, he has excused himself, and in every instance when I have needed his help he has always declined assisting me under some plea or other. Now his difficulties are not yet removed, nor can they be without my assistance. I, therefore, pray you, having so much confidence in your judgment, to advise me how to act under such circumstances.”
“Count Lucanor,” said Patronio, “in order that you may know how to act in such a case, it is desirable that you should hear what happened to a Dean of Santiago, with Don Illan, who was a great magician, and dwelt in Toledo.
The Count begged he would narrate it.
“My lord,” said Patronio, “there was a Dean of Santiago who had a great desire to be initiated in the art of necromancy; and, hearing that Don Illan of Toledo knew more of this art than any other person in that country, came to Toledo with a view of studying under him. On the day of his arrival he proceeded to the house of Don Illan, whom he found reading in a retired chamber, and who perceived him very graciously, desiring him not to inform him of the motive of his visit until he had first partaken of his repast, which was found excellent, and consisted of every delicacy that could be desired.
“Now, when the repast was concluded, the dean 79 took the magician aside and told him the motive of his visit, urging him very earnestly to instruct him in the art in which he was so great an adept, and which he, the dean, desired so anxiously to be made acquainted with.
“When Don Illan told him that he was a dean and, consequently, a man of great influence, and that he would attain a high position, saying, at the same time, that men, generally speaking, when they reach an elevated position and attain the objects of their ambition, forget easily what others have previously done for them, as also all past obligations and those from whom they received them — failing generally in the performance of their former promises, the dean assured him such should not be the case with him; saying, no matter to what eminence he might attain, he would not fail to do everything in his power to help his former friends, and the magician in particular.
“In this way they conversed until supper-time approached; and now, the covenant between them being completed, Don Illan said to the dean, that, in teaching him the art he desired to learn, it would be necessary for them to retire to some distant apartment, and, taking him by the hand, led him to a chamber. As they were quitting the dining-room, he called his housekeeper, desiring her to procure some partridges for their supper that night, but not to cook them until she had his special commands. Having said this, he sought the dean and conducted 80 him to the entrance of a beautifully carved stone staircase, by which they descended a considerable distance, appearing as if they had passed under the river Tagus, and, arriving at the bottom of the steps, they found a suite of rooms and a very elegant chamber, where were arranged the books and instruments of study; and, having here seated themselves, they were debating which should be the first books to read, when two men entered by the door and gave the dean a letter which had been sent to him by his uncle the archbishop, informing him that he was dangerously ill, and that if he wished to see him alive it would be requisite for him to come immediately. The dean was much moved by this news — partly on account of the illness of his uncle, but more through the fear of being obliged to abandon his favourite study, just commenced — so he wrote a respectful letter to his uncle the archbishop, which he sent by the same messengers. At the end of four days, other men arrived on foot bringing fresh letters to the dean, informing him that the archbishop was dead, and that all those interested in the welfare of the Church were desirous that he should succeed to his late uncle’s dignity, telling him, at the same time, it was quite unnecessary for him to inconvenience himself by returning immediately, as his nomination would be better secured were he not present in the church. At the end of seven or eight days, two squires arrived, very richly dressed and accoutred, who, after kissing his hand, delivered to him the 81 letters informing him that he had been appointed archbishop.
“When Don Illan heard this he told him he was much pleased that this good news had arrived during his stay in his house; and, as God had been so gracious to him, begged that the deanery now vacant might be given to his son.
“The archbishop elect replied, that he hoped Don Illan would allow him to name to the vacancy his own brother, saying, at the same time, that he would; present him with some office in his own church with which his son would be contented, inviting, at the same time, both father and son to accompany him to Santiago.
“To this they consented; and all three departed for the city, where they were received with much honour. After they had resided there some time, there arrived one day messengers from the Pope bearing letters naming the former dean Bishop of Tolosa, permitting him at the same time to name whom he pleased to succeed him in his vacant see.
“When Don Illan heard this he reminded him of his promise, urging him to confer the appointment on his son. But the archbishop again desired that he would allow him to name one of his paternal uncles to succeed him. Don Illan replied, that, although he felt he was unjustly treated, still, relying on the future accomplishment of his promise, he should let it be. The archbishop thanked him, again renewed his promise of future services and, 82 inviting Don Illan and his son to accompany him, they all set out for Tolosa, where they were well received by the counts and great men of the country.
“They had resided there about two years when messengers again came from the Pope with letters in which he announced to the archbishop that he had named him cardinal, allowing him, as before, to name his successor.
“On this occasion Don Illan went to him, and again urging that many vacancies had taken place, to none of which he had named his son, so that now he could plead no excuse, and he hoped the cardinal would confer this last dignity on his son. But once more the cardinal requested Don Illan would forgive his having bestowed the vacant see on one of his maternal uncles; saying he was a very good old man, and proposing they should now depart for Rome, where undoubtedly he would do for them all they could desire. Don Illan complained very much; nevertheless, he consented to accompany the cardinal to Rome. On their arrival they were very well received by the other cardinals and the entire court, and they lived there a long time. Don Illan daily importuned the cardinal to confer some appointment on his son, but he always found some excuse for not doing so.
“While they were yet at Rome, the pope died, and all the cardinals assembled in conclave elected our cardinal pope.
“Then Don Illan came to him, saying, ‘You have 83 now no excuse to offer for not fulfilling the promises you have hitherto made me.’
“But the new pope told him not to importune him so much, as there was still time to think of him and his son.
“Don Illan now began to complain in earnest. ‘You have,’ said he, ‘made me very many promises, not one of which you have performed.’ He then recalled to his mind how earnestly he had pledged his word at their first interview to do all he could to help him, and never as yet had he done anything. ‘I have no longer any faith in your words,’ said Don Illan, ‘nor do I now expect anything from you.’
“These expressions very much angered the pope, who replied, tartly, ‘If I am again annoyed in this manner I will have you thrown into prison as a heretic and a sorcerer, for I know well that in Toledo, where you lived, you had no other means of support but by practising the art of necromancy.’
“When Don Illan saw how ill the pope had requited him for what he had done, he prepared to depart, the pope refusing to grant him wherewith to support himself on the road. ‘Then,’ said he to the pope, ‘since I have nothing to eat, I must needs fall back upon the partridges I ordered for to-night’s supper.’ He then called out to his housekeeper, and ordered her to cook the birds for his supper.
“No sooner had he spoken, than the dean found himself again in Toledo, still dean of Santiago, as 84 on his arrival, but so overwhelmed with shame that he knew not what to say.
“ ‘How fortunate is it,’ said Don Illan to him, ‘that I have thus proved the intrinsic value of your promises in prosperity; for, as it is, I should have considered it a great misfortune had I allowed you to partake of the partridges.’
“And you, Count Lucanor, will now see how you ought to act towards the man, who, desiring your assistance, is so ungrateful. Risk not too much on the chance of your services being repaid at some future time, or you may anticipate the reward Don Illan received from the dean.’
The Count found this to be very good advice, acted upon it, and was benefited.
And Don Juan, thinking this to be a very good example, had it written in this book and composed these verses, which say as follows: —
Under the title of the “Dean of Badajoz,” Herder, and, after him, L’Abbé Blanchet, have given another version, which has furnished Andrieux with the subject of one of his prettiest tales in verse. The editor of Blanchet’s works says, “This is not an oriental tale, but is taken from El Conde Lucanor, a highly esteemed Spanish work of the fourteenth century, written by the Infant Don Manuel.” The Abbé, however, has so interlarded the original story with adornments of his own, bearing critically on the ecclesiastical condition of his time, that it would be difficult for Don Manuel to recognize his own tale in its French dress.