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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. 330-344.


Novels of Ortensio Lando.




THIS writer, who flourished about the middle of the sixteenth century, was by birth a Milanese, and traced his family origin to Piacenza. He devoted himself to the medical profession, in which he may probably have imbibed those heretical opinions which led to his subsequent banishment, many of the physicians of that period being distinguished for the freedom of their religious sentiments. It is said by some of the authorities that Lando was an Augustine friar, but the fact that he was persecuted for the heretical tendency of his opinions, militates against this assertion, which seems to be unsupported by any kind of evidence. It is certain that he abandoned his native country in dread of an impending martyrdom, and embraced the party of Luther on retiring into Germany, where he ended his days in poverty and distress. We may thus account for the various theological discussions which we find mingled with his writings, both in the Italian and Latin languages. His novels, to the number of fourteen, appeared with a collection of his “Varii Componimenti,” at Venice, in 1552. According to the author’s own statement, they were composed in imitation of the great Boccaccio, however far they may be from reaching the excellence of their model. He may nevertheless be allowed to take his rank among the best novelists of that day, who were as anxious to persuade their readers of their resemblance to Boccaccio as their predecessors had been to testify the truth and originality of their stories.

Lando is considered remarkable for the easy and graceful flow of his language, in which he has scarcely any competitor. His narratives, likewise, in point of incident, are in general very lively and pleasing. Like Grazzini, whom he most resembled, he was of a very whimsical disposition, and is said to have been so strongly addicted to the sin of scandal, that, in default of other subjects, he was unable even to spare himself, having drawn so unfavourable a portrait of his own character as to leave his orthodox enemies very little to say against him. The thirteenth story of Lando, in the opinion of Mr. Dunlop, possesses intrinsic excellence, and forms one of the following selections.


*  Varii Componimenti di M. Ortensio Lando: Venice, 1552, 8vo.

  History of Fiction, vol. ii. p. 441.




MANFRED, King of Navarre, was one of the most cruel and sanguinary princes of his age. Altogether unworthy of the name of king, there was nothing sacred in his eyes, nothing that seemed to restrain him in his ferocious career. He was never known to evince marks of pleasure, except where rapine and violation attended upon his steps. This unnatural disposition he more particularly indulged towards those who had most essentially served him, until, unable longer to endure the extreme severity of his yoke, his own nobles rose up in arms and excited the people to revolt. The signal being once given, they rushed forward in crowds towards the palace, in order to satiate their vengeance upon the spot. Incapable of making head against the wrath of his exasperated people, the sense of his past crimes suddenly smote upon the soul of the monarch, and he stood for a moment the image of anguish and despair; but the tidings of fate bursting louder and louder on his ear, he recollected a secret staircase which led to the back of his palace, and snatching up the young prince, his son, by Queen Altilia, a daughter of the King of Spain, he attempted to escape from the palace, already enveloped in flames. His hair, his royal mantle, and even his features, were scorched with the excessive eat; but he child, whom he had carefully wrapped in a flannel gown, escaped unhurt. In this state he succeeded, in a quarter where the assailants were but few, in making his way beyond the precincts of the palace, and at length, after infinite risks, he passed the frontiers of his own dominions. With slow and painful footsteps he then proceeded, begging alms by the way, from country to country, having exchanged his royal garments for a pauper’s dress, and wishing yet afraid to die. His exasperated subjects meeting neither with him nor his son, whose name was Vitrio, concluded that they had both perished in the flames, and immediately proceeded to elevate to the throne his brother Aldobrandino, a wise and temperate prince, who proved himself worthy of their choice.

Manfred, in the meanwhile, continued to traverse various regions with his little boy, who sometimes walked at his side, and sometimes was borne in his father’s arms, encountering unnumbered perils and deprivations, and stung with remorse at the recollection of his past enormities. Drooping at length under the weight of years and infirmities, he arrived at Sienna, where he applied for admission into the public hospital, and was charitably received. Finding himself here approaching the termination of his days, while his poor son, Vitrio, stood weeping by his side, he entreated the governor and some other gentlemen of the city to visit him before he expired. Several persons having complied with his request, King Manfred, turning towards the boy with tears in his eyes, addressed him as follows: “Behold, my child, the well-merited punishment of cruelty and sin! Behold me, a lone and banished man, perishing of want, as you have frequently witnessed during our long and painful pilgrimage. It is my wish before I leave you to reveal the history of our birth and name, for 333 you are nobly born, and some time you may perhaps profit by a knowledge of the truth. My name is Manfred, the tyrant of Navarre, and you are the offspring of my queen, Altilia, daughter of King Severus of Spain. I saved you, at imminent risk, from the flames kindled by an indignant people in order to envelope us in the ruins of our own palace. Believing us to have perished in the flames, my brother was elevated to the vacant throne, and I became a wretched exile, suffering under the incessant attacks of remorse, poverty, and despair. But I have to beseech you, my son, that you will obey me in what I am about to request: — that you will ever bear in mind those precepts of your ancestors which I myself so unhappily violated or neglected, and thus avoid the horror of being surrounded by the threatening arms of an injured and exasperated people. Imprint, then, the four following maxims upon your memory. In the first place, never abandon the old path for the new; secondly, never attach yourself to a woman whom you may not lawfully call your own; thirdly, marry no woman till you have first seen her, and found her nobility of birth to be worthy of sharing your high rank; fourthly, never strike your enemy until you have first thrice drawn your sword and thrice sheathed it in the scabbard.” Then, having taken a tender leave of his son, and, fully sensible of his late crimes, received the sacrament and reconciled himself to our holy Church, he turned himself upon his side and expired. During this scene the surrounding spectators were bathed in tears, but their grief was lost in the deeper lamentations of the unhappy youth, who wept over his father as the first and last friend he ever had in this world. “Whither shall I go? Where shall I seek refuge now?” he cried. “My dear, dear father, thou hast left me without hope or stay!” But some gentlemen of Sienna, tearing him almost forcibly from the body, caused the deceased to be honourably interred at the public expense; nor could his son have received more ample proofs of regard had he been the immediate successor to a throne. For the noblest Siennese families invited him to their houses, and in a short time they selected a deputation of gentlemen to accompany him into the kingdom of his grandfather, and to bear witness to the decease of Manfred and the manner in which he had eluded the vigilance of his people. He was welcomed by King Severus with the utmost kindness, the Siennese ambassadors receiving also public testimony of his approbation of their conduct in a variety of rich donations to grace their return.

Pleased with the young prince’s conduct and disposition, the king brought him up at his own court, and when he had reached his sixteenth year, he bestowed upon him the hand of one of the most beautiful princesses of Portugal, celebrating his espousals with the bright Cillenia in the most pompous and magnificent manner. Not very long after this Vitrio was seized with a violent fever, and in order to facilitate his recovery he made a pious vow to visit as a pilgrim the holy cities of Rome and Jerusalem. On his convalescence, therefore, he entreated the king to permit him to fulfil his vow, which he doubted not had restored him so far to health. This, with some difficulty, being at length granted by the king, who tenderly loved him, the invalid set 334 out, loaded with rich presents and attended by a noble train. Having visited Rome and made the due offerings at the holy shrine, he departed for Ancona, where he hired a noble galley to convey him to the port of Baruti, situated not very far from Jerusalem. He was borne by prosperous breezes until he arrived near the isle of Cyprus, when a sudden tempest arising, the vessel was driven off the coast of Syria, and being dashed to pieces on the rocks, about twenty of the passengers were saved and captured by the neighbouring inhabitants. But Vitrio, with several of his companions, had first escaped to shore, and continued his flight during the whole of that day along the coast, without any nutriment, until they were overpowered by fatigue. The following morning, meeting with some wild berries, they recruited their exhausted strength, and were fortunate enough after long toil to reach a spring of water near the shore, but so dark and turbid as to be extremely nauseous to the taste. Vitrio then threw himself, overwhelmed with sorrow and weariness, upon the sands, desirous of obtaining some repose. On seeing this, two of his attendants began to lament their unhappy fate, an, reproaching him with want of feeling in having paid no attention to them, they resolved to consult their own safety, and to abandon him as he lay. Awakening soon after, he arose and called them by their names, and, when those who remained faithful to him came forward, he besought them not to desert him; for he had dreamed that while he slept his companions had departed. Under the impression that they that they had all conspired to betray him, he now besought them most tenderly as his friends and brothers that they would neither be ungenerous enough to injure him nor abandon him to his fate. Thus addressing them, with tears in his eyes, he resumed his way; and about the middle of the day it so happened that he again fell in with the two cavaliers who had agreed to leave him. Weary with travelling along the shore, where nothing was found to satisfy the cravings of hunger and thirst, Vitrio determined to strike into the interior of the country. They soon afterwards arrived at a spot where two pathways met; one of which appeared new and spacious, the other untravelled and overgrown with briars and thorns. Vitrio, here recollecting the advice given him by his father, never to abandon the old path to walk in the new, came to the resolution of persevering in the thorny way. Upon observing this, the two cavaliers who had before abandoned him began to reproach him with his folly in persevering in a road which would certainly lead his companions into destruction. But Vitrio, deigning not to reply, pursued the path which he had chosen, followed by Lambrone and Gelso only, two of his attendants who still remained faithful to him. The sun had scarcely gone down before the latter travellers reached a large town called Rama, at a short distance from Zaffo, a place to which a great number of Christians used to resort. Gelso, who understood the language of the country, there procured provisions for their support, and the following day they arrived at Zaffo; while the two cavaliers who had traversed the great road, attended by the rest of the crew, were all surprised and cut off by banditti, with the exception of a single man, who brought tidings of their fate to Zaffo. In a few days 335 they again resumed their journey, and had the good fortune to reach Jerusalem, where, after religiously observing their vows, they bent their way towards the sea-shore, and passing into Cyprus, the prince there fell sick, and was confined to his couch for the space of a year. When he recovered, his two faithful friends, Gelso and Lambrone, likewise fell sick, and died soon after. Vitrio shed many tears over their graves, and it was long before he again recovered sufficient fortitude to resume his way whithersoever his destiny might lead. But tears availed him nothing, and, having exhausted his other resources, he betook himself to a few jewels, which he disposed of to the best advantage, and proceeded slowly towards Nicozia. He there remained some time in the court of King Troilus, who, pleased with his gentle manners, no less than with the story of his adventures, granted him a refuge from the assaults of Fortune. But even here, alas! she did not long cease to persecute him; for a daughter of Theodoro, lord of Arzuffo, becoming deeply enamoured of him, soon gave him to understand by secret messages that she had bestowed upon him her whole heart, and loved him more than herself. Again recollecting his father’s instructions, not to attach himself to any woman but his lawful wife, Vitrio received her overtures with the utmost coldness, and at length began to avoid her presence in order to show his decided aversion to her suit. The consequences of this proceeding were soon felt by Vitrio, for the lady, indignant at his rejection of her advances, changed her love into the fiercest anger and disdain. In order to ensure a safe revenge, she gave orders to her nurse to deposit a case of jewellery under the young prince’s couch; and the wicked old woman having obeyed her, the prince was immediately accused by the offended lady of having committed the theft. After enduring solitary confinement for the space of two years, hew as sentenced to terminate his days upon the gallows. Now, it was an ancient custom of the island that every criminal condemned to death had the power of redeeming himself by the payment of two thousand bezants. But this unhappy youth had already expended all his resources in feeing the judges, the advocates, and the courtiers, in order to obtain the exercise of their influence in a final appeal to the monarch. In fact, he was now completely destitute, and there was nothing left for him but to summon fortitude to die. His eyes were already bound, and he was fast approaching the scene of execution, when a beautiful maiden who had lately succeeded to a large inheritance observed him passing along, buried in the profoundest affliction. Taking compassion on his fate, and impelled by a tenderer feeling, she instantly offered the amount of the fine, and claimed at the same time the young man’s deliverance, if he would consent to accept her as his spouse. It is impossible now to describe the mental struggles of the unfortunate youth, and we may justly estimate the magnanimity of his soul in hesitating s to a proposal of marriage, although the preservation of his life depended upon his acceptance of it. Even now he debated within himself whether to perish or to violate the commands of his holy religion by taking two wives. In this emergency he recollected the injunction of his father not to marry until he had seen the lady and 336 ascertained her nobility of birth; and he therefore requested to see the maiden and to be informed as to her extraction. The bandage was removed from his eyes, and the officer, pointing out the lady, observed, “Behold the fair daughter of the merchant Palliodoro.” On hearing these words, Vitrio, turning to the officers of justice, bade them lead on, for that he was content to suffer. “The crown of Navarre,” he exclaimed, “must never sit upon the head of a merchant’s daughter, however exalted a soul she may possess. Heaven, I trust, will grant her a better husband than I shall ever make her; and as for me, if it be well that I should escape, God will yet provide the means.” Hearing these expressions, and beholding the firm and noble deportment of the prisoner, the chief officer despatched a messenger to the king, saying that the youthful stranger had refused the price of his redemption and the hand of the rich daughter of Palliodoro. The king then ordered Vitrio to be brought before him, and obtained from him a full confession of his previous history, of his long wanderings and sufferings after having fled with his father, and begged their bread in foreign lands. “Compassionate, then,” continued Vitrio, “most noble prince, my strange and unhappy fortunes. Permit me not to suffer until my accusers have been again examined: you will find that I am innocent, and that I do not deserve to die. Your majesty will not, therefore, deny me that justice which I have not yet received.” The two women being then brought into the presence of the king, and threatened with torture if they did not forthwith reveal the whole truth, immediately confessed the falsehood of the charge, and were condemned to perpetual imprisonment.

The monarch then commanded a noble vessel to be fitted out in order to convey the stranger to the shores of Spain. Returning his grateful thanks, Vitrio departed, and soon after landed in the territories of King Severus, and proceeded towards his court, reflecting on the results of his obedience to his dear father’s precepts. It was just on the point of nightfall as he reached the outskirts of the royal palace, where, giving his name to the astonished officers, who had long numbered him with the dead, he proceeded up the staircase and along the spacious galleries alone. The first object which he beheld on approaching the scene of his former pleasures and power was a lady caressing an infant in her arms, the same lady whom he had left so young, his own cherished and honoured bride. His first impulse was a feeling of jealousy, and, believing that she was caressing an adulterous offspring, he was on the point of unsheathing his sword and sacrificing them both to his revenge. But the memory of his father once more rushed into his mind. “Never,” he exclaimed within himself, “strike your foe until you have thrice drawn your sword from its scabbard;” and he stood and gazed fearfully some moments at the lady and the child. The latter, startled at the glittering blade, ran screaming towards its mother, who sat with her face turned partly aside from her husband’s view, crying out that a man was coming to kill him. “Sleep, sleep, little foolish one,” replied his mother: ‘no man since my dear husband left me has ever passed this sad chamber-door.” Catching the sound of these words, Vitrio, breathing a prayer 337 of gratitude to his father’s spirit, quickly sheathed his sword, and hearing his child repeating the name of mother, he rushed forward, and the next moment found them both clasped within his arms. His voice and features were still so familiar to the fancy of the princess that she knew him in a moment, and a sudden flood of joyous tears at once expressed and relieved the deep emotions of her breast. The tidings quickly spreading abroad, the prince was immediately introduced into the presence of the king, who received him as if he had recovered his own son. A general festival was in consequence proclaimed throughout the kingdom, and jousts and tournaments were celebrated. The King of Portugal, his father-in-law, demonstrated no less satisfaction at his return, which he evinced by the pomp and magnificence of his entertainments. In after years, Prince Vitrio succeeded to the throne of his grandfather, to which, before his decease, he added the sceptre of his uncle and of his wife’s father, thus reigning over three several countries. He was blessed with a numerous progeny, and as he had always approved himself a fond ad obedient son, he had the delight of embracing only wise and affectionate children.



THERE was once a gentleman of Verona, named Messer Ugo da Santa Sofia, who devoted himself with such assiduity to the study of the arts and sciences, and especially to the contemplation of the heavenly bodies, that he had become famous throughout the whole country. Whether planets, or fixed or wandering stars, fiery comets, satellites, or lunar orbs, he boasted the most intimate acquaintance with all their motions, and foretold their revolutions in heaven without the risk which he incurred when he ventured to prophecy respecting those which should happen on earth. he foretold the death of King Robert and the succession of a female to the throne. The confines of Hungary, he predicted, were to extend even as far as Greece, and would afterwards reach the plain of Troy; and he smelt the approach of that horrid pestilence which committed such dreadful devastations in the memorable year 1348. But suffice it to observe that the accuracy of his predictions was such, that his reputation spread through Europe, and none of its princes ever found themselves in difficulty without sending for Messer Ugo to enjoy the advantage of his sage admonitions. We must not be surprised, therefore, to hear that he became a little vain of these his unearthly powers, which, in his own opinion, were altogether infallible. Now it so fell out that one day during harvest-time he went to his country house, for he took great pleasure in seeing the corn threshed in the barn, when one of his neighbours, an ancient villager, very well off in the world, called upon him to communicate what he considered to be rather important information at that season of the year. Being somewhat lame in one of his legs, he was in the habit of riding a beautiful ass, from which he 338 now alighted at the door of Messer Ugo. “I have called upon you, as I was riding by, just to tell you, Messer Ugo, that I think it would be prudent in you to take are of your corn, which had been cut so long, during this threatening weather; for within an hour hence we shall have such a tremendous storm, that you will imagine the very heavens are about to tumble upon our heads.” Our philosopher, with great coolness, inquired how this neighbour alone came to be in possession of this secret, and after gazing round the horizon on all sides, unable to detect the least black spot, which frequently portends the distant storm, he turned a look of quiet contempt upon the good countryman, observing, “The sky is quite clear, the sun mild, and not even a cloud upon the mountains, and yet you are bold enough to prognosticate a storm. Why, there is a soft south wind blowing, and the sun is in the right sign and the right degree; nothing less than a miracle can make it rain. Nature herself could not make it rain now. With help of Providence, to be sure, she might; but, as she stands disposed at present, it is impossible we can have any rain.” He continued to debate the point with the countryman for a ling while without making the least impression upon him; the only answer he receive was, that Messer Ugo would be much better employed in giving orders to have his grain quickly housed than in wasting arguments upon him, as the approaching tempest would not merely destroy the corn, but beat down trees, scatter hers and flocks, and shake the houses to their foundations. Messer Ugo’s choler now rose to such a height at the countryman’s strange pertinacity, that he was much inclined to bestow upon him a box on the ear; but instead of this, he so far controlled his indignation as first to consult his telescope and compasses, with which he once more examined the heavens more narrowly than before, yet still drawing the same conclusion, that rain for that day, at least, was quite out of the question, expecting as soon to see the mountains levelled with the plains or the rivers flowing over the hills. Finding that he could be of no use, the villager at length took his leave, and he had scarcely dismounted at home before a dark speck became visible in the horizon, and swelling with the rising wind, in a short time obscured the face of the sun itself. Strong lightnings soon afterwards began to play towards the north, while the wind changing gradually into the east, floods of rain, resembling water-spouts rather than a common shower, emptied themselves into the bosom of the west, already torn by the rising conflict of the elements. As the torrents of rain increased, the reverberating thunders and the livid lights, instead of dying away, seemed to gather double strength in an almost unheard-of manner, such as we may suppose pealed over the heads of the fierce Titans when, rising in rash revolt, they experienced the indignation of their father Jove. Towers and steeples tottered to their base, the loftiest oaks lay prostrate, the river Adige rose and burst its old embankments, while the proudest palaces with their royal inmates trembled, as if anticipating the dissolution of the groaning fabric of the world. But where was poor Messer Ugo with his famous astrological observations during this time, and where was all his unhoarded grain? It was an equally severe 339 blow upon his property and his pride; he almost wished he had never become versed in a knowledge of the stars, since he found himself thus shamefully imposed upon by the weather. His fine corn was flying all abroad, a prey to the fierce elements, and he sorely repented him of having turned a deaf ear to his neighbour, whose precaution would have so well availed him. Away he flung his square and compasses, his astrolabe, and his whole apparatus, in the rage of the moment, while he watched the wild progress of the storm, every moment appearing an age until it should have so far subsided as to permit him to creep with safety to his honest neighbour, to entreat his pardon and to inquire by what art he had foretold this dreadful tempest in the midst of a perfect calm. At length, with some difficulty, during a pause of the awful blast, he contrived to reach his door; and after apologising to him in a meek and faltering tone, he besought him to explain in what way he could possibly have foreseen such a calamity. “There is certainly,” he continued, “some superior master in the same art as my won, whom you must have applied to on this occasion.” “That is very true, Messer Ugo,” replied the village; “I have consulted him, and he is no other than the pretty animal upon which you saw me mounted. My own ass unfolded the secret to me, as he has done many others of the same nature before. He can tell fair weather, too, as well as foul; and I never in my life was in need of any other weather-glass: he takes a more exact survey of the heavens than the best glass or compass could possibly do. I always remark that when the weather is going to be extremely rough, he sets up his back, his hairs stand on end, and he hides his tail between his legs, shaking as if he were in an ague. But if we are merely going to have a moderate breeze, it is quite another thing, for then he only holds his tail between his legs for a few moments, lashing his sides; ad if no thunder and lightning follow, he will scarcely do so much. But when we are to be visited with such a fierce tempest as we have had to-day, then you should mind what he says; he never in all his lie gave me such an awful warning before. For he first directed all his ears and eyes as it were up into the sky; he stopped and listened; and then he leaped up, and beat the earth with his four feet as if all the horse-flies in the world had been devouring him. So I thought I would just step and tell you our opinion on the subject, for my noble beast and I are always perfectly of once accord on this point. Nor should you, Messer Ugo, be surprised at this; for how is it that the cock informs us so exactly of the hour, as if he had got a little piece of watch-work in his head? How is it in the least more strange than what we hear of the dolphins gambolling before the luckless vessels, with their curved backs upon the surface, warning the poor sailors of the tempest at hand? Why should not my ass be supposed to know something likewise upon the subject?”

Messer Ugo da Santa Sofia had not a word to utter in reply; he had now fairly the worst of the argument, and at length candidly confessed his admiration of the superior tact and foresight of the ass, grieving, however, at the same time, that the long-eared steed of Carabotto 340 (the name of the good villager) should be, after all, a greater astrologer than himself, who had actually grown grey in the service of the stars, the tides and the causes of everything which happens here below. He entreated his good neighbour to keep the matter secret, at least for a while, lest his reputation should suffer in the opinion of the world. The countryman very kindly promised that he would do so, but whether he really did or not is uncertain, as the affair quickly took wind, though most probably from some witnesses who must have been present at the controversy previous to the storm. certain it is that the whole country was speedily in possession of the secret, and of much amusement in consequence, it being everywhere said that the ass of Carabotto had turned out at last a greater astrologer than the great Messer Ugo da Santa Sofia di Verona himself. The saying became at length quite proverbial, and nothing was more common than to hear a man answer a very pertinacious enemy by observing, “Yes, I daresay you think you know more astrology than Carabotto’s ass;” which generally brought another reply much as follows: “Go, go! for you know less than poor Messer Ugo da Santa Sofia himself.”

When our unhappy astronomer learned that the matter was publicly divulge throughout all Lombardy, he went into such a violent fit of passion, that he actually seized and committed to the flames more than two thousand crowns’ worth of astrological books and instruments; and he used even to walk with his eyes fixed upon the ground to avoid contemplating he heavens, which, after all his long labours, had so egregiously deceived him.



IT was said of Messer Leandro de’ Traversari, canon of Ravenna, that, from the opening to the close of his mortal career, he invariably evinced the most decided enmity to truth. He had such a total disregard for this invaluable quality, that if he ever happened to stumble upon the truth, he betrayed as much melancholy and regret as if he had actually sinned against the Holy Ghost. Besides, he was not merely the most notorious asserter of “the thing which is not” himself, but the cause of falsehood in others, compelling his very friends and dependents to confirm his wicked statements, under penalty of incurring his most severe spiritual displeasure.

There was a certain Florentine, who had lately entered into his service, and who, perceiving his master’s peculiarity in this respect, resolved not merely to humour him in it, but to add something further on his own part, in order the better to recommend himself to his notice. He one day availed himself of an opportunity, when walking with the good canon in the gardens of the archbishop, near the city, to give his master a specimen of his inventive powers. Observing the gardener employed in planting cauliflowers, the prelate happened to remark, 341 “These cauliflowers grow to a surprising size; their bulk is quite prodigious; I believe no one can bring them to such rare perfection as my gardener.” As the latter did not care to contradict this testimony, so favourable to his character, Messer Leandro subjoined to the observation of his superior, “Yes, my lord; but if you had ever seen those that grow in Cucagna, you would not think these so very extraordinary in point of size.” “Why, how large may they grow?” inquired the archbishop. “How large?” returned Messer Leandro, “I can scarcely give your lordship an idea of it. In those parts I hear it is no uncommon thing for twenty knights on horseback to take shelter together under their huge cabbage leaves.” The archbishop expressing no slight astonishment at these words, the wily Florentine stepped forward to his master’s relief, saying: “Your Excellency will not be so much surprised, when I inform your Excellency that I have myself seen these magnificent cabbages growing in that strange country; and I have seen the immense cauldrons in which they are boiled, of such a vast construction, that twenty workmen are engaged in framing them at once; and it is said that the sound of their hammers cannot be heard from opposite sides, as they sit in the huge vessel to complete their work.” The noble prelate, whose intellect was not of the highest order, opened his eyes still wider upon the Florentine, exclaiming that he fancied such a capacious saucepan would contain sufficient food, were it rightly calculated, for the whole people of Cairo at one meal.

While they were thus engaged, a person made his approach, with an ape upon his shoulders, intended as a present for the venerable archbishop, who, turning towards the canon, with a smiling countenance, noticed the very singular resemblance between the human figure and that of the sagacious animal before them. “It is my serious opinion,” continued he, “that if the beast had only a little more intellect, there would not be so much difference between him and ourselves as some people imagine.” — “I trust,” replied the worthy canon, “your lordship would not mean to insinuate that monkeys really want sense; for, if so, I can soon, I think, convince your lordship of the contrary, by a story pretty apposite to the purpose.

“The noble lord Almerico was one day feasting the good bishop of Vicenza, having given orders to his cook to prepare all the varieties and delicacies of the season. Now the cook was in possession of an excellent method of guarding the treasures of his kitchen; for which purpose he kept an invaluable ape, excellently tutored to the business. No man, not even the boldest, ventured to steal the least thing in his presence, until a certain footman, from Savignano, more greedy than a horse-leech, and unable to check his thieving propensities, hit upon what he considered a safe means of eluding the monkey’s observation. He began to cultivate his acquaintance by performing all kinds of amusing tricks, and bribing him to be in good-humour. The moment he perceived the ape busily engaged in imitating what he saw, the rogue, binding a handkerchief over his own eyes, in a short time handed it likewise to the mimic, and with secret pleasure beheld him fastening it over his face; during which time he contrived to lay his hands upon 342 a fat capon, which the ape, though too late, soon afterwards perceived. The head cook upon this occasion gave his monkeyship so severe a flogging that, being doubly cautious, the next time the thievish footman repeated the same tricks, and proceeded to bandage his eyes, the wily animal, instead of imitating him, stared around him with all his eyes, pointing at the same time to his paws, as if advising him to keep his hands from picking and stealing; so that the rogue was this time compelled to depart with his hands as empty as they came. Finding that all of his arts were of no avail” —— The archbishop here, overpowered with wonder and delight, exclaimed, “If this be only true, it is one of the most astonishing things I ever heard.” The assiduous Florentine upon this again interposed in his master’s behalf, crying out with singular force of gesticulation: “As I hope to be saved at the last day, please your grace, what my honoured patron has just advanced is every particle of it true; and as your grace appears to take a particular pleasure in listening to strange and almost unaccountable events, I will now beg leave to add a single story in addition to those of my noble patron, however inferior in point of excellence.

“During the last vintage, I was in the service of a gentleman at Ferrara, of the name of Libanoro, who took singular pleasure in fishing, and used frequently to explore the recesses of the vale of Santo Appollinare. This master of mine had also an ape in his possession, considerably larger that your Excellency’s, and, while he was in the country, he commissioned me to take along with me to Ferrara this said ape, a barrel of white wine, and a fat pig; in order to present them to a certain convenient ruffian, whom he kept in his service. So I took a boat, and playing oars and sail, while we were bounding along the waters, I gave the skiff a sudden jerk, which made the pig’s fat sides shake, and he went round like a turnspit, performing the strangest antics. So loud and vehement were his lamentations, that they seemed to annoy his apeship excessively, who, after in vain trying to stop his ears and nose, at length seized the plug out of the barrel that stood near him, and fairly thrust it down the pig’s throat, just as we was opening it to give another horrible cry. Both the wine and the pig were in extreme jeopardy, the one actually choking, and the other running all away. I tried to save as much of it as I could; but my immoderate laughter almost prevented me, so much was I amused at his ingenious contrivance. So that your grace may perceive,” continued the mendacious Florentine, “that my master speaks the simple truth, in asserting that these animals are possessed of great acuteness of intellect.” Now, on returning home, the good canon thus addressed his servant: “I thought, sirrah, there was no man living who could tell a lie with a bolder and better face than myself; but you have undeceived me: you are the very prince of liars and impostors; the father of lies himself could not surpass you!” “Your reverence,” replied the Florentine, “need not be surprised at that, when I inform you of the advantages I have enjoyed in the society of tailors, millers, and bargemen, who live upon the profit they bring. But if from this time forth, you insist upon my persevering in confirming so many monstrous untruths as you utter, I trust that you will consent 343 to increase my wages, in consideration of so abominable a business.” “Well then, listen to me,” replied his master; “when it is my intention to come out with some grand and extraordinary falsehood, I will take care to tell you the evening before, and at the same time I will always give you such a gratuity as shall make it worth your while. And if I should happen to tell a good story after dinner, as you stand behind my chair, and you swear to having seen it, very innocently, you may depend upon it you shall be no loser.” This his servant agreed to do, upon condition that he would observe some bounds, and keep up some show, at least, of reason and probability; which the honest canon said, so far as he was able, he would try to do; adding that if they were not reasonable lies, the servant should not be bound by the contract, and might return the gift.

Thus the most wonderful adventures continued to be related at the good canon’s table, and what is more extraordinary, they were all very dexterously confirmed. So going on very amicably together, the canon one evening intending to impose a monstrous lie upon one of his friends, took down a pair of old breeches, and presented them to his servant as the requisite gift. In the morning, attending his master to church as usual, he heard him after service relating a story to one of the holy brotherhood, who stood swallowing it all with a very serious face, how in the island of Pastinaca the magpies are accustomed to get married in proper form and ceremony; and how, after laying, and sitting upon their eggs for the space of a month, they bring forth little men, not larger than ants, but astonishingly bold and clever. The Florentine upon this could no longer restrain his feelings, crying out before the whole company: “No, no, I cannot swear to this neither; so you may take back your breeches, master, and get somebody else in my place.”



RICARDO CAPPONI, a noble Florentine, having devoted himself in early life to trade, in the course of time realised a very handsome property. When advance in years, he took his son, Vicenti, into partnership, and not long after gave up his whole mercantile concern into his hands; and falling into a bad state of health, owing either to his great exertions or to his subsequent high living, he became unable to leave the house.

His son, Vicenti, who was of an extremely avaricious disposition, finding that his father continued to linger much beyond the period his covetous and ungrateful heart would have assigned him, and unwilling longer to support him, took measures, under pretence of obtaining for him better medical advice than he could at home provide, to have him conveyed to the city hospital. Yet his affairs were then in a flourishing state, and everything that he possessed he owed to his unhappy parent, whose age and infirmities, whose tears and entreaties, he alike disregarded. This unnatural son could not, however, contrive to 344 conduct the matter so secretly as to elude the observation and the reproaches of all classes of people in city. He at first tried to impose, both upon his friends and the public, by the false representations which he set on foot; but finding these could not avail him, he resolved, in order the better to disarm the popular voice against him, to send his own little children with little presents to their grandfather.

On one occasions he gave to his eldest boy, about six years of age, two fine cambric shirts, desiring him, early the next morning, to take them carefully to his poor grandfather in the hospital. The little boy, promised that he would do so; and on his return the next day, his father, calling him into his presence, inquired whether he had delivered them safe into the hands of his grandfather. “I only gave him one, father,” replied the little boy. “What!” exclaimed Vicenti with an angry voice; “did I not tell you both were for your grandfather?” “Yes,” returned the little fellow with a steady and undaunted look, “but I thought that I would keep one of them for you, father, against the time when I shall have to send you, I hope, to the hospital.” “How!” exclaimed Vicenti, “would you ever have the cruelty to send me there, my boy?” “Why not?” retorted the lad; “let him that does evil expect evil in return. For you know you made your own father go there, old and ailing as he is, and he never did you any harm in his life, and do you think I shall not send you when I am able? Indeed, father, I am resolved that I will; for, as I have said before, let him that does evil expect evil in return.”

On hearing these words, Vicenti, giving signs of the utmost emotion, as if suddenly smitten by the hand of Heaven, sorely repented of the heinous offence against humanity and justice which he had committed. He hastened himself to the hospital; he entreated his father’s pardon on his knees, and had him conveyed instantly home; ever afterwards showing himself a gentle and obedient son, and frequently administering to his aged parent’s wants with his own hands.

This incident gave rise throughout all Tuscany to the well-known proverb above mentioned, “Let him that does evil expect evil in return;” and from Tuscany it passed into many other parts of Italy.


  “Chi la fa, l’aspetta.”


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