Above the Clock Tower of Venice is a carved marble angel with clasped hands and peacefully folded wings. Many years ago, a clever lawyer of Venice lived in that house. He was known all over the city as the wisest and most learned of men, and was very rich and powerful. But although men praised him for his wisdom, they would always end by shaking their heads and lowering their voices when they spoke of him. For it was said there was no man as wicked as he. Strange tales were told of wicked deeds done in the old house, and gradually one by one his servants left him, frightened. At last the lawyer was left all alone in the great house, and never a friend came near him.
"He has sold his soul to the devil," said the citizens in whispers one to another. And even as they spoke they started and looked round swiftly over their shoulders, half afraid lest the clever lawyer or the devil might be standing there listening to their words.
Now it was very uncomfortable to live in a great house all alone, and the lawyer did not like it. There was no one to wait on him or prepare his meals, and he began to think it would be better to mend his ways, and perhaps persuade some of the old servants to come back.
Just as this thought entered his head one evening, the door of the room where he was sitting was pushed open. With a bound there sprang into the room a large furry animal which stood grinning and chattering before him in the most friendly manner. It was a large black monkey, as tall as a child and as strong as a man, and as it gambolled about and uttered its queer chattering cries, the lawyer laughed more heartily than he had done for years. "Here is a merry companion arrived just when he is most needed," he said.
The monkey grinned as if he understood his welcome and began to make himself quite at home. In a short time he learned to do anything that the lawyer taught him. His hands were so deft and his head so intelligent that there seemed no end to his usefulness. He could sweep the rooms, light the fires, cook the food, and do more than all the trained servants had ever done.
Wherever the lawyer went he boasted of his wonderful monkey, and was never tired of telling stories of its clever and amusing ways. But the monkey was none other than the devil himself. He had made up his mind to come and live with the lawyer that he might be quite sure of getting his soul. For there was still some good in the lawyer, and the devil thought it wiser to be always near him, ready to stamp it out.
Now, although the lawyer had often grieved his guardian angel and driven him away, still the angel watched over him from afar and longed to help and protect him. Time after time he had tried and failed, until it seemed quite hopeless. But now when he saw with sad, grieved eyes how the devil, in the form of the monkey, was always present, he made up his mind to try once again. So one evening the good angel took the form of one of the lawyer's friends, and went to call at the old lonely house.
The lawyer was somewhat surprised when the visitor came in. It was many a long day since a friend had cared to cross his door. Strangely enough, since the monkey had come, people seemed to avoid him more than ever.
"I hear you have a wonderful servant," said the angel visitor, after they had talked together for a little. "I would like to hear all about him."
Nothing pleased the lawyer more than to talk of his strange pet, and he began at once to tell of his clever ways.
"He would seem to be a most wonderful animal," said the visitor. "I would greatly like to see him."
"There is nothing easier," said the lawyer in high good-humour. "I will call him at once." And going to the door he shouted, "Babbuino, Babbuino, come here, you rascal, and show yourself."
But the devil knew all too well who it was who had come in the guise of a friend to sup with his master. Instead of running as usual at the lawyer's call, he had fled away with all haste and hidden himself in the furthest corner of the old house.
"Babbuino, Babbuino!" called the lawyer again. Then he began to grow angry, and stamped his foot in a great rage.
"Let us go and look for him," said the angel quietly.
Together the lawyer and his guest went and searched each room carefully, but they could find no signs of the missing monkey until they say a crouching form in a little dark cupboard. The angel went forward to touch it. But as soon as the devil saw the angel he gave a great cry and sprang headlong against the outer wall of the room. At his touch the wall gave way, stones rattled down, and a great hole was made. Then, in the middle of a cloud of smoke and dust, the devil disappeared.
The lawyer looked on in terror and amazement, and then turned to his visitor. But the visitor too was gone, and instead there stood an angel looking at him.
"I have come once more to try to save you," he said. "See to it that this last time will not be in vain." Then he spread his white wings, and he too flew out into the starry night.
The lawyer trembled from head to foot and fell upon his knees, thanking heaven for delivering him from the wiles of the devil. As he grew calmer he also prayed earnestly that his guardian angel would never leave him, but ever guard and bless him.
Happy times returned to the old corner castle. Servants and friends came back to the lawyer, and evil whisperings ceased. The hole in the wall was built up with new stones, but so that what had happened to him should not be forgotten, the lawyer had the figure of an angel to be carved in white marble and placed above that window in the Clock Tower. Since then the figure of the angel has stood there with a happy face.
Once on a time there was a knight who had three beautiful daughters. Now this knight determined to go to og on a long journey abroad, but he did not know what to do with his three daughters. At length a friend said: "Build a tower for them," and the idea was such a good one that he adopted it. He had a tall tower built, with three bedrooms and a sitting-room at the top of it. Then he locked the door at the foot and provided his daughters with a basket and a long rope to draw up their food with. Then he gave each girl a diamond ring, and said:
"So long as you are good the diamonds will be bright and victorious, but if you do wrong I shall find them dull on my return."
So he went away.
A little while after he had gone, the eldest daughter going to draw up the basket one morning, saw a poor man down below, shivering with cold.
"Oh, sisters," she said, "look at that poor man: shall we draw him up and feed him and warm him?"
"Do as you like," said they; "we won't be answerable for the results."
So the girl bade the man get into the basket, drew him up, made a blazing fire, warmed him thoroughly, and gave him some dinner.
"Now you must go," she said after a time, "you are warm, you have been fed, you have rested; what more do you want?"
"I must have supper with you."
To that the girl agreed, and then again told him to go away.
"I must sleep with you tonight," said he.
Well, the girl did not know what to do, so she submitted.
The next morning after breakfast, the second daughter said to the man:
"Now be off, we've had enough of you."
"No, I am going to stay to dinner": and after dinner it was: "No, I am going to stay to supper," and after supper the same thing as before.
Next day it was the third sister's turn. As before, the man stopped to breakfast, dinner and supper; but after supper the girl went to her room, saying to him: "Wait till I call you."
Now the tower had been built in a hurry and the floors were of plank only, not of brick or stone. The maiden took advantage of this. She raised three or four planks just inside the door and then called: "My light is out, come and light it."
The man ran to do so, but fell down the hole to the bottom of the tower; and as it was a high one he was killed by the fall.
Next morning the three sisters looked at their rings, but only that of the youngest was bright, the others were dull and clouded.
"What shall we do?" said the girls.
"I'll tell you," said the youngest; "we'll sit all in a row, and pass my ring from one to another so cleverly that nobody shall notice."
At last their father came back. They did as their sister advised, and he was quite satisfied. Then they all went home to live in their old house and had a merry time of it.
One day, as the eldest was looking out of the window, she saw the king's baker.
"Ah, what a handsome man," said she. "If he were to marry me I would make, in one day, enough bread to last the court for a year."
These words were repeated to the baker; he married her and she managed to keep her promise.
A little while afterwards the second daughter was looking out of window when she spied the king's pastry-cook.
"How I should like to marry that fine-looking man," said she. "I would make enough cakes in a day to last a year."
As before, the words were repeated; the girl had her wish, and managed to keep her promise.
But the third daughter saw the king's son, and said, " If the king's son were to marry me I would bring him three children, two boys and a girl."
This saying was repeated to the prince who married the girl and almost at once afterwards became king. But he had not been king long before a war broke out and he had to leave his bride and go away to fight. He put her under the charge of his mother, with strict injunctions that he should receive information as to whether his wife had kept her promise or not.
Now the queen-mother was a wicked woman, who hated her daughter-inlaw because she was not a princess by birth, but only the daughter of a knight; and the two elder sisters also hated the queen, being jealous of her, because they had to bow before her and do her homage. So these three women consulted together and sent for a wicked witch to help them injure the poor queen.
The queen had three children as she had promised, two boys and a girl, but as soon as they were born, the witch let three black puppies run about the room, and took away the children and put them on the river-bank in the forest hard by. Then she sent word to the king:
"Your wife has brought you three black dogs."
"Let her and them be well taken care of," wrote he. But the witch and the queen-mother changed the letter into:
"Let her be walled in at the foot of the stairs, and let everyone who goes by spit on her shoes"; and this was done. Now we will go back to the children.
In the forest there lived a hermit; he heard small voices crying, went and looked, and found the little ones. He took them to his hut, and tended them, and they grew up like flowers, fine and strong.
After a time the king returned from the wars; and, when he reached his castle, saw his wife at the foot of the stairs and heard all that had been done to her. At first he was angry, but they persuaded him that it was all as it should be, and he left his queen there, thin and ill. Still he was very unhappy, and to console himself he went out hunting. In the forest there lived a fairy, a friend of the hermit's. She it was who had led the hermit to the children, and now she guided the king to the hermit's hut. There were the three children, beautiful as flowers.
"That reminds me of what my wife once said she would give me," said he. "All come and have dinner with me tomorrow."
With that he went home and told what had happened. So the queen-mother called the witch, and said:
"What shall we do? We shall be found out."
"No, no," said the witch; "you leave all to me; it will be all right."
Meanwhile the hermit had gone to ask advice from the fairy.
"You must all go," said she. "When you come to the castle you will see a beautiful pale woman walled in at the foot of the stairs, and you will all be told to spit on her shoes; but you must refuse to do it. That is the children's mother."
The three children and the hermit went to the castle.
"Spit on that woman," commanded the guard.
"No," said they all; "such a thing would be too improper."
"Then you cannot go in," said the soldier. And so loud a dispute arose that the king came himself; and when he heard what was the matter, he brought them in gladly, and made them sit down at table. Then the witch who was there told a wicked lie.
"These children," said she, " have said that they can bring the Lovely Sibyl." But they had not promised anything of the kind.
"Very well," said the king, "let them come back with it here."
So the hermit and the children went away, and the eldest boy set out.
"If I am not back in seven days," said he, "you may know that something has happened to me."
He rode on till he came to a hermit with a white beard sitting by the roadside.
"Where are you going?" asked this hermit.
"Well-bred people don't put questions of that sort," answered the prince and passed on.
After the seven days were gone the second brother determined to try his luck, as the first had not yet returned. He, too, met the hermit, received the same question, gave the same answer, and rode away.
Now another seven days had elapsed, and the sister resolved to set out; but first she asked the advice of the fairy.
"After some time you will find a white-bearded hermit," said the fairy; "tell him where you are going, and he will help you."
So when she reached the old man she told him about the quest on which her brothers and herself had set out.
"Just look among my hair," said the hermit, "and comb it. Will you?" And when she had done so he gave her a small rod and a couple of cakes, saying:
"Ride on till you come to a castle with two lions in front of it. Throw the cakes to the lions and strike the door with the rod; it will open and in the hall you will see a beautiful girl. She will tell you what you want to know."
The maiden thanked the hermit and rode off. When she reached the castle she followed the hermit's directions and found the girl.
"Take this rod," said she, "and go into the garden over there. There you will find a bird which will come fluttering round your head and shoulders. Don't try to catch it, however, till it reaches your lap; then put both hands over it quickly, hold it tightly, and it will tell you how to free your brothers. That bird is the Lovely Sibyl."
The maiden went into the garden and sure enough the bird came fluttering round her as though asking to be caught. But she did not attempt to touch it till it had settled in her lap; then she held it fast with both hands, and the bird said:
"All these statues you see round you were once men. Those two there are your brothers. Go and touch them with the rod you hold in your hand."
The maiden did as she was bid; her brothers returned to life and they all went away together, carrying the bird with them. When they reached home the fairy said:
"Tomorrow you must go to court. Put the bird in a box and carry it with you; and when the king asks for it, put it on the table, that it may declare what wicked things the old queen did, and tell that your mother is innocent."
So the next day the three went to the castle and were invited to dine with the king. There were the queen-mother and the witch also present.
"Ah," said the witch sneeringly, "you have kept your promise finely, haven't you?"
"Certainly we have," they answered.
"Why," said the king, "where is the bird?"
They opened the box, and the Lovely Sibyl flew on to the table and told the whole black tale of deceit.
Then the queen-mother was burnt in the great public square, and the witch in a smaller square; but the children's mother was crowned queen again among the shouts of the people, and her husband and her children loved her dearly.
Once on a time there was a little old peasant who had but one small field no bigger than the palm of your hand, and all full of stones and briars. He had set up a hayrick in it, and there he lived, digging, sowing, and weeding, from year's end to year's end, and farming it as best he could.
When it was time to rest he would pull a whistle from his pocket, and "Ti-tiriti-ti" went the tune, always the same one; then he would go to work again.
But all this time the poor little bit of a field, full of stones and briars, yielded him more profits than a farm. When his neighbours gathered in twenty times what they had sown, he was sure to have a hundredfold, to say the least.
Some of his neighbours were full of spite and envy. At one time not one of them would have taken that bit of ground, even as a gift; and now that he had it, there was nothing they would not have done to get it away from him.
"I say, neighbour, don't you want to get rid of that heap of stones? . . . I know someone who would pay you three times its value."
But the peasant would answer:
"These stones are all my own, Not even the king on his throne can make me give them away!"
And another would say: "Neighbour, don't you want to get rid of these stones? I know somebody who would be glad to pay you three times their value."
But the answer was always:
"These stones are all my own,
Now, it once happened that the king passed that way, accompanied by his ministers. When he saw the little field (which looked more like a garden, so green and flourishing was its crop, while the corn in the fields round about was so poor and faded it looked like the bristles of an old brush), he stopped, struck with amazement, and said to his ministers, "What a fine crop of corn! I would willingly buy that field."
"May it please your majesty, but it is not for sale. It belongs to a very odd sort of man, who answers all offers with these words:
"These stones are all my own,
"Oh, I should like to see if he'll answer me that way!" said the king; and he ordered the peasant to be called to him.
"Is it true that you would not give up your field even to the king?"
"You have so many fields, what good would my poor heap of stones do you?"
"But supposing he wanted them . . .?"
"Supposing he wanted them?" . . . "Ah!
These stones are all my own,
The king made believe to have taken no offence at this; but during the night he sent a hundred guardsmen to trample down the crop without making any noise, so as not to leave so much as one blade of grass standing upright. You may think what a sight met the peasant's eyes the next morning when he came out from his hayrick. Everything destroyed! And all his kind neighbours standing there staring over the hedge with the greatest satisfaction, though they tried to look as if they were sorry.
"Ah, neighbour, neighbour!" said they. " If you had but sold your heap of stones in time, this misfortune would not have befallen you!"
But to all this he answered not a word, just as though they had not been speaking to him. When they had all taken themselves off about their business, he pulled his whistle out of his pocket, and "Ti-tiriti-ti" the corn began to rise up again; and "Ti-tiriti-ti" it all stood up quite straight, as if nothing had happened to it.
The king, quite sure of his affair, sent for the peasant and began, "I hear there is someone who bears you a grudge, my man, and that last night your crop of corn was half-destroyed. Now, sell me that heap of stones of yours; when the folk know they are mine they'll keep at a respectful distance."
"Please, what has been told you is not true; my crop is finer than ever."
The king bit his lips. So, then, his orders had not been obeyed! And he blamed the ministers. But when they told him that the poor guardsmen could not even move they had stamped so hard all night, he was astounded.
"Then to-night turn all my flocks into the field!"
Next morning, when the peasant came out from his hayrick, what a sight he beheld! The ground was perfectly stripped and as smooth as satin.
And his good neighbours, as usual, were saying:
"Ah, neighbour, neighbour! If you had but taken advice, and sold that heap of stones there, this new misfortune would not have fallen upon you!"
But he, without a word, went shuffling about as if they had not been speaking to him.
When at last they had all gone about their business, out he pulled his whistle, and "Ti-tiriti-ti" the corn began to sprout up again; and "Ti-tiriti-ti" the corn was waving high and green, as if nothing had ever happened to it.
This time the king was quite sure he had won the day. He wanted to see that man! Just think what a face he would make!
So no sooner did the peasant come into his presence than he said. "There really must be someone who bears you a grudge, poor fellow. I hear that last night your crop of corn was again quite destroyed. Come now! You sell me that heap of stones of yours; when the people know they belong to me, they'll look at them from a respectful distance."
"But my crop is not destroyed. It is finer than ever!"
The king bit his lips for spite. Then his orders had not been obeyed this time either!
And he found fault with his ministers. But the ministers told him that the nocks had eaten so much during the night that the sheep were all swollen to bursting, and that half of them had already died of repletion! The king was more astonished than ever.
"There is some mystery in all this. You must find it out. I give you three days' time!"
Now. there was no joking with the king. The ministers set to scratching their bald heads, in hopes of getting some idea out of them, and they thought and thought! . . .
At last one proposed to go in the night-time, and hide behind that accursed peasant's hayrick till daybreak. Who could know what might happen? That was a good idea! So they went; and as there were several openings in the rick, they set to peeping in through them.
All night the king was not able to close an eye for thinking of what had happened, and next morning, first thing, he had his ministers called to him.
"Oh, please! What a sight we have seen! What a sight we have seen!"
"What have you seen then? You look mighty well pleased, all of you."
"Well, that peasant has a whistle, and the moment he begins to play on it, the inside of his hayrick changes into a sumptuous castle."
"And then out comes a young girl, more lovely than sunlight; and he plays "Ti-tiriti-ti" and makes her dance to his playing. After that he says to her:
"Fair daughter, if the king would win your hand,
"And then he began playing again, and in a twinkling the splendid palace once more became a hayrick."
"I'll give it to him with his sun and rain! But let us first see this miracle of beauty!"
And the next night he went, accompanied by his ministers. And behold! the peasant pulled out his whistle from his pocket; and "Ti-tiriti-ti" in a trice the haystack was changed into a royal dwelling; and, "Titiriti-ti" the lovely maiden appeared and began to dance. At that sight the king went clean out of his wits. "Oh, what a beauty she is! She shall be mine! She shall be mine!" And without losing any time he began knocking at the entrance.
The peasant stopped playing; and all at once the royal palace became a hayrick again; but there was no sign of its opening; and the king, though burning with impatience, was forced to go home as he had come. Before dawn, however, he sent a messenger in great haste. The king wanted to see the peasant immediately.
The peasant came and presented himself. What did the king command of him?
"My will is that you give me your daughter for my bride. She shall be made queen, and you prime minister."
"Please, but there is a condition to fulfil:
"Whoever would win my daughter's hand
The king would have rarely liked to give him such sun and rain as he would not forget in a hurry. But then there was the maiden at stake, and for love of her he would do anything.
So he shrugged his shoulders, and replied: "Then I shall wait seven years in sun and rain." He placed the government of his kingdom in the hands of the ministers for all the time he would be absent, and went to live with the old peasant, exposed all day to the scorching sun, or the pouring rain, even when it came down in bucketfuls.
Poor king! After a short time no one would have been able to recognise him; his skin was burnt to such a degree that he seemed made of terracotta. But he had one compensation, however. Every now and again, when it was night, the peasant would pull out his whistle, and before beginning his tune would say to him, "You must remember well that
"Who touches rends,
And then "Ti-tiriti-ti," in less time than I tell you the hayrick became a sumptuous palace, and "Ti-tiriti-ti" the maiden appeared, more beautiful than the sun, moon and stars!
All the time she danced the king simply devoured her with his eyes. He had to make a great effort not to rush up to her, fold her in his arms, and say, "You shall be my queen!" His great love for her, and the fear of losing her, alone kept him back.
Six years, six months, and six days had already flown. The king rubbed his hands for joy. Soon, very soon, that maiden, more beautiful than the sun, moon and stars, would become his bride, and he would return to his castle, a king as before, only much, much happier than he had ever been!
But bad luck would have it that one night the peasant took out his whistle as usual and began playing without reminding him,
"Who touches rends,
When he saw her the king could no longer restrain himself, and running up to the fair maiden, embraced her, crying, "You shall be my queen! You shall be my queen!"
Like a flash of lightning the maiden was turned into a knotty trunk of a tree!
"Yet I had warned you!" said the peasant,
"Who touches rends,
The king seemed turned to stone with grief and amazement. Must he begin all over again? Yes, he must begin all over again. Well, over again he began. He roasted himself in the sun.
"Sun, fair sun above,
He let himself be drenched by the rain.
"Rain, good, gentle rain,
And when the peasant would pull his whistle out of his pocket, and, "Ti-tiriti-ti," the maiden appeared and began to dance, he devoured her with his eyes from a corner, but as quiet and still as oil, for he did not feel inclined to begin all over again another time. And again six years six months, and six days had passed away, and the king began to rub his hands for joy.
But misfortune would have it that one night, when the maiden was dancing to the sound of the peasant's whistle as she had never danced before, with such grace! such elegance! the king could stand it no longer, and rushing up to her, embraced her, crying, "Ah, my queen! my queen!"
And what should he find in his arms again but the knotty trunk of a tree!
"Ah, king, king," said the old peasant, "I told you,
"Who touches rends,
The wretched king stood stock-still in dismay and disappointment. "Must I begin all over again?"
"Yes, you must begin all over again!" And he began again,
"Sun, fair sun above,
He let himself be drenched by the rain.
"Rain, good, gentle rain,
This time, however, he was more on his guard, and when at last the seven years appointed had passed, he won the maiden more beautiful than sunlight. He could hardly believe it was true.
But what had happened in the meanwhile? Well, his ministers and subjects, thinking he had gone mad, had forgotten all about him, and had conferred the crown, some years before, on one of his relations. So when the king presented himself at his castle with his fair bride leaning on his arm, the soldiers who stood at the gate as sentinels, said, "You cannot pass here, sir! You cannot pass here!"
"I am the king! call down my ministers!" But the old ones he had known were all dead, and those of the new king let him talk till he was tired. He then turned to his people. "How is this? Do you not recognise your king?"
The people very civilly laughed in his face, but otherwise paid him not the slightest attention. Quite in despair he went back to the peasant's little field, where the hayrick once stood; but to his surprise he saw a splendid building worthy of being a king's castle. He went upstairs, but instead of the peasant there came forward to meet him a handsome old man with a flowing white beard. It was no other than the great wizard Druscell!
"Don't lose heart!" he said, and taking the king by the hand he led him into a splendid hall where stood a large basin full of clear water. The wizard, seizing the basin, poured its contents on his head, and the king, from being a rather elderly-looking man, once more became a blooming youth, as when he was but twenty years of age.
Then the wizard said to him: "Look out of the window and play on this whistle, and you shall see!"
And so the king did, playing "Ti-tiriti-ti" and behold a large army of magnificent men clad in full armour came streaming over the hills and down into the valley.
War was declared, and while the soldiers fought, he stood on the top of a rising ground and played away "Ti-tiriti-ti", never stopping till the battle was won.
Then he returned to his own castle, conquering and triumphant. To celebrate his wedding with the fair maid he loved so well, gave his people a whole month of feasting and merry-making.
And soon was given to him a son and heir,