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The Mason and His Son

There was once a mason who had a wife and son. One day the king sent for the mason to build a country-house. He wanted to put his money in it, for he was very rich and thought of no better place to keep it. The mason set to work with his son. In one corner they put in a stone that could be taken out and put back. It was large enough for a man to enter.

When the house was finished the king paid them and they went home. The king then had his money carted to the house and put guards around it. After a few days, when he had seen that no one went there, he took away the guard.

Some time later, when the mason's money was gone he asked his son: "Shall we go to the country-house?"

They took a sack and went there. When they came to the house they took out the stone and the father entered and filled the bag with gold. When he came out he put the stone back as it was before and they departed.

The next day the king rode out to his house and saw that his pile of gold was smaller. He asked his servants: "Who has taking the money?"

The servants answered: "It is not possible, for where could anyone get in? Maybe the house has settled, since it is newly built." They took and repaired it.

After a while the mason said again to his son: "Let us go back there." They took the accustomed sack and went there and took out the stone. The father entered, filled the sack, and they left. The same night they made another trip, filled the same sack again, and went away.

The next day the king visited the house with his soldiers and councillors. When he entered he went to see the money. Very much had disappeared. He turned to his councillors and said: "Someone comes here and takes the money."

The councillors said: "One thing can be done; take a few tubs, fill them with melted pitch, and place them around the walls on the inside, whoever enters will fall in them, and the thief is found."

They took the tubs and put them inside, and the king left sentinels and returned to the city. The sentinels remained there for a week; but as they saw no one, they, too, left.

Some time later the mason said to his son: "Let us go to the country house we built for the king." They took the sack and went. When they came there, they took out the stone, and the father entered. As he entered he stuck fast in the pitch. He tried to help himself and get his feet loose, but his hands stuck fast.

Then he said to his son: "Can you hear what I tell you, son? Cut off my head, tear my coat to pieces, put back the stone as it was, and throw my head in the river, so that I shall not be known."

The son did as he was told, and went home. When he told his mother what had become of his father, she began to tear her hair in despair.

After a few days, the son, who did not know any trade, entered the service of a carpenter, and told his mother not to say anything, as if nothing had happened.

The next day the king went with his councillors to the country-house. They entered and saw the body, and the king said: "But it has no head! How shall we find out who it is?"

The councillors said: "Take him and carry him through the streets for three days. If you see weeping you may find out who it is."

They took the body, called two men who used to prepare the bodies of dead people before they were buried - and made the two men carry the body about. When they passed through the street where the mason's widow lived, she began to weep. The son, whose shop was nearby, heard it and gave himself quite a blow on the hand with a hammer. The police arrested the mother, saying: "We have found out who it is."

Meanwhile the son came there and said: "She is weeping because I have hurt my hand and cannot work and support us for now."

The police saw his hand was hurt, believed him, and left. At night they carried the body to the palace and built a scaffold outside to put the body on, for they were to carry it around three days and it did not smell well at all. Around the scaffold they placed nine sentinels – eight soldiers and a corporal.

It was winter and very cold, so the son took a mule and loaded it with drugged wine, and passed up and down. When the soldiers saw him they cried: "Hello, are you selling that wine? We are trembling with cold!"

He said: "Yes, I sell it."

After they had drunk they threw themselves down and went to sleep, and the son took the body, buried it outside of the town, and went home again.

In the morning the soldiers woke up and told the king what had happened, and he asked them to spread the news that whoever found the body should get a large sum of money. The body was found and carried about the street again, but no one wept. That night new sentinels were appointed, but the same thing happened as the night before. The soldiers were drugged. The next day came another proclamation, the body was again found and carried about, but no one saw anyone weep over it.

The mason's son could not rest, and went to a goatherd: "Will you do me a favour?"

"If I can," answered the goatherd; "not one, but two. What can I do for you?"

"Will you lend me your goats this evening?"

"I will." The mason's son took them, bought three tons of candles and an old earthen pot, knocked out the bottom and fastened some candles around it. Then he took the goats and fixed two candles to the horns of each one and took them where the body was, and followed them with the pot on his head and the candles lighted. The soldiers ran away in terror, and the son took the body and threw it in the sea.

The next day the king commanded that the price of meat should be set at twelve tari [C Frs. 5.10.] a rotulu, and ordered that all the old women of the city should gather at the palace. A hundred came, and he told them to go begging about the city and find out who was cooking meat. He was thinking that only the thief could afford to buy meat at that price. The mason's son had bought some and gave it to his mother to cook. While it was cooking, and he was absent, one of the old women came begging. The mason's widow gave her a piece of meat. As the old woman was going downstairs the mason's son met her and asked her what she was doing. She explained that she was begging for bread. The mason's son at once suspected a trick, took her and threw her into the well.

At noon, when the old women were to present themselves to the king, one was missing. The king then sent for the butchers, and found that just one rotulu of meat had been sold. When the king saw this, he issued a proclamation to find out who had done all these wonders, and said: "If he is unmarried, I will give him my daughter. If he is married, I will give him two measures of gold." The mason's son presented himself to the king and said: "It was I." The king burst out laughing, and asked: "Are you married or single?" He said: "Single." The king said: "What will you choose? My daughter or two measures of gold?"

He said, "Majesty I want to marry; give me your daughter." So he did, and they had a grand banquet.


The Left-Hand Squire

Once, it is told, there was a king who had a left-hand squire and a right-hand squire. The left-hand squire was married to a beautiful, gracious, and modest lady. In all the time he had been at court, the right-hand squire had never laid eyes on such a lovely countenance, and was half angry over this.

He took to telling the king, "You can't imagine what a handsome wife the left-hand squire has! A magnificent lady indeed!"

On another day, he told the king, "This morning I caught a glimpse of your squire's wife, and the sight left me speechless. There simply aren't words to tell you how lovely she is!"

And still another time. "Would you believe that the left-hand squire's lady grows lovelier all the time?"

Overnight the king was filled with desire to see this beauty for himself. He mounted his horse and rode with his knights up to the left-hand squire's palace. At that very moment the lady happened to be at the window. The king felt his heart skip several beats. He looked at her as they rode by, but that was all he could do, since it was unfitting for a king to stop and stare up at a window, or else people could gossip. He came back by the palace on his way home, but the lady, modest soul that she was, had withdrawn from the window. Unable to let matters rest, the king went home to his palace and ordered no one to leave it until his return: he had got the bright idea of calling on the lady while her husband was under orders to stay inside the royal castle.

He dressed up as a soldier and went to the left-hand squire's castle. He rang the bell, and the door was answered by the maid, who asked, "What do you wish?"

"I must speak to the lady of the house."

"What do you wish of my lady?"

"I have to talk to her."

"My lady is resting and cannot receive you."

"I shall come in anyway."

"No, you cannot." She gave him a shove and was about to shut the door in his face, when the king unbuckled his soldier-jacket and showed her the king's robe he wore underneath it.

The maid fell to her knees. "Pardon me! I did not recognize you!"

"That is all right," replied the king. "You prove that you are a faithful maidservant. Now I wish you merely to let me look on the princess's face, and I will leave."

"Of course -" and on tiptoe she led him to where her lady was resting. She was in a deep sleep. The king grew weak in the knees at the beautiful sight. He removed one of his gloves, laid it on the canopy, and reached out to caress her; but he checked himself in time.

He stood there looking her over her to his heart's content for a while. Then he turned away and departed.

When the king got home, the knights and all the court were free to leave. The left-hand squire returned to his house and went to his wife. What should meet his eye as he entered the bedchamber but the glove the king had forgotten on the canopy. From that day forward, he no longer looked at his wife.

The poor lady, innocent as a lamb, did not know what to make of this change of heart in her husband and, keeping to herself and never complaining, she grew thin and wrinkled.

Her maidservant would say, "My lady, why are you always sad and alone, while other ladies go to balls and the theatre?"

One day the right-hand squire chanced to walk by the left-hand squire's residence, and whom should he see on the balcony but the poor princess, now thin as a rail. Even this evil-hearted man was moved to pity and told the king about it. "Would you believe, the once exquisitely beautiful wife of the left-hand squire has fallen off and faded beyond recognition."

The king grew thoughtful and, after much pondering, slapped his forehead. "Oh, dear, what have I done!"

Two days later, he gave orders for a court banquet. Every knight was to bring his wife or, if unmarried, his sister or some other lady of his household. The left-hand squire had no choice but to take his wife, since he had neither sister nor anyone else he could bring. He summoned the maidservant and instructed her to tell his wife to get herself the most beautiful outfit conceivable, sparing no expense, since she was invited to the banquet at the court.

At the banquet, the lady was seated beside her husband, who sat on the king's left. The king asked his guests about their life, questioning everyone except his left-hand squire and the squire's wife. At last he turned to her. "And how have you spent your life, my lady?"

Softly, the poor lady replied in verse:

"A vine was I, a vine am I;
He pruned me earlier, though now no more. I know not why
My master tends his vine no more."

Then the squire answered her:

"A vine were you, a vine are you yet;
I pruned you before, though now no more. The reason is the lion's threat,
And thus your master tends his vine no more."

The king realized that the vine was the lady, who had been deserted by her husband upon finding the glove on the canopy. Now aware of all the harm his curiosity had wrought, he said:

"About this vine you speak about:
I raised its leaves and saw the stalk,
But touched it not,
To keep my crown from blot;
I swear by it I tell the truth."

When kings swear by their crown, they are taking the gravest of oaths. So when the squire heard that his wife was innocent, he was speechless.

After the banquet, the king took the couple aside and told them how the glove had found its way to the lady's bed, and he thus concluded his account. "I admired the maidservant's fidelity to her lady and, even more, the integrity of this lady who never looked at any man but her husband. Forgive me for all the grief I have caused you."

[Calvino, retold. The tale is from Palermo]


The Enchanting Doll

Once on a time there was a king who had an only daughter. She was very fond of dolls and had one that was her delight. She dressed her and undressed her and put her to bed, in short did for her what is done for children.

One day the king wished to go into the country, and the princess wished to bring the doll along with them too. While they were walking about she left her doll on a hedge in a moment of forgetfulness. It was meal time, and after they had eaten they got into the carriage and returned to the palace.

As soon as they came there the princess remembered the doll, turned round and went to look for it. When she got outdoors, she got lost and wandered about like a person bereft of her senses. After a time she came to another palace and asked who was the king there. "The King of Spain," they said.

The king gave her lodging and treated her like a daughter, for he had no daugthers himself. In time he also allowed her to to do as she pleased.

In a neighbouring country a king and a queen had an only son. He was fond of hunting. Once he wished to go hunting far away from home, and took with him attendants. They happened to find the doll on the hedge.

When the prince saw the doll he said: "I have finished my hunt, let us go home!" He took the doll and placed it before him on the horse, and exclaimed every few minutes: "How beautiful this doll is! I wonder how her owner is like!"

When he reached the palace he had a glass case made in the wall, and put the doll in it, and kept looking at it continually and saying: "How beautiful the doll is! And what about her owner?"

The young man would not see anyone and became so depressed that his father summoned physicians. They said: "We know nothing of this illness; see what he does with his doll."

The king went to see his son and found him gazing at the doll and exclaiming: "Oh, how beautiful the doll is! And what about her owner?"

The physicians left no wiser then they came. Meanwhile the prince sat looking at the doll, drawing deep breaths and sighs, exclaiming now and then: "How beautiful the doll is! And what about her owner?"

In despair the king called for his queen and said: "See how our son is reduced! He has no fever and no pain in his head, but he is wasting away."

The queen said, "Dear husband, since this has gone too far, let us try to find someone to cure her. I think this doll he keeps looking at and brooding over, looks like the King of Spain's daughter. Send for her."

The king sent his ambassadors to Spain with the message, and the adopted princess said, "Let me go; I may soon return."

When she arrived where the prince was, she saw him drawing such deep breaths that it seemed as if he would swallow himself, and always exclaiming: "Oh! how beautiful the doll is! And what about her owner?"

She said to the king and queen: "Give me a week to heal him. Bring me ointments and food, and in a week he is alive and well or dead."

She shut herself up with him and listened to hear what the prince said, for she had not yet heard what he was saying, he was so feeble.

When she heard him whisper: "Oh! how be-au-ti-ful the doll is" and she saw the doll, she cried: "It was you who had my doll! Give it to me, and I will cure you."

When he heard these words he said: "Are you the owner of the doll?"

"Yes, I am."

Now she began to feed him with broth until she had restored him. When he was restored she said: "Now tell me how you got the doll."

The prince told her everything. To make the matter short, in a week the prince was cured and they declared that they would marry each other. The king was almost beside himself with joy because his son was healed, and sat down to write two letters. One letter was to the King of Spain to tell him that his adopted daughter had cured his son and wanted to marry him too. Another letter was sent to her real father to tell him that his daughter had been found, and was engaged to be married to his dear son.

Afterwards all these kings came together and made great festivals, the prince married the princess, and they lived together in great peace.

[The story is based on two versions of the Story of the Parrot. - T.K.]



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