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Italian Popular Tales
by Thomas Crane

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The Wager

THERE was once a husband and a wife. The former said one day to the latter, "Let us have some fritters."

She replied, "What shall we do for a frying pan?"

"Go and borrow one from my godmother."

"You go and get it; it is only a little way off."

"Go yourself; I will take it back when we are done with it."

So she went and borrowed the pan, and when she returned said to her husband, "Here is the pan, but you must carry it back."

So they cooked the fritters, and after they had eaten, the husband said, "Now let us go to work, both of us, and the one who speaks first shall carry back the pan." Then she began to spin and he to draw his thread -- for he was a shoemaker -- and all the time keeping silence, except that when he drew his thread he said, "Leulerò, leulerò;" and she, spinning, answered, "Piciciì, picicì, piciciò." And they said not another word.

Now there happened to pass that way a soldier with a horse, and he asked a woman if there was any shoemaker in that street. She said that there was one nearby, and took him to the house. The soldier asked the shoemaker to come and cut his horse a girth, and he would pay him. The latter made no answer but, "Leulerò, leulerò;" and his wife, "Piciciì, picicì, piciciò."

Then the soldier said, "Come and cut my horse a girth, or I will cut your head off!" The shoemaker only answered, "Leulerò, leulerò;" and his wife, "Piciciì, picicì, piciciò."

Then the soldier began to grow angry, and seized his sword and said to the shoemaker, "Either come and cut my horse a girth, or I will cut your head off!" But to no purpose. The shoemaker did not wish to be the first one to speak, and only replied, "Leulerò, leulerò;" and his wife, "Piciciì, picicì, piciciò."

Then the soldier got mad in good earnest, seized the shoemaker's head, and was going to cut it off. When his wife saw that, she cried out, "Ah! don't, for mercy's sake!"

"Good!" exclaimed her husband. "Now you go and carry the pan back to my godmother, and I will go and cut the horse's girth." And so he did, and won the wager.

Crane, Thomas Frederick. Italian Popular Tales. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1885.
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