Pietro Rizzato, a spendthrift, is reduced to poverty. Then, having found a treasure, becomes a miser.
PRODIGALITY is a vice which brings a man to a worse end even than avarice, forasmuch as the spendthrift devours both his own substance and that of other men as well, and, when once brought to want, is ill looked upon by all; nay rather, all people are wont to fly from him as from one bereft of reason, and an outlaw, and to make mock of him. So indeed it happened in the case of a certain Pietro Rizzato, who, on account of his reckless spending, was brought to the greatest misery. Then, having by chance discovered a treasure, he became a rich man and a niggard to boot.
I must tell you, then, that in Padua, a city very famous for its learning, there dwelt in times past one Pietro Rizzato, a courteous gentleman, exceedingly comely in person, and furnished with wealth in more abundant measure than any other citizen, but at the same time a spendthrift, forasmuch as he would give continually to friends of his now this thing and now that, in such wise as appeared to him to square with the condition of each of them. Wherefore, on account of this over-lavish habit of his, he had a great crowd always following on his traces, and guests were never wanting at his table, which was every day abundantly set with the most delicate and precious viands. This man, among his other acts of folly, wrought two which seem worthy of special remark; one of which happened on a certain day when he was going, in the company of some other gentlemen of Padua, to Venice by the Brenta. Remarking that each one of his companions was seeking diversion, this one in making music and that one in some other fashion, he, in order not to appear the only one unoccupied amongst them, set himself, as the saying is, to make ducks and drakes of pieces of money, by casting them one by one into the stream. The other, which in sooth was of a graver nature, was as follows: one day, when he was staying at his country house, it happened that a troop of young men came to pay their respects to him, and he, as soon as he caught sight of them, set fire to the houses of all his workpeople in order to show due honour to his guests.
For this reason it soon came to pass that Pietro, consumed with the desire to content his appetites in every possible manner, and living dissolutely without any kind of restraint, found himself at the end of his wealth, and at the same time free of the company of all those friends who had heretofore paid court to him. He, in the past, when he was in the full enjoyment of his wealth, had given sustenance to a great tribe of hungry familiars, but now that he himself was both hungry and thirsty, he could find not a single one ready to give him to eat or to drink. He had clothed the naked, now there was none willing to cover his own nakedness; he had cared for those who were sick, now he called in vain for someone to relieve his infirmities; he had given loving entertainment to all, honouring them as best he could, now he met nothing but frowning looks from his friends, who fled from him as from some contagious pestilence. And although the poor wight was thus brought to such a cruel and bitter pass of poverty, being naked and ailing, and vexed, more over, with a grievous dysentery, he let pass in patience his miserable and un happy life, thanking God always for having given him an understanding mind.
It happened one day that the wretched man, all dirty, and afflicted with the itch as well, made his way into a certain ruined building, not for the sake of pleasure, but simply to ease nature. While he was there his eyes fell upon a spot in the wall, fallen to decay through age, and in a large crack thereof he beheld the shining of gold. Having broken down the wall, he came upon a great vase of baked earth, filled with fine golden ducats, which he bore back secretly to his house, and began to spend for his needs, not lavishly, as heretofore, but in moderate wise according to his requirements. His friends and close companions, who had courted him so assiduously at the time when he had lived a jovial life, as soon as they saw that he was once more a man of substance forth with imagined that they would find him the same spendthrift as hitherto. Thus, having sought his presence, they began to wheedle and to flatter him, deeming that they would now be able again to live at another's charges. But the matter came not to the issue they desired, forasmuch as they found him in no sense a fool and a spendthrift, and one disposed to lavish his goods sottishly and to be always feasting; they discovered rather that he had become prudent and careful, and even avaricious. When these companions of his inquired of him by what means he had acquired so much money, he made answer to them that, if any of them wanted to get wealth, they must first suffer as grievously from dysentery as he himself had suffered, meaning by this speech that, before he had found his treasure, he had been forced to shed his blood. Wherefore the afore said friends and companions, as soon as they saw that it would be no easy matter to draw any further profit for them selves from Pietro, went their way.
This fable gave great pleasure to all the company, for the reason that it showed openly that friends ought to prove their worth, not when the world goes well with us, but when it goes ill, and that extremes of all sorts are evil. As soon as all were once more silent, the Signora commanded Vicenza to let follow her enigma, and the maiden had no sooner heard the words of the Signora than she spoke somewhat saucily as follows:
Now, learned sir, I prithee say,
The whole company judged the enigma thus propounded to be a very difficult one, whereupon Vicenza, like the discreet damsel she was, explained its meaning in the following wise: "This twice born thing is the egg, from which there is born without any gossip the chick, which has but a short span of life, and often dies before it has committed any offence, that is to say, before it has ever known the pleasure of its mate. And fowls, whether they be small or big, are good for our use." This fair interpretation of a very difficult riddle was a cause of wonder to all the grateful company, and there was not one who withheld high commendation of the same.
And now, because the reddening dawn began to appear, and because the time of carnival had come to an end and the first day of Lent had begun, the Signora, turning towards the honourable company with her face lighted up with pleasure, spake thus: "Know well, all you illustrious and honourable gentlemen, and you also, ladies, most lovesome and highly honoured, that we are now come to the first day of Lent. On this account it seems to me right that we should at once put aside the solace of our delightful conversation, our amorous dances, and sweet music and mirthful fables." The gentlemen, and the ladies as well, who desired nothing more than what was thus proposed, assented with words of high commendation to the expressed wish of the Signora; so, without lighting the torches - because, indeed, it was now broad daylight-the Signora gave command that they should all betake themselves to rest, and that no one should again repair to the place of meeting except at her request. Whereupon the gentlemen having been dismissed by the gracious Signora with such exceeding and eminent modesty (on account of the ending of the carnival, and for no other reason), showed themselves obedient to her command, as had ever been their wont in the days that had elapsed. They all bowed reverently, with every gesture of respect they had been accustomed to use, and, having left the Signora and the ladies to repose themselves, they made their way to their homes.
THE END OF THE THIRTEENTH AND LAST NIGHT
Straparola, Giovanni Francesco. The Facetious Nights by Straparola. W. G. Waters, translator. Jules Garnier and E. R. Hughes, illustrators. London: Privately Printed for Members of the Society of Bibliophiles, 1901. 4 volumes.