Lucietta, the mother of Lucilio, a useless and good-for-nothing fellow, sends him out to find the good day. This he does, and returns home bearing with him the fourth part of a certain treasure.
I HAVE always understood, gracious ladies, from the writings of the world's sages, that Fortune helps on those who are alert and watchful, and puts to flight the timid and panic-stricken. And that this saying is a true one I will prove to you by telling you a very brief fable, which perchance may be somewhat of a pleasure and satisfaction to you.
In Cesenna, an illustrious city of Romagna, near to which flows a river called the Savio, there once dwelt a little widow, very poor, but of good repute, and Lucietta was her name. This woman had a son, the most useless and sleepy-headed loon that nature ever made, who, when once he had gotten himself to bed, would never get up therefrom till noon, and then, raising himself up, he would gape and rub his eyes, stretching his arms and his legs out of the bed like the good-for-nothing rascal he was. On account of all this his mother was grievously vexed, because she had formed a hope that this son of hers might prove to be the staff and support of her old age. Wherefore, in order to make him a careful, vigilant, and accomplished man, she made it her practice every day to instruct him in this fashion: 'My son, any diligent and cautious man, who wishes to have the good day, must needs rise up betimes at the breaking of the dawn, forasmuch as Fortune stretches out her hand to aid those who are on the alert, and not to those who lie asleep in bed. Thus, O my son! if you will take the advice I give to you, you shall find the good day, and rest content therewith.'
Lucilio (for so the widow's son was named), more ignorant than ignorance itself; failed to gather the meaning of his mother's exhortation, and, considering the husk rather than the kernel of her words, he roused himself from the deep and profound sleep that was upon him, and went out of the house. When he had gone forth from one of the city gates, he straightway composed himself to sleep in the open air, stretching himself right across the highway, where he greatly hindered the course of all those who were journeying towards the city, and in like manner those who were coming out therefrom. Now this same day it happened by chance that three men, citizens of Cesenna, were bound out of the town on a certain errand, which was to dig up a rich treasure they had discovered, and to carry it home with them. It was after they had dug it up, and when they were minded to transport it into the city, that they found themselves face to face with Lucilio, who was lying down on the highway. The fellow, however, was not at this moment asleep, but was on the alert to find the good day after the fashion which his mother had counselled him to follow. As the first of the three citizens passed by where Lucilio lay, he said to him, 'My friend, may you have the good day V whereupon Lucilio answered, 'Aha! I have one of them,' meaning thereby to speak of the day. The young citizen, with his mind filled with thoughts of the treasure, and putting a meaning upon the words other than that which they were intended to bear, deemed at once that they had reference to himself; which thing, indeed, was no marvel, seeing it is written that those who are conscious of their misdeeds are always prone to imagine every word they hear spoken to be spoken of them. The second citizen, as he passed Lucilio, saluted him in like fashion, and gave him the good day, and to him Lucilio replied that he had two of them, meaning to say that he had now two of the good days. The third citizen came close behind the other, and he also in exactly the same manner gave the good day to the fellow lying all on the road. Whereupon Lucilio, now on the alert, got up on his feet and said, 'And now I have all three of them; of a truth the plan I laid has prospered for me in marvellous wise;' wishing to let it be known by these words that he had now three good days.
The three citizens, when they heard the last speech of Lucilio, fell into great terror and affright lest the youth should go to the governor of the town, and make known to him how they had been occupying themselves; so they bade him come to them, and forthwith narrated to him the whole story of the treasure, giving him in the end a fourth part thereof as his share. With his heart filled with joy, Lucilio laid hands on his share, and, having taken his way back to his home, he gave over the treasure to his mother, saying, 'Good mother, of a truth the grace of God must be with me, seeing that in following the commandment you laid upon me I have found the good day. Take now this money, and keep it well, so that it may serve for our sup port.' Whereupon the mother, joyful in the possession of the money which her son had gained, encouraged him always to keep a sharp look-out for the future, for the reason that he might very likely meet with other good days like to this one.
The Signora, perceiving that Madonna Chiara's fable had now come to an end, begged that she would oblige her by setting an enigma for the company to guess, so that the rule they had hitherto followed might not be broken, and Chiara, in whose mind ill thoughts had no place, gave her enigma in the following words.
Full many beasts of every kind
"This enigma of mine which I have Just propounded is intended to show forth the virtue of gratitude under the form of a bird called pola [A chough.], which, when it sees its father no longer able to fly on account of the weakness of old age, exhibits its gratitude by preparing for him a nest, and by giving him food upon which he may nourish himself till the day of his death."
The Signor Beltramo, who was sitting near to Chiara, perceiving that his turn had now come to tell a story, and feeling reluctant to wait for the command of the Signora, at once began to tell his fable in the following wise, with a merry look upon his face the while.
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.