Castorio, wishing to be come fat, submits himself to treatment at the hands of Sandro, and being half dead thereby is soothed by a jest of Sandro's wife.
THE fable which Alteria has just told to us with no less grace than discretion calls back to my mind a certain drollery, as laughable perchance as hers, which I heard briefly told from the mouth of a noble gentlewoman a short time agone. And, if I should not succeed in setting it forth with that distinction and elegance with which it was told to me, I must beg you to hold me excused, seeing that nature has been niggard to me of those fine qualities granted so liberally to the lady of whom I speak.
Somewhat below Fano, a city of the Marches, situated on the shore of the Adriatic sea, there is a small town called Carignano, numbering amongst its people many lusty youths and fair damsels, and there, amongst others, dwelt a peas ant named Sandro, one of the most witty and rollicking fellows nature ever made, and, for the reason that he recked nought of anything save what gave him pleasure, let things go well or ill, he became so ruddy and fat that his flesh resembled nothing so much as a bit of larded bacon. And he, when he had come to the age of forty, took to wife a woman just as good-humoured and fat as himself, and a week never passed in which this good woman would not carefully shave her husband's beard in order that he might look more seemly and frolicsome. It chanced that a certain Messer Castorio, a gentleman of Fano, rich and young, but of slender wit, purchased in the commune of Carignano a farm, on which stood a house of moderate size, and there, with two of his servants and a lady whom he entertained for his pleasure, he would spend a greater part of the sum mer. One day when Castorio, according to his custom, was walking through the fields after dinner, he marked Sandro, who was turning up the earth with his crooked plough, and seeing what a fine fat ruddy fellow the peasant was with his smiling face, he said: 'Good neighbour, I cannot think what can be the reason that I am so lank and lean, as you see, while you are ruddy and well fleshed. Every day I eat the nicest viands and drink the costliest wines; I lie in bed as long as pleases me, and want for nothing. No man in all the world longs so keenly as I do to get fat, but the greater pains I take to that end, the leaner I grow. Now all the winter you eat nought but the coarsest food, and drink watered wine; you rise up to go to your work while it is yet night, and all summer long you never have an hour's rest; nevertheless your rosy face and your well-covered ribs make you a pleasure to behold. Wherefore, being greatly desirous to become fat, I beg you that you will, to the best of your knowledge and power, help me to lay on flesh, and tell me the method you have employed so greatly to your own advantage. Then, over and beyond the fifty gold forms which I purpose to give you forth with, I promise to reward you in such wise that, for the rest of your life, you will assuredly be well satisfied with what I do for you, and rest content.'
Now Sandro, who was both cunning and roguish in grain, and was one of the red-haired sort, refused flatly to tell Castorio what he wanted to know so eagerly; but, after a little, feigning to be overcome by the importunities of Castorio, and amazingly taken in reality by the notion of fingering those fifty gold forms, he let loose his tongue somewhat, and, having given over his ploughing for a little, he sat down beside Castorio and spake thus: 'Signor Castorio, you say you are mightily astonished over my fatness and likewise over your own lean condition, believing the while that a man gets fat or thin by reason of what he may eat or drink; but in this you are vastly in error, for one may see any day eaters in any number, and drinkers as well, who rather gormandize than eat their food, and nevertheless are as thin as lizards. But if you will do for your self what I have done, I will warrant you will soon be as fat as I am.' Then said Castorio, 'And what is the thing you did?' Sandro answered, 'Why, about a year ago I made a gelding of myself, and from the self-same hour when I did this I grew fat as you see.' 'But I wonder you did not meet your death thereby,' replied Castorio. 'What do you mean by death?' cried Sandro, 'seeing that the practitioner who did the business for me had such skill of hand that I felt not the least pain or hurt, and from that very time my flesh has been like the flesh of a young child. Of a truth I have never felt myself so well and happy as I find myself to-day.' 'And tell I pray you, the name of the man who did this service to you,' said Gastoria. 'Ah! but he is dead, good man,' replied Sandro. 'Alas! cried Castorio, 'what shall we do then seeing that he is dead?' Then Sandro answered: 'Do not be cast down; let me tell you that this good man, before he gave up the ghost, taught me, and made me the master of his art, which, from that time onward, I have regularly practised, castrating vast quantities of calves and fowls and other animals, which, as soon as I have tried my hand upon them, always lay on fat in a fashion that is wonderful to behold. Now, if you will only leave the charge of this matter to me, I will pledge myself that you will be highly contented with my handiwork.' 'But I fear I may die under the operation,' said Gaston 'What folly is this you say? Death, forsooth! Look at the calves and the capons and the other animals I deal with in my calling; how many of these die?' cried Sandro. Whereupon Castorio, who was possessed with a stronger desire to grow fat than had ever infected man before, said he would take time to consider the business.
But Sandro, who saw that Castorio in truth was fully determined to follow the advice he had given him, bade him not delay, but to allow him straightway to try his art upon him. The foolish fellow agreed, and Sandro, who had with him a knife as sharp as a razor, at once set to work, and in a few seconds of time made a capon of Messer Castorio. Then he took some sweet oil and the juice of certain herbs and made therewith a dressing, which he applied to the wound, and then helped Castorio to get up on his feet, as proper a eunuch as there was in the world. Castorio put his hand in his pocket and took therefrom fifty golden forms, which he gave to Sandro, and then, having taken leave of the crafty peasant, he went back to his house.
But before Castorio had known an hour's experience of life as a gelding, he began to feel the greatest pain and anguish that ever man had felt. He could never get rest for a single moment, and day by day his trouble increased, so that he was in great danger of death, and at the same time an offence to those about him. When this intelligence came to Sandro's ears, he was mightily affrighted thereanent, and began heartily to wish that he had never played this scurvy trick upon Castorio, fearing lest the latter should indeed die of his injuries. Castorio, when he found himself brought into such a pitiable state, was so inflamed with rage on account of the pain he suffered and of the disgrace which must fall upon him, that he determined at all hazard to kill Sandro forthwith. So, to set about the business in the fashion he judged most fitting, he went, accompanied by two of his servants, to the house of Sandro, whom he found at sup per, and spake thus: 'Sandro, this is a fine trick you have played me, and one which will assuredly be the death of me; but before I die I promise you shall pay the price of the wickedness you have wrought.' To this Sandro replied: 'The affair was your own and none of mine, because it was by your prayers and supplications alone that I was induced to do this thing for you. But, in order that I may not seem to you as wanting in skill over my work, nor un grateful for the reward you have given me, nor be reckoned as the cause of your undoing, I will ask you to come to me to-morrow morning in good time in my field, and there I will give you relief which will set you free at once from all fear of death on account of your ailment.'
As soon as Castorio had gone Sandro broke out into bitter weeping, wishing anxiously to fly the country at once and to betake himself into some foreign land, deeming that he heard the tread of the officer of justice always at his heels, about to put him in bonds. His wife, when she saw how overwrought with grief and care he was, and knowing nought of the reason thereof, inquired of him why he bore himself thus mourn fully, whereupon he told her the whole story, word for word. The wife, as soon as she had rightly comprehended the cause of her husband's dismay, and taken heed, moreover, of the fact that Castorio himself was a dolt and a wit ling, and that he of a surety stood in some peril of death, was at first some what troubled in mind herself, and began by rating her husband for his folly in thus having thrust his head into such danger. But afterwards she fell into a gentler mood, and comforted him, begging him to keep a light heart, for she would set to work to order the course of events so that he would be free from all serious danger.
Pages 324-328 have been omitted at this time. These pages were printed in French due to the graphic nature of the material. When the book was printed 1901, the publisher decided readers who were fluent in French as well as English would be sophisticated enough not to be easily offended by the material. I have not transcribed them at this time due to the labour required to do so.
The Signora, as soon as she heard and understood this excellent interpretation of the laughable riddle, was appeased, and gave leave henceforth to the story-tellers to say whatsoever they would, without fear of being called to account. Cateruzza, whose turn it was to tell the third story, perceiving that the Signora's anger was moderated, and that free field had been given to her for her discourse, began her story in an animated style as follows.
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.