Two brothers live together in great amity. After a time one of them desires a division of their goods the other consents thereto, provided his brother will settle how this division is to be made. Whereupon the first brother makes the division, but fails to satisfy the other.
THE tender love which a father bears towards his children, beloved and gracious ladies, is indeed great; great, too, is the affection of one close and faithful friend for another, and great the attachment which a loyal citizen feels for his beloved country, but in my estimation the love between two brothers, who cling to one another with a sincere and perfect affection, is fully as great as any of those which I have named above. From love of this sort (although sometimes it happens quite otherwise) there may spring up the most blessed and happy results, which bring sweet fulfilment to the projects of men beyond their most sanguine hopes. Of this truth I could bring forward, if I would, numberless examples, these however I will pass over in silence, so as not to cause weariness to this noble and gracious company. But in order that I may duly fulfil the promise I have made to you, I will now lay before you, as an example, the case of two brothers who lived in our own time, and this story of mine may prove to be, I hope, a source both of pleasure and profit to you all.
In Naples, a city which is justly celebrated and famous, one abounding in lovely women of virtuous carriage, and rich in all good things that the mind can think of there resided, not long ago, two brothers, one of whom was called Hermacora, and the other Andolfo. These two men were of noble lineage, being scions of the great family of Carafa, and both were gifted with good parts and a lively wit. Besides this, they were concerned in large traffic of merchandise, whereby they had acquired for themselves great wealth. Now these two brothers, rich men, of noble parent age, and neither one as yet married, shared, as loving brothers should, the common expenses of their living, and so great was the attachment between them that the one would never think of doing aught which would not like wise be pleasant to the other.
In the course of time it happened that Andolfo, the younger brother- acting with the consent of Hermacora - took to wife a beautiful gentlewoman of noble blood named Castoria. This lady, as became a wise and high-minded woman, loved and reverenced Hermacora, her brother-in-law, as righteously as Andolfo her husband, and the one and the other alike reciprocated her affection; so that there reigned in this household concord and peace the like of which is seldom to be found. It pleased Heaven to give Castoria numerous children, and as the family grew in number, so in like manner grew their affection and welfare. Their riches also increased greater day by day, and, seeing that they were all of one mind and of one heart, no discord ever arose between them. When, however, the children were grown up and had arrived at full age, blind fortune, who is ever jealous of the happiness of others, indignantly interposed, seeking to sow discord and strife where before there had been such perfect union and peace.
To this Andolfo replied: 'Say what you wish, Hermacora, for in every other matter, except the one which we have just been discussing, I shall be willing to content you.' Then answered Hermacora: 'It is no doubt within the bounds of right and reason that we should divide our possessions and separate the one from the other. Now, seeing that this division has to be made by someone, I would that you should be that man, settling the two parts in such a fashion that neither one of us shall have any cause to complain thereof.' To this Andolfo replied: 'Hermacora, it is scarcely seemly that I, being the younger brother, should be called upon to make this division. Surely such duty belongs rather to you who are the elder.'
In the end Andolfo, who was burning with eagerness for the division to be made in order to fulfil his darling wish, and unable to hit upon any other means of bringing the matter to an end, under- took the task of dividing the goods, and gave to his elder brother the choice of taking which share he would. Hermacora, who was a prudent, clever, and kindly-natured man, now pretended that the two parts had not been equally divided, although, in sooth, he must have seen that they had been apportioned with the strictest justice; wherefore he said: 'Andolfo, the division which you have here made seems, no doubt, to you a just one, and for that reason you assume that neither one of us ought to com plain; but to me it does not seem just. Therefore I beg you to make another trial to divide it more fairly, so that neither you nor I should have any cause for discontent.' When Andolfo saw that his brother was ill-satisfied with the division he had made, he took away certain things from one of the shares and added them to the other, asking Hermacora whether the parts were by this change made equal, and whether he was now contented. Hermacora, who was in his heart all that was kindly and loving, nevertheless continued to cavil at his brother's work, and feigned to be still discontented therewith, although the division had been most righteously and justly made.
Meantime it seemed to Andolfo very strange that his brother refused to be contented with what he had done, and, with an angry look upon his face, he took the paper upon which the division had been reckoned and noted down, and tore it to pieces in his wrath. Then, turning towards his brother, he said: 'Go and divide our goods according to your own will, for I am bent at any cost on bringing this business to an end, even though it be finished to my own disadvantage.' Hermacora, who could not help seeing that his brother was sorely inflamed with anger, made answer to him in a kindly and gentle manner: 'Andolfo, my brother, put aside that scornful bearing, and let not your indignation get the better of your reason; restrain your anger, temper your wrath, and learn to know yourself. Then, like a wise and prudent man, consider well whether the parts into which our substance has been divided are equal, and if you find that they are not equal, divide them once more, for then I will of a surety be con- tent, and take the share allotted to me without cavilling.'
Andolfo did not as yet comprehend the drift of the thoughts which were working in the kindly heart of his brother, nor did he perceive the artful net which Hermacora was designing to cast over him. So, growing yet more angry, he cried out to his brother with even greater rage than before: 'Hermacora, did I not tell you at the beginning of this business that you were the elder brother, and that it pertained to you to make this division of our wealth? Why did you not make it yourself? Did you not promise to be satisfied with any apportionment of the same which I might make? And now you fail to keep faith with me.' To this Hermacora answered: 'My dearest brother, if; after you have divided our goods and given me my share thereof; I find that this is not equal to yours, what wrong do I work you by complaining?' Then said Andolfo: 'What thing is there in all the house of which you have not been allotted your due share?' But Hermacora went on insisting that he had not been fairly treated, and they fell a-wrangling, the one saying 'Yes,' and the other 'No.' At last Andolfo said: 'I would much like to know in what respect I have failed to make the parts equal.' And Hermacora replied to him: 'My brother, you have failed in the most important part.' But after he had thus spoken Hermacora, seeing that Andolfo was waxing more and more angry, and that he matter, if it should be further drawn out, might bring scandal and hurt to the honour of their house, and peradventure place even their lives in jeopardy, heaved ,a deep sigh and went on: 'You declare, oh! my beloved brother, that you have indeed given me the full share which by right belongs to me, but this I deny and I will moreover prove the same to you by the clearest evidence, so that you may even see it with your eyes and touch it with your hands. Now, put your anger aside and tell me whether, from the day when you led home to our house Castoria, your beloved wife and my dear sister-in-law, we have not all lived together in fraternal affection?' 'Assuredly we have,' answered Andolfo. 'Then,' asked Hermacora, 'has Castoria not striven to do her best in governing the house for the benefit of us all?' 'Certainly,' said Andolfo. 'Is she not the mother of all these children whom we have now around us?' asked Hermacora; 'and have they not, mother and children, lived at our common cost?' While Hermacora was thus speaking in this tender loving strain, Andolfo grew more and more astonished, and he failed to see to what end his brother could be thus addressing him. Hermacora went on: 'My brother, you have indeed divided our goods, but you have not divided your wife and children, giving me my share of them. Shall I no longer have any part in their love and care? How am I to live without the society of my dear sister-in-law and of my beloved nephews and nieces? Give me, there fore, my share in the love of these, and then go in peace, for I shall be well content. If you cannot do this, I will not consent to the division being made. And in case (which God forbid) you will not agree to this proposition of mine, I swear that I will summon you before a human tribunal on earth, and there claim justice of you. If I cannot obtain it in this world, I will cite you before the tribunal of Christ, to whom all things are clear and manifest.'
Andolfo listened very attentively to the words spoken by his brother, and was mightily amazed at what he heard. Then for the first time he began to realize how great must be the tenderness of heart which stirred so strongly the deep well of love in Hermacora's bosom, and he was so overcome with shame and con fusion that he hardly ventured to utter a word in answer to what Hermacora had said. At last he felt the justice of his brother's words, and his heart, heretofore so hard, was softened, and prostrating himself on the ground before his brother, he said: 'Hermacora, of a truth my ignorance has been great, and great also my fault. Greatest of all, however, are your devotion and loving-kindness. Now I see clearly my wretched error and my ignorant blindness. Now my eyes can pierce through the baffling mist which has hitherto blunted and obscured my gross perception. Of a truth I de serve the swiftest and the sharpest chastisement that the public tongue can pronounce against me, and I confess my self worthy of the severest punishment that can be devised. But, because your heart has ever been full of clemency and love towards me, I will venture now to draw near to you, as to a fount of living water, begging you to pardon my heinous fault, and promising never to forsake you, but to remain ever in affectionate union with you, together with my wife, and to allow you to dispose of my children as if they had been born to you.' Then the brothers embraced one another, while tears of love and reconciliation fell from the eyes of both of them, and in this manner they found perfect reunion one with the other, and from this time forth there never arose another word of discord between them. For many years they all lived together in perfect peace, and after their death the children, and their children, were left the sharers of the great wealth they had accumulated.
This pathetic story of what had passed between the two brothers pleased greatly the whole company, and it here and there proved to be so pity-moving, that not only the ladies, but even the men shed tears when it was shown to them how great was the love which Hermacora bore to Andolfo his brother, and with what gentleness he had appeased Andolfo's obstinate humour, and in the end beaten back the attacks of evil fortune. When the Signora saw that the men, and the women also, were wiping away from their eyes the tears that flowed therefrom, she made a sign that everyone should straightway cease from weeping, and commanded Lionora to finish her story with an enigma, and the damsel at once spake as follows:
When we look on all around,
When Lionora had brought her enigma to an end, it won no little praise from all the company, and a certain one stood up and made an attempt to give an interpretation thereof; but his essay was a vain one, for he came not near the right solution. Wherefore Lionora, smiling gently, explained it in the following words: "Once upon a time there was an innocent old man who was unjustly thrown into prison and condemned to death by starvation, and was in consequence kept without food. But his jailers suffered his daughter to visit him, and she nourished him with the milk from her own breast; thus from being a daughter she became a mother, giving life to him who had given life to her."
The enigma told by Lionora proved filly as interesting to the company as her piteous story. In order that the last of the damsels might complete the story-telling of the night, she sat down after she had made due salutation to the Signora, and Isabella, who had been chosen to fill the last place, rose from her seat and thus blithely began her fable.
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.