Illustration for Facetious Nights by E. R. Hughes

The Facetious Nights

Illustration for Facetious Nights by E. R. Hughes

The Facetious Nights

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Night the Eighth:
Fourth Fable:
Bernardo the Wine Merchant

Bernardo, a Genoese merchant, sells wine mingled with water, and on this account he is punished by Heaven by the loss of half his money.

THE tale which has just been told to you by my lovesome sister brings back to my recollection a certain accident which befell a Genoese merchant, who having sold wine with which water had been mixed, subsequently lost the money which he had received as the price there of, and for this reason almost died of grief.

In Genoa, a noble city, and one in which great traffic in merchandise is carried on, there lived once upon a time, a certain Bernardo, of the Fulgosa family, an avaricious wight, and one much given to unlawful dealing. Now this Bernardo decided to go to Flanders as supercargo of a ship laden with the finest wine of Monte Folisco, hoping to sell the same at a high price. After having set sail one day from the port of Genoa with good luck he passed over the sea without meeting any mischance, and came within a short distance of his destination in Flanders. There, having cast the anchor, he brought his ship to her moorings, and when he had disembarked he added to the wine so great a quantity of water that out of every single cask of wine he made two. Having done this, he weighed anchor and once more set sail, being carried by a fair and prosperous breeze into the port of Flanders.

And because at this season there was a great scarcity of wine in the country, the people of the place bought the aforesaid wine at a very high price. Thus the merchant was able to fill two great sacks with the golden ducats he received, and with these he departed from Flanders rejoicing mightily, and took his way back to his own country. When Bernardo had sailed a good distance from Flanders and found himself upon the high seas, he brought out all the money he had received, and having placed it on a table began to count it. When he had finished counting it, he put it into two bags, which he tied up by the mouth very securely. Scarcely had Bernardo finished his task, when it chanced that a monkey which was in the ship broke its chain, and having jumped down on to the table, caught up the two bags of money and rapidly scrambled up the mast of the ship. When the ape had mounted up to the maintop rigging it began to take the money out of the bags and pre tended to count it. The merchant, who was unwilling to do anything which might irritate the monkey, or to send in pursuit of it, lest through vexation it might throw the ducats into the sea, was in such terrible grief and anxiety that he nearly died thereof. He could not make up his mind what to do, whether he should go in chase of the monkey or stay where he was. After standing in doubt for some minutes, he decided at last that he would do better to keep quiet and to await whatever might ensue from the whim of the beast. The monkey, having untied the bags and taken out of them all the ducats, handled the coins and played with them for a long time. Then, having put them all back into the bags and tied them up securely, it threw one bag into the sea and the other it threw down to the merchant standing on the deck of the ship, as if to tell the cheating Bernardo that the money which had been thrown into the sea represented the price paid for the water which he had mixed with his wine, and that the bag now lying at his feet was the just price of the wine. Thus the water received what was paid for water, and Bernardo what was paid for wine. Wherefore, recognizing that this adventure had been brought to pass by divine interposition, Bernardo submitted with patience, calling to mind the saying that ill-acquired goods are never lasting, and that, although he who wins them may enjoy them some what, they will surely bring to his heirs loss and ruin.

Alteria's ingenious fable won the high commendations of all the company, and when the Signora gave her the signal that she should tell her enigma she set it forth in the following words:

I am featly made, I trow.
Teeth I have and tongue also;
Not a bone in me is found;
Ever to one spot I'm bound.
I can neither talk nor bite;
Thus I live with scant delight.
I beg you look with care on me;
A hole right in my midst you'll see.
A wight to torture me comes next,
And through and through I am transfixt;
Another comes and drags him forth,
And hangs him up as little worth.

This enigma gave rise to long discussion, but no one of all the company was able to find out the meaning thereof; except Isabella, who said: "This enigma can signify nothing else but a lock, which has teeth and a tongue, but no bones; it cannot eat, and that which fastens it is the key, which likewise often unfastens the box as well. He who draws the key out of the lock hangs it up on some nail." When Isabella had finished her explanation of this obscure riddle, Lauretta, without waiting for further word from the Signora, began her fable.

Next: Night the Eighth: Fifth 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.


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