I once heard say that Juno went to Candia to find Falsehood. But if any one were to ask me where fraud and hypocrisy might truly be found, I should know of no other place to name than the Court, where detraction always wears the mask of amusement; where, at the same time, people cut and sew up, wound and heal, break and glue together--of which I will give you one instance in the story that I am going to tell you.
THERE was once upon a time in the
service of the King of Wide-River an excellent youth named Corvetto,
who, for his good conduct, was beloved by his master; and for this very
cause was disliked and hated by all the courtiers. These courtiers were
filled with spite and malice, and bursting with envy at the kindness
which the King showed to Corvetto; so that all day long, in every corner
of the palace, they did nothing but tattle and whisper, murmur and grumble
at the poor lad, saying, "What sorcery has
Ten miles distant from Scotland, where
the seat of this King was, there dwelt an ogre, the most inhuman and
savage that had ever been in Ogreland, who, being persecuted by the
King, had fortified himself in a lonesome wood on the top of a mountain,
where no bird ever flew, and was so thick and tangled that one could
never see the sun there. This ogre had a most beautiful horse, which
looked as if it were formed with a pencil; and amongst other wonderful
things, it could speak like any man. Now the courtiers, who knew how
wicked the ogre was, how thick the wood, how high the mountain, and
how difficult it was to get at the horse, went to the King, and telling
him minutely the perfections of the
Corvetto knew well that this drum was sounded
by those who wished him ill; nevertheless, to obey the King, he set
out and took the road to the mountain. Then going very quietly to the
ogre's stable, he saddled and mounted the horse, and fixing his feet
firmly in the stirrup, took his way back. But as soon as the horse saw
himself spurred out of the palace, he cried aloud, "Hollo! be on
your guard! Corvetto is riding off with me." At this alarm the
ogre instantly set out, with all the animals that served him, to cut
Corvetto in pieces. From this side jumped an ape, from that was seen
a large bear; here sprang forth a lion, there came running a
Then the King embraced him more than a
son, and pulling out his purse, filled his hands with crown-pieces.
At this the rage of the courtiers knew no bounds; and whereas at first
they were puffed up with a little pipe, they were now bursting with
the blasts of a smith's bellows, seeing that the crowbars with which
they thought to lay Corvetto's good fortune in ruins only served to
smooth the road to his prosperity. Knowing, however, that walls are
not levelled by the first attack of the battering-ram, they resolved
to try their luck a second time, and said to the King, "We wish
you joy of the beautiful horse! It will indeed be an ornament to the
royal stable. But what a pity you have not the ogre's tapestry, which
is a thing more beautiful than words can tell, and would spread your
Then the King, who danced to every tune, and ate only the peel of this bitter but sugared fruit, called Corvetto, and begged him to procure for him the ogre's tapestry. Off went Corvetto and in four seconds was on the top of the mountain where the ogre lived; then passing unseen into the chamber in which he slept, he hid himself under the bed, and waited as still as a mouse, until Night, to make the Stars laugh, puts a carnival-mask on the face of the Sky. And as soon as the ogre and his wife were gone to bed, Corvetto stripped the walls of the chamber very quietly, and wishing to steal the counterpane of the bed likewise, he began to pull it gently. Thereupon the ogre, suddenly starting up, told his wife not to pull so, for she was dragging all the clothes off him, and would give him his death of cold.
"Why you are uncovering me!" answered the ogress.
"Where is the counterpane?" replied
the ogre; and stretching out his hand to the floor he touched Corvetto's
face; whereupon he set up a loud cry,--"The imp! the imp! Hollo,
here, lights! Run quickly!"--till the whole house was turned topsy-turvy
with the noise. But Corvetto, after throwing the clothes out of the
window, let himself drop down upon them. Then making up a good bundle,
he set out on the road to the city, where the reception he met with
from the King, and the vexation of the courtiers, who were bursting
with spite, are not to be told. Nevertheless they laid a plan to fall
upon Corvetto with the rear-guard of their roguery, and went again to
the King, who was almost beside himself with delight at the tapestry--which
was not only of silk embroidered with gold,
When the courtiers came to the King, who was thus transported with joy, they said to him, "As Corvetto has done so much to serve you, it would be no great matter for him, in order to give you a signal pleasure, to get the ogre's palace, which is fit for an emperor to live in; for it has so many rooms and chambers, inside and out, that it can hold an army. And you would never believe all the courtyards, porticoes, colonnades, balconies, and spiral chimneys which there are--built with such marvellous architecture that Art prides herself upon them, Nature is abashed, and Stupor is in delight."
The King, who had a fruitful brain which conceived quickly, called Corvetto again, and telling him the great longing that had seized him for the ogre's palace, begged him to add this service to all the others he had done him, promising to score it up with the chalk of gratitude at the tavern of memory. So Corvetto instantly set out heels over head; and arriving at the ogre's palace, he found that the ogress, whilst her husband was gone to invite the kinsfolk, was busying herself with preparing the feast. Then Corvetto entering, with a look of compassion, said, "Good-day, my good woman! Truly, you are a brave housewife! But why do you torment the very life out of you in this way? Only yesterday you were ill in bed, and now you are slaving thus, and have no pity on your own flesh."
"What would you have me do?" replied the ogress. "I have no one to help me."
"I am here," answered Corvetto, "ready to help you tooth and nail."
"Welcome, then!" said the ogress; "and as you proffer me so much kindness, just help me to split four logs of wood."
"With all my heart," answered Corvetto, "but if four logs are not enow, let me split five." And taking up a newly-ground axe, instead of striking the wood, he struck the ogress on the neck, and made her fall to the ground like a pear. Then running quickly to the gate, he dug a deep hole before the entrance, and covering it over with bushes and earth, he hid himself behind the gate.
As soon as Corvetto saw the ogre coming with his kinsfolk, he set up a loud cry in the courtyard, "Stop, stop! I've caught him!" and "Long live the King of Wide-River." When the ogre heard this challenge, he ran like mad at Corvetto, to make a hash of him. But rushing furiously towards the gate, down he tumbled with all his companions, head over heels to the bottom of the pit, where Corvetto speedily stoned them to death. Then he shut the door, and took the keys to the King, who, seeing the valour and cleverness of the lad, in spite of ill-fortune and the envy and annoyance of the courtiers, gave him his daughter to wife; so that the crosses of envy had proved rollers to launch Corvetto's bark of life on the sea of greatness; whilst his enemies remained confounded and bursting with rage, and went to bed without a candle; for--
"The punishment of ill deeds past,
The next story in Il Pentamerone is The Booby.
These tales came from:
Basile, Giambattista. Stories from the Pentamerone. E. F. Strange, editor. Warwick Goble, illustrator. London: Macmillan & Co., 1911. The text of this book is based on John Edward Taylor's translation from 1847.