Italian Folktales


Chapter 56  Lose Your Temper, and You Lose Your Bet

A poor man had three sons: Giovanni, Fiore, and Pirolo. Taken sick, he called his sons to his bedside.  "As you can see with your own eyes, my sons, I am at death's door. All I have to leave you are three equal sums of money which I accumulated by hard work.  Each of you take one and manage the best you can."  No sooner had he said that than he heaved a deep sigh and died.  The boys were heartbroken and wept; their poor father had left them fore-

     They each took a bag of money, but Giovanni, the oldest son, said, "Brothers, we'll never make out ifwe don't work.  What we have here won't last forever and we'll find ourselves out in the colds. One of us must begin looking around for work of some sort."  The middle boy, Flor% agreed.  "You are quite right.  I'lI go out myself and see what I can find."  Next morning he got up, washed, shined his boots, slung his bag of money over his shoulder, embraced his brothers, and set ont.

      He spent the whole day looking around and, toward evening, passed by a church and saw the archpriest out- side getting some fi'esh air.      "Good evening, Father,4'' said Piore, doffing his hat.

      "Good evening, young man, where are you going?"

      "I'm going out into thc wm-ld to seek my fortune."

      "What have you there in that bag ?"

      "The share of money my poor father left me."

      "How would you like to enter my household ?"

      "I'd llke to."

      "I too have a share of money, mind you.  If you enter my service, we'll make a bargain: the first one to lose his temper will forfeit his share of money."

      Fiore accepted the terms, and the archpriest took him out and showed him the plot of land to be tilled the next day,s saying, "Once you begin working, there's no need to waste time going back and forth for breakfast?nd dinner. I'll send your meals out to you."

      "As you wish, Father," replied Fiore.  Then they sat down to supper and chatted awhile, after which the older servant woman showed the boy to his room.

      Fiore got up bright and early the next morning and went out to dig up the field the archpriest had shown him the evening before,  lie dug until breakfast time, when he stopped and waited, expecting someone to show upa any minute with food.  When no one came, Fiore got up-set and cursed.   Since time was passing, be took up the spade again and went back to digging on an empty stomach in anticipation of dinnertime.  At last it was dinnertime, and Fiore peered down the road to see if anyone Was coming.  Every time somebody approached, he was sure it must be the archpriest's servant and perked up; but it was always someone else, and he cursed a blue streaky

     At last, around nightfall, the old woman arrived full of excuses: she'd been too busy with the laundry to come any sooner, and blah-blah-blah  ....  Although burning to call her every name under the sun, he controlled himself so as not to forfeit his sum of money to the priest. He dived into the old woman's basket and pulled out a pot and a bottle.  He went to open the pot, but the fid seemed to have been cemented on and stuck fast11. Screaming insults, Fiore sent pot and all flying. "But don't you realize," began the old woman as innocently as you please, "that we closed it up tight so the flies wouldn't get into it."

      Fiore then grabbed the bottle, but it too was sealed up the same way.  Cursing loud enough to awake the dead, he said, "Away with you !  Go back and tell the archpriest he'll hear the rest from my own lips.  He'll see if this is any way to treat a man !"

     The servant went back to the archpriest, who was waiting at the door.  "How did it go ? How did it go ?"

     "It was perfect, Father, simply perfect I  He's beside himself with rage !"

     In a little while here came Fiore so long-faced you could have put a halter on him, and be hadn't shut the door before he launched out against the archpriest, calling him every name under the sun.

     "Have you forgotten our agreement," said the archpriest, "that whoever flew off the handle's first would forfeit his sum of money?"

     "The Devil take that money too !" shouted Fiore, who packed up and left without the bag of money.  The archpriest and his two servants laughed until they cried.

     Half starved, exhausted, and angry, Fiore made his way home.  His brothers, who were looking out the window as he came into view, knew right away from the expression on his face that he had tared badly.

     Once he had satisfied his hunger and thirst, he told them what had happened.  Giovanni said, "I bet if I go oui I'll return with not only my money but the priest's and yours as well.  Tell me where he lives and sit fight."

     So Giovanni went to the arehpriest, but he too beeaine so enraged, what with hunger and thirstl? and that confouhded pot and bottle, that he would have forfeited ten additional bags of money if he had had them.  He came home as hungry and cross as a bear.

     Pirolo, the youngest and most cunning of the three, said, "Let me fro, brothers, and I'll be sure to return with your money and every cent of the archpriest's."  The brothers were reluctant for him to go, lest the rest of their father's money be lost, but he begged and pleaded until they finally consented.

       He reached the archpriest~s house and entered his  service.  The usual bargain was made, and the archpriest  added, "I have three bags of money, which I'm staking  against your bag."  They sat down to supper, and Plrolo  wisely pocketed all the bread, meat, ham, and cheese he


       In the morning he was at work before sunrise.  Natu-  rally nobody showed up at breakfast time, so he took out  his bread and cheese and ate.  Then he went to a farm-  house, introducing himself as the archprlest's field hand,   and asked for something to drink.  The farmer and his   family made a big to-do over him; they asked after   the archpriest and chatted for a while, then took Pirolo to   the ceilar and drew a bowl ofthelr finest wine, which lasted   him until dinnertime.  He thanked the people, promising   to call on them again, and returned to Iris work in the best   of spirits.  Neither did anybody show up at dinnertime,   but Plrolo had bread, ham, and other meat,, Then he   went back for more wine and returned to the field singing.   As night began to fall, here came a little old woman down   the road, the priest's old servant, bringing his dinner.    And there  was Plrolo singing[

         "I'm sorry to be so late, young man ..."

         "Oh, don't give it a thought !" he replied.  "It's

    never too late to eat."

         At those words the old woman stood stock-still, then took out the pot with the sealed lid. lie burst outn laugh-lng.  "You clever souls !  You fixed it so the flies wouldn't get in !"  He pried off the lid with his hoe and ate the soup.  Next he picked up the bottle, broke the bottleneck, again with his hoe, and drank the wine.  When his hunger and thirst were satisfied, he said to the old woman, "You go on back, and I'll be home just as soon as I've finished up out here.  Please thank the arcbpriest for his thoughtful-ness."

          The archprlest welcomed the old woman with open arms.  "Well ?  What news ?"

          "Bad news.  That boy is aa cheerful as a canary."

      "You just wait," said the archpriest.  "He'll change his tune,"

      Pirolo returned and they sat down to supper.  All through the meal he joked with the two servants while the arehpriest sat there and shuddered.

      "What work do you have lined up for me tomorrow?'' asked Pirolo.

      "Listen," said the archprlest, "I have a hundred pigs for you to drive to market and sell."

      The next morning Pirolo drove the hundred pigs to market and sold them to the first merchant fie met, all except for a sow as big as a cow.  But before selling them, he cut offeach one's tail and thus went away with ninety-nine pigtails.  With money in his pocket now, he headed for home.  He stopped in a field along the way, dug count-less holes with a trowel: and planted the tails, leaving only their curls showing aboveground.  Next he dug a vast hole and buried the sow, leaving only the curl of its tail showing.  Then he cried at the top of bis voice:

                "Hurry, hurry, Don Raimondo,

                Pigs you own are going to Inferno!

                Downward do they rush to darkest dales;

                Left to see are only curly tails.?'::

     The archpriest looked out the window, and Pimlo frantically motioned for him to come outside.  The arch-priest came running.

     "Who has ever suffered worse luck ?  I was here with the herd when I suddenly noticed them going under, right before my eyes.  As you can see, they've disappeared all but for their tails !  No doubt about it, they're tumbling straight down to Hell !  Let's see if we can rescue a few,at least !"

     The arehpriest began tugging, but ended up with only a handful of tails.  Pirolo, though, grabbed hold of the sow's tail and after tugging and tugging brought her out alive and in one pieceas and squealing like one possessed,aa

     The arehpriest was all ready to jump up and down in rage, but remembered the money and checked his anger. "Well, what more can we do but accept it," he said, feign-ing unconcern.  "Accidents will happen.'aT But he walked back to the house wringing his hands.

     That night Ptrolo asked as usual, "What do I have to do tomorrow ?"

      "I have a hundred sheep to go to market," replied the archpriest, "but I wouldn't want the same thing tohappen that occurred today."

      "Goodness, no !" said Pirolo.  "We won't ever be that unlucky again !"

      The next day be went to market and sold the sheep to a certain merchant, all except one that limped.  He pocket-the field of the day before, he picked up a long, long ladder lying there on the ground, propped it against a poplartree, and carried the lame sheep to the treetop and tied her up.  Then he came back down, removed the ladder, and cried at the top of his voice:

                "Hurry, hurry, Don Carmelo!

                Lambs you own are bound fora* the rain-bow ! Left behind in poplar's top Is the lamb that limps and flops.''

     The archpriest came running, and Pirolo explained. "I was here with my sheep when all ora sudden I see them leap into the air as if summoned to Paradise.  Only that poor crippled one there didn't make it and remained in the treetop."

     The archpriest was as red as a beet, but again managed to feign unconcern. "What can you do but accept it. Those things will happen..."

     At supper Plrolo asked what bis next task would be, and the archpriest said, "My son, I have no more tasks for you.  Tomorrow morning I shall say Masss~ in a neigh-boring parish.  You can come along end serve Mass."

     The next morning Ptrolo rose early, shined the arch-priest's shoes, put on a white shirt, washed his face, and went to wake up his employer.  They left the house to-gether, but as soon as they got out on the road it began to rain and the archpriest said, "Go back and get my wooden shoes.  I don't want to muddy my nice shoes I say Mass in. I'll wait for you under this tree with the umbrella."

     Pirohi ran home and said to the servants, "Quick, where are you ?  The arehpriest said for me to give you both a kiss !"

     "Kiss us ?  Have you lost your mind ?  We can just hear the arehpriest saying such a thing !"

     "Upon my word,az he said to kiss you both !  If you don't believe it, I'll let him tell you so himself !"  He called ont the window to the priest waiting outside, "One, father, or two ?"

     "Why, both of them, of course !" cried the archpriest."Both of them !"

     "You see ?" said Ptrolo, who gave them each a kiss. Then he picked up the wooden shoes and ran back to the archpriest, who asked, "What good would just one shoe have done me ?"

      When he got back home, the archpriest found the ser-vant women sulking.  "What's the matter ?' he asked.

       "What's the matter?  You ask us that?  What do you mean by giving the boy such orders ?  If we'd not  heard with our own ears, we'd never have believed it !"  And they told him about the kiss.

       "That's the last straw,''ss said the archpriest.  "I must dismiss him at once."

      ~ "But you can't send field hands away," replied the servants, "until the cuckoo has sung."

       "We'll just make believe the cuckoo is singing, then."  He called Pirolo and said, "Listen, I have no more work  for you, so Godspeed !"

        "What !" replied Pirolo.  "You know very well that  you can't dismiss me before the cuckoo has sung."

        "Very well, to be perfectly fair we'll walt for the cuckoo  to sing."

        The old servant killed and plucked a few hens, sewing  all the feathers onto a waistcoat and a pair of breeches be-longing to the archprlest.  She then dressed up in all those  feathers and went to the roof that night and sang, "Cuckoo I  Cuckoo !"

        Pirolo was at the supper table with the archpriest.   "Well, bless my soul !TM exclaimed the priest.  "! do be-  lieve ! hear the cuckoo singing."

        "Oh, no," answered Pirolo.  "March has scarcely   begun, and the cuckoo never sings before May."

        Yet there was no denying it was singing: "Cuckoo 1  Cuckoo F' Pirolo ran and got the shotgun banging behind the archpeiest's bed, opened the window, and took aim at that big bird singing on the rooftop.  "Don't shoot! Don't shoot !" shouted the archpriest,  but Plrolo fired away?

      Down tumbled the feather-clad servant, riddled with dior.

      This time the archpriest was blind with rage? "Pirolo, get out, and don't ever let me see you again!"

      "Why ?  Are you angry, Father?"

      "I certainly am !"

      "Well, give me the three bags of money, and I'll go."

       So Pirolo went home with four bags of money, in ad-  dition to all the proceeds from the sale of the pigs and  sheep.  He gave his brothers back their shares, opened  upaa a haberdashery with  his  own,  got  married,  and  lived happily ever after.

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