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The companions, in the course of their journey, delivered a damsel from the clutches of three other giants. She was the daughter of a great lord, and when she got home she did honor to Morgante as an equal, and put Margutte into the kitchen, where he was in a state of bliss. He did nothing but swill, stuff, surfeit, vomit, play at dice, cheat, filch, go to sleep, guzzle again, and laugh, chatter, and tell a thousand lies.
When Morgante took leave of the young lady, she made him rich presents. Margutte, seeing this, and being, as usual, drunk and impudent, daubed his face like a Christmas clown, and, approaching her with a frying-pan in his hand, demanded "something for the cook." The fair one gave him a jewel; and the vagabond showed such brutal eagerness in seizing it with his filthy hands, without making the least acknowledgment, that when they got out of the house Morgante was tempted to strike him to the ground. He called him scoundrel and poltroon, and said he had disgraced him forever.
"Softly!" said the brute-beast. "Did you not take me with you knowing what sort of fellow I was? Did I not tell you I had every sin and shame under heaven? And have I ever deceived you by the exhibition of a single virtue?"
Morgante could not help laughing at this excessive candor. So they went on their way, till they came to a wood, where they rested themselves by a fountain. Here Margutte fell fast asleep. He had a pair of boots on, which Morgante felt an inclination to draw off, that he might see what he would do on waking. He accordingly did so, and threw them to a little distance among the bushes. The sleeper awoke in due. time, and, looking and searching round about, suddenly burst
into roars of laughter. A monkey had got the boots and sat pulling them on and off, making the most ridiculous grimaces and gestures. The monkey busied himself with the boots, and the light-minded drunkard laughed; and at every fresh gesticulation of the new boot-wearer the laugh grew louder and more tremendous, till at length it was found impossible to restrain it. The glutton had a laughing fit. In vain did he try to stop himself; in vain would his fingers have loosened the buttons of his doublet, to give his lungs room to play. They could not do it; so he laughed and roared till he burst. The snap was like the splitting of a cannon. Morgante ran up to him. But it was too late. He was dead.
Alas! this was not the only death. It was not even the most trivial cause of a death. Giants are big fellows; but Death's a bigger, though he may come in a little shape.
Morgante had succeeded in joining his master. He helped him to take Babylon; he killed a whale for him at sea that obstructed his passage; he played the part of a mainsail during a storm, holding out his arms with a large hide between them. But, on coming ashore, a crab bit him in the heel, and behold the lot of the great giant—he died! He laughed, and thought it a very little thing; but it proved a mighty one. "He made the East tremble," said his master, "and the bite of a crab has killed him."
Oh, weak, fallacious life of ours!
—"Morgante the Great" (Leigh Hunt's Transcription). Masuccio di Salerno
The Inheritance of a Library
Jeronimo, who had inherited the place of master and head of the house, found himself in possession of many thousand florins in ready money. Wherefore the youth, seeing that he himself had endured no labor and weariness in gathering together the same, forthwith made up his mind not to place his affection in possessions of this sort, and at once began to array himself in sumptuous garments, to taste the pleasures of the town in the company of certain chosen companions of his, to indulge in amorous adventures, and in a thousand other ways to dissipate his substance abroad without restraint of any kind. Not only did he banish from his mind all thought and design of continuing his studies, but he even went so far as to harbor against the books, which his father had held in such high esteem and reverence and had bequeathed to him, the most fierce and savage hatred. So violent, indeed, was his resentment against them that he set them down as the worst foes he had in the world.
On a certain day i'; happened that the young man, either by accident or for some reason of his own, betook himself into the library of his dead father, and there his eye fell upon a vast quantity of handsome and well-arranged books, such as are wont to be found in places of this sort. At the first sight of these he was somewhat stricken with fear, and with a certain apprehension that the spirit of his father might pursue him; but, having collected his courage somewhat, he turned with a look of hatred on his face toward the aforesaid books and began to address them in the following terms:
"Books, books, so long as my father was alive you waged against me war unceasing, forasmuch as he spent all his time and trouble either in purchasing you, or in putting you in fair bindings; so that, whenever it might happen that there came upon me the need of a few florins or of certain other articles, which all youths find necessary, he would always refuse to let me have them, saying that it was his will and pleasure to dispense his money only in the purchase of such books as might please him. And over and beyond this, he purposed in his mind that I, altogether against my will, should spend my life in close companionship with you, and over this matter there arose between us many times angry and contumelious words. Many times, also, you have put me in danger of being driven into perpetual exile from this my home. Therefore it cannot but be pleasing to God—since it is no fault of yours that I was not hunted forth from this place—that I should send you packing from this my house in such fashion that not a single one of you will ever behold my door again. And, in sooth, I wonder more especially that you have not before this disordered my wits, a feat you might well have accomplished with very little more trouble on your part, in your desire to do with me as you did with my father, according to my clear recollection. He, poor man, as if he had become bemused through conversing with you alone, was accustomed to demean himself in strange fashion, moving his hands and his head in such wise that over and over again I counted him to be one bereft of reason. Now, on account of all this, I bid you have a little patience, for the reason that I have made up my mind to sell you all forthwith, and thus in a single hour to avenge myself for all the outrages I have suffered on your account and, over and beyond this, to set myself free from the possible danger of going mad."
After he had thus spoken, and had packed up divers volumes of the aforesaid books—one of his servants helping him in the work—he sent the parcel to the house of a certain lawyer, who was a friend of his, and then in a very few words came to an agreement with the lawyer as to the business, the issue of the affair being that, though he had simply expelled the books from his house, and had not sold them, he received, nevertheless, on account of the same, several hundred florins. With these, added to the money which still remained in his purse, he continued to pursue the course of pleasure he had begun.
—The Collection of Tales, or "Novellino."
The Silver Cup and the Lamprey
Master Floriano Da Castel San Piero was known in his own day, among the people of Bologna, as a most famous and excellent doctor of laws. After he had come out of church one morning, he was walking up and down the great square of the city with certain other doctors of law, his friends, and in passing it chanced that he entered the shop of a silversmith living in those parts to whom he had given orders to make for him a rich and beautiful cup of silver gilt, and before he went any farther, and without holding any other discourse with the silversmith thereanent, he made out his account with the craftsman and paid it. Then, when he turned round to call his servant and bid him take the