Open main menu


"Truth, my lord Prince, has always been the mother of hatred, and I would not wish therefore, by obeying your commands, to offend any one of those around me; for not being accustomed to weave fictions or to invent stories, I am constrained, both by nature and habit, to speak the truth; and although the proverb says, Tell truth and fear nothing, yet knowing well that truth is not welcome in the presence of princes, I tremble lest I say anything that may perchance offend you."

"Say all you wish," replied Taddeo; "for nothing but what is sweet can come from those pretty lips." These words were stabs to the heart of the Slave, as would have been seen plainly if black faces were, like white ones, the book of the soul. And she would have given a finger of her hand to have been rid of these stories, for all before her eyes had grown blacker even than her face. She feared that the last story was only the announcement of mischief that was to follow, and from a cloudy morning she foretold a bad day. But Zoza meanwhile began to enchant all around her with the sweetness of her words, relating her sorrows from first to last, and beginning with her natural melancholy,—the unhappy augury of all she had to suffer; bearing from the cradle the bitter root of her misfortunes, which on account of a forced laugh had forced her to shed so many tears. Then she went on to tell of the old woman's curse, her painful wanderings, her arrival at the fountain, her bitter weeping, and the treacherous sleep which had been the cause of her ruin.

The Slave, hearing Zoza tell the story in all its breadth and length, and seeing the boat going out of its course, exclaimed, "Be quiet, and hold your tongue! or little Georgy shall not be born alive." But Taddeo, who had discovered how matters stood, could no longer contain himself; so stripping off the mask and throwing the saddle on the ground, he exclaimed, "Let her tell her story to the end, and have done with this nonsense about little George or big George; for I have been made a fool of long enough; and if the mustard gets up into my nose, better that you had never been born!” Then he commanded Zoza to continue her story, in spite of his wife; and Zoza, who had only waited for the sign, went on to tell how the Slave had found the pitcher, and had treacherously robbed her of her good fortune. And thereupon she fell to weeping in such a manner, that every person present was affected at the sight.

Taddeo, who from Zoza's tears and the Slave's silence discerned the truth of the matter, gave Lucia such a scolding as he would scarcely have bestowed on a jackass, and made her confess her treachery with her own lips. Then he gave instant orders that she should be buried alive up to her neck, that she might die a more painful death. And embracing Zoza, he caused her to be treated with all honour as his Princess and wife, sending to invite the King of Woody-Valley to come to the feasts.

With these fresh nuptials terminated the greatness of the Slave and the amusement of these Stories. And much good may they do you, and promote your health! and may you lay them down as unwillingly as I do, taking my leave with regret at my heels and a good spoonful of honey in my mouth.

  1. See the Introduction, pages 1-13.