The Pentamerone, or The Story of Stories/Violet
Envy is a wind which blows with such violence, that it throws down the props of the reputation of good men, and levels with the ground the crops of good fortune. But very often, as a punishment from Heaven, when this envious blast seems as if it would cast a person flat on the ground, it aids him instead to attain the happiness he is expecting sooner even than he hoped; as you will hear in the story which I shall now tell you.
There was once upon a time a good kind of man named Cola Aniello, who had three daughters, Rose, Pink and Violet; the last of whom was so beautiful that her very look was a syrup of love, which relieved the hearts of beholders of all uneasiness. Ciullone, the king's son, was burning with love of her, and every time he passed by the little cottage where these three sisters sat at work, he took off his cap and said, "Good day, good day, Violet!" and she replied, "Good day, king's son! I know more than you." At these words her sisters grumbled and murmured, saying, "You are an ill-bred creature, and will make the prince in a fine rage!" But as Violet paid no heed to what they said, they made a spiteful complaint of her to their father, telling him that she was too bold and forward, and that she answered the prince without any respect, as if she were just as good as he, and that some day or other she would get into trouble, and suffer the just punishment of her offence. So Cola Aniello, who was a prudent man, in order to prevent any mischief, sent Violet to stay with an aunt named Cuccepannella, to be set to work.
Now the prince, when he passed by the house as usual, no longer seeing the object of his love, was for some days like a nightingale that does not find her young ones in the nest, and goes from leaf to leaf wailing and lamenting her loss; but he put his ear so often to the chink, that at last he discovered where Violet lived. Then he went to the aunt, and said to her, "Madam, you know who I am, and what power I have; so, between ourselves, do me a favour, and then ask me for whatever you wish." "If I can do anything to serve you," replied the old woman, "I am entirely at your command." "I ask nothing of you," said the prince, "but to let me give Violet a kiss." "If that's all," answered the old woman, "go and hide yourself in the room downstairs in the garden, and I will find some pretence or another for sending Violet to you."
As soon as the prince heard this, he stole into the room without loss of time, and the old woman, pretending that she wanted to cut a piece of cloth, said to her niece, "Violet, if you love me, go down and fetch me the yard-measure." So Violet went, as her aunt bade her; but when she came to the room, she perceived the ambush, and taking the yard-measure she slipped out of the room as nimbly as a cat, leaving the prince with his nose lengthened out of pure shame and bursting with vexation.
When the old woman saw Violet come running so fast, she suspected that the trick had not succeeded; so presently after she said to the girl, "Go downstairs, niece, and fetch me the ball of Brescian thread that is on the top shelf in the cupboard." So Violet ran, and taking the thread slipped like an eel out of the hands of the prince. But after a little while the old woman said again, "Violet, my dear, if you do not go downstairs and fetch me the scissors, I am totally undone." Then Violet went down again, but she sprang as vigorously as a dog out of the trap; and when she came upstairs, she took the scissors and cut off one of her aunt's ears, saying, "Take that, madam, as a reward for your pains—every deed deserves its meed; and if I don't cut off your nose, it is only that you may smell the bad odour of your reputation." So saying she went her way home with a hop, skip and jump, leaving her aunt eased of her car, and the prince full of Let-me-alone.
Not long afterwards the prince again passed by the house of Violet's father, and seeing her at the window where she was used to stand, he began to his old tune, "Good day, good day, Violet!" whereupon she answered as quickly as a good parish-clerk, "Good day, king's son! I know more than you." But Violet's sisters could no longer bear this behaviour, and they plotted together how to get rid of her. Now one of the windows looked into the garden of an ogre; so they proposed to drive the poor girl away through this; and letting fall from it a skein of thread, with which they were working a door-curtain for the queen, they cried, "Alas, alas! we are ruined and undone, and shall not be able to finish the work in time, if Violet, who is the smallest and lightest of us, does not let herself down by a cord and pick up the thread that has fallen."
Violet could not bear to see her sisters grieving thus, and instantly offered to go down; so tying a cord to her, they lowered her into the garden; but no sooner did she reach the ground, than they let go the rope. It happened that just at that time the ogre came out to take a look at his garden; and having caught cold from the dampness of the ground, he gave such a tremendous sneeze, with such a noise and explosion, that Violet screamed out with terror, "O mother, help me!" Thereupon the ogre turned round, and seeing the beautiful maiden behind him, he received her with the greatest kindness and affection; and treating her as his own daughter, he gave her in charge to three fairies, bidding them take care of her, and rear her up on cherries.
The prince, no longer seeing Violet, and hearing no news of her, good or bad, fell into such grief, that his eyes became swollen like a bladder, his face grew pale as ashes, his lips livid, and he neither ate a morsel to get flesh on his body, nor slept a wink to get any rest to his mind. But trying all possible means, and offering large rewards, he went about spying and inquiring everywhere, until at last he discovered where Violet was. Then he sent for the ogre, and told him that, finding himself ill (as he might see was the case), he begged of him permission to spend a single day and night in his garden, adding that a small chamber would suffice for him to repose in. Now, as the ogre was a subject of the prince's father, he could not refuse him this trifling pleasure; so he offered him all the rooms in his house, if one was not enough, and his very life itself. The prince thanked him, and chose a room which by good luck was near to Violet's; and as soon as Night came out to play at 'Stretch-my-curtain' with the Stars, the prince, finding that Violet had left her door open, as it was summer-time and the place was safe, stole softly into the room, and taking Violet's arm he gave her two pinches. Thereupon she awoke, and exclaimed, "O father, father, what a quantity of fleas!" Then she went to another bed, and the prince did the same again, and Violet cried out in the same way; then she changed first the mattress, and afterwards the sheet, and so the sport went on the whole night long, until the Dawn, having brought news that the Sun was alive, the mourning that was hung around the sky was all removed.
As soon as it was day, the prince passing by that house, and seeing the maiden at the door, said as he was wont to do, "Good day, good day, Violet!" and when Violet replied, "Good day, king’s son! I know more than you," the prince answered, "O father, father, what a quantity of fleas!"
The instant Violet felt this shot, she guessed at once that the prince had been the cause of her annoyance in the past night; so off she ran and told it to the fairies. "If it be he," said the fairies, "we will soon give him tit for tat and as good in return; and if this dog has bitten you, we will contrive to get a hair from him: he has given you one, and we will give him back one and a half. Only get the ogre to make you a pair of slippers covered with little bells, and leave the rest to us: we will take care to pay him in good coin."
Violet, who was eager to be revenged, instantly got the ogre to make the slippers for her; and waiting until the Sky, like a Genoese woman, had wrapped the black taffety about her face, they went all four together to the house of the prince, where the fairies and Violet hid themselves in the chamber. And as soon as ever the prince had closed his eyes, the fairies made a great noise and racket, and Violet began to stamp with her feet at such a rate that, what with the clatter of her heels and the jingling of the bells, the prince awoke in great terror and cried out, "O mother, mother, help me!" And after repeating this two or three times, they slipped away home.
The next morning the prince, having taken some citron-juice and other cordials to relieve his fear, went to take a walk in the garden; for he could not live a moment without the sight of Violet, who was a pink of pinks. And seeing her standing at the door, he said, "Good day, good day, Violet!" and Violet answered, "Good day, king's son! I know more than you." Then the prince said, "O father, father, what a quantity of fleas!" but Violet replied, "O mother, mother, help me!"
When the prince heard this, he said to Violet, "You have won—you have outwitted me: I yield—you have conquered; and now that I see you really know more than I do, I will marry you without further ado." So he called the ogre, and asked her of him for his wife; but the ogre said it was not his affair, for he had learnt that very morning that Violet was the daughter of Cola Aniello. So the prince ordered her father to be called, and told him of the good fortune that was in store for his daughter; whereupon the marriage feast was celebrated with great joy, and the truth of the saying was seen, that
"A fair maiden soon gets married."
The delight is unspeakable which all felt at the good fortune which Violet had obtained by her cleverness, in spite of the malice of her sisters, who, the enemies of their own blood and kindred, played her so many tricks on purpose to make her break her neck. But it being now time for Paola to pay the debt she owed, she disbursed from her mouth the golden money of her beautiful discourse, and thus cleared her account.
- Da buono Jacono—'like a good deacon.' Occasionally (but rarely) I substitute a purely English allusion, as in this instance, where it best translates the point or meaning of the original,—departing from the letter, to retain the sense.
- A Neapolitan game,—see page 116.