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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Giovanni Boccaccio (1313–1375)

The Stolen Pig

From “The Decameron”

CALANDRINO had a little farm, not far from Florence, which came to him through his wife. There he used to have a pig fatted every year, and some time about December he and his wife went always to kill and salt it for the use of the family. Now it happened once—she being unwell at the time—that he went thither by himself to kill this pig; which Bruno and Buffalmacco hearing, and knowing she was not to be there, they went to spend a few days with a great friend of theirs, a priest in Calandrino’s neighborhood. Now the pig had been killed the very day they came thither, and Calandrino, seeing them along with the priest, called to them and said, “Welcome, kindly; I would gladly you should see what a good manager I am.” Then, taking them into the house, he showed them this pig. They saw that it was fat, and were told by him that it was to be salted for his family. “Salted, booby?” said Bruno. “Sell it, let us make merry with the money, and tell your wife that it was stolen.” “No,” said Calandrino, “she will never believe it; and, besides, she would turn me out of doors. Trouble me, then, no further about any such thing, for I will never do it.” They said a great deal more to him, but all to no purpose. At length he invited them to supper, but did it in such a manner that they refused.

After they had come away from him, said Bruno to Buffalmacco, “Suppose we steal this pig from him to-night.” “How is it possible?” “Oh, I know well enough how to do it, if he does not remove it in the meantime from the place where we just now saw it.” “Then let us do it, and afterward we and the parson will make merry over it.” The priest assured them that he should like it above all things. “We must use a little art,” quoth Bruno; “you know how covetous he is, and how freely he drinks when it is at another’s cost. Let us get him to the tavern, where the parson shall make a pretense of treating us all, out of compliment to him. He will soon get drunk, and then the thing will be easy enough, as there is nobody in the house but himself.”

This was done, and Calandrino, finding that the parson was to pay, took his glasses pretty freely, and, getting his dose, walked home betimes, left the door open, thinking that it was shut, and so went to bed. Buffalmacco and Bruno went from the tavern to sup with the priest, and as soon as supper was over they took proper tools with them to get into the house; but finding the door open, they carried off the pig to the priest’s and went to bed likewise.

In the morning, as soon as Calandrino had slept off his wine, he rose, came down-stairs, and finding the door open and his pig gone, began to inquire of everybody if they knew anything of the matter; and receiving no tidings of it, he made a terrible outcry, saying, “What shall I do now? Somebody has stolen my pig!” Bruno and Buffalmacco were no sooner out of bed than they went to his house to hear what he would say; and the moment he saw them he roared out, “Oh, my friends, my pig is stolen!” Upon this Bruno whispered to him and said, “Well, I am glad to see you wise in your life for once.” “Alas!” quoth he, “it is too true.” “Keep to the same story,” said Bruno, “and make noise enough for every one to believe you.”

Calandrino now began to bawl louder, “Indeed! I vow and swear to you that it is stolen.” “That’s right; be sure you let everybody hear you, that it may appear so.” “Do you think that I would forswear myself about it? May I be hanged this moment if it is not so!” “How is it possible?” quoth Bruno; “I saw it but last night; never imagine that I can believe it.” “It is so, however,” answered he, “and I am undone. I dare not now go home again, for my wife will never believe me, and I shall have no peace this twelvemonth.” “It is a most unfortunate thing,” said Bruno, “if it be true; but you know I put it into your head to say so last night, and you should not make sport both of your wife and us at the same time.”

At this Calandrino began to roar out afresh, saying, “Good God! you make me mad to hear you talk. I tell you once for all it was stolen this very night!” “Nay, if it be so,” quoth Buffalmacco, “we must think of some way to get it back again.” “And what way must we take,” said he, “to find it?” “Depend upon it,” replied the other, “that nobody came from the Indies to steal it; it must be somewhere in your neighborhood, and if you could get the people together I could make a charm, with some bread and cheese, that would soon discover the thief.” “True,” said Bruno, “but they would know in that case what you were about; and the person that has it would never come near you.” “How must we manage, then?” said Buffalmacco. “Oh!” replied Bruno, “you shall see me do it with some pills of ginger and a little wine, which I will ask them to come and drink. They will have no suspicion what our design is, and we can make a charm of these as well as of the bread and cheese.” “Very well,” quoth the other. “What do you say, Calandrino? Have you a mind we should try it?” “For Heaven’s sake do,” he said; “if I only knew who the thief is, I should be half comforted.” “Well, then,” quoth Bruno, “I am ready to go to Florence for the things, if you will only give me some money.” He happened to have a few florins in his pocket, which he gave him, and off went Bruno.

When he got to Florence, Bruno went to a friend’s house and bought a pound of ginger made into pills. He also got two pills made of aloes, which had a private mark that he should not mistake them, being candied over with sugar like the rest. Then, having bought a jar of good wine, he returned to Calandrino, and said, “To-morrow you must take care to invite every one that you have the least suspicion of; it is a holiday, and they will be glad to come. We will finish the charm to-night, and bring the things to your house in the morning, and then I will take care to do and say on your behalf what is necessary upon such an occasion.”

Calandrino did as he was told, and in the morning he had nearly all the people in the parish assembled under an elm-tree in the churchyard. His two friends produced the pills and wine, and, making the people stand round in a circle, Bruno said to them, “Gentlemen, it is fit that I should tell you the reason of your being summoned here in this manner, to the end, if anything should happen which you do not like, that I be not blamed for it. You must know, then, that Calandrino had a pig stolen last night, and, as some of the company here must have taken it, he, that he may find out the thief, would have every man take and eat one of these pills, and drink a glass of wine after it. Whoever the guilty person is, you will find he will not be able to get a bit of it down, but it will taste so bitter that he will be forced to spit it out. Therefore, to prevent such open shame, he had better, whoever he is, make a secret confession to the priest, and I will proceed no further.”

All present declared their readiness to eat; so, placing them all in order, he gave every man his pill, and coming to Calandrino, he gave one of the aloe pills to him, which he straightway put into his mouth, and no sooner did he begin to chew it than he was forced to spit it out. Every one was now attentive to see who spit his pill out, and while Bruno kept going round, apparently taking no notice of Calandrino, he heard somebody say behind him, “Hey-day! what is the meaning of its disagreeing so with Calandrino?” Bruno now turned suddenly about, and seeing that Calandrino had spit out his pill, he said, “Stay a little, honest friends, and be not too hasty in judging; it may be something else that has made him spit, and therefore he shall try another.” So he gave him the other aloe pill, and then went on to the rest that were unserved. But if the first was bitter to him, this he thought much more so. However, he endeavored to get it down as well as he could. But it was impossible; it made the tears run down his cheeks, and he was forced to spit it out at last, as he had done the other. In the meantime Buffalmacco was going about with the wine; but when he and all of them saw what Calandrino had done, they began to bawl out that he had robbed himself, and some of them abused him roundly.

After they were all gone, Buffalmacco said, “I always thought that you yourself were the thief, and that you were willing to make us believe the pig was stolen in order to keep your money in your pocket, lest we should expect a treat upon the occasion.” Calandrino, who had still the taste of the aloes in his mouth, fell a-swearing that he knew nothing of the matter. “Honor bright, now, comrade,” said Buffalmacco, “what did you get for it?” This made Calandrino quite furious.

To crown all, Bruno struck in: “I was just now told,” said he, “by one of the company, that you have a mistress in this neighborhood to whom you are very kind, and that he is confident you have given it to her. You know you once took us to the plains of Mugnone, to look for some black stones, when you left us in the lurch, and pretended you had found them; and now you think to make us believe that your pig is stolen, when you have either given it away or sold it. You have played so many tricks upon us, that we intend to be fooled no more by you. Therefore, as we have had a deal of trouble in the affair, you shall make us amends by giving us two couple of fowls, unless you mean that we should tell your wife.”

Calandrino, now perceiving that he would not be believed, and being unwilling to have them add to his troubles by bringing his wife upon his back, was forced to give them the fowls, which they joyfully carried off along with the pork.