Fairy Tales / Italian Popular Tales

Italian Popular Tales

Fair Brow

There was once a father who had a son.
After this son had passed through school, his father said to him: "Son, now that you have finished your studies, you are of an age to travel. I will give you a vessel, in order that you may load it and unload it, buy and sell. Be careful what you do; take care to make gains!" He gave him six thousand scudi to buy merchandise, and the son started on his voyage. On his journey, without having yet purchased anything, he arrived at a town, and on the sea-shore he saw a bier, and noticed that those who passed by left there some a penny, some two; they bestowed alms on the corpse.

The traveller went there and asked: "Why do you keep this dead man here? for the dead desires the grave." They replied: "Because he owed a world of debts, and it is the custom here to bury no one until his debts are paid. Until this man's debts are paid by charity we cannot bury him." "What is the use of keeping him here?" he said. "Proclaim that all those whom he owed shall come to me and be paid."

Then they issued the proclamation and he paid the debts; and, poor fellow! he did not have a farthing left - not a penny of his capital. So he returned to his father's house. "What news, son? What means your return so soon?" He replied: "On crossing the sea, we encountered pirates; they have robbed me of all my capital!" His father said: "No matter, son; it is enough that they have left you your life. Behold, I will give you more money; but you must not go again in that direction."
He gave him another six thousand scudi. The son replied: "Yes, father, don't worry; I will change my course." He departed and began his journey. When he was well out at sea he saw a Turkish vessel. He said to himself: "Now it is better for me to summon them on board than for them to summon us." They came on board. He said to them: "Whence do you come?" They answered: "We come from the Levant." "What is your cargo?" "Nothing but a beautiful girl." "How do you come to have this girl?" "For her beauty; to sell her again. We have stolen her from the Sultan, she is so beautiful!" "Let me see this girl." When he saw her he said: "How much do you want for her?" "We want six thousand scudi!" The money which his father gave him he gave to those corsairs, and took the girl and carried her away to his ship. But he at once had her become a Christian and married her.

He returned to his father's house; he went up, and his father said to him:

"Welcome! O my handsome son.
What merchandise of women have you made?"
"My father, I bring you a handsome ring,
I bring it for your reward;
It cost me neither city nor castle,
But the most beautiful woman you have ever seen:
The daughter of the Sultan, who is in Turkey,
Her I bring for my first cargo!"

"Ah, you miserable knave!" cried his father. "Is this the cargo you have brought?" He ill-treated them both, and drove them from the house. Those poor unfortunate ones did not know where to find shelter. They went away, and at a short distance from their town there were some rooms at a villa.

They went to live in one of those. He said: "What shall we do here? I do not know how to do anything; I have no profession or business!" She said: "Now I can paint beautiful pictures; I will paint them, and you shall go and sell them!" He said: "Very well!" "But, remember, you must tell no one that I paint them!" "No, no!" he said.

Now let us go to Turkey. The Sultan, meanwhile, had sent out many vessels in search of his daughter. These ships went here and there in quest of her. Now it happened that one of these vessels arrived in the town near where she lived, and many of the sailors went on land. Now one day the husband said to his wife: "Make many pictures, for to-day we shall sell them!" She made them, and said to him that he should not sell them for less than twenty scudi apiece. She made a great many, and he carried them to the public square. Some of the Turks came there; they gave a glance at the paintings, and said to themselves: "Surely, it must be the Sultan's daughter who has painted these." They came nearer, and asked the young man how he sold them. He said they were dear; that he could not let them go for less than twenty scudi. They said: "Very well! we will buy them; but we want some more." He answered: "Come to the house of my wife who makes them!" They went there, and when they saw the Sultan's daughter, they seized her, bound her, and carried her far away to Turkey. This husband, then, unhappy, without wife, without a trade, alone in that house, what could
he do?

Every day he walked along the beach, to see if he could find a ship that would take him on board; but he never saw any. One day he saw an old man fishing in a little boat; he cried: "Good old man, how much better off you are than I!" The old man asked: "Why, my dear son?" He said: "Good old man, will you take me to fish with you?" "Yes, my son," said he; "if you wish to come with me in this boat, I will take you!" "Thank heaven!" said he. "Good!" said the old man:

"You with the rod, and I with the boat,
Perhaps we shall catch some fish.

I will go and sell the fish, for I am not ashamed, and we will live together!" They ate, and afterward went to sleep; without knowing it, there arose in the night a severe storm, and the wind carried them to Turkey. The Turks, seeing this boat arrive, went on board, seized them, made slaves of them, and took them before the Sultan. He said: "Let one of them make bouquets; let the other plant flowers; put them in the garden!" They placed the old man there as gardener, and the young man to carry flowers to the Sultan's daughter, who with her maids was shut up in a very high tower for punishment. They were very comfortable there.

Every day they went into the garden and made friends with the other gardeners. As time went on, the old man made some fine guitars, violins, flutes, clarionets, piccolos - all sorts of instruments he made. The young man played them beautifully when he had time. One day his wife, who was in the tower, hearing his fine songs, - Fair Brow had a voice which surpassed all instruments, - said: "Who is playing, who is singing so beautifully?" They went out on the balcony, and when she saw Fair Brow, she thought at once of having him come up.

The Sultan's daughter said to one of those who filled the basket with flowers: "Put that young man in the basket and cover him with flowers!" He put him in, and the maids drew him up. When he was up, he came out of the basket, and beheld his wife. He embraced and kissed her and thought about escaping from there. Then she told her damsels that she wished to depart without any one knowing it. So they loaded a large ship with pearls and precious stones, with rods of gold and jewels; then they let down Fair Brow first, then his wife; finally the damsels. They embarked and departed.

When they were out at sea the husband remembered that he had forgotten the old man and left him on shore. Fair Brow said: "My sister, even if I thought I should lose my life, I would turn back, for the word which I have given him is the mother of faith!" So they turned back, and saw the old man, who was still awaiting them in a cave; they took him with them, and put to sea again. When they were near home, the old man said: "Now, my son, it is fitting for us to settle our accounts and divide things!" "Know, good old man," said Fair Brow to him, "that all the wealth that I have belongs half to you and half to me!" "Your wife, too, belongs half to me!" He said: "Good old man, I will leave you three quarters, and I will take one only, but leave me my wife. Do you want me to divide her in two?" Then the old man said: "You must know that I am the soul of him whom you had buried; and you have had all this good fortune because you did that good action, and converted and baptized your wife!"

Then he gave him his blessing and disappeared. Fair Brow, when he heard this, as you can imagine, came near dying of joy. When they reached his city, they fired a salute, for Fair Brow had arrived with his wife, the wealthiest gentleman in the world. He sent for his father and told him all that had happened to him. He went to live with them, and as he was old, he died soon, and all his riches went to Fair Brow.

Source: Italian Popular Tales by Thomas Frederick Crane, A. M.



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