Gesta Romanorum Vol. II (1871)/Of Deceit

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A certain knight who had made a temporary residence in Egypt, was desirous of laying up a sum of money which he possessed in that country. He inquired, therefore, for some person in whom he might repose confidence; and such a one being pointed out, he went, and delivered to him ten talents. He then prepared for a pilgrimage. His business completed, he returned, and demanded the amount of what he had reposited. But his agent proving a rogue, asserted that he had never seen him; and totally regardless of the knight's supplications and conciliatory language, bade him with much contumely trouble him no further. The knight, exceedingly disturbed at such unexpected usage, having accidentally met an old woman equipped in the garb of a devotee, and supported by a staff, removed a number of stones which stood in the way, and which might have cut her feet. Observing the despondency of the knight's demeanour, and at the same time suspecting that he was a foreigner, she entreated him to come near, and questioned him upon the cause of his solicitude. He explained it without hesitation, and the old woman counselled him what he should do. "Bring me," said she, "to a man of your own country whom we may trust. He did so, and she directed him to fabricate ten chests, painted outwardly with curious devices and rich colours, bound with iron, and fastened with silver locks; but filled up with stones. All this was done, and the woman then bade the knight send them by ten porters to the warehouse of the rascally factor. "Let them come one after another, in order; and as soon as the first man has entered, do you boldly demand your money; I trust you will find it restored to you sooner than you expect." Accordingly they proceeded to the factor's house, and the old woman addressed him as follows, "My master, this stranger" (pointing to the artificer of the chests) "lodges with me, and wishes to return to his native land. But first he would deposit his wealth, which is contained in ten chests, under the safeguard of some honourable and faithful person. And because I have heard this character of you, I should be unwilling to let any one else have the care of them." As she spoke, a porter entered with the first chest; and at the same instant the knight appeared, to require his money. The knavish factor, fearing that if he disputed the right of the last, he should lose the golden harvest which the custody of ten such apparently valuable chests promised, came up to him in a soothing tone, and said, "My friend, where have you been? Receive, I pray you, the money which you laid up with me." The knight was not slow in complying, and gave great thanks to God, and the old woman, for the sums he had almost despaired of. "Master," said she to the factor, "I and my man will go and make enquiry about the other chests, and hasten back immediately. Expect us; and take care of that which we have brought." Thus, by the assistance of the devotee, the knight recovered his property[1].


My beloved, the knight is any Christian; the ten talents are the ten commandments. The factor is the world. The old devotee is a good conscience, and the iron-bound chest, filled with stones, is a heart full of virtues.


  1. This tale is in Alphonsus; in the Cento Novello Antiche. Nov. lxxiv.; in Boccacio, Day 8, Nov. 10; and in the Arab. N. Entertainments.