Gesta Romanorum Vol. I (1871)/Of Avarice, which makes many blind
OF AVARICE, WHICH MAKES MANY BLIND.
A certain king of Rome decreed, that every blind man should annually receive a hundred shillings from the emperor. It happened that twenty-three associates came into the city and entered a tavern to drink. They remained there seven days, both eating and drinking; but when they would reckon with the tavern-keeper, they had not sufficient money to defray the expence of what they had consumed. "Friends," quoth mine host, "here be wanting a hundred shillings. I tell you, of a certainty, ye go not hence till ye have paid the uttermost farthing." This rather startled the revellers, who, turning to one another, exclaimed, "What shall we do? We cannot pay so large a sum." At length one of them observed, "Listen to me; I will give you the best advice. The king of this country has decreed, that whosoever is blind shall receive from his treasury one hundred shillings. Let us then cast lots, and upon whomsoever the lot falls, we will deprive him of sight, and send him to the king for the promised benevolence. Thus we shall depart in peace." They all agreed that the counsel was excellent; and casting lots, the chance fell upon the contriver of the expedient; whose eyes they immediately put out. He was then led to the palace. Arriving at the gate, they knocked and were admitted by the porter, who enquired their business. The blind man answered, "I am one entitled, from my deficiency of sight, to the benefit of the royal donation." "Well," said the porter, "I will inform the seneschal." He went accordingly; but the wary seneschal first determined to examine his exterior before he delivered the money. He did so, and then asked what he wanted. "A hundred shillings," replied he, "which the law gives to every blind man." "My friend," said the seneschal, "if I am not greatly mistaken, I saw you yesterday in a tavern with both eyes perfect. You misinterpret the law. It relates to those who, by some natural infirmity, or by accident, become blind—and against which there was no defence. Such the law protects and relieves. But you, who voluntarily surrendered your eyes to liquidate a debt incurred by the most unwarrantable gluttony, can have no claim or pretence to the royal munificence. Seek, therefore, consolation and relief elsewhere." The blind man, cursing his folly, retired in great confusion, from the palace.
My beloved, the law in the story is the law of God. He who errs by natural infirmity, or through the temptations of the devil, and repents, is forgiven. But if any one, from pure malice, shall commit sin, and fall into despair he can scarcely, if at all, be pardoned. The tavern-keeper is the devil.