Roman Legends: A Collection of the Fables and Folk-lore of Rome | Annotated Tale

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Yard of Nose, A (Mezza Canna di Naso)


THERE was once a poor orphan youth left all alone, with no home, and no means of gaining a living, and no place of shelter.

               Not knowing what to do he wandered away over the Campagna, straight on; when he had wandered all day and was ready to die of hunger and weariness, he at last saw a fig-tree covered with ripe figs.

               'There's a godsend!' said the poor orphan; and he set to upon the figs without ceremony. But, lo! he had scarcely eaten half-a-dozen when his nose began to feel very odd; he put his hand up to it and it felt much bigger than usual; however, he was too hungry to trouble himself about it, and he ate on. As he ate on his nose felt queerer and queerer; he put his hand up and found it was quite a foot [2] long! But he was so hungry he went on eating still, and before he had done he had fully a yard of nose.

               'A pretty thing I have done for myself now! As well might I have died of starvation as make myself such an object as this! Never can I appear among civilised beings again.' And he laid himself down to sleep, hiding himself in the foliage of the fig-tree lest anybody passing by should see his nose.

               In the morning the first thing he thought of when he awoke was his nose; he had no need to put up his hand to feel it for it reached down to his hand, a full yard of it waggling about.

               'There's no help for it,' he said. 'I must keep away from all habitable places, and live as best I may.'

               So he wandered on and on over the Campagna away from all habitations, straight on; and when he had wandered all day and was ready to die of hunger and weariness he saw another fig-tree covered with ripe figs.

               Right glad he was to see anything in the shape of food. 'If it had only been anything else in the world but figs!' he said. 'If I go on at this rate I shan't be able to carry my nose along at all! Yet starving is hard, too, and I'm such a figure now, nothing can make me much worse, so here goes!' and he began eating at the figs without more ado.

               As he ate this time, however, his nose, instead of feeling queerer and queerer as it had before, began to feel lighter and lighter.

               Less, less, and still less it grew, [3] till at last he had to put his hand up to feel where it was, and by the time he had done eating, it was just its natural size again.

               'Now I know how to make my fortune!' [4] he cried, and he danced for delight.

               With a basketful of the figs of the first tree he trudged to the nearest town, still clad in his peasant's dress, and cried, 'Fine figs! fine figs! who'll buy my beautiful ripe figs!'

               All the people ran out to see the new fruit-seller, and his figs looked so tempting that plenty of people bought of him. Among the foremost was the host of the inn, with his wife and his buxom daughter, and every one of them, as they ate the figs their noses began to grow and grow till everyone of them had a nose fully a yard long.

               Then there was a hue and cry through the whole town, everyone with his yard of nose dangling and waggling, came running out, calling, 'Ho! Here! Wretch of a fruit-seller!' [5]

               But our fruit-seller had had the good sense to foresee the coming storm, and had taken care to get far out of the way of pursuit.

               But the next day he dressed himself like a doctor, all in black, with a long false beard, and came to the same town, where he entered the druggist's [6] shop, and gave himself out for a great doctor.

               'You come in good season!' said the druggist. 'A doctor is wanted here just now, if ever one was, for to everyone almost in the town is grown a nose [7] so big! so big! in fact, a full yard of nose! Anyone who could reduce these noses might make a fortune indeed!'

               'Why, that's just what I excel at of all things. Let me see some of these people,' answered our pretended doctor.

               The druggist looked incredulous at a real remedy turning up so very opportunely; but at the same moment a pretty peasant girl came into the shop to buy some medicine for her mother; that is, she would have been pretty if it had not been for the terrible nose, which made a fright of her. The false doctor was seized with compunction when he saw what a fright his figs had made of this pretty girl, and he took out some figs of the other tree and gave her to eat, and immediately her tremendous nose grew less, and less, and less, and she was a pretty girl again. Of course it need not be said that he did not give her the figs in their natural state and form; he had peeled and pounded, and made them up with other things to disguise them.

               The druggist no sooner saw this wonderful cure than he was prompt to publish it, and there was quite a strife who should have the new doctor the first.

               It was the innkeeper who succeeded in being the first to possess himself of him. 'What will you give me for the cure?' said the strange doctor.

               'Whatever you have the conscience to ask,' replied the host, panting to be rid of the monstrosity.

               'Four thousand scudi apiece,' replied the false doctor; and the host, his wife, and his buxom daughter stood in a row waiting to be cured. With the same remedy that had cured the peasant girl he cured the host first, and next his daughter. After he had cured her he said, 'Instead of the second premium of four thousand scudi, I will take the hand of your daughter, if you like?'

               'Yes, if you wish; it's a very good idea,' replied the host.

               'Never, while I live!' said the wife.

               'Why not? He's a very good husband!' said the host.

               'An ugly old travelling doctor, who comes no one knows whence, to marry my daughter indeed!' said the wife.

               'I'm sure we're under great obligations to his cleverness,' said the husband.

               'Then let him be paid his price, and go about his business, and not talk impudence!' said the wife.

               'But I choose that he shall marry her!' said the husband.

               'And I choose that he shan't,' said the wife; 'and you'll find that much stronger.'

               Just then a customer came in, and the host had to go and attend upon him, and while he was gone the wife called the servants, and bade them turn the doctor out, and give him a good drubbing into the bargain, saying, 'I'll have some other doctor to cure me!'

               So he left them, and went on curing people's noses all day, till he had made a lot of money. Then he went away, but limping all the time from the beating he had received. The next day he came back dressed like a Turk, so that no one would have known him for the same man, and he came back to the same inn, saying he, too, could cure noses.

               The mistress of the inn gave him a hearty welcome, as she was very anxious to find another doctor who could cure her nose.

               'My treatment is effectual, but it is rude,' said the pretended Turk. 'I don't know if you'll like to submit to it.'

               'Oh yes! Anything, whatever it may be, only to be rid of this monstrous nose,' said the hostess.

               'Then you must come into a room by yourself with me,' said the pretended Turk; 'and I have a stick here made out of the root of a particular tree. I must thump you on the back with it, and in proportion as I thump you the nose will draw in. Of course it will hurt very much, and make you cry out, so you must tell your servants and people outside that however much you may call they are not to come in. For if they should come in and interrupt the cure, it would all have to be begun over again, and all you had suffered would go for nothing.'

               So the hostess gave strict orders, saying, 'I am going into this room with the Turk to be cured by him, and however much I may call out, or whatever I may say, mind none of you, on pain of losing your places, open the door, or come near the room.'

               Then she took the Turk into a room apart, and shut the door. The Turk no sooner got her alone than he made her lie with her face downwards on a sofa, and then--whack, whack, whack! [8] he gave her such a beating that she felt the effects of it to the end of her days.

               Of course it was in vain she screamed and roared for help; the servants had had their orders, and none of them durst approach the room. It was only when she had fainted that the Turk left her alone and went his way.

               But she never got her nose cured, and he married the pretty peasant girl who was the subject of his first cure.



[1] 'Mezza canna di Naso,' half a cane of nose. A cane is the former Roman standard measure, and was exactly equal to two mètres.

[2] 'Palmo,' was the expression used; the Canna was divided into eight palms.

[3] 'Calava, calava, calava.'

[4] 'Adesso so' a cavallo.' 'Now I am on the way to fortune.'

[5] 'Quell' fruttivendolo'; 'quell' uomo'! 'quella donna!' a vulgar way of calling after people.

[6] 'Spezziale,' a druggist ('droghiere' is a grocer). It is the custom in Rome for the doctors of the poor to sit in the druggists' shops, ready to be called for.

[7] 'Nasone,' a big nose.

[8] 'Pimperte; Pamperte! Pumperte!'

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Yard of Nose, A (Mezza Canna di Naso)
Tale Author/Editor: Busk, Rachel Harriette
Book Title: Roman Legends: A Collection of the Fables and Folk-lore of Rome
Book Author/Editor: Busk, Rachel Harriette
Publisher: Estes and Lauriat
Publication City: Boston
Year of Publication: 1877
Country of Origin: Italy
Classification: unclassified

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