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

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Ass or Pig


A COUNTRYMAN was going along driving a pig before him. 'Let's have a bit of fun with that fellow,' said the brother porter of a monastery to the father guardian, [2] as they saw him coming along the road. 'I'll call his pig an ass, and of course he'll say it's a pig; then I shall laugh at him for not knowing better, and he will grow angry. Then I'll say, "Well, will you have the father guardian to settle the dispute? and if he decides I'm right I shall keep the beast for myself." Then you come and say it is an ass, and we'll keep it.'

               The father guardian agreed, with a hearty laugh; and as soon as the countryman came up the brother porter did all as he had arranged.

               The countryman was so sure of his case that he willingly submitted to the arbitration of the father guardian; but great was his dismay when the father guardian decided against him, and he had to go home without his pig.

               But what did the countryman do? He dressed himself up as a poor girl, and about nightfall, and a storm coming on, he rang at the bell of the monastery and entreated the charity of shelter for the night.

               'Impossible!' said the brother porter; 'we can't have any womenkind in here.'

               'But the dark, and the storm!' clamoured the pretended girl; 'think of that. You can't leave me out here all alone.'

               'I'm very sorry,' said the porter, 'but the thing's impossible. I can't do it.'

               The good father guardian, hearing the dispute at that unusual hour, put his head out of the window and asked what it was all about.

               'It is a difficult case, brother porter,' he said when he had heard the girl's request. 'If we take her in we infringe our rule in one way; if we leave her exposed to every kind of peril we sin against its spirit in another direction. I only see one way out of it. I can't send her into any of your cells; but I will let her pass the night in mine, provided she is content not to undress, and will consent to sit up in a chair.'

               This was exactly what the countryman wanted, therefore he gave a ready assent, and the father guardian took him up into his cell. The pretended girl sat up in a chair quietly enough through the dark of the night, but when morning began to dawn, out came a stick that had been hidden under the petticoats, and whack, whack [3]--a fine drubbing the poor father guardian got, to the tune of--'So you think I don't know a pig from an ass, do you?'

               When he had well bruised him all over, the countryman made the best of his way downstairs, and off and away he was before anyone could catch him.

               The next day what did he do? He dressed up like a doctor, and came round asking if anyone had any ailments to cure.

               'That's just the thing for us,' said the brother porter to himself as he saw him come by. 'The father guardian was afraid to let the doctor of the neighbourhood attend him, for fear of the scandal of all the story coming out; the strange doctor will just do, as there is no need to tell him anything.'

               The countryman in his new disguise, therefore, was taken up to the father guardian's cell.

               'There's nothing very much the matter,' he said when he had examined the wounds and bruises; 'it might all be set right in a day by a certain herb,' which he named.

               The herb was a difficult one to find, but as it was so important to get the father guardian cured immediately, before any inquiry should be raised as to the cause of his sufferings, the whole community set out to wander over the Campagna in search of it.

               As soon as they were a good way off, the pretended doctor took out a thick stick which he held concealed under his long robe, and whack, whack--belaboured the poor father guardian more terribly even than before, to the tune of--'So you think I don't know an ass from a pig, do you?'

               How far soever the brothers were gone, his cries were so piteous that they recalled them, but not till the countryman had made good his escape.

               'We have sinned, my brethren,' said the father guardian when they were all gathered round him; 'and I have suffered justly for it. We had no right to take the man's pig, even for a joke. Let it now, therefore, be restored to him, and in amends let there be given him along with it an ass also.'

               So the countryman got his pig back, and a donkey into the bargain.



[1] 'Asino o porco.'

[2] 'Padre Guardiano' is the ordinary title of the Superior in Franciscan convents.

[3] 'Zicherte! Zacherte!'

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Ass or Pig
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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