Day 2, Tale #10 of Giambattista Basile’s “Il Pentamerone”
retold in narrative verse by Laura J. Bobrow
There lived a miser and his wife. Their riches were immense, although they lived quite frugally to save a few more cents. They ate but very little, yet each time they sat to sup, a “buddy” who was “passing by” did not fail to turn up. He would gawk and drool and ogle at each morsel he could see. And they, at last, obeying rules of hospitality were forced to say, “Sit down. Take part in our most humble meal.” “If you insist,” the sponge would say, and fall to with a zeal which was unmatched by any glutton since the world was new. He’d roll his eyes and grind his teeth and swallow whole things, too, until, at last, with tummy full, he’d grab a jug of wine and glug it down entirely. With face incarnadine, he’d take his leave. But sure as rain when next time came to eat he’d happen to be “passing by” in time for a repeat. Then one day news arrived that their “good buddy” was away. “Quick, wife,” the miser said, “we’ll get to dine alone today. I’ll visit the fishmonger to procure a tasty eel while you prepare a pizza bread. We’ll have a special meal.” All was prepared. A flask of wine was opened furthermore. But just as they sat down there came a knocking at the door.