Day 2, Tale 4
retold in rhyme by Laura J. Bobrow
A farmer once was near to death.
The time had come for his last breath.
What others had this man had not
beyond a sieve, a cat, a pot.
He called his two sons to his side.
I’ve nothing much to leave, he cried.
Oraziello, take my sieve.
Alas, it’s all I have to give.
And Pippo, you can have the cat.
He died. And Pippo muttered, Drat!
There’s no food left upon the shelf.
Shall I feed her and not myself?
Am I to be her galley slave?
Oraziello dug the grave
and laid their father there to rest.
He took his sieve and headed west
where sifting brought him fair return.
He saved the meager coins he’d earn.
But Pippo? All he did was curse.
He had no coppers in his purse.
At last the cat one day said, Wait.
Enough of this. Don’t spoil your fate.
You’re lucky if you only knew
the things that I could do for you,
that is, if I should wish to try.
Then do them, Pippo said, and I
will be forever in your debt.
I’ll treat you well. You’ll be my pet.
The cat took pity. I’ll be gone
a little while. Just carry on.
She caught and brought a luscious fish
up to the king. Sire, if you wish
My good Lord Cagliuso sends
this gift and hopes you’ll soon be friends.
Next time it was an oriole,
or blackcaps strung upon a pole.
The king was pleased with every treat
and told the cat, I’d like to meet
your lord in person. Bring him here.
He’ll come tomorrow, do not fear.
But when tomorrow came, alack,
it was the cat who hurried back
to say some thieving so-and-sos
had left him not a stitch of clothes,
and he would not offend the king
to show up in just anything.
Oh dear. His thoughtfulness is fine,
the king said. Give him some of mine.
So shortly, in the king’s own best,
his trousers, boots and shirt and vest,
Lord Cagliuso doffed his hat
before the king. I thank you, cat,
the king said, Let us have a feast.
Your lord deserves it at the least.
But Pippo as he took his place
had worry lines upon his face.
My clothes! Why, some mean robber could
discover them there in the wood
and pilfer them! The words were clear
but soft, so just the cat could hear.
The king, who saw Pippo perturbed,
inquired what kind of thing disturbed
his lordship and was told he sighed
for those less fortunate outside.
The cat found countless kinds of ways
to sing the king her lordship’s praise.
His riches spread so far and wide
he’s worthy of a princess bride.
There’s not a thing he does not lack,
so much, in fact, we can’t keep track.
But send some people out. I’ll show
that what I say is really so.
The cat was trailed by faithful men.
They came up to the border, then
the cat made sure to run ahead
to plan for our repast, she said.
At every flock and every herd
she passed the news. Hey, have you heard?
Some bandits soon will come this way.
They’re sacking everything today.
At all the farms she told it, too.
They’re out to get the best of you.
If you would live another week
repeat these very words I speak:
‘Lord Cagliuso, he the great,
owns us, and this is his estate.’
That way you will be kept from harm.
Tell everyone. Spread the alarm.
And so the king’s men heard the name.
At every place it was the same.
They told the king, Indeed it’s true.
This man is richer far than you.
The king then pledged his daughter’s hand.
Her dowry served to buy some land.
And now a baron, full of wealth,
Pippo declared, Here’s to your health.
Dear cat, you’ve truly served me well.
I owe you more than I can tell.
And should you die (not for an age!)
I’ll keep you in a golden cage
right by me to remind me of
your faithful and undying love.
I hear him speak, but as for that
let’s find him out, mumbled the cat.
In two days’ time the princess found
the cat stretched out upon the ground.
I fear, she cried, the cat is dead.
Too bad for her, her husband said.
To stuff her would cost too much cash.
Just throw her corpse upon the trash.
With that the angry cat spoke out.
I knew it! I was right to doubt.
Lord Cagliuso, shame on you.
You’re not the Pippo I once knew.
I made you rich, gave you a wife.
You don’t care figs about my life.
I’ll take my chances rather than
be slave to an ungrateful man.
You’ve seen the last of me, she spat.
That was the end of Pippo’s cat.
Did Pippo lose his wealth? Not he.
But poor in heart he’ll always be.