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Pentamerone Day Three
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Day Five

                                THE GARLIC PATCH
                                          Day 3, Tale 6
                            retold in rhyme by Laura J. Bobrow



A garlic patch was all Ambruoso had,
plus seven daughters, not a single lad.
Biasillo, rich, had seven children, too,
but all were sons with not a girl in view.

The two were friends. Ambruoso lied and said
three daughters and four sons were what he’d bred.
It did not matter much, he thought, until
Biasillo’s eldest son was taken ill. 

When no amount of money bought a cure,
Biasillo said, Ambruoso, maybe you’re
the man to help. Send one son here to me.
My son, Narduccio, needs his company.

Ambruoso asked his daughters, Which of you
will cut your hair and put on trousers, too,
and try to mend my friend Biasillo’s son?
They all refused him, that is, all but one.

I’m not in mourning.   I’ll not cut my hair.
Girls don’t wear pants.    No, Father, I’m too fair.
Bellucia, the youngest, saw his brow
grow furrowed with each answer. What help now?

Dear Father, since it’s for your sake, I’ll go.
Your happiness is all I need to know.
He cut her golden hair, Bless you, my child,
and left her at Biasillo’s. So beguiled

by all the beauty shining through her clothes
Narduccio could but stare. Now heaven knows
this has to be a woman! By her speech,
the softness of her face, her walk .... by each

she so proclaims her gender. Is she here
to set an ambush for my heart? It’s clear
that she has won, if that’s the case, for I
am so in love with her that I must die.

His mother fretted.  Son, you’re getting worse
since that young boy came here to be your nurse.
Young boy?  Narduccio cried. Just look and see.
I’m certain it’s a she and not a he.

I’ll die if I can’t marry her.    Now, rest.
We’ll find out soon enough. A simple test.
We’ll have him ride the wildest horse we own. 
A girl will shake with fear and soon be thrown.

Bellucia took in hand the reins and bit.
She rode that colt as if she relished it.
There’s proof, his mother said, that he’s a he.
Narduccio shook his head. It cannot be.

We’ll see then if the lad can shoot a gun.  
Bellucia packed the barrel. When she’d done,
she shot with skill and grace. No woman can
both ride a horse and shoot. That lad’s a man. 

My son, you’re just imagining.    I’m not.
And I must wed or die here on the spot.
What folly has attacked your ailing mind?
I know one final test by which we’ll find

if he is boy or girl. Ask him to swim.
When he’s undressed you’ll then be sure of him.
To this Narduccio readily agreed.
Bellucia learned the scheme. Bad luck, indeed.

She stopped an errand boy, I beg of you.
To swim is something I’ve not learned to do.
When we are at the stream, before I strip,
rush up to me and say, with trembling lip,

that news has come from home. My father’s sick
and asks for me to come to him, and quick.
The message brought, she said, Although I grieve
to tell you this, Narduccio, I must leave.

My father’s gravely ill, and I must go.
And off she went before he could say no.
Narduccio, we will solve your pain today.
Go seek him at his home without delay.

Ask to see the youth of whom you’re fond,
and see how long it takes him to respond.
If he appears at once, his mother said,
then all this foolishness is in your head.

That’s what Narduccio did. In her surprise
Bellucia changed from skirt to man’s disguise
but did not shed the rings which graced her ears.
Aha! Then we may marry it appears.

Bellucia and her father felt they should
go see if old Biasillo found it good.
Biasillo nodded. She’s a lovely maid.
But let me ask you, Why the masquerade?

Because I was ashamed, my friend, that’s why.
I have but seven daughters, by the bye.
And I have seven sons, Biasillo roared,
and I am rich and so I can afford

dowries for all. Go fetch your daughters here
and we’ll have seven marriages to cheer.
Narduccio found his health and love besides,
as did his brothers and their joyous wives.

Copyright © 2019 Laura J. Bobrow. All rights reserved.