Mediæval Tales [Gesta Romanorum Selections] | Annotated Tale

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Three Cakes, The

A CERTAIN carpenter, in a city near the sea, very covetous, and very wicked, collected a large sum of money, and placed it in the trunk of a tree, which he set by his fire-side, and never lost sight of. A place like this, he thought, no one could suspect: but it happened, that while all his household slept, the sea overflowed its boundaries, broke down that side of the building where the log was placed, and carried it away. It floated many miles, and reached, at length, a city in which there lived a person who kept open house. Arising early in the morning, he perceived the trunk of a tree in the water, and thinking it would be of use to him, he brought it home. He was a liberal, kind-hearted man; and a great benefactor to the poor. It one day chanced that he entertained some pilgrims in his house; and the weather being extremely cold, he cut up the log for firewood. When he had struck two or three blows with the axe, he heard a rattling sound; and cleaving it in twain, the gold pieces rolled out and about. Greatly rejoiced at the discovery, he put them by in a safe place, until he should ascertain who was the owner.

               Now the carpenter, bitterly lamenting the loss of his money, travelled from place to place in pursuit of it. He came, by accident, to the house of the hospitable man who had found the trunk. He failed not to mention the object of his search; and the host, understanding that the money was his, reflected whether his title to it were good. "I will prove," said he to himself, "if God will that the money should be returned to him."

               Accordingly, he made three cakes, the first of which he filled with earth; the second with the bones of dead men; and in the third he put a quantity of the gold which he had discovered in the trunk.

               "Friend," said he, addressing the carpenter, "we will eat three cakes made of the best meat in my house. Choose which you will have."

               The carpenter did as he was directed; he took the cakes and weighed them in his hand, one after another, and finding that with the earth weigh heaviest, he chose it. "And if I want more, my worthy host," added he, "I will have that"--laying his hand upon the cake containing the bones. "You may keep the third cake yourself."

               "I see clearly," murmured the host, "I see very clearly that God does not will the money to be restored to this wretched man." Calling therefore the poor and the infirm, the blind and the lame, he opened the cake of gold in the presence of the carpenter, to whom he spoke, "Thou miserable varlet; this is thine own gold. But thou preferredst the cake of earth, and dead men's bones. I am persuaded, therefore, that God wills not that I return thee thy money." Without delay, he distributed it all amongst the poor, and drove the carpenter away.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Three Cakes, The
Tale Author/Editor: Morley, Henry
Book Title: Mediæval Tales [Gesta Romanorum Selections]
Book Author/Editor: Morley, Henry
Publisher: George Routledge & Sons
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1884
Country of Origin: Europe
Classification: unclassified

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