Mediæval Tales [Gesta Romanorum Selections] | Annotated Tale

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Wily Beguiled

A THIEF went one night to the house of a rich man, and scaling the roof, peeped through a hole to see whether any part of the family were yet stirring. The master of the house, suspecting something, said secretly to his wife, "Ask me in a loud voice how I got my property, and do not stop until I bid you."

               The woman complied, and began to shout, "My dear husband, pray tell me, since you never were a merchant, how you came by all the wealth you have."

               "My love," answered her husband, "do not ask such foolish questions."

               But she persisted in her inquiries; and at length, as if overcome by her urgency, he said, "Keep what I am going to tell you a secret, and you shall know."

               "Oh! trust me."

               "Well, then, you must know that I was a thief, and got what I now enjoy by nightly depredations."

               "It is strange," said the wife, "that you were never taken."

               "Why," he replied, "my master, who was a skilful clerk, taught me a particular word, which, when I went on the tops of people's houses, I pronounced, and thus escaped detection."

               "Tell me, I conjure you," returned the lady, "what that powerful word was."

               "Hear, then; but never mention it again, or we shall lose all our property."

               "Be sure of that," said the lady; "it shall never be repeated."

               "It was--is there no one within hearing?--the mighty word was 'FALSE.'"

               The lady, apparently quite satisfied, fell asleep; and her husband feigned it. He snored lustily, and the thief above, who had heard their conversation with much pleasure, aided by the light of the moon, descended, repeating seven times the cabalistic sound. But being too much occupied with the charm to mind his footing, he stepped through the window into the house; and in the fall dislocated his leg and arm, and lay half dead upon the floor. The owner of the mansion, hearing the noise, and well knowing the reason, though he pretended ignorance, asked "What was the matter?" "Oh!" groaned the suffering thief, "False falls." In the morning he was taken before the judge, and afterwards suspended on a cross.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Wily Beguiled
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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