The Dead Alive by Anonymous

There was, not many years ago, at a village called Valdistrove near Siena, a countryman of about thirty years of age, a fine stout and sturdy fellow, and industrious too, who never lost an hour in idleness, and one of the best labourers about the place. Santi-grande was his name, grande being added from a nick name given to his father. This fellow was extraordinarily strong and powerful, but the greatest ninny that ever lived; nature had certainly endowed him with strength of body, but had left his upper rooms totally unfurnished, in so much that he became the sport of the villagers, who delighted in playing him all sorts of tricks—no uncommon thing in villages, where an idiot or so is usually to be met with. Even gentlemen of the neighbourhood would often play him some trick or other. Poor Santi took it all very quietly—insensible of his inaptitude. Some time since a favorite goat, which he prided himself in, had brought forth two kids; he was highly delighted, and thought himself a Croesus in the possession of these, and planned what was to be done with the money they would fetch, when they were grown to a proper size. He said to his brother, "Simon! get me those two kids ready by the morning, for I will go to Siena to-morrow, and sell them." Santi was so elated, that he could not sleep the whole night. Simon, who wished to humour him, got the kids ready, saying to him, "now don't ye go and make a foolish bargain, for they are well worth three livres; they are stout little creatures."

"Leave that to me," said the poor silly fellow, "I knows how to make a bargain, I warrant you," and away he went, Singing. It so happened that when he came to the Porta del Diavolo, two of his neighbours met him, and being in a merry humour, determined to have a little sport with him. Aware of his errand, one of them said, "well, Santi, have you capons to sell there?"

"Faith," said Santi, "unless my brother has played me a trick I think they are two fine kids," so saying, he was feeling their ears and shooting horns. Our two humourists observing that Santi was a little in doubt about their identity, were inclined to carry on the joke. "Nay," said one, "feel again, for they are capons to a certainty." A porter that happened to be near him, seeing what was going on, cried out "Here, master, will you sell your capons? What do you ask for them?" Santi stopped short in amazement at the question; the fellow drawing near, said, "well, will you sell them?"

"No," said Santi, "I won't; they are not capons, they are kids." One of the youngsters kept close in conversation with Santi, asking him how he came to be so tricked; while the other, mending his pace, persuaded all those he met with, to ask the man if he would sell his capons? the which they all did. When the fellow got to the inn of the Angel, he told the landlord of the joke, and all the stable-boys and waiters came forth, crying out, "will you sell your capons, Santi?" and all seeming anxious to buy them. Poor Santi looked hard at the kids, and could not be persuaded that they could be capons, therefore made the same answer, that they were kids not capons; "for," said he, "I told brother to pack up the kids, not capons."

"Why," said the youngster, "they are well worth the kids, but if thou attemptest to sell them for kids, every one will think thou art mad." His companion, meanwhile, had gone forward to the city gate to tell the custom-house officers the joke, so that when Santi came to the gate, they demanded the duty for the capons, which was one penny each: "But," said Santi, "these are kids."

"Oh! let him alone," said one of the officers, "he is mad, and wants to pay the duty for kids instead of capons."

"You silly fellow," said one of them, "if they were kids you would have five pence duty to pay, don't think we should cheat ourselves." In the meantime numbers of people crowded around, and enjoying the sport, vociferated that they were capons, so that at last Santi began to think they really were. "Yet," said he to a driver that was talking to him, "I thought I heard them cry ba, ba."

"True," said the driver, "but were not the capons and kids in the same place?"

"Yes," said Santi. "Well, the capons learned to ba from the goat and kids, as children learn to prate from their mothers and nurses. However, were I you, now we are near the town, I would not attempt to offer them as kids, for they will think you mad."

"A plague on that brother of mine, but I will serve him a trick for this," said Santi. The two young men, when they came to the gates of the town, left Santi and the driver talking on, and went their way, when they met Girolino Palmieri, a very frolicksome fellow, though rather old.

On hearing the jest they had put upon Santi, and his business leading him that way, he determined to carry on the farce, and have a little sport; having met Santi, he asked him what he would sell the two capons for? Santi, who no longer considered them as kids, bargained with Girolino for three livres, and they being two fine ones, he bought them, rather to prevent some one else from having the bargain, paid Santi for them, and led him to the house of a cousin of his in the market-place, took him up stairs, saying to him, "what is the matter with you? are you not well? are you in any pain? how pale you look; will you have a glass of wine? why, thou art not the same man, how changed!" at these words, and in thinking of the capons, Santi became wild, and thought that, like the kids who had turned capons, he also had turned to something frightful. The young men, who had noticed that Girolino had bought the kids, were determined to inquire how the matter ended, and followed Girolino to the house, where they found Santi drinking. "Well, how is it?" said the one; but before he could well answer, Girolino said, "I have made him take a glass, for he feels very ill."

"Poor fellow!" said one of the men, "where do you feel pain? how deadly thou dost look, thou art surely dying."

"He ought to be put to bed," said the other. Hearing this, and much more to the same purpose, Santi, almost maddening, thought he began to feel very ill, and conceiving he was dying, cried out, "my head aches! my body! my back! my legs! oh dear! oh dear! I am going."

"Art thou cold?" said Girolino. "He must be so," said the one, "though it be intensely hot."

"Indeed, I do begin to feel cold," quoth Santi. Girolino, still determined to go on with it, ordered a maid servant to warm a bed for him; when put to bed, they said, "Santi, how long is it since thou hast confessed? hast thou been to confess this year?"

"Yes," said he. "Well, but," said one of them, "if thou diest, where wilt thou be buried?" Santi, thinking he was either dead or dying, said, "let me be buried at St. Giulia, where my dad lies; and let the money I got for the capons go to my mother, for I won't let brother have a farthing." Girolino perceiving that Santi thought he was actually dying, ordered a large old sheet, and he and the other two cut out and sewed up a winding-sheet, and took it unto Santi, saying, "look ye, Santi, I will have ye die like a gentleman; put this on quick, or it will be too late." Santi, who had no notion that dying was a serious thing, put it on, and in so doing, said, "why its too long! I never shall get it on." Having thus equipped him, they said, "now, Santi, that thou art dead, lay still, shut your eyes, and don't speak, and we will get thee carried to the ground where your dad lies." While they were laying him on a sort of hearse, and four men were sent for to carry him, they alternately cried out, "Poor Santi is dead; poor fellow, he is really dead!" The porters, who thought they were carrying a corpse, went through the gates quietly without being stopped, intending to take him to Strove, his own village: as they went on, there happened to pass by a carrier belonging to the cavalier Cappacci, who knew Santi well, but not recognising him in that state, asked the man who it was that died. They not knowing, answered they could not tell; however, the carrier getting near to the hearse, knew Santi instantly, and cried out, "Why it's that booby Santi del Grande; how came the mad fellow to die so soon, a stupid dog." Santi hearing himself thus abused, could not abstain from answering, yet without moving, he opened his eyes, and cried out, "if I was alive, instead of being dead as I now am, I'd let you know who Santi del Grande is." On hearing the dead man holla thus, the porters dropped their load, and ran off as if the very devil was after them. Santi, meanwhile, lay on the ground weeping and groaning, and as many came round him to see this living dead, and asked him what was the matter, the only thing he could say was, "take and bury me where my daddy lies." A cousin of his, who had returned from market, where he had been to sell some wood, finding him in that state, bound him safe on the hearse and had him taken home. His mother and brother seeing him in that condition, asked him what was the matter, and how he came to be in such a state; to which he only answered, "Oh! I am dead, bury me—bury me, where my daddy lies." His brother, suspecting some one had played him a trick, and made him believe that he was really dead, adopted the only means he thought could bring him to his senses, and, taking a horsewhip, began to lay it thick and thin on Santi's back; upon which Santi, roused by the blows, cried out, "villain that thou art, thou hast caused my death by giving me two capons instead of the kids I asked thee for;" and upon this he run after his brother, and both fell to it.

The mother hearing the bustle came in with some neighbours, and parted them at last. Santi much bruised with the rope that had fastened him on, and the shock of the hearse when it fell, in addition to the horse-whipping, was put to bed black and blue. After two or three days he recovered, went to his usual work, but swore he would never go and sell any thing at market again.