The Cook And The Crane
Once upon a time, a king named Carlo ruled over a kingdom in the Northern part of Italy. All the people in the kingdom liked King Carlo very much, for although he was a stern ruler, he was a pleased king. He could never be angry with anybody who made him laugh.
Working in the kitchen of the king’s palace was a cook. His name was Alessandro, but the other cooks called him. Sandro for short. He was pretty young, only about twenty years old, but despite this, he was an excellent cook. He knew just what meals pleased King Carlo, and he, too, could have been satisfied, but for one thing. He was in love with Brunetta, a serving maid with lovely brown hair and brown eyes.
All day long, Sandro cooked unique and delicious dishes and cakes in the kitchen for Brunetta, but she seemed to think they were ordinary things to eat.
“Thank you, Sandro,” she would say after eating something he had prepared for her. “That was quite nice, but I could easily have made it myself just as well.”
“If I find you something extraordinary to eat, will you marry me?” Sandro asked.
“We will see,” laughed Brunetta. “One day, perhaps, I will tell you exactly what I would like.”
Sandro went on cooking in the palace kitchen, wondering what special dish Brunetta would want. Was it meat, fish, chicken, or ice cream? He tried and tried with everything he could think of, but he never really pleased her.
One day, King Carlo went out hunting in the marshlands of his kingdom and came back with a crane bird. Taking it to the kitchen, he said to Sandro, “Cook this bird in the best way you can. I will have it tonight as a special dish for my guests invited to supper.”
“Yes, your Majesty,” said Sandro, bowing low.
For three or four hours, he bustled around in his kitchen. First, he plucked the crane and stuffed it with delicate herbs and sweetmeats. Then, he built up the fire in the stove until it was just the proper heat for roasting, not too hot and not too cold. Then Sandro made a unique sauce from all the most delicious things he could think of. At last, he was ready. He took the bird out of the oven and saw it roasting a rich golden brown. This will indeed be a meal fit for a king,” he said.
He placed the roasted crane on a large silver platter and finished the dish when Brunetta came into the kitchen, ready to carry the tasty meal to the royal dining hall.
At the sight of the roasted crane, her brown eyes opened wide.
“That is just what I would like, a leg of that delicious crane all to myself,” she said.
For a few moments, Sandro hesitated, but he was so anxious to please Brunetta that he cut off one of the roasted legs and gave it to her.
“Eat it while I keep the rest of the bird hot for the king,” he said.
Brunetta did so, and when she had eaten every bit of the roasted leg, she sighed with delight.
“Ah, yes! That was something special for me to eat, Sandro,” she said. “I think I can now say that I will marry you.”
She went to the royal dining hall with the silver platter, leaving poor Sandro in a happy daze. He was delighted that he had finally pleased Brunetta, but, at the same time, he was a little worried about what the king might say when the crane was served to him.
It did not take very long for him to find out. The king’s voice, shouting for Sandro, could be heard in the kitchen. Trembling with fear, Sandro hurried to the dining hall.
“What is the meaning of this?” thundered the king. “Why is one leg missing?”
“Pl… plea… please, your Majesty,” stammered Sandro. “There is nothing wrong with it. It is a fact that all cranes have only one leg.”
King Carlo looked puzzled for a moment. “Only one leg?” he repeated. Are you sure about this?”
“Of course, sire,” answered Sandro. If you come to the marshlands with me tomorrow morning, I will show you.”
“Very well,” agreed the king. “But if you have just told me it is false, you will be most severely punished. I shall probably send you to prison for the rest of your life.”
Poor Sandro did not want. Anything like that to happen now that Brunetta had promised to marry him. His one thought as he went to bed that night was that King Carlo could never remain angry with anyone who made him laugh.
Very early next morning, when the sun rose over the misty marshes, King Carlo and Sandro set out together. They did not speak until they came to a shallow pool, where a flock of cranes were still sleeping.
“Look, your Majesty,” said Sandro, pointing to the flock of birds. “Don’t you see that they have only one leg?”
For a moment or two, it looked as though King Carlo was going to explode with anger. His eyes glittered, and his face went the colour of a tomato. He stepped forward to the edge of the pool, clapped his hands and shouted at the top of his voice, “Hey, ho, ho, ha!”
At this sudden noise, the cranes woke up, and they all put down their other legs and flew into the air.
“You greedy cook,” cried the king, turning to Sandro. “Don’t you see that now the cranes have two legs?”
“It is true, your Majesty, and you have made it so,” Sandro replied. “But, last night at the supper table, why did you not clap your hands and shout, Hey, ho, ho, ha!”?”
King Carlo started to smile; then he chuckled and shook with hearty laughter at Sandro’s clever reply.
He was still laughing, and tears were pouring down his face when they returned to the palace. Sandro was forgiven, and later, when he and Brunetta were married, he was the happiest man in the kingdom.
Ever after, Sandro cooked the choicest food for the king.
“I am indeed a contented man,” said the king to Brunetta one day when she had served him a tasty dish that Sandro had made. “Sandro’s cooking is even better since you and he were married. I can see I must hunt another crane bird. I hope it will be as delicious as the last one.”
“Oh, it will be much nicer, your Majesty,” said Brunetta, “because it will have two legs.”
The king laughed, and Brunetta realised that he had guessed that Sandro had used the leg to win her love.