Ingratitude is a nail, which, driven into the tree of courtesy, causes it to wither. It is a broken channel by which the foundations of affection are undermined; and a lump of soot, which, falling into the dish of friendship, destroys its scent and savour—as is seen in daily instances, and, amongst others, in the story which I will now tell you.
There was one time in my dear city of Naples an old man who was as poor as poor could be. He was so wretched, so bare, so light, and with not a farthing in his pocket, that he went naked as a flea. And being about to shake out the bags of life, he called to him his sons, Oratiello and Pippo, and said to them, "I am now called upon by the tenor of my bill to pay the debt I owe to Nature. Believe me, I should feel great pleasure in quitting this abode of misery, this den of woes, but that I leave you here behind me—a pair of miserable fellows, as big as a church, without a stitch upon your backs, as clean as a barber's basin, as nimble as a serjeant, as dry as a plum-stone, without so much as a fly can carry upon its foot; so that, were you to run a hundred miles, not a farthing would drop from you. My ill-fortune has indeed brought me to such beggary that I lead the life of a dog, for I have all along, as well you know, gaped with hunger and gone to bed without a candle. Nevertheless, now that I am a-dying, I wish to leave you some token of my love. So do you, Oratiello, who are my first-born, take the sieve that hangs yonder against the wall, with which you can earn your bread; and do you, little fellow, take the cat and remember your daddy!" So saying, he began to whimper; and presently after said, "God be with you—for it is night!"
Oratiello had his father buried by charity; and then took the sieve and went riddling here, there, and everywhere to gain a livelihood; and the more he riddled, the more he earned. But Pippo, taking the cat, said, "Only see now what a pretty legacy my father has left me! I, who am not able to support myself, must now provide for two.