A Son Conceived in His Father’s Absence

Poggio Bracciolini, Liber Facetiarum I:

“The Cajetani, who are plebeians, earn their living by seafaring. One of them, a poor shipmaster, after he had left his young wife at home and navigated to various places in hope of making a profit, finally came back after five years. From the ship, he headed home to see his wife, who had – in the meantime – taken up with another man because she had despaired of her husband. He walked in, and when he saw his house better supplied and increased for the better, he wondered and asked his wife how the little house, formerly so unshapely, had become so elegant. His wife immediately responded that God’s grace – which bears help to all – had helped her in that matter. The man then said, ‘Praise God, for such a great service to us!’

Then, further, seeing the bedroom, and the more ornate bed, and the rest of the furniture fine beyond what his wife’s condition would bear, he asked where those things had come from, and she asserted that the indulgence of God had given those things to her too. The man again gave thanks to God for being so generous.

In the same way, looking at all of the other new and novel things in his home, his wife was saying that the munificence of an extremely generous God had been granted to them, and the man himself was wondering at the Grace of God toward himself, a neat little boy, just over three years old, came in and kissed his mother (as boys tend to do). When the man saw this and asked who the boy was, the wife responded that it was his. He was astounded, and asked from where the boy had come in his absence; the woman affirmed that even in having this child, God had provided his grace to her. Then, the man, indignant that the grace of God had overflowed even into the procreation of children, said, ‘I have and give many thanks to God, who took up so many considerations for my affairs.’ It seemed to the man that God was being too meddlesome in thinking even about begetting children in his absence.”

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Cajetani, qui plebei sunt, ut plurimum navigio victum quaerunt. Nauclerus ex eis admodum pauper, cum ad varia loca lucri causa, relicta domi uxore juvencula, et tenui supellectile, navigasset, post quintum ferme annum rediit. E navi e vestigio ad visendam uxorem (quae interim viri reditum desperans cum alio convenerat), domum proficiscitur. Ingressus, cum eam majori ex parte instauratam in meliusque auctam vidisset, admiratus, uxorem quaesivit quo modo domuncula, antea informis, esset perpolita. Respondit statim mulier, sibi in ea re ejus, qui omnibus fert opem, Dei gratiam affuisse: — «Benedicatur,» inquit vir, «Deus, pro tanto hoc beneficio erga nos suo!» Videns insuper cubile, lectumque ornatiorem, reliquamque supellectilem mundam ultra quam ferret uxoris condicio, cum percontatus esset, unde illa quoque provenissent, et Dei indulgentiam illa sibi subministrasse asseveravit: gratias iterum vir Deo egit, qui tam liberalis in se fuisset. Eodem modo, et aliis quibusdam, quae nova domi et insueta videbantur, conspectis, cum largioris Dei munificentiam affuisse diceret, virque ipse tam profusam erga se Dei gratiam admiraretur, supervenit scitulus puer triennio major, blandiens (ut mos est puerorum) matri. Conspicanti hunc marito sciscitantique quisnam puer esset, suum etiam uxor respondit. Stupenti, quaerentique viro, unde se absente puer provenisset, Dei quoque in eo acquirendo sibi astitisse gratiam mulier affirmavit. Tunc vir indignatus divinam gratiam etiam in procreandis filiis sibi adeo exuberasse: «Multas jam,» inquit, «gratias Deo habeo agoque, qui tot cogitationes suscepit de rebus meis.» Visum est homini, Deum nimium curiosum fuisse, qui etiam de comparandis, se absente, liberis cogitarit.

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