[Notes by LKG]
This story is part of the Canterbury Tales unit. Story source: The Chaucer Story Book by Eva March Tappan (1908).
The Revelers (end)
The two who were left behind sat them down beside the gold, but even while they could still hear the footsteps of him who had gone to the town, the worst villain said to the other, "You know that you and I have sworn to be brothers, and so I am going to tell you something that will greatly advantage you. Now here is a great heap of gold, but when it is divided among three of us, the heaps will be much smaller. If I could manage matters so it need only be divided between us two, shouldn't I be doing you a favor?"
"In faith you would," the other replied, "but I don't see how you would set about it. He knows that the gold was here when he left us, and what could we say to him?"
"Will you vow to keep the plan secret?" demanded the first villain. "If you will, I can tell you in two words how to bring it about."
"I vow," declared the second villain, "that, whatever comes, I will never betray you."
The first villain bent himself across the heap of gold and drew the other villain nearer to him, and then he whispered in his ear, "There are two of us, and two are stronger than one — now do you understand? This will be the way. When he comes, do you begin a friendly wrestling match. While you are wrestling as if in sport, I will slip up behind him and thrust my knife into his side. Then do you draw out your dagger and do the same. And then, my dear, true friend, we shall have all this gold for our two selves. We can drink the rarest wines, we can gamble as much as we will, and all our lives long we shall be free to do as we list."
So it was that the two villains plotted to kill the third.
But the third had also a thought in his head, as I have said before, and no matter how fast he ran, his wicked scheme grew faster. "Oh, the gold, the gold," he said to himself. "If I could only have it all for my own, I should be the happiest man in the world, but there's no way out of it; two parts must go to them, and only one to me." And then he, too, made an evil plan.
He hurried to an apothecary and said, "Sir, I am so troubled with rats that I do not know what to do. Can you sell me a poison that will make way with them?"
"That I can," replied the apothecary. "Here in this cabinet I keep a powder, and if you should give a bit of it no larger than a grain of wheat to any creature on the earth, he would fall down dead before you had walked a mile."
The villain went away from the apothecary with some of the poison safely stored away in a little box. He went next to a man who lived close by and borrowed three large wine bottles and filled them with wine. Into two of them he put the poison, but the third he kept free for his own drinking that night. "For I shall have to labor and toil all night long," he said to himself, "to get the gold safely stored away in my house before daylight."
So it was that the two plans were laid, and it came to pass that both of them were carried out. The two villains who had stayed in the woods to watch the gold began the wrestling, and in it killed the third just as they had plotted. Then they sat down to make merry and to drink the wine, and in less time than one could walk a mile they both lay dead.
This was the end of the revelers who set out to find Death, for so it was that they found him.