“Duo mercatores” – Another miracle story about St Nicholas (BHL 6159)

Here’s the Latin text and a Google translation of another of the random miracle stories that fill up the medieval manuscripts of the Life of St Nicholas.  This one is uncommon. The Bollandists assign it the number BHL 6159, and it only appears in three manuscripts, all in Belgium.  None of these are online.  Luckily the Bollandists transcribed the text in Anecdota Bollandiana 4, p.203-4, which I reproduce below.  (AB4 is actually online at Google Books, but good luck in finding it!  I wish I’d kept the URL).

Again the translation is that of Google, but I’ve tweaked it a bit.

Duo mercatores consocii fuerunt, qui lustrando diversas regiones vendendo et emendo infinitam congregaverant pecuniam.  Deinde repatriantes, in cujusdam noctis crepusculo in hospitio unius eorum magno sunt recepti gaudio.  Nec mora, post susceptam cibi potusque receptionem fessa corpora dormitioni dederunt.

Interea antiquus ille humani generis persecutor fallaciae venenum in pectus mulieris infudit, ut domino suo consiliaretur illum socium suum clam intempesta nocte interimere, quatenus divitias utrorumque labore partas solus obtineret.  Quod dum mulier perfida auribus viri primo renuentis hortando, admonendo, obsecrando saepius instillavit, instinctu antiqui serpentis voluntati suae pestiferae acquievit citissime.  Igitur mitem immites, fidelem infideles sopori deditum more lupi membratim distrahunt, membra quidem in penetralibus suis occultantes, et immensam illius pecuniam in receptaculis abscondentes.

Matutinali vero tempore fama undique replevit confinia unum illorum cum gaudio reversum, alterum vero nusquam comparuisse.  Uxor igitur illius, hac dira legatione suscepta, quasi amens socium mariti sui aggreditur, quaerens quo vir suus devenisset. At ille, plenus fallacia, affirmabat multimodis juramentis hesterna nocte eum cum copiosa pecunia ab hospitio suo discessisse, nec postea vidisse.

Mulier vero his verbis utpote sagittis vulnerata letiferis, ad statuam sancti Nicolai, quam adorare consueverat, recucurrit, dolore dictante, in haec verba prorumpens:  “Tu gemma sacerdotii, electe Dei confessor, Nicolae, cujus misericordia et pietati virum meum, me ipsam et res nostras commiseram, quare nos oblivioni dedisti? Quamobrem virum meum mihi non reddidisti?  Vere nunc, si maritum meum tibi commissum mihi non reddideris, nomini tuo amodo nec gloriam conferam, nec honorem.”

Haec et his similia postquam flendo dixerat, discessit, obvians sancto Nicolao. Cui sanctus his usus est verbis: “Quid fles?  cur lacrimis manas?” Cui dum mulier omnia sicut gesta erant seriatim exposuerat, a sancto Nicolao ducta est ad viri sui occisorem.

Quem electus Dei servus his aggreditur interrogationibus: “Dic mihi, miser, dic ubi sit maritus istius mulieris.”   Qui postquam juramentis multimodis affirmavit socium suum in praeteritae noctis crepusculo sanum et incolumem discessisse, egregius Dei amicus, invocato Creatoris coeli et terrae nomine, occisum admonuit ut, si in receptaculis illius hospitii occultatus fuisset, responsum non denegaret.   Mira res: vix sanctus sermonem finierat, cum lingua dilaniati corporis aperta voce se adesse respondit.  Cujus vocem vir Domini hilari corde percipiens, membra illius dilacerata sibi praesentari jussit; et invocata summi regis majestate, anima ad corpus rediit.

Quo viso, postquam electus Dei servus omnipotenti Deo dignas persolvit gratias, erectum virum uxori reddidit, dicens: “Ecce, per Dei misericordiam virum quem mihi commendasti tibi sanum reddo.” Unde mulier laetificata gratias egit sancto Nicolao et omnipotenti Deo, cui est honor et gloria in seculorum secula.

There were two merchant partners who, by visiting different countries and selling and buying, had amassed an infinite amount of money.  Then returning home, in the twilight of a certain night they were received with great joy in the lodgings of one of them.  And without delay, after receiving the welcome of food and drink, their tired bodies gave way to sleep.

Meanwhile, that ancient persecutor of the human race poured the poison of deception into a woman’s breast, to advise her lord to kill his partner secretly in the dead of night, in order that he alone may obtain the riches obtained by the labour of both.  While the perfidious woman repeatedly poured into the ears of the man, who at first refused, encouraging, admonishing, and imploring, he very quickly yielded to the suggestion of the ancient serpent of his malicious will. So like wolves the faithless savage ones cut the sleeping mild faithful one to pieces, indeed hiding the limbs in their inmost places, and concealing his immense wealth in the hidden places.

But in the morning the report filled the neighbourhood from all sides that one of them had returned with joy, but that the other was nowhere to be found. His wife, therefore, receiving this terrible news, attacked her husband’s companion as if mad, demanding where her husband had gone. But he, full of deceit, affirmed with many oaths that he had left his lodgings last night with a large sum of money, and that he had not seen him since.

But with these words the woman, as if she had been pierced by arrows, ran back to the statue of St. Nicholas, which she was accustomed to venerate, and, speaking with pain, burst into these words: “You jewel of the priesthood, chosen confessor of God, Nicholas, to whose mercy and piety I committed my husband, myself, and our affairs, why have you consigned us to forgetfulness?  Why did you not give me back my husband? Truly now, if you do not return to me my husband who was committed to you, I will give neither glory nor honor to your name.”

After she had said these and similar things, weeping, she departed, and met St. Nicholas. To whom the saint used these words: “Why do you weep? why do you shed tears?” While the woman seriously explained everything as it had happened to him, she was led by St. Nicholas to her husband’s murderer.

The chosen servant of God attacked him with these questions: “Tell me, wretch, tell me where that woman’s husband is.”  After he had affirmed by many oaths that his companion had departed safe and sound at the twilight of the previous night, the distinguished friend of God, invoking the name of the Creator of heaven and earth, commanded the murdered man, that if he was hidden in the hiding places of that lodging, he would not refuse to answer. A strange thing: scarcely had the saint finished speaking, when, with the tongue of his torn body, he answered in a clear voice that he was present.  The man of God, perceiving his voice with a joyful heart, commanded that his torn limbs should be presented to him; and being invoked by the majesty of the supreme king, the soul returned to the body.

When he saw this, after the chosen servant of God had paid the due thanks to Almighty God, he restored the husband to his wife, saying: “Behold, by the mercy of God I restore to you the man whom you entrusted to me.” Whereupon the woman, delighted, gave thanks to Saint Nicholas and to Almighty God, to whom be honour and glory forever and ever.

    *    *    *    *

This story reminded me of an anecdote.  There were once a pair of men who ran a shop.  While cashing up, one discovered that a customer had inadvertently given him two $50 notes stuck together instead of one.  This, he said to his son, meditatively, raised an important moral question: should he tell his business partner?  The answer of this honest merchant to his dilemma is not recorded.

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