Another time, when Count Lucanor was conversing with Patronio, he spoke to him in the following manner:
"Patronio, as I know that death is unavoidable, I would now, while I have yet time, found some work of charity which may hereafter be applied for the benefit of my soul, and of which good act all the world may be cognizant. I pray you, therefore, to advise me how best to accomplish this end."
"My lord," said Patronio, "whatever you do, whatever may be your object, or whatever your intentions, act always with honour and justice. But, as you desire to know how a man should act so as to benefit his soul and increase his reputation, I should be much pleased by being permitted to relate to you what happened to a Seneschal of Carcasona."
The Count desired to be informed what that was.
"My lord, a Seneschal of Carcasona being seriously ill, and informed that he was not likely to recover, sent for the Prior of the Dominican Friars and the Guardian of the Franciscan Order, and informed them what he wished they should do for the salvation of his soul, and desired that if he died they would see fulfilled all the dispositions of his will. They, on their part, willingly agreed, for he left much for alms, prayers, and masses. Now, when all his charitable dispositions had been complied with, the friars were well satisfied, and hoped trustingly for the eternal salvation of his soul.
"It happened some short time after this that there was a woman in the town said to be possessed of the Devil, and who spoke most extraordinary things. The friars, hearing this, thought it advisable to go to her and inquire if she knew anything respecting the soul of the Seneschal, and they did so.
"As soon as they entered the house where the possessed woman lived, and before they could put any questions to her, she cried out, that she well knew why they were come, and that the soul of the Seneschal was in hell, where she had left it a short time ago.
"When the friars heard this, they told her she lied, for they were certain that the Seneschal had humbly confessed and devoutly received the sacraments of the holy Mother Church; and that, since the Christian faith was infallible, it was not possible that what she said could be true.
"She replied, that, without doubt, the faith and law of Christians are very true, but that he had not acted as a sincere Christian before his death; that, however much he might have given, hoping thus to secure the salvation of his soul, still it was not given with a good grace for he had commanded that the charitable dispositions of his will should only be executed in case he died, when he could no longer retain possession of his riches nor carry them with him to the grave. Had he recovered, he never intended fulfilling any part of these charitable intentions. Moreover, he regarded only the opinion of those around him and of the world, hoping thus to obtain fame and honour by his charitable donations. Therefore, although he did a good act, it was not well done, since man must be judged by his intentions, and the intentions of the Seneschal were not good, although they may have appeared so; therefore he has received his reward.
"And you, Count Lucanor, since you desire my counsel, I give you that which appears to me most valuable. It is, if you wish to do good, to do it while you have life, if you hope for a reward hereafter. The first thing required of you is to repair the wrongs you may have done, for little will it avail you to steal the sheep and offer the feet to God. So, likewise, you will benefit little by holding the fruit of robbery and spoliation, although you may give alms out of your ill-gotten gains. In order that your alms may be worthy of acceptance, it is necessary that they partake of the following conditions : firstly, that the gift be a part of your own rightful property, given under the influence of a true and contrite spirit, not from the superfluities, but from that which the giver is in need of himself. Again, the donation should be made during life, and, lastly, it should be done simply for the love of God, and not through vain-glory or worldly feeling. The fulfilling these conditions constitutes righteous almsgiving, for which a man may expect to be well rewarded. Nevertheless, neither you nor any one else should fail to do good, although they may not be able to fulfill all the above conditions; that would be very weak and unwise, for certain it is that a good action always claims its reward. Meritorious works draw men from sin, induce to repentance, and to the well-being of the soul, tending even to fame and worldly advantages. All good actions tend to good; nevertheless, they will be more available for salvation and more profitable to his soul if a man act under the influence of the conditions above mentioned."
And Count Lucanor, considering what Patronio said was true, resolved to follow his advice, and prayed to God for grace to enable him to do so.
And Don Juan, finding that this was a very good example, caused it to be written in this book, and made these lines, which say:
In aim, as well as deed, be pure,
If you would make your glory sure.
- Don Juan Manuel, Libro de los Enxiemplos del Conde Lucanor et de Patronio, 1335. Trans. James York, 1868.