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Having thus happily delivered the city from its trouble, Niccolo set forth on a journey into the country round about, wishing to see how the people fared. And there was everywhere great scarcity, and men in their hunger were become cruel, each one snatching what he might for himself, heedless of his neighbour's want, so that Niccolo found much occasion to reprove them. When he was come to a certain village, a poor woman, who was a widow, met him and fell at his feet, weeping bitterly, and implored him to give her back her three young sons, who had disappeared, and she did not know where to find them. Niccolo said, "How may I restore to thee thy sons, good woman? Without doubt they have wandered into some forest in search of food, and are fallen dead of hunger." But she cried, saying, "Nay, for I had victual enough, and my children were not an hungered, but were fat and well liking." The good bishop comforted her and continued on his way to the inn, where he entered in and commanded the host to serve him with supper, expecting that a little bread and water at the most should have been brought. But the innkeeper set before him a dish of roasted meat. "What is this, fellow?" said Niccolo. "How comest thou by this meat, seeing the dearth is so sore in the land?" The innkeeper, bowing low before him, answered, "It was told me that the holy bishop was about to enter into my house, whereupon I took the kid that remained to me alone of all my flocks and killed it that I might have meat for thy refreshment." But Niccolo perceived by the countenance of the man that he lied, and said, "Bring me to thy larder." The innkeeper began to shake in all his limbs, yet not daring to refuse, he went before the holy man with the candle in his hand, and led him into the courtyard. Here were set three tubs, full of salted meat. "What do I see?" cried Niccolo. "Thou wicked one, and murderer of helpless babes. This is not the flesh of kids, but of children." And he prayed to the Lord with a loud voice to deliver the innocent, and immediately the pieces of meat began to stir in the tubs and join themselves together and became three little live boys, who sprang up before the eyes of all who stood there. They knelt down before the bishop; then seeing the innkeeper standing there, they began to weep and be sore afraid; but Niccolo comforted them, and bade them tell everything that had befallen them. Then they related how the man had met them in a wood and had cunningly persuaded them to go with him to his house, and had there bound and killed them, and made them into meat for the strangers which should come to the inn. Then the wicked fellow was terrified beyond measure, and fell at Niccolo's feet, imploring mercy; but the good bishop answered sternly, and sending for the soldiers, delivered him up to be carried before the magistrates and punished as his iniquities deserved. The three children were restored to the woman, who rejoiced over them with so great tenderness that the beholders were moved to tears, and joined with one heart and mind in glorifying God, "Who causeth the widow's heart to sing for joy."
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