The Secret of the Wishing Well©

There once was a water well in the center of an old Italian village. Travelers often stopped there and paid a small fee to the well keeper for a bucket of fresh water. The small income the well produced was shared by all the people of the little village.

One day, the well keeper, Augusto, called all the people of the village to the well for a big surprise. When they arrived, he said with excitement, “Come closer to the well and listen quietly.” He then dropped a small coin into the well. As it splashed into the water twenty feet below, a loud voice came echoing up from the bottom: “Welcome to the Wishing Well. Your good fortune is soon to come.”

Everyone was surprised. Some backed away in fright. Others ran to look down the stone wall of the well. But no one was inside—there was only water.

“What is this?” they asked. “Is it a miracle?”

Augusto began laughing and shouted to the crowd. “We are going to be rich when all the travelers hear about this.”

The villagers became excited. “Tell us more, Augusto,” they demanded.

Augusto replied, “I will tell you everything if you all promise to keep it a secret.”

Everyone agreed. He then explained to them how he and his wife dug an underground tunnel, with an entrance behind the wall in front of their house, fifty feet away. The tunnel went all the way to the stone wall of the well, two feet above the water level. He further explained how they removed one stone in the wall, which left a small opening for his wife to shout words of “wisdom and good fortune” to those who dropped coins into the well.

The villagers began laughing at such a clever idea. Some exclaimed, “No one has ever seen anything like this. If we can keep the secret, we can all share in the riches.”

The villagers put a net at the bottom of the well to catch the coins. Within a few weeks, word had spread throughout the land. Crowds of curious travelers arrived to receive wisdom from the Wishing Well. It wasn’t long before the villagers opened up their homes for overnight guests. They stopped farming and made money selling food, hand-carved items, and other souvenirs. Meanwhile, the villagers kept the secret, and the Wishing Well kept bringing in riches.

The story of a talking wishing well soon reached the duke who governed the province. He couldn’t believe such a thing and came to the village on horseback with several soldiers. Augusto became somewhat frightened but felt sure the duke was not clever enough to discover the secret of the Wishing Well. He courteously greeted him. “Good morning, Your Grace. Welcome to our village. Our miraculous Wishing Well speaks words of wisdom to those who make a small offering.”

“We shall see,” said the duke, as he looked down into the well. He tossed a gold coin into the water below. A loud, echoing voice came rumbling up the stone wall of the well: “Be kind to those who serve you and life will be rewarding.”

“This can’t be,” he exclaimed. He looked down the well, expecting to see someone inside. But he could see only the water and the many glittering coins lying on the bottom. He dropped another coin into the well. The loud voice in the Wishing Well came echoing up again: “Your wisdom is your strength. Use it wisely.”

The duke was puzzled but responded, “My wisdom tells me there is someone in this well.” He then ordered one of his soldiers to take a coil of rope from his saddle and climb down the well to find the source of the voice. After being lowered to the depth of the water, the soldier saw nothing unusual within the well. However, as he began to climb up, he felt air blowing in between two stones. It was the draft of air created by the entrance to the tunnel. It gave away the secret of the Wishing Well. The soldier removed several of the stones and found Augusto’s wife huddled in the tunnel.

The duke was outraged by such trickery. He then discovered that the entire village, having kept the secret of the Wishing Well, was part of this devious plot. He shouted to everyone, “You villagers have taken advantage of the good people of our land. You have stolen their money, and mine, under false pretense. All of you will pay for this.”

All the villagers were arrested and put into prison; everyone, that is, except Augusto and his wife. They were dropped into the well—where they spent the rest of their very short lives.

Fool them once, fool them twice,
And soon enough you'll pay the price.