Carla and the Greedy Merchant
by Robert Scotellaro

From Girls to the Rescue Book #1

When a merchant tricks her father, Carla uses her wits and beats the merchant at his own greedy game.


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Characters in Order of Appearance

Narrator: In the Sicilian city of Palermo, Italy, there once lived a poor shoemaker and his young daughter, Carla. The shoemaker worked with great skill creating fine leather shoes and sandals, which he sold at a nearby market. Carla helped in the shop by polishing the finely crafted shoes until they shone. One day the shoemaker loaded his wagon with goods and hitched up his only horse.

Shoemaker: Wish me luck, Carla.

Narrator: he said.

Shoemaker: I am going to the market and hope to return before dark with my pockets filled with coins.

Narrator: Carla wished her father a speedy return, kissed his cheek for luck, and saw him on his way. The shoemaker took a route that brought him onto a street filled with stores. As he passed by a shoe store, a wealthy merchant called to him,

Merchant: Hey! Wait, my good fellow!

Narrator: The shoemaker stopped as the merchant approached.

Merchant: I see you do fine work.

Narrator: said the merchant, picking up a pair of leather sandals and admiring them.

Merchant: Very fine indeed!

Narrator: Then he looked at the shoemaker with a sly grin.

Merchant: How much for everything?

Narrator: The shoemaker thought for a moment about how much he would have charged for each pair in the market and named a fair price.

Shoemaker: Twenty copper pieces for everything.

Merchant: It's a deal!

Narrator: said the merchant firmly and handed the shoemaker the coins. Then the merchant climbed onto the wagon, seated himself next to the shoemaker, and told him to step down and be on his way.

Shoemaker: What's this?

Narrator: protested the shoemaker.

Merchant: Come now, my dear fellow, let's not quibble. You did agree to sell me "everything," didn't you?

Shoemaker: Well, yes… but…

Merchant: I take you at your word. Everything includes your wagon and your horse. After all, a deal's a deal! If you wish to dispute my claim, we'll go before the judge. There's one just down the street!

Narrator: In shock, the shoemaker followed the merchant to the courthouse. When they were before the judge, the merchant explained what had been said, and the judge asked the shoemaker if he had indeed agreed to sell "everything."

Shoemaker: Well… yes…

Narrator: said the shoemaker.

Shoemaker: But…

Judge: Then a deal's a deal.

Narrator: the judge decreed.

Judge: And you must honor it.

Narrator: Dejected-without his horse, his wagon, or his pride-the shoemaker walked back home, with the cruel merchant's laugh ringing in his ears. When he got home, he explained everything to Carla just as it happened.

Carla: What a greedy old buzzard!

Narrator: said Carla, shaking her head.

Carla: But don't worry, Papa, I have an idea.

Narrator: Early the next day, Carla selected six of the finest pairs of dancing slippers the shoemaker had ever crafted.

Carla: Let me try my luck at selling these.

Narrator: Carla said. Her father, seeing the determination in his daughter's eyes, consented. Carla loaded the beautiful shoes in a wheelbarrow and was on her way. She stopped to wipe her brow when she was in front of the wealthy merchant's shop, and in a flash the merchant came running out.

Merchant: Signorina,

Narrator: he purred, as he approached.

Merchant: You look tired. Perhaps I can relieve you of your burden!

Carla: That would be very nice indeed.

Narrator: smiled Carla. The merchant looked in the wheelbarrow and studied the dancing slippers.

Merchant: How much for everything?

Narrator: he grinned broadly, thinking he would make another good deal for himself.

Carla: How much do you offer me?

Narrator: replied Carla. The merchant reached into his pocket then held out three copper pieces.

Merchant: Times are tough, Signorina. This is all I can offer.

Carla: Everything in your hand?

Narrator: Carla asked.

Merchant: Yes, certainly.

Carla: Then it's a deal!

Narrator: said Carla firmly and held out her hand for payment. The merchant grinned slyly and slid the coins into it.

Carla: Oh thank you.

Narrator: said Carla with her hand still extended.

Carla: And I see that you have three lovely rings. I will have them as well, thank you. They are very colorful!

Narrator: The merchant was taken aback.

Merchant: What's this?

Narrator: he bellowed.

Carla: Come now, my dear man, let's not quibble.

Narrator: said Carla.

Carla: You did agree to pay me everything in your hand, didn't you?

Narrator: Now the merchant was fuming, for he was a man prone to displaying his wealth, and on that hand he had three very valuable rings that glittered in the sunlight: a diamond, a star sapphire, and a ruby. They were among his favorite possessions.

Carla: I take you at your word. Everything in your hand includes your three rings. After all, a deal's a deal.

Narrator: Carla continued.

Carla: There is a judge just down the street. If you are not content with our deal, we will go before him.

Narrator: And so they did. The judge listened patiently as Carla explained what had been said. The judge asked the merchant if he had indeed agreed to pay "everything in his hand."

Merchant: Well… yes…bu-, bu-, but…

Narrator: the merchant stammered.

Judge: Then a deal is a deal.

Narrator: the judge decreed.

Judge: And you must honor it.

Narrator: Reluctantly, the merchant slipped the beautiful rings from his fingers and handed them to Carla. Carla put two of them in her pocket and held out the ruby ring.

Carla: I am not a heartless person.

Narrator: she said.

Carla: I'll bet this ring means a great deal to you.

Merchant: Why yes, it does, Signorina.

Narrator: said the merchant sheepishly.

Carla: Well, then, I would be willing to trade it to you for my papa's horse and wagon, which you have recently acquired.

Narrator: said Carla with a broad smile. The merchant, realizing he had been tricked by his own brand of trickery, agreed. And so Carla returned home to her proud, grateful father with their horse and wagon, three copper pieces, and the two precious rings as a bonus. Even today the people of Palermo tell of how the clever Carla outsmarted the greedy merchant. © 1995 by Robert Scotellaro.


Adapted from the story "Carla and the Greedy Merchant" in Girls to the Rescue, Book #1, published by Meadowbrook Press. This Classroom Theater version of "Carla and the Greedy Merchant" is © 2000 by Meadowbrook Press.

Permission is given for individual school classes to perform this play and to make as many copies of the play as are needed for the students' use. All other reproduction and performance is prohibited under penalty of law.