The Decameron of Giovanni Boccaccio
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Gianni Lotteringhi hears a knocking at his door at night: he awakens his wife, who persuades him that it is the bogey, which they fall to exorcising with a prayer; whereupon the knocking ceases.
My lord, glad indeed had I been, that, saving your good pleasure, some other than I had had precedence of discourse on so goodly a theme as this of which we are to speakI doubt I am but chosen to teach others confidence; but, such being your will, I will gladly obey it. And my endeavour shall be, dearest ladies, to tell you somewhat that may be serviceable to you in the future: for, if you are, as I am, timorous, and that most especially of the bogey, which, God wot, I know not what manner of thing it may be, nor yet have found any that knew, albeit we are all alike afraid of it, you may learn from this my story how to put it to flight, should it intrude on you, with a holy, salutary and most efficacious orison.
There dwelt of yore at Florence, in the quarter of San Pancrazio, a master-spinner, Gianni Lotteringhi by name, one that had prospered in his business, but had little understanding of anything else; insomuch that being somewhat of a simpleton, he had many a time been chosen leader of the band of laud-singers of Santa Maria Novella, and had charge of their school; and not a few like offices had he often served, on which he greatly plumed himself. Howbeit, it was all for no other reason than that, being a man of substance, he gave liberal doles to the friars; who, for that they got thereof, this one hose, another a cloak, and a third a hood, would teach him good orisons, or give him the paternoster in the vernacular, or the chant of St. Alexis, or the lament of St. Bernard, or the laud of Lady Matilda, or the like sorry stuff, which he greatly prized, and guarded with jealous care, deeming them all most conducive to the salvation of his soul.
Now our simple master-spinner had a most beautiful wife, and amorous withal, her name Monna Tessa. Daughter she was of Mannuccio dalla Cuculla, and not a little knowing and keen-witted; and being enamoured of Federigo di Neri Pegolotti, a handsome and lusty gallant, as he also of her, she, knowing her husband's simplicity, took counsel with her maid, and arranged that Federigo should come to chat with her at a right goodly pleasure-house that the said Gianni had at Camerata, where she was wont to pass the summer, Gianni coming now and again to sup and sleep, and going back in the morning to his shop, or, maybe, to his laud-singers. Federigo, who desired nothing better, went up there punctually on the appointed day about vespers, and as the evening passed without Gianni making his appearance, did most comfortably, and to his no small satisfaction, sup and sleep with the lady, who lying in his arms taught him that night some six of her husband's lauds. But, as neither she nor Federigo was minded that this beginning should also be the end of their intercourse, and that it might not be needful for the maid to go each time to make the assignation with him, they came to the following understanding; to wit, that as often as he came and went between the house and an estate that he had a little higher up, he should keep an eye on a vineyard that was beside the house, where he would see an ass's head stuck on one of the poles of the vineyard, and as often as he observed the muzzle turned towards Florence, he might visit her without any sort of misgiving; and if he found not the door open, he was to tap it thrice, and she would open it; and when he saw the muzzle of the ass's head turned towards Fiesole, he was to keep away, for then Gianni would be there. Following which plan, they forgathered not seldom: but on one of these evenings, when Federigo was to sup with Monna Tessa on two fat capons that she bad boiled, it so chanced that Gianni arrived there unexpectedly and very late, much to the lady's chagrin: so she had a little salt meat boiled apart, on which she supped with her husband; and the maid by her orders carried the two boiled capons laid in a spotless napkin with plenty of fresh eggs and a bottle of good wine into the garden, to which there was access otherwise than from the house, and where she was wont at times to sup with Federigo; and there the maid set them down at the foot of a peach-tree, that grew beside a lawn. But in her vexation she forgot to tell the maid to wait till Federigo should come, and let him know that Gianni was there, and he must take his supper in the garden: and she and Gianni and the maid were scarce gone to bed, when Federigo came and tapped once at the door, which being hard by the bedroom, Gianni heard the tap, as did also the lady, albeit, that Gianni might have no reason to suspect her, she feigned to be asleep. Federigo waited a little, and then gave a second tap; whereupon, wondering what it might mean, Gianni nudged his wife, saying,
"Tessa, dost hear what I hear? Methinks some one has tapped at our door."
The lady, who had heard the noise much better than he, feigned to wake up, and,
"How? what sayst you?" said she. "I say," replied Gianni, "that, meseems, some one has tapped at our door."
"Tapped at it?" said the lady. "Alas, my Gianni, wottest you not what that is? It is the bogey, which for some nights past has so terrified me as never was, insomuch that I never hear it but I pop my head under the clothes and venture not to put it out again till it is broad day."
"Come, come, wife," said Gianni, "if such it is, be not alarmed; for before we got into bed I repeated the Te lucis, the Intemerata, and divers other good orisons, besides which I made the sign of the cross in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit at each corner of the bed; wherefore we need have no fear that it may avail to hurt us, whatever be its power."
The lady, lest Federigo, perchance suspecting a rival, should take offence, resolved to get up, and let him understand that Gianni was there: so she said to her husband,
"Well well; so sayst you; but I for my part shall never deem myself safe and secure, unless we exorcise it, seeing that you art here."
"Oh!" said Gianni, "and how does one exorcise it?"
"That," said the lady, "I know right well; for t'other day, when I went to Fiesole for the pardoning, one of those anchoresses, the saintliest creature, my Gianni, God be my witness, knowing how much afraid I am of the bogey, taught me a holy and salutary orison, which she said she had tried many a time before she was turned anchoress, and always with success. God wot, I should never have had courage to try it alone; but as you art here, I propose that we go exorcise it together."
Gianni answered that he was quite of the same mind; so up they got, and stole to the door, on the outside of which Federigo, now suspicious, was still waiting. And as soon as they were there,
"Now," said the lady to Gianni, "you will spit, when I tell you."
"Good," said Gianni. On which the lady began her orison, saying:
"Bogey, bogey that goest by night, Tail erect, you cam'st, tail erect, take your flight Hie you to the garden, and the great peach before, Grease on grease, and droppings five score Of my hen shall you find: Set the flask your lips to, Then away like the wind, And no scathe to me or my Gianni do."
And when she had done,
"Now, Gianni," said she, "spit": and Gianni spat.
There was no more room for jealousy in Federigo's mind as he heard all this from without; nay, for all his disappointment, he was like to burst with suppressed laughter, and when Gianni spat, he muttered under his breath,
"Now out with your teeth."
The lady, having after this fashion thrice exorcised the bogey, went back to bed with her husband. Federigo, disappointed of the supper that he was to have had with her, and apprehending the words of the orison aright, hied him to the garden, and having found the two capons and the wine and the eggs at the foot of the peach-tree, took them home with him, and supped very comfortably. And many a hearty laugh had he and the lady over the exorcism during their subsequent intercourse.
Now, true it is that some say that the lady had in fact turned the ass's head towards Fiesole, but that a husbandman, passing through the vineyard, had given it a blow with his stick, whereby it had swung round, and remained fronting Florence, and so it was that Federigo thought that he was invited, and came to the house, and that the lady's orison was on this wise:
"Bogey, a God's name, away you hie, For whoever turned the ass's head, it was not I: Another it was, foul fall his eyne; And here am I with Gianni mine."
Wherefore Federigo was fain to take himself off, having neither slept nor supped.
But a neighbour of mine, a lady well advanced in years, tells me that, by what she heard when she was a girl, both stories are true; but that the latter concerned not Gianni Lotteringhi but one Gianni di Nello, that lived at Porta San Piero, and was no less a numskull than Gianni Lotteringhi. Wherefore, dear my ladies, you are at liberty to choose which exorcism you prefer, or take both if you like. They are both of extraordinary and approved virtue in such cases, as you have heard: get them by heart, therefore, and they may yet stand you in good stead.
Her husband returning home, Peronella bestows her lover in a tun; which, being sold by her husband, she avers to have been already sold by herself to one that is inside examining it to see if it be sound. On which the lover jumps out, and causes the husband to scour the tun for him, and afterwards to carry it to his house.
Great indeed was the laughter with which Emilia's story was received; which being ended, and her orison commended by all as good and salutary, the king bade Filostrato follow suit; and thus Filostrato began: Dearest my ladies, so many are the tricks that men play you, and most of all your husbands, that, when from time to time it so befalls that some lady plays her husband a trick, the circumstance, whether it come within your own cognizance or be told you by another, should not only give you joy but should incite you to publish it on all hands, that men may be ware, that, knowing as they are, their ladies also, on their part, know somewhat: which cannot but be serviceable to you, for that one does not rashly essay to take another with guile whom one wots not to lack that quality. Can we doubt, then, that, should but the converse that we shall hold today touching this matter come to be bruited among men, 'twould serve to put a most notable check on the tricks they play you, by doing them to wit of the tricks, which you, in like manner, when you are so minded, may play them? Wherefore it is my intention to tell you in what manner a young girl, albeit she was but of low rank, did, on the spur of the moment, beguile her husband to her own deliverance.
It is no long time since at Naples a poor man, a mason by craft, took to wife a fair and amorous maidenPeronella was her namewho eked out by spinning what her husband made by his craft; and so the pair managed as best they might on very slender means. And as chance would have it, one of the gallants of the city, taking note of this Peronella one day, and being mightily pleased with her, fell in love with her, and by this means and that so prevailed that he won her to accord him her intimacy. Their times of forgathering they concerted as follows: to wit, that, her husband being wont to rise betimes of a morning to go to work or seek for work, the gallant was to be where he might see him go forth, and, the street where she dwelt, which is called Avorio, being scarce inhabited, was to come into the house as soon as her husband was well out of it; and so times not a few they did. But on one of these occasions it befell that, the good man being gone forth, and Giannello Sirignariosuch was the gallant's namebeing come into the house, and being with Peronella, after a while, back came the good man, though it was not his wont to return till the day was done; and finding the door locked, he knocked, and after knocking, he fell a saying to himself: O God, praised be Your name forever; for that, albeit You have ordained that I be poor, at least You have accorded me the consolation of a good and honest girl for wife. Mark what haste she made to shut the door when I was gone forth, that none else might enter to give her trouble.
Now Peronella knew by his knock that it was her husband; wherefore,
"Alas, Giannello mine," said she, "I am a dead woman, for lo, here is my husband, foul fall him! come back! What it may import, I know not, for he is never wont to come back at this hour; perchance he caught sight of you as you camest in. However, for the love of God, be it as it may, get you into this tun that you seest here, and I will go open to him, and we shall see what is the occasion of this sudden return this morning."
So Giannello forthwith got into the tun, and Peronella went to the door, and let in her husband, and gave him black looks, saying,
"This is indeed a surprise that you art back so soon this morning! By what I see you have a mind to make this a holiday, that you returnest tools in hand; if so, what are we to live on? whence shall we get bread to eat? Thinkest you I will let you pawn my gown and other bits of clothes? Day and night I do nothing else but spin, insomuch that the flesh is fallen away from my nails, that at least I may have oil enough to keep our lamp alight. Husband, husband, there is never a woman in the neighbourhood but marvels and mocks at me, that I am at such labour and pains; and you comest home to me with your hands hanging idle, when you shouldst be at work."
Which said, she fell a weeping and repeating,
"Alas, alas, woe 's me, in what evil hour was I born? in what luckless moment came I here, I, that might have had so goodly a young man, and I would not, to take up with one that bestows never a thought on her whom he has made his wife? Other women have a good time with their lovers, and never a one have we here but has two or three; they take their pleasure, and make their husbands believe that the moon is the sun; and I, alas! for that I am an honest woman, and have no such casual amours, I suffer, and am hard bested. I know not why I provide not myself with one of these lovers, as others do. Give good heed, husband, to what I say: were I disposed to dishonour you, I were at no loss to find the man: for here are gallants enough, that love me, and court me, and have sent me many an offer of moneyno stintor dresses or jewels, should I prefer them; but my pride would never suffer it, because I was not born of a woman of that sort: and now you comest home to me when you oughtest to be at work."
To which the husband,
"Wife, wife, for God's sake distress not yourself: you shouldst give me credit for knowing what manner of woman you art, as indeed I have partly seen this morning. True it is that I went out to work; but it is plain that you know not, as indeed I knew not, that today it is the feast of San Galeone, and a holiday, and that is why I am come home at this hour; but nevertheless I have found means to provide us with bread for more than a month; for I have sold to this gentleman, whom you seest with me, the tun, you wottest of, seeing that it has encumbered the house so long, and he will give me five gigliats for it."
Quoth then Peronella,
"And all this but adds to my trouble: you, that art a man, and goest abroad, and shouldst know affairs, have sold for five gigliats a tun, which I, that am but a woman, and was scarce ever out of doors, have, for that it took up so much room in the house, sold for seven gigliats to a good man, that but now, as you cam'st back, got therein, to see if 'twere sound."
So hearing, the husband was overjoyed, and said to the man that was come to take it away,
"Good man, I wish you Godspeed; for, as you hearest, my wife has sold the tun for seven gigliats, whereas you gavest me only five."
"So be it," said the good man, and took himself off. Then said Peronella to her husband,
"Now, as you art here, come up, and arrange the matter with the good man."
Now Giannello, who, meanwhile, had been all on the alert to discover if there were anything he had to fear or be on his guard against, no sooner heard Peronella's last words, than he sprang out of the tun, and feigning to know nothing of her husband's return, began thus,
"Where are you, good dame?" To which the husband, coming up, answered,
"Here am I: what would you of me?" Quoth Giannello,
"And who are you? I would speak with the lady with whom I struck the bargain for this tun."
Then said the good man,
"Have no fear, you can deal with me; for I am her husband."
Quoth then Giannello,
"The tun seems to me sound enough; but I think you must have let the lees remain in it; for it is all encrusted with I know not what that is so dry, that I cannot raise it with the nail; wherefore I am not minded to take it unless I first see it scoured."
On which Peronella,
"To be sure: that shall not hinder the bargain; my husband will scour it clean."
"Well and good," said the husband.
So he laid down his tools, stripped himself to his vest, sent for a light and a rasp, and was in the tun, and scraping away, in a trice. On which Peronella, as if she were curious to see what he did, thrust her head into the vent of the tun, which was of no great size, and therewithal one of her arms up to the shoulder, and fell a saying,
"Scrape here, and here, and there too, and look, there is a bit left here."
So, she being in this posture, directing and admonishing her husband, Giannello, who had not, that morning, fully satisfied his desire, when the husband arrived, now seeing that as he would, he might not, brought his mind to his circumstances, and resolved to take his pleasure as he might: wherefore he made up to the lady, who completely blocked the vent of the tun; and even on such wise as on the open champaign the wild and lusty horses do amorously assail the mares of Parthia, he sated his youthful appetite; and so it was that almost at the same moment that he did so, and was off, the tun was scoured, the husband came forth of it, and Peronella withdrew her head from the vent, and turning to Giannello, said,
"Take this light, good man, and see if it is scoured to your mind."
On which Giannello, looking into the tun, said that it was in good trim, and that he was well content, and paid the husband the seven gigliats, and caused him carry the tun to his house.
Fra Rinaldo lies with his gossip: her husband finds him in the room with her; and they make him believe that he was curing his godson of worms by a charm.
Filostrato knew not how so to veil what he said touching the mares of Parthia, but that the keen-witted ladies laughed thereat, making as if it was at somewhat else. However, his story being ended, the king called for one from Elisa, who, all obedience, thus began: Debonair my ladies, we heard from Emilia how the bogey is exorcised, and it brought to my mind a story of another incantation: it is not indeed so good a story as hers; but, as no other, germane to our theme, occurs to me at present, I will relate it.
You are to know, then, that there dwelt aforetime at Siena a young man, right gallant and of honourable family, his name Rinaldo; who, being in the last degree enamoured of one of his neighbours, a most beautiful gentlewoman and the wife of a rich man, was not without hopes that, if he could but find means to speak with her privately, he might have of her all that he desired; but seeing no way, and the lady being pregnant, he cast about how he might become her child's godfather. Wherefore, having ingratiated himself with her husband, he broached the matter to him in as graceful a manner as he might; and it was arranged. So Rinaldo, being now godfather to Madonna Agnesa's child, and having a more colourable pretext for speaking to her, took courage, and told her in words that message of his heart which she had long before read in his eyes; but though it was not displeasing to the lady to hear, it availed him but little.
Now not long afterwards it so befell that, whatever may have been his reason, Rinaldo betook him to friarage; and whether it was that he found good pasture therein, or what not, he persevered in that way of life. And though for a while after he was turned friar, he laid aside the love he bore his gossip, and certain other vanities, yet in course of time, without putting off the habit, he resumed them, and began to take a pride in his appearance, and to go dressed in fine clothes, and to be quite the trim gallant, and to compose songs and sonnets and ballades, and to sing them, and to make a brave shew in all else that pertained to his new character. But why enlarge on our Fra Rinaldo, of whom we speak? what friars are there that do not the like? Ah! opprobrium of a corrupt world! Sleek-faced and sanguine, daintily clad, dainty in all their accessories, they ruffle it shamelessly before the eyes of all, shewing not as doves but as insolent cocks with raised crest and swelling bosom, and, what is worse (to say nothing of the vases full of electuaries and unguents, the boxes packed with divers comfits, the pitchers and phials of artificial waters, and oils, the flagons brimming with Malmsey and Greek and other wines of finest quality, with which their cells are so packed that they shew not as the cells of friars, but rather as apothecaries' or perfumers' shops), they blush not to be known to be gouty, flattering themselves that other folk wot not that long fasts and many of them, and coarse fare and little of it, and sober living, make men lean and thin and for the most part healthy; or if any malady come thereof, at any rate it is not the gout, the wonted remedy for which is chastity and all beside that belongs to the regimen of a humble friar. They flatter themselves, too, that others wot not that over and above the meagre diet, long vigils and orisons and strict discipline ought to mortify men and make them pale, and that neither St. Dominic nor St. Francis went clad in stuff dyed in grain or any other goodly garb, but in coarse woollen habits innocent of the dyer's art, made to keep out the cold, and not for shew. To which matters 'twere well God had a care, no less than to the souls of the simple folk by whom our friars are nourished.
Fra Rinaldo, then, being come back to his first affections, took to visiting his gossip very frequently; and gaining confidence, began with more insistence than before to solicit her to that which he craved of her. So, being much urged, the good lady, to whom Fra Rinaldo, perhaps, seemed now more handsome than of yore, had recourse one day, when she felt herself unusually hard pressed by him, to the common expedient of all that would fain concede what is asked of them, and said,
"Oh! but Fra Rinaldo, do friars then do this sort of thing?"
"Madam," replied Fra Rinaldo, "when I divest myself of this habit, which I shall do easily enough, you will see that I am a man furnished as other men, and no friar."
To which with a truly comical air the lady answered,
"Alas! woe's me! you are my child's godfather: how might it be? nay, but 'twere a very great mischief; and many a time I have heard that it is a most heinous sin; and without a doubt, were it not so, I would do as you wish."
"If," said Fra Rinaldo, "you forego it for such a scruple as this, you are a fool for your pains. I say not that it is no sin; but there is no sin so great but God pardons it, if one repent. Now tell me: whether is more truly father to your son, I that held him at the font, or your husband that begot him?"
"My husband," replied the lady. "Sooth say you," returned the friar, "and does not your husband lie with you?"
"Why, yes," said the lady. "Then," rejoined the friar, "I that am less truly your son's father than your husband, ought also to lie with you, as does your husband."
The lady was no logician, and needed little to sway her: she therefore believed or feigned to believe that what the friar said was true. So: "Who might avail to answer your words of wisdom?" said she; and presently forgot the godfather in the lover, and complied with his desires. Nor had they begun their course to end it forthwith: but under cover of the friar's sponsorship, which set them more at ease, as it rendered them less open to suspicion, they forgathered again and again.
But on one of these occasions it so befell that Fra Rinaldo, being come to the lady's house, where he espied none else save a very pretty and dainty little maid that waited on the lady, sent his companion away with her into the pigeon-house, there to teach her the paternoster, while he and the lady, holding her little boy by the hand, went into the bedroom, locked themselves in, got them on to a divan that was there, and began to disport them. And while thus they sped the time, it chanced that the father returned, and, before any was ware of him, was at the bedroom door, and knocked, and called the lady by her name. On which,
"It is as much as my life is worth," said Madonna Agnesa; "lo, here is my husband; and the occasion of our intimacy cannot but be now apparent to him."
"Sooth say you," returned Fra Rinaldo, who was undressed, that is to say, had thrown off his habit and hood, and was in his tunic; "if I had but my habit and hood on me in any sort, 'twould be another matter; but if you let him in, and he find me thus, it will not be possible to put any face on it."
But with an inspiration as happy as sudden,
"Now get them on you," said the lady; "and when you have them on, take your godson in your arms, and give good heed to what I shall say to him, that your words may accord with mine; and leave the rest to me."
The good man was still knocking, when his wife answered: "Coming, coming."
And so up she got, and put on a cheerful countenance and hied her to the door, and opened it and said,
"Husband mine: well indeed was it for us that in came Fra Rinaldo, our sponsor; it was God that sent him to us; for in sooth, but for that, we had today lost our boy."
Which the poor simpleton almost swooned to hear; and,
"How so?" said he. "O husband mine," replied the lady, "he was taken but now, all of a sudden, with a fainting fit, so that I thought he was dead: and what to do or say I knew not, had not Fra Rinaldo, our sponsor, come just in the nick of time, and set him on his shoulder, and said: 'Gossip, it is that he has worms in his body, and getting, as they do, about the heart, they might only too readily be the death of him; but fear not; I will say a charm that will kill them all; and before I take my leave, you will see your boy as whole as you ever saw him.' And because to say certain of the prayers you shouldst have been with us, and the maid knew not where to find you, he caused his companion to say them at the top of the house, and he and I came in here. And for that it is not meet for any but the boy's mother to assist at such a service, that we might not be troubled with any one else, we locked the door; and he yet has him in his arms; and I doubt not that he only waits till his companion have said his prayers, and then the charm will be complete; for the boy is already quite himself again."
The good simple soul, taking all this for sooth, and overwrought by the love he bore his son, was entirely without suspicion of the trick his wife was playing him, and heaving a great sigh, said,
"I will go look for him."
"Nay," replied the wife, "go not: you would spoil the efficacy of the charm: wait here; I will go see if you may safely go; and will call you."
On which Fra Rinaldo, who had heard all that passed, and was in his canonicals, and quite at his ease, and had the boy in his arms, having made sure that all was as it should be, cried out,
"Gossip, do I not hear the father's voice out there?"
"Ay indeed, Sir," replied the simpleton. "Come in then," said Fra Rinaldo. So in came the simpleton. On which said Fra Rinaldo,
"I restore to you your boy made whole by the grace of God, whom but now I scarce thought you would see alive at vespers. You will do well to have his image fashioned in wax, not less than life-size, and set it for a thanksgiving to God, before the statue of Master St. Ambrose, by whose merits you have this favour of God."
The boy, catching sight of his father, ran to him with joyous greetings, as little children are wont; and the father, taking him in his arms, and weeping as if he were restored to him from the grave, fell by turns a kissing him and thanking his godfather, that he had cured him. Fra Rinaldo's companion, who had taught the maid not one paternoster only, but peradventure four or more, and by giving her a little purse of white thread that a nun had given him, had made her his devotee, no sooner heard Fra Rinaldo call the simpleton into his wife's room, than he stealthily got him to a place whence he might see and hear what was going on. Observing that the affair was now excellently arranged, he came down, and entered the chamber, saying,
"Fra Rinaldo, those four prayers that you bade me say, I have said them all."
"Then well done, my brother," said Fra Rinaldo, "well-breathed must you be. For my part, I had but said two, when my gossip came in; but what with your travail and mine, God of His grace has vouchsafed-us the healing or the boy."
The simpleton then had good wine and comfits brought in, and did the honours to the godfather and his companion in such sort as their occasions did most demand. He then ushered them forth of the house, commending them to God; and without delay had the waxen image made, and directed it to be set up with the others in front of the statue of St. Ambrose, not, be it understood, St. Ambrose of Milan. (1)
1) The statue would doubtless be that of St. Ambrose of Siena, of the Dominican Order.
Tofano one night locks his wife out of the house: she, finding that by no entreaties may she prevail on him to let her in, feigns to throw herself into a well, throwing therein a great stone. Tofano hies him forth of the house, and runs to the spot: she goes into the house, and locks him out, and hurls abuse at him from within.
The king no sooner wist that Elisa's story was ended, than, turning to Lauretta, he signified his will that she should tell somewhat: wherefore without delay she began: O Love, how great and signal is your potency! how notable your stratagems, your devices! Was there ever, shall there ever be, philosopher or adept competent to inspire, counsel and teach in such sort as you by thine unpremeditated art dost tutor those that follow your lead? Verily laggard teachers are they all in comparison of you, as by the matters heretofore set forth may very well be understood. To which store I will add, loving ladies, a stratagem used by a woman of quite ordinary understanding, and of such a sort that I know not by whom she could have been taught it save by Love.
Know, then, that there dwelt aforetime at Arezzo a rich man, Tofano by name, who took to wife Monna Ghita, a lady exceeding fair, of whom, for what cause he knew not, he presently grew jealous. Whereof the lady being ware, waxed resentful, and having on divers occasions demanded of him the reason of his jealousy, and gotten from him nothing precise, but only generalities and trivialities, resolved at last to give him cause enough to die of that evil which without cause he so much dreaded. And being ware that a gallant, whom she deemed well worthy of her, was enamoured of her, she, using due discretion, came to an understanding with him; which being brought to the point that it only remained to give effect to their words in act, the lady cast about to devise how this might be. And witting that, among other bad habits that her husband had, he was too fond of his cups, she would not only commend indulgence, but cunningly and not seldom incite him thereto; insomuch that, well-nigh as often as she was so minded, she led him to drink to excess; and when she saw that he was well drunken, she would put him to bed; and so not once only but divers times without any manner of risk she forgathered with her lover; nay, presuming on her husband's intoxication, she grew so bold that, not content with bringing her lover into her house, she would at times go spend a great part of the night with him at his house, which was not far off.
Now such being the enamoured lady's constant practice, it so befell that the dishonoured husband took note that, while she egged him on to drink, she herself drank never a drop; whereby he came to suspect the truth, to wit, that the lady was making him drunk, that afterwards she might take her pleasure while he slept. And being minded to put his surmise to the proof, one evening, having drunken nothing all day, he mimicked never so drunken a sot both in speech and in carriage. The lady, deeming him to be really as he appeared, and that it was needless to ply him with liquor, presently put him to bed. Which done, she, as she at times was wont, hied her forth to her lover's house, where she tarried till midnight. Tofano no sooner perceived that his wife was gone, than up he got, hied him to the door, locked it, and then posted himself at the window to observe her return, and let her know that he was ware of her misconduct. So there he stood till the lady returned, and finding herself locked out, was annoyed beyond measure, and sought to force the door open. Tofano let her try her strength on it a while, and then,
"Madam," said he, "it is all to no purpose: you can not get in. Go get you back there where you have tarried all this while, and rest assured that you shall never recross this threshold, till I have done you such honour as is meet for you in the presence of your kinsfolk and neighbours."
Thereupon the lady fell entreating him to be pleased to open to her for the love of God, for that she was not come whence he supposed, but had only been passing the time with one of her gossips, because the nights were long, and she could not spend the whole time either in sleep or in solitary watching. But her supplications availed her nothing, for the fool was determined that all Arezzo should know their shame, whereof as yet none wist anything. So as it was idle to entreat, the lady assumed a menacing tone, saying,
"So you open not to me, I will make you the saddest man alive."
To which Tofano answered,
"And what then can you do?" The lady, her wits sharpened by Love, rejoined,
"Rather than endure the indignity to which you would unjustly subject me, I will cast myself into the well hard by here, and when I am found dead there, all the world will believe that it was you that didst it in your cups, and so you will either have to flee and lose all that you have and be outlawed, or forfeit your head as guilty of my death, as indeed you will be."
But, for all she said, Tofano wavered not a jot in his foolish purpose. So at last,
"Lo, now," said the lady, "I can no more abide your surly humour: God forgive you: I leave you my distaff here, which be careful to bestow in a safe place."
So saying, away she hied her to the well, and, the night being so dark that wayfarers could scarce see one another as they passed, she took up a huge stone that was by the well, and ejaculating, "God forgive me!" dropped it therein. Tofano, hearing the mighty splash that the stone made as it struck the water, never doubted that she had cast herself in: so, bucket and rope in hand, he flung himself out of the house, and came running to the well to her rescue. The lady had meanwhile hidden herself hard by the door, and seeing him make for the well, was in the house in a trice, and having locked the door, hied her to the window, and greeted him with,
"It is while you art drinking, not now, when the night is far spent, that you shouldst temper your wine with water."
Thus derided, Tofano came back to the door, and finding his ingress barred, began adjuring her to let him in. On which, changing the low tone she had hitherto used for one so shrill that it was well-nigh a shriek, she broke out with,
"By the Holy Rood, tedious drunken sot that you art, you gettest no admittance here tonight; your ways are more than I can endure: it is time I let all the world know what manner of man you art, and at what hour of the night you comest home."
Tofano, on his part, now grew angry, and began loudly to upbraid her; insomuch that the neighbours, aroused by the noise, got up, men and women alike, and looked out of the windows, and asked what was the matter. On which the lady fell a weeping and saying,
"It is this wicked man, who comes home drunk at even, or falls asleep in some tavern, and then returns at this hour. Long and to no purpose have I borne with him; but it is now past endurance, and I have done him this indignity of locking him out of the house in the hope that perchance it may cause him to mend his ways."
Tofano, on his part, told, dolt that he was, just what had happened, and was mighty menacing. On which,
"Now mark," said the lady to the neighbours, "the sort of man he is! What would you say if I were, as he is, in the street, and he were in the house, as I am? God's faith, I doubt you would believe what he said. Hereby you may gauge his sense. He tells you that I have done just what, I doubt not, he has done himself. He thought to terrify me by throwing I know not what into the well, wherein would to God he had thrown himself indeed, and drowned himself, whereby the wine of which he has taken more than enough, had been watered to some purpose!" The neighbours, men and women alike, now with one accord gave tongue, censuring Tofano, throwing all the blame on him, and answering what he alleged against the lady with loud recrimination; and in short the bruit, passing from neighbour to neighbour, reached at last the ears of the lady's kinsfolk; who hied them to the spot, and being apprised of the affair from this, that and the other of the neighbours, laid hands on Tofano, and beat him till he was black and blue from head to foot. Which done, they entered his house, stripped it of all that belonged to the lady, and took her home with them, bidding Tofano look for worse to come. Thus hard bested, and ruing the plight in which his jealousy had landed him, Tofano, who loved his wife with all his heart, set some friends to work to patch matters up, whereby he did in fact induce his lady to forgive him and live with him again, albeit he was fain to promise her never again to be jealous, and to give her leave to amuse herself to her heart's content, provided she used such discretion that he should not be ware of it. On such wise, like the churl and booby that he was, being despoiled, he made terms. Now long live Love, and perish war, and all that wage it!
A jealous husband disguises himself as a priest, and hears his own wife's confession: she tells him that she loves a priest, who comes to her every night. The husband posts himself at the door to watch for the priest, and meanwhile the lady brings her lover in by the roof, and tarries with him.
When Lauretta had done speaking, and all had commended the lady, for that she had done well, and treated her caitiff husband as he had deserved, the king, not to lose time, turned to Fiammetta, and graciously bade her take up her parable; which she did on this wise: Most noble ladies, the foregoing story prompts me likewise to discourse of one of these jealous husbands, deeming that they are justly requited by their wives, more especially when they grow jealous without due cause. And had our legislators taken account of everything, I am of opinion that they would have visited ladies in such a case with no other penalty than such as they provide for those that offend in self-defence, seeing that a jealous husband does cunningly practise against the life of his lady, and most assiduously machinate her death. All the week the wife stays at home, occupied with her domestic duties; after which, on the day that is sacred to joy, she, like every one else, craves some solace, some peace, some recreation, not unreasonably, for she craves but what the husbandmen take in the fields, the craftsmen in the city, the magistrates in the courts, nay what God Himself took, when He rested from all His labours on the seventh day, and which laws human and Divine, mindful alike of the honour of God and the common well-being, have ordained, appropriating certain days to work, and others to repose. To which ordinance these jealous husbands will in no wise conform; on the contrary by then most sedulously secluding their wives, they make those days which to all other women are gladsome, to them most grievous and dolorous. And what an affliction it is to the poor creatures, they alone know, who have proved it; for which reason, to sum up, I say that a wife is rather to be commended than censured, if she take her revenge on a husband that is jealous without cause.
Know then that at Rimini there dwelt a merchant, a man of great substance in lands and goods and money, who, having a most beautiful woman to wife, waxed inordinately jealous of her, and that for no better reason than that, loving her greatly, and esteeming her exceeding fair, and knowing that she did her utmost endeavour to pleasure him, he must needs suppose that every man loved her, and esteemed her fair, and that she, moreover, was as zealous to stand well with every other man as with himself; whereby you may see that he was a poor creature, and of little sense. Being thus so deeply infected with jealousy, he kept so strict and close watch over her, that some, maybe, have lain under sentence of death and been less rigorously confined by their warders. 'Twas not merely that the lady might not go to a wedding, or a festal gathering, or even to church, or indeed set foot out of doors in any sort; but she dared not so much as shew herself at a window, or cast a glance outside the house, no matter for what purpose. Wherefore she led a most woeful life of it, and found it all the harder to bear because she knew herself to be innocent. Accordingly, seeing herself evilly entreated by her husband without good cause, she cast about how for her own consolation she might devise means to justify his usage of her. And for that, as she might not shew herself at the window, there could be no interchange of amorous glances between her and any man that passed along the street, but she wist that in the next house there was a goodly and debonair gallant, she bethought her, that, if there were but a hole in the wall that divided the two houses, she might watch thereat, till she should have sight of the gallant on such wise that she might speak to him, and give him her love, if he cared to have it, and, if so it might be contrived, forgather with him now and again, and after this fashion relieve the burden of her woeful life, till such time as the evil spirit should depart from her husband. So peering about, now here, now there, when her husband was away, she found in a very remote part of the house a place, where, by chance, the wall had a little chink in it. Peering through which, she made out, though not without great difficulty, that on the other side was a room, and said to herself: If this were Filippo's roomFilippo was the name of the gallant, her neighbourI should be already halfway to my goal. So cautiously, through her maid, who was grieved to see her thus languish, she made quest, and discovered that it was indeed the gallant's room, where he slept quite alone. Wherefore she now betook her frequently to the aperture, and whenever she was ware that the gallant was in the room, she would let fall a pebble or the like trifle; whereby at length she brought the gallant to the other side of the aperture to see what the matter was. On which she softly called him, and he knowing her voice, answered; and so, having now the opportunity she had sought, she in few words opened to him all her mind. The gallant, being overjoyed, wrought at the aperture on such wise that albeit none might be ware thereof, he enlarged it; and there many a time they held converse together, and touched hands, though further they might not go by reason of the assiduous watch that the jealous husband kept.
Now towards Christmas the lady told her husband that, if he approved, she would fain go on Christmas morning to church, and confess and communicate, like other Christians. "And what sins," said he, "have you committed, that would be shriven?"
"How?" returned the lady; "dost you take me for a saint? For all you keepest me so close, you must know very well that I am like all other mortals. However, I am not minded to confess to you, for that you art no priest."
Her husband, whose suspicions were excited by what she had said, cast about how he might discover these sins of hers, and having bethought him of what seemed an apt expedient, answered that she had his consent, but he would not have her go to any church but their own chapel, where she might hie her betimes in the morning, and confess either to their own chaplain or some other priest that the chaplain might assign her, but to none other, and presently return to the house. The lady thought she half understood him, but she answered only that she would do as he required. Christmas morning came, and with the dawn the lady rose, dressed herself, and hied her to the church appointed by her husband, who also rose, and hied him to the same church, where he arrived before her; and having already concerted matters with the priest that was in charge, he forthwith put on one of the priest's robes with a great hood, overshadowing the face, such as we see priests wear, and which he pulled somewhat forward; and so disguised he seated himself in the choir.
On entering the church the lady asked for the priest, who came, and learning that she was minded to confess, said that he could not hear her himself, but would send her one of his brethren; so away he hied him and sent her, in an evil hour for him, her husband. For though he wore an air of great solemnity, and it was not yet broad day, and he had pulled the hood well over his eyes, yet all did not avail, but that his lady forthwith recognized him, and said to herself: God be praised! why, the jealous rogue is turned priest: but leave it me to give him that whereof he is in quest. So she feigned not to know him, and seated herself at his feet. (I should tell you that he had put some pebbles in his mouth, that his speech, being impeded, might not betray him to his wife, and in all other respects he deemed himself so thoroughly disguised that there was nothing whereby she might recognize him.) Now, to come to the confession, the lady, after informing him that she was married, told him among other matters that she was enamoured of a priest, who came every night to lie with her. Which to hear was to her husband as if he were stricken through the heart with a knife; and had it not been that he was bent on knowing more, he would have forthwith given over the confession, and taken himself off. However he kept his place, and,
"How?" said he to the lady, "does not your husband lie with you?" The lady replied in the affirmative. "How, then," said the husband, "can the priest also lie with you?"
"Sir," replied she, "what art the priest employs I know not; but door there is none, however well locked, in the house, that comes not open at his touch; and he tells me that, being come to the door of my room, before he opens it, he says certain words, whereby my husband forthwith falls asleep; whereupon he opens the door, and enters the room, and lies with me; and so it is always, without fail."
"Then it is very wrong, Madam, and you must give it up altogether," said the husband. "That, Sir," returned the lady, "I doubt I can never do; for I love him too much."
"In that case," said the husband, "I cannot give you absolution."
"The pity of it!" ejaculated the lady; "I came not here to tell you falsehoods: if I could give it up, I would."
"Madam," replied the husband, "indeed I am sorry for you; for I see that you are in a fair way to lose your soul. However, this I will do for you; I will make special supplication to God on your behalf; and perchance you may be profited thereby. And from time to time I will send you one of my young clerks; and you will tell him whether my prayers have been of any help to you, or no, and if they have been so, I shall know what to do next."
"Nay, Sir," said the lady, "do not so; send no man to me at home; for, should my husband come to know it, he is so jealous that nothing in the world would ever disabuse him of the idea that he came but for an evil purpose, and so I should have no peace with him all the year long."
Madam, returned the husband, "have no fear; rest assured that I will so order matters that you shall never hear a word about it from him."
"If you can make sure of that," said the lady, "I have no more to say."
And so, her confession ended, and her penance enjoined, she rose, and went to mass, while the luckless husband, fuming and fretting, hasted to divest himself of his priest's trappings, and then went home bent on devising some means to bring the priest and his wife together, and take his revenge on them both.
When the lady came home from church she read in her husband's face that she had spoiled his Christmas for him, albeit he dissembled to the uttermost, lest she should discover what he had done, and supposed himself to have learned. His mind was made up to keep watch for the priest that very night by his own front door. So to the lady he said,
"I have to go out tonight to sup and sleep; so you will take care that the front door, and the mid-stair door, and the bedroom door are well locked; and for the rest you may go to bed, at thine own time."
"Well and good," replied the lady: and as soon as she was able, off she hied her to the aperture, and gave the wonted signal, which Filippo no sooner heard, than he was at the spot. The lady then told him what she had done in the morning, and what her husband had said to her after breakfast, adding,
"Sure I am that he will not stir out of the house, but will keep watch beside the door; wherefore contrive to come in tonight by the roof, that we may be together."
"Madam," replied the gallant, nothing loath, "trust me for that."
Night came, the husband armed, and noiselessly hid himself in a room on the ground floor: the lady locked all the doors, being especially careful to secure the mid-stair door, to bar her husband's ascent; and in due time the gallant, having found his way cautiously enough over the roof, they got them to bed, and there had solace of one another and a good time; and at daybreak the gallant hied him back to his house. Meanwhile the husband, rueful and supperless, half dead with cold, kept his armed watch beside his door, momently expecting the priest, for the best part of the night; but towards daybreak, his powers failing him, he lay down and slept in the ground-floor room. 'Twas hard on tierce when he awoke, and the front door was then open; so, making as if he had just come in, he went upstairs and breakfasted. Not long afterwards he sent to his wife a young fellow, disguised as the priest's underling, who asked her if he of whom she wist had been with her again. The lady, who quite understood what that meant, answered that he had not come that night, and that, if he continued to neglect her so, it was possible he might be forgotten, though she had no mind to forget him.
Now, to make a long story short, the husband passed many a night in the same way, hoping to catch the priest as he came in, the lady and her gallant meanwhile having a good time. But at last the husband, being able to stand it no longer, sternly demanded of his wife what she had said to the priest the morning when she was confessed. The lady answered that she was not minded to tell him, for that it was not seemly or proper so to do. On which,
"Sinful woman," said the husband, "in your despite I know what you saidst to him, and know I must and will who this priest is, of whom you art enamoured, and who by dint of his incantations lies with you a nights, or I will sluice your veins for you."
"It is not true," replied the lady, "that I am enamoured of a priest."
"How?" said the husband, "saidst you not as much to the priest that confessed you?"
"You can not have had it from him," rejoined the lady. "Wast you then present yourself? For sure I never told him so."
"Then tell me," said the husband, "who this priest is; and lose no time about it."
Whereat the lady began to smile, and,
"I find it not a little diverting," said she, "that a wise man should suffer himself to be led by a simple woman as a ram is led by the horns to the shambles; albeit no wise man are you: not since that fatal hour when you gavest harbourage in your breast, you wist not why, to the evil spirit of jealousy; and the more foolish and insensate you art, the less glory have I. Deemest you, my husband, that I am as blind of the bodily eye as you art of the mind's eye? Nay, but for sure I am not so. I knew at a glance the priest that confessed me, and that it was even yourself. But I was minded to give you that of which you wast in quest, and I gave it you. Howbeit, if you hadst been the wise man you takest yourself to be, you would not have chosen such a way as that to worm out your good lady's secrets, nor would you have fallen a prey to a baseless suspicion, but would have understood that what she confessed was true, and she all the while guiltless. I told you that I loved a priest; and wast not you, whom I love, though ill enough dost you deserve it, turned priest? I told you that there was no door in my house but would open when he was minded to lie with me: and when you would fain have access to me, what door was ever closed against you? I told you that the priest lay nightly with me: and what night was there that you didst not lie with me? You sentest your young clerk to me: and you know that, as often as you hadst not been with me, I sent word that the priest had not been with me. Who but you, that have suffered jealousy to blind you, would have been so witless as not to read such a riddle? But you must needs mount guard at night beside the door, and think to make me believe that you hadst gone out to sup and sleep. Consider your ways, and court not the mockery of those that know them as I do, but turn a man again as you wast wont to be: and let there be no more of this strict restraint in which you keepest me; for I swear to you by God that, if I were minded to set horns on your brow, I should not fail so to take my pastime that you would never find it out, though you hadst a hundred eyes, as you have but two."
Thus admonished, the jealous caitiff, who had flattered himself that he had very cunningly discovered his wife's secret, was ashamed, and made no answer save to commend his wife's wit and honour; and thus, having cause for jealousy, he discarded it, as he had erstwhile been jealous without cause. And so the adroit lady had, as it were, a charter of indulgence, and needed no more to contrive for her lover to come to her over the roof like a cat, but admitted him by the door, and using due discretion, had many a good time with him, and sped her life gaily.
Madonna Isabella has with her Leonetto, her accepted lover, when she is surprised by one Messer Lambertuccio, by whom she is beloved: her husband coming home about the same time, she sends Messer Lambertuccio forth of the house drawn sword in hand, and the husband afterwards escorts Leonetto home.
Wondrous was the delight that all the company had of Fiammetta's story, nor was there any but affirmed that the lady had done excellent well, and dealt with her insensate husband as he deserved. However, it being ended, the king bade Pampinea follow suit; which she did on this wise: Not a few there are that in their simplicity aver that Love deranges the mind, insomuch that whoso loves becomes as it were witless: the folly of which opinion, albeit I doubt it not, and deem it abundantly proven by what has been already said, I purpose once again to demonstrate.
In our city, rich in all manner of good things, there dwelt a young gentlewoman, fair exceedingly, and wedded to a most worthy and excellent gentleman. And as it not seldom happens that one cannot keep ever to the same diet, but would fain at times vary it, so this lady, finding her husband not altogether to her mind, became enamoured of a gallant, Leonetto by name, who, though of no high rank, was not a little debonair and courteous, and he in like manner fell in love with her; and (as you know that it is seldom that what is mutually desired fails to come about) it was not long before they had fruition of their love. Now the lady being, as I said, fair and winsome, it so befell that a gentleman, Messer Lambertuccio by name, grew mightily enamoured of her, but so tiresome and odious did she find him, that for the world she could not bring herself to love him. So, growing tired of fruitlessly soliciting her favour by ambassage, Messer Lambertuccio, who was a powerful signior, sent her at last another sort of message in which he threatened to defame her if she complied not with his wishes. Wherefore the lady, knowing her man, was terrified, and disposed herself to pleasure him.
Now it so chanced that Madonna Isabella, for such was the lady's name, being gone, as is our Florentine custom in the summer, to spend some time on a very goodly estate that she had in the contado, one morning finding herself alone, for her husband had ridden off to tarry some days elsewhere, she sent for Leonetto to come and keep her company; and Leonetto came forthwith in high glee. But while they were together, Messer Lambertuccio, who, having got wind that the husband was away, had mounted his horse and ridden there quite alone, knocked at the door. On which the lady's maid hied her forthwith to her mistress, who was alone with Leonetto, and called her, saying,
"Madam, Messer Lambertuccio is here below, quite alone."
Whereat the lady was vexed beyond measure; and being also not a little dismayed, she said to Leonetto,
"Prithee, let it not irk you to withdraw behind the curtain, and there keep close till Messer Lambertuccio be gone."
Leonetto, who stood in no less fear of Messer Lambertuccio than did the lady, got into his hiding-place; and the lady bade the maid go open to Messer Lambertuccio: she did so; and having dismounted and fastened his palfrey to a pin, he ascended the stairs; at the head of which the lady received him with a smile and as gladsome a greeting as she could find words for, and asked him on what errand he was come. The gentleman embraced and kissed her, saying,
"My soul, I am informed that your husband is not here, and therefore I am come to stay a while with you."
Which said, they went into the room, and locked them in, and Messer Lambertuccio fell a toying with her.
Now, while thus he sped the time with her, it befell that the lady's husband, albeit she nowise expected him, came home, and, as he drew nigh the palace, was observed by the maid, who forthwith ran to the lady's chamber, and said,
"Madam, the master will be here anon; I doubt he is already in the courtyard."
On which, for that she had two men in the house, and the knight's palfrey, that was in the courtyard, made it impossible to hide him, the lady gave herself up for dead. Nevertheless she made up her mind on the spur of the moment, and springing out of bed "Sir," said she to Messer Lambertuccio, "if you have any regard for me, and would save my life, you will do as I bid you: that is to say, you will draw your blade, and put on a fell and wrathful countenance, and hie you downstairs, saying: 'By God, he shall not escape me elsewhere.' And if my husband would stop you, or ask you anything, say nothing but what I have told you, and get you on horseback and tarry with him on no account."
"To hear is to obey," said Messer Lambertuccio, who, with the flush of his recent exertion and the rage that he felt at the husband's return still on his face, and drawn sword in hand, did as she bade him. The lady's husband, being now dismounted in the courtyard, and not a little surprised to see the palfrey there, was about to go up the stairs, when he saw Messer Lambertuccio coming down them, and marvelling both at his words and at his mien,
"What means this, Sir?" said he. But Messer Lambertuccio clapped foot in stirrup, and mounted, saying nothing but,
"Zounds, but I will meet him elsewhere;" and so he rode off.
The gentleman then ascended the stairs, at the head of which he found his lady distraught with terror, to whom he said,
"What manner of thing is this? After whom goes Messer Lambertuccio, so wrathful and menacing?" To which the lady, drawing nigher the room, that Leonetto might hear her, answered,
"Never, Sir, had I such a fright as this. There came running in here a young man, who to me is quite a stranger, and at his heels Messer Lambertuccio with a drawn sword in his hand; and as it happened the young man found the door of this room open, and trembling in every limb, cried out: 'Madam, your succour, for God's sake, that I die not in your arms.' So up I got, and would have asked him who he was, and how bested, when up came Messer Lambertuccio, exclaiming: 'Where are you, traitor?' I planted myself in the doorway, and kept him from entering, and seeing that I was not minded to give him admittance, he was courteous enough, after not a little parley, to take himself off, as you saw."
"Wife," said the husband, "you didst very right. Great indeed had been the scandal, had some one been slain here, and it was a gross affront on Messer Lambertuccio's part to pursue a fugitive within the house."
He then asked where the young man was. To which the lady answered,
"Nay, where he may be hiding, Sir, I wot not."
"Where are you?" said the knight. "Fear not to shew yourself."
Then forth of his hiding-place, all of a tremble, for in truth he had been thoroughly terrified, crept Leonetto, who had heard all that had passed. To whom,
"What have you to do with Messer Lambertuccio?" said the knight. "Nothing in the world," replied the young man: "wherefore, I doubt he must either be out of his mind, or have mistaken me for another; for no sooner had he sight of me in the street hard by the palace, than he laid his hand on his sword, and exclaimed: 'Traitor, you art a dead man.' On which I sought not to know why, but fled with all speed, and got me here, and so, thanks to God and this gentlewoman, I escaped his hands."
"Now away with your fears," said the knight; "I will see you home safe and sound; and then it will be for you to determine how you shall deal with him."
And so, when they had supped, he set him on horseback, and escorted him to Florence, and left him not till he was safe in his own house. And the very same evening, following the lady's instructions, Leonetto spoke privily with Messer Lambertuccio, and so composed the affair with him, that, though it occasioned not a little talk, the knight never wist how he had been tricked by his wife.
Lodovico discovers to Madonna Beatrice the love that he bears her: she sends Egano, her husband, into a garden disguised as herself, and lies with Lodovico; who thereafter, being risen, hies him to the garden and cudgels Egano.
This device of Madonna Isabella, thus recounted by Pampinea, was held nothing short of marvellous by all the company. But, being bidden by the king to tell the next story, thus spake Filomena: Loving ladies, if I mistake not, the device, of which you shall presently hear from me, will prove to be no less excellent than the last.
You are to know, then, that there dwelt aforetime at Paris a Florentine gentleman, who, being by reason of poverty turned merchant, had prospered so well in his affairs that he was become very wealthy; and having by his lady an only son, Lodovico by name, whose nobility disrelished trade, he would not put him in any shop; but that he might be with other gentlemen, he caused him to enter the service of the King of France, whereby he acquired very fine manners and other accomplishments. Being in this service, Lodovico was one day with some other young gallants that talked of the fair ladies of France, and England, and other parts of the world, when they were joined by certain knights that were returned from the Holy Sepulchre; and hearing their discourse, one of the knights fell a saying, that of a surety in the whole world, so far as he had explored it, there was not any lady, of all that he had ever seen, that might compare for beauty with Madonna Beatrice, the wife of Egano de' Galluzzi, of Bologna: wherein all his companions, who in common with him had seen the lady at Bologna, concurred. Which report Lodovico, who was as yet fancy-free, no sooner heard, than he burned with such a yearning to see the lady that he was able to think of nothing else: insomuch that he made up his mind to betake him to Bologna to see her, and if she pleased him, to remain there; to which end he gave his father to understand that he would fain visit the Holy Sepulchre, To which his father after no little demur consented.
So to Bologna Anichinofor so he now called himselfcame; and, as Fortune would have it, the very next day, he saw the lady at a festal gathering, and deemed her vastly more beautiful than he had expected: wherefore he waxed most ardently enamoured of her, and resolved never to quit Bologna, till he had gained her love. So, casting about how he should proceed, he could devise no other way but to enter her husband's service, which was the more easy that he kept not a few retainers: on this wise Lodovico surmised that, peradventure, he might compass his end. He therefore sold his horses and meetly bestowed his servants, bidding them make as if they knew him not; and being pretty familiar with his host, he told him that he was minded to take service with some worthy lord, it any such he might find. "You would make," said the host, "the very sort of retainer to suit a gentleman of this city, Egano by name, who keeps not a few of them, and will have all of them presentable like you: I will mention the matter to him."
And so he accordingly did, and before he took leave of Egano had placed Anichino with him, to Egano's complete satisfaction.
Being thus resident with Egano, and having abundant opportunities of seeing the fair lady, Anichino set himself to serve Egano with no little zeal; wherein he succeeded so well, that Egano was more than satisfied, insomuch that by and by there was nothing he could do without his advice, and he entrusted to him the guidance not only of himself, but of all his affairs. Now it so befell that one day when Egano was gone a hawking, having left Anichino at home, Madonna Beatrice, who as yet wist not of his love, albeit she had from time to time taken note of him and his manners, and had not a little approved and commended them, sat herself down with him to a game of chess, which, to please her, Anichino most dexterously contrived to lose, to the lady's prodigious delight. After a while, the lady's women, one and all, gave over watching their play, and left them to it; whereupon Anichino heaved a mighty sigh. The lady, looking hard at him, said,
"What ails you, Anichino? Is it, then, such a mortification to you to be conquered by me?"
"Nay, Madam," replied Anichino, "my sigh was prompted by a much graver matter."
"Then, if you have any regard for me," said the lady, "tell me what it is."
Hearing himself thus adjured by "any regard" he had for her whom he loved more than anything else, Anichino heaved a yet mightier sigh, which caused the lady to renew her request that he would be pleased to tell her the occasion of his sighs. On which,
"Madam," said Anichino, "I greatly fear me, that, were I to tell it you, 'twould but vex you; and, moreover, I doubt you might repeat it to some one else."
"Rest assured," returned the lady, "that I shall neither be annoyed, nor, without your leave, ever repeat to any other soul anything that you may say."
"Then," said Anichino, "having this pledge from you, I will tell it you."
And, while the tears all but stood in his eyes, he told her, who he was, the report he had heard of her, and where and how he had become enamoured of her, and with what intent he had taken service with her husband: after which, he humbly besought her, that, if it might be, she would have pity on him, and gratify this his secret and ardent desire; and that, if she were not minded so to do, she would suffer him to retain his place there, and love her. Ah! Bologna! how sweetly mixed are the elements in your women! How commendable in such a case are they all! No delight have they in sighs and tears, but are ever inclinable to prayers, and ready to yield to the solicitations of Love. Had I but words apt to praise them as they deserve, my eloquence were inexhaustible.
The gentlewoman's gaze was fixed on Anichino as he spoke; she made no doubt that all he said was true, and yielding to his appeal, she entertained his love within her heart in such measure that she too began to sigh, and after a sigh or two answered,
"Sweet my Anichino, be of good cheer; neither presents nor promises, nor any courting by gentleman, or lord, or whoso else (for I have been and am still courted by not a few) was ever able to sway my soul to love any of them: but you, by the few words that you have said, have so wrought with me that, brief though the time has been, I am already in far greater measure thine than mine. My love I deem you to have won right worthily; and so I give it you, and vow to give you joyance thereof before the coming night be past. To which end you will come to my room about midnight; I will leave the door open; you know the side of the bed on which I sleep; you will come there; should I be asleep, you have but to touch me, and I shall awake, and give you solace of your long-pent desire. In earnest whereof I will even give you a kiss."
So saying, she threw her arms about his neck, and lovingly kissed him, as Anichino her.
Their colloquy thus ended, Anichino betook him elsewhere about some matters which he had to attend to, looking forward to midnight with boundless exultation. Egano came in from his hawking; and after supper, being weary, went straight to bed, where the lady soon followed him, leaving, as she had promised, the door of the chamber open. There accordingly, at the appointed hour, came Anichino, and having softly entered the chamber, and closed the door behind him, stole up to where the lady lay, and laying his hand on her breast, found that she was awake. Now, as soon as she wist that Anichino was come, she took his hand in both her own; and keeping fast hold of him, she turned about in the bed, till she awoke Egano; whereupon,
"Husband," said she, "I would not say anything of this to you, yestereve, because I judged you wast weary; but tell me, on your hope of salvation, Egano, whom deemest you your best and most loyal retainer, and the most attached to you, of all that you have in the house?"
"What a question is this, wife?" returned Egano. "Dost not know him? Retainer I have none, nor ever had, so trusted, or loved, as Anichino. But wherefore put such a question?"
Now, when Anichino wist that Egano was awake, and heard them talk of himself, he more than once tried to withdraw his hand, being mightily afraid lest the lady meant to play him false; but she held it so tightly that he might not get free, while thus she answered to Egano,
"I will tell you what he is. I thought that he was all you sayst, and that none was so loyal to you as he, but he has undeceived me, for that yesterday, when you wast out a hawking, he, being here, chose his time, and had the shamelessness to crave of me compliance with his wanton desires: and I, that I might not need other evidence than that of yours own senses to prove his guilt to you, I answered, that I was well content, and that tonight, after midnight, I would get me into the garden, and await him there at the foot of the pine. Now go there I shall certainly not; but, if you would prove the loyalty of your retainer, you can readily do so, if you but slip on one of my loose robes, and cover your face with a veil, and go down and attend his coming, for come, I doubt not, he will."
To which Egano,
"Meet indeed it is," said he, "that I should go see;" and straightway up he got, and, as best he might in the dark, he put on one of the lady's loose robes and veiled his face, and then hied him to the garden, and sate down at the foot of the pine to await Anichino. The lady no sooner wist that he was out of the room, than she rose, and locked the door. Anichino, who had never been so terrified in all his life, and had struggled with all his might to disengage his hand from the lady's clasp, and had inwardly cursed her and his love, and himself for trusting her, a hundred thousand times, was overjoyed beyond measure at this last turn that she had given the affair. And so, the lady having got her to bed again, and he, at her bidding, having stripped and laid him down beside her, they had solace and joyance of one another for a good while. Then, the lady, deeming it unmeet for Anichino to tarry longer with her, caused him to get up and resume his clothes, saying to him,
"Sweet my mouth, you will take a stout cudgel, and get you to the garden, and making as if I were there, and your suit to me had been but to try me, you will give Egano a sound rating with your tongue and a sound belabouring with your cudgel, the sequel whereof will be wondrously gladsome and delightful."
On which Anichino hied him off to the garden, armed with a staff of wild willow; and as he drew nigh the pine, Egano saw him, and rose and came forward to meet him as if he would receive him with the heartiest of cheer. But,
"Ah! wicked woman!" said Anichino; "so you art come! You didst verily believe, then, that I was, that I am, minded thus to wrong my lord? Foul fall you a thousand times!" And therewith he raised his cudgel, and began to lay about him. Egano, however, had heard and seen enough, and without a word took to flight, while Anichino pursued him, crying out,
"Away with you! God send you a bad year, lewd woman that you art; nor doubt that Egano shall hear of this tomorrow."
Egano, having received sundry round knocks, got him back to his chamber with what speed he might; and being asked by the lady, whether Anichino had come into the garden,
"Would to God he had not!" said he, "for that, taking me for you, he has beaten me black and blue with his cudgel, and rated me like the vilest woman that ever was: passing strange, indeed, it had seemed to me that he should have said those words to you with intent to dishonour me; and now it is plain that it was but that, seeing you so blithe and frolicsome, he was minded to prove you."
"God be praised," returned the lady, "that he proved me by words, as you by acts: and I doubt not he may say that I bear his words with more patience than you his acts. But since he is so loyal to you, we must make much of him and do him honour."
"Ay, indeed," said Egano, "you sayst sooth."
Thus was Egano fortified in the belief that never had any gentleman wife so true, or retainer so loyal, as he; and many a hearty laugh had he with Anichino and his lady over this affair, which to them was the occasion that, with far less let than might else have been, they were able to have solace and joyance of one another, so long as it pleased Anichino to tarry at Bologna.
A husband grows jealous of his wife, and discovers that she has warning of her lover's approach by a piece of pack-thread, which she ties to her great toe a nights. While he is pursuing her lover, she puts another woman in bed in her place. The husband, finding her there, beats her, and cuts off her hair. He then goes and calls his wife's brothers, who, holding his accusation to be false, give him a rating.
Rare indeed was deemed by common consent the subtlety shewn by Madonna Beatrice in the beguilement of her husband, and all affirmed that the terror of Anichino must have been prodigious, when, the lady still keeping fast hold of him, he had heard her say that he had made suit of love to her. However, Filomena being silent, the king turned to Neifile, saying,
"It is now for you to tell."
On which Neifile, while a slight smile died away on her lips, thus began: Fair ladies, to entertain you with a goodly story, such as those which my predecessors have delighted you withal, is indeed a heavy burden, but, God helping me, I trust fairly well to acquit myself thereof.
You are to know, then, that there dwelt aforetime in our city a most wealthy merchant, Arriguccio Berlinghieri by name, who foolishly, as we wot by daily experience is the way of merchants, thinking to compass gentility by matrimony, took to wife a young gentlewoman, by no means suited to him, whose name was Monna Sismonda. Now Monna Sismonda, seeing that her husband was much abroad, and gave her little of his company, became enamoured of a young gallant, Ruberto by name, who had long courted her: and she being grown pretty familiar with him, and using, perchance, too little discretion, for she affected him extremely, it so befell that Arriguccio, whether it was that he detected somewhat, or however, waxed of all men the most jealous, and gave up going abroad, and changed his way of life altogether, and made it his sole care to watch over his wife, insomuch that he never allowed himself a wink of sleep till he had seen her to bed: which occasioned the lady the most grievous dumps, because it was on no wise possible for her to be with her Ruberto. So, casting about in many ways how she might contrive to meet him, and being thereto not a little plied by Ruberto himself, she bethought her at last of the following expedient: to wit, her room fronting the street, and Arriguccio, as she had often observed, being very hard put to it to get him to sleep, but thereafter sleeping very soundly, she resolved to arrange with Ruberto that he should come to the front door about midnight, whereupon she would get her down, and open the door, and stay some time with him while her husband was in his deep sleep. And that she might have tidings of his arrival, yet so as that none else might wot anything thereof, she adopted the device of lowering a pack-thread from the bedroom window on such wise that, while with one end it should all but touch the ground, it should traverse the floor of the room, till it reached the bed, and then be brought under the clothes, so that, when she was abed, she might attach it to her great toe. Having so done, she sent word to Ruberto, that when he came, he must be sure to jerk the pack-thread, and, if her husband were asleep, she would loose it, and go open to him; but, if he were awake, she would hold it taut and draw it to herself, to let him know that he must not expect her. Ruberto fell in with the idea, came there many times, and now forgathered with her and again did not. But at last, they still using this cunning practice, it so befell that one night, while the lady slept, Arriguccio, letting his foot stray more than he was wont about the bed, came on the pack-thread, and laying his hand on it, found that it was attached to his lady's great toe, and said to himself: This must be some trick: and afterwards discovering that the thread passed out of the window, was confirmed in his surmise. Wherefore, he softly severed it from the lady's toe, and affixed it to his own; and waited, all attention, to learn the result of his experiment. Nor had he long to wait before Ruberto came, and Arriguccio felt him jerk the thread according to his wont: and as Arriguccio had not known how to attach the thread securely, and Ruberto jerked it with some force, it gave way, whereby he understood that he was to wait, and did so. Arriguccio straightway arose, caught up his arms, and hasted to the door to see who might be there, intent to do him a mischief. Now Arriguccio, for all he was a merchant, was a man of spirit, and of thews and sinews; and being come to the door, he opened it by no means gingerly, as the lady was wont; whereby Ruberto, who was in waiting, surmised the truth, to wit, that it was Arriguccio by whom the door was opened. Wherefore he forthwith took to flight, followed by Arriguccio. But at length, when he had run a long way, as Arriguccio gave not up the pursuit, he being also armed, drew his sword, and faced about; and so they fell to, Arriguccio attacking, and Ruberto defending himself.
Now when Arriguccio undid the bedroom door, the lady awoke, and finding the pack-thread cut loose from her toe, saw at a glance that her trick was discovered; and hearing Arriguccio running after Ruberto, she forthwith got up, foreboding what the result was like to be, and called her maid, who was entirely in her confidence: whom she so plied with her obsecrations that at last she got her into bed in her room, beseeching her not to say who she was, but to bear patiently all the blows that Arriguccio might give her; and she would so reward her that she should have no reason to complain. Then, extinguishing the light that was in the room, forth she hied her, and having found a convenient hiding-place in the house, awaited the turn of events. Now Arriguccio and Ruberto being hotly engaged in the street, the neighbours, roused by the din of the combat, got up and launched their curses on them. Wherefore Arriguccio, fearing lest he should be recognized, drew off before he had so much as discovered who the young gallant was, or done him any scathe, and in a fell and wrathful mood betook him home. Stumbling into the bedroom, he cried out angrily,
"Where are you, lewd woman? You have put out the light, that I may not be able to find you; but you have miscalculated."
And going to the bedside, he laid hold of the maid, taking her to be his wife, and fell a pummelling and kicking her with all the strength he had in his hands and feet, insomuch that he pounded her face well-nigh to pulp, rating her the while like the vilest woman that ever was; and last of all he cut off her hair. The maid wept bitterly, as indeed she well might; and though from time to time she ejaculated an "Alas! Mercy, for God's sake!" or "Spare me, spare me;" yet her voice was so broken by her sobs, and Arriguccio's hearing so dulled by his wrath, that he was not able to discern that it was not his wife's voice but that of another woman. So, having soundly thrashed her, and cut off her hair, as we said,
"Wicked woman," said he, "I touch you no more; but I go to find your brothers, and shall do them to wit of your good works; and then they may come here, and deal with you as they may deem their honour demands, and take you hence, for be sure you shall no more abide in this house."
With this he was gone, locking the door of the room behind him, and quitted the house alone.
Now no sooner did Monna Sismonda, who had heard all that passed, perceive that her husband was gone, than she opened the door of the bedroom, rekindled the light, and finding her maid all bruises and tears, did what she could to comfort her, and carried her back to her own room, where, causing her to be privily waited on and tended, she helped her so liberally from Arriguccio's own store, that she confessed herself content. The maid thus bestowed in her room, the lady presently hied her back to her own, which she set all in neat and trim order, remaking the bed, so that it might appear as if it had not been slept in, relighting the lamp, and dressing and tiring herself, till she looked as if she had not been abed that night; then, taking with her a lighted lamp and some work, she sat her down at the head of the stairs, and began sewing, while she waited to see how the affair would end.
Arriguccio meanwhile had hied him with all speed straight from the house to that of his wife's brothers, where by dint of much knocking he made himself heard, and was admitted. The lady's three brothers, and her mother, being informed that it was Arriguccio, got up, and having set lights a burning, came to him and asked him on what errand he was come there at that hour, and alone. On which Arriguccio, beginning with the discovery of the pack-thread attached to his lady's great toe, gave them the whole narrative of his discoveries and doings down to the very end; and to clinch the whole matter, he put in their hands the locks which he had cut, as he believed, from his wife's head, adding that it was now for them to come for her and deal with her on such wise as they might deem their honour required, seeing that he would nevermore have her in his house. Firmly believing what he told them, the lady's brothers were very wroth with her, and having provided themselves with lighted torches, set out with Arriguccio, and hied them to his house with intent to scorn her, while their mother followed, weeping and beseeching now one, now another, not to credit these matters so hastily, till they had seen or heard somewhat more thereof; for that the husband might have some other reason to be wroth with her, and having ill-treated her, might have trumped up this charge by way of exculpation, adding that, if true, it was passing strange, for well she knew her daughter, whom she had brought up from her tenderest years, and much more to the like effect.
However, being come to Arriguccio's house, they entered, and were mounting the stairs, when Monna Sismonda, hearing them, called out,
"Who is there?" To which one of the brothers responded,
"Lewd woman, you shall soon have cause enough to know who it is."
"Now Lord love us!" said Monna Sismonda, "what would he be at?" Then, rising, she greeted them with,
"Welcome, my brothers but what seek ye abroad at this hour, all three of you?" They had seen her sitting and sewing with never a sign of a blow on her face, whereas Arriguccio had averred that he had pummelled her all over: wherefore their first impression was one of wonder, and refraining the vehemence of their wrath, they asked her what might be the truth of the matter which Arriguccio laid to her charge, and threatened her with direful consequences, if she should conceal anything. To which the lady,
"What you would have me tell you," said she, "or what Arriguccio may have laid to my charge, that know not I."
Arriguccio could but gaze on her, as one that had taken leave of his wits, calling to mind how he had pummelled her about the face times without number, and scratched it for her, and mishandled her in all manner of ways, and there he now saw her with no trace of anything of it all on her. However, to make a long story short, the lady's brothers told her what Arriguccio had told them touching the pack-thread and the beating and all the rest of it. On which the lady turned to him with,
"Alas, my husband, what is this that I hear? Why givest you me, to your own great shame, the reputation of a lewd woman, when such I am not, and yourself the reputation of a wicked and cruel man, which you art not? Wast you ever tonight, I say not in my company, but so much as in the house till now? Or when didst you beat me? For my part I mind me not of it."
"How sayst you, lewd woman? Did we not go to bed together? Did I not come back, after chasing your lover? Did I not give you bruises not a few, and cut your hair for you?" But the lady interrupted him, saying,
"Nay, you didst not lie here tonight. But leave we this, of which my true words are my sole witness, and pass we to this of the beating you sayst you gavest me, and how you didst cut my hair. Never a beating had I from you, and I bid all that are here, and you among them, look at me, and say if I have any trace of a beating on my person; nor should I advise you to dare lay hand on me; for, by the Holy Rood, I would spoil your beauty for you. Nor didst you cut my hair, for anything that I saw or felt: however, you didst it, perchance, on such wise that I was not ware thereof: so let me see whether it is cut or no."
Then, unveiling herself, she shewed that her hair was uncut and entire. Wherefore her brothers and mother now turned to Arriguccio with,
"What means this, Arriguccio? This accords not with what you gavest us to understand you hadst done; nor know we how you will prove the residue."
Arriguccio was lost, as it were, in a dream, and yet he would fain have spoken; but, seeing that what he had thought to prove was otherwise, he essayed no reply. So the lady turning to her brothers,
"I see," said she, "what he would have: he will not be satisfied unless I do what I never would otherwise have done, to wit, give you to know what a pitiful caitiff he is; as now I shall not fail to do. I make no manner of doubt that, as he has said, even so it befell, and so he did. How, you shall hear. This worthy man, to whom, worse luck! you gave me to wife, a merchant, as he calls himself, and as such would fain have credit, and who ought to be more temperate than a religious, and more continent than a girl, lets scarce an evening pass but he goes a boozing in the taverns, and consorting with this or the other woman of the town; and it is for me to await his return till midnight or sometimes till matins, even as you now find me. I doubt not that, being thoroughly well drunk, he got him to bed with one of these wantons, and, awaking, found the pack-thread on her foot, and afterwards did actually perform all these brave exploits of which he speaks, and in the end came back to her, and beat her, and cut her hair off, and being not yet quite recovered from his debauch, believed, and, I doubt not, still believes, that it was I that he thus treated; and if you will but scan his face closely, you will see that he is still half drunk. But, whatever he may have said about me, I would have you account it as nothing more than the disordered speech of a tipsy man; and forgive him as I do."
On which the lady's mother raised no small outcry, saying,
"By the Holy Rood, my daughter, this may not be! A daughter, such as you, to be mated with one so unworthy of you! The pestilent, insensate cur should be slain on the spot! A pretty state of things, indeed! Why, he might have picked you up from the gutter! Now foul fall him! but you shall no more be vexed with the tedious drivel of a petty dealer in ass's dung, some blackguard, belike, that came here from the country because he was dismissed the service of some petty squire, clad in romagnole, with belfry-breeches, and a pen in his arse, and for that he has a few pence, must needs have a gentleman's daughter and a fine lady to wife, and set up a coat of arms, and say: 'I am of the such and such,' and 'my ancestors did thus and thus.' Ah! had my sons but followed my advice! Your honour were safe in the house of the Counts Guidi, where they might have bestowed you, though you hadst but a morsel of bread to your dowry: but they must needs give you to this rare treasure, who, though better daughter and more chaste there is none than you in Florence, has not blushed this very midnight and in our presence to call you a strumpet, as if we knew you not. God's faith! so I were hearkened to, he should shrewdly smart for it."
Then, turning to her sons, she said,
"My sons, I told you plainly enough that this ought not to be. Now, have you heard how your worthy brother-in-law treats your sister? Petty twopenny trader that he is: were it for me to act, as it is for you, after what he has said of her and done to her, nothing would satisfy or appease me, till I had rid the earth of him. And were I a man, who am but a woman, none, other but myself should meddle with the affair. God's curse on him, the woeful, shameless sot!" On which the young men, incensed by what they had seen and heard, turned to Arriguccio, and after giving him the soundest rating that ever was bestowed on caitiff, concluded as follows,
"This once we pardon you, witting you to be a drunken knavebut as you holdest your life dear, have a care that henceforth we hear no such tales of you; for rest assured that if anything of the kind do reach our ears, we will requite you for both turns."
Which said, they departed. Arriguccio, standing there like one dazed, not witting whether his late doings were actual fact or but a dream, made no more words about the matter, but left his wife in peace. Thus did she by her address not only escape imminent peril, but open a way whereby in time to come she was able to gratify her passion to the full without any farther fear of her husband.
Lydia, wife of Nicostratus, loves Pyrrhus, who to assure himself thereof, asks three things of her, all of which she does, and therewithal enjoys him in presence of Nicostratus, and makes Nicostratus believe that what he saw was not real.
So diverting did the ladies find Neifile's story that it kept them still laughing and talking, though the king, having bidden Pamfilo tell his story, had several times enjoined silence on them. However, as soon as they had done, Pamfilo thus began: Methinks, worshipful ladies, there is no venture, though fraught with gravest peril, that whoso loves ardently will not make: of which truth, exemplified though it has been in stories not a few, I purpose to afford you yet more signal proof in one which I shall tell you; wherein you will hear of a lady who in her enterprises owed far more to the favour of Fortune than to the guidance of reason: wherefore I should not advise any of you rashly to follow in her footsteps, seeing that Fortune is not always in a kindly mood, nor are the eyes of all men equally holden.
In Argos, that most ancient city of Achaia, the fame of whose kings of old time is out of all proportion to its size, there dwelt of yore Nicostratus, a nobleman, to whom, when he was already verging on old age, Fortune gave to wife a great lady, Lydia by name, whose courage matched her charms. Nicostratus, as suited with his rank and wealth, kept not a few retainers and hounds and hawks, and was mightily addicted to the chase. Among his dependants was a young man named Pyrrhus, a gallant of no mean accomplishment, and goodly of person and beloved and trusted by Nicostratus above all other. Of whom Lydia grew mighty enamoured, insomuch that neither by day nor by night might her thoughts stray from him: but, whether it was that Pyrrhus wist not her love, or would have none of it, he gave no sign of recognition; whereby the lady's suffering waxing more than she could bear, she made up her mind to declare her love to him; and having a chambermaid, Lusca by name, in whom she placed great trust, she called her, and said,
"Lusca, tokens you have had from me of my regard that should ensure your obedience and loyalty; wherefore have a care that what I shall now tell you reach the ears of none but him to whom I shall bid you impart it. You seest, Lusca, that I am in the prime of my youth and lustihead, and have neither lack nor stint of all such things as folk desire, save only, to be brief, that I have one cause to repine, to wit, that my husband's years so far outnumber my own. Wherefore with that wherein young ladies take most pleasure I am but ill provided, and, as my desire is no less than theirs, it is now some while since I determined that, if Fortune has shewn herself so little friendly to me by giving me a husband so advanced in years, at least I will not be mine own enemy by sparing to devise the means whereby my happiness and health may be assured; and that herein, as in all other matters, my joy may be complete, I have chosen, thereto to minister by his embraces, our Pyrrhus, deeming him more worthy than any other man, and have so set my heart on him that I am ever ill at ease save when he is present either to my sight or to my mind, insomuch that, unless I forgather with him without delay, I doubt not that it will be the death of me. And so, if you holdest my life dear, you will shew him my love on such wise as you may deem best, and make my suit to him that he be pleased to come to me, when you shall go to fetch him."
"That gladly will I," replied the chambermaid; and as soon as she found convenient time and place, she drew Pyrrhus apart, and, as best she knew how, conveyed her lady's message to him. Which Pyrrhus found passing strange to hear, for it was in truth a complete surprise to him, and he doubted the lady did but mean to try him. Wherefore he presently, and with some asperity, answered thus,
"Lusca, believe I cannot that this message comes from my lady: have a care, therefore, what you sayst, and if, perchance, it does come from her, I doubt she does not mean it; and if perchance, she does mean it, why, then I am honoured by my lord above what I deserve, and I would not for my life do him such a wrong: so have a care never to speak of such matters to me again."
Lusca, nowise disconcerted by his uncompliant tone, rejoined,
"I shall speak to you, Pyrrhus, of these and all other matters, wherewith I may be commissioned by my lady, as often as she shall bid me, whether it pleases or irks you; but you art a blockhead."
So, somewhat chafed, Lusca bore Pyrrhus' answer back to her lady, who would fain have died, when she heard it, and some days afterwards resumed the topic, saying,
"You know, Lusca, that it is not the first stroke that fells the oak; wherefore, methinks, you wert best go back to this strange man, who is minded to evince his loyalty at my expense, and choosing a convenient time, declare to him all my passion, and do your best endeavour that the affair be carried through; for if it should thus lapse, 'twould be the death of me; besides which, he would think we had but trifled with him, and, whereas it is his love we would have, we should earn his hatred."
So, after comforting the lady, the maid hied her in quest of Pyrrhus, whom she found in a gladsome and propitious mood, and thus addressed,
"It is not many days, Pyrrhus, since I declared to you how ardent is the flame with which your lady and mine is consumed for love of you, and now again I do you to wit thereof, and that, if you shall not relent of the harshness that you didst manifest the other day, you may rest assured that her life will be short: wherefore I pray you to be pleased to give her solace of her desire, and shouldst you persist in your obduracy, I, that gave you credit for not a little sense, shall deem you a great fool. How flattered you shouldst be to know yourself beloved above all else by a lady so beauteous and high-born! And how indebted shouldst you feel yourself to Fortune, seeing that she has in store for you a boon so great and so suited to the cravings of your youth, ay, and so like to be of service to you on occasion of need! Bethink you, if there be any of yours equals whose life is ordered more agreeably than thine will be if you but be wise. Which of them will you find so well furnished with arms and horses, clothes and money as you shall be, if you but give my lady your love? Receive, then, my words with open mind; be yourself again; bethink you that it is Fortune's way to confront a man but once with smiling mien and open lap, and, if he then accept not her bounty, he has but himself to blame, if afterward he find himself in want, in beggary. Besides which, no such loyalty is demanded between servants and their masters as between friends and kinsfolk; rather it is for servants, so far as they may, to behave towards their masters as their masters behave towards them. Thinkest you, that, if you hadst a fair wife or mother or daughter or sister that found favour in Nicostratus' eyes, he would be so scrupulous on the point of loyalty as you art disposed to be in regard of his lady? You are a fool, if so you dost believe. Hold it for certain, that, if blandishments and supplications did not suffice, he would, whatever you mightest think of it, have recourse to force. Observe we, then, towards them and theirs the same rule which they observe towards us and ours. Take the boon that Fortune offers you; repulse her not; rather go you to meet her, and hail her advance; for be sure that, if you do not so, to say nothing of your lady's death, which will certainly ensue, you yourself will repent you thereof so often that you will be fain of death."
Since he had last seen Lusca, Pyrrhus had repeatedly pondered what she had said to him, and had made his mind up that, should she come again, he would answer her in another sort, and comply in all respects with the lady's desires, provided he might be assured that she was not merely putting him to the proof; wherefore he now answered,
"Lo, now, Lusca, I acknowledge the truth of all that you sayst; but, on the other hand, I know that my lord is not a little wise and wary, and, as he has committed all his affairs to my charge, I sorely misdoubt me that it is with his approbation, and by his advice, and but to prove me, that Lydia does this: wherefore let her do three things which I shall demand of her for my assurance, and then there is nothing that she shall crave of me, but I will certainly render her prompt obedience. Which three things are these: first, let her in Nicostratus' presence kill his fine sparrow-hawk: then she must send me a lock of Nicostratus' beard, and lastly one of his best teeth."
Hard seemed these terms to Lusca, and hard beyond measure to the lady, but Love, that great fautor of enterprise, and master of stratagem, gave her resolution to address herself to their performance: wherefore through the chambermaid she sent him word that what he required of her she would do, and that without either reservation or delay; and therewithal she told him, that, as he deemed Nicostratus so wise, she would contrive that they should enjoy one another in Nicostratus' presence, and that Nicostratus should believe that it was a mere show. Pyrrhus, therefore, anxiously expected what the lady would do. Some days thus passed, and then Nicostratus gave a great breakfast, as was his frequent wont, to certain gentlemen, and when the tables were removed, the lady, robed in green samite, and richly adorned, came forth of her chamber into the hall wherein they sate, and before the eyes of Pyrrhus and all the rest of the company hied her to the perch, on which stood the sparrow-hawk that Nicostratus so much prized, and loosed him, and, as if she were minded to carry him on her hand, took him by the jesses and dashed him against the wall so that he died. On which,
"Alas! my lady, what have you done?" exclaimed Nicostratus: but she vouchsafed no answer, save that, turning to the gentlemen that had sate at meat with him, she said,
"My lords, ill fitted were I to take vengeance on a king that had done me despite, if I lacked the courage to be avenged on a sparrow-hawk. You are to know that by this bird I have long been cheated of all the time that ought to be devoted by gentlemen to pleasuring their ladies; for with the first streaks of dawn Nicostratus has been up and got him to horse, and hawk on hand hied him to the champaign to see him fly, leaving me, such as you see me, alone and ill content abed. For which cause I have oftentimes been minded to do that which I have now done, and have only refrained therefrom, that, biding my time, I might do it in the presence of men that should judge my cause justly, as I trust you will do."
Which hearing, the gentlemen, who deemed her affections no less fixed on Nicostratus than her words imported, broke with one accord into a laugh, and turning to Nicostratus, who was sore displeased, fell a saying,
"Now well done of the lady to avenge her wrongs by the death of the sparrow-hawk!" and so, the lady being withdrawn to her chamber, they passed the affair off with divers pleasantries, turning the wrath of Nicostratus to laughter.
Pyrrhus, who had witnessed what had passed, said to himself: Nobly indeed has my lady begun, and on such wise as promises well for the felicity of my love. God grant that she so continue. And even so Lydia did: for not many days after she had killed the sparrow-hawk, she, being with Nicostratus in her chamber, from caressing passed to toying and trifling with him, and he, sportively pulling her by the hair, gave her occasion to fulfil the second of Pyrrhus' demands; which she did by nimbly laying hold of one of the lesser tufts of his beard, and, laughing the while, plucking it so hard that she tore it out of his chin. Which Nicostratus somewhat resenting,
"Now what cause have you," said she, "to make such a wry face? It is but that I have plucked some half-dozen hairs from your beard. You didst not feel it as much as did I but now your tugging of my hair."
And so they continued jesting and sporting with one another, the lady jealously guarding the tuft that she had torn from the beard, which the very same day she sent to her cherished lover. The third demand caused the lady more thought; but, being amply endowed with wit, and powerfully, seconded by Love, she failed not to hit on an apt expedient.
Nicostratus had in his service two lads, who, being of gentle birth, had been placed with him by their kinsfolk, that they might learn manners, one of whom, when Nicostratus sate at meat, carved before him, while the other gave him to drink. Both lads Lydia called to her, and gave them to understand that their breath smelt, and admonished them that, when they waited on Nicostratus, they should hold their heads as far back as possible, saying never a word of the matter to any. The lads believing her, did as she bade them. On which she took occasion to say to Nicostratus,
"Have you marked what these lads do when they wait on you?"
"Troth, that have I," replied Nicostratus; "indeed I have often had it in mind to ask them why they do so."
"Nay," rejoined the lady, "spare yourself the pains; for I can tell you the reason, which I have for some time kept close, lest it should vex you; but as I now see that others begin to be ware of it, it need no longer be withheld from you. It is for that your breath stinks shrewdly that they thus avert their heads from you: it was not wont to be so, nor know I why it should be so; and it is most offensive when you art in converse with gentlemen; and therefore 'twould be well to find some way of curing it."
"I wonder what it could be," returned Nicostratus; "is it perchance that I have a decayed tooth in my jaw?"
"That may well be," said Lydia: and taking him to a window, she caused him open his mouth, and after regarding it on this side and that,
"Oh! Nicostratus," said she, "how couldst you have endured it so long? You have a tooth here, which, by what I see, is not only decayed, but actually rotten throughout; and beyond all manner of doubt, if you let it remain long in your head, it will infect its neighbours; so it is my advice that you out with it before the matter grows worse."
"My judgment jumps with thine," said Nicostratus; "wherefore send without delay for a chirurgeon to draw it."
"God forbid," returned the lady, "that chirurgeon come here for such a purpose; methinks, the case is such that I can very well dispense with him, and draw the tooth myself. Besides which, these chirurgeons do these things in such a cruel way, that I could never endure to see you or know you under the hands of any of them: wherefore my mind is quite made up to do it myself, that, at least, if you shall suffer too much, I may give it over at once, as a chirurgeon would not do."
And so she caused the instruments that are used on such occasions to be brought her, and having dismissed all other attendants save Lusca from the chamber, and locked the door, made Nicostratus lie down on a table, set the pincers in his mouth, and clapped them on one of his teeth, which, while Lusca held him, so that, albeit he roared for pain, he might not move, she wrenched by main force from his jaw, and keeping it close, took from Lusca's hand another and horribly decayed tooth, which she shewed him, suffering and half dead as he was, saying,
"See what you hadst in your jaw; mark how far gone it is."
Believing what she said, and deeming that, now the tooth was out, his breath would no more be offensive, and being somewhat eased of the pain, which had been extreme, and still remained, so that he murmured not little, by divers comforting applications, he quitted the chamber: whereupon the lady forthwith sent the tooth to her lover, who, having now full assurance of her love, placed himself entirely at her service. But the lady being minded to make his assurance yet more sure, and deeming each hour a thousand till she might be with him, now saw fit, for the more ready performance of the promise she had given him, to feign sickness; and Nicostratus, coming to see her one day after breakfast, attended only by Pyrrhus, she besought him for her better solacement, to help her down to the garden. Wherefore Nicostratus on one side, and Pyrrhus on the other, took her and bore her down to the garden, and set her on a lawn at the foot of a beautiful pear-tree: and after they had sate there a while, the lady, who had already given Pyrrhus to understand what he must do, said to him,
"Pyrrhus, I should greatly like to have some of those pears; get you up the tree, and shake some of them down."
Pyrrhus climbed the tree in a trice, and began to shake down the pears, and while he did so,
"Fie! Sir," said he, "what is this you do? And you, Madam, have you no shame, that you suffer him to do so in my presence? Think you that I am blind? 'Twas but now that you were gravely indisposed. Your cure has been speedy indeed to permit of your so behaving: and as for such a purpose you have so many goodly chambers, why betake you not yourselves to one of them, if you must needs so disport yourselves? 'Twould be much more decent than to do so in my presence."
On which the lady, turning to her husband,
"Now what can Pyrrhus mean?" said she. "Is he mad?"
"Nay, Madam," said Pyrrhus; "mad am not I. Think you I see you not?" Whereat Nicostratus marvelled not a little; and,
"Pyrrhus," said he, "I verily believe you dreamest."
"Nay, my lord," replied Pyrrhus, "not a whit do I dream; neither do you; rather you wag it with such vigour, that, if this pear-tree did the like, there would be never a pear left on it."
Then the lady,
"What can this mean?" said she: "can it be that it really seems to him to be as he says? On my hope of salvation, were I but in my former health, I would get me up there to judge for myself what these wonders are which he professes to see."
On which, as Pyrrhus in the pear-tree continued talking in the same strange strain,
"Come down," said Nicostratus; and when he was down,
"Now what," said Nicostratus, "is it you sayst you seest up there?"
"I suppose," replied Pyrrhus, "that you take me to be deluded or dreaming: but as I must needs tell you the truth, I saw you lying on your wife, and then, when I came down, I saw you get up and sit you down here where you now are."
"Therein," said Nicostratus, "you wast certainly deluded, for, since you clombest the pear-tree, we have not budged a jot, save as you seest."
Then said Pyrrhus,
"Why make more words about the matter? See you I certainly did; and, seeing you, I saw you lying on your own."
Nicostratus' wonder now waxed momently, insomuch that he said,
"I am minded to see if this pear-tree be enchanted, so that whoso is in it sees marvels;" and so he got him up into it. On which the lady and Pyrrhus fell to disporting them, and Nicostratus, seeing what they were about, exclaimed,
"Ah! lewd woman, what is this you doest? And you, Pyrrhus, in whom I so much trusted!" And so saying, he began to climb down. Meanwhile the lady and Pyrrhus had answered,
"We are sitting here:" and seeing him descending, they placed themselves as they had been when he had left them, whom Nicostratus, being come down, no sooner saw, than he fell a rating them. Then said Pyrrhus,
"Verily, Nicostratus, I now acknowledge, that, as you said a while ago, what I saw when I was in the pear-tree was but a false show, albeit I had never understood that so it was but that I now see and know that you have also seen a false show. And that I speak truth, you may sufficiently assure yourself, if you but reflect whether it is likely that your wife, who for virtue and discretion has not her peer among women, would, if she were minded so to dishonour you, see fit to do so before your very eyes. Of myself I say nothing, albeit I had liefer be hewn in pieces than that I should so much as think of such a thing, much less do it in your presence. Wherefore it is evident that it is some illusion of sight that is propagated from the pear-tree; for nothing in the world would have made me believe that I saw not you lying there in carnal intercourse with your wife, had I not heard you say that you saw me doing that which most assuredly, so far from doing, I never so much as thought of."
The lady then started up with a most resentful mien, and burst out with,
"Foul fall you, if you know so little of me as to suppose that, if I were minded to do you such foul dishonour as you sayst you didst see me do, I would come here to do it before thine eyes! Rest assured that for such a purpose, were it ever mine, I should deem one of our chambers more meet, and it should go hard but I would so order the matter that you shouldst never know anything of it."
Nicostratus, having heard both, and deeming that what they both averred must be true, to wit, that they would never have ventured on such an act in his presence, passed from chiding to talk of the singularity of the thing, and how marvellous it was that the vision should reshape itself for every one that clomb the tree. The lady, however, made a show of being distressed that Nicostratus should so have thought of her, and,
"Verily," said she, "no woman, neither I nor another, shall again suffer loss of honour by this pear-tree: run, Pyrrhus, and bring here an axe, and at one and the same time vindicate your honour and mine by felling it, albeit 'twere better far Nicostratus' skull should feel the weight of the axe, seeing that in utter heedlessness he so readily suffered the eyes of his mind to be blinded; for, albeit this vision was seen by the bodily eye, yet ought the understanding by no means to have entertained and affirmed it as real."
So Pyrrhus presently hied him to fetch the axe, and returning therewith felled the pear; whereupon the lady, turning towards Nicostratus,
"Now that this foe of my honour is fallen," said she, "my wrath is gone from me."
Nicostratus then craving her pardon, she graciously granted it him, bidding him never again to suffer himself to be betrayed into thinking such a thing of her, who loved him more dearly than herself. So the poor duped husband went back with her and her lover to the palace, where not seldom in time to come Pyrrhus and Lydia took their pastime together more at ease. God grant us the like.
Two Sienese love a lady, one of them being her gossip: the gossip dies, having promised his comrade to return to him from the other world; which he does, and tells him what sort of life is led there.
None now was left to tell, save the king, who, as soon as the ladies had ceased mourning over the fall of the pear-tree, that had done no wrong, and were silent, began thus: Most manifest it is that it is the prime duty of a just king to observe the laws that he has made; and, if he do not so, he is to be esteemed no king, but a slave that has merited punishment, into which fault, and under which condemnation, I, your king, must, as of necessity, fall. For, indeed, when yesterday I made the law which governs our discourse of today, I thought not today to avail myself of my privilege, but to submit to the law, no less than you, and to discourse of the same topic whereof you all have discoursed; but not only has the very story been told which I had intended to tell, but therewithal so many things else, and so very much goodlier have been said, that, search my memory as I may, I cannot mind me of anything, nor wot I that touching such a matter there is indeed anything, for me to say, that would be comparable with what has been said; wherefore, as infringe I must the law that I myself have made, I confess myself worthy of punishment, and instantly declaring my readiness to pay any forfeit that may be demanded of me, am minded to have recourse to my wonted privilege. And such, dearest ladies, is the potency of Elisa's story of the godfather and his gossip, and therewith of the simplicity of the Sienese, that I am prompted thereby to pass from this topic of the beguilement of foolish husbands by their cunning wives to a little story touching these same Sienese, which, albeit there is not a little therein which you were best not to believe, may yet be in some degree entertaining to hear.
Know, then, that at Siena there dwelt in Porta Salaia two young men of the people, named, the one, Tingoccio Mini, the other Meuccio di Tura, who, by what appeared, loved one another not a little, for they were scarce ever out of one another's company; and being wont, like other folk, to go to church and listen to sermons, they heard from time to time of the glory and the woe, which in the other world are allotted, according to merit, to the souls of the dead. Of which matters craving, but being unable to come by, more certain assurance, they agreed together that, whichever of them should die first, should, if he might, return to the survivor, and certify him of that which he would fain know; and this agreement they confirmed with an oath. Now, after they had made this engagement, and while they were still constantly together, Tingoccio chanced to become sponsor to one Ambruogio Anselmini, that dwelt in Campo Reggi, who had had a son by his wife, Monna Mita. The lady was exceeding fair, and amorous withal, and Tingoccio being wont sometimes to visit her as his gossip, and to take Meuccio with him, he, notwithstanding his sponsorship, grew enamoured of her, as did also Meuccio, for she pleased him not a little, and he heard her much commended by Tingoccio. Which love each concealed from the other; but not for the same reason. Tingoccio was averse to discover it to Meuccio, for that he deemed it an ignominious thing to love his gossip, and was ashamed to let any one know it. Meuccio was on his guard for a very different reason, to wit, that he was already ware that the lady was in Tingoccio's good graces. Wherefore he said to himself: If I avow my love to him, he will be jealous of me, and as, being her gossip, he can speak with her as often as he pleases, he will do all he can to make her hate me, and so I shall never have any favour of her.
Now, the two young men being thus, as I have said, on terms of most familiar friendship, it befell that Tingoccio, being the better able to open his heart to the lady, did so order his demeanour and discourse that he had from her all that he desired. Nor was his friend's success hidden from Meuccio; though, much as it vexed him, yet still cherishing the hope of eventually attaining his end, and fearing to give Tingoccio occasion to baulk or hamper him in some way, he feigned to know nothing of the matter. So Tingoccio, more fortunate than his comrade, and rival in love, did with such assiduity till his gossip's good land that he got thereby a malady, which in the course of some days waxed so grievous that he succumbed thereto, and departed this life. And on the night of the third day after his decease (perchance because earlier he might not) he made his appearance, according to his promise, in Meuccio's chamber, and called Meuccio, who was fast asleep, by his name. On which,
"Who are you?" said Meuccio, as he awoke. "It is I, Tingoccio," replied he, "come back, in fulfilment of the pledge I gave you, to give you tidings of the other world."
For a while Meuccio saw him not without terror: then, his courage reviving,
"Welcome, my brother," said he: and proceeded to ask him if he were lost. "Nought is lost but what is irrecoverable," replied Tingoccio: "how then should I be here, if I were lost?"
"Nay," said then Meuccio; "I mean it not so: I would know of you, whether you art of the number of the souls that are condemned to the penal fire of hell."
"Why no," returned Tingoccio, "not just that; but still for the sins that I did I am in most sore and grievous torment."
Meuccio then questioned Tingoccio in detail of the pains there meted out for each of the sins done here; and Tingoccio enumerated them all. On which Meuccio asked if there were anything he might do for him here on earth. Tingoccio answered in the affirmative; to wit, that he might have masses and prayers said and alms-deeds done for him, for that such things were of great service to the souls there. "That gladly will I," replied Meuccio; and then, as Tingoccio was about to take his leave, he bethought him of the gossip, and raising his head a little, he said,
"I mind me, Tingoccio, of the gossip, with whom you wast wont to lie when you wast here. Now what is your punishment for that?"
"My brother," returned Tingoccio, "as soon as I got down there, I met one that seemed to know all my sins by heart, who bade me betake me to a place, where, while in direst torment I bewept my sins, I found comrades not a few condemned to the same pains; and so, standing there among them, and calling to mind what I had done with the gossip, and foreboding in requital thereof a much greater torment than had yet been allotted me, albeit I was in a great and most vehement flame, I quaked for fear in every part of me. Which one that was beside me observing: 'What,' said he, 'have you done more than the rest of us that are here, that you quakest thus as you standest in the fire?' 'My friend,' said I, 'I am in mortal fear of the doom that I expect for a great sin that I once committed.' He then asked what sin it might be. ''Twas on this wise,' replied I: 'I lay with my gossip, and that so much that I died thereof.' Whereat, he did but laugh, saying: 'Go to, fool, make your mind easy; for here there is no account taken of gossips.' Which completely revived my drooping spirits."
'Twas now near daybreak: wherefore,
"Adieu! Meuccio," said his friend: "for longer tarry with you I may not;" and so he vanished. As for Meuccio, having learned that no account was taken of gossips in the other world, he began to laugh at his own folly in that he had already spared divers such; and so, being quit of his ignorance, he in that respect in course of time waxed wise. Which matters had Fra Rinaldo but known, he would not have needed to go about syllogizing in order to bring his fair gossip to pleasure him.
The sun was westering, and a light breeze blew, when the king, his story ended, and none else being left to speak, arose, and taking off the crown, set it on Lauretta's head, saying,
"Madam, I crown you with yourself (1) queen of our company: it is now for you, as our sovereign lady, to make such ordinances as you shall deem meet for our common solace and delectation;" and having so said, he sat him down again. Queen Lauretta sent for the seneschal, and bade him have a care that the tables should be set in the pleasant vale somewhat earlier than had been their wont, that their return to the palace might be more leisurely; after which she gave him to know what else he had to do during her sovereignty. Then turning to the company,
"Yesterday," said she, "Dioneo would have it that today we should discourse of the tricks that wives play their husbands; and but that I am minded not to shew as of the breed of yelping curs, that are ever prompt to retaliate, I would ordain that tomorrow we discourse of the tricks that husbands play their wives. However, in lieu thereof, I will have every one take thought to tell of those tricks that, daily, woman plays man, or man woman, or one man another; wherein, I doubt not, there will be matter of discourse no less agreeable than has been that of today."
So saying, she rose and dismissed the company till supper-time. So the ladies and the men being risen, some bared their feet and betook them to the clear water, there to disport them, while others took their pleasure on the green lawn amid the trees that there grew goodly and straight. For no brief while Dioneo and Fiammetta sang in concert of Arcite and Palamon. And so, each and all taking their several pastimes, they sped the hours with exceeding great delight till supper-time. Which being come, they sat them down at table beside the little lake, and there, while a thousand songsters charmed their ears, and a gentle breeze, that blew from the environing hills, fanned them, and never a fly annoyed them, reposefully and joyously they supped. The tables removed, they roved a while about the pleasant vale, and then, the sun being still high, for it was but half vespers, the queen gave the word, and they wended their way back to their wonted abode, and going slowly, and beguiling the way with quips and quirks without number on divers matters, nor those alone of which they had that day discoursed, they arrived, hard on nightfall, at the goodly palace. There, the short walk's fatigue dispelled by wines most cool and comfits, they presently gathered for the dance about the fair fountain, and now they footed it to the strains of Tindaro's cornemuse, and now to other music. Which done, the queen bade Filomena give them a song; and thus Filomena sang:
Ah! woe is me, my soul! Ah! shall I ever there fare again Whence I was parted to my grievous dole?
Full sure I know not; but within my breast Throbs ever the same fire Of yearning there where erst I was to be. O you in whom is all my weal, my rest, Lord of my heart's desire, Ah! tell me you! for none to ask save you Neither dare I, nor see. Ah! dear my Lord, this wasted heart disdain You will not, but with hope at length console.
Kindled the flame I know not what delight, Which me does so devour, That day and night alike I find no ease; For whether it was by hearing, touch, or sight, Unwonted was the power, And fresh the fire that me each way did seize; Wherein without release I languish still, and of you, Lord, am fain, For you alone can comfort and make whole.
Ah! tell me if it shall be, and how soon, That I again you meet Where those death-dealing eyes I kissed. You, chief Weal of my soul, my very soul, this boon Deny not; say that fleet You hiest here: comfort thus my grief. Ah! let the time be brief Till you art here, and then long time remain; For I, Love-stricken, crave but Love's control.
Let me but once again mine own you call, No more so indiscreet As erst, I'll be, to let you from me part: Nay, I'll still hold you, let what may befall, And of your mouth so sweet Such solace take as may content my heart So this be all my art, Thee to entice, me with thine arms to enchain: Whereon but musing inly chants my soul.
This song set all the company conjecturing what new and delightsome love might now hold Filomena in its sway; and as its words imported that she had had more joyance thereof than sight alone might yield, some that were there grew envious of her excess of happiness. However, the song being ended, the queen, bethinking her that the morrow was Friday, thus graciously addressed them all,
"Ye wot, noble ladies, and ye also, my gallants, that tomorrow is the day that is sacred to the passion of our Lord, which, if ye remember, we kept devoutly when Neifile was queen, intermitting delectable discourse, as we did also on the ensuing Saturday. Wherefore, being minded to follow Neifile's excellent example, I deem that now, as then, 'twere a seemly thing to surcease from this our pastime of story-telling for those two days, and compose our minds to meditation on what was at that season accomplished for the weal of our souls."
All the company having approved their queen's devout speech, she, as the night was now far spent, dismissed them; and so they all betook them to slumber.
1) A play on laurea (laurel wreath) and Lauretta.
Here ends the seventh day of the Decameron, beginneth the eighth, in which, under the rule of Lauretta, discourse is had of those tricks that, daily, woman plays man, or man woman, or one man another.
The summits of the loftiest mountains were already illumined by the rays of the rising sun, the shades of night were fled, and all things plainly visible, when the queen and her company arose, and hied them first to the dewy mead, where for a while they walked: then, about half tierce, they wended their way to a little church that was hard by, where they heard Divine service; after which, they returned to the palace, and having breakfasted with gay and gladsome cheer, and sung and danced a while, were dismissed by the queen, to rest them as to each might seem good. But when the sun was past the meridian, the queen mustered them again for their wonted pastime; and, all being seated by the fair fountain, thus, at her command, Neifile began.
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