|Giovanni Boccaccio - Opera Omnia >> The Decameron|
ilboccaccio text integral passage complete quotation of the sources works historical literary works in prose and in verses prologue preface
BEGINNETH THE NINTH DAY, IN WHICH, UNDER THE RULE OF EMILIA, DISCOURSE IS HAD, AT THE DISCRETION OF EACH, OF SUCH MATTERS AS MOST COMMEND THEMSELVES TO EACH IN TURN.
Translated by J.M. Rigg
[ INTRODUCTION ]
The luminary, before whose splendour the night takes wing, had already changed the eighth heaven from azure to the lighter blue, and in the meads the flowerets were beginning to lift their heads, when Emilia, being risen, roused her fair gossips, and, likewise, the young men. And so the queen leading the way at an easy pace, and the rest of the company following, they hied them to a copse at no great distance from the palace. Where, being entered, they saw the goats and stags and other wild creatures, as if witting that in this time of pestilence they had nought to fear from the hunter, stand awaiting them with no more sign of fear than if they had been tamed: and so, making now towards this, now towards the other of them as if to touch them, they diverted themselves for a while by making them skip and run.
But, as soon as the sun was in the ascendant, by common consent they turned back, and whoso met them, garlanded as they were with oak-leaves, and carrying store of fragrant herbs or flowers in their hands might well have said: -- "Either shall death not vanquish these, or they will meet it with a light heart." So, slowly wended they their way, now singing, now bandying quips and merry jests, to the palace, where they found all things in order meet, and their servants in blithe and merry cheer. A while they rested, nor went they to table until six ditties, each gayer than that which went before, had been sung by the young men and the ladies; which done, they washed their hands, and all by the queen's command were ranged by the seneschal at the table; and, the viands being served, they cheerily took their meal: wherefrom being risen, they trod some measures to the accompaniment of music; and then, by the queen's command, whoso would betook him to rest. However, the accustomed hour being come, they all gathered at the wonted spot for their discoursing, and the queen, bending her regard upon Filomena, bade her make a beginning of the day's story-telling, which she with a smile did on this wise: --
Madonna Francesca, having two lovers, the one Rinuccio, the other Alessandro, by name, and loving neither of them, induces the one to simulate a corpse in a tomb, and the other to enter the tomb to fetch him out: whereby, neither satisfying her demands, she artfully rids herself of both.
Madam, since so it pleases you, well pleased am I that in this vast, this boundless field of discourse, which you, our Lady Bountiful, have furnished us withal, 'tis mine to run the first course; wherein if I do well, I doubt not that those, who shall follow me, will do not only well but better. Such, sweet my ladies, has been the tenor of our discourse, that times not a few the might of Love, how great and singular it is, has been set forth, but yet I doubt the topic is not exhausted, nor would it be so, though we should continue to speak of nought else for the space of a full year. And as Love not only leads lovers to debate with themselves whether they were not best to die, but also draws them into the houses of the dead in quest of the dead, I am minded in this regard to tell you a story, wherein you will not only discern the power of Love, but will also learn how the ready wit of a worthy lady enabled her to disembarrass herself of two lovers, whose love was displeasing to her.
Know, then, that there dwelt aforetime in the city of Pistoia a most beauteous widow lady, of whom it so befell that two of our citizens, the one Rinuccio Palermini, the other Alessandro Chiarmontesi, by name, tarrying at Pistoia, for that they were banished from Florence, became, neither witting how it stood with the other, in the last degree enamoured. Wherefore each used all his arts to win the love of Madonna Francesca de' Lazzari -- such was the lady's name -- and she, being thus continually plied with ambassages and entreaties on the part of both, and having indiscreetly lent ear to them from time to time, found it no easy matter discreetly to extricate herself, when she was minded to be rid of their pestering, until it occurred to her to adopt the following expedient, to wit, to require of each a service, such as, though not impracticable, she deemed none would actually perform, to the end that, they making default, she might have a decent and colourable pretext for refusing any longer to receive their ambassages. Which expedient was on this wise.
One day there died in Pistoia, and was buried in a tomb outside the church of the Friars Minors, a man, who, though his forbears had been gentlefolk, was reputed the very worst man, not in Pistoia only, but in all the world, and therewithal he was of form and feature so preternaturally hideous that whoso knew him not could scarce see him for the first time without a shudder. Now, the lady pondering her design on the day of this man's death, it occurred to her that he might in a measure subserve its accomplishment:
wherefore she said to her maid: -- "Thou knowest to what worry and annoyance I am daily put by the ambassages of these two Florentines, Rinuccio, and Alessandro. Now I am not disposed to gratify either of them with my love, and therefore, to shake them off, I am minded, as they make such great protestations, to put them to the proof by requiring of each something which I am sure he will not perform, and thus to rid myself of their pestering: so list what I mean to do. Thou knowest that this morning there was interred in the ground of the Friars Minors this Scannadio (such was the name of the bad man of whom we spoke but now) whose aspect, while he yet lived, appalled even the bravest among us. Thou wilt therefore go privily, to Alessandro, and say to him: -- 'Madonna Francesca sends thee word by me that the time is now come when thou mayst win that which thou hast so much desired, to wit, her love and joyance thereof, if thou be so minded, on the following terms. For a reason, which thou shalt learn hereafter, one of her kinsmen is to bring home to her to-night the corpse of Scannadio, who was buried this morning; and she, standing in mortal dread of this dead man, would fain not see him; wherefore she prays thee to do her a great service, and be so good as to get thee this evening at the hour of first sleep to the tomb wherein Scannadio is buried, and go in, and having wrapped thyself in his grave-clothes, lie there, as thou wert Scannadio, himself, until one come for thee, when thou must say never a word, but let him carry thee forth, and bear thee to Madonna Francesca's house, where she will give thee welcome, and let thee stay with her, until thou art minded to depart, and, for the rest, thou wilt leave it to her.' And if he says that he will gladly do so, well and good; if not, then thou wilt tell him from me, never more to shew himself where I am, and, as he values his life, to have a care to send me no more ambassages. Which done, thou wilt go to Rinuccio Palermini, and wilt say to him: -- 'Madonna Francesca lets thee know that she is ready in all respects to comply with thy wishes, so thou wilt do her a great service, which is on this wise: to-night, about midnight, thou must go to the tomb wherein was this morning interred Scannadio, and saying never a word, whatever thou mayst hear or otherwise be ware of, bear him gently forth to Madonna Francesca's house, where thou shalt learn wherefore she requires this of thee, and shalt have thy solace of her; and if thou art not minded to obey her in this, see that thou never more send her ambassage.'"
The maid did her mistress's errand, omitting nothing, to both the men, and received from each the same answer, to wit, that to pleasure the lady, he would adventure a journey to hell, to say nothing of entering a tomb. With which answer the maid returned to the lady, who waited to see if they would be such fools as to make it good.
Night came, and at the hour of first sleep Alessandro Chiarmontesi, stripped to his doublet, quitted his house, and bent his steps towards Scannadio's tomb, with intent there to take the dead man's place. As he walked, there came upon him a great fear, and he fell a saying to himself: -- Ah! what a fool am I! Whither go I? How know I that her kinsmen, having detected my love, and surmising that which is not, have not put her upon requiring this of me, in order that they may slay me in the tomb? In which event I alone should be the loser, for nought would ever be heard of it, so that they would escape scot-free. Or how know I but that 'tis some machination of one of my ill-wishers, whom perchance she loves, and is therefore minded to abet? And again quoth he to himself: -- But allowing that 'tis neither the one nor the other, and that her kinsmen are really to carry me to her house, I scarce believe that 'tis either that they would fain embrace Scannadio's corpse themselves, or let her do so: rather it must be that they have a mind to perpetrate some outrage upon it, for that, perchance, he once did them an evil turn. She bids me say never a word, no matter what I may hear or be otherwise ware of. Suppose they were to pluck out my eyes, or my teeth, or cut off my hands, or treat me to some other horse-play of the like sort, how then? how could I keep quiet? And if I open my mouth, they will either recognize me, and perchance do me a mischief, or, if they spare me, I shall have been at pains for nought, for they will not leave me with the lady, and she will say that I disobeyed her command, and I shall never have aught of her favours.
As thus he communed with himself, he was on the point of turning back; but his overmastering love plied him with opposing arguments of such force that he kept on his way, and reached the tomb; which having opened, he entered, and after stripping Scannadio, and wrapping himself in the grave-clothes, closed it, and laid himself down in Scannadio's place. He then fell a thinking of the dead man, and his manner of life, and the things which he had heard tell of as happening by night, and in other less appalling places than the houses of the dead; whereby all the hairs of his head stood on end, and he momently expected Scannadio to rise and cut his throat. However, the ardour of his love so fortified him that he overcame these and all other timorous apprehensions, and lay as if he were dead, awaiting what should betide him.
Towards midnight Rinuccio, bent likewise upon fulfilling his lady's behest, sallied forth of his house, revolving as he went divers forebodings of possible contingencies, as that, having Scannadio's corpse upon his shoulders, he might fall into the hands of the Signory, and be condemned to the fire as a wizard, or that, should the affair get wind, it might embroil him with his kinsfolk, or the like, which gave him pause. But then with a revulsion of feeling: -- Shall I, quoth he to himself, deny this lady, whom I so much have loved and love, the very first thing that she asks of me? And that too when I am thereby to win her favour? No, though 'twere as much as my life is worth, far be it from me to fail of keeping my word.
So on he fared, and arrived at the tomb, which he had no difficulty in opening, and being entered, laid hold of Alessandro, who, though in mortal fear, had given no sign of life, by the feet, and dragged him forth, and having hoisted him on to his shoulders, bent his steps towards the lady's house. And as he went, being none too careful of Alessandro, he swung him from time to time against one or other of the angles of certain benches that were by the wayside; and indeed the night was so dark and murky that he could not see where he was going. And when he was all but on the threshold of the lady's house (she standing within at a window with her maid, to mark if Rinuccio would bring Alessandro, and being already provided with an excuse for sending them both away), it so befell that the patrol of the Signory, who were posted in the street in dead silence, being on the look-out for a certain bandit, hearing the tramp of Rinuccio's feet, suddenly shewed a light, the better to know what was toward, and whither to go, and advancing targes and lances, cried out: -- "Who goes there?" Whereupon Rinuccio, having little leisure for deliberation, let Alessandro fall, and took to flight as fast as his legs might carry him. Alessandro, albeit encumbered by the graveclothes, which were very long, also jumped up and made off.
By the light shewn by the patrol the lady had very plainly perceived Rinuccio, with Alessandro on his back, as also that Alessandro had the grave-clothes upon him; and much did she marvel at the daring of both, but, for all that, she laughed heartily to see Rinuccio drop Alessandro, and Alessandro run away. Overjoyed at the turn the affair had taken, and praising God that He had rid her of their harass, she withdrew from the window, and betook her to her chamber, averring to her maid that for certain they must both be mightily in love with her, seeing that 'twas plain they had both done her bidding.
Crestfallen and cursing his evil fortune, Rinuccio nevertheless went not home, but, as soon as the street was clear of the patrol, came back to the spot where he had dropped Alessandro, and stooped down and began feeling about, if haply he might find him, and so do his devoir to the lady; but, as he found him not, he supposed the patrol must have borne him thence, and so at last home he went; as did also Alessandro, knowing not what else to do, and deploring his mishap.
On the morrow, Scannadio's tomb being found open and empty, for Alessandro had thrown the corpse into the vault below, all Pistoia debated of the matter with no small diversity of opinion, the fools believing that Scannadio had been carried off by devils. Neither of the lovers, however, forbore to make suit to the lady for her favour and love, telling her what he had done, and what had happened, and praying her to have him excused that he had not perfectly carried out her instructions. But she, feigning to believe neither of them, disposed of each with the same curt answer, to wit, that, as he had not done her bidding, she would never do aught for him.
An abbess rises in haste and in the dark, with intent to surprise an accused nun abed with her lover: thinking to put on her veil, she puts on instead the breeches of a priest that she has with her: the nun, espying her headgear, and doing her to wit thereof, is acquitted, and thenceforth finds it easier to forgather with her lover.
So ended Filomena; and when all had commended the address shewn by the lady in ridding herself of the two lovers that she affected not, and contrariwise had censured the hardihood of the two lovers as not love but madness, the queen turned to Elisa, and with a charming air: -- "Now, Elisa, follow," quoth she: whereupon Elisa began on this wise:
-- Dearest ladies, 'twas cleverly done of Madonna Francesca, to disembarrass herself in the way we have heard: but I have to tell of a young nun, who by a happy retort, and the favour of Fortune, delivered herself from imminent peril. And as you know that there are not a few most foolish folk, who, notwithstanding their folly, take upon themselves the governance and correction of others; so you may learn from my story that Fortune at times justly puts them to shame; which befell the abbess, who was the superior of the nun of whom I am about to speak.
You are to know, then, that in a convent in Lombardy of very great repute for strict and holy living there was, among other ladies that there wore the veil, a young woman of noble family, and extraordinary beauty. Now Isabetta -- for such was her name -- having speech one day of one of her kinsmen at the grate, became enamoured of a fine young gallant that was with him; who, seeing her to be very fair, and reading her passion in her eyes, was kindled with a like flame for her: which mutual and unsolaced love they bore a great while not without great suffering to both. But at length, both being intent thereon, the gallant discovered a way by which he might with all secrecy visit his nun; and she approving, he paid her not one visit only, but many, to their no small mutual solace.
But, while thus they continued their intercourse, it so befell that one night one of the sisters observed him take his leave of Isabetta and depart, albeit neither he nor she was ware that they had thus been discovered. The sister imparted what she had seen to several others. At first they were minded to denounce her to the abbess, one Madonna Usimbalda, who was reputed by the nuns, and indeed by all that knew her, to be a good and holy woman; but on second thoughts they deemed it expedient, that there might be no room for denial, to cause the abbess to take her and the gallant in the act. So they held their peace, and arranged between them to keep her in watch and close espial, that they might catch her unawares.
Of which practice Isabetta recking, witting nought, it so befell that one night, when she had her lover to see her, the sisters that were on the watch were soon ware of it, and at what they deemed the nick of time parted into two companies of which one mounted guard at the threshold of Isabetta's cell, while the other hasted to the abbess's chamber, and knocking at the door, roused her, and as soon as they heard her voice, said: -- "Up, Madam, without delay: we have discovered that Isabetta has a young man with her in her cell."
Now that night the abbess had with her a priest whom she used not seldom to have conveyed to her in a chest; and the report of the sisters making her apprehensive lest for excess of zeal and hurry they should force the door open, she rose in a trice; and huddling on her clothes as best she might in the dark, instead of the veil that they wear, which they call the psalter, she caught up the priest's breeches, and having clapped them on her head, hied her forth, and locked the door behind her, saying: -- "Where is this woman accursed of God?" And so, guided by the sisters, all so agog to catch Isabetta a sinning that they perceived not what manner of headgear the abbess wore, she made her way to the cell, and with their aid broke open the door; and entering they found the two lovers abed in one another's arms; who, as it were, thunderstruck to be thus surprised, lay there, witting not what to do. The sisters took the young nun forthwith, and by command of the abbess brought her to the chapter-house. The gallant, left behind in the cell, put on his clothes and waited to see how the affair would end, being minded to make as many nuns as he might come at pay dearly for any despite that might be done his mistress, and to bring her off with him.
The abbess, seated in the chapter-house with all her nuns about her, and all eyes bent upon the culprit, began giving her the severest reprimand that ever woman got, for that by her disgraceful and abominable conduct, should it get wind, she had sullied the fair fame of the convent; whereto she added menaces most dire.
Shamefast and timorous, the culprit essayed no defence, and her silence begat pity of her in the rest; but, while the abbess waxed more and more voluble, it chanced that the girl raised her head and espied the abbess's headgear, and the points that hung down on this side and that. The significance whereof being by no means lost upon her, she quite plucked up heart, and: -- "Madam," quoth she, "so help you God, tie up your coif, and then you may say what you will to me."
Whereto the abbess, not understanding her, replied: -- "What coif, lewd woman? So thou hast the effrontery to jest! Think'st thou that what thou hast done is a matter meet for jests?"
Whereupon: -- "Madam," quoth the girl again, "I pray you, tie up your coif, and then you may say to me whatever you please." Which occasioned not a few of the nuns to look up at the abbess's head, and the abbess herself to raise her hands thereto, and so she and they at one and the same time apprehended Isabetta's meaning.
Wherefore the abbess, finding herself detected by all in the same sin, and that no disguise was possible, changed her tone, and held quite another sort of language than before, the upshot of which was that 'twas impossible to withstand the assaults of the flesh, and that, accordingly, observing due secrecy as theretofore, all might give themselves a good time, as they had opportunity. So, having dismissed Isabetta to rejoin her lover in her cell, she herself returned to lie with her priest. And many a time thereafter, in spite of the envious, Isabetta had her gallant to see her, the others, that lacked lovers, doing in secret the best they might to push their fortunes.
Master Simone, at the instance of Bruno and Buffalmacco and Nello, makes Calandrino believe that he is with child. Calandrino, accordingly, gives them capons and money for medicines, and is cured without being delivered.
When Elisa had ended her story, and all had given thanks to God that He had vouchsafed the young nun a happy escape from the fangs of her envious companions, the queen bade Filostrato follow suit; and without expecting a second command, thus Filostrato began:
-- Fairest my ladies, the uncouth judge from the Marches, of whom I told you yesterday, took from the tip of my tongue a story of Calandrino, which I was on the point of narrating: and as nought can be said of him without mightily enhancing our jollity, albeit not a little has already been said touching him and his comrades, I will now give you the story which I had meant yesterday to give you.
Who they were, this Calandrino and the others that I am to tell of in this story, has already been sufficiently explained; wherefore, without more ado, I say that one of Calandrino's aunts having died, leaving him two hundred pounds in petty cash, Calandrino gave out that he was minded to purchase an estate, and, as if he had had ten thousand florins of gold to invest, engaged every broker in Florence to treat for him, the negotiation always falling through, as soon as the price was named. Bruno and Buffalmacco, knowing what was afoot, told him again and again that he had better give himself a jolly time with them than go about buying earth as if he must needs make pellets; but so far were they from effecting their purpose, that they could not even prevail upon him to give them a single meal.
Whereat as one day they grumbled, being joined by a comrade of theirs, one Nello, also a painter, they all three took counsel how they might wet their whistle at Calandrino's expense; and, their plan being soon concerted, the next morning Calandrino was scarce gone out, when Nello met him, saying: -- "Good day, Calandrino:" whereto Calandrino replied: -- "God give thee a good day and a good year."
Nello then drew back a little, and looked him steadily in the face, until: -- "What seest thou to stare at?" quoth Calandrino.
"Hadst thou no pain in the night?" returned Nello; "thou seemest not thyself to me."
Which Calandrino no sooner heard, than he began to be disquieted, and: -- "Alas! How sayst thou?" quoth he. "What tak'st thou to be the matter with me?" "Why, as to that I have nothing to say," returned Nello; "but thou seemest to be quite changed: perchance 'tis not what I suppose;" and with that he left him. Calandrino, anxious, though he could not in the least have said why, went on; and soon Buffalmacco, who was not far off, and had observed him part from Nello, made up to him, and greeted him, asking him if he was not in pain. "I cannot say," replied Calandrino; "'twas but now that Nello told me that I looked quite changed: can it be that there is aught the matter with me?"
"Aught?" quoth Buffalmacco, "ay, indeed, there might be a trifle the matter with thee. Thou look'st to be half dead, man."
Calandrino now began to think he must have a fever. And then up came Bruno; and the first thing he said was: -- "Why, Calandrino, how ill thou look'st! thy appearance is that of a corpse. How dost thou feel?"
To be thus accosted by all three left no doubt in Calandrino's mind that he was ill, and so: -- "What shall I do?" quoth he, in a great fright.
"My advice," replied Bruno, "is that thou go home and get thee to bed and cover thee well up, and send thy water to Master Simone, who, as thou knowest, is such a friend of ours. He will tell thee at once what thou must do; and we will come to see thee, and will do aught that may be needful."
And Nello then joining them, they all three went home with Calandrino, who, now quite spent, went straight to his room, and said to his wife: -- "Come now, wrap me well up; I feel very ill."
And so he laid himself on the bed, and sent a maid with his water to Master Simone, who had then his shop in the Mercato Vecchio, at the sign of the pumpkin. Whereupon quoth Bruno to his comrades: -- "You will stay here with him, and I will go hear what the doctor has to say, and if need be, will bring him hither."
"Prithee, do so, my friend," quoth Calandrino, "and bring me word how it is with me, for I feel as how I cannot say in my inside."
So Bruno hied him to Master Simone, and before the maid arrived with the water, told him what was afoot. The Master, thus primed, inspected the water, and then said to the maid: -- "Go tell Calandrino to keep himself very warm, and I will come at once, and let him know what is the matter with him, and what he must do."
With which message the maid was scarce returned, when the Master and Bruno arrived, and the Master, having seated himself beside Calandrino, felt his pulse, and by and by, in the presence of his wife, said: -- "Harkye, Calandrino, I speak to thee as a friend, and I tell thee that what is amiss with thee is just that thou art with child."
Whereupon Calandrino cried out querulously: -- "Woe's me! 'Tis thy doing, Tessa, for that thou must needs be uppermost: I told thee plainly what would come of it,"
Whereat the lady, being not a little modest, coloured from brow to neck, and with downcast eyes, withdrew from the room, saying never a word by way of answer. Calandrino ran on in the same plaintive strain: -- "Alas! woe's me! What shall I do? How shall I be delivered of this child? What passage can it find? Ah! I see only too plainly that the lasciviousness of this wife of mine has been the death of me: God make her as wretched as I would fain be happy! Were I as well as I am not, I would get me up and thrash her, till I left not a whole bone in her body, albeit it does but serve me right for letting her get the upper place; but if I do win through this, she shall never have it again; verily she might pine to death for it, but she should not have it."
Which to hear, Bruno and Buffalmacco and Nello were like to burst with suppressed laughter, and Master Scimmione laughed so frantically, that all his teeth were ready to start from his jaws. However, at length, in answer to Calandrino's appeals and entreaties for counsel and succour: -- "Calandrino," quoth the Master, "thou mayst dismiss thy fears, for, God be praised, we were apprised of thy state in such good time that with but little trouble, in the course of a few days, I shall set thee right; but 'twill cost a little."
"Woe's me," returned Calandrino, "be it so, Master, for the love of God: I have here two hundred pounds, with which I had thoughts of buying an estate: take them all, all, if you must have all, so only I may escape being delivered, for I know not how I should manage it, seeing that women, albeit 'tis much easier for them, do make such a noise in the hour of their labour, that I misdoubt me, if I suffered so, I should die before I was delivered."
"Disquiet not thyself," said the doctor: "I will have a potion distilled for thee; of rare virtue it is, and not a little palatable, and in the course of three days 'twill purge thee of all, and leave thee in better fettle than a fish; but thou wilt do well to be careful thereafter, and commit no such indiscretions again. Now to make this potion we must have three pair of good fat capons, and, for divers other ingredients, thou wilt give one of thy friends here five pounds in small change to purchase them, and thou wilt have everything sent to my shop, and so, please God, I will send thee this distilled potion to-morrow morning, and thou wilt take a good beakerful each time."
Whereupon: -- "Be it as you bid, Master mine," quoth Calandrino, and handing Bruno five pounds, and money enough to purchase three pair of capons, he begged him, if it were not too much trouble, to do him the service to buy these things for him.
So away went the doctor, and made a little decoction by way of draught, and sent it him. Bruno bought the capons and all else that was needed to furnish forth the feast, with which he and his comrades and the doctor regaled them. Calandrino drank of the decoction for three mornings, after which he had a visit from his friends and the doctor, who felt his pulse, and then: -- "Beyond a doubt, Calandrino," quoth he, "thou art cured, and so thou hast no more occasion to keep indoors, but needst have no fear to do whatever thou hast a mind to."
Much relieved, Calandrino got up, and resumed his accustomed way of life, and, wherever he found any one to talk to, was loud in praise of Master Simone for the excellent manner in which he had cured him, causing him in three days without the least suffering to be quit of his pregnancy. And Bruno and Buffalmacco and Nello were not a little pleased with themselves that they had so cleverly got the better of Calandrino's niggardliness, albeit Monna Tessa, who was not deceived, murmured not a little against her husband.
Cecco, son of Messer Fortarrigo, loses his all at play at Buonconvento, besides the money of Cecco, son of Messer Angiulieri; whom, running after him in his shirt and crying out that he has robbed him, he causes to be taken by peasants: he then puts on his clothes, mounts his palfrey, and leaves him to follow in his shirt.
All the company laughed beyond measure to hear what Calandrino said touching his wife: but, when Filostrato had done, Neifile, being bidden by the queen, thus began:
-- Noble ladies, were it not more difficult for men to evince their good sense and virtue than their folly and their vice, many would labour in vain to set bounds to their flow of words: whereof you have had a most conspicuous example in poor blundering Calandrino, who, for the better cure of that with which in his simplicity he supposed himself to be afflicted, had no sort of need to discover in public his wife's secret pleasures. Which affair has brought to my mind one that fell out contrariwise, inasmuch as the guile of one discomfited the good sense of another to the grievous loss and shame of the discomfited: the manner whereof I am minded to relate to you.
'Tis not many years since there were in Siena two young men, both of age, and both alike named Cecco, the one being son of Messer Angiulieri, the other of Messer Fortarrigo. Who, albeit in many other respects their dispositions accorded ill, agreed so well in one, to wit, that they both hated their fathers, that they became friends, and kept much together. Now Angiulieri, being a pretty fellow, and well-mannered, could not brook to live at Siena on the allowance made him by his father, and learning that there was come into the March of Ancona, as legate of the Pope, a cardinal, to whom he was much bounden, resolved to resort to him there, thinking thereby to improve his circumstances. So, having acquainted his father with his purpose, he prevailed upon him to give him there and then all that he would have given him during the next six months, that he might have the wherewith to furnish himself with apparel and a good mount, so as to travel in a becoming manner.
And as he was looking out for some one to attend him as his servant, Fortarrigo, hearing of it, came presently to him and besought him with all earnestness to take him with him as his groom, or servant, or what he would, and he would be satisfied with his keep, without any salary whatsoever. Whereto Angiulieri made answer that he was not disposed to take him, not but that he well knew that he was competent for any service that might be required of him, but because he was given to play, and therewithal would at times get drunk. Fortarrigo assured him with many an oath that he would be on his guard to commit neither fault, and added thereto such instant entreaties, that Angiulieri was, as it were, vanquished, and consented.
So one morning they took the road for Buonconvento, being minded there to breakfast. Now when Angiulieri had breakfasted, as 'twas a very hot day, he had a bed made in the inn, and having undressed with Fortarrigo's help, he composed himself to sleep, telling Fortarrigo to call him on the stroke of none. Angiulieri thus sleeping, Fortarrigo repaired to the tavern, where, having slaked his thirst, he sate down to a game with some that were there, who speedily won from him all his money, and thereafter in like manner all the clothes he had on his back: wherefore he, being anxious to retrieve his losses, went, stripped as he was to his shirt, to the room where lay Angiulieri; and seeing that he was sound asleep, he took from his purse all the money that he had, and so went back to the gaming-table, and staked it, and lost it all, as he had his own.
By and by Angiulieri awoke, and got up, and dressed, and called for Fortarrigo; and as Fortarrigo answered not, he supposed that he must have had too much to drink, and be sleeping it off somewhere, as was his wont. He accordingly determined to leave him alone; and doubting not to find a better servant at Corsignano, he let saddle his palfrey and attach the valise; but when, being about to depart, he would have paid the host, never a coin could he come by. Whereat there was no small stir, so that all the inn was in an uproar, Angiulieri averring that he had been robbed in the house, and threatening to have them all arrested and taken to Siena; when, lo, who should make his appearance but Fortarrigo in his shirt, intent now to steal the clothes, as he had stolen the moneys, of Angiulieri? And marking that Angiulieri was accoutred for the road: -- "How is this, Angiulieri?" quoth he. "Are we to start so soon? Nay, but wait a little. One will be here presently that has my doublet in pawn for thirty-eight soldi; I doubt not he will return it me for thirty-five soldi, if I pay money down."
And while they were yet talking, in came one that made it plain to Angiulieri that 'twas Fortarrigo that had robbed him of his money, for he told him the amount that Fortarrigo had lost. Whereat Angiulieri, in a towering passion, rated Fortarrigo right soundly, and, but that he stood more in fear of man than of God, would have suited action to word; and so, threatening to have him hanged by the neck and proclaimed an outlaw at the gallows-tree of Siena, he mounted his horse.
Fortarrigo, making as if 'twas not to him, but to another, that Angiulieri thus spoke, made answer: -- "Come now, Angiulieri, we were best have done with all this idle talk, and consider the matter of substance: we can redeem for thirty-five soldi, if we pay forthwith, but if we wait till to-morrow, we shall not get off with less than thirty-eight, the full amount of the loan; and 'tis because I staked by his advice that he will make me this allowance. Now why should not we save these three soldi?"
Whereat Angiulieri waxed well-nigh desperate, more particularly that he marked that the bystanders were scanning him suspiciously, as if, so far from understanding that Fortarrigo had staked and lost his, Angiulieri's money, they gave him credit for still being in funds: so he cried out: -- "What have I to do with thy doublet? 'Tis high time thou wast hanged by the neck, that, not content with robbing me and gambling away my money, thou must needs also keep me in parley here and make mock of me, when I would fain be gone."
Fortarrigo, however, still persisted in making believe that Angiulieri did not mean this for him, and only said: -- "Nay, but why wilt not thou save me these three soldi? Think'st thou I can be of no more use to thee? Prithee, an thou lov'st me, do me this turn. Wherefore in such a hurry? We have time enough to get to Torrenieri this evening. Come now, out with thy purse. Thou knowest I might search Siena through, and not find a doublet that would suit me so well as this: and for all I let him have it for thirty-eight soldi, 'tis worth forty or more; so thou wilt wrong me twice over."
Vexed beyond measure that, after robbing him, Fortarrigo should now keep him clavering about the matter, Angiulieri made no answer, but turned his horse's head, and took the road for Torrenieri. But Fortarrigo with cunning malice trotted after him in his shirt, and 'twas still his doublet, his doublet, that he would have of him: and when they had thus ridden two good miles, and Angiulieri was forcing the pace to get out of earshot of his pestering, Fortarrigo espied some husbandmen in a field beside the road a little ahead of Angiulieri, and fell a shouting to them amain: -- "Take thief! take thief!" Whereupon they came up with their spades and their mattocks, and barred Angiulieri's way, supposing that he must have robbed the man that came shouting after him in his shirt, and stopped him and apprehended him; and little indeed did it avail him to tell them who he was, and how the matter stood.
For up came Fortarrigo with a wrathful air, and: -- "I know not," quoth he, "why I spare to kill thee on the spot, traitor, thief that thou art, thus to despoil me and give me the slip!" And then, turning to the peasants: -- "You see, gentlemen," quoth he, "in what a trim he left me in the inn, after gambling away all that he had with him and on him. Well indeed may I say that under God 'tis to you I owe it that I have thus come by my own again: for which cause I shall ever be beholden to you."
Angiulieri also had his say; but his words passed unheeded. Fortarrigo with the help of the peasants compelled him to dismount; and having stripped him, donned his clothes, mounted his horse, and leaving him barefoot and in his shirt, rode back to Siena, giving out on all hands that he had won the palfrey and the clothes from Angiulieri. So Angiulieri, having thought to present himself to the cardinal in the March a wealthy man, returned to Buonconvento poor and in his shirt; and being ashamed for the time to shew himself in Siena, pledged the nag that Fortarrigo had ridden for a suit of clothes, and betook him to his kinsfolk at Corsignano, where he tarried, until he received a fresh supply of money from his father. Thus, then, Fortarrigo's guile disconcerted Angiulieri's judicious purpose, albeit when time and occasion served, it was not left unrequited.
Calandrino being enamoured of a damsel, Bruno gives him a scroll, averring that, if he but touch her therewith, she will go with him: he is found with her by his wife who subjects him to a most severe and vexatious examination.
So, at no great length, ended Neifile her story, which the company allowed to pass with none too much laughter or remark: whereupon the queen, turning to Fiammetta, bade her follow suit. Fiammetta, with mien most gladsome, made answer that she willingly obeyed, and thus began:
-- As I doubt not, ye know, ladies most debonair, be the topic of discourse never so well worn, it will still continue to please, if the speaker knows how to make due choice of time and occasion meet. Wherefore, considering the reason for which we are here (how that 'tis to make merry and speed the time gaily, and that merely), I deem that there is nought that may afford us mirth and solace but here may find time and occasion meet, and, after serving a thousand turns of discourse, should still prove not unpleasing for another thousand. Wherefore, notwithstanding that of Calandrino and his doings not a little has from time to time been said among us, yet, considering that, as a while ago Filostrato observed, there is nought that concerns him that is not entertaining, I will make bold to add to the preceding stories another, which I might well, had I been minded to deviate from the truth, have disguised, and so recounted it to you, under other names; but as whoso in telling a story diverges from the truth does thereby in no small measure diminish the delight of his hearers, I purpose for the reason aforesaid to give you the narrative in proper form.
Niccolo Cornacchini, one of our citizens, and a man of wealth, had among other estates a fine one at Camerata, on which he had a grand house built, and engaged Bruno and Buffalmacco to paint it throughout; in which task, for that 'twas by no means light, they associated with them Nello and Calandrino, and so set to work. There were a few rooms in the house provided with beds and other furniture, and an old female servant lived there as caretaker, but otherwise the house was unoccupied, for which cause Niccolo's son, Filippo, being a young man and a bachelor, was wont sometimes to bring thither a woman for his pleasure, and after keeping her there for a few days to escort her thence again.
Now on one of these occasions it befell that he brought thither one Niccolosa, whom a vile fellow, named Mangione, kept in a house at Camaldoli as a common prostitute. And a fine piece of flesh she was, and wore fine clothes, and for one of her sort, knew how to comport herself becomingly and talk agreeably. Now one day at high noon forth tripped the damsel from her chamber in a white gown, her locks braided about her head, to wash her hands and face at a well that was in the courtyard of the house, and, while she was so engaged, it befell that Calandrino came there for water, and greeted her familiarly. Having returned his salutation, she, rather because Calandrino struck her as something out of the common, than for any other interest she felt in him, regarded him attentively. Calandrino did the like by her, and being smitten by her beauty, found reasons enough why he should not go back to his comrades with the water; but, as he knew not who she was, he made not bold to address her. She, upon whom his gaze was not lost, being minded to amuse herself at his expense, let her glance from time to time rest upon him, while she heaved a slight sigh or two. Whereby Calandrino was forthwith captivated, and tarried in the courtyard, until Filippo called her back into the chamber.
Returned to his work, Calandrino sighed like a furnace: which Bruno, who was ever regardful of his doings for the diversion they afforded him, failed not to mark, and by and by: -- "What the Devil is amiss with thee, comrade Calandrino?" quoth he. "Thou dost nought but puff and blow."
"Comrade," replied Calandrino, "I should be in luck, had I but one to help me."
"How so?" quoth Bruno.
"Why," returned Calandrino, "'tis not to go farther, but there is a damsel below, fairer than a lamia, and so mightily in love with me that 'twould astonish thee. I observed it but now, when I went to fetch the water."
"Nay, but, Calandrino, make sure she be not Filippo's wife," quoth Bruno.
"I doubt 'tis even so," replied Calandrino, "for he called her and she joined him in the chamber; but what signifies it? I would circumvent Christ Himself in such case, not to say Filippo. Of a truth, comrade, I tell thee she pleases me I could not say how."
"Comrade," returned Bruno, "I will find out for thee who she is, and if she be Filippo's wife, two words from me will make it all straight for thee, for she is much my friend. But how shall we prevent Buffalmacco knowing it? I can never have a word with her but he is with me."
"As to Buffalmacco," replied Calandrino: "I care not if he do know it; but let us make sure that it come not to Nello's ears, for he is of kin to Monna Tessa, and would spoil it all."
Whereto: -- "Thou art in the right," returned Bruno.
Now Bruno knew what the damsel was, for he had seen her arrive, and moreover Filippo had told him. So, Calandrino having given over working for a while, and betaken him to her, Bruno acquainted Nello and Buffalmacco with the whole story; and thereupon they privily concerted how to entreat him in regard of this love affair.
Wherefore, upon his return, quoth Bruno softly: -- "Didst see her?"
"Ay, woe's me!" replied Calandrino: "she has stricken me to the death."
Quoth Bruno: -- "I will go see if she be the lady I take her to be, and if I find that 'tis so, leave the rest to me."
Whereupon down went Bruno, and found Filippo and the damsel, and fully apprised them what sort of fellow Calandrino was, and what he had told them, and concerted with them what each should do and say, that they might have a merry time together over Calandrino's love affair. He then rejoined Calandrino, saying: -- "'Tis the very same; and therefore the affair needs very delicate handling, for, if Filippo were but ware thereof, not all Arno's waters would suffice to cleanse us. However, what should I say to her from thee, if by chance I should get speech of her?"
"I'faith," replied Calandrino, "why, first, first of all, thou wilt tell her that I wish her a thousand bushels of the good seed of generation, and then that I am her servant, and if she is fain of -- aught -- thou tak'st me?"
"Ay," quoth Bruno, "leave it to me."
Supper-time came; and, the day's work done, they went down into the courtyard, Filippo and Niccolosa being there, and there they tarried a while to advance Calandrino's suit. Calandrino's gaze was soon riveted on Niccolosa, and such and so strange and startling were the gestures that he made that they would have given sight to the blind. She on her part used all her arts to inflame his passion, primed as she had been by Bruno, and diverted beyond measure as she was by Calandrino's antics, while Filippo, Buffalmacco and the rest feigned to be occupied in converse, and to see nought of what passed.
However, after a while, to Calandrino's extreme disgust, they took their leave; and as they bent their steps towards Florence: -- "I warrant thee," quoth Bruno to Calandrino, "she wastes away for thee like ice in the sunlight; by the body o' God, if thou wert to bring thy rebeck, and sing her one or two of thy love-songs, she'd throw herself out of window to be with thee."
Quoth Calandrino: -- "Think'st thou, comrade, think'st thou, 'twere well I brought it?"
"Ay, indeed," returned Bruno.
Whereupon: -- "Ah! comrade," quoth Calandrino, "so thou wouldst not believe me when I told thee to-day? Of a truth I perceive there's ne'er another knows so well what he would be at as I. Who but I would have known how so soon to win the love of a lady like that? Lucky indeed might they deem themselves, if they did it, those young gallants that go about, day and night, up and down, a strumming on the one-stringed viol, and would not know how to gather a handful of nuts once in a millennium. Mayst thou be by to see when I bring her the rebeck! thou wilt see fine sport. List well what I say: I am not so old as I look; and she knows it right well: ay, and anyhow I will soon let her know it, when I come to grapple her. By the very body of Christ I will have such sport with her, that she will follow me as any love-sick maid follows her swain."
"Oh!" quoth Bruno, "I doubt not thou wilt make her thy prey: and I seem to see thee bite her dainty vermeil mouth and her cheeks, that shew as twin roses, with thy teeth, that are as so many lute-pegs, and afterwards devour her bodily."
So encouraged, Calandrino fancied himself already in action, and went about singing and capering in such high glee that 'twas as if he would burst his skin. And so next day he brought the rebeck, and to the no small amusement of all the company sang several songs to her. And, in short, by frequently seeing her, he waxed so mad with passion that he gave over working; and a thousand times a day he would run now to the window, now to the door, and anon to the courtyard on the chance of catching sight of her; nor did she, astutely following Bruno's instructions, fail to afford him abundance of opportunity. Bruno played the go-between, bearing him her answers to all his messages, and sometimes bringing him messages from her. When she was not at home, which was most frequently the case, he would send him letters from her, in which she gave great encouragement to his hopes, at the same time giving him to understand that she was at the house of her kinsfolk, where as yet he might not visit her. On this wise Bruno and Buffalmacco so managed the affair as to divert themselves inordinately, causing him to send her, as at her request, now an ivory comb, now a purse, now a little knife, and other such dainty trifles; in return for which they brought him, now and again, a counterfeit ring of no value, with which Calandrino was marvellously pleased. And Calandrino, to stimulate their zeal in his interest, would entertain them hospitably at table, and otherwise flatter them.
Now, when they had thus kept him in play for two good months, and the affair was just where it had been, Calandrino, seeing that the work was coming to an end, and bethinking him that, if it did so before he had brought his love affair to a successful issue, he must give up all hopes of ever so doing, began to be very instant and importunate with Bruno. So, in the presence of the damsel, and by preconcert with her and Filippo, quoth Bruno to Calandrino: -- "Harkye, comrade, this lady has vowed to me a thousand times that she will do as thou wouldst have her, and as, for all that, she does nought to pleasure thee, I am of opinion that she leads thee by the nose: wherefore, as she keeps not her promises, we will make her do so, willy-nilly, if thou art so minded."
"Nay, but, for the love of God, so be it," replied Calandrino, "and that speedily."
"Darest thou touch her, then, with a scroll that I shall give thee?" quoth Bruno.
"I dare," replied Calandrino.
"Fetch me, then," quoth Bruno, "a bit of the skin of an unborn lamb, a live bat, three grains of incense, and a blessed candle; and leave the rest to me."
To catch the bat taxed all Calandrino's art and craft for the whole of the evening; but having at length taken him, he brought him with the other matters to Bruno: who, having withdrawn into a room by himself, wrote on the skin some cabalistic jargon, and handed it to him, saying: -- "Know, Calandrino, that, if thou touch her with this scroll, she will follow thee forthwith, and do whatever thou shalt wish. Wherefore, should Filippo go abroad to-day, get thee somehow up to her, and touch her; and then go into the barn that is hereby -- 'tis the best place we have, for never a soul goes there -- and thou wilt see that she will come there too. When she is there, thou wottest well what to do."
Calandrino, overjoyed as ne'er another, took the scroll, saying only: -- "Comrade, leave that to me."
Now Nello, whom Calandrino mistrusted, entered with no less zest than the others into the affair, and was their confederate for Calandrino's discomfiture; accordingly by Bruno's direction he hied to Florence, and finding Monna Tessa: -- "Thou hast scarce forgotten, Tessa," quoth he, "what a beating Calandrino gave thee, without the least cause, that day when he came home with the stones from Mugnone; for which I would have thee be avenged, and, so thou wilt not, call me no more kinsman or friend. He is fallen in love with a lady up there, who is abandoned enough to go closeting herself not seldom with him, and 'tis but a short while since they made assignation to forgather forthwith: so I would have thee go there, and surprise him in the act, and give him a sound trouncing."
Which when the lady heard, she deemed it no laughing matter; but started up and broke out with: -- "Alas, the arrant knave! is't thus he treats me? By the Holy Rood, never fear but I will pay him out!"
And wrapping herself in her cloak, and taking a young woman with her for companion, she sped more at a run than at a walk, escorted by Nello, up to Camerata. Bruno, espying her from afar, said to Filippo: -- "Lo, here comes our friend."
Whereupon Filippo went to the place where Calandrino and the others were at work, and said: -- "My masters, I must needs go at once to Florence; slacken not on that account." And so off he went, and hid himself where, unobserved, he might see what Calandrino would do.
Calandrino waited only until he saw that Filippo was at some distance, and then he went down into the courtyard, where he found Niccolosa alone, and fell a talking with her. She, knowing well what she had to do, drew close to him, and shewed him a little more familiarity than she was wont: whereupon Calandrino touched her with the scroll, and having so done, saying never a word, bent his steps towards the barn, whither Niccolosa followed him, and being entered, shut the door, and forthwith embraced him, threw him down on the straw that lay there, and got astride of him, and holding him fast by the arms about the shoulders, suffered him not to approach his face to hers, but gazing upon him, as if he were the delight of her heart: -- "O Calandrino, sweet my Calandrino," quoth she, "heart of my body, my very soul, my bliss, my consolation, ah! how long have I yearned to hold thee in my arms and have thee all my own! Thy endearing ways have utterly disarmed me; thou hast made prize of my heart with thy rebeck. Do I indeed hold thee in mine embrace?"
Calandrino, scarce able to move, murmured: -- "Ah! sweet my soul, suffer me to kiss thee."
Whereto: -- "Nay, but thou art too hasty," replied Niccolosa. "Let me first feast mine eyes on thee; let me but sate them with this sweet face of thine."
Meanwhile Bruno and Buffalmacco had joined Filippo, so that what passed was seen and heard by all three. And while Calandrino was thus intent to kiss Niccolosa, lo, up came Nello with Monna Tessa. "By God, I swear they are both there," ejaculated Nello, as they entered the doorway; but the lady, now fairly furious, laid hold of him and thrust him aside, and rushing in, espied Niccolosa astride of Calandrino. Niccolosa no sooner caught sight of the lady, than up she jumped, and in a trice was beside Filippo.
Monna Tessa fell upon Calandrino, who was still on the floor, planted her nails in his face, and scratched it all over: she then seized him by the hair, and hauling him to and fro about the barn: -- "Foul, pestilent cur," quoth she, "is this the way thou treatest me? Thou old fool! A murrain on the love I have borne thee! Hast thou not enough to do at home, that thou must needs go falling in love with strange women? And a fine lover thou wouldst make! Dost not know thyself, knave? Dost not know thyself, wretch? Thou, from whose whole body 'twere not possible to wring enough sap for a sauce! God's faith, 'twas not Tessa that got thee with child: God's curse on her, whoever she was: verily she must be a poor creature to be enamoured of a jewel of thy rare quality."
At sight of his wife, Calandrino, suspended, as it were, between life and death, ventured no defence; but, his face torn to shreds, his hair and clothes all disordered, fumbled about for his capuche, which having found, up he got, and humbly besought his wife not to publish the matter, unless she were minded that he should be cut to pieces, for that she that was with him was the wife of the master of the house.
"Then God give her a bad year," replied the lady.
Whereupon Bruno and Buffalmacco, who by this time had laughed their fill with Filippo and Niccolosa, came up as if attracted by the noise; and after not a little ado pacified the lady, and counselled Calandrino to go back to Florence, and stay there, lest Filippo should get wind of the affair, and do him a mischief. So Calandrino, crestfallen and woebegone, got him back to Florence with his face torn to shreds; where, daring not to shew himself at Camerata again, he endured day and night the grievous torment of his wife's vituperation. Such was the issue, to which, after ministering not a little mirth to his comrades, as also to Niccolosa and Filippo, this ardent lover brought his amour.
Two young men lodge at an inn, of whom the one lies with the host's daughter, his wife by inadvertence lying with the other. He that lay with the daughter afterwards gets into her father's bed and tells him all, taking him to be his comrade. They bandy words: whereupon the good woman, apprehending the circumstances, gets her to bed with her daughter, and by divers apt words re-establishes perfect accord.
Calandrino as on former occasions, so also on this, moved the company to laughter. However, when the ladies had done talking of his doings, the queen called for a story from Pamfilo, who thus spoke:
-- Worshipful ladies, this Niccolosa, that Calandrino loved, has brought to my mind a story of another Niccolosa; which I am minded to tell you, because 'twill shew you how a good woman by her quick apprehension avoided a great scandal.
In the plain of Mugnone there was not long ago a good man that furnished travellers with meat and drink for money, and, for that he was in poor circumstances, and had but a little house, gave not lodging to every comer, but only to a few that he knew, and if they were hard bested. Now the good man had to wife a very fine woman, and by her had two children, to wit, a pretty and winsome girl of some fifteen or sixteen summers, as yet unmarried, and a little boy, not yet one year old, whom the mother suckled at her own breast.
The girl had found favour in the eyes of a goodly and mannerly young gentleman of our city, who was not seldom in those parts, and loved her to the point of passion. And she, being mightily flattered to be loved by such a gallant, studied how to comport herself so debonairly as to retain his regard, and while she did so, grew likewise enamoured of him; and divers times, by consent of both their love had had its fruition, but that Pinuccio -- such was the gallant's name -- shrank from the disgrace that 'twould bring upon the girl and himself alike. But, as his passion daily waxed apace, Pinuccio, yearning to find himself abed with her, bethought him that he were best contrive to lodge with her father, deeming, from what he knew of her father's economy, that, if he did so, he might effect his purpose, and never a soul be the wiser: which idea no sooner struck him, than he set about carrying it into effect.
So, late one evening Pinuccio and a trusty comrade, Adriano by name, to whom he had confided his love, hired two nags, and having set upon them two valises, filled with straw or such-like stuff, sallied forth of Florence, and rode by a circuitous route to the plain of Mugnone, which they reached after nightfall; and having fetched a compass, so that it might seem as if they were coming from Romagna, they rode up to the good man's house, and knocked at the door. The good man, knowing them both very well, opened to them forthwith: whereupon: -- "Thou must even put us up to-night," quoth Pinuccio; "we thought to get into Florence, but, for all the speed we could make, we are but arrived here, as thou seest, at this hour."
"Pinuccio," replied the host, "thou well knowest that I can but make a sorry shift to lodge gentlemen like you; but yet, as night has overtaken you here, and time serves not to betake you elsewhere, I will gladly give you such accommodation as I may."
The two gallants then dismounted and entered the inn, and having first looked to their horses, brought out some supper that they had carried with them, and supped with the host. Now the host had but one little bedroom, in which were three beds, set, as conveniently as he could contrive, two on one side of the room, and the third on the opposite side, but, for all that, there was scarce room enough to pass through. The host had the least discomfortable of the three beds made up for the two friends; and having quartered them there, some little while afterwards, both being awake, but feigning to be asleep, he caused his daughter to get into one of the other two beds, while he and his wife took their places in the third, the good woman setting the cradle, in which was her little boy, beside the bed.
Such, then, being the partition made of the beds, Pinuccio, who had taken exact note thereof, waited only until he deemed all but himself to be asleep, and then got softly up and stole to the bed in which lay his beloved, and laid himself beside her; and she according him albeit a timorous yet a gladsome welcome, he stayed there, taking with her that solace of which both were most fain. Pinuccio being thus with the girl, it chanced that certain things, being overset by a cat, fell with a noise that aroused the good woman, who, fearing that it might be a matter of more consequence, got up as best she might in the dark, and betook her to the place whence the noise seemed to proceed. At the same time Adriano, not by reason of the noise, which he heeded not, but perchance to answer the call of nature, also got up, and questing about for a convenient place, came upon the cradle beside the good woman's bed; and not being able otherwise to go by, took it up, and set it beside his own bed, and when he had accomplished his purpose, went back, and giving never a thought to the cradle got him to bed.
The good woman searched until she found that the accident was no such matter as she had supposed; so without troubling to strike a light to investigate it further, she reproved the cat, and returned to the room, and groped her way straight to the bed in which her husband lay asleep; but not finding the cradle there, quoth she to herself: -- Alas! blunderer that I am, what was I about? God's faith! I was going straight to the guests' bed; and proceeding a little further, she found the cradle, and laid herself down by Adriano in the bed that was beside it, taking Adriano for her husband; and Adriano, who was still awake, received her with all due benignity, and tackled her more than once to her no small delight.
Meanwhile Pinuccio fearing lest sleep should overtake him while he was yet with his mistress, and having satisfied his desire, got up and left her, to return to his bed; but when he got there, coming upon the cradle, he supposed that 'twas the host's bed; and so going a little further, he laid him down beside the host, who thereupon awoke. Supposing that he had Adriano beside him: -- "I warrant thee," quoth Pinuccio to the host, "there was never so sweet a piece of flesh as Niccolosa: by the body of God, such delight have I had of her as never had man of woman; and, mark me, since I left thee, I have gotten me up to the farm some six times."
Which tidings the host being none too well pleased to learn, said first of all to himself: -- What the Devil does this fellow here? Then, his resentment getting the better of his prudence: -- "'Tis a gross affront thou hast put upon me, Pinuccio," quoth he; "nor know I what occasion thou hast to do me such a wrong; but by the body of God I will pay thee out."
Pinuccio, who was not the most discreet of gallants, albeit he was now apprised of his error, instead of doing his best to repair it, retorted: -- "And how wilt thou pay me out? What canst thou do?"
"Hark what high words our guests are at together!" quoth meanwhile the host's wife to Adriano, deeming that she spoke to her husband.
"Let them be," replied Adriano with a laugh: -- "God give them a bad year: they drank too much yestereve."
The good woman had already half recognized her husband's angry tones, and now that she heard Adriano's voice, she at once knew where she was and with whom. Accordingly, being a discreet woman, she started up, and saying never a word, took her child's cradle, and, though there was not a ray of light in the room, bore it, divining rather than feeling her way, to the side of the bed in which her daughter slept; and then, as if aroused by the noise made by her husband, she called him, and asked what he and Pinuccio were bandying words about. "Hearest thou not," replied the husband, "what he says he has this very night done to Niccolosa?"
"Tush! he lies in the throat," returned the good woman: "he has not lain with Niccolosa; for what time he might have done so, I laid me beside her myself, and I have been wide awake ever since; and thou art a fool to believe him. You men take so many cups before going to bed that then you dream, and walk in your sleep, and imagine wonders. 'Tis a great pity you do not break your necks. What does Pinuccio there? Why keeps he not in his own bed?"
Whereupon Adriano, in his turn, seeing how adroitly the good woman cloaked her own and her daughter's shame: -- "Pinuccio," quoth he, "I have told thee a hundred times, that thou shouldst not walk about at night; for this thy bad habit of getting up in thy dreams and relating thy dreams for truth will get thee into a scrape some time or another: come back, and God send thee a bad night."
Hearing Adriano thus confirm what his wife had said, the host began to think that Pinuccio must be really dreaming; so he took him by the shoulder, and fell a shaking him, and calling him by his name, saying: -- "Pinuccio, wake up, and go back to thy bed."
Pinuccio, taking his cue from what he had heard, began as a dreamer would be like to do, to talk wanderingly; whereat the host laughed amain. Then, feigning to be aroused by the shaking, Pinuccio uttered Adriano's name, saying: -- "Is't already day, that thou callest me?"
"Ay, 'tis so," quoth Adriano: "come hither."
Whereupon Pinuccio, making as if he were mighty drowsy, got him up from beside the host, and back to bed with Adriano. On the morrow, when they were risen, the host fell a laughing and making merry touching Pinuccio and his dreams. And so the jest passed from mouth to mouth, while the gallants' horses were groomed and saddled, and their valises adjusted: which done, they drank with the host, mounted and rode to Florence, no less pleased with the manner than with the matter of the night's adventure. Nor, afterwards, did Pinuccio fail to find other means of meeting Niccolosa, who assured her mother that he had unquestionably dreamed. For which cause the good woman, calling to mind Adriano's embrace, accounted herself the only one that had watched.
Talano di Molese dreams that a wolf tears and rends all the neck and face of his wife: he gives her warning thereof, which she heeds not, and the dream comes true.
When Pamfilo had brought his story to a close, and all had commended the good woman's quick perception, the queen bade Pampinea tell hers; and thus Pampinea began:
-- A while ago, debonair my ladies, we held discourse of the truths that dreams shew forth, which not a few of us deride; for which cause, albeit the topic has been handled before, I shall not spare to tell you that which not long ago befell a neighbour of mine, for that she disbelieved a dream that her husband had.
I wot not if you knew Talano di Molese, a man right worthy to be had in honour; who, having married a young wife -- Margarita by name -- fair as e'er another, but without her match for whimsical, fractious, and perverse humours, insomuch that there was nought she would do at the instance of another, either for his or her own good, found her behaviour most grievous to bear, but was fain to endure what he might not cure.
Now it so befell that Talano and Margarita being together at an estate that Talano had in the contado, he, sleeping, saw in a dream a very beautiful wood that was on the estate at no great distance from the house, and his lady there walking. And as she went, there leapt forth upon her a huge and fierce wolf that griped her by the throat, and bore her down to the ground, and (she shrieking the while for succour) would have carried her off by main force; but she got quit of his jaws, albeit her neck and face shewed as quite disfigured.
On the morrow, as soon as he was risen, Talano said to his wife: -- "Albeit for thy perversity I have not yet known a single good day with thee, yet I should be sorry, wife, that harm should befall thee; and therefore, if thou take my advice, thou wilt not stir out of doors to-day." "Wherefore?" quoth the lady; and thereupon he recounted to her all his dream.
The lady shook her head, saying: -- "Who means ill, dreams ill. Thou makest as if thou wast mighty tender of me, but thou bodest of me in thy dream that which thou wouldst fain see betide me. I warrant thee that to-day and all days I will have a care to avoid this or any other calamity that might gladden thy heart."
Whereupon: -- "Well wist I," replied Talano, "that thou wouldst so say, for such is ever the requital of those that comb scurfy heads; but whatever thou mayst be pleased to believe, I for my part speak to thee for thy good, and again I advise thee to keep indoors to-day, or at least not to walk in the wood."
"Good," returned the lady, "I will look to it," and then she began communing with herself on this wise: -- Didst mark how artfully he thinks to have scared me from going into the wood to-day? Doubtless 'tis that he has an assignation there with some light o' love, with whom he had rather I did not find him. Ah! he would sup well with the blind, and what a fool were I to believe him! But I warrant he will be disappointed, and needs must I, though I stay there all day long, see what commerce it is that he will adventure in to-day.
Having so said, she quitted the house on one side, while her husband did so on the other; and forthwith, shunning observation as best she might, she hied her to the wood, and hid her where 'twas most dense, and there waited on the alert, and glancing, now this way and now that, to see if any were coming. And while thus she stood, nor ever a thought of a wolf crossed her mind, lo, forth of a close covert hard by came a wolf of monstrous size and appalling aspect, and scarce had she time to say, God help me! before he sprang upon her and griped her by the throat so tightly that she might not utter a cry, but, passive as any lambkin, was borne off by him, and had certainly been strangled, had he not encountered some shepherds, who with shouts compelled him to let her go. The shepherds recognized the poor hapless woman, and bore her home, where the physicians by dint of long and careful treatment cured her; howbeit the whole of her throat and part of her face remained so disfigured that, fair as she had been before, she was ever thereafter most foul and hideous to look upon. Wherefore, being ashamed to shew her face, she did many a time bitterly deplore her perversity, in that, when it would have cost her nothing, she would nevertheless pay no heed to the true dream of her husband.
Biondello gulls Ciacco in the matter of a breakfast: for which prank Ciacco is cunningly avenged on Biondello, causing him to be shamefully beaten.
All the company by common consent pronounced it no dream but a vision that Talano had had in his sleep, so exactly, no circumstance lacking, had it fallen out according as he had seen it. However, as soon as all had done speaking, the queen bade Lauretta follow suit; which Lauretta did on this wise:
-- As, most discreet my ladies, those that have preceded me to-day have almost all taken their cue from somewhat that has been said before, so, prompted by the stern vengeance taken by the scholar in Pampinea's narrative of yesterday, I am minded to tell you of a vengeance that was indeed less savage, but for all that grievous enough to him on whom it was wreaked.
Wherefore I say that there was once at Florence one that all folk called Ciacco, a man second to none that ever lived for inordinate gluttony, who, lacking the means to support the expenditure which his gluttony demanded, and being, for the rest, well-mannered and well furnished with excellent and merry jests, did, without turning exactly court jester, cultivate a somewhat biting wit, and loved to frequent the houses of the rich, and such as kept good tables; whither, bidden or unbidden, he not seldom resorted for breakfast or supper. There was also in those days at Florence one that was called Biondello, a man very short of stature, and not a little debonair, more trim than any fly, with his blond locks surmounted by a coif, and never a hair out of place; and he and Ciacco were two of a trade.
Now one morning in Lent Biondello, being in the fish-market purchasing two mighty fat lampreys for Messer Vieri de' Cerchi, was observed thus engaged by Ciacco, who came up to him, and: -- "What means this?" quoth he.
"Why," replied Biondello, "'tis that yestereve Messer Corso Donati had three lampreys much finer than these and a sturgeon sent to his house, but as they did not suffice for a breakfast that he is to give certain gentlemen, he has commissioned me to buy him these two beside. Wilt thou not be there?"
"Ay, marry, that will I," returned Ciacco.
And in what he deemed due time he hied him to Messer Corso Donati's house, where he found him with some of his neighbours not yet gone to breakfast. And being asked by Messer Corso with what intent he was come, he answered: -- "I am come, Sir, to breakfast with you and your company."
"And welcome art thou," returned Messer Corso, "go we then to breakfast, for 'tis now the time."
So to table they went, where nought was set before them but pease and the inward part of the tunny salted, and afterwards the common fish of the Arno fried. Wherefore Ciacco, not a little wroth at the trick that he perceived Biondello had played him, resolved to pay him out. And not many days after Biondello, who had meanwhile had many a laugh with his friends over Ciacco's discomfiture, met him, and after greeting him, asked him with a laugh what Messer Corso's lampreys had been like. "That question," replied Ciacco, "thou wilt be able to answer much better than I before eight days are gone by."
And parting from Biondello upon the word, he went forthwith and hired a cozening rogue, and having thrust a glass bottle into his hand, brought him within sight of the Loggia de' Cavicciuli; and there, pointing to a knight, one Messer Filippo Argenti, a tall man and stout, and of a high courage, and haughty, choleric and cross-grained as ne'er another, he said to him: -- "Thou wilt go, flask in hand, to Messer Filippo, and wilt say to him: -- 'I am sent to you, Sir, by Biondello, who entreats you to be pleased to colour this flask for him with some of your good red wine, for that he is minded to have a good time with his catamites.' And of all things have a care that he lay not hands upon thee, for he would make thee rue the day, and would spoil my sport."
"Have I aught else to say?" enquired the rogue.
"Nothing more," returned Ciacco: "and now get thee gone, and when thou hast delivered the message, bring me back the flask, and I will pay thee."
So away went the rogue, and did the errand to Messer Filippo, who forthwith, being a hasty man, jumped to the conclusion that Biondello, whom he knew, was making mock of him, and while an angry flush overspread his face: -- "Colour the flask, forsooth!" quoth he, "and 'Catamites!' God send thee and him a bad year!" and therewith up he started, and reached forward to lay hold of the rogue, who, being on the alert, gave him the slip and was off, and reported Messer Filippo's answer to Ciacco, who had observed what had passed.
Having paid the rogue, Ciacco rested not until he had found Biondello, to whom: -- "Wast thou but now," quoth he, "at the Loggia de' Cavicciuli?"
"Indeed no," replied Biondello: "wherefore such a question?"
"Because," returned Ciacco, "I may tell thee that thou art sought for by Messer Filippo, for what cause I know not."
"Good," quoth Biondello, "I will go thither and speak with him."
So away went Biondello, and Ciacco followed him to see what course the affair would take. Now having failed to catch the rogue, Messer Filippo was still very wroth, and inly fumed and fretted, being unable to make out aught from what the rogue had said save that Biondello was set on by some one or another to flout him. And while thus he vexed his spirit, up came Biondello; whom he no sooner espied than he made for him, and dealt him a mighty blow in the face, and tore his hair and coif, and cast his capuche on the ground, and to his "Alas, Sir, what means this?" still beating him amain: -- "Traitor," cried he; "I will give thee to know what it means to send me such a message. 'Colour the flask,' forsooth, and 'Catamites!' Dost take me for a stripling, to be befooled by thee?"
And therewith he pummelled Biondello's face all over with a pair of fists that were liker to iron than aught else, until it was but a mass of bruises; he also tore and dishevelled all his hair, tumbled him in the mud, rent all his clothes upon his back, and that without allowing him breathing-space to ask why he thus used him, or so much as utter a word. "Colour me the flask!" and "Catamites!" rang in his ears; but what the words signified he knew not. In the end very badly beaten, and in very sorry and ragged trim, many folk having gathered around them, they, albeit not without the utmost difficulty, rescued him from Messer Filippo's hands, and told him why Messer Filippo had thus used him, censuring him for sending him such a message, and adding that thenceforth he would know Messer Filippo better, and that he was not a man to be trifled with. Biondello told them in tearful exculpation that he had never sent for wine to Messer Filippo: then, when they had put him in a little better trim, crestfallen and woebegone, he went home imputing his misadventure to Ciacco.
And when, many days afterwards, the marks of his ill-usage being gone from his face, he began to go abroad again, it chanced that Ciacco met him, and with a laugh: -- "Biondello," quoth he, "how didst thou relish Messer Filippo's wine?"
"Why, as to that," replied Biondello, "would thou hadst relished the lampreys of Messer Corso as much!"
"So!" returned Ciacco, "such meat as thou then gavest me, thou mayst henceforth give me, as often as thou art so minded; and I will give thee even such drink as I have given thee."
So Biondello, witting that against Ciacco his might was not equal to his spite, prayed God for his peace, and was careful never to flout him again.
Two young men ask counsel of Solomon; the one, how he is to make himself beloved, the other, how he is to reduce an unruly wife to order. The King bids the one to love, and the other to go to the Bridge of Geese.
None now remained to tell save the queen, unless she were minded to infringe Dioneo's privilege. Wherefore, when the ladies had laughed their fill over the misfortunes of Biondello, thus gaily the queen began:
-- Observe we, lovesome ladies, the order of things with a sound mind, and we shall readily perceive that we women are one and all subjected by Nature and custom and law unto man, by him to be ruled and governed at his discretion; wherefore she, that would fain enjoy quietude and solace and comfort with the man to whom she belongs, ought not only to be chaste but lowly, patient and obedient: the which is the discreet wife's chief and most precious possession. And if the laws, which in all matters have regard unto the common weal, and use and wont or custom (call it what you will), a power very great and to be had in awe, should not suffice to school us thereto; yet abundantly clear is the witness of Nature, which has fashioned our frames delicate and sensitive, and our spirits timorous and fearful, and has decreed that our bodily strength shall be slight, our voices tunable, and our movements graceful; which qualities do all avouch that we have need of others' governance. And whoso has need of succour and governance ought in all reason to be obedient and submissive and reverent towards his governor. And whom have we to govern and succour us save men? 'Tis then our bounden duty to give men all honour and submit ourselves unto them: from which rule if any deviate, I deem her most deserving not only of grave censure but of severe chastisement. Which reflections, albeit they are not new to me, I am now led to make by what but a little while ago Pampinea told us touching the perverse wife of Talano, on whom God bestowed that chastisement which the husband had omitted; and accordingly it jumps with my judgment that all such women as deviate from the graciousness, kindliness and compliancy, which Nature and custom and law prescribe, merit, as I said, stern and severe chastisement. Wherefore, as a salutary medicine for the healing of those of us who may be afflicted with this disease, I am minded to relate to you that which was once delivered by Solomon by way of counsel in such a case. Which let none that stands not in need of such physic deem to be meant for her, albeit a proverb is current among men; to wit: -- Good steed, bad steed, alike need the rowel's prick, Good wife, bad wife, alike demand the stick. Which whoso should construe as a merry conceit would find you all ready enough to acknowledge its truth. But even in its moral significance I say that it ought to command assent. For women are all by nature apt to be swayed and to fall; and therefore, for the correction of the wrong-doing of such as transgress the bounds assigned to them, there is need of the stick punitive; and also for the maintenance of virtue in others, that they transgress not these appointed bounds, there is need of the stick auxiliary and deterrent. However, to cut short this preachment, and to come to that which I purpose to tell you, I say:
That the bruit of the incomparable renown of the prodigious wisdom of Solomon, as also of the exceeding great liberality with which he accorded proof thereof to all that craved such assurance, being gone forth over well-nigh all the earth, many from divers parts were wont to resort to him for counsel in matters of most pressing and arduous importance; among whom was a young man, Melisso by name, a very wealthy nobleman, who was, as had been his fathers before him, of Lazistan, and there dwelt. And as Melisso fared toward Jerusalem, on his departure from Antioch he fell in with another young man, Giosefo by name, who was going the same way, and with whom, after the manner of travellers, he entered into converse. Melisso, having learned from Giosefo, who and whence he was, asked him whither he went, and on what errand: whereupon Giosefo made an answer that he was going to seek counsel of Solomon, how he should deal with his wife, who had not her match among women for unruliness and perversity, insomuch that neither entreaties nor blandishments nor aught else availed him to bring her to a better frame. And thereupon he in like manner asked Melisso whence he was, and whither he was bound, and on what errand:
whereto: -- "Of Lazistan, I," replied Melisso, "and like thyself in evil plight; for albeit I am wealthy and spend my substance freely in hospitably entertaining and honourably entreating my fellow-citizens, yet for all that, passing strange though it be to think upon, I find never a soul to love me; and therefore I am bound to the self-same place as thou, to be advised how it may come to pass that I be beloved."
So the two men fared on together, and being arrived at Jerusalem, were, by the good offices of one of Solomon's barons, ushered into his presence, and Melisso having briefly laid his case before the King, was answered in one word: -- "Love."
Which said, Melisso was forthwith dismissed, and Giosefo discovered the reason of his coming. To whom Solomon made no answer but: -- "Get thee to the Bridge of Geese." Whereupon Giosefo was likewise promptly ushered out of the King's presence, and finding Melisso awaiting him, told him what manner of answer he had gotten.
Which utterances of the King the two men pondered, but finding therein nought that was helpful or relevant to their need, they doubted the King had but mocked them, and set forth upon their homeward journey. Now when they had been some days on the road, they came to a river, which was spanned by a fine bridge, and a great caravan of sumpter mules and horses being about to cross, they must needs tarry, until the caravan had passed by. The more part of which had done so, when it chanced that a mule turned sulky, as we know they will not seldom do, and stood stock still; wherefore a muleteer took a stick and fell a beating the mule therewith, albeit at first with no great vigour, to urge the mule forward. The mule, however, swerving, now to this, now to the other side of the bridge, and sometimes facing about, utterly refused to go forward. Whereat the muleteer, wroth beyond measure, fell a belabouring him with the stick now on the head, now on the flanks, and anon on the croup, never so lustily, but all to no purpose.
Which caused Melisso and Giosefo ofttimes to say to him: -- "How now, caitiff? What is this thou doest? Wouldst kill the beast? Why not try if thou canst not manage him kindly and gently? He would start sooner so than for this cudgelling of thine."
To whom: -- "You know your horses," replied the muleteer, "and I know my mule: leave me to deal with him." Which said, he resumed his cudgelling of the mule, and laid about him on this side and on that to such purpose that he started him; and so the honours of the day rested with the muleteer.
Now, as the two young men were leaving the bridge behind them, Giosefo asked a good man that sate at its head what the bridge was called, and was answered: -- "Sir, 'tis called the Bridge of Geese."
Which Giosefo no sooner heard than he called to mind Solomon's words, and turning to Melisso: -- "Now, comrade, I warrant thee I may yet find Solomon's counsel sound and good, for that I knew not how to beat my wife is abundantly clear to me; and this muleteer has shewn me what I have to do."
Now some days afterwards they arrived at Antioch, where Giosefo prevailed upon Melisso to tarry with him and rest a day or two; and meeting with but a sorry welcome on the part of his wife, he told her to take her orders as to supper from Melisso, who, seeing that such was Giosefo's will, briefly gave her his instructions; which the lady, as had been her wont, not only did not obey, but contravened in almost every particular.
Which Giosefo marking: -- "Wast thou not told," quoth he angrily, "after what fashion thou wast to order the supper?"
Whereto: -- "So!" replied the lady haughtily: "what means this? If thou hast a mind to sup, why take not thy supper? No matter what I was told, 'tis thus I saw fit to order it. If it like thee, so be it: if not, 'tis thine affair."
Melisso heard the lady with surprise and inward disapprobation: Giosefo retorted: -- "Ay wife, thou art still as thou wast used to be; but I will make thee mend thy manners." Then, turning to Melisso: -- "Friend," quoth he, "thou wilt soon prove the worth of Solomon's counsel: but, prithee, let it not irk thee to look on, and deem that what I shall do is but done in sport; and if thou shouldst be disposed to stand in my way, bear in mind how we were answered by the muleteer, when we pitied his mule."
"I am in thy house," replied Melisso, "and thy pleasure is to me law."
Thereupon Giosefo took a stout cudgel cut from an oak sapling, and hied him into the room whither the lady had withdrawn from the table in high dudgeon, seized her by the hair, threw her on to the floor at his feet, and fell a beating her amain with the cudgel. The lady at first uttered a shriek or two, from which she passed to threats; but seeing that, for all that, Giosefo slackened not, by the time she was thoroughly well thrashed, she began to cry him mercy, imploring him not to kill her, and adding that henceforth his will should be to her for law. But still Giosefo gave not over, but with ever fresh fury dealt her mighty swingeing blows, now about the ribs, now on the haunches, now over the shoulders; nor had he done with the fair lady, until, in short, he had left never a bone or other part of her person whole, and he was fairly spent. Then, returning to Melisso: -- "To-morrow," quoth he, "we shall see whether 'Get thee to the Bridge of Geese' will prove to have been sound advice or no." And so, having rested a while, and then washed his hands, he supped with Melisso.
With great pain the poor lady got upon her feet and laid herself on her bed, and having there taken such rest as she might, rose betimes on the morrow, and craved to know of Giosefo what he was minded to have to breakfast. Giosefo, laughing with Melisso over the message, gave her his directions, and when in due time they came to breakfast, they found everything excellently ordered according as it had been commanded: for which cause the counsel, which they had at first failed to understand, now received their highest commendation.
Some few days later Melisso, having taken leave of Giosefo, went home, and told a wise man the counsel he had gotten from Solomon. Whereupon: -- "And no truer or sounder advice could he have given thee," quoth the sage: "thou knowest that thou lovest never a soul, and that the honours thou payest and the services thou renderest to others are not prompted by love of them, but by love of display. Love, then, as Solomon bade thee, and thou shalt be loved."
On such wise was the unruly chastised; and the young man, learning to love, was beloved.
Dom Gianni at the instance of his gossip Pietro uses an enchantment to transform Pietro's wife into a mare; but, when he comes to attach the tail, Gossip Pietro, by saying that he will have none of the tail, makes the enchantment of no effect.
The queen's story evoked some murmurs from the ladies and some laughter from the young men; however, when they were silent, Dioneo thus began:
-- Dainty my ladies, a black crow among a flock of white doves enhances their beauty more than would a white swan; and so, when many sages are met together, their ripe wisdom not only shews the brighter and goodlier for the presence of one that is not so wise, but may even derive pleasure and diversion therefrom. Wherefore as you, my ladies, are one and all most discreet and judicious, I, who know myself to be somewhat scant of sense, should, for that by my demerit I make your merit shew the more glorious, be more dear to you, than if by my greater merit I eclipsed yours, and by consequence should have more ample license to reveal myself to you as I am; and therefore have more patient sufferance on your part than would be due to me, were I more discreet, in the relation of the tale which I am about to tell you. 'Twill be, then, a story none too long, wherefrom you may gather with what exactitude it behoves folk to observe the injunctions of those that for any purpose use an enchantment, and how slight an error committed therein make bring to nought all the work of the enchanter.
A year or so ago there was at Barletta a priest named Dom Gianni di Barolo, who, to eke out the scanty pittance his church afforded him, set a pack-saddle upon his mare, and took to going the round of the fairs of Apulia, buying and selling merchandise. And so it befell that he clapped up a close acquaintance with one Pietro da Tresanti, who plied the same trade as he, albeit instead of a mare he had but an ass; whom in token of friendship and good-fellowship Dom Gianni after the Apulian fashion called ever Gossip Pietro, and had him to his house and there lodged and honourably entreated him as often as he came to Barletta.
Gossip Pietro on his part, albeit he was very poor and had but a little cot at Tresanti, that scarce sufficed for himself, his fair, young wife, and their ass, nevertheless, whenever Dom Gianni arrived at Tresanti, made him welcome, and did him the honours of his house as best he might, in requital of the hospitality which he received at Barletta. However, as Gossip Pietro had but one little bed, in which he slept with his fair wife, 'twas not in his power to lodge Dom Gianni as comfortably as he would have liked; but the priest's mare being quartered beside the ass in a little stable, the priest himself must needs lie beside her on the straw. Many a time when the priest came, the wife, knowing how honourably he entreated her husband at Barletta, would fain have gone to sleep with a neighbour, one Zita Carapresa di Giudice Leo, that the priest might share the bed with her husband, and many a time had she told the priest so howbeit he would never agree to it,
and on one occasion: -- "Gossip Gemmata," quoth he, "trouble not thyself about me; I am well lodged; for, when I am so minded, I turn the mare into a fine lass and dally with her, and then, when I would, I turn her back into a mare; wherefore I could ill brook to part from her."
The young woman, wondering but believing, told her husband what the priest had said, adding: -- "If he is even such a friend as thou sayst, why dost thou not get him to teach thee the enchantment, so that thou mayst turn me into a mare, and have both ass and mare for thine occasions? We should then make twice as much gain as we do, and thou couldst turn me back into a woman when we came home at night."
Gossip Pietro, whose wit was somewhat blunt, believed that 'twas as she said, approved her counsel, and began adjuring Dom Gianni, as persuasively as he might, to teach him the incantation. Dom Gianni did his best to wean him of his folly; but as all was in vain: -- "Lo, now," quoth he, "as you are both bent on it, we will be up, as is our wont, before the sun to-morrow morning, and I will shew you how 'tis done. The truth is that 'tis in the attachment of the tail that the great difficulty lies, as thou wilt see."
Scarce a wink of sleep had either Gossip Pietro or Gossip Gemmata that night, so great was their anxiety; and towards daybreak up they got, and called Dom Gianni; who, being risen, came in his shirt into Gossip Pietro's little bedroom, and: -- "I know not," quoth he, "that there is another soul in the world for whom I would do this, save you, my gossips; however, as you will have it so, I will do it, but it behoves you to do exactly as I bid you, if you would have the enchantment work."
They promised obedience, and Dom Gianni thereupon took a light, which he handed to Gossip Pietro, saying: -- "Let nought that I shall do or say escape thee; and have a care, so thou wouldst not ruin all, to say never a word, whatever thou mayst see or hear; and pray God that the tail may be securely attached."
So Gossip Pietro took the light, and again promised obedience;
Dom Gianni caused Gossip Gemmata to strip herself stark naked, and stand on all fours like a mare, at the same time strictly charging her that, whatever might happen, she must utter no word. Then, touching her head and face: -- "Be this a fine head of a mare," quoth he; in like manner touching her hair, he said: -- "Be this a fine mane of a mare;" touching her arms: -- "Be these fine legs and fine hooves of a mare;" then, as he touched her breast and felt its firm roundness, and there awoke and arose one that was not called: -- "And be this a fine breast of a mare," quoth he; and in like manner he dealt with her back, belly, croup, thighs, and legs. Last of all, the work being complete save for the tail, he lifted his shirt and took in his hand the tool with which he was used to plant men, and forthwith thrust it into the furrow made for it, saying: -- "And be this a fine tail of a mare."
Whereat Gossip Pietro, who had followed everything very heedfully to that point, disapproving that last particular, exclaimed: -- "No! Dom Gianni, I'll have no tail, I'll have no tail."
The essential juice, by which all plants are propagated, was already discharged, when Dom Gianni withdrew the tool, saying: -- "Alas! Gossip Pietro, what hast thou done? Did I not tell thee to say never a word, no matter what thou mightst see? The mare was all but made; but by speaking thou hast spoiled all; and 'tis not possible to repeat the enchantment."
"Well and good," replied Gossip Pietro, "I would have none of that tail. Why saidst thou not to me: -- 'Make it thou'? And besides, thou wast attaching it too low."
"'Twas because," returned Dom Gianni, "thou wouldst not have known, on the first essay, how to attach it so well as I."
Whereupon the young woman stood up, and in all good faith said to her husband: -- "Fool that thou art, wherefore hast thou brought to nought what had been for the good of us both? When didst thou ever see mare without a tail? So help me God, poor as thou art, thou deservest to be poorer still."
So, after Gossip Pietro's ill-timed speech, there being no way left of turning the young woman into a mare, downcast and melancholy she resumed her clothes; and Gossip Pietro plied his old trade with his ass, and went with Dom Gianni to the fair of Bitonto, and never asked him so to serve him again.
[ CONCLUSION ]
What laughter this story drew from the ladies, who understood it better than Dioneo had wished, may be left to the imagination of the fair one that now laughs thereat. However, as the stories were ended, and the sun now shone with a tempered radiance, the queen, witting that the end of her sovereignty was come, stood up and took off the crown, and set it on the head of Pamfilo, whom alone it now remained thus to honour; and said with a smile: -- "My lord, 'tis a great burden that falls upon thee, seeing that thou, coming last, art bound to make good my shortcomings and those of my predecessors; which God give thee grace to accomplish, even as He has given me grace to make thee king."
With gladsome acknowledgment of the honour: -- "I doubt not," replied Pamfilo, "that, thanks to your noble qualities and those of my other subjects, I shall win even such praise as those that have borne sway before me." Then, following the example of his predecessors, he made all meet arrangements in concert with the seneschal: after which, he turned to the expectant ladies, and thus spoke: -- "Enamoured my ladies, Emilia, our queen of to-day, deeming it proper to allow you an interval of rest to recruit your powers, gave you license to discourse of such matters as should most commend themselves to each in turn; and as thereby you are now rested, I judge that 'tis meet to revert to our accustomed rule. Wherefore I ordain that for to-morrow you do each of you take thought how you may discourse of the ensuing theme: to wit, of such as in matters of love, or otherwise, have done something with liberality or magnificence. By the telling, and (still more) by the doing of such things, your spirits will assuredly be duly attuned and animated to emprise high and noble; whereby our life, which cannot but be brief, seeing that 'tis enshrined in a mortal body, fame shall perpetuate in glory; which whoso serves not the belly, as do the beasts, must not only covet, but with all zeal seek after and labour to attain."
The gay company having, one and all, approved the theme, rose at a word from their new king, and betook them to their wonted pastimes, and so, according as they severally had most lief, diverted them, until they blithely reunited for supper, which being served with all due care and despatched, they rose up to dance, as they were wont, and when they had sung, perhaps, a thousand ditties, fitter to please by their words than by any excellence of musical art, the king bade Neifile sing one on her own account. And promptly and graciously, with voice clear and blithe, thus Neifile sang: --
The king and all the ladies did not a little commend Neifile's song; after which, as the night was far spent, the king bade all go to rest until the morrow.
ENDETH HERE THE NINTH DAY OF THE DECAMERON