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The Decameron, Vol. II. by Giovanni Boccaccio

Part 2 out of 7

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substance, did many a time counsel and beseech him to depart Ravenna, and
go tarry for a time elsewhere, that so he might at once cool his flame
and reduce his charges. For a long while Nastagio answered their
admonitions with banter; but as they continued to ply him with them, he
grew weary of saying no so often, and promised obedience. Whereupon he
equipped himself as if for a journey to France or Spain, or other distant
parts, got on horseback and sallied forth of Ravenna, accompanied by not
a few of his friends, and being come to a place called Chiassi, about
three miles from Ravenna, he halted, and having sent for tents and
pavilions, told his companions that there he meant to stay, and they
might go back to Ravenna. So Nastagio pitched his camp, and there
commenced to live after as fine and lordly a fashion as did ever any man,
bidding divers of his friends from time to time to breakfast or sup with
him, as he had been wont to do. Now it so befell that about the beginning
of May, the season being very fine, he fell a brooding on the cruelty of
his mistress, and, that his meditations might be the less disturbed, he
bade all his servants leave him, and sauntered slowly, wrapt in thought,
as far as the pinewood. Which he had threaded for a good half-mile, when,
the fifth hour of the day being well-nigh past, yet he recking neither of
food nor of aught else, 'twas as if he heard a woman wailing exceedingly
and uttering most piercing shrieks: whereat, the train of his sweet
melancholy being broken, he raised his head to see what was toward, and
wondered to find himself in the pinewood; and saw, moreover, before him
running through a grove, close set with underwood and brambles, towards
the place where he was, a damsel most comely, stark naked, her hair
dishevelled, and her flesh all torn by the briers and brambles, who wept
and cried piteously for mercy; and at her flanks he saw two mastiffs,
exceeding great and fierce, that ran hard upon her track, and not seldom
came up with her and bit her cruelly; and in the rear he saw, riding a
black horse, a knight sadly accoutred, and very wrathful of mien,
carrying a rapier in his hand, and with despiteful, blood-curdling words
threatening her with death. Whereat he was at once amazed and appalled,
and then filled with compassion for the hapless lady, whereof was bred a
desire to deliver her, if so he might, from such anguish and peril of
death. Wherefore, as he was unarmed, he ran and took in lieu of a cudgel
a branch of a tree, with which he prepared to encounter the dogs and the
knight. Which the knight observing, called to him before he was come to
close quarters, saying:--"Hold off, Nastagio, leave the dogs and me alone
to deal with this vile woman as she has deserved." And, even as he spoke,
the dogs gripped the damsel so hard on either flank that they arrested
her flight, and the knight, being come up, dismounted. Whom Nastagio
approached, saying:--"I know not who thou art, that knowest me so well,
but thus much I tell thee: 'tis a gross outrage for an armed knight to go
about to kill a naked woman, and set his dogs upon her as if she were a
wild beast: rest assured that I shall do all I can to protect her."
Whereupon:--"Nastagio," replied the knight, "of the same city as thou was
I, and thou wast yet a little lad when I, Messer Guido degli Anastagi by
name, being far more enamoured of this damsel than thou art now of her of
the Traversari, was by her haughtiness and cruelty brought to so woeful a
pass that one day in a fit of despair I slew myself with this rapier
which thou seest in my hand; for which cause I am condemned to the
eternal pains. Nor was it long after my death that she, who exulted
therein over measure, also died, and for that she repented her not of her
cruelty and the joy she had of my sufferings, for which she took not
blame to herself, but merit, was likewise condemned to the pains of hell.
Nor had she sooner made her descent, than for her pain and mine 'twas
ordained, that she should flee before me, and that I, who so loved her,
should pursue her, not as my beloved lady, but as my mortal enemy, and
so, as often as I come up with her, I slay her with this same rapier with
which I slew myself, and having ripped her up by the back, I take out
that hard and cold heart, to which neither love nor pity had ever access,
and therewith her other inward parts, as thou shalt forthwith see, and
cast them to these dogs to eat. And in no long time, as the just and
mighty God decrees, she rises even as if she had not died, and
recommences her dolorous flight, I and the dogs pursuing her. And it so
falls out that every Friday about this hour I here come up with her, and
slaughter her as thou shalt see; but ween not that we rest on other days;
for there are other places in which I overtake her, places in which she
used, or devised how she might use, me cruelly; on which wise, changed as
thou seest from her lover into her foe, I am to pursue her for years as
many as the months during which she shewed herself harsh to me. Wherefore
leave me to execute the decree of the Divine justice, and presume not to
oppose that which thou mayst not avail to withstand."

Affrighted by the knight's words, insomuch that there was scarce a hair
on his head but stood on end, Nastagio shrank back, still gazing on the
hapless damsel, and waited all a tremble to see what the knight would do.
Nor had he long to wait; for the knight, as soon as he had done speaking,
sprang, rapier in hand, like a mad dog upon the damsel, who, kneeling,
while the two mastiffs gripped her tightly, cried him mercy; but the
knight, thrusting with all his force, struck her between the breasts, and
ran her clean through the body. Thus stricken, the damsel fell forthwith
prone on the ground sobbing and shrieking: whereupon the knight drew
forth a knife, and having therewith opened her in the back, took out the
heart and all the circumjacent parts, and threw them to the two mastiffs,
who, being famished, forthwith devoured them. And in no long time the
damsel, as if nought thereof had happened, started to her feet, and took
to flight towards the sea, pursued, and ever and anon bitten, by the
dogs, while the knight, having gotten him to horse again, followed them
as before, rapier in hand; and so fast sped they that they were quickly
lost to Nastagio's sight.

Long time he stood musing on what he had seen, divided between pity and
terror, and then it occurred to him that, as this passed every Friday, it
might avail him not a little. So, having marked the place, he rejoined
his servants, and in due time thereafter sent for some of his kinsfolk
and friends, and said to them:--"'Tis now a long while that you urge me
to give up loving this lady that is no friend to me, and therewith make
an end of my extravagant way of living; and I am now ready so to do,
provided you procure me one favour, to wit, that next Friday Messer Paolo
Traversaro, and his wife and daughter, and all the ladies, their
kinswomen, and as many other ladies as you may be pleased to bid, come
hither to breakfast with me: when you will see for yourselves the reason
why I so desire." A small matter this seemed to them; and so, on their
return to Ravenna, they lost no time in conveying Nastagio's message to
his intended guests: and, albeit she was hardly persuaded, yet in the end
the damsel that Nastagio loved came with the rest.

Nastagio caused a lordly breakfast to be prepared, and had the tables set
under the pines about the place where he had witnessed the slaughter of
the cruel lady; and in ranging the ladies and gentlemen at table he so
ordered it, that the damsel whom he loved was placed opposite the spot
where it should be enacted. The last course was just served, when the
despairing cries of the hunted damsel became audible to all, to their no
small amazement; and each asking, and none knowing, what it might import,
up they all started intent to see what was toward; and perceived the
suffering damsel, and the knight and the dogs, who in a trice were in
their midst. They hollaed amain to dogs and knight, and not a few
advanced to succour the damsel: but the words of the knight, which were
such as he had used to Nastagio, caused them to fall back,
terror-stricken and lost in amazement. And when the knight proceeded to
do as he had done before, all the ladies that were there, many of whom
were of kin to the suffering damsel and to the knight, and called to mind
his love and death, wept as bitterly as if 'twere their own case.

When 'twas all over, and the lady and the knight had disappeared, the
strange scene set those that witnessed it pondering many and divers
matters: but among them all none was so appalled as the cruel damsel that
Nastagio loved, who, having clearly seen and heard all that had passed,
and being ware that it touched her more nearly than any other by reason
of the harshness that she had ever shewn to Nastagio, seemed already to
be fleeing from her angered lover, and to have the mastiffs on her
flanks. And so great was her terror that, lest a like fate should befall
her, she converted her aversion into affection, and as soon as occasion
served, which was that very night, sent a trusty chambermaid privily to
Nastagio with a request that he would be pleased to come to her, for that
she was ready in all respects to pleasure him to the full. Nastagio made
answer that he was greatly flattered, but that he was minded with her
consent to have his pleasure of her in an honourable way, to wit, by
marrying her. The damsel, who knew that none but herself was to blame
that she was not already Nastagio's wife, made answer that she consented.
Wherefore by her own mouth she acquainted her father and mother that she
agreed to marry Nastagio; and, they heartily approving her choice,
Nastagio wedded her on the ensuing Sunday, and lived happily with her
many a year. Nor was it in her instance alone that this terror was
productive of good: on the contrary, it so wrought among the ladies of
Ravenna that they all became, and have ever since been, much more
compliant with men's desires than they had been wont to be.


Federigo degli Alberighi loves and is not loved in return: he wastes his
substance by lavishness until nought is left but a single falcon, which,
his lady being come to see him at his house, he gives her to eat: she,
knowing his case, changes her mind, takes him to husband and makes him

So ended Filomena; and the queen, being ware that besides herself only
Dioneo (by virtue of his privilege) was left to speak, said with gladsome
mien:--'Tis now for me to take up my parable; which, dearest ladies, I
will do with a story like in some degree to the foregoing, and that, not
only that you may know how potent are your charms to sway the gentle
heart, but that you may also learn how upon fitting occasions to make
bestowal of your guerdons of your own accord, instead of always waiting
for the guidance of Fortune, which most times, not wisely, but without
rule or measure, scatters her gifts.

You are then to know, that Coppo di Borghese Domenichi, a man that in our
day was, and perchance still is, had in respect and great reverence in
our city, being not only by reason of his noble lineage, but, and yet
more, for manners and merit most illustrious and worthy of eternal
renown, was in his old age not seldom wont to amuse himself by
discoursing of things past with his neighbours and other folk; wherein he
had not his match for accuracy and compass of memory and concinnity of
speech. Among other good stories, he would tell, how that there was of
yore in Florence a gallant named Federigo di Messer Filippo Alberighi,
who for feats of arms and courtesy had not his peer in Tuscany; who, as
is the common lot of gentlemen, became enamoured of a lady named Monna
Giovanna, who in her day held rank among the fairest and most elegant
ladies of Florence; to gain whose love he jousted, tilted, gave
entertainments, scattered largess, and in short set no bounds to his
expenditure. However the lady, no less virtuous than fair, cared not a
jot for what he did for her sake, nor yet for him.

Spending thus greatly beyond his means, and making nothing, Federigo
could hardly fail to come to lack, and was at length reduced to such
poverty that he had nothing left but a little estate, on the rents of
which he lived very straitly, and a single falcon, the best in the world.
The estate was at Campi, and thither, deeming it no longer possible for
him to live in the city as he desired, he repaired, more in love than
ever before; and there, in complete seclusion, diverting himself with
hawking, he bore his poverty as patiently as he might.

Now, Federigo being thus reduced to extreme poverty, it so happened that
one day Monna Giovanna's husband, who was very rich, fell ill, and,
seeing that he was nearing his end, made his will, whereby he left his
estate to his son, who was now growing up, and in the event of his death
without lawful heir named Monna Giovanna, whom he dearly loved, heir in
his stead; and having made these dispositions he died.

Monna Giovanna, being thus left a widow, did as our ladies are wont, and
repaired in the summer to one of her estates in the country which lay
very near to that of Federigo. And so it befell that the urchin began to
make friends with Federigo, and to shew a fondness for hawks and dogs,
and having seen Federigo's falcon fly not a few times, took a singular
fancy to him, and greatly longed to have him for his own, but still did
not dare to ask him of Federigo, knowing that Federigo prized him so
much. So the matter stood when by chance the boy fell sick; whereby the
mother was sore distressed, for he was her only son, and she loved him as
much as might be, insomuch that all day long she was beside him, and
ceased not to comfort him, and again and again asked him if there were
aught that he wished for, imploring him to say the word, and, if it might
by any means be had, she would assuredly do her utmost to procure it for
him. Thus repeatedly exhorted, the boy said:--"Mother mine, do but get me
Federigo's falcon, and I doubt not I shall soon be well." Whereupon the
lady was silent a while, bethinking her what she should do. She knew that
Federigo had long loved her, and had never had so much as a single kind
look from her: wherefore she said to herself:--How can I send or go to
beg of him this falcon, which by what I hear is the best that ever flew,
and moreover is his sole comfort? And how could I be so unfeeling as to
seek to deprive a gentleman of the one solace that is now left him? And
so, albeit she very well knew that she might have the falcon for the
asking, she was perplexed, and knew not what to say, and gave her son no
answer. At length, however, the love she bore the boy carried the day,
and she made up her mind, for his contentment, come what might, not to
send, but to go herself and fetch him the falcon. So:--"Be of good cheer,
my son," she said, "and doubt not thou wilt soon be well; for I promise
thee that the very first thing that I shall do tomorrow morning will be
to go and fetch thee the falcon." Whereat the child was so pleased that
he began to mend that very day.

On the morrow the lady, as if for pleasure, hied her with another lady to
Federigo's little house, and asked to see him. 'Twas still, as for some
days past, no weather for hawking, and Federigo was in his garden, busy
about some small matters which needed to be set right there. When he
heard that Monna Giovanna was at the door, asking to see him, he was not
a little surprised and pleased, and hied him to her with all speed. As
soon as she saw him, she came forward to meet him with womanly grace, and
having received his respectful salutation, said to him:--"Good morrow,
Federigo," and continued:--"I am come to requite thee for what thou hast
lost by loving me more than thou shouldst: which compensation is this,
that I and this lady that accompanies me will breakfast with thee without
ceremony this morning." "Madam," Federigo replied with all humility, "I
mind not ever to have lost aught by loving you, but rather to have been
so much profited that, if I ever deserved well in aught, 'twas to your
merit that I owed it, and to the love that I bore you. And of a surety
had I still as much to spend as I have spent in the past, I should not
prize it so much as this visit you so frankly pay me, come as you are to
one who can afford you but a sorry sort of hospitality." Which said, with
some confusion, he bade her welcome to his house, and then led her into
his garden, where, having none else to present to her by way of
companion, he said:--"Madam, as there is none other here, this good
woman, wife of this husbandman, will bear you company, while I go to have
the table set." Now, albeit his poverty was extreme, yet he had not known
as yet how sore was the need to which his extravagance had reduced him;
but this morning 'twas brought home to him, for that he could find nought
wherewith to do honour to the lady, for love of whom he had done the
honours of his house to men without number: wherefore, distressed beyond
measure, and inwardly cursing his evil fortune, he sped hither and
thither like one beside himself, but never a coin found he, nor yet aught
to pledge. Meanwhile it grew late, and sorely he longed that the lady
might not leave his house altogether unhonoured, and yet to crave help of
his own husbandman was more than his pride could brook. In these
desperate straits his glance happened to fall on his brave falcon on his
perch in his little parlour. And so, as a last resource, he took him, and
finding him plump, deemed that he would make a dish meet for such a lady.
Wherefore, without thinking twice about it, he wrung the bird's neck, and
caused his maid forthwith pluck him and set him on a spit, and roast him
carefully; and having still some spotless table linen, he had the table
laid therewith, and with a cheerful countenance hied him back to his lady
in the garden, and told her that such breakfast as he could give her was
ready. So the lady and her companion rose and came to table, and there,
with Federigo, who waited on them most faithfully, ate the brave falcon,
knowing not what they ate.

When they were risen from table, and had dallied a while in gay converse
with him, the lady deemed it time to tell the reason of her visit:
wherefore, graciously addressing Federigo, thus began she:--"Federigo, by
what thou rememberest of thy past life and my virtue, which, perchance,
thou hast deemed harshness and cruelty, I doubt not thou must marvel at
my presumption, when thou hearest the main purpose of my visit; but if
thou hadst sons, or hadst had them, so that thou mightest know the full
force of the love that is borne them, I should make no doubt that thou
wouldst hold me in part excused. Nor, having a son, may I, for that thou
hast none, claim exemption from the laws to which all other mothers are
subject, and, being thus bound to own their sway, I must, though fain
were I not, and though 'tis neither meet nor right, crave of thee that
which I know thou dost of all things and with justice prize most highly,
seeing that this extremity of thy adverse fortune has left thee nought
else wherewith to delight, divert and console thee; which gift is no
other than thy falcon, on which my boy has so set his heart that, if I
bring him it not, I fear lest he grow so much worse of the malady that he
has, that thereby it may come to pass that I lose him. And so, not for
the love which thou dost bear me, and which may nowise bind thee, but for
that nobleness of temper, whereof in courtesy more conspicuously than in
aught else thou hast given proof, I implore thee that thou be pleased to
give me the bird, that thereby I may say that I have kept my son alive,
and thus made him for aye thy debtor."

No sooner had Federigo apprehended what the lady wanted, than, for grief
that 'twas not in his power to serve her, because he had given her the
falcon to eat, he fell a weeping in her presence, before he could so much
as utter a word. At first the lady supposed that 'twas only because he
was loath to part with the brave falcon that he wept, and as good as made
up her mind that he would refuse her: however, she awaited with patience
Federigo's answer, which was on this wise:--"Madam, since it pleased God
that I should set my affections upon you there have been matters not a
few, in which to my sorrow I have deemed Fortune adverse to me; but they
have all been trifles in comparison of the trick that she now plays me:
the which I shall never forgive her, seeing that you are come here to my
poor house, where, while I was rich, you deigned not to come, and ask a
trifling favour of me, which she has put it out of my power to grant: how
'tis so, I will briefly tell you. When I learned that you, of your grace,
were minded to breakfast with me, having respect to your high dignity and
desert, I deemed it due and seemly that in your honour I should regale
you, to the best of my power, with fare of a more excellent quality than
is commonly set before others; and, calling to mind the falcon which you
now ask of me, and his excellence, I judged him meet food for you, and so
you have had him roasted on the trencher this morning; and well indeed I
thought I had bestowed him; but, as now I see that you would fain have
had him in another guise, so mortified am I that I am not able to serve
you, that I doubt I shall never know peace of mind more." In witness
whereof he had the feathers and feet and beak of the bird brought in and
laid before her.

The first thing the lady did, when she had heard Federigo's story, and
seen the relics of the bird, was to chide him that he had killed so fine
a falcon to furnish a woman with a breakfast; after which the magnanimity
of her host, which poverty had been and was powerless to impair, elicited
no small share of inward commendation. Then, frustrate of her hope of
possessing the falcon, and doubting of her son's recovery, she took her
leave with the heaviest of hearts, and hied her back to the boy: who,
whether for fretting, that he might not have the falcon, or by the
unaided energy of his disorder, departed this life not many days after,
to the exceeding great grief of his mother. For a while she would do
nought but weep and bitterly bewail herself; but being still young, and
left very wealthy, she was often urged by her brothers to marry again,
and though she would rather have not done so, yet being importuned, and
remembering Federigo's high desert, and the magnificent generosity with
which he had finally killed his falcon to do her honour, she said to her
brothers:--"Gladly, with your consent, would I remain a widow, but if you
will not be satisfied except I take a husband, rest assured that none
other will I ever take save Federigo degli Alberighi." Whereupon her
brothers derided her, saying:--"Foolish woman, what is't thou sayst? How
shouldst thou want Federigo, who has not a thing in the world?" To whom
she answered:--"My brothers, well wot I that 'tis as you say; but I had
rather have a man without wealth than wealth without a man." The
brothers, perceiving that her mind was made up, and knowing Federigo for
a good man and true, poor though he was, gave her to him with all her
wealth. And so Federigo, being mated with such a wife, and one that he
had so much loved, and being very wealthy to boot, lived happily, keeping
more exact accounts, to the end of his days.


Pietro di Vinciolo goes from home to sup: his wife brings a boy into the
house to bear her company: Pietro returns, and she hides her gallant
under a hen-coop: Pietro explains that in the house of Ercolano, with
whom he was to have supped, there was discovered a young man bestowed
there by Ercolano's wife: the lady thereupon censures Ercolano's wife:
but unluckily an ass treads on the fingers of the boy that is hidden
under the hen-coop, so that he cries for pain: Pietro runs to the place,
sees him, and apprehends the trick played on him by his wife, which
nevertheless he finally condones, for that he is not himself free from

When the queen had done speaking, and all had praised God that He had
worthily rewarded Federigo, Dioneo, who never waited to be bidden, thus
began:--I know not whether I am to term it a vice accidental and
superinduced by bad habits in us mortals, or whether it be a fault seated
in nature, that we are more prone to laugh at things dishonourable than
at good deeds, and that more especially when they concern not ourselves.
However, as the sole scope of all my efforts has been and still shall be
to dispel your melancholy, and in lieu thereof to minister to you
laughter and jollity; therefore, enamoured my damsels, albeit the ensuing
story is not altogether free from matter that is scarce seemly, yet, as
it may afford you pleasure, I shall not fail to relate it; premonishing
you my hearers, that you take it with the like discretion as when, going
into your gardens, you stretch forth your delicate hands and cull the
roses, leaving the thorns alone: which, being interpreted, means that you
will leave the caitiff husband to abide in sorry plight with his
dishonour, and will gaily laugh at the amorous wiles or his wife, and
commiserate her unfortunate gallant, when occasion requires.

'Tis no great while since there dwelt at Perugia a rich man named Pietro
di Vinciolo, who rather, perchance, to blind others and mitigate the evil
repute in which he was held by the citizens of Perugia, than for any
desire to wed, took a wife: and such being his motive, Fortune provided
him with just such a spouse as he merited. For the wife of his choice was
a stout, red-haired young woman, and so hot-blooded that two husbands
would have been more to her mind than one, whereas one fell to her lot
that gave her only a subordinate place in his regard. Which she
perceiving, while she knew herself to be fair and lusty, and felt herself
to be gamesome and fit, waxed very wroth, and now and again had high
words with her husband, and led but a sorry life with him at most times.
Then, seeing that thereby she was more like to fret herself than to
dispose her husband to conduct less base, she said to herself:--This poor
creature deserts me to go walk in pattens in the dry; wherefore it shall
go hard but I will bring another aboard the ship for the wet weather. I
married him, and brought him a great and goodly dowry, knowing that he
was a man, and supposing him to have the desires which men have and ought
to have; and had I not deemed him to be a man, I should never have
married him. He knew me to be a woman: why then took he me to wife, if
women were not to his mind? 'Tis not to be endured. Had I not been minded
to live in the world, I had become a nun; and being minded there to live,
as I am, if I am to wait until I have pleasure or solace of him, I shall
wait perchance until I am old; and then, too late, I shall bethink me to
my sorrow that I have wasted my youth; and as to the way in which I
should seek its proper solace I need no better teacher and guide than
him, who finds his delight where I should find mine, and finds it to his
own condemnation, whereas in me 'twere commendable. 'Tis but the laws
that I shall set at nought, whereas he sets both them and Nature herself
at nought.

So the good lady reasoned, and peradventure more than once; and then,
casting about how she might privily compass her end, she made friends
with an old beldam, that shewed as a veritable Santa Verdiana,
foster-mother of vipers, who was ever to be seen going to pardonings with
a parcel of paternosters in her hand, and talked of nothing but the lives
of the holy Fathers, and the wounds of St. Francis, and was generally
reputed a saint; to whom in due time she opened her whole mind. "My
daughter," replied the beldam, "God, who knows all things, knows that
thou wilt do very rightly indeed: were it for no other reason, 'twould be
meet for thee and every other young woman so to do, that the heyday of
youth be not wasted; for there is no grief like that of knowing that it
has been wasted. And what the devil are we women fit for when we are old
except to pore over the cinders on the hearth? The which if any know, and
may attest it, 'tis I, who, now that I am old, call to mind the time that
I let slip from me, not without most sore and bitter and fruitless
regret: and albeit 'twas not all wasted, for I would not have thee think
that I was entirely without sense, yet I did not make the best use of it:
whereof when I bethink me, and that I am now, even as thou seest me, such
a hag that never a spark of fire may I hope to get from any, God knows
how I rue it. Now with men 'tis otherwise: they are born meet for a
thousand uses, not for this alone; and the more part of them are of much
greater consequence in old age than in youth: but women are fit for
nought but this, and 'tis but for that they bear children that they are
cherished. Whereof, if not otherwise, thou mayst assure thyself, if thou
do but consider that we are ever ready for it; which is not the case with
men; besides which, one woman will tire out many men without being
herself tired out. Seeing then that 'tis for this we are born, I tell
thee again that thou wilt do very rightly to give thy husband thy loaf
for his cake, that in thy old age thy soul may have no cause of complaint
against thy flesh. Every one has just as much of this life as he
appropriates: and this is especially true of women, whom therefore it
behoves, much more than men, to seize the moment as it flies: indeed, as
thou mayst see for thyself, when we grow old neither husband, nor any
other man will spare us a glance; but, on the contrary, they banish us to
the kitchen, there to tell stories to the cat, and to count the pots and
pans; or, worse, they make rhymes about us:--'To the damsel dainty bits;
to the beldam ague-fits;' and such-like catches. But to make no more
words about it, I tell thee at once that there is no person in the world
to whom thou couldst open thy mind with more advantage than to me; for
there is no gentleman so fine but I dare speak my mind to him, nor any so
harsh and forbidding but I know well how to soften him and fashion him to
my will. Tell me only what thou wouldst have, and leave the rest to me:
but one word more: I pray thee to have me in kindly remembrance, for that
I am poor; and thou shalt henceforth go shares with me in all my
indulgences and every paternoster that I say, that God may make thereof
light and tapers for thy dead:" wherewith she ended.

So the lady came to an understanding with the beldam, that, as soon as
she set eyes on a boy that often came along that street, and of whom the
lady gave her a particular description, she would know what she was to
do: and thereupon the lady gave her a chunk of salt meat, and bade her
God-speed. The beldam before long smuggled into the lady's chamber the
boy of whom she had spoken, and not long after another, such being the
humour of the lady, who, standing in perpetual dread of her husband, was
disposed, in this particular, to make the most of her opportunities. And
one of these days, her husband being to sup in the evening with a friend
named Ercolano, the lady bade the beldam bring her a boy as pretty and
dainty as was to be found in Perugia; and so the beldam forthwith did.
But the lady and the boy being set at table to sup, lo, Pietro's voice
was heard at the door, bidding open to him. Whereupon the lady gave
herself up for dead; but being fain, if she might, to screen the boy, and
knowing not where else to convey or conceal him, bestowed him under a
hen-coop that stood in a veranda hard by the chamber in which they were
supping, and threw over it a sorry mattress that she had that day emptied
of its straw; which done she hastened to open the door to her husband;
saying to him as he entered:--"You have gulped your supper mighty quickly
to-night." Whereto Pietro replied:--"We have not so much as tasted it."
"How so?" enquired the lady. "I will tell thee," said Pietro. "No sooner
were we set at table, Ercolano, his wife, and I, than we heard a sneeze
close to us, to which, though 'twas repeated, we paid no heed; but as the
sneezer continued to sneeze a third, a fourth, a fifth, and many another
time to boot, we all began to wonder, and Ercolano, who was somewhat out
of humour with his wife, because she had kept us a long time at the door
before she opened it, burst out in a sort of rage with:--'What means
this? Who is't that thus sneezes?' and made off to a stair hard by,
beneath which and close to its foot was a wooden closet, of the sort
which, when folk are furnishing their houses, they commonly cause to be
placed there, to stow things in upon occasion. And as it seemed to him
that the sneezing proceeded thence, he undid the wicket, and no sooner
had he opened it than out flew never so strong a stench of brimstone;
albeit we had already been saluted by a whiff of it, and complained
thereof, but had been put off by the lady with:--''Tis but that a while
ago I bleached my veils with brimstone, having sprinkled it on a dish,
that they might catch its fumes, which dish I then placed under the
stair, so that it still smells a little.'

"However the door being now, as I have said, open, and the smoke somewhat
less dense, Ercolano, peering in, espied the fellow that had sneezed, and
who still kept sneezing, being thereto constrained by the pungency of the
brimstone. And for all he sneezed, yet was he by this time so well-nigh
choked with the brimstone that he was like neither to sneeze nor to do
aught else again. As soon as he caught sight of him, Ercolano bawled
out:--'Now see I, Madam, why it was that a while ago, when we came here,
we were kept waiting so long at the gate before 'twas opened; but woe
betide me for the rest of my days, if I pay you not out.' Whereupon the
lady, perceiving that her offence was discovered, ventured no excuse, but
fled from the table, whither I know not. Ercolano, ignoring his wife's
flight, bade the sneezer again and again to come forth; but he, being by
this time fairly spent, budged not an inch for aught that Ercolano said.
Wherefore Ercolano caught him by one of his feet, and dragged him forth,
and ran off for a knife with intent to kill him; but I, standing in fear
of the Signory on my own account, got up and would not suffer him to kill
the fellow or do him any hurt, and for his better protection raised the
alarm, whereby some of the neighbours came up and took the lad, more dead
than alive, and bore him off, I know not whither. However, our supper
being thus rudely interrupted, not only have not gulped it, but I have
not so much as tasted it, as I said before!"

Her husband's story shewed his wife that there were other ladies as
knowing as she, albeit misfortune might sometimes overtake them and
gladly would she have spoken out in defence of Ercolano's wife, but,
thinking that, by censuring another's sin, she would secure more scope
for her own, she launched out on this wise:--"Fine doings indeed, a right
virtuous and saintly lady she must be: here is the loyalty of an honest
woman, and one to whom I had lief have confessed, so spiritual I deemed
her; and the worst of it is that, being no longer young, she sets a rare
example to those that are so. Curses on the hour that she came into the
world: curses upon her that she make not away with herself, basest, most
faithless of women that she must needs be, the reproach of her sex, the
opprobrium of all the ladies of this city, to cast aside all regard for
her honour, her marriage vow, her reputation before the world, and, lost
to all sense of shame, to scruple not to bring disgrace upon a man so
worthy, a citizen so honourable, a husband by whom she was so well
treated, ay, and upon herself to boot! By my hope of salvation no mercy
should be shewn to such women; they should pay the penalty with their
lives; to the fire with them while they yet live, and let them be burned
to ashes." Then, calling to mind the lover that she had close at hand in
the hen-coop, she fell to coaxing Pietro to get him to bed, for the hour
grew late. Pietro, who was more set on eating than sleeping, only asked
whether there was aught he might have by way of supper. "Supper,
forsooth!" replied the lady. "Ay, of course 'tis our way to make much of
supper when thou art not at home. As if I were Ercolano's wife! Now,
wherefore tarry longer? Go, get thy night's rest: 'twere far better for

Now so it was that some of Pietro's husbandmen had come to the house that
evening with divers things from the farm, and had put up their asses in a
stable that adjoined the veranda, but had neglected to water them; and
one of the asses being exceeding thirsty, got his head out of the halter
and broke loose from the stable, and went about nosing everything, if
haply he might come by water: whereby he came upon the hen-coop, beneath
which was the boy; who, being constrained to stand on all fours, had the
fingers of one hand somewhat protruding from under the hen-coop; and so
as luck or rather ill-luck would have it, the ass trod on them; whereat,
being sorely hurt, he set up a great howling, much to the surprise of
Pietro, who perceived that 'twas within his house. So forth he came, and
hearing the boy still moaning and groaning, for the ass still kept his
hoof hard down on the fingers, called out:--"Who is there?" and ran to
the hen-coop and raised it, and espied the fellow, who, besides the pain
that the crushing of his fingers by the ass's hoof occasioned him,
trembled in every limb for fear that Pietro should do him a mischief. He
was one that Pietro had long been after for his foul purposes: so Pietro,
recognizing him, asked him:--"What dost thou here?" The boy making no
answer, save to beseech him for the love of God to do him no hurt, Pietro
continued:--"Get up, have no fear that I shall hurt thee; but tell
me:--How, and for what cause comest thou to be here?" The boy then
confessed everything. Whereupon Pietro, as elated by the discovery as his
wife was distressed, took him by the hand; and led him into the room
where the lady in the extremity of terror awaited him; and, having seated
himself directly in front of her, said:--"'Twas but a moment ago that
thou didst curse Ercolano's wife, and averred that she ought to be
burned, and that she was the reproach of your sex: why saidst thou not,
of thyself? Or, if thou wast not minded to accuse thyself, how hadst thou
the effrontery to censure her, knowing that thou hadst done even as she?
Verily 'twas for no other reason than that ye are all fashioned thus, and
study to cover your own misdeeds with the delinquencies of others: would
that fire might fall from heaven and burn you all, brood of iniquity that
ye are!"

The lady, marking that in the first flush of his wrath he had given her
nothing worse than hard words, and discerning, as she thought, that he
was secretly overjoyed to hold so beautiful a boy by the hand, took heart
of grace and said:--"I doubt not indeed that thou wouldst be well pleased
that fire should fall from heaven and devour us all, seeing that thou art
as fond of us as a dog is of the stick, though by the Holy Rood thou wilt
be disappointed; but I would fain have a little argument with thee, to
know whereof thou complainest. Well indeed were it with me, didst thou
but place me on an equality with Ercolano's wife, who is an old
sanctimonious hypocrite, and has of him all that she wants, and is
cherished by him as a wife should be: but that is not my case. For,
granted that thou givest me garments and shoes to my mind, thou knowest
how otherwise ill bested I am, and how long it is since last thou didst
lie with me; and far liefer had I go barefoot and in rags, and have thy
benevolence abed, than have all that I have, and be treated as thou dost
treat me. Understand me, Pietro, be reasonable; consider that I am a
woman like other women, with the like craving; whereof if thou deny me
the gratification, 'tis no blame to me that I seek it elsewhere; and at
least I do thee so much honour as not forgather with stable-boys or
scurvy knaves."

Pietro perceived that she was like to continue in this vein the whole
night: wherefore, indifferent as he was to her, he said:--"Now, Madam, no
more of this; in the matter of which thou speakest I will content thee;
but of thy great courtesy let us have something to eat by way of supper;
for, methinks, the boy, as well as I, has not yet supped." "Ay, true
enough," said the lady, "he has not supped; for we were but just sitting
down to table to sup, when, beshrew thee, thou madest thy appearance."
"Go then," said Pietro, "get us some supper; and by and by I will arrange
this affair in such a way that thou shalt have no more cause of
complaint." The lady, perceiving that her husband was now tranquil, rose,
and soon had the table laid again and spread with the supper which she
had ready; and so they made a jolly meal of it, the caitiff husband, the
lady and the boy. What after supper Pietro devised for their mutual
satisfaction has slipped from my memory. But so much as this I know, that
on the morrow as he wended his way to the piazza, the boy would have been
puzzled to say, whether of the twain, the wife or the husband, had had
the most of his company during the night. But this I would say to you,
dear my ladies, that whoso gives you tit, why, just give him tat; and if
you cannot do it at once, why, bear it in mind until you can, that even
as the ass gives, so he may receive.

Dioneo's story, whereat the ladies laughed the less for shamefastness
rather than for disrelish, being ended, the queen, taking note that the
term of her sovereignty was come, rose to her feet, and took off the
laurel wreath and set it graciously upon Elisa's head, saying:--"Madam,
'tis now your turn to bear sway." The dignity accepted, Elisa followed in
all respects the example of her predecessors: she first conferred with
the seneschal, and directed him how meetly to order all things during the
time of her sovereignty; which done to the satisfaction of the
company:--"Ofttimes," quoth she, "have we heard how with bright sallies,
and ready retorts, and sudden devices, not a few have known how to repugn
with apt checks the bites of others, or to avert imminent perils; and
because 'tis an excellent argument, and may be profitable, I ordain that
to-morrow, God helping us, the following be the rule of our discourse; to
wit, that it be of such as by some sprightly sally have repulsed an
attack, or by some ready retort or device have avoided loss, peril or
scorn." The rule being heartily approved by all, the queen rose and
dismissed them till supper-time. So the honourable company, seeing the
queen risen, rose all likewise, and as their wont was, betook them to
their diversions as to each seemed best. But when the cicalas had hushed
their chirping, all were mustered again for supper; and having blithely
feasted, they all addressed them to song and dance. And the queen, while
Emilia led a dance, called for a song from Dioneo, who at once came out
with:--'Monna Aldruda, come perk up thy mood, a piece of glad tidings I
bring thee.' Whereat all the ladies fell a laughing, and most of all the
queen, who bade him give them no more of that, but sing another. Quoth
Dioneo:--"Madam, had I a tabret, I would sing:--'Up with your smock,
Monna Lapa!' or:--'Oh! the greensward under the olive!' Or perchance you
had liefer I should give you:--'Woe is me, the wave of the sea!' But no
tabret have I: wherefore choose which of these others you will have.
Perchance you would like:--'Now hie thee to us forth, that so it may be
cut, as May the fields about.'" "No," returned the queen, "give us
another." "Then," said Dioneo, "I will sing:--'Monna Simona, embarrel,
embarrel. Why, 'tis not the month of October.'"(1) "Now a plague upon
thee," said the queen, with a laugh; "give us a proper song, wilt thou?
for we will have none of these." "Never fear, Madam," replied Dioneo;
"only say which you prefer. I have more than a thousand songs by heart.
Perhaps you would like:--'This my little covert, make I ne'er it overt';
or:--'Gently, gently, husband mine'; or:--'A hundred pounds were none too
high a price for me a cock to buy.'" The queen now shewed some offence,
though the other ladies laughed, and:--"A truce to thy jesting, Dioneo,"
said she, "and give us a proper song: else thou mayst prove the quality
of my ire." Whereupon Dioneo forthwith ceased his fooling, and sang on
this wise:--

So ravishing a light
Doth from the fair eyes of my mistress move
As keeps me slave to her and thee, O Love.

A beam from those bright orbs did radiate
That flame that through mine own eyes to my breast
Did whilom entrance gain.
Thy majesty, O Love, thy might, how great
They be, 'twas her fair face did manifest:
Whereon to brood still fain,
I felt thee take and chain
Each sense, my soul enthralling on such wise
That she alone henceforth evokes my sighs.

Wherefore, O dear my Lord, myself I own
Thy slave, and, all obedience, wait and yearn,
Till thy might me console.
Yet wot I not if it be throughly known
How noble is the flame wherewith I burn,
My loyalty how whole
To her that doth control
Ev'n in such sort my mind that shall I none,
Nor would I, peace receive, save hers alone.

And so I pray thee, sweet my Lord, that thou
Give her to feel thy fire, and shew her plain
How grievous my disease.
This service deign to render; for that now
Thou seest me waste for love, and in the pain
Dissolve me by degrees:
And then the apt moment seize
My cause to plead with her, as is but due
From thee to me, who fain with thee would sue.

When Dioneo's silence shewed that his song was ended, the queen accorded
it no stinted meed of praise; after which she caused not a few other
songs to be sung. Thus passed some part of the night; and then the queen,
taking note that its freshness had vanquished the heat of the day, bade
all go rest them, if they would, till the morning.

(1) The song is evidently amoebean.

Endeth here the fifth day of the Decameron, beginneth the sixth, wherein,
under the rule of Elisa, discourse is had of such as by some sprightly
sally have repulsed an attack, or by some ready retort or device have
avoided loss, peril or scorn.

Still in mid heaven, the moon had lost her radiance, nor was any part of
our world unillumined by the fresh splendour of the dawn, when, the queen
being risen and having mustered her company, they hied them, gently
sauntering, across the dewy mead some distance from the beautiful hill,
conversing now of this, now of the other matter, canvassing the stories,
their greater or less degree of beauty, and laughing afresh at divers of
their incidents, until, the sun being now in his higher ascendant, they
began to feel his heat, and turning back by common consent, retraced
their steps to the palace, where, the tables being already set, and
fragrant herbs and fair flowers strewn all about, they by the queen's
command, before it should grow hotter, addressed themselves to their
meal. So, having blithely breakfasted, they first of all sang some dainty
and jocund ditties, and then, as they were severally minded, composed
them to sleep or sat them down to chess or dice, while Dioneo and
Lauretta fell a singing of Troilus and Cressida.

The hour of session being come, they took their places, at the queen's
summons, in their wonted order by the fountain; but, when the queen was
about to call for the first story, that happened which had not happened
before; to wit, there being a great uproar in the kitchen among the maids
and men, the sound thereof reached the ears of the queen and all the
company. Whereupon the queen called the seneschal and asked him who
bawled so loud, and what was the occasion of the uproar. The seneschal
made answer that 'twas some contention between Licisca and Tindaro; but
the occasion he knew not, having but just come to quiet them, when he
received her summons. The queen then bade him cause Licisca and Tindaro
to come thither forthwith: so they came, and the queen enquired of them
the cause of the uproar. Tindaro was about to make answer, when Licisca,
who was somewhat advanced in years, and disposed to give herself airs,
and heated to the strife of words, turned to Tindaro, and scowling upon
him said:--"Unmannerly varlet that makest bold to speak before me; leave
me to tell the story." Then, turning to the queen, she said:--"Madam,
this fellow would fain instruct me as to Sicofante's wife, and--neither
more or less--as if I had not known her well--would have me believe that,
the first night that Sicofante lay with her, 'twas by force and not
without effusion of blood that Master Yard made his way into Dusky Hill;
which I deny, averring that he met with no resistance, but, on the
contrary, with a hearty welcome on the part of the garrison. And such a
numskull is he as fondly to believe that the girls are so simple as to
let slip their opportunities, while they wait on the caprice of father or
brothers, who six times out of seven delay to marry them for three or
four years after they should. Ay, ay indeed, doubtless they were well
advised to tarry so long! Christ's faith! I should know the truth of what
I swear; there is never a woman in my neighbourhood whose husband had her
virginity; and well I know how many and what manner of tricks our married
dames play their husbands; and yet this booby would fain teach me to know
women as if I were but born yesterday."

While Licisca thus spoke, the ladies laughed till all their teeth were
ready to start from their heads. Six times at least the queen bade her be
silent: but all in vain; she halted not till she had said all that she
had a mind to. When she had done, the queen turned with a smile to Dioneo
saying:--"This is a question for thee to deal with, Dioneo; so hold
thyself in readiness to give final judgment upon it, when our stories are
ended." "Madam," replied Dioneo forthwith, "I give judgment without more
ado: I say that Licisca is in the right; I believe that 'tis even as she
says, and that Tindaro is a fool." Whereupon Licisca burst out laughing,
and turning to Tindaro:--"Now did I not tell thee so?" quoth she. "Begone
in God's name: dost think to know more than I, thou that art but a
sucking babe? Thank God, I have not lived for nothing, not I." And had
not the queen sternly bade her be silent, and make no more disturbance,
unless she had a mind to be whipped, and sent both her and Tindaro back
to the kitchen, the whole day would have been spent in nought but
listening to her. So Licisca and Tindaro having withdrawn, the queen
charged Filomena to tell the first story: and gaily thus Filomena began.


A knight offers to carry Madonna Oretta a horseback with a story, but
tells it so ill that she prays him to dismount her.

As stars are set for an ornament in the serene expanse of heaven, and
likewise in springtime flowers and leafy shrubs in the green meadows, so,
damsels, in the hour of rare and excellent discourse, is wit with its
bright sallies. Which, being brief, are much more proper for ladies than
for men, seeing that prolixity of speech, where brevity is possible, is
much less allowable to them. But for whatever cause, be it the sorry
quality of our understanding, or some especial enmity that heaven bears
to our generation, few ladies or none are left to-day that, when occasion
prompts, are able to meet it with apt speech, ay, or if aught of the kind
they hear, can understand it aright: to our common shame be it spoken!
But as, touching this matter, enough has already been said by
Pampinea,(1) I purpose not to enlarge thereon; but, that you may know
what excellence resides in speech apt for the occasion, I am minded to
tell you after how courteous a fashion a lady imposed silence upon a

'Tis no long time since there dwelt in our city a lady, noble, debonair
and of excellent discourse, whom not a few of you may have seen or heard
of, whose name--for such high qualities merit not oblivion--was Madonna
Oretta, her husband being Messer Geri Spina. Now this lady, happening to
be, as we are, in the country, moving from place to place for pleasure
with a company of ladies and gentlemen, whom she had entertained the day
before at breakfast at her house, and the place of their next sojourn,
whither they were to go afoot, being some considerable distance off, one
of the gentlemen of the company said to her:--"Madonna Oretta, so please
you, I will carry you great part of the way a horseback with one of the
finest stories in the world." "Indeed, Sir," replied the lady, "I pray
you do so; and I shall deem it the greatest of favours." Whereupon the
gentleman, who perhaps was no better master of his weapon than of his
story, began a tale, which in itself was indeed excellent, but which, by
repeating the same word three, four or six times, and now and again
harking back, and saying:--"I said not well"; and erring not seldom in
the names, setting one in place of another, he utterly spoiled; besides
which, his mode of delivery accorded very ill with the character of the
persons and incidents: insomuch that Madonna Oretta, as she listened, did
oft sweat, and was like to faint, as if she were ill and at the point of
death. And being at length able to bear no more of it, witting that the
gentleman had got into a mess and was not like to get out of it, she said
pleasantly to him:--"Sir, this horse of yours trots too hard; I pray you
be pleased to set me down." The gentleman, being perchance more quick of
apprehension than he was skilful in narration, missed not the meaning of
her sally, and took it in all good and gay humour. So, leaving unfinished
the tale which he had begun, and so mishandled, he addressed himself to
tell her other stories.

(1) Cf. First Day, Novel X.


Cisti, a baker, by an apt speech gives Messer Geri Spina to know that he
has by inadvertence asked that of him which he should not.

All the ladies and the men alike having greatly commended Madonna
Oretta's apt saying, the queen bade Pampinea follow suit, and thus she

Fair ladies, I cannot myself determine whether Nature or Fortune be the
more at fault, the one in furnishing a noble soul with a vile body, or
the other in allotting a base occupation to a body endowed with a noble
soul, whereof we may have seen an example, among others, in our
fellow-citizen, Cisti; whom, furnished though he was with a most lofty
soul, Fortune made a baker. And verily I should curse Nature and Fortune
alike, did I not know that Nature is most discreet, and that Fortune,
albeit the foolish imagine her blind, has a thousand eyes. For 'tis, I
suppose, that, being wise above a little, they do as mortals ofttimes do,
who, being uncertain as to their future, provide against contingencies by
burying their most precious treasures in the basest places in their
houses, as being the least likely to be suspected; whence, in the hour of
their greatest need, they bring them forth, the base place having kept
them more safe than the dainty chamber would have done. And so these two
arbitresses of the world not seldom hide their most precious commodities
in the obscurity of the crafts that are reputed most base, that thence
being brought to light they may shine with a brighter splendour. Whereof
how in a trifling matter Cisti, the baker, gave proof, restoring the eyes
of the mind to Messer Geri Spina, whom the story of his wife, Madonna
Oretta, has brought to my recollection, I am minded to shew you in a
narrative which shall be of the briefest.

I say then that Pope Boniface, with whom Messer Geri Spina stood very
high in favour and honour, having sent divers of his courtiers to
Florence as ambassadors to treat of certain matters of great moment, and
they being lodged in Messer Geri's house, where he treated with them of
the said affairs of the Pope, 'twas, for some reason or another, the wont
of Messer Geri and the ambassadors of the Pope to pass almost every
morning by Santa Maria Ughi, where Cisti, the baker, had his bakehouse,
and plied his craft in person. Now, albeit Fortune had allotted him a
very humble occupation, she had nevertheless prospered him therein to
such a degree that he was grown most wealthy, and without ever aspiring
to change it for another, lived in most magnificent style, having among
his other good things a cellar of the best wines, white and red, that
were to be found in Florence, or the country parts; and marking Messer
Geri and the ambassadors of the Pope pass every morning by his door, he
bethought him that, as 'twas very hot, 'twould be a very courteous thing
to give them to drink of his good wine; but comparing his rank with that
of Messer Geri, he deemed it unseemly to presume to invite him, and cast
about how he might lead Messer Geri to invite himself. So, wearing always
the whitest of doublets and a spotless apron, that denoted rather the
miller, than the baker, he let bring, every morning about the hour that
he expected Messer Geri and the ambassadors to pass by his door, a
spick-and-span bucket of fresh and cool spring water, and a small
Bolognese flagon of his good white wine, and two beakers that shone like
silver, so bright were they: and there down he sat him, as they came by,
and after hawking once or twice, fell a drinking his wine with such gusto
that 'twould have raised a thirst in a corpse. Which Messer Geri having
observed on two successive mornings, said on the third:--"What is't,
Cisti? Is't good?" Whereupon Cisti jumped up, and answered:--"Ay, Sir,
good it is; but in what degree I might by no means make you understand,
unless you tasted it." Messer Geri, in whom either the heat of the
weather, or unwonted fatigue, or, perchance, the gusto with which he had
seen Cisti drink, had bred a thirst, turned to the ambassadors and said
with a smile:--"Gentlemen, 'twere well to test the quality of this worthy
man's wine: it may be such that we shall not repent us." And so in a body
they came up to where Cisti stood; who, having caused a goodly bench to
be brought out of the bakehouse, bade them be seated, and to their
servants, who were now coming forward to wash the beakers, said:--"Stand
back, comrades, and leave this office to me, for I know as well how to
serve wine as to bake bread; and expect not to taste a drop yourselves."
Which said, he washed four fine new beakers with his own hands, and
having sent for a small flagon of his good wine, he heedfully filled the
beakers, and presented them to Messer Geri and his companions; who deemed
the wine the best that they had drunk for a great while. So Messer Geri,
having praised the wine not a little, came there to drink every morning
with the ambassadors as long as they tarried with him.

Now when the ambassadors had received their conge, and were about to
depart, Messer Geri gave a grand banquet, to which he bade some of the
most honourable of the citizens, and also Cisti, who could by no means be
induced to come. However, Messer Geri bade one of his servants go fetch a
flask of Cisti's wine, and serve half a beaker thereof to each guest at
the first course. The servant, somewhat offended, perhaps, that he had
not been suffered to taste any of the wine, took with him a large flask,
which Cisti no sooner saw, than:--"Son," quoth he, "Messer Geri does not
send thee to me": and often as the servant affirmed that he did, he could
get no other answer: wherewith he was fain at last to return to Messer
Geri. "Go, get thee back, said Messer Geri, and tell him that I do send
thee to him, and if he answers thee so again, ask him, to whom then I
send thee." So the servant came back, and said:--"Cisti, Messer Geri
does, for sure, send me to thee." "Son," answered Cisti, "Messer Geri
does, for sure, not send thee to me." "To whom then," said the servant,
"does he send me?" "To Arno," returned Cisti. Which being reported by the
servant to Messer Geri, the eyes of his mind were straightway opened,
and:--"Let me see," quoth he to the servant, "what flask it is thou
takest there." And when he had seen it:--"Cisti says sooth," he added;
and having sharply chidden him, he caused him take with him a suitable
flask, which when Cisti saw:--"Now know I," quoth he, "that 'tis indeed
Messer Geri that sends thee to me," and blithely filled it. And having
replenished the rundlet that same day with wine of the same quality, he
had it carried with due care to Messer Geri's house, and followed after
himself; where finding Messer Geri he said:--"I would not have you think,
Sir, that I was appalled by the great flask your servant brought me this
morning; 'twas but that I thought you had forgotten that which by my
little beakers I gave you to understand, when you were with me of late;
to wit, that this is no table wine; and so wished this morning to refresh
your memory. Now, however, being minded to keep the wine no longer, I
have sent you all I have of it, to be henceforth entirely at your
disposal." Messer Geri set great store by Cisti's gift, and thanked him
accordingly, and ever made much of him and entreated him as his friend.


Monna Nonna de' Pulci by a ready retort silences the scarce seemly
jesting of the Bishop of Florence.

Pampinea's story ended, and praise not a little bestowed on Cisti alike
for his apt speech and for his handsome present, the queen was pleased to
call forthwith for a story from Lauretta, who blithely thus began:--

Debonair my ladies, the excellency of wit, and our lack thereof, have
been noted with no small truth first by Pampinea and after her by
Filomena. To which topic 'twere bootless to return: wherefore to that
which has been said touching the nature of wit I purpose but to add one
word, to remind you that its bite should be as a sheep's bite and not as
a dog's; for if it bite like a dog, 'tis no longer wit but discourtesy.
With which maxim the words of Madonna Oretta, and the apt reply of Cisti,
accorded excellently. True indeed it is that if 'tis by way of retort,
and one that has received a dog's bite gives the biter a like bite in
return, it does not seem to be reprehensible, as otherwise it would have
been. Wherefore one must consider how and when and on whom and likewise
where one exercises one's wit. By ill observing which matters one of our
prelates did once upon a time receive no less shrewd a bite than he gave;
as I will shew you in a short story.

While Messer Antonio d'Orso, a prelate both worthy and wise, was Bishop
of Florence, there came thither a Catalan gentleman, Messer Dego della
Ratta by name, being King Ruberto's marshal. Now Dego being very goodly
of person, and inordinately fond of women, it so befell that of the
ladies of Florence she that he regarded with especial favour was the very
beautiful niece of a brother of the said bishop. And having learned that
her husband, though of good family, was but a caitiff, and avaricious in
the last degree, he struck a bargain with him that he should lie one
night with the lady for five hundred florins of gold: whereupon he had
the same number of popolins(1) of silver, which were then current,
gilded, and having lain with the lady, albeit against her will, gave them
to her husband. Which coming to be generally known, the caitiff husband
was left with the loss and the laugh against him; and the bishop, like a
wise man, feigned to know nought of the affair. And so the bishop and the
marshal being much together, it befell that on St. John's day, as they
rode side by side down the street whence they start to run the palio,(2)
and took note of the ladies, the bishop espied a young gentlewoman, whom
this present pestilence has reft from us, Monna Nonna de' Pulci by name,
a cousin of Messer Alesso Rinucci, whom you all must know; whom, for that
she was lusty and fair, and of excellent discourse and a good courage,
and but just settled with her husband in Porta San Piero, the bishop
presented to the marshal; and then, being close beside her, he laid his
hand on the marshal's shoulder and said to her:--"Nonna, what thinkest
thou of this gentleman? That thou mightst make a conquest of him?" Which
words the lady resented as a jibe at her honour, and like to tarnish it
in the eyes of those, who were not a few, in whose hearing they were
spoken. Wherefore without bestowing a thought upon the vindication of her
honour, but being minded to return blow for blow, she retorted
hastily:--"Perchance, Sir, he might not make a conquest of me; but if he
did so, I should want good money." The answer stung both the marshal and
the bishop to the quick, the one as contriver of the scurvy trick played
upon the bishop's brother in regard of his niece, the other as thereby
outraged in the person of his brother's niece; insomuch that they dared
not look one another in the face, but took themselves off in shame and
silence, and said never a word more to her that day.

In such a case, then, the lady having received a bite, 'twas allowable in
her wittily to return it.

(1) A coin of the same size and design as the fiorino d'oro, but worth
only two soldi.

(2) A sort of horse-race still in vogue at Siena.


Chichibio, cook to Currado Gianfigliazzi, owes his safety to a ready
answer, whereby he converts Currado's wrath into laughter, and evades the
evil fate with which Currado had threatened him.

Lauretta being now silent, all lauded Nonna to the skies; after which
Neifile received the queen's command to follow suit, and thus began:--

Albeit, loving ladies, ready wit not seldom ministers words apt and
excellent and congruous with the circumstances of the speakers, 'tis also
true that Fortune at times comes to the aid of the timid, and
unexpectedly sets words upon the tongue, which in a quiet hour the
speaker could never have found for himself: the which 'tis my purpose to
shew you by my story.

Currado Gianfigliazzi, as the eyes and ears of each of you may bear
witness, has ever been a noble citizen of our city, open-handed and
magnificent, and one that lived as a gentleman should with hounds and
hawks, in which, to say nothing at present of more important matters, he
found unfailing delight. Now, having one day hard by Peretola despatched
a crane with one of his falcons, finding it young and plump, he sent it
to his excellent cook, a Venetian, Chichibio by name, bidding him roast
it for supper and make a dainty dish of it. Chichibio, who looked, as he
was, a very green-head, had dressed the crane, and set it to the fire and
was cooking it carefully, when, the bird being all but roasted, and the
fumes of the cooking very strong, it so chanced that a girl, Brunetta by
name, that lived in the same street, and of whom Chichibio was greatly
enamoured, came into the kitchen, and perceiving the smell and seeing the
bird, began coaxing Chichibio to give her a thigh. By way of answer
Chichibio fell a singing:--"You get it not from me, Madam Brunetta, you
get it not from me." Whereat Madam Brunetta was offended, and said to
him:--"By God, if thou givest it me not, thou shalt never have aught from
me to pleasure thee." In short there was not a little altercation; and in
the end Chichibio, fain not to vex his mistress, cut off one of the
crane's thighs, and gave it to her. So the bird was set before Currado
and some strangers that he had at table with him, and Currado, observing
that it had but one thigh, was surprised, and sent for Chichibio, and
demanded of him what was become of the missing thigh. Whereto the
mendacious Venetian answered readily:--"The crane, Sir, has but one thigh
and one leg." "What the devil?" rejoined Currado in a rage: "so the crane
has but one thigh and one leg? thinkst thou I never saw crane before
this?" But Chichibio continued:--"'Tis even so as I say, Sir; and, so
please you, I will shew you that so it is in the living bird." Currado
had too much respect for his guests to pursue the topic; he only
said:--"Since thou promisest to shew me in the living bird what I have
never seen or heard tell of, I bid thee do so to-morrow, and I shall be
satisfied, but if thou fail, I swear to thee by the body of Christ that I
will serve thee so that thou shalt ruefully remember my name for the rest
of thy days."

No more was said of the matter that evening, but on the morrow, at
daybreak, Currado, who had by no means slept off his wrath, got up still
swelling therewith, and ordered his horses, mounted Chichibio on a
hackney, and saying to him:--"We shall soon see which of us lied
yesternight, thou or I," set off with him for a place where there was
much water, beside which there were always cranes to be seen about dawn.
Chichibio, observing that Currado's ire was unabated, and knowing not how
to bolster up his lie, rode by Currado's side in a state of the utmost
trepidation, and would gladly, had he been able, have taken to flight;
but, as he might not, he glanced, now ahead, now aback, now aside, and
saw everywhere nought but cranes standing on two feet. However, as they
approached the river, the very first thing they saw upon the bank was a
round dozen of cranes standing each and all on one foot, as is their
wont, when asleep. Which Chichibio presently pointed out to Currado,
saying:--"Now may you see well enough, Sir, that 'tis true as I said
yesternight, that the crane has but one thigh and one leg; mark but how
they stand over there." Whereupon Currado:--"Wait," quoth he, "and I will
shew thee that they have each thighs and legs twain." So, having drawn a
little nigher to them, he ejaculated, "Oho!" Which caused the cranes to
bring each the other foot to the ground, and, after hopping a step or
two, to take to flight. Currado then turned to Chichibio, saying:--"How
now, rogue? art satisfied that the bird has thighs and legs twain?"
Whereto Chichibio, all but beside himself with fear, made answer:--"Ay,
Sir; but you cried not, oho! to our crane of yestereve: had you done so,
it would have popped its other thigh and foot forth, as these have done."
Which answer Currado so much relished, that, all his wrath changed to
jollity and laughter:--"Chichibio," quoth he, "thou art right, indeed I
ought to have so done."

Thus did Chichibio by his ready and jocund retort arrest impending evil,
and make his peace with his master.


Messer Forese da Rabatta and Master Giotto, the painter, journeying
together from Mugello, deride one another's scurvy appearance.

Neifile being silent, and the ladies having made very merry over
Chichibio's retort, Pamfilo at the queen's command thus spoke:--Dearest
ladies, if Fortune, as Pampinea has shewn us, does sometimes bide
treasures most rich of native worth in the obscurity of base occupations,
so in like manner 'tis not seldom found that Nature has enshrined
prodigies of wit in the most ignoble of human forms. Whereof a notable
example is afforded by two of our citizens, of whom I purpose for a brief
while to discourse. The one, Messer Forese da Rabatta by name, was short
and deformed of person and withal flat-cheeked and flat-nosed, insomuch
that never a Baroncio(1) had a visage so misshapen but his would have
shewed as hideous beside it; yet so conversant was this man with the
laws, that by not a few of those well able to form an opinion he was
reputed a veritable storehouse of civil jurisprudence. The other, whose
name was Giotto, was of so excellent a wit that, let Nature, mother of
all, operant ever by continual revolution of the heavens, fashion what
she would, he with his style and pen and pencil would depict its like on
such wise that it shewed not as its like, but rather as the thing itself,
insomuch that the visual sense of men did often err in regard thereof,
mistaking for real that which was but painted. Wherefore, having brought
back to light that art which had for many ages lain buried beneath the
blunders of those who painted rather to delight the eyes of the ignorant
than to satisfy the intelligence of the wise, he may deservedly be called
one of the lights that compose the glory of Florence, and the more so,
the more lowly was the spirit in which he won that glory, who, albeit he
was, while he yet lived, the master of others, yet did ever refuse to be
called their master. And this title that he rejected adorned him with a
lustre the more splendid in proportion to the avidity with which it was
usurped by those who were less knowing than he, or were his pupils. But
for all the exceeding greatness of his art, yet in no particular had he
the advantage of Messer Forese either in form or in feature. But to come
to the story:--'Twas in Mugello that Messer Forese, as likewise Giotto,
had his country-seat, whence returning from a sojourn that he had made
there during the summer vacation of the courts, and being, as it chanced,
mounted on a poor jade of a draught horse, he fell in with the said
Giotto, who was also on his way back to Florence after a like sojourn on
his own estate, and was neither better mounted, nor in any other wise
better equipped, than Messer Forese. And so, being both old men, they
jogged on together at a slow pace: and being surprised by a sudden
shower, such as we frequently see fall in summer, they presently sought
shelter in the house of a husbandman that was known to each of them, and
was their friend. But after a while, as the rain gave no sign of ceasing,
and they had a mind to be at Florence that same day, they borrowed of the
husbandman two old cloaks of Romagnole cloth, and two hats much the worse
for age (there being no better to be had), and resumed their journey.
Whereon they had not proceeded far, when, taking note that they were
soaked through and through, and liberally splashed with the mud cast up
by their nags' hooves (circumstances which are not of a kind to add to
one's dignity), they, after long silence, the sky beginning to brighten a
little, began to converse. And Messer Forese, as he rode and hearkened to
Giotto, who was an excellent talker, surveyed him sideways, and from head
to foot, and all over, and seeing him in all points in so sorry and
scurvy a trim, and recking nought of his own appearance, broke into a
laugh and said:--"Giotto, would e'er a stranger that met us, and had not
seen thee before, believe, thinkst thou, that thou wert, as thou art,
the greatest painter in the world." Whereto Giotto answered
promptly:--"Methinks, Sir, he might, if, scanning you, he gave you credit
for knowing the A B C." Which hearing, Messer Forese recognized his
error, and perceived that he had gotten as good as he brought.

(1) The name of a Florentine family famous for the extraordinary ugliness
of its men: whereby it came to pass that any grotesque or extremely ugly
man was called a Baroncio. Fanfani, Vocab. della Lingua Italiana, 1891.


Michele Scalza proves to certain young men that the Baronci are the best
gentlemen in the world and the Maremma, and wins a supper.

The ladies were still laughing over Giotto's ready retort, when the queen
charged Fiammetta to follow suit; wherefore thus Fiammetta
began:--Pamfilo's mention of the Baronci, who to you, Damsels, are
perchance not so well known as to him, has brought to my mind a story in
which 'tis shewn how great is their nobility; and, for that it involves
no deviation from our rule of discourse, I am minded to tell it you.

'Tis no long time since there dwelt in our city a young man, Michele
Scalza by name, the pleasantest and merriest fellow in the world, and the
best furnished with quaint stories: for which reason the Florentine youth
set great store on having him with them when they forgathered in company.
Now it so befell that one day, he being with a party of them at Mont'
Ughi, they fell a disputing together on this wise; to wit, who were the
best gentlemen and of the longest descent in Florence. One said, the
Uberti, another, the Lamberti, or some other family, according to the
predilection of the speaker. Whereat Scalza began to smile, and
said:--"Now out upon you, out upon you, blockheads that ye are: ye know
not what ye say. The best gentlemen and of longest descent in all the
world and the Maremma (let alone Florence) are the Baronci by the common
consent of all phisopholers,(1) and all that know them as I do; and lest
you should otherwise conceive me, I say that 'tis of your neighbours the
Baronci(2) of Santa Maria Maggiore that I speak." Whereupon the young
men, who had looked for somewhat else from him, said derisively:--"Thou
dost but jest with us; as if we did not know the Baronci as well as
thou!" Quoth Scalza:--"By the Gospels I jest not, but speak sooth; and if
there is any of you will wager a supper to be given to the winner and six
good fellows whom he shall choose, I will gladly do the like, and--what
is more--I will abide by the decision of such one of you as you may
choose." Then said one of them whose name was Neri Mannini:--"I am ready
to adventure this supper;" and so they agreed together that Piero di
Fiorentino, in whose house they were, should be judge, and hied them to
him followed by all the rest, eager to see Scalza lose, and triumph in
his discomfiture, and told Piero all that had been said. Piero, who was a
young man of sound sense, heard what Neri had to say; and then turning to
Scalza:--"And how," quoth he, "mayst thou make good what thou averrest?"
"I will demonstrate it," returned Scalza, "by reasoning so cogent that
not only you, but he that denies it shall acknowledge that I say sooth.
You know, and so they were saying but now, that the longer men's descent,
the better is their gentility, and I say that the Baronci are of longer
descent, and thus better gentlemen than any other men. If, then, I prove
to you that they are of longer descent than any other men, without a
doubt the victory in this dispute will rest with me. Now you must know
that when God made the Baronci, He was but a novice in His art, of which,
when He made the rest of mankind, He was already master. And to assure
yourself that herein I say sooth, you have but to consider the Baronci,
how they differ from the rest of mankind, who all have faces well
composed and duly proportioned, whereas of the Baronci you will see one
with a face very long and narrow, another with a face inordinately broad,
one with a very long nose, another with a short one, one with a
protruding and upturned chin, and great jaws like an ass's; and again
there will be one that has one eye larger than its fellow, or set on a
lower plane; so that their faces resemble those that children make when
they begin to learn to draw. Whereby, as I said, 'tis plainly manifest
that, when God made them, He was but novice in His art; and so they are
of longer descent than the rest of mankind, and by consequence better
gentlemen." By which entertaining argument Piero, the judge, and Neri who
had wagered the supper, and all the rest, calling to mind the Baronci's
ugliness, were so tickled, that they fell a laughing, and averred that
Scalza was in the right, and that he had won the wager, and that without
a doubt the Baronci were the best gentlemen, and of the longest descent,
not merely in Florence, but in the world and the Maremma to boot.
Wherefore 'twas not without reason that Pamfilo, being minded to declare
Messer Forese's ill-favouredness, said that he would have been hideous
beside a Baroncio.

(1) In the Italian fisofoli: an evidently intentional distortion.

(2) Villani, Istorie Fiorentine, iv. cap. ix., and Dante, Paradiso, xvi.
104, spell the name Barucci.


Madonna Filippa, being found by her husband with her lover, is cited
before the court, and by a ready and jocund answer acquits herself, and
brings about an alteration of the statute.

Fiammetta had been silent some time, but Scalza's novel argument to prove
the pre-eminent nobility of the Baronci kept all still laughing, when the
queen called for a story from Filostrato, who thus began:--Noble ladies,
an excellent thing is apt speech on all occasions, but to be proficient
therein I deem then most excellent when the occasion does most
imperatively demand it. As was the case with a gentlewoman, of whom I
purpose to speak to you, who not only ministered gaiety and merriment to
her hearers, but extricated herself, as you shall hear, from the toils of
an ignominious death.

There was aforetime in the city of Prato a statute no less censurable
than harsh, which, making no distinction between the wife whom her
husband took in adultery with her lover, and the woman found pleasuring a
stranger for money, condemned both alike to be burned. While this statute
was in force, it befell that a gentlewoman, fair and beyond measure
enamoured, Madonna Filippa by name, was by her husband, Rinaldo de'
Pugliesi, found in her own chamber one night in the arms of Lazzarino de'
Guazzagliotri, a handsome young noble of the same city, whom she loved
even as herself. Whereat Rinaldo, very wroth, scarce refrained from
falling upon them and killing them on the spot; and indeed, but that he
doubted how he should afterwards fare himself, he had given way to the
vehemence of his anger, and so done. Nor, though he so far mastered
himself, could he forbear recourse to the statute, thereby to compass
that which he might not otherwise lawfully compass, to wit, the death of
his lady. Wherefore, having all the evidence needful to prove her guilt,
he took no further counsel; but, as soon as 'twas day, he charged the
lady and had her summoned. Like most ladies that are veritably enamoured,
the lady was of a high courage; and, though not a few of her friends and
kinsfolk sought to dissuade her, she resolved to appear to the summons,
having liefer die bravely confessing the truth than basely flee and for
defiance of the law live in exile, and shew herself unworthy of such a
lover as had had her in his arms that night. And so, attended by many
ladies and gentlemen, who all exhorted her to deny the charge, she came
before the Podesta, and with a composed air and unfaltering voice asked
whereof he would interrogate her. The Podesta, surveying her, and taking
note of her extraordinary beauty, and exquisite manners, and the high
courage that her words evinced, was touched with compassion for her,
fearing she might make some admission, by reason whereof, to save his
honour, he must needs do her to death. But still, as he could not refrain
from examining her of that which was laid to her charge, he
said:--"Madam, here, as you see, is your husband, Rinaldo, who prefers a
charge against you, alleging that he has taken you in adultery, and so he
demands that, pursuant to a statute which is in force here, I punish you
with death: but this I may not do, except you confess; wherefore be very
careful what you answer, and tell me if what your husband alleges against
you be true." The lady, no wise dismayed, and in a tone not a little
jocund, thus made answer:--"True it is, Sir, that Rinaldo is my husband,
and that last night he found me in the arms of Lazzarino, in whose arms
for the whole-hearted love that I bear him I have ofttimes lain; nor
shall I ever deny it; but, as well I wot you know, the laws ought to be
common and enacted with the common consent of all that they affect; which
conditions are wanting to this law, inasmuch as it binds only us poor
women, in whom to be liberal is much less reprehensible than it were in
men; and furthermore the consent of no woman was--I say not had, but--so
much as asked before 'twas made; for which reasons it justly deserves to
be called a bad law. However, if in scathe of my body and your own soul,
you are minded to put it in force, 'tis your affair; but, I pray you, go
not on to try this matter in any wise, until you have granted me this
trifling grace, to wit, to ask my husband if I ever gainsaid him, but did
not rather accord him, when and so often as he craved it, complete
enjoyment of myself." Whereto Rinaldo, without awaiting the Podesta's
question, forthwith answered, that assuredly the lady had ever granted
him all that he had asked of her for his gratification. "Then," promptly
continued the lady, "if he has ever had of me as much as sufficed for his
solace, what was I or am I to do with the surplus? Am I to cast it to the
dogs? Is it not much better to bestow it on a gentleman that loves me
more dearly than himself, than to suffer it to come to nought or worse?"
Which jocund question being heard by well-nigh all the folk of Prato, who
had flocked thither all agog to see a dame so fair and of such quality on
her trial for such an offence, they laughed loud and long, and then all
with one accord, and as with one voice, exclaimed that the lady was in
the right and said well; nor left they the court until in concert with
the Podesta they had so altered the harsh statute as that thenceforth
only such women as should wrong their husbands for money should be within
its purview.

Wherefore Rinaldo left the court, discomfited of his foolish enterprise;
and the lady blithe and free, as if rendered back to life from the
burning, went home triumphant.


Fresco admonishes his niece not to look at herself in the glass, if 'tis,
as she says, grievous to her to see nasty folk.

'Twas not at first without some flutterings of shame, evinced by the
modest blush mantling on their cheeks, that the ladies heard Filostrato's
story; but afterwards, exchanging glances, they could scarce forbear to
laugh, and hearkened tittering. However, when he had done, the queen
turning to Emilia bade her follow suit. Whereupon Emilia, fetching a deep
breath as if she were roused from sleep, thus began:--Loving ladies,
brooding thought has kept my spirit for so long time remote from here
that perchance I may make a shift to satisfy our queen with a much
shorter story than would have been forthcoming but for my absence of
mind, wherein I purpose to tell you how a young woman's folly was
corrected by her uncle with a pleasant jest, had she but had the sense to
apprehend it. My story, then, is of one, Fresco da Celatico by name, that
had a niece, Ciesca, as she was playfully called, who, being fair of face
and person, albeit she had none of those angelical charms that we
ofttimes see, had so superlative a conceit of herself, that she had
contracted a habit of disparaging both men and women and all that she
saw, entirely regardless of her own defects, though for odiousness,
tiresomeness, and petulance she had not her match among women, insomuch
that there was nought that could be done to her mind: besides which, such
was her pride that had she been of the blood royal of France, 'twould
have been inordinate. And when she walked abroad, so fastidious was her
humour, she was ever averting her head, as if there was never a soul she
saw or met but reeked with a foul smell. Now one day--not to speak of
other odious and tiresome ways that she had--it so befell that being come
home, where Fresco was, she sat herself down beside him with a most
languishing air, and did nought but fume and chafe. Whereupon:--"Ciesca,"
quoth he, "what means this, that, though 'tis a feast-day, yet thou art
come back so soon?" She, all but dissolved with her vapourish humours,
made answer:--"Why, the truth is, that I am come back early because
never, I believe, were there such odious and tiresome men and women in
this city as there are to-day. I cannot pass a soul in the street that I
loathe not like ill-luck; and I believe there is not a woman in the world
that is so distressed by the sight of odious people as I am; and so I am
come home thus soon to avoid the sight of them." Whereupon Fresco, to,
whom his niece's bad manners were distasteful in the
extreme:--"Daughter," quoth he, "if thou loathe odious folk as much as
thou sayest, thou wert best, so thou wouldst live happy, never to look at
thyself in the glass." But she, empty as a reed, albeit in her own
conceit a match for Solomon in wisdom, was as far as any sheep from
apprehending the true sense of her uncle's jest; but answered that on the
contrary she was minded to look at herself in the glass like other women.
And so she remained, and yet remains, hidebound in her folly.


Guido Cavalcanti by a quip meetly rebukes certain Florentine gentlemen
who had taken him at a disadvantage.

The queen, perceiving that Emilia had finished her story, and that none
but she, and he who had the privilege of speaking last, now remained to
tell, began on this wise:--Albeit, debonair my ladies, you have
forestalled me to-day of more than two of the stories, of which I had
thought to tell one, yet one is still left me to recount, which carries
at the close of it a quip of such a sort, that perhaps we have as yet
heard nought so pregnant.

You are to know, then, that in former times there obtained in our city
customs excellent and commendable not a few, whereof today not one is
left to us, thanks to the greed which, growing with the wealth of our
folk, has banished them all from among us. One of which customs was that
in divers quarters of Florence the gentlemen that there resided would
assemble together in companies of a limited number, taking care to
include therein only such as might conveniently bear the expenses, and
to-day one, another to-morrow, each in his turn for a day, would
entertain the rest of the company; and so they would not seldom do honour
to gentlemen from distant parts when they visited the city, and also to
their fellow-citizens; and in like manner they would meet together at
least once a year all in the same trim, and on the most notable days
would ride together through the city, and now and again they would tilt
together, more especially on the greater feasts, or when the city was
rejoiced by tidings of victory or some other glad event. Among which
companies was one of which Messer Betto Brunelleschi was the leading
spirit, into which Messer Betto and his comrades had striven hard to
bring Guido, son of Cavalcante de' Cavalcanti, and not without reason,
inasmuch as, besides being one of the best logicians in the world, and an
excellent natural philosopher (qualities of which the company made no
great account), he was without a peer for gallantry and courtesy and
excellence of discourse and aptitude for all matters which he might set
his mind to, and that belonged to a gentleman; and therewithal he was
very rich, and, when he deemed any worthy of honour, knew how to bestow
it to the uttermost. But, as Messer Betto had never been able to gain him
over, he and his comrades supposed that 'twas because Guido, being
addicted to speculation, was thereby estranged from men. And, for that he
was somewhat inclined to the opinion of the Epicureans, the vulgar
averred that these speculations of his had no other scope than to prove
that God did not exist. Now one day it so befell that, Guido being come,
as was not seldom his wont, from Or San Michele by the Corso degli
Adimari as far as San Giovanni, around which were then the great tombs of
marble that are to-day in Santa Reparata, besides other tombs not a few,
and Guido being between the columns of porphyry, that are there, and the
tombs and the door of San Giovanni, which was locked, Messer Betto and
his company came riding on to the piazza of Santa Reparata, and seeing
him among the tombs, said:--"Go we and flout him." So they set spurs to
their horses, and making a mock onset, were upon him almost before he saw
them. Whereupon:--"Guido," they began, "thou wilt be none of our company;
but, lo now, when thou hast proved that God does not exist, what wilt
thou have achieved?" Guido, seeing that he was surrounded, presently
answered:--"Gentlemen, you may say to me what you please in your own
house." Thereupon he laid his hand on one of the great tombs, and being
very nimble, vaulted over it, and so evaded them, and went his way, while
they remained gazing in one another's faces, and some said that he had
taken leave of his wits, and that his answer was but nought, seeing that
the ground on which they stood was common to them with the rest of the
citizens, and among them Guido himself. But Messer Betto, turning to
them:--"Nay but," quoth he, "'tis ye that have taken leave of your wits,
if ye have not understood him; for meetly and in few words he has given
us never so shrewd a reprimand; seeing that, if you consider it well,
these tombs are the houses of the dead, that are laid and tarry therein;
which he calls our house, to shew us that we, and all other simple,
unlettered men, are, in comparison of him and the rest of the learned, in
sorrier case than dead men, and so being here, we are in our own house."
Then none was there but understood Guido's meaning and was abashed,
insomuch that they flouted him no more, and thenceforth reputed Messer
Betto a gentleman of a subtle and discerning wit.


Fra Cipolla promises to shew certain country-folk a feather of the Angel
Gabriel, in lieu of which he finds coals, which he avers to be of those
with which St. Lawrence was roasted.

All the company save Dioneo being delivered of their several stories, he
wist that 'twas his turn to speak. Wherefore, without awaiting any very
express command, he enjoined silence on those that were commending
Guido's pithy quip, and thus began:--Sweet my ladies, albeit 'tis my
privilege to speak of what likes me most, I purpose not to-day to deviate
from that theme whereon you have all discoursed most appositely; but,
following in your footsteps, I am minded to shew you with what adroitness
and readiness of resource one of the Friars of St. Antony avoided a
pickle that two young men had in readiness for him. Nor, if, in order to
do the story full justice, I be somewhat prolix of speech, should it be
burdensome to you, if you will but glance at the sun, which is yet in

Certaldo, as perchance you may have heard, is a town of Val d'Elsa within
our country-side, which, small though it is, had in it aforetime people
of rank and wealth. Thither, for that there he found good pasture, 'twas
long the wont of one of the Friars of St. Antony to resort once every
year, to collect the alms that fools gave them. Fra Cipolla(1)--so hight
the friar--met with a hearty welcome, no less, perchance, by reason of
his name than for other cause, the onions produced in that district being
famous throughout Tuscany. He was little of person, red-haired,
jolly-visaged, and the very best of good fellows; and therewithal, though
learning he had none, he was so excellent and ready a speaker that whoso
knew him not would not only have esteemed him a great rhetorician, but
would have pronounced him Tully himself or, perchance, Quintilian; and in
all the country-side there was scarce a soul to whom he was not either
gossip or friend or lover. Being thus wont from time to time to visit
Certaldo, the friar came there once upon a time in the month of August,
and on a Sunday morning, all the good folk of the neighbouring farms
being come to mass in the parish church, he took occasion to come forward
and say:--"Ladies and gentlemen, you wot 'tis your custom to send year by
year to the poor of Baron Master St. Antony somewhat of your wheat and
oats, more or less, according to the ability and the devoutness of each,
that blessed St. Antony may save your oxen and asses and pigs and sheep
from harm; and you are also accustomed, and especially those whose names
are on the books of our confraternity, to pay your trifling annual dues.
To collect which offerings, I am hither sent by my superior, to wit,
Master Abbot; wherefore, with the blessing of God, after none, when you
hear the bells ring, you will come out of the church to the place where
in the usual way I shall deliver you my sermon, and you will kiss the
cross; and therewithal, knowing, as I do, that you are one and all most
devoted to Baron Master St. Antony, I will by way of especial grace shew
you a most holy and goodly relic, which I brought myself from the Holy
Land overseas, which is none other than one of the feathers of the Angel
Gabriel, which he left behind him in the room of the Virgin Mary, when he
came to make her the annunciation in Nazareth." And having said thus
much, he ceased, and went on with the mass. Now among the many that were
in the church, while Fra Cipolla made this speech, were two very wily
young wags, the one Giovanni del Bragoniera by name, the other Biagio
Pizzini; who, albeit they were on the best of terms with Fra Cipolla and
much in his company, had a sly laugh together over the relic, and
resolved to make game of him and his feather. So, having learned that Fra
Cipolla was to breakfast that morning in the town with one of his
friends, as soon as they knew that he was at table, down they hied them
into the street, and to the inn where the friar lodged, having complotted
that Biagio should keep the friar's servant in play, while Giovanni made
search among the friar's goods and chattels for this feather, whatever it
might be, to carry it off, that they might see how the friar would
afterwards explain the matter to the people. Now Fra Cipolla had for
servant one Guccio,(2) whom some called by way of addition Balena,(3)
others Imbratta,(4) others again Porco,(5) and who was such a rascallion
that sure it is that Lippo Topo(6) himself never painted his like.
Concerning whom Fra Cipolla would ofttimes make merry with his familiars,
saying:--"My servant has nine qualities, any one of which in Solomon,
Aristotle, or Seneca, would have been enough to spoil all their virtue,
wisdom and holiness. Consider, then, what sort of a man he must be that
has these nine qualities, and yet never a spark of either virtue or
wisdom or holiness." And being asked upon divers occasions what these
nine qualities might be, he strung them together in rhyme, and
answered:--"I will tell you. Lazy and uncleanly and a liar he is,
Negligent, disobedient and foulmouthed, iwis, And reckless and witless
and mannerless: and therewithal he has some other petty vices, which
'twere best to pass over. And the most amusing thing about him is, that,
wherever he goes, he is for taking a wife and renting a house, and on the
strength of a big, black, greasy beard he deems himself so very handsome
a fellow and seductive, that he takes all the women that see him to be in
love with him, and, if he were left alone, he would slip his girdle and
run after them all. True it is that he is of great use to me, for that,
be any minded to speak with me never so secretly, he must still have his
share of the audience; and, if perchance aught is demanded of me, such is
his fear lest I should be at a loss what answer to make, that he
presently replies, ay or no, as he deems meet."

Now, when he left this knave at the inn, Fra Cipolla had strictly
enjoined him on no account to suffer any one to touch aught of his, and
least of all his wallet, because it contained the holy things. But Guccio
Imbratta, who was fonder of the kitchen than any nightingale of the green
boughs, and most particularly if he espied there a maid, and in the
host's kitchen had caught sight of a coarse fat woman, short and
misshapen, with a pair of breasts that shewed as two buckets of muck and
a face that might have belonged to one of the Baronci, all reeking with
sweat and grease and smoke, left Fra Cipolla's room and all his things to
take care of themselves, and like a vulture swooping down upon the
carrion, was in the kitchen in a trice. Where, though 'twas August, he
sat him down by the fire, and fell a gossiping with Nuta--such was the
maid's name--and told her that he was a gentleman by procuration,(7) and
had more florins than could be reckoned, besides those that he had to
give away, which were rather more than less, and that he could do and say
such things as never were or might be seen or heard forever, good Lord!
and a day. And all heedless of his cowl, which had as much grease upon it
as would have furnished forth the caldron of Altopascio,(8) and of his
rent and patched doublet, inlaid with filth about the neck and under the
armpits, and so stained that it shewed hues more various than ever did
silk from Tartary or the Indies, and of his shoes that were all to
pieces, and of his hose that were all in tatters, he told her in a tone
that would have become the Sieur de Chatillon, that he was minded to
rehabit her and put her in trim, and raise her from her abject condition,
and place her where, though she would not have much to call her own, at
any rate she would have hope of better things, with much more to the like
effect; which professions, though made with every appearance of good
will, proved, like most of his schemes, insubstantial as air, and came to

Finding Guccio Porco thus occupied with Nuta, the two young men gleefully
accounted their work half done, and, none gainsaying them, entered Fra
Cipolla's room, which was open, and lit at once upon the wallet, in which
was the feather. The wallet opened, they found, wrapt up in many folds of
taffeta, a little casket, on opening which they discovered one of the
tail-feathers of a parrot, which they deemed must be that which the friar
had promised to shew the good folk of Certaldo. And in sooth he might
well have so imposed upon them, for in those days the luxuries of Egypt
had scarce been introduced into Tuscany, though they have since been
brought over in prodigious abundance, to the grave hurt of all Italy. And
though some conversance with them there was, yet in those parts folk knew
next to nothing of them; but, adhering to the honest, simple ways of
their forefathers, had not seen, nay for the most part had not so much as
heard tell of, a parrot.

So the young men, having found the feather, took it out with great glee;
and looking around for something to replace it, they espied in a corner
of the room some pieces of coal, wherewith they filled the casket; which
they then closed, and having set the room in order exactly as they had
found it, they quitted it unperceived, and hied them merrily off with the
feather, and posted themselves where they might hear what Fra Cipolla
would say when he found the coals in its stead. Mass said, the simple
folk that were in the church went home with the tidings that the feather
of the Angel Gabriel was to be seen after none; and this goodman telling
his neighbour, and that goodwife her gossip, by the time every one had
breakfasted, the town could scarce hold the multitude of men and women
that flocked thither all agog to see this feather.

Fra Cipolla, having made a hearty breakfast and had a little nap, got up
shortly after none, and marking the great concourse of country-folk that
were come to see the feather, sent word to Guccio Imbratta to go up there
with the bells, and bring with him the wallet. Guccio, though 'twas with
difficulty that he tore himself away from the kitchen and Nuta, hied him
up with the things required; and though, when he got up, he was winded,
for he was corpulent with drinking nought but water, he did Fra Cipolla's
bidding by going to the church door and ringing the bells amain. When all
the people were gathered about the door, Fra Cipolla, all unwitting that
aught of his was missing, began his sermon, and after much said in
glorification of himself, caused the confiteor to be recited with great
solemnity, and two torches to be lit by way of preliminary to the shewing
of the feather of the Angel Gabriel: he then bared his head, carefully
unfolded the taffeta, and took out the casket, which, after a few
prefatory words in praise and laudation of the Angel Gabriel and his
relic, he opened. When he saw that it contained nought but coals, he did
not suspect Guccio Balena of playing the trick, for he knew that he was
not clever enough, nor did he curse him, that his carelessness had
allowed another to play it, but he inly imprecated himself, that he had
committed his things to the keeping of one whom he knew to be "negligent
and disobedient, reckless and witless." Nevertheless, he changed not
colour, but with face and hands upturned to heaven, he said in a voice
that all might hear:--"O God, blessed be Thy might for ever and ever."
Then, closing the casket, and turning to the people:--"Ladies and
gentlemen," he said, "you are to know, that when I was yet a very young
man, I was sent by my superior into those parts where the sun rises, and
I was expressly bidden to search until I should find the Privileges of
Porcellana, which, though they cost nothing to seal, are of much more use
to others than to us. On which errand I set forth, taking my departure
from Venice, and traversing the Borgo de' Greci,(9) and thence on
horseback the realm of Algarve,(10) and so by Baldacca(11) I came to
Parione,(12) whence, somewhat athirst, I after a while got on to
Sardinia.(13) But wherefore go I about to enumerate all the lands in
which I pursued my quest? Having passed the straits of San Giorgio, I
arrived at Truffia(14) and Buffia,(15) countries thickly populated and
with great nations, whence I pursued my journey to Menzogna,(16) where I
met with many of our own brethren, and of other religious not a few,
intent one and all on eschewing hardship for the love of God, making
little account of others! toil, so they might ensue their own advantage,
and paying in nought but unminted coin(17) throughout the length and
breadth of the country; and so I came to the land of Abruzzi, where the
men and women go in pattens on the mountains, and clothe the hogs with
their own entrails;(18) and a little further on I found folk that carried
bread in staves and wine in sacks.(19) And leaving them, I arrived at the
mountains of the Bachi,(20) where all the waters run downwards. In short
I penetrated so far that I came at last to India Pastinaca,(21) where I
swear to you by the habit that I wear, that I saw pruning-hooks(22) fly:
a thing that none would believe that had not seen it. Whereof be my
witness that I lie not Maso del Saggio, that great merchant, whom I found
there cracking nuts, and selling the shells by retail! However, not being
able to find that whereof I was in quest, because from thence one must
travel by water, I turned back, and so came at length to the Holy Land,
where in summer cold bread costs four deniers, and hot bread is to be had
for nothing. And there I found the venerable father
Nonmiblasmetesevoipiace,(23) the most worshipful Patriarch of Jerusalem;
who out of respect for the habit that I have ever worn, to wit, that of
Baron Master St. Antony, was pleased to let me see all the holy relics
that he had by him, which were so many, that, were I to enumerate them
all, I should not come to the end of them in some miles. However, not to
disappoint you, I will tell you a few of them. In the first place, then,
he shewed me the finger of the Holy Spirit, as whole and entire as it
ever was, and the tuft of the Seraph that appeared to St. Francis, and
one of the nails of the Cherubim, and one of the ribs of the Verbum Caro
hie thee to the casement,(24) and some of the vestments of the Holy
Catholic Faith, and some of the rays of the star that appeared to the
Magi in the East, and a phial of the sweat of St. Michael a battling with
the Devil and the jaws of death of St. Lazarus, and other relics. And for
that I gave him a liberal supply of the acclivities(25) of Monte Morello
in the vulgar and some chapters of Caprezio, of which he had long been in
quest, he was pleased to let me participate in his holy relics, and gave
me one of the teeth of the Holy Cross, and in a small phial a bit of the
sound of the bells of Solomon's temple, and this feather of the Angel
Gabriel, whereof I have told you, and one of the pattens of San Gherardo
da Villa Magna, which, not long ago, I gave at Florence to Gherardo di
Bonsi, who holds him in prodigious veneration. He also gave me some of
the coals with which the most blessed martyr, St. Lawrence, was roasted.
All which things I devoutly brought thence, and have them all safe. True
it is that my superior has not hitherto permitted me to shew them, until
he should be certified that they are genuine. However, now that this is
avouched by certain miracles wrought by them, of which we have tidings by
letter from the Patriarch, he has given me leave to shew them. But,
fearing to trust them to another, I always carry them with me; and to
tell you the truth I carry the feather of the Angel Gabriel, lest it
should get spoiled, in a casket, and the coals, with which St. Lawrence
was roasted, in another casket; which caskets are so like the one to the
other, that not seldom I mistake one for the other, which has befallen me
on this occasion; for, whereas I thought to have brought with me the
casket wherein is the feather, I have brought instead that which contains
the coals. Nor deem I this a mischance; nay, methinks, 'tis by
interposition, of God, and that He Himself put the casket of coals in my
hand, for I mind me that the feast of St. Lawrence falls but two days
hence. Wherefore God, being minded that by shewing you the coals, with
which he was roasted, I should rekindle in your souls the devotion that
you ought to feel towards him, guided my hand, not to the feather which I
meant to take, but to the blessed coals that were extinguished by the
humours that exuded from that most holy body. And so, blessed children,
bare your heads and devoutly draw nigh to see them. But first of all I
would have you know, that whoso has the sign of the cross made upon him
with these coals, may live secure for the whole of the ensuing year, that
fire shall not touch him, that he feel it not."

Having so said, the friar, chanting a hymn in praise of St. Lawrence,
opened the casket, and shewed the coals. Whereon the foolish crowd gazed
a while in awe and reverent wonder, and then came pressing forward in a
mighty throng about Fra Cipolla with offerings beyond their wont, each
and all praying him to touch them with the coals. Wherefore Fra Cipolla
took the coals in his hand, and set about making on their white blouses,
and on their doublets, and on the veils of the women crosses as big as
might be, averring the while that whatever the coals might thus lose
would be made good to them again in the casket, as he had often proved.
On this wise, to his exceeding great profit, he marked all the folk of
Certaldo with the cross, and, thanks to his ready wit and resource, had
his laugh at those, who by robbing him of the feather thought to make a
laughing-stock of him. They, indeed, being among his hearers, and marking
his novel expedient, and how voluble he was, and what a long story he
made of it, laughed till they thought their jaws would break; and, when
the congregation was dispersed, they went up to him, and never so merrily
told him what they had done, and returned him his feather; which next
year proved no less lucrative to him than that day the coals had been.

(1) Onion.

(2) Diminutive of Arriguccio.

(3) Whale.

(4) Filth.

(5) Hog.

(6) The works of this painter seem to be lost.

(7) One of the humorous ineptitudes of which Boccaccio is fond.

(8) An abbey near Lucca famous for its doles of broth.

(9) Perhaps part of the "sesto" of Florence known as the Borgo, as the
tradition of the commentators that the friar's itinerary is wholly
Florentine is not to be lightly set aside.

(10) Il Garbo, a quarter or street in Florence, doubtless so called
because the wares of Algarve were there sold. Rer. Ital. Script.
(Muratori: Suppl. Tartini) ii. 119. Villani, Istorie Fiorentine, iv. 12,
xii. 18.

(11) A famous tavern in Florence. Florio, Vocab. Ital. e Ingl., ed
Torriano, 1659.

(12) A "borgo" in Florence. Villani, Istorie Fiorentine, iv. 7.

(13) A suburb of Florence on the Arno, ib. ix. 256.

(14) The land of Cajolery.

(15) The land of Drollery.

(16) The land of Lies.

(17) I.e. in false promises: suggested by Dante's Pagando di moneta senza
conio. Parad. xxix. 126.

(18) A reference to sausage-making.

(19) I.e. cakes fashioned in a hollow ring, and wines in leathern

(20) Grubs.

(21) In allusion to the shapeless fish, so called, which was proverbially
taken as a type of the outlandish.

(22) A jeu de mots, "pennati," pruning-hooks, signifying also feathered,
though "pennuti" is more common in that sense.

(23) Takemenottotaskanitlikeyou.

(24) Fatti alle finestre, a subterfuge for factum est.

(25) Piagge, jocularly for pagine: doubtless some mighty tome of school
divinity is meant.

Immense was the delight and diversion which this story afforded to all
the company alike, and great and general was the laughter over Fra
Cipolla, and more especially at his pilgrimage, and the relics, as well
those that he had but seen as those that he had brought back with him.
Which being ended, the queen, taking note that therewith the close of her
sovereignty was come, stood up, took off the crown, and set it on
Dioneo's head, saying with a laugh:--"'Tis time, Dioneo, that thou prove
the weight of the burden of having ladies to govern and guide. Be thou
king then; and let thy rule be such that, when 'tis ended, we may have
cause to commend it." Dioneo took the crown, and laughingly
answered:--"Kings worthier far than I you may well have seen many a time
ere now--I speak of the kings in chess; but let me have of you that
obedience which is due to a true king, and of a surety I will give you to
taste of that solace, without which perfection of joy there may not be in
any festivity. But enough of this: I will govern as best I may." Then, as
was the wont, he sent for the seneschal, and gave him particular
instruction how to order matters during the term of his sovereignty;
which done, he said:--"Noble ladies, such and so diverse has been our
discourse of the ways of men and their various fortunes, that but for the
visit that we had a while ago from Madam Licisca, who by what she said
has furnished me with matter of discourse for to-morrow, I doubt I had
been not a little put to it to find a theme. You heard how she said that
there was not a woman in her neighbourhood whose husband had her
virginity; adding that well she knew how many and what manner of tricks
they, after marriage, played their husbands. The first count we may well
leave to the girls whom it concerns; the second, methinks, should prove a
diverting topic: wherefore I ordain that, taking our cue from Madam
Licisca, we discourse to-morrow of the tricks that, either for love or
for their deliverance from peril, ladies have heretofore played their
husbands, and whether they were by the said husbands detected or no." To
discourse of such a topic some of the ladies deemed unmeet for them, and
besought the king to find another theme. But the king made
answer:--"Ladies, what manner of theme I have prescribed I know as well
as you, nor was I to be diverted from prescribing it by that which you
now think to declare unto me, for I wot the times are such that, so only
men and women have a care to do nought that is unseemly, 'tis allowable
to them to discourse of what they please. For in sooth, as you must know,
so out of joint are the times that the judges have deserted the
judgment-seat, the laws are silent, and ample licence to preserve his
life as best he may is accorded to each and all. Wherefore, if you are
somewhat less strict of speech than is your wont, not that aught unseemly
in act may follow, but that you may afford solace to yourselves and
others, I see not how you can be open to reasonable censure on the part
of any. Furthermore, nought that has been said from the first day to the
present moment has, methinks, in any degree sullied the immaculate honour
of your company, nor, God helping us, shall aught ever sully it. Besides,
who is there that knows not the quality of your honour? which were proof,
I make no doubt, against not only the seductive influence of diverting
discourse, but even the terror of death. And, to tell you the truth,
whoso wist that you refused to discourse of these light matters for a
while, would be apt to suspect that 'twas but for that you had yourselves
erred in like sort. And truly a goodly honour would you confer upon me,
obedient as I have ever been to you, if after making me your king and
your lawgiver, you were to refuse to discourse of the theme which I
prescribe. Away, then, with this scruple fitter for low minds than yours,
and let each study how she may give us a goodly story, and Fortune
prosper her therein."

So spake the king, and the ladies, hearkening, said that, even as he
would, so it should be: whereupon he gave all leave to do as they might
be severally minded until the supper-hour. The sun was still quite high
in the heaven, for they had not enlarged in their discourse: wherefore,
Dioneo with the other gallants being set to play at dice, Elisa called
the other ladies apart, and said:--"There is a nook hard by this place,
where I think none of you has ever been: 'tis called the Ladies' Vale:
whither, ever since we have been here, I have desired to take you, but
time meet I have not found until today, when the sun is still so high:
if, then, you are minded to visit it, I have no manner of doubt that,
when you are there, you will be very glad you came." The ladies answered
that they were ready, and so, saying nought to the young men, they
summoned one of their maids, and set forth; nor had they gone much more
than a mile, when they arrived at the Vale of Ladies. They entered it by
a very strait gorge, through which there issued a rivulet, clear as
crystal, and a sight, than which nought more fair and pleasant,
especially at that time when the heat was great, could be imagined, met
their eyes. Within the valley, as one of them afterwards told me, was a
plain about half-a-mile in circumference, and so exactly circular that it
might have been fashioned according to the compass, though it seemed a
work of Nature's art, not man's: 'twas girdled about by six hills of no
great height, each crowned with a palace that shewed as a goodly little
castle. The slopes of the hills were graduated from summit to base after
the manner of the successive tiers, ever abridging their circle, that we
see in our theatres; and as many as fronted the southern rays were all
planted so close with vines, olives, almond-trees, cherry-trees,
fig-trees and other fruitbearing trees not a few, that there was not a
hand's-breadth of vacant space. Those that fronted the north were in like
manner covered with copses of oak saplings, ashes and other trees, as
green and straight as might be. Besides which, the plain, which was shut
in on all sides save that on which the ladies had entered, was full of
firs, cypresses, and bay-trees, with here and there a pine, in order and
symmetry so meet and excellent as had they been planted by an artist, the
best that might be found in that kind; wherethrough, even when the sun
was in the zenith, scarce a ray of light might reach the ground, which
was all one lawn of the finest turf, pranked with the hyacinth and divers
other flowers. Add to which--nor was there aught there more
delightsome--a rivulet that, issuing from one of the gorges between two
of the hills, descended over ledges of living rock, making, as it fell, a
murmur most gratifying to the ear, and, seen from a distance, shewed as a
spray of finest, powdered quick-silver, and no sooner reached the little
plain, than 'twas gathered into a tiny channel, by which it sped with
great velocity to the middle of the plain, where it formed a diminutive
lake, like the fishponds that townsfolk sometimes make in their gardens,
when they have occasion for them. The lake was not so deep but that a man
might stand therein with his breast above the water; and so clear, so
pellucid was the water that the bottom, which was of the finest gravel,
shewed so distinct, that one, had he wished, who had nought better to do,
might have counted the stones. Nor was it only the bottom that was to be
seen, but such a multitude of fishes, glancing to and fro, as was at once
a delight and a marvel to behold. Bank it had none, but its margin was
the lawn, to which it imparted a goodlier freshness. So much of the water
as it might not contain was received by another tiny channel, through
which, issuing from the vale, it glided swiftly to the plain below.

To which pleasaunce the damsels being come surveyed it with roving
glance, and finding it commendable, and marking the lake in front of
them, did, as 'twas very hot, and they deemed themselves secure from
observation, resolve to take a bath. So, having bidden their maid wait
and keep watch over the access to the vale, and give them warning, if
haply any should approach it, they all seven undressed and got into the
water, which to the whiteness of their flesh was even such a veil as fine
glass is to the vermeil of the rose. They, being thus in the water, the
clearness of which was thereby in no wise affected, did presently begin
to go hither and thither after the fish, which had much ado where to
bestow themselves so as to escape out of their hands. In which diversion
they spent some time, and caught a few, and then they hied them out of
the water and dressed them again, and bethinking them that 'twas time to
return to the palace, they began slowly sauntering thither, dilating much
as they went upon the beauty of the place, albeit they could not extol it
more than they had already done. 'Twas still quite early when they
reached the palace, so that they found the gallants yet at play where
they had left them. To whom quoth Pampinea with a smile:--"We have stolen
a march upon you to-day." "So," replied Dioneo, "'tis with you do first
and say after?" "Ay, my lord," returned Pampinea, and told him at large
whence they came, and what the place was like, and how far 'twas off, and
what they had done. What she said of the beauty of the spot begat in the
king a desire to see it: wherefore he straightway ordered supper, whereof
when all had gaily partaken, the three gallants parted from the ladies
and hied them with their servants to the vale, where none of them had
ever been before, and, having marked all its beauties, extolled it as
scarce to be matched in all the world. Then, as the hour was very late,
they did but bathe, and as soon as they had resumed their clothes,
returned to the ladies, whom they found dancing a carol to an air that
Fiammetta sang, which done, they conversed of the Ladies' Vale, waxing
eloquent in praise thereof: insomuch that the king called the seneschal,
and bade him have some beds made ready and carried thither on the morrow,
that any that were so minded might there take their siesta. He then had
lights and wine and comfits brought; and when they had taken a slight
refection, he bade all address them to the dance. So at his behest
Pamfilo led a dance, and then the king, turning with gracious mien to
Elisa:--"Fair damsel," quoth he, "'twas thou to-day didst me this honour
of the crown; and 'tis my will that thine to-night be the honour of the
song; wherefore sing us whatsoever thou hast most lief." "That gladly
will I," replied Elisa smiling; and thus with dulcet voice began:--

If of thy talons, Love, be quit I may,
I deem it scarce can be
But other fangs I may elude for aye.

Service I took with thee, a tender maid,
In thy war thinking perfect peace to find,
And all my arms upon the ground I laid,
Yielding myself to thee with trustful mind:
Thou, harpy-tyrant, whom no faith may bind,
Eftsoons didst swoop on me,
And with thy cruel claws mad'st me thy prey.

Then thy poor captive, bound with many a chain,
Thou tookst, and gav'st to him, whom fate did call
Hither my death to be; for that in pain
And bitter tears I waste away, his thrall:
Nor heave I e'er a sigh, or tear let fall,
So harsh a lord is he,
That him inclines a jot my grief to allay.

My prayers upon the idle air are spent:
He hears not, will not hear; wherefore in vain
The more each hour my soul doth her torment;
Nor may I die, albeit to die were gain.
Ah! Lord, have pity of my bitter pain!
Help have I none but thee;
Then take and bind and at my feet him lay.

But if thou wilt not, do my soul but loose
From hope, that her still binds with triple chain.
Sure, O my Lord, this prayer thou'lt not refuse:
The which so thou to grant me do but deign,
I look my wonted beauty to regain,
And banish misery

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