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The Decameron, Vol. II. by Giovanni Boccaccio

Part 6 out of 7

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who was not the most discreet of gallants, albeit he was now apprised of
his error, instead of doing his best to repair it, retorted:--"And how
wilt thou pay me out? What canst thou do?" "Hark what high words our
guests are at together!" quoth meanwhile the host's wife to Adriano,
deeming that she spoke to her husband. "Let them be," replied Adriano
with a laugh:--"God give them a bad year: they drank too much yestereve."
The good woman had already half recognized her husband's angry tones, and
now that she heard Adriano's voice, she at once knew where she was and
with whom. Accordingly, being a discreet woman, she started up, and
saying never a word, took her child's cradle, and, though there was not a
ray of light in the room, bore it, divining rather than feeling her way,
to the side of the bed in which her daughter slept; and then, as if
aroused by the noise made by her husband, she called him, and asked what
he and Pinuccio were bandying words about. "Hearest thou not," replied
the husband, "what he says he has this very night done to Niccolosa?"
"Tush! he lies in the throat," returned the good woman: "he has not lain
with Niccolosa; for what time he might have done so, I laid me beside her
myself, and I have been wide awake ever since; and thou art a fool to
believe him. You men take so many cups before going to bed that then you
dream, and walk in your sleep, and imagine wonders. 'Tis a great pity you
do not break your necks. What does Pinuccio there? Why keeps he not in
his own bed?"

Whereupon Adriano, in his turn, seeing how adroitly the good woman
cloaked her own and her daughter's shame:--"Pinuccio," quoth he, "I have
told thee a hundred times, that thou shouldst not walk about at night;
for this thy bad habit of getting up in thy dreams and relating thy
dreams for truth will get thee into a scrape some time or another: come
back, and God send thee a bad night." Hearing Adriano thus confirm what
his wife had said, the host began to think that Pinuccio must be really
dreaming; so he took him by the shoulder, and fell a shaking him, and
calling him by his name, saying:--"Pinuccio, wake up, and go back to thy
bed." Pinuccio, taking his cue from what he had heard, began as a dreamer
would be like to do, to talk wanderingly; whereat the host laughed amain.
Then, feigning to be aroused by the shaking, Pinuccio uttered Adriano's
name, saying:--"Is't already day, that thou callest me?" "Ay, 'tis so,"
quoth Adriano: "come hither." Whereupon Pinuccio, making as if he were
mighty drowsy, got him up from beside the host, and back to bed with
Adriano. On the morrow, when they were risen, the host fell a laughing
and making merry touching Pinuccio and his dreams. And so the jest passed
from mouth to mouth, while the gallants' horses were groomed and saddled,
and their valises adjusted: which done, they drank with the host, mounted
and rode to Florence, no less pleased with the manner than with the
matter of the night's adventure. Nor, afterwards, did Pinuccio fail to
find other means of meeting Niccolosa, who assured her mother that he had
unquestionably dreamed. For which cause the good woman, calling to mind
Adriano's embrace, accounted herself the only one that had watched.


Talano di Molese dreams that a wolf tears and rends all the neck and face
of his wife: he gives her warning thereof, which she heeds not, and the
dream comes true.

When Pamfilo had brought his story to a close, and all had commended the
good woman's quick perception, the queen bade Pampinea tell hers; and
thus Pampinea began:--A while ago, debonair my ladies, we held discourse
of the truths that dreams shew forth, which not a few of us deride; for
which cause, albeit the topic has been handled before, I shall not spare
to tell you that which not long ago befell a neighbour of mine, for that
she disbelieved a dream that her husband had.

I wot not if you knew Talano di Molese, a man right worthy to be had in
honour; who, having married a young wife--Margarita by name--fair as e'er
another, but without her match for whimsical, fractious, and perverse
humours, insomuch that there was nought she would do at the instance of
another, either for his or her own good, found her behaviour most
grievous to bear, but was fain to endure what he might not cure. Now it
so befell that Talano and Margarita being together at an estate that
Talano had in the contado, he, sleeping, saw in a dream a very beautiful
wood that was on the estate at no great distance from the house, and his
lady there walking. And as she went, there leapt forth upon her a huge
and fierce wolf that griped her by the throat, and bore her down to the
ground, and (she shrieking the while for succour) would have carried her
off by main force; but she got quit of his jaws, albeit her neck and face
shewed as quite disfigured. On the morrow, as soon as he was risen,
Talano said to his wife:--"Albeit for thy perversity I have not yet known
a single good day with thee, yet I should be sorry, wife, that harm
should befall thee; and therefore, if thou take my advice, thou wilt not
stir out of doors to-day." "Wherefore?" quoth the lady; and thereupon he
recounted to her all his dream.

The lady shook her head, saying:--"Who means ill, dreams ill. Thou makest
as if thou wast mighty tender of me, but thou bodest of me in thy dream
that which thou wouldst fain see betide me. I warrant thee that to-day
and all days I will have a care to avoid this or any other calamity that
might gladden thy heart." Whereupon:--"Well wist I," replied Talano,
"that thou wouldst so say, for such is ever the requital of those that
comb scurfy heads; but whatever thou mayst be pleased to believe, I for
my part speak to thee for thy good, and again I advise thee to keep
indoors to-day, or at least not to walk in the wood." "Good," returned
the lady, "I will look to it," and then she began communing with herself
on this wise:--Didst mark how artfully he thinks to have scared me from
going into the wood to-day? Doubtless 'tis that he has an assignation
there with some light o' love, with whom he had rather I did not find
him. Ah! he would sup well with the blind, and what a fool were I to
believe him! But I warrant he will be disappointed, and needs must I,
though I stay there all day long, see what commerce it is that he will
adventure in to-day.

Having so said, she quitted the house on one side, while her husband did
so on the other; and forthwith, shunning observation as best she might,
she hied her to the wood, and hid her where 'twas most dense, and there
waited on the alert, and glancing, now this way and now that, to see if
any were coming. And while thus she stood, nor ever a thought of a wolf
crossed her mind, lo, forth of a close covert hard by came a wolf of
monstrous size and appalling aspect, and scarce had she time to say, God
help me! before he sprang upon her and griped her by the throat so
tightly that she might not utter a cry, but, passive as any lambkin, was
borne off by him, and had certainly been strangled, had he not
encountered some shepherds, who with shouts compelled him to let her go.
The shepherds recognized the poor hapless woman, and bore her home, where
the physicians by dint of long and careful treatment cured her; howbeit
the whole of her throat and part of her face remained so disfigured that,
fair as she had been before, she was ever thereafter most foul and
hideous to look upon. Wherefore, being ashamed to shew her face, she did
many a time bitterly deplore her perversity, in that, when it would have
cost her nothing, she would nevertheless pay no heed to the true dream of
her husband.


Biondello gulls Ciacco in the matter of a breakfast: for which prank
Ciacco is cunningly avenged on Biondello, causing him to be shamefully

All the company by common consent pronounced it no dream but a vision
that Talano had had in his sleep, so exactly, no circumstance lacking,
had it fallen out according as he had seen it. However, as soon as all
had done speaking, the queen bade Lauretta follow suit; which Lauretta
did on this wise:--As, most discreet my ladies, those that have preceded
me to-day have almost all taken their cue from somewhat that has been
said before, so, prompted by the stern vengeance taken by the scholar in
Pampinea's narrative of yesterday, I am minded to tell you of a vengeance
that was indeed less savage, but for all that grievous enough to him on
whom it was wreaked.

Wherefore I say that there was once at Florence one that all folk called
Ciacco, a man second to none that ever lived for inordinate gluttony,
who, lacking the means to support the expenditure which his gluttony
demanded, and being, for the rest, well-mannered and well furnished with
excellent and merry jests, did, without turning exactly court jester,
cultivate a somewhat biting wit, and loved to frequent the houses of the
rich, and such as kept good tables; whither, bidden or unbidden, he not
seldom resorted for breakfast or supper. There was also in those days at
Florence one that was called Biondello, a man very short of stature, and
not a little debonair, more trim than any fly, with his blond locks
surmounted by a coif, and never a hair out of place; and he and Ciacco
were two of a trade.

Now one morning in Lent Biondello, being in the fish-market purchasing
two mighty fat lampreys for Messer Vieri de' Cerchi, was observed thus
engaged by Ciacco, who came up to him, and:--"What means this?" quoth he.
"Why," replied Biondello, "'tis that yestereve Messer Corso Donati had
three lampreys much finer than these and a sturgeon sent to his house,
but as they did not suffice for a breakfast that he is to give certain
gentlemen, he has commissioned me to buy him these two beside. Wilt thou
not be there?" "Ay, marry, that will I," returned Ciacco. And in what he
deemed due time he hied him to Messer Corso Donati's house, where he
found him with some of his neighbours not yet gone to breakfast. And
being asked by Messer Corso with what intent he was come, he
answered:--"I am come, Sir, to breakfast with you and your company." "And
welcome art thou," returned Messer Corso, "go we then to breakfast, for
'tis now the time." So to table they went, where nought was set before
them but pease and the inward part of the tunny salted, and afterwards
the common fish of the Arno fried. Wherefore Ciacco, not a little wroth
at the trick that he perceived Biondello had played him, resolved to pay
him out. And not many days after Biondello, who had meanwhile had many a
laugh with his friends over Ciacco's discomfiture, met him, and after
greeting him, asked him with a laugh what Messer Corso's lampreys had
been like. "That question," replied Ciacco, "thou wilt be able to answer
much better than I before eight days are gone by." And parting from
Biondello upon the word, he went forthwith and hired a cozening rogue,
and having thrust a glass bottle into his hand, brought him within sight
of the Loggia de' Cavicciuli; and there, pointing to a knight, one Messer
Filippo Argenti, a tall man and stout, and of a high courage, and
haughty, choleric and cross-grained as ne'er another, he said to
him:--"Thou wilt go, flask in hand, to Messer Filippo, and wilt say to
him:--'I am sent to you, Sir, by Biondello, who entreats you to be
pleased to colour this flask for him with some of your good red wine, for
that he is minded to have a good time with his catamites.' And of all
things have a care that he lay not hands upon thee, for he would make
thee rue the day, and would spoil my sport." "Have I aught else to say?"
enquired the rogue. "Nothing more," returned Ciacco: "and now get thee
gone, and when thou hast delivered the message, bring me back the flask,
and I will pay thee."

So away went the rogue, and did the errand to Messer Filippo, who
forthwith, being a hasty man, jumped to the conclusion that Biondello,
whom he knew, was making mock of him, and while an angry flush overspread
his face:--"Colour the flask, forsooth!" quoth he, "and 'Catamites!' God
send thee and him a bad year!" and therewith up he started, and reached
forward to lay hold of the rogue, who, being on the alert, gave him the
slip and was off, and reported Messer Filippo's answer to Ciacco, who had
observed what had passed. Having paid the rogue, Ciacco rested not until
he had found Biondello, to whom:--"Wast thou but now," quoth he, "at the
Loggia de' Cavicciuli?" "Indeed no," replied Biondello: "wherefore such a
question?" "Because," returned Ciacco, "I may tell thee that thou art
sought for by Messer Filippo, for what cause I know not." "Good," quoth
Biondello, "I will go thither and speak with him." So away went
Biondello, and Ciacco followed him to see what course the affair would

Now having failed to catch the rogue, Messer Filippo was still very
wroth, and inly fumed and fretted, being unable to make out aught from
what the rogue had said save that Biondello was set on by some one or
another to flout him. And while thus he vexed his spirit, up came
Biondello; whom he no sooner espied than he made for him, and dealt him a
mighty blow in the face, and tore his hair and coif, and cast his capuche
on the ground, and to his "Alas, Sir, what means this?" still beating him
amain:--"Traitor," cried he; "I will give thee to know what it means to
send me such a message. 'Colour the flask,' forsooth, and 'Catamites!'
Dost take me for a stripling, to be befooled by thee?" And therewith he
pummelled Biondello's face all over with a pair of fists that were liker
to iron than aught else, until it was but a mass of bruises; he also tore
and dishevelled all his hair, tumbled him in the mud, rent all his
clothes upon his back, and that without allowing him breathing-space to
ask why he thus used him, or so much as utter a word. "Colour me the
flask!" and "Catamites!" rang in his ears; but what the words signified
he knew not. In the end very badly beaten, and in very sorry and ragged
trim, many folk having gathered around them, they, albeit not without the
utmost difficulty, rescued him from Messer Filippo's hands, and told him
why Messer Filippo had thus used him, censuring him for sending him such
a message, and adding that thenceforth he would know Messer Filippo
better, and that he was not a man to be trifled with. Biondello told them
in tearful exculpation that he had never sent for wine to Messer Filippo:
then, when they had put him in a little better trim, crestfallen and
woebegone, he went home imputing his misadventure to Ciacco. And when,
many days afterwards, the marks of his ill-usage being gone from his
face, he began to go abroad again, it chanced that Ciacco met him, and
with a laugh:--"Biondello," quoth he, "how didst thou relish Messer
Filippo's wine?" "Why, as to that," replied Biondello, "would thou hadst
relished the lampreys of Messer Corso as much!" "So!" returned Ciacco,
"such meat as thou then gavest me, thou mayst henceforth give me, as
often as thou art so minded; and I will give thee even such drink as I
have given thee." So Biondello, witting that against Ciacco his might was
not equal to his spite, prayed God for his peace, and was careful never
to flout him again.


Two young men ask counsel of Solomon; the one, how he is to make himself
beloved, the other, how he is to reduce an unruly wife to order. The King
bids the one to love, and the other to go to the Bridge of Geese.

None now remained to tell save the queen, unless she were minded to
infringe Dioneo's privilege. Wherefore, when the ladies had laughed their
fill over the misfortunes of Biondello, thus gaily the queen
began:--Observe we, lovesome ladies, the order of things with a sound
mind, and we shall readily perceive that we women are one and all
subjected by Nature and custom and law unto man, by him to be ruled and
governed at his discretion; wherefore she, that would fain enjoy quietude
and solace and comfort with the man to whom she belongs, ought not only
to be chaste but lowly, patient and obedient: the which is the discreet
wife's chief and most precious possession. And if the laws, which in all
matters have regard unto the common weal, and use and wont or custom
(call it what you will), a power very great and to be had in awe, should
not suffice to school us thereto; yet abundantly clear is the witness of
Nature, which has fashioned our frames delicate and sensitive, and our
spirits timorous and fearful, and has decreed that our bodily strength
shall be slight, our voices tunable, and our movements graceful; which
qualities do all avouch that we have need of others' governance. And
whoso has need of succour and governance ought in all reason to be
obedient and submissive and reverent towards his governor. And whom have
we to govern and succour us save men? 'Tis then our bounden duty to give
men all honour and submit ourselves unto them: from which rule if any
deviate, I deem her most deserving not only of grave censure but of
severe chastisement. Which reflections, albeit they are not new to me, I
am now led to make by what but a little while ago Pampinea told us
touching the perverse wife of Talano, on whom God bestowed that
chastisement which the husband had omitted; and accordingly it jumps with
my judgment that all such women as deviate from the graciousness,
kindliness and compliancy, which Nature and custom and law prescribe,
merit, as I said, stern and severe chastisement. Wherefore, as a salutary
medicine for the healing of those of us who may be afflicted with this
disease, I am minded to relate to you that which was once delivered by
Solomon by way of counsel in such a case. Which let none that stands not
in need of such physic deem to be meant for her, albeit a proverb is
current among men; to wit:--

Good steed, bad steed, alike need the rowel's prick,
Good wife, bad wife, alike demand the stick.

Which whoso should construe as a merry conceit would find you all ready
enough to acknowledge its truth. But even in its moral significance I say
that it ought to command assent. For women are all by nature apt to be
swayed and to fall; and therefore, for the correction of the wrong-doing
of such as transgress the bounds assigned to them, there is need of the
stick punitive; and also for the maintenance of virtue in others, that
they transgress not these appointed bounds, there is need of the stick
auxiliary and deterrent. However, to cut short this preachment, and to
come to that which I purpose to tell you, I say:

That the bruit of the incomparable renown of the prodigious wisdom of
Solomon, as also of the exceeding great liberality with which he accorded
proof thereof to all that craved such assurance, being gone forth over
well-nigh all the earth, many from divers parts were wont to resort to
him for counsel in matters of most pressing and arduous importance; among
whom was a young man, Melisso by name, a very wealthy nobleman, who was,
as had been his fathers before him, of Lazistan, and there dwelt. And as
Melisso fared toward Jerusalem, on his departure from Antioch he fell in
with another young man, Giosefo by name, who was going the same way, and
with whom, after the manner of travellers, he entered into converse.
Melisso, having learned from Giosefo, who and whence he was, asked him
whither he went, and on what errand: whereupon Giosefo made an answer
that he was going to seek counsel of Solomon, how he should deal with his
wife, who had not her match among women for unruliness and perversity,
insomuch that neither entreaties nor blandishments nor aught else availed
him to bring her to a better frame. And thereupon he in like manner asked
Melisso whence he was, and whither he was bound, and on what errand:
whereto:--"Of Lazistan, I," replied Melisso, "and like thyself in evil
plight; for albeit I am wealthy and spend my substance freely in
hospitably entertaining and honourably entreating my fellow-citizens, yet
for all that, passing strange though it be to think upon, I find never a
soul to love me; and therefore I am bound to the self-same place as thou,
to be advised how it may come to pass that I be beloved."

So the two men fared on together, and being arrived at Jerusalem, were,
by the good offices of one of Solomon's barons, ushered into his
presence, and Melisso having briefly laid his case before the King, was
answered in one word:--"Love." Which said, Melisso was forthwith
dismissed, and Giosefo discovered the reason of his coming. To whom
Solomon made no answer but:--"Get thee to the Bridge of Geese." Whereupon
Giosefo was likewise promptly ushered out of the King's presence, and
finding Melisso awaiting him, told him what manner of answer he had
gotten. Which utterances of the King the two men pondered, but finding
therein nought that was helpful or relevant to their need, they doubted
the King had but mocked them, and set forth upon their homeward journey.

Now when they had been some days on the road, they came to a river, which
was spanned by a fine bridge, and a great caravan of sumpter mules and
horses being about to cross, they must needs tarry, until the caravan had
passed by. The more part of which had done so, when it chanced that a
mule turned sulky, as we know they will not seldom do, and stood stock
still; wherefore a muleteer took a stick and fell a beating the mule
therewith, albeit at first with no great vigour, to urge the mule
forward. The mule, however, swerving, now to this, now to the other side
of the bridge, and sometimes facing about, utterly refused to go forward.
Whereat the muleteer, wroth beyond measure, fell a belabouring him with
the stick now on the head, now on the flanks, and anon on the croup,
never so lustily, but all to no purpose. Which caused Melisso and Giosefo
ofttimes to say to him:--"How now, caitiff? What is this thou doest?
Wouldst kill the beast? Why not try if thou canst not manage him kindly
and gently? He would start sooner so than for this cudgelling of thine."
To whom:--"You know your horses," replied the muleteer, "and I know my
mule: leave me to deal with him." Which said, he resumed his cudgelling
of the mule, and laid about him on this side and on that to such purpose
that he started him; and so the honours of the day rested with the
muleteer. Now, as the two young men were leaving the bridge behind them,
Giosefo asked a good man that sate at its head what the bridge was
called, and was answered:--"Sir, 'tis called the Bridge of Geese." Which
Giosefo no sooner heard than he called to mind Solomon's words, and
turning to Melisso:--"Now, comrade, I warrant thee I may yet find
Solomon's counsel sound and good, for that I knew not how to beat my wife
is abundantly clear to me; and this muleteer has shewn me what I have to

Now some days afterwards they arrived at Antioch, where Giosefo prevailed
upon Melisso to tarry with him and rest a day or two; and meeting with
but a sorry welcome on the part of his wife, he told her to take her
orders as to supper from Melisso, who, seeing that such was Giosefo's
will, briefly gave her his instructions; which the lady, as had been her
wont, not only did not obey, but contravened in almost every particular.
Which Giosefo marking:--"Wast thou not told," quoth he angrily, "after
what fashion thou wast to order the supper?" Whereto:--"So!" replied the
lady haughtily: "what means this? If thou hast a mind to sup, why take
not thy supper? No matter what I was told, 'tis thus I saw fit to order
it. If it like thee, so be it: if not, 'tis thine affair." Melisso heard
the lady with surprise and inward disapprobation: Giosefo retorted:--"Ay
wife, thou art still as thou wast used to be; but I will make thee mend
thy manners." Then, turning to Melisso:--"Friend," quoth he, "thou wilt
soon prove the worth of Solomon's counsel: but, prithee, let it not irk
thee to look on, and deem that what I shall do is but done in sport; and
if thou shouldst be disposed to stand in my way, bear in mind how we were
answered by the muleteer, when we pitied his mule." "I am in thy house,"
replied Melisso, "and thy pleasure is to me law."

Thereupon Giosefo took a stout cudgel cut from an oak sapling, and hied
him into the room whither the lady had withdrawn from the table in high
dudgeon, seized her by the hair, threw her on to the floor at his feet,
and fell a beating her amain with the cudgel. The lady at first uttered a
shriek or two, from which she passed to threats; but seeing that, for all
that, Giosefo slackened not, by the time she was thoroughly well
thrashed, she began to cry him mercy, imploring him not to kill her, and
adding that henceforth his will should be to her for law. But still
Giosefo gave not over, but with ever fresh fury dealt her mighty
swingeing blows, now about the ribs, now on the haunches, now over the
shoulders; nor had he done with the fair lady, until, in short, he had
left never a bone or other part of her person whole, and he was fairly
spent. Then, returning to Melisso:--"To-morrow," quoth he, "we shall see
whether 'Get thee to the Bridge of Geese' will prove to have been sound
advice or no." And so, having rested a while, and then washed his hands,
he supped with Melisso. With great pain the poor lady got upon her feet
and laid herself on her bed, and having there taken such rest as she
might, rose betimes on the morrow, and craved to know of Giosefo what he
was minded to have to breakfast. Giosefo, laughing with Melisso over the
message, gave her his directions, and when in due time they came to
breakfast, they found everything excellently ordered according as it had
been commanded: for which cause the counsel, which they had at first
failed to understand, now received their highest commendation.

Some few days later Melisso, having taken leave of Giosefo, went home,
and told a wise man the counsel he had gotten from Solomon.
Whereupon:--"And no truer or sounder advice could he have given thee,"
quoth the sage: "thou knowest that thou lovest never a soul, and that the
honours thou payest and the services thou renderest to others are not
prompted by love of them, but by love of display. Love, then, as Solomon
bade thee, and thou shalt be loved." On such wise was the unruly
chastised; and the young man, learning to love, was beloved.


Dom Gianni at the instance of his gossip Pietro uses an enchantment to
transform Pietro's wife into a mare; but, when he comes to attach the
tail, Gossip Pietro, by saying that he will have none of the tail, makes
the enchantment of no effect.

The queen's story evoked some murmurs from the ladies and some laughter
from the young men; however, when they were silent, Dioneo thus
began:--Dainty my ladies, a black crow among a flock of white doves
enhances their beauty more than would a white swan; and so, when many
sages are met together, their ripe wisdom not only shews the brighter and
goodlier for the presence of one that is not so wise, but may even derive
pleasure and diversion therefrom. Wherefore as you, my ladies, are one
and all most discreet and judicious, I, who know myself to be somewhat
scant of sense, should, for that by my demerit I make your merit shew the
more glorious, be more dear to you, than if by my greater merit I
eclipsed yours, and by consequence should have more ample license to
reveal myself to you as I am; and therefore have more patient sufferance
on your part than would be due to me, were I more discreet, in the
relation of the tale which I am about to tell you. 'Twill be, then, a
story none too long, wherefrom you may gather with what exactitude it
behoves folk to observe the injunctions of those that for any purpose use
an enchantment, and how slight an error committed therein make bring to
nought all the work of the enchanter.

A year or so ago there was at Barletta a priest named Dom Gianni di
Barolo, who, to eke out the scanty pittance his church afforded him, set
a pack-saddle upon his mare, and took to going the round of the fairs of
Apulia, buying and selling merchandise. And so it befell that he clapped
up a close acquaintance with one Pietro da Tresanti, who plied the same
trade as he, albeit instead of a mare he had but an ass; whom in token of
friendship and good-fellowship Dom Gianni after the Apulian fashion
called ever Gossip Pietro, and had him to his house and there lodged and
honourably entreated him as often as he came to Barletta. Gossip Pietro
on his part, albeit he was very poor and had but a little cot at
Tresanti, that scarce sufficed for himself, his fair, young wife, and
their ass, nevertheless, whenever Dom Gianni arrived at Tresanti, made
him welcome, and did him the honours of his house as best he might, in
requital of the hospitality which he received at Barletta. However, as
Gossip Pietro had but one little bed, in which he slept with his fair
wife, 'twas not in his power to lodge Dom Gianni as comfortably as he
would have liked; but the priest's mare being quartered beside the ass in
a little stable, the priest himself must needs lie beside her on the
straw. Many a time when the priest came, the wife, knowing how honourably
he entreated her husband at Barletta, would fain have gone to sleep with
a neighbour, one Zita Carapresa di Giudice Leo, that the priest might
share the bed with her husband, and many a time had she told the priest
so howbeit he would never agree to it, and on one occasion:--"Gossip
Gemmata," quoth he, "trouble not thyself about me; I am well lodged; for,
when I am so minded, I turn the mare into a fine lass and dally with her,
and then, when I would, I turn her back into a mare; wherefore I could
ill brook to part from her." The young woman, wondering but believing,
told her husband what the priest had said, adding:--"If he is even such a
friend as thou sayst, why dost thou not get him to teach thee the
enchantment, so that thou mayst turn me into a mare, and have both ass
and mare for thine occasions? We should then make twice as much gain as
we do, and thou couldst turn me back into a woman when we came home at

Gossip Pietro, whose wit was somewhat blunt, believed that 'twas as she
said, approved her counsel, and began adjuring Dom Gianni, as
persuasively as he might, to teach him the incantation. Dom Gianni did
his best to wean him of his folly; but as all was in vain:--"Lo, now,"
quoth he, "as you are both bent on it, we will be up, as is our wont,
before the sun to-morrow morning, and I will shew you how 'tis done. The
truth is that 'tis in the attachment of the tail that the great
difficulty lies, as thou wilt see." Scarce a wink of sleep had either
Gossip Pietro or Gossip Gemmata that night, so great was their anxiety;
and towards daybreak up they got, and called Dom Gianni; who, being
risen, came in his shirt into Gossip Pietro's little bedroom, and:--"I
know not," quoth he, "that there is another soul in the world for whom I
would do this, save you, my gossips; however, as you will have it so, I
will do it, but it behoves you to do exactly as I bid you, if you would
have the enchantment work." They promised obedience, and Dom Gianni
thereupon took a light, which he handed to Gossip Pietro, saying:--"Let
nought that I shall do or say escape thee; and have a care, so thou
wouldst not ruin all, to say never a word, whatever thou mayst see or
hear; and pray God that the tail may be securely attached." So Gossip
Pietro took the light, and again promised obedience; Dom Gianni caused
Gossip Gemmata to strip herself stark naked, and stand on all fours like
a mare, at the same time strictly charging her that, whatever might
happen, she must utter no word. Then, touching her head and face:--"Be
this a fine head of a mare," quoth he; in like manner touching her hair,
he said:--"Be this a fine mane of a mare;" touching her arms:--"Be these
fine legs and fine hooves of a mare;" then, as he touched her breast and
felt its firm roundness, and there awoke and arose one that was not
called:--"And be this a fine breast of a mare," quoth he; and in like
manner he dealt with her back, belly, croup, thighs, and legs. Last of
all, the work being complete save for the tail, he lifted his shirt and
took in his hand the tool with which he was used to plant men, and
forthwith thrust it into the furrow made for it, saying:--"And be this a
fine tail of a mare." Whereat Gossip Pietro, who had followed everything
very heedfully to that point, disapproving that last particular,
exclaimed:--"No! Dom Gianni, I'll have no tail, I'll have no tail." The
essential juice, by which all plants are propagated, was already
discharged, when Dom Gianni withdrew the tool, saying:--"Alas! Gossip
Pietro, what hast thou done? Did I not tell thee to say never a word, no
matter what thou mightst see? The mare was all but made; but by speaking
thou hast spoiled all; and 'tis not possible to repeat the enchantment."
"Well and good," replied Gossip Pietro, "I would have none of that tail.
Why saidst thou not to me:--'Make it thou'? And besides, thou wast
attaching it too low." "'Twas because," returned Dom Gianni, "thou
wouldst not have known, on the first essay, how to attach it so well as
I." Whereupon the young woman stood up, and in all good faith said to her
husband:--"Fool that thou art, wherefore hast thou brought to nought what
had been for the good of us both? When didst thou ever see mare without a
tail? So help me God, poor as thou art, thou deservest to be poorer
still." So, after Gossip Pietro's ill-timed speech, there being no way
left of turning the young woman into a mare, downcast and melancholy she
resumed her clothes; and Gossip Pietro plied his old trade with his ass,
and went with Dom Gianni to the fair of Bitonto, and never asked him so
to serve him again.

What laughter this story drew from the ladies, who understood it better
than Dioneo had wished, may be left to the imagination of the fair one
that now laughs thereat. However, as the stories were ended, and the sun
now shone with a tempered radiance, the queen, witting that the end of
her sovereignty was come, stood up and took off the crown, and set it on
the head of Pamfilo, whom alone it now remained thus to honour; and said
with a smile:--"My lord, 'tis a great burden that falls upon thee, seeing
that thou, coming last, art bound to make good my shortcomings and those
of my predecessors; which God give thee grace to accomplish, even as He
has given me grace to make thee king." With gladsome acknowledgment of
the honour:--"I doubt not," replied Pamfilo, "that, thanks to your noble
qualities and those of my other subjects, I shall win even such praise as
those that have borne sway before me." Then, following the example of his
predecessors, he made all meet arrangements in concert with the
seneschal: after which, he turned to the expectant ladies, and thus
spoke:--"Enamoured my ladies, Emilia, our queen of to-day, deeming it
proper to allow you an interval of rest to recruit your powers, gave you
license to discourse of such matters as should most commend themselves to
each in turn; and as thereby you are now rested, I judge that 'tis meet
to revert to our accustomed rule. Wherefore I ordain that for to-morrow
you do each of you take thought how you may discourse of the ensuing
theme: to wit, of such as in matters of love, or otherwise, have done
something with liberality or magnificence. By the telling, and (still
more) by the doing of such things, your spirits will assuredly be duly
attuned and animated to emprise high and noble; whereby our life, which
cannot but be brief, seeing that 'tis enshrined in a mortal body, fame
shall perpetuate in glory; which whoso serves not the belly, as do the
beasts, must not only covet, but with all zeal seek after and labour to

The gay company having, one and all, approved the theme, rose at a word
from their new king, and betook them to their wonted pastimes, and so,
according as they severally had most lief, diverted them, until they
blithely reunited for supper, which being served with all due care and
despatched, they rose up to dance, as they were wont, and when they had
sung, perhaps, a thousand ditties, fitter to please by their words than
by any excellence of musical art, the king bade Neifile sing one on her
own account. And promptly and graciously, with voice clear and blithe,
thus Neifile sang:--

In prime of maidenhood, and fair and feat
'Mid spring's fresh foison chant I merrily:
Thanks be to Love and to my fancies sweet.

As o'er the grassy mead I, glancing, fare,
I mark it white and yellow and vermeil dight
With flowers, the thorny rose, the lily white:
And all alike to his face I compare,
Who, loving, hath me ta'en, and me shall e'er
Hold bounden to his will, sith I am she
That in his will findeth her joy complete.

Whereof if so it be that I do find
Any that I most like to him approve,
That pluck I straight and kiss with words of love,
Discovering all, as, best I may, my mind;
Yea, all my heart's desire; and then entwined
I set it in the chaplet daintily,
And with my yellow tresses bind and pleat.

And as mine eyes do drink in the delight
Which the flower yields them, even so my mind,
Fired with his sweet love, doth such solace find,
As he himself were present to the sight:
But never word of mine discover might
That which the flower's sweet smell awakes in me:
Witness the true tale that my sighs repeat.

For from my bosom gentle and hot they fly,
Not like the gusty sighs that others heave,
Whenas they languish and do sorely grieve;
And to my love incontinent they hie:
Whereof when he is ware, he, by and by,
To meward hasting, cometh suddenly,
When:--"Lest I faint," I cry, "come, I entreat."

The king and all the ladies did not a little commend Neifile's song;
after which, as the night was far spent, the king bade all go to rest
until the morrow.

Endeth here the ninth day of the Decameron, and beginneth the tenth, in
which, under the rule of Pamfilo, discourse is had of such as in matters
of love, or otherwise, have done something with liberality or

Some cloudlets in the West still shewed a vermeil flush, albeit those of
the eastern sky, as the sun's rays smote them anear, were already fringed
as with most lucent gold, when uprose Pamfilo, and roused the ladies and
his comrades. And all the company being assembled, and choice made of the
place whither they should betake them for their diversion, he,
accompanied by Filomena and Fiammetta, led the way at a slow pace,
followed by all the rest. So fared they no little space, beguiling the
time with talk of their future way of life, whereof there was much to
tell and much to answer, until, as the sun gained strength, they
returned, having made quite a long round, to the palace; and being
gathered about the fountain, such as were so minded drank somewhat from
beakers rinsed in its pure waters; and then in the delicious shade of the
garden they hied them hither and thither, taking their pleasure until
breakfast-time. Their meal taken, they slept as they were wont; and then,
at a spot chosen by the king, they reassembled, where Neifile, having
received his command to lead the way, blithely thus began.


A knight in the service of the King of Spain deems himself ill requited.
Wherefore the King, by most cogent proof, shews him that the blame rests
not with him, but with the knight's own evil fortune; after which, he
bestows upon him a noble gift.

Highly graced, indeed, do I deem myself, honourable my ladies, that our
king should have given to me the precedence in a matter so arduous to
tell of as magnificence: for, as the sun irradiates all the heaven with
his glory and beauty, even so does magnificence enhance the purity and
the splendour of every other virtue. I shall therefore tell you a story,
which, to my thinking, is not a little pretty; and which, assuredly, it
must be profitable to call to mind.

You are to know, then, that, among other honourable knights that from
days of old even until now have dwelt in our city, one, and perchance the
worthiest of all, was Messer Ruggieri de' Figiovanni. Who, being wealthy
and magnanimous, reflecting on the customs and manner of life of Tuscany,
perceived that by tarrying there he was like to find little or no
occasion of shewing his mettle, and accordingly resolved to pass some
time at the court of Alfonso, King of Spain, who for the fame of his high
qualities was without a peer among the potentates of his age. So, being
well provided with arms and horses and retinue suitable to his rank, he
hied him to Spain, where he was graciously received by the King. There
tarrying accordingly, Messer Ruggieri very soon, as well by the splendid
style in which he lived as by the prodigious feats of arms that he did,
gave folk to know his high desert.

Now, having tarried there some while, and observed the King's ways with
much care, and how he would grant castles, cities, or baronies, to this,
that, or the other of his subjects, he deemed that the King shewed
therein but little judgment, seeing that he would give them to men that
merited them not. And for that nought was given to him, he, knowing his
merit, deemed himself gravely injured in reputation; wherefore he made up
his mind to depart the realm, and to that end craved license of the King;
which the King granted him, and therewith gave him one of the best and
finest mules that was ever ridden, a gift which Messer Ruggieri, as he
had a long journey to make, did not a little appreciate. The King then
bade one of his discreet domestics contrive, as best he might, to ride
with Messer Ruggieri on such wise that it might not appear that he did so
by the King's command, and charge his memory with whatever Messer
Ruggieri might say of him, so that he might be able to repeat it; which
done, he was on the very next morning to bid Ruggieri return to the King
forthwith. The King's agent was on the alert, and no sooner was Ruggieri
out of the city, than without any manner of difficulty he joined his
company, giving out that he was going towards Italy. As thus they rode,
talking of divers matters, Messer Ruggieri being mounted on the mule
given him by the King:--"Methinks," quoth the other, it being then hard
upon tierce, "that 'twere well to give the beasts a voidance;" and by and
by, being come to a convenient place, they voided all the beasts save the
mule. Then, as they continued their journey, the squire hearkening
attentively to the knight's words, they came to a river, and while there
they watered the beasts, the mule made a voidance in the stream.
Whereat:--"Ah, foul fall thee, beast," quoth Messer Ruggieri, "that art
even as thy master, that gave thee to me!" Which remark, as also many
another that fell from Ruggieri as they rode together throughout the day,
the squire stored in his memory; but never another word did he hear
Ruggieri say touching the King, that was not laudatory to the last

On the morrow, when they were gotten to horse, and had set their faces
towards Tuscany, the squire apprised Ruggieri of the King's command, and
thereupon Ruggieri turned back. On his arrival the King, having already
heard what he had said touching the mule, gave him gladsome greeting, and
asked him wherefore he had likened him to the mule, or rather the mule to
him. Whereto Messer Ruggieri answered frankly:--"My lord, I likened you
to the mule, for that, as you bestow your gifts where 'tis not meet, and
where meet it were, bestow them not, so the mule where 'twas meet, voided
not, and where 'twas not meet, voided." "Messer Ruggieri," replied the
King, "'tis not because I have not discerned in you a knight most good
and true, for whose desert no gift were too great, that I have not
bestowed on you such gifts as I have bestowed upon many others, who in
comparison of you are nothing worth: the fault is none of mine but solely
of your fortune, which would not suffer me; and that this which I say is
true, I will make abundantly plain to you." "My lord," returned Messer
Ruggieri, "mortified am I, not that you gave me no gift, for thereof I
had no desire, being too rich, but that you made no sign of recognition
of my desert; however, I deem your explanation sound and honourable, and
whatever you shall be pleased that I should see, that gladly will I,
albeit I believe you without attestation."

The King then led him into one of the great halls, in which, by his
preordinance, were two chests closed under lock and key, and, not a few
others being present, said to him:--"Messer Ruggieri, one these chests
contains my crown, sceptre and orb, with many a fine girdle, buckle,
ring, and whatever else of jewellery I possess; the other is full of
earth: choose then, and whichever you shall choose, be it yours; thereby
you will discover whether 'tis due to me or to your fortune that your
deserts have lacked requital." Such being the King's pleasure, Messer
Ruggieri chose one of the chests, which at the King's command being
opened and found to be that which contained the earth:--"Now, Messer
Ruggieri," quoth the King with a laugh, "your own eyes may warrant you of
the truth of what I say touching Fortune; but verily your merit demands
that I take arms against her in your cause. I know that you are not
minded to become a Spaniard, and therefore I shall give you neither
castle nor city; but that chest, which Fortune denied you, I bestow on
you in her despite, that you may take it with you to your own country,
and there with your neighbours justly vaunt yourself of your deserts,
attested by my gifts." Messer Ruggieri took the chest, and having thanked
the King in a manner befitting such a gift, returned therewith, well
pleased, to Tuscany.


Ghino di Tacco captures the Abbot of Cluny, cures him of a disorder of
the stomach, and releases him. The abbot, on his return to the court of
Rome, reconciles Ghino with Pope Boniface, and makes him prior of the

When an end was made of extolling the magnificence shewn by King Alfonso
towards the Florentine knight, the king, who had listened to the story
with no small pleasure, bade Elisa follow suit; and forthwith Elisa
began:--Dainty my ladies, undeniable it is that for a king to be
magnificent, and to entreat magnificently one that has done him service,
is a great matter, and meet for commendation. What then shall we say when
the tale is of a dignitary of the Church that shewed wondrous
magnificence towards one whom he might well have entreated as an enemy,
and not have been blamed by a soul? Assuredly nought else than that what
in the king was virtue was in the prelate nothing less than a miracle,
seeing that for superlative greed the clergy, one and all, outdo us
women, and wage war to the knife upon every form of liberality. And
albeit all men are by nature prone to avenge their wrongs, 'tis notorious
that the clergy, however they may preach longsuffering, and commend of
all things the forgiving of trespasses, are more quick and hot to be
avenged than the rest of mankind. Now this, to wit, after what manner a
prelate shewed magnificence, will be made manifest to you in my story.

Ghino di Tacco, a man redoubtable by reason of his truculence and his
high-handed deeds, being banished from Siena, and at enmity with the
Counts of Santa Fiore, raised Radicofani in revolt against the Church of
Rome, and there abiding, harried all the surrounding country with his
soldiers, plundering all wayfarers. Now Pope Boniface VIII. being at
Rome, there came to court the Abbot of Cluny, who is reputed one of the
wealthiest prelates in the world; and having there gotten a disorder of
the stomach, he was advised by the physicians to go to the baths of
Siena, where (they averred) he would certainly be cured. So, having
obtained the Pope's leave, reckless of the bruit of Ghino's exploits, he
took the road, being attended by a great and well-equipped train of
sumpter-horses and servants. Ghino di Tacco, getting wind of his
approach, spread his nets to such purpose as without the loss of so much
as a boy to surround the abbot, with all his servants and effects, in a
strait pass, from which there was no exit. Which done, he sent one of his
men, the cunningest of them all, with a sufficient retinue to the abbot,
who most lovingly on Ghino's part besought the abbot to come and visit
Ghino at the castle. Whereto the abbot, very wroth, made answer that he
would none of it, for that nought had he to do with Ghino; but that he
purposed to continue his journey, and would fain see who would hinder
him. "Sir," returned the envoy, assuming a humble tone, "you are come to
a part of the country where we have no fear of aught save the might of
God, and where excommunications and interdicts are one and all under the
ban; wherefore you were best be pleased to shew yourself agreeable to
Ghino in this particular." As they thus spoke, Ghino's soldiers shewed
themselves on every side, and it being thus manifest to the abbot that he
and his company were taken prisoners, he, albeit mightily incensed,
suffered himself with all his train and effects to be conducted by the
envoy to the castle; where the abbot, being alighted, was lodged in a
small and very dark and discomfortable room, while his retinue, according
to their several conditions, were provided with comfortable quarters in
divers parts of the castle, the horses well stabled and all the effects
secured, none being in any wise tampered with. Which done, Ghino hied him
to the abbot, and:--"Sir," quoth he, "Ghino, whose guest you are, sends
me to entreat you to be pleased to inform him of your destination, and
the purpose of your journey." The abbot, vailing his pride like a wise
man, told whither he was bound and for what purpose. Whereupon Ghino left
him, casting about how he might cure him without a bath. To which end he
kept a great fire ever burning in the little chamber, and had it closely
guarded, and returned not to the abbot until the ensuing morning, when he
brought him in a spotless napkin two slices of toast and a great beaker
of vernaccia of Corniglia, being of the abbot's own vintage; and:--"Sir,"
quoth he to the abbot, "Ghino, as a young man, made his studies in
medicine, and avers that he then learned that there is no better
treatment for disorder of the stomach than that which he will afford you,
whereof the matters that I bring you are the beginning; wherefore take
them and be of good cheer."

The abbot, being far too hungry to make many words about the matter, ate
(albeit in high dudgeon) the toast, and drank the vernaccia; which done,
he enlarged on his wrongs in a high tone, with much questioning and
perpending; and above all he demanded to see Ghino. Part of what the
abbot said Ghino disregarded as of no substance, to other part he replied
courteously enough; and having assured him that Ghino would visit him as
soon as might be, he took his leave of him; nor did he return until the
morrow, when he brought him toast and vernaccia in the same quantity as
before; and so he kept him several days: then, having marked that the
abbot had eaten some dried beans that he had secretly brought and left
there of set purpose, he asked him in Ghino's name how he felt in the
stomach. "Were I but out of Ghino's hands," replied the abbot, "I should
feel myself well, indeed: next to which, I desire most of all a good
breakfast, so excellent a cure have his medicines wrought on me."
Whereupon Ghino caused the abbot's servants to furnish a goodly chamber
with the abbot's own effects, and there on the morrow make ready a grand
banquet, at which all the abbot's suite and not a few of the garrison
being assembled, he hied him to the abbot, and:--"Sir," quoth he, "'tis
time you left the infirmary, seeing that you now feel yourself well;" and
so saying, he took him by the hand, and led him into the chamber made
ready for him, and having left him there with his own people, made it his
chief concern that the banquet should be magnificent. The abbot's spirits
revived as he found himself again among his men, with whom he talked a
while, telling them how he had been entreated, wherewith they contrasted
the signal honour which they, on the other hand, had, one and all,
received from Ghino.

Breakfast-time came, and with order meet the abbot and the rest were
regaled with good viands and good wines, Ghino still suffering not the
abbot to know who he was. But when the abbot had thus passed several
days, Ghino, having first had all his effects collected in a saloon, and
all his horses, to the poorest jade, in the courtyard below, hied him to
the abbot and asked him how he felt, and if he deemed himself strong
enough to ride. The abbot replied that he was quite strong enough, and
that 'twould be well indeed with him, were he once out of Ghino's hands.
Ghino then led him into the saloon in which were his effects and all his
retinue, and having brought him to a window, whence he might see all his
horses:--"Sir Abbot," quoth he, "you must know that 'tis not for that he
has an evil heart, but because, being a gentleman, he is banished from
his home, and reduced to poverty, and has not a few powerful enemies,
that in defence of his life and honour, Ghino di Tacco, whom you see
before you, has become a robber of highways and an enemy to the court of
Rome. But such as I am, I have cured you of your malady of the stomach,
and taking you to be a worthy lord, I purpose not to treat you as I would
another, from whom, were he in my hands, as you are, I should take such
part of his goods as I should think fit; but I shall leave it to you,
upon consideration of my need, to assign to me such portion of your goods
as you yourself shall determine. Here are they before you undiminished
and unimpaired, and from this window you may see your horses below in the
courtyard; wherefore take the part or take the whole, as you may see fit,
and be it at your option to tarry here, or go hence, from this hour

The abbot marvelled to hear a highway robber speak thus liberally, and
such was his gratification that his wrath and fierce resentment departed
from him, nay, were transformed into kindness, insomuch that in all
cordial amity he hasted to embrace Ghino, saying:--"By God I swear, that
to gain the friendship of a man such I now deem thee to be, I would be
content to suffer much greater wrong than that which until now, meseemed,
thou hadst done me. Cursed be Fortune that constrains thee to ply so
censurable a trade." Which said, he selected a very few things, and none
superfluous, from his ample store, and having done likewise with the
horses, ceded all else to Ghino, and hied him back to Rome; where, seeing
him, the Pope, who to his great grief had heard of his capture, asked him
what benefit he had gotten from the baths. Whereto the abbot made answer
with a smile:--"Holy Father, I found nearer here than the baths a worthy
physician who has wrought a most excellent cure on me:" he then recounted
all the circumstances, whereat the Pope laughed. Afterwards, still
pursuing the topic, the abbot, yielding to the promptings of
magnificence, asked a favour of the Pope; who, expecting that he would
ask somewhat else than he did, liberally promised to give him whatever he
should demand. Whereupon:--"Holy Father," quoth the abbot, "that which I
would crave of you is that you restore Ghino di Tacco, my physician, to
your favour; seeing that among the good men and true and meritorious that
I have known, he is by no means of the least account. And for the evil
life that he leads, I impute it to Fortune rather than to him: change
then his fortune, by giving him the means whereby he may live in manner
befitting his rank, and I doubt not that in a little while your judgment
of him will jump with mine." Whereto the Pope, being magnanimous, and an
admirer of good men and true, made answer that so he would gladly do, if
Ghino should prove to be such as the abbot said; and that he would have
him brought under safe conduct to Rome. Thither accordingly under safe
conduct came Ghino, to the abbot's great delight; nor had he been long at
court before the Pope approved his worth, and restored him to his favour,
granting him a great office, to wit, that of prior of the Hospital,
whereof he made him knight. Which office he held for the rest of his
life, being ever a friend and vassal of Holy Church and the Abbot of


Mitridanes, holding Nathan in despite by reason of his courtesy, journeys
with intent to kill him, and falling in with him unawares, is advised by
him how to compass his end. Following his advice, he finds him in a
copse, and recognizing him, is shame-stricken, and becomes his friend.

Verily like to a miracle seemed it to all to hear that a prelate had done
aught with magnificence; but when the ladies had made an end of their
remarks, the king bade Filostrato follow suit; and forthwith Filostrato
began:--Noble ladies, great was the magnificence of the King of Spain,
and perchance a thing unheard-of the magnificence of the Abbot of Cluny;
but peradventure 'twill seem not a whit less marvellous to you to hear of
one who, to shew liberality towards another, did resolve artfully to
yield to him his blood, nay, his very life, for which the other thirsted,
and had so done, had the other chosen to take them, as I shall shew you
in a little story.

Beyond all question, if we may believe the report of certain Genoese, and
other folk that have been in those regions, there dwelt of yore in the
parts of Cathay one Nathan, a man of noble lineage and incomparable
wealth. Who, having a seat hard by a road, by which whoso would travel
from the West eastward, or from the East westward, must needs pass, and
being magnanimous and liberal, and zealous to approve himself such in
act, did set on work cunning artificers not a few, and cause one of the
finest and largest and most luxurious palaces that ever were seen, to be
there builded and furnished in the goodliest manner with all things meet
for the reception and honourable entertainment of gentlemen. And so,
keeping a great array of excellent servants, he courteously and
hospitably did the honours of his house to whoso came and went: in which
laudable way of life he persevered, until not only the East, but
well-nigh all the West had heard his fame; which thus, what time he was
well-stricken in years, albeit not for that cause grown weary of shewing
courtesy, reached the ears of one Mitridanes, a young man of a country
not far distant. Who, knowing himself to be no less wealthy than Nathan,
grew envious of the renown that he had of his good deeds, and resolved to
obliterate, or at least to obscure it, by a yet greater liberality. So he
had built for himself a palace like that of Nathan, of which he did the
honours with a lavish courtesy that none had ever equalled, to whoso came
or went that way; and verily in a short while he became famous enough.

Now it so befell that on a day when the young man was all alone in the
courtyard of the palace, there came in by one of the gates a poor woman,
who asked of him an alms, and had it; but, not content therewith, came
again to him by the second gate, and asked another alms, and had it, and
after the like sort did even unto the twelfth time; but, she returning
for the thirteenth time:--"My good woman," quoth Mitridanes, "thou art
not a little pertinacious in thy begging:" howbeit he gave her an alms.
Whereupon:--"Ah! the wondrous liberality of Nathan!" quoth the
beldam:--"thirty-two gates are there to his palace, by every one of which
I have entered, and asking alms of him, was never--for aught he
shewed--recognized, or refused, and here, though I have entered as yet by
but thirteen gates, I am recognized and reprimanded." And therewith she
departed, and returned no more. Mitridanes, who accounted the mention of
Nathan's fame an abatement of his own, was kindled by her words with a
frenzy of wrath, and began thus to commune with himself:--Alas! when
shall I attain to the grandeur of Nathan's liberality, to say nought of
transcending it, as I would fain, seeing that in the veriest trifles I
cannot approach him? Of a surety my labour is in vain, if I rid not the
earth of him: which, since old age relieves me not of him, I must
forthwith do with mine own hands. And in the flush of his despite up he
started, and giving none to know of his purpose, got to horse with a
small company, and after three days arrived at the place where Nathan
abode; and having enjoined his comrades to make as if they were none of
his, and knew him not, and to go quarter themselves as best they might
until they had his further orders, he, being thus alone, towards evening
came upon Nathan, also alone, at no great distance from his splendid
palace. Nathan was recreating himself by a walk, and was very simply
clad; so that Mitridanes, knowing him not, asked him if he could shew him
where Nathan dwelt. "My son," replied Nathan gladsomely, "that can none
in these parts better than I; wherefore, so it please thee, I will bring
thee thither." The young man replied that 'twould be mighty agreeable to
him, but that, if so it might be, he had a mind to be neither known nor
seen by Nathan. "And herein also," returned Nathan, "since 'tis thy
pleasure, I will gratify thee." Whereupon Mitridanes dismounted, and with
Nathan, who soon engaged him in delightsome discourse, walked to the
goodly palace. Arrived there Nathan caused one of his servants take the
young man's horse, and drawing close to him, bade him in a whisper to see
to it without delay that none in the house should tell the young man that
he was Nathan: and so 'twas done.

Being come into the palace, Nathan quartered Mitridanes in a most goodly
chamber, where none saw him but those whom he had appointed to wait upon
him; and he himself kept him company, doing him all possible honour. Of
whom Mitridanes, albeit he reverenced him as a father, yet, being thus
with him, forbore not to ask who he was. Whereto Nathan made answer:--"I
am a petty servant of Nathan: old as I am, I have been with him since my
childhood, and never has he advanced me to higher office than this
wherein thou seest me: wherefore, howsoever other folk may praise him,
little cause have I to do so." Which words afforded Mitridanes some hope
of carrying his wicked purpose into effect with more of plan and less of
risk than had otherwise been possible. By and by Nathan very courteously
asked him who he was, and what business brought him thither; offering him
such counsel and aid as he might be able to afford him. Mitridanes
hesitated a while to reply: but at last he resolved to trust him, and
when with no little circumlocution he had demanded of him fidelity,
counsel and aid, he fully discovered to him who he was, and the purpose
and motive of his coming thither. Now, albeit to hear Mitridanes thus
unfold his horrid design caused Nathan no small inward commotion, yet
'twas not long before courageously and composedly he thus made
answer:--"Noble was thy father, Mitridanes, and thou art minded to shew
thyself not unworthy of him by this lofty emprise of thine, to wit, of
being liberal to all comers: and for that thou art envious of Nathan's
merit I greatly commend thee; for were many envious for a like cause, the
world, from being a most wretched, would soon become a happy place. Doubt
not that I shall keep secret the design which thou hast confided to me,
for the furtherance whereof 'tis good advice rather than substantial aid
that I have to offer thee. Which advice is this. Hence, perhaps half a
mile off, thou mayst see a copse, in which almost every morning Nathan is
wont to walk, taking his pleasure, for quite a long while: 'twill be an
easy matter for thee to find him there, and deal with him as thou mayst
be minded. Now, shouldst thou slay him, thou wilt get thee home with less
risk of let, if thou take not the path by which thou camest hither, but
that which thou seest issue from the copse on the left, for, though 'tis
somewhat more rough, it leads more directly to thy house, and will be
safer for thee."

Possessed of this information, Mitridanes, when Nathan had left him,
privily apprised his comrades, who were likewise lodged in the palace, of
the place where they were to await him on the ensuing day; which being
come, Nathan, inflexibly determined to act in all respects according to
the advice which he had given Mitridanes, hied him forth to the copse
unattended, to meet his death. Mitridanes, being risen, took his bow and
sword, for other arms he had none with him, mounted his horse, and rode
to the copse, through which, while he was yet some way off, he saw Nathan
passing, quite alone. And being minded, before he fell upon him, to see
his face and hear the sound of his voice, as, riding at a smart pace, he
came up with him, he laid hold of him by his head-gear,
exclaiming:--"Greybeard, thou art a dead man." Whereto Nathan answered
nought but:--"Then 'tis but my desert." But Mitridanes, hearing the
voice, and scanning the face, forthwith knew him for the same man that
had welcomed him heartily, consorted with him familiarly, and counselled
him faithfully; whereby his wrath presently subsided, and gave place to
shame. Wherefore, casting away the sword that he held drawn in act to
strike, he sprang from his horse, and weeping, threw himself at Nathan's
feet, saying:--"Your liberality, dearest father, I acknowledge to be
beyond all question, seeing with what craft you did plot your coming
hither to yield me your life, for which, by mine own avowal, you knew
that I, albeit cause I had none, did thirst. But God, more regardful of
my duty than I myself, has now, in this moment of supreme stress, opened
the eyes of my mind, that wretched envy had fast sealed. The prompter was
your compliance, the greater is the debt of penitence that I owe you for
my fault; wherefore wreak even such vengeance upon me as you may deem
answerable to my transgression." But Nathan raised Mitridanes to his
feet, and tenderly embraced him, saying:--"My son, thy enterprise,
howsoever thou mayst denote it, whether evil or otherwise, was not such
that thou shouldst crave, or I give, pardon thereof; for 'twas not in
malice but in that thou wouldst fain have been reputed better than I that
thou ensuedst it. Doubt then no more of me; nay, rest assured that none
that lives bears thee such love as I, who know the loftiness of thy
spirit, bent not to heap up wealth, as do the caitiffs, but to dispense
in bounty thine accumulated store. Think it no shame that to enhance thy
reputation thou wouldst have slain me; nor deem that I marvel thereat. To
slay not one man, as thou wast minded, but countless multitudes, to waste
whole countries with fire, and to raze cities to the ground has been
well-nigh the sole art, by which the mightiest emperors and the greatest
kings have extended their dominions, and by consequence their fame.
Wherefore, if thou, to increase thy fame, wouldst fain have slain me,
'twas nothing marvellous or strange, but wonted."

Whereto Mitridanes made answer, not to excuse his wicked design, but to
commend the seemly excuse found for it by Nathan, whom at length he told
how beyond measure he marvelled that Nathan had not only been consenting
to the enterprise, but had aided him therein by his counsel. But Nathan
answered:--"Liefer had I, Mitridanes, that thou didst not marvel either
at my consent or at my counsel, for that, since I was my own master and
of a mind to that emprise whereon thou art also bent, never a soul came
to my house, but, so far as in me lay, I gave him all that he asked of
me. Thou camest, lusting for my life; and so, when I heard thee crave it
of me, I forthwith, that thou mightst not be the only guest to depart
hence ill content, resolved to give it thee; and to that end I gave thee
such counsel as I deemed would serve thee both to the taking of my life
and the preservation of thine own. Wherefore yet again I bid thee, nay, I
entreat thee, if so thou art minded, to take it for thy satisfaction: I
know not how I could better bestow it. I have had the use of it now for
some eighty years, and pleasure and solace thereof; and I know that, by
the course of Nature and the common lot of man and all things mundane, it
can continue to be mine for but a little while; and so I deem that 'twere
much better to bestow it, as I have ever bestowed and dispensed my
wealth, than to keep it, until, against my will, it be reft from me by
Nature. 'Twere but a trifle, though 'twere a hundred years: how
insignificant, then, the six or eight years that are all I have to give!
Take it, then, if thou hadst lief, take it, I pray thee; for, long as I
have lived here, none have I found but thee to desire it; nor know I when
I may find another, if thou take it not, to demand it of me. And if,
peradventure, I should find one such, yet I know that the longer I keep
it, the less its worth will be; wherefore, ere it be thus cheapened, take
it, I implore thee."

Sore shame-stricken, Mitridanes made answer:--"Now God forefend that I
should so much as harbour, as but now I did, such a thought, not to say
do such a deed, as to wrest from you a thing so precious as your life,
the years whereof, so far from abridging, I would gladly supplement with
mine own." "So then," rejoined Nathan promptly, "thou wouldst, if thou
couldst, add thy years to mine, and cause me to serve thee as I never yet
served any man, to wit, to take from thee that which is thine, I that
never took aught from a soul!" "Ay, that would I," returned Mitridanes.
"Then," quoth Nathan, "do as I shall bid thee. Thou art young: tarry here
in my house, and call thyself Nathan; and I will get me to thy house, and
ever call myself Mitridanes." Whereto Mitridanes made answer:--"Were I
but able to discharge this trust, as you have been and are, scarce would
I hesitate to accept your offer; but, as too sure am I that aught that I
might do would but serve to lower Nathan's fame, and I am not minded to
mar that in another which I cannot mend in myself, accept it I will not."

After which and the like interchange of delectable discourse, Nathan and
Mitridanes, by Nathan's desire, returned to the palace; where Nathan for
some days honourably entreated Mitridanes, and by his sage counsel
confirmed and encouraged him in his high and noble resolve; after which,
Mitridanes, being minded to return home with his company, took his leave
of Nathan, fully persuaded that 'twas not possible to surpass him in


Messer Gentile de' Carisendi, being come from Modena, disinters a lady
that he loves, who has been buried for dead. She, being reanimated, gives
birth to a male child; and Messer Gentile restores her, with her son, to
Niccoluccio Caccianimico, her husband.

A thing marvellous seemed it to all that for liberality a man should be
ready to sacrifice his own life; and herein they averred that Nathan had
without doubt left the King of Spain and the Abbot of Cluny behind.
However, when they had discussed the matter diversely and at large, the
king, bending his regard on Lauretta, signified to her his will that she
should tell; and forthwith, accordingly, Lauretta began:--Goodly matters
are they and magnificent that have been recounted to you, young ladies;
nay, so much of our field of discourse is already filled by their
grandeur, that for us that are yet to tell, there is, methinks, no room
left, unless we seek our topic there where matter of discourse germane to
every theme does most richly abound, to wit, in the affairs of love. For
which cause, as also for that our time of life cannot but make us
especially inclinable thereto, I am minded that my story shall be of a
feat of magnificence done by a lover: which, all things considered, will,
peradventure, seem to you inferior to none that have been shewn you; so
it be true that to possess the beloved one, men will part with their
treasures, forget their enmities, and jeopardize their own lives, their
honour and their reputation, in a thousand ways.

Know, then, that at Bologna, that most famous city of Lombardy, there
dwelt a knight, Messer Gentile Carisendi by name, worshipful alike for
his noble lineage and his native worth: who in his youth, being enamoured
of a young gentlewoman named Madonna Catalina, wife of one Niccoluccio
Caccianimico, and well-nigh despairing, for that the lady gave him but a
sorry requital of his love, betook him to Modena, being called thither as
Podesta. Now what time he was there, Niccoluccio being also away from
Bologna, and his lady gone, for that she was with child, to lie in at a
house she had some three miles or so from the city, it befell that she
was suddenly smitten with a sore malady of such and so virulent a quality
that it left no sign of life in her, so that the very physicians
pronounced her dead. And for that the women that were nearest of kin to
her professed to have been told by her, that she was not so far gone in
pregnancy that the child could be perfectly formed, they, without more
ado, laid her in a tomb in a neighbouring church, and after long
lamentation closed it upon her.

Whereof Messer Gentile being forthwith apprised by one of his friends,
did, for all she had been most niggardly to him of her favour, grieve not
a little, and at length fell a communing with himself on this wise:--So,
Madonna Catalina, thou art dead! While thou livedst, never a glance of
thine might I have; wherefore, now that thou art dead, 'tis but right
that I go take a kiss from thee. 'Twas night while he thus mused; and
forthwith, observing strict secrecy in his departure, he got him to horse
with a single servant, and halted not until he was come to the place
where the lady was interred; and having opened the tomb he cautiously
entered it. Then, having lain down beside her, he set his face against
hers; and again and again, weeping profusely the while, he kissed it. But
as 'tis matter of common knowledge that the desires of men, and more
especially of lovers, know no bounds, but crave ever an ampler
satisfaction; even so Messer Gentile, albeit he had been minded to tarry
there no longer, now said to himself:--Wherefore touch I not her bosom a
while? I have never yet touched it, nor shall I ever touch it again.
Obeying which impulse, he laid his hand on her bosom, and keeping it
there some time, felt, as he thought, her heart faintly beating.
Whereupon, banishing all fear, and examining the body with closer
attention, he discovered that life was not extinct, though he judged it
but scant and flickering: and so, aided by his servant, he bore her, as
gently as he might, out of the tomb; and set her before him upon his
horse, and brought her privily to his house at Bologna, where dwelt his
wise and worthy mother, who, being fully apprised by him of the
circumstances, took pity on the lady, and had a huge fire kindled, and a
bath made ready, whereby she restored her to life. Whereof the first sign
she gave was to heave a great sigh, and murmur:--"Alas! where am I?" To
which the worthy lady made answer:--"Be of good cheer; thou art well
lodged." By and by the lady, coming to herself, looked about her; and
finding herself she knew not where, and seeing Messer Gentile before her,
was filled with wonder, and besought his mother to tell her how she came
to be there.

Messer Gentile thereupon told her all. Sore distressed thereat, the lady,
after a while, thanked him as best she might; after which she besought
him by the love that he had borne her, and of his courtesy, that she
might, while she tarried in his house, be spared aught that could impair
her honour and her husband's; and that at daybreak he would suffer her to
return home. "Madam," replied Messer Gentile, "however I did affect you
in time past, since God in His goodness has, by means of the love I bore
you, restored you to me alive, I mean not now, or at any time hereafter,
to entreat you either here or elsewhere, save as a dear sister; but yet
the service I have to-night rendered you merits some guerdon, and
therefore lief had I that you deny me not a favour which I shall ask of
you." Whereto the lady graciously made answer that she would be prompt to
grant it, so only it were in her power, and consonant with her honour.
Said then Messer Gentile:--"Your kinsfolk, Madam, one and all, nay, all
the folk in Bologna are fully persuaded that you are dead: there is
therefore none to expect you at home: wherefore the favour I crave of you
is this, that you will be pleased to tarry privily here with my mother,
until such time--which will be speedily--as I return from Modena. And
'tis for that I purpose to make solemn and joyous donation of you to your
husband in presence of the most honourable folk of this city that I ask
of you this grace." Mindful of what she owed the knight, and witting that
what he craved was seemly, the lady, albeit she yearned not a little to
gladden her kinsfolk with the sight of her in the flesh, consented to do
as Messer Gentile besought her, and thereto pledged him her faith. And
scarce had she done so, when she felt that the hour of her travail was
come; and so, tenderly succoured by Messer Gentile's mother, she not long
after gave birth to a fine boy. Which event did mightily enhance her own
and Messer Gentile's happiness. Then, having made all meet provision for
her, and left word that she was to be tended as if she were his own wife,
Messer Gentile, observing strict secrecy, returned to Modena.

His time of office there ended, in anticipation of his return to Bologna,
he appointed for the morning of his arrival in the city a great and
goodly banquet at his house, whereto were bidden not a few of the
gentlemen of Bologna, and among them Niccoluccio Caccianimico. Whom, when
he was returned and dismounted, he found awaiting him, as also the lady,
fairer and more healthful than ever, and her little son doing well; and
so with a gladness beyond compare he ranged his guests at table, and
regaled them with many a course magnificently served. And towards the
close of the feast, having premonished the lady of his intention, and
concerted with her how she should behave, thus he spoke:--"Gentlemen, I
mind me to have once heard tell of (as I deem it) a delightsome custom
which they have in Persia; to wit, that, when one would do his friend
especial honour, he bids him to his house, and there shews him that
treasure, be it wife, or mistress, or daughter, or what not, that he
holds most dear; assuring him that yet more gladly, were it possible, he
would shew him his heart. Which custom I am minded to observe here in
Bologna. You, of your courtesy, have honoured my feast with your
presence, and I propose to do you honour in the Persian fashion, by
shewing you that which in all the world I do, and must ever, hold most
dear. But before I do so, tell me, I pray you, how you conceive of a nice
question that I shall lay before you. Suppose that one has in his house a
good and most faithful servant, who falls sick of a grievous disorder;
and that the master tarries not for the death of the servant, but has him
borne out into the open street, and concerns himself no more with him:
that then a stranger comes by, is moved to pity of the sick man, and
takes him to his house, and by careful tendance and at no small cost
restores him to his wonted health. Now I would fain know whether the
first master has in equity any just cause to complain of or be aggrieved
with the second master, if he retain the servant in his employ, and
refuse to restore him, when so required."

The gentlemen discussed the matter after divers fashions, and all agreed
in one sentence, which they committed to Niccoluccio Caccianimico, for
that he was an eloquent and accomplished speaker, to deliver on the part
of them all. Niccoluccio began by commending the Persian custom: after
which he said that he and the others were all of the same opinion, to
wit, that the first master had no longer any right in his servant, since
he had not only abandoned but cast him forth; and that by virtue of the
second master's kind usage of him he must be deemed to have become his
servant; wherefore, by keeping him, he did the first master no mischief,
no violence, no wrong. Whereupon the rest that were at the table said,
one and all, being worthy men, that their judgment jumped with
Niccoluccio's answer. The knight, well pleased with the answer, and that
'twas Niccoluccio that gave it, affirmed that he was of the same opinion;
adding:--"'Tis now time that I shew you that honour which I promised
you." He then called two of his servants, and sent them to the lady, whom
he had caused to be apparelled and adorned with splendour, charging them
to pray her to be pleased to come and gladden the gentlemen with her
presence. So she, bearing in her arms her most lovely little son, came,
attended by the two servants, into the saloon, and by the knight's
direction, took a seat beside a worthy gentleman:
whereupon:--"Gentlemen," quoth the knight, "this is the treasure that I
hold, and mean ever to hold, more dear than aught else. Behold, and judge
whether I have good cause."

The gentlemen said not a little in her honour and praise, averring that
the knight ought indeed to hold her dear: then, as they regarded her more
attentively, there were not a few that would have pronounced her to be
the very woman that she was, had they not believed that woman to be dead.
But none scanned her so closely as Niccoluccio, who, the knight being
withdrawn a little space, could no longer refrain his eager desire to
know who she might be, but asked her whether she were of Bologna, or from
other parts. The lady, hearing her husband's voice, could scarce forbear
to answer; but yet, not to disconcert the knight's plan, she kept
silence. Another asked her if that was her little boy; and yet another,
if she were Messer Gentile's wife, or in any other wise his connection.
To none of whom she vouchsafed an answer. Then, Messer Gentile coming
up:--"Sir," quoth one of the guests, "this treasure of yours is goodly
indeed; but she seems to be dumb: is she so?" "Gentlemen," quoth Messer
Gentile, "that she has not as yet spoken is no small evidence of her
virtue." "Then tell us, you, who she is," returned the other. "That,"
quoth the knight, "will I right gladly, so you but promise me, that, no
matter what I may say, none of you will stir from his place, until I have
ended my story." All gave the required promise, and when the tables had
been cleared, Messer Gentile, being seated beside the lady, thus
spoke:--"Gentlemen, this lady is that loyal and faithful servant,
touching whom a brief while ago I propounded to you my question, whom her
own folk held none too dear, but cast out into the open street as a thing
vile and no longer good for aught, but I took thence, and by my careful
tendance wrested from the clutch of death; whom God, regardful of my good
will, has changed from the appalling aspect of a corpse to the thing of
beauty that you see before you. But for your fuller understanding of this
occurrence, I will briefly explain it to you." He then recounted to them
in detail all that had happened from his first becoming enamoured of the
lady to that very hour whereto they hearkened with no small wonder; after
which:--"And so," he added, "unless you, and more especially Niccoluccio,
are now of another opinion than you were a brief while ago, the lady
rightly belongs to me, nor can any man lawfully reclaim her of me."

None answered, for all were intent to hear what more he would say. But,
while Niccoluccio, and some others that were there, wept for sympathy,
Messer Gentile stood up, and took the little boy in his arms and the lady
by the hand, and approached Niccoluccio, saying:--"Rise, my gossip: I do
not, indeed, restore thee thy wife, whom thy kinsfolk and hers cast
forth; but I am minded to give thee this lady, my gossip, with this her
little boy, whom I know well to be thy son, and whom I held at the font,
and named Gentile: and I pray thee that she be not the less dear to thee
for that she has tarried three months in my house; for I swear to thee by
that God, who, peradventure, ordained that I should be enamoured of her,
to the end that my love might be, as it has been, the occasion of her
restoration to life, that never with her father, or her mother, or with
thee, did she live more virtuously than with my mother in my house."
Which said, he turned to the lady, saying:--"Madam, I now release you
from all promises made to me, and so deliver you to Niccoluccio." Then,
leaving the lady and the child in Niccoluccio's embrace, he returned to
his seat.

Thus to receive his wife and son was to Niccoluccio a delight great in
the measure of its remoteness from his hope. Wherefore in the most
honourable terms at his command he thanked the knight, whom all the rest,
weeping for sympathy, greatly commended for what he had done, as did also
all that heard thereof. The lady, welcomed home with wondrous cheer, was
long a portent to the Bolognese, who gazed on her as on one raised from
the dead. Messer Gentile lived ever after as the friend of Niccoluccio,
and his and the lady's kinsfolk.

Now what shall be your verdict, gracious ladies? A king's largess, though
it was of his sceptre and crown, an abbot's reconciliation, at no cost to
himself, of a malefactor with the Pope, or an old man's submission of his
throat to the knife of his enemy--will you adjudge that such acts as
these are comparable to the deed of Messer Gentile? Who, though young,
and burning with passion, and deeming himself justly entitled to that
which the heedlessness of another had discarded, and he by good fortune
had recovered, not only tempered his ardour with honour, but having that
which with his whole soul he had long been bent on wresting from another,
did with liberality restore it. Assuredly none of the feats aforesaid
seem to me like unto this.


Madonna Dianora craves of Messer Ansaldo a garden that shall be as fair
in January as in May. Messer Ansaldo binds himself to a necromancer, and
thereby gives her the garden. Her husband gives her leave to do Messer
Ansaldo's pleasure: he, being apprised of her husband's liberality,
releases her from her promise; and the necromancer releases Messer
Ansaldo from his bond, and will take nought of his.

Each of the gay company had with superlative commendation extolled Messer
Gentile to the skies, when the king bade Emilia follow suit; and with a
good courage, as burning to speak, thus Emilia began:--Delicate my
ladies, none can justly say that 'twas not magnificently done of Messer
Gentile; but if it be alleged that 'twas the last degree of magnificence,
'twill perchance not be difficult to shew that more was possible, as is
my purpose in the little story that I shall tell you.

In Friuli, a country which, though its air is shrewd, is pleasantly
diversified by fine mountains and not a few rivers and clear fountains,
is a city called Udine, where dwelt of yore a fair and noble lady,
Madonna Dianora by name, wife of a wealthy grandee named Giliberto, a
very pleasant gentleman, and debonair. Now this lady, for her high
qualities, was in the last degree beloved by a great and noble baron,
Messer Ansaldo Gradense by name, a man of no little consequence, and
whose fame for feats of arms and courtesy was spread far and wide. But,
though with all a lover's ardour he left nought undone that he might do
to win her love, and to that end frequently plied her with his
ambassages, 'twas all in vain. And the lady being distressed by his
importunity, and that, refuse as she might all that he asked of her, he
none the less continued to love her and press his suit upon her,
bethought her how she might rid herself of him by requiring of him an
extraordinary and, as she deemed, impossible feat. So one day, a woman
that came oftentimes from him to her being with her:--"Good woman," quoth
she, "thou hast many a time affirmed that Messer Ansaldo loves me above
all else; and thou hast made proffer to me on his part of wondrous rich
gifts which I am minded he keep to himself, for that I could never bring
myself to love him or pleasure him for their sake; but, if I might be
certified that he loves me as much as thou sayst, then without a doubt I
should not fail to love him, and do his pleasure; wherefore, so he give
me the assurance that I shall require, I shall be at his command." "What
is it, Madam," returned the good woman, "that you would have him do?"
"This," replied the lady; "I would have this next ensuing January, hard
by this city, a garden full of green grass and flowers and flowering
trees, just as if it were May; and if he cannot provide me with this
garden, bid him never again send either thee or any other to me, for
that, should he harass me any further, I shall no longer keep silence, as
I have hitherto done, but shall make my complaint to my husband and all
my kinsmen, and it shall go hard but I will be quit of him."

The gentleman being apprised of his lady's stipulation and promise,
notwithstanding that he deemed it no easy matter, nay, a thing almost
impossible, to satisfy her, and knew besides that 'twas but to deprive
him of all hope that she made the demand, did nevertheless resolve to do
his endeavour to comply with it, and causing search to be made in divers
parts of the world, if any he might find to afford him counsel or aid, he
lit upon one, who for a substantial reward offered to do the thing by
necromancy. So Messer Ansaldo, having struck the bargain with him for an
exceeding great sum of money, gleefully expected the appointed time.
Which being come with extreme cold, insomuch that there was nought but
snow and ice, the adept on the night before the calends of January
wrought with his spells to such purpose that on the morrow, as was
averred by eye-witnesses, there appeared in a meadow hard by the city one
of the most beautiful gardens that was ever seen, with no lack of grass
and trees and fruits of all sorts. At sight whereof Messer Ansaldo was
overjoyed, and caused some of the finest fruits and flowers that it
contained to be gathered, and privily presented to his lady, whom he bade
come and see the garden that she had craved, that thereby she might have
assurance of his love, and mind her of the promise that she had given him
and confirmed with an oath, and, as a loyal lady, take thought for its
performance. When she saw the flowers and fruits, the lady, who had
already heard not a few folk speak of the wondrous garden, began to
repent her of her promise. But for all that, being fond of strange
sights, she hied her with many other ladies of the city to see the
garden, and having gazed on it with wonderment, and commended it not a
little, she went home the saddest woman alive, bethinking her to what it
bound her: and so great was her distress that she might not well conceal
it; but, being written on her face, 'twas marked by her husband, who was
minded by all means to know the cause thereof.

The lady long time kept silence: but at last she yielded to his urgency,
and discovered to him the whole matter from first to last. Whereat
Giliberto was at first very wroth; but on second thoughts, considering
the purity of the lady's purpose, he was better advised, and dismissing
his anger:--"Dianora," quoth he, "'tis not the act of a discreet or
virtuous lady to give ear to messages of such a sort, nor to enter into
any compact touching her chastity with any man on any terms. Words that
the ears convey to the heart have a potency greater than is commonly
supposed, and there is scarce aught that lovers will not find possible.
'Twas then ill done of thee in the first instance to hearken, as
afterwards to make the compact; but, for that I know the purity of thy
soul, that thou mayst be quit of thy promise, I will grant thee that
which, perchance, no other man would grant, being also swayed thereto by
fear of the necromancer, whom Messer Ansaldo, shouldst thou play him
false, might, peradventure, cause to do us a mischief. I am minded, then,
that thou go to him, and contrive, if on any wise thou canst, to get thee
quit of this promise without loss of virtue; but if otherwise it may not
be, then for the nonce thou mayst yield him thy body, but not thy soul."
Whereat the lady, weeping, would none of such a favour at her husband's
hands. But Giliberto, for all the lady's protestations, was minded that
so it should be.

Accordingly, on the morrow about dawn, apparelled none too ornately,
preceded by two servants and followed by a chambermaid, the lady hied her
to Messer Ansaldo's house. Apprised that his lady was come to see him,
Messer Ansaldo, marvelling not a little, rose, and having called the
necromancer:--"I am minded," quoth he, "that thou see what goodly gain I
have gotten by thine art." And the twain having met the lady, Ansaldo
gave way to no unruly appetite, but received her with a seemly obeisance;
and then the three repaired to a goodly chamber, where there was a great
fire, and having caused the lady to be seated, thus spoke
Ansaldo:--"Madam, if the love that I have so long borne you merit any
guerdon, I pray you that it be not grievous to you to discover to me the
true occasion of your coming to me at this hour, and thus accompanied."
Shamefast, and the tears all but standing in her eyes, the lady made
answer:--"Sir 'tis neither love that I bear you, nor pledged you, that
brings me hither, but the command of my husband, who, regarding rather
the pains you have had of your unbridled passion than his own or my
honour, has sent me hither; and for that he commands it, I, for the
nonce, am entirely at your pleasure."

If Messer Ansaldo had marvelled to hear of the lady's coming, he now
marvelled much more, and touched by Giliberto's liberality, and passing
from passion to compassion:--"Now, God forbid, Madam," quoth he, "that,
it being as you say, I should wound the honour of him that has compassion
on my love; wherefore, no otherwise than as if you were my sister shall
you abide here, while you are so minded, and be free to depart at your
pleasure; nor crave I aught of you but that you shall convey from me to
your husband such thanks as you shall deem meet for courtesy such as his
has been, and entreat me ever henceforth as your brother and servant."
Whereat overjoyed in the last degree:--"Nought," quoth the lady, "by what
I noted of your behaviour, could ever have caused me to anticipate other
sequel of my coming hither than this which I see is your will, and for
which I shall ever be your debtor." She then took her leave, and,
attended by a guard of honour, returned to Giliberto, and told him what
had passed; between whom and Messer Ansaldo there was thenceforth a most
close and loyal friendship.

Now the liberality shewn by Giliberto towards Messer Ansaldo, and by
Messer Ansaldo towards the lady, having been marked by the necromancer,
when Messer Ansaldo made ready to give him the promised reward:--"Now God
forbid," quoth he, "that, as I have seen Giliberto liberal in regard of
his honour, and you liberal in regard of your love, I be not in like
manner liberal in regard of my reward, which accordingly, witting that
'tis in good hands, I am minded that you keep." The knight was abashed,
and strove hard to induce him to take, if not the whole, at least a part
of the money; but finding that his labour was in vain, and that the
necromancer, having caused his garden to vanish after the third day, was
minded to depart, he bade him adieu. And the carnal love he had borne the
lady being spent, he burned for her thereafter with a flame of honourable
affection. Now what shall be our verdict in this case, lovesome ladies? A
lady, as it were dead, and a love grown lukewarm for utter hopelessness!
Shall we set a liberality shewn in such a case above this liberality of
Messer Ansaldo, loving yet as ardently, and hoping, perchance, yet more
ardently than ever, and holding in his hands the prize that he had so
long pursued? Folly indeed should I deem it to compare that liberality
with this.


King Charles the Old, being conqueror, falls in love with a young maiden,
and afterward growing ashamed of his folly bestows her and her sister
honourably in marriage.

Who might fully recount with what diversity of argument the ladies
debated which of the three, Giliberto, or Messer Ansaldo, or the
necromancer, behaved with the most liberality in the affair of Madonna
Dianora? Too long were it to tell. However, when the king had allowed
them to dispute a while, he, with a glance at Fiammetta, bade her rescue
them from their wrangling by telling her story. Fiammetta made no demur,
but thus began:--Illustrious my ladies, I have ever been of opinion that
in companies like ours one should speak so explicitly that the import of
what is said should never by excessive circumscription afford matter for
disputation; which is much more in place among students in the schools,
than among us, whose powers are scarce adequate to the management of the
distaff and the spindle. Wherefore I, that had in mind a matter of,
perchance, some nicety, now that I see you all at variance touching the
matters last mooted, am minded to lay it aside, and tell you somewhat
else, which concerns a man by no means of slight account, but a valiant
king, being a chivalrous action that he did, albeit in no wise thereto
actuated by his honour.

There is none of you but may not seldom have heard tell of King Charles
the Old, or the First, by whose magnificent emprise, and the ensuing
victory gained over King Manfred, the Ghibellines were driven forth of
Florence, and the Guelfs returned thither. For which cause a knight,
Messer Neri degli Uberti by name, departing Florence with his household
and not a little money, resolved to fix his abode under no other sway
than that of King Charles. And being fain of a lonely place in which to
end his days in peace, he betook him to Castello da Mare di Stabia; and
there, perchance a cross-bow-shot from the other houses of the place,
amid the olives and hazels and chestnuts that abound in those parts, he
bought an estate, on which he built a goodly house and commodious, with a
pleasant garden beside it, in the midst of which, having no lack of
running water, he set, after our Florentine fashion, a pond fair and
clear, and speedily filled it with fish. And while thus he lived, daily
occupying himself with nought else but how to make his garden more fair,
it befell that King Charles in the hot season betook him to Castello da
Mare to refresh himself a while, and hearing of the beauty of Messer
Neri's garden, was desirous to view it. And having learned to whom it
belonged, he bethought him that, as the knight was an adherent of the
party opposed to him, he would use more familiarity towards him than he
would otherwise have done; and so he sent him word that he and four
comrades would sup privily with him in his garden on the ensuing evening.
Messer Neri felt himself much honoured; and having made his preparations
with magnificence, and arranged the order of the ceremonies with his
household, did all he could and knew to make the King cordially welcome
to his fair garden.

When the King had viewed the garden throughout, as also Messer Neri's
house, and commended them, he washed, and seated himself at one of the
tables, which were set beside the pond, and bade Count Guy de Montfort,
who was one of his companions, sit on one side of him, and Messer Neri on
the other, and the other three to serve, as they should be directed by
Messer Neri. The dishes that were set before them were dainty, the wines
excellent and rare, the order of the repast very fair and commendable,
without the least noise or aught else that might distress; whereon the
King bestowed no stinted praise. As thus he gaily supped, well-pleased
with the lovely spot, there came into the garden two young maidens, each
perhaps fifteen years old, blonde both, their golden tresses falling all
in ringlets about them, and crowned with a dainty garland of
periwinkle-flowers; and so delicate and fair of face were they that they
shewed liker to angels than aught else, each clad in a robe of finest
linen, white as snow upon their flesh, close-fitting as might be from the
waist up, but below the waist ample, like a pavilion to the feet. She
that was foremost bore on her shoulders a pair of nets, which she held
with her left hand, carrying in her right a long pole. Her companion
followed, bearing on her left shoulder a frying-pan, under her left arm a
bundle of faggots, and in her left hand a tripod, while in the other hand
she carried a cruse of oil and a lighted taper. At sight of whom the King
marvelled, and gazed intent to learn what it might import. The two young
maidens came forward with becoming modesty, and did obeisance to the
King; which done they hied them to the place of ingress to the pond, and
she that had the frying-pan having set it down, and afterward the other
things, took the pole that the other carried, and so they both went down
into the pond, being covered by its waters to their breasts. Whereupon
one of Messer Neri's servants, having forthwith lit a fire, and set the
tripod on the faggots and oil therein, addressed himself to wait, until
some fish should be thrown to him by the girls. Who, the one searching
with the pole in those parts where she knew the fish lay hid, while the
other made ready the nets, did in a brief space of time, to the exceeding
great delight of the King, who watched them attentively, catch fish not a
few, which they tossed to the servant, who set them, before the life was
well out of them, in the frying-pan. After which, the maidens, as
pre-arranged, addressed them to catch some of the finest fish, and cast
them on to the table before the King, and Count Guy, and their father.
The fish wriggled about the table to the prodigious delight of the King,
who in like manner took some of them, and courteously returned them to
the girls; with which sport they diverted them, until the servant had
cooked the fish that had been given him: which, by Messer Neri's command,
were set before the King rather as a side-dish than as aught very rare or

When the girls saw that all the fish were cooked, and that there was no
occasion for them to catch any more, they came forth of the pond, their
fine white garments cleaving everywhere close to their flesh so as to
hide scarce any part of their delicate persons, took up again the things
that they had brought, and passing modestly before the King, returned to
the house. The King, and the Count, and the other gentlemen that waited,
had regarded the maidens with no little attention, and had, one and all,
inly bestowed on them no little praise, as being fair and shapely, and
therewithal sweet and debonair; but 'twas in the King's eyes that they
especially found favour. Indeed, as they came forth of the water, the
King had scanned each part of their bodies so intently that, had one then
pricked him, he would not have felt it, and his thoughts afterwards
dwelling upon them, though he knew not who they were, nor how they came
to be there, he felt stir within his heart a most ardent desire to
pleasure them, whereby he knew very well that, if he took not care, he
would grow enamoured; howbeit he knew not whether of the twain pleased
him the more, so like was each to the other. Having thus brooded a while,
he turned to Messer Neri, and asked who the two damsels were.
Whereto:--"Sire," replied Messer Neri, "they are my twin daughters, and
they are called, the one, Ginevra the Fair, and the other, Isotta the
Blonde." Whereupon the King was loud in praise of them, and exhorted
Messer Neri to bestow them in marriage. To which Messer Neri demurred,
for that he no longer had the means. And nought of the supper now
remaining to serve, save the fruit, in came the two young damsels in
gowns of taffeta very fine, bearing in their hands two vast silver
salvers full of divers fruits, such as the season yielded, and set them
on the table before the King. Which done, they withdrew a little space
and fell a singing to music a ditty, of which the opening words were as

Love, many words would not suffice
There where I am come to tell.

And so dulcet and delightsome was the strain that to the King, his eyes
and ears alike charmed, it seemed as if all the nine orders of angels
were descended there to sing. The song ended, they knelt and respectfully
craved the King's leave to depart; which, though sorely against his will,
he gave them with a forced gaiety.

Supper ended, the King and his companions, having remounted their horses,
took leave of Messer Neri, and conversing of divers matters, returned to
the royal quarters; where the King, still harbouring his secret passion,
nor, despite affairs of state that supervened, being able to forget the
beauty and sweetness of Ginevra the Fair, for whose sake he likewise
loved her twin sister, was so limed by Love that he could scarce think of
aught else. So, feigning other reasons, he consorted familiarly with
Messer Neri, and did much frequent his garden, that he might see Ginevra.
And at length, being unable to endure his suffering any longer, and being
minded, for that he could devise no other expedient, to despoil their
father not only of the one but of the other damsel also, he discovered
both his love and his project to Count Guy; who, being a good man and
true, thus made answer:--"Sire, your tale causes me not a little
astonishment, and that more especially because of your conversation from
your childhood to this very day, I have, methinks, known more than any
other man. And as no such passion did I ever mark in you, even in your
youth, when Love should more readily have fixed you with his fangs, as
now I discern, when you are already on the verge of old age, 'tis to me
so strange, so surprising that you should veritably love, that I deem it
little short of a miracle. And were it meet for me to reprove you, well
wot I the language I should hold to you, considering that you are yet in
arms in a realm but lately won, among a people as yet unknown to you, and
wily and treacherous in the extreme, and that the gravest anxieties and
matters of high policy engross your mind, so that you are not as yet able
to sit you down, and nevertheless amid all these weighty concerns you
have given harbourage to false, flattering Love. This is not the wisdom
of a great king, but the folly of a feather-pated boy. And moreover, what
is far worse, you say that you are resolved to despoil this poor knight
of his two daughters, whom, entertaining you in his house, and honouring
you to the best of his power, he brought into your presence all but
naked, testifying thereby, how great is his faith in you, and how assured
he is that you are a king, and not a devouring wolf. Have you so soon
forgotten that 'twas Manfred's outrageous usage of his subjects that
opened you the way into this realm? What treachery was he ever guilty of
that better merited eternal torment, than 'twould be in you to wrest from
one that honourably entreats you at once his hope and his consolation?
What would be said of you if so you should do? Perchance you deem that
'twould suffice to say:--'I did it because he is a Ghibelline.' Is it
then consistent with the justice of a king that those, be they who they
may, who seek his protection, as this man has sought yours, should be
entreated after this sort? King, I bid you remember that exceeding great
as is your glory to have vanquished Manfred, yet to conquer oneself is a
still greater glory: wherefore you, to whom belongs the correction of
others, see to it that you conquer yourself, and refrain this unruly
passion; and let not such a blot mar the splendour of your achievements."

Sore stricken at heart by the Count's words, and the more mortified that
he acknowledged their truth, the King heaved a fervent sigh or two, and
then:--"Count," quoth he, "that enemy there is none, however mighty, but
to the practised warrior is weak enough and easy to conquer in comparison
of his own appetite, I make no doubt, but, great though the struggle will
be and immeasurable the force that it demands, so shrewdly galled am I by
your words, that not many days will have gone by before I shall without
fail have done enough to shew you that I, that am the conqueror of
others, am no less able to gain the victory over myself." And indeed but
a few days thereafter, the King, on his return to Naples, being minded at
once to leave himself no excuse for dishonourable conduct, and to
recompense the knight for his honourable entreatment of him, did, albeit
'twas hard for him to endow another with that which he had most ardently
desired for himself, none the less resolve to bestow the two damsels in
marriage, and that not as Messer Neri's daughters, but as his own.
Wherefore, Messer Neri consenting, he provided both with magnificent
dowries, and gave Ginevra the Fair to Messer Maffeo da Palizzi, and
Isotta the Blonde to Messer Guglielmo della Magna, noble knights and
great barons both; which done, sad at heart beyond measure, he betook him
to Apulia, and by incessant travail did so mortify his vehement appetite
that he snapped and broke in pieces the fetters of Love, and for the rest
of his days was no more vexed by such passion.

Perchance there will be those who say that 'tis but a trifle for a king
to bestow two girls in marriage; nor shall I dispute it: but say we that
a king in love bestowed in marriage her whom he loved, neither having
taken nor taking, of his love, leaf or flower or fruit; then this I say
was a feat great indeed, nay, as great as might be.

After such a sort then did this magnificent King, at once generously
rewarding the noble knight, commendably honouring the damsels that he
loved, and stoutly subduing himself.


King Pedro, being apprised of the fervent love borne him by Lisa, who
thereof is sick, comforts her, and forthwith gives her in marriage to a
young gentleman, and having kissed her on the brow, ever after professes
himself her knight.

When Fiammetta was come to the end of her story, and not a little praise
had been accorded to the virile magnificence of King Charles, albeit one
there was of the ladies, who, being a Ghibelline, joined not therein,
Pampinea, having received the king's command, thus began:--None is there
of discernment, worshipful my ladies, that would say otherwise than you
have said touching good King Charles, unless for some other cause she
bear him a grudge; however, for that there comes to my mind the,
perchance no less honourable, entreatment of one of our Florentine girls
by one of his adversaries, I am minded to recount the same to you.

What time the French were driven forth of Sicily there dwelt at Palermo
one of our Florentines, that was an apothecary, Bernardo Puccini by name,
a man of great wealth, that by his lady had an only and exceeding fair
daughter, then of marriageable age. Now King Pedro of Arragon, being
instated in the sovereignty of the island, did at Palermo make with his
barons marvellous celebration thereof; during which, as he tilted after
the Catalan fashion, it befell that Bernardo's daughter, Lisa by name,
being with other ladies at a window, did thence espy him in the course,
whereat being prodigiously delighted, she regarded him again and again,
and grew fervently enamoured of him; nor yet, when the festivities were
ended, and she was at home with her father, was there aught she could
think of but this her exalted and aspiring love. In regard whereof that
which most irked her was her sense of her low rank, which scarce
permitted her any hope of a happy issue; but, for all that, give over her
love for the King she would not; nor yet, for fear of worse to come,
dared she discover it. The King, meanwhile, recking, witting nothing of
the matter, her suffering waxed immeasurable, intolerable; and her love
ever growing with ever fresh accessions of melancholy, the fair maiden,
overborne at last, fell sick, and visibly day by day wasted like snow in
sunlight. Distraught with grief thereat, her father and mother afforded
her such succour as they might with words of good cheer, and counsel of
physicians, and physic; but all to no purpose; for that she in despair of
her love was resolved no more to live.

Now her father assuring her that there was no whim of hers but should be
gratified, the fancy took her that, if she might find apt means, she
would, before she died, make her love and her resolve known to the King:
wherefore one day she besought her father to cause Minuccio d'Arezzo, to
come to her; which Minuccio, was a singer and musician of those days,
reputed most skilful, and well seen of King Pedro. Bernardo, deeming that
Lisa desired but to hear him play and sing a while, conveyed her message
to him; and he, being an agreeable fellow, came to her forthwith, and
after giving her some words of loving cheer, sweetly discoursed some airs
upon his viol, and then sang her some songs; whereby, while he thought to
comfort her, he did but add fire and flame to her love. Presently the
girl said that she would fain say a few words to him in private, and when
all else were withdrawn from the chamber:--"Minuccio," quoth she, "thee
have I chosen, deeming thee most trusty, to be the keeper of my secret,
relying upon thee in the first place never to betray it to a soul, and
next to lend me in regard thereof such aid as thou mayst be able; and so
I pray thee to do. Thou must know, then, Minuccio mine, that on the day
when our lord King Pedro held the great festival in celebration of his
triumph, I, seeing him tilt, was so smitten with love of him that thereof
was kindled within my soul the fire which has brought me, as thou seest,
to this pass; and knowing how ill it beseems me to love a king, and being
unable, I say not to banish it from my heart, but so much as to bring it
within bounds, and finding it exceeding grievous to bear, I have made
choice of death as the lesser pain; and die I shall. But should he wot
not of my love before I die, sore disconsolate should I depart; and
knowing not by whom more aptly than by thee I might give him to know this
my frame, I am minded to entrust the communication thereof to thee; which
office I entreat thee not to refuse, and having discharged it, to let me
know, that dying thus consoled, I may depart this pain." Which said, she
silently wept.

Marvelling at the loftiness of the girl's spirit and her desperate
determination, Minuccio commiserated her not a little; and presently it
occurred to him that there was a way in which he might honourably serve
her: wherefore:--"Lisa," quoth he, "my faith I plight thee, wherein thou
mayst place sure confidence that I shall never play thee false, and
lauding thy high emprise, to wit, the setting thine affections upon so
great a king, I proffer thee mine aid, whereby, so thou wilt be of good
cheer, I hope, and believe, that, before thou shalt see the third day
from now go by, I shall have brought thee tidings which will be to thee
for an exceeding great joy; and, not to lose time, I will set to work at
once." And so Lisa, assuring him that she would be of good cheer, and
plying him afresh with instant obsecrations, bade him Godspeed; and
Minuccio, having taken leave of her, hied him to one Mico da Siena, a
very expert rhymester of those days, who at his instant request made the
ensuing song:--

Hence hie thee, Love; and hasting to my King,
Give him to know what torment dire I bear,
How that to death I fare,
Still close, for fear, my passion harbouring.

Lo, Love, to thee with clasped hands I turn,
And pray thee seek him where he tarrieth,
And tell him how I oft for him do yearn,
So sweetly he my heart enamoureth;
And of the fire, wherewith I throughly burn,
I think to die, but may the hour uneath
Say, when my grievous pain shall with my breath
Surcease; till when, neither may fear nor shame
The least abate the flame.
Ah! to his ears my woeful story bring.

Since of him I was first enamoured,
Never hast thou, O Love, my fearful heart
With any such fond hope encouraged,
As e'er its message to him to impart,
To him, my lord, that me so sore bested
Holds: dying thus, 'twere grievous to depart:
Perchance, were he to know my cruel smart,
'Twould not displease him; might I but make bold
My soul to him to unfold,
And shew him all my woeful languishing.

Love, since 'twas not thy will me to accord
Such boldness as that e'er unto my King
I may discover my sad heart's full hoard,
Or any word or sign thereof him bring:
This all my prayer to thee, O sweet my Lord:
Hie thee to him, and so him whispering
Mind of the day I saw him tourneying
With all his paladins environed,
And grew enamoured
Ev'n to my very heart's disrupturing.

Which words Minuccio forthwith set to music after a soft and plaintive
fashion befitting their sense; and on the third day thereafter hied him
to court, while King Pedro was yet at breakfast. And being bidden by the
King to sing something to the accompaniment of his viol, he gave them
this song with such sweet concord of words and music that all the folk
that were in the King's hall seemed, as it were, entranced, so intent and
absorbed stood they to listen, and the King rather more than the rest.
And when Minuccio had done singing, the King asked whence the song came,
that, as far as he knew, he had never heard it before. "Sire," replied
Minuccio, "'tis not yet three days since 'twas made, words and music
alike." And being asked by the King in regard of whom 'twas made:--"I
dare not," quoth he, "discover such a secret save to you alone." Bent on
hearing the story, the King, when the tables were cleared, took Minuccio
into his privy chamber; and there Minuccio told him everything exactly as
he had heard it from Lisa's lips. Whereby the King was much gratified,
and lauded the maiden not a little, and said that a girl of such high
spirit merited considerate treatment, and bade Minuccio be his envoy to
her, and comfort her, and tell her that without fail that very day at
vespers he would come to visit her. Overjoyed to bear the girl such
gladsome tidings, Minuccio tarried not, but hied him back to the girl
with his viol, and being closeted with her, told her all that had passed,
and then sang the song to the accompaniment of his viol. Whereby the girl
was so cheered and delighted that forthwith there appeared most marked
and manifest signs of the amendment of her health, while with passionate
longing (albeit none in the house knew or divined it) she awaited the
vesper hour, when she was to see her lord.

Knowing the girl very well, and how fair she was, and pondering divers
times on what Minuccio had told him, the King, being a prince of a
liberal and kindly disposition, grew ever more compassionate. So, about
vespers, he mounted his horse, and rode forth, as if for mere pleasure,
and being come to the apothecary's house, demanded access to a very
goodly garden that the apothecary had, and having dismounted, after a
while enquired of Bernardo touching his daughter, and whether he had yet
bestowed her in marriage. "Sire," replied Bernardo, "she is not yet
married; and indeed she has been and still is very ill howbeit since none
she is wonderfully amended." The significance of which amendment being
forthwith apprehended by the King:--"In good faith," quoth he, "'twere a
pity so fair a creature were reft from the world so early; we would go in
and visit her." And presently, attended only by two of his lords and
Bernardo, he betook him to her chamber, where being entered, he drew nigh
the bed, whereon the girl half reclined, half sate in eager expectation
of his coming; and taking her by the hand:--"Madonna," quoth he, "what
means this? A maiden like you should be the comfort of others, and you
suffer yourself to languish. We would entreat you that for love of us you
be of good cheer, so as speedily to recover your health." To feel the
touch of his hand whom she loved above all else, the girl, albeit
somewhat shamefast, was so enraptured that 'twas as if she was in
Paradise; and as soon as she was able:--"My lord," she said, "'twas the
endeavour, weak as I am, to sustain a most grievous burden that brought
this sickness upon me; but 'twill not be long ere you will see me quit
thereof, thanks to your courtesy." The hidden meaning of which words was
apprehended only by the King, who momently made more account of the girl,
and again and again inly cursed Fortune, that had decreed that she should
be the daughter of such a man. And yet a while he tarried with her, and
comforted her, and so took his leave. Which gracious behaviour of the
King was not a little commended, and accounted a signal honour to the
apothecary and his daughter.

The girl, glad at heart as was ever lady of her lover, mended with
reviving hope, and in a few days recovered her health, and therewith more
than all her wonted beauty. Whereupon the King, having taken counsel with
the Queen how to reward so great a love, got him one day to horse with a
great company of his barons, and hied him to the apothecary's house; and
being come into the garden, he sent for the apothecary and his daughter;
and there, being joined by the Queen with not a few ladies, who received
the girl into their company, they made such cheer as 'twas a wonder to
see. And after a while the King and Queen having called Lisa to them,
quoth the King:--"Honourable damsel, by the great love that you have
borne us we are moved greatly to honour you; and we trust that, for love
of us, the honour that we design for you will be acceptable to you. Now
'tis thus we would honour you: to wit, that, seeing that you are of
marriageable age, we would have you take for husband him that we shall
give you; albeit 'tis none the less our purpose ever to call ourself your
knight, demanding no other tribute of all your love but one sole kiss."
Scarlet from brow to neck, the girl, making the King's pleasure her own,
thus with a low voice replied:--"My lord, very sure am I that, should it
come to be known that I was grown enamoured of you, most folk would hold
me for a fool, deeming, perchance, that I was out of my mind, and witless
alike of my own rank and yours; but God, who alone reads the hearts of us
mortals, knows that even then, when first I did affect you, I wist that
you were the King, and I but the daughter of Bernardo the apothecary, and
that to suffer my passion to soar so high did ill become me; but, as you
know far better than I, none loves of set and discreet purpose, but only
according to the dictates of impulse and fancy; which law my forces,
albeit not seldom opposed, being powerless to withstand, I loved and
still love and shall ever love you. But as no sooner knew I myself
subjugated to your love, than I vowed to have ever no will but yours;
therefore not only am I compliant to take right gladly him whom you shall
be pleased to give me for husband, thereby conferring upon me great
honour and dignity; but if you should bid me tarry in the fire, delighted
were I to obey, so thereby I might pleasure you. How far it beseems me to
have you, my King, for my knight, you best know; and therefore I say
nought thereof; nor will the kiss which you crave as your sole tribute of
my love be granted you save by leave of my Lady the Queen. Natheless, may
you have of this great graciousness that you and my Lady the Queen have
shewn me, and which I may not requite, abundant recompense in the
blessing and favour of God;" and so she was silent.

The Queen was mightily delighted with the girl's answer, and deemed her
as discreet as the King had said. The King then sent for the girl's
father and mother, and being assured that his intention had their
approval, summoned to his presence a young man, Perdicone by name, that
was of gentle birth, but in poor circumstances, and put certain rings
into his hand, and (he nowise gainsaying) wedded him to Lisa. Which done,
besides jewels many and precious that he and the Queen gave the girl, he
forthwith bestowed upon Perdicone two domains, right goodly and of ample
revenues, to wit, Ceffalu and Calatabellotta, saying:--"We give them to
thee for thy wife's dowry; what we have in store for thee thou wilt learn
hereafter." Which said, he turned to the girl, and:--"Now," quoth he, "we
are minded to cull that fruit which is due to us of thy love;" and so,
taking her head between both his hands, he kissed her brow. Wherefore,
great was the joy of Perdicone, and the father and mother of Lisa, and
Lisa herself, and mighty the cheer they made, and gaily did they
celebrate the nuptials. And, as many affirm, right well did the King keep
his promise to the girl; for that ever, while he lived, he called himself
her knight, nor went to any passage of arms bearing other device than
that which he had from her.

Now 'tis by doing after this sort that sovereigns win the hearts of their
subjects, give others occasion of well-doing, and gain for themselves an
imperishable renown. At which mark few or none in our times have bent the
bow of their understanding, the more part of the princes having become
but cruel tyrants.



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