The Decameron of Giovanni Boccaccio Part 14

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Accordingly, moved by covetise, Messer Francesco let call Il Zima to him and sought of him his palfrey by way of sale, so he should proffer it to him as a gift. The other, hearing this, was well pleased and made answer to him, saying, "Sir, though you gave me all you have in the world, you might not avail to have my palfrey by way of sale, but by way of gift you may have it, whenas it pleaseth you, on condition that, ere you take it, I may have leave to speak some words with your lady in your presence, but so far removed from every one that I may be heard of none other than herself.' The gentleman, urged by avarice and looking to outwit the other, answered that it liked him well and [that he might speak with her] as much as he would; then, leaving him in the saloon of his palace, he betook himself to the lady's chamber and telling her how easily he might acquire the palfrey, bade her come hearken to Il Zima, but charged her take good care to answer neither little or much to aught that he should say. To this the lady much demurred, but, it behoving her ensue her husband's pleasure, she promised to do his bidding and followed him to the saloon, to hear what Il Zima should say. The latter, having renewed his covenant with the gentleman, seated himself with the lady in a part of the saloon at a great distance from every one and began to say thus, 'n.o.ble lady, meseemeth certain that you have too much wit not to have long since perceived how great a love I have been brought to bear you by your beauty, which far transcendeth that of any woman whom methinketh I ever beheld, to say nothing of the engaging manners and the peerless virtues which be in you and which might well avail to take the loftiest spirits of mankind; wherefore it were needless to declare to you in words that this [my love] is the greatest and most fervent that ever man bore woman; and thus, without fail, will I do[170] so long as my wretched life shall sustain these limbs, nay, longer; for that, if in the other world folk love as they do here below, I shall love you to all eternity. Wherefore you may rest a.s.sured that you have nothing, be it much or little worth, that you may hold so wholly yours and whereon you may in every wise so surely reckon as myself, such as I am, and that likewise which is mine. And that of this you may take a.s.surance by very certain argument, I tell you that I should count myself more graced, did you command me somewhat that I might do and that would pleasure you, than if, I commanding, all the world should promptliest obey me. Since, then, I am yours, even as you have heard, it is not without reason that I dare to offer up my prayers to your n.o.bility, wherefrom alone can all peace, all health and all well-being derive for me, and no otherwhence; yea, as the humblest of your servants, I beseech you, dear my good and only hope of my soul, which, midmost the fire of love, feedeth upon its hope in you,--that your benignity may be so great and your past rigour shown unto me, who am yours, on such wise be mollified that I, recomforted by your kindness, may say that, like as by your beauty I was stricken with love, even so by your pity have I life, which latter, an your haughty soul incline not to my prayers, will without fail come to nought and I shall perish and you may be said to be my murderer. Letting be that my death will do you no honour, I doubt not eke but that, conscience bytimes p.r.i.c.king you therefor, you will regret having wrought it[171] and whiles, better disposed, will say in yourself, "Alack, how ill I did not to have compa.s.sion upon my poor Zima!" and this repentance, being of no avail, will cause you the great annoy. Wherefore, so this may not betide, now that you have it in your power to succour me, bethink yourself and ere I die, be moved to pity on me, for that with you alone it resteth to make me the happiest or the most miserable man alive. I trust your courtesy will be such that you will not suffer me to receive death in guerdon of such and so great a love, but will with a glad response and full of favour quicken my fainting spirits, which flutter, all dismayed, in your presence.' Therewith he held his peace and heaving the deepest of sighs, followed up with sundry tears, proceeded to await the lady's answer. The latter,--whom the long court he had paid her, the joustings held and the serenades given in her honour and other like things done of him for the love of her had not availed to move,--was moved by the pa.s.sionate speech of this most ardent lover and began to be sensible of that which she had never yet felt, to wit, what manner of thing love was; and albeit, in ensuance of the commandment laid upon her by her husband, she kept silence, she could not withal hinder sundry gentle sighs from discovering that which, in answer to Il Zima, she would gladly have made manifest. Il Zima, having waited awhile and seeing that no response ensued, was wondered and presently began to divine the husband's device; but yet, looking her in the face and observing certain flashes of her eyes towards him now and again and noting, moreover, the sighs which she suffered not to escape her bosom with all her strength, conceived fresh hope and heartened thereby, took new counsel[172] and proceeded to answer himself after the following fashion, she hearkening the while: 'Zima mine, this long time, in good sooth, have I perceived thy love for me to be most great and perfect, and now by thy words I know it yet better and am well pleased therewith, as indeed I should be.

Algates, an I have seemed to thee harsh and cruel, I will not have thee believe that I have at heart been that which I have shown myself in countenance; nay, I have ever loved thee and held thee dear above all other men; but thus hath it behoved me do, both for fear of others and for the preserving of my fair fame. But now is the time at hand when I may show thee clearly that I love thee and guerdon thee of the love that thou hast borne and bearest me. Take comfort, therefore, and be of good hope, for that a few days hence Messer Francesco is to go to Milan for provost, as indeed thou knowest, who hast for the love of me given him thy goodly palfrey; and whenas he shall be gone, I promise thee by my troth and of the true love I bear thee, that, before many days, thou shalt without fail foregather with me and we will give gladsome and entire accomplishment to our love. And that I may not have to bespeak thee otherwhiles of the matter, I tell thee presently that, whenas thou shalt see two napkins displayed at the window of my chamber, which giveth upon our garden, do thou that same evening at nightfall make shift to come to me by the garden door, taking good care that thou be not seen. Thou wilt find me awaiting thee and we will all night long have delight and pleasance one of another, to our hearts' content.' Having thus spoken for the lady, he began again to speak in his own person and rejoined on this wise, 'Dearest lady, my every sense is so transported with excessive joy for your gracious reply that I can scarce avail to make response, much less to render you due thanks; nay, could I e'en speak as I desire, there is no term so long that it might suffice me fully to thank you as I would fain do and as it behoveth me; wherefore I leave it to your discreet consideration to imagine that which, for all my will, I am unable to express in words. This much only I tell you that I will without fail bethink myself to do as you have charged me, and being then, peradventure, better certified of so great a grace as that which you have vouchsafed me, I will, as best I may, study to render you the utmost thanks in my power. For the nonce there abideth no more to say; wherefore, dearest lady mine, G.o.d give you that gladness and that weal which you most desire, and so to Him I commend you.' For all this the lady said not a word; whereupon Il Zima arose and turned towards the husband, who, seeing him risen, came up to him and said, laughing 'How deemest thou? Have I well performed my promise to thee?' 'Nay, sir'

answered Il Zima; 'for you promised to let me speak with your lady and you have caused me speak with a marble statue.' These words were mighty pleasing to the husband, who, for all he had a good opinion of the lady, conceived of her a yet better and said, 'Now is thy palfrey fairly mine.' 'Ay is it, sir,' replied Il Zima, 'but, had I thought to reap of this favour received of you such fruit as I have gotten, I had given you the palfrey, without asking it[173] of you; and would G.o.d I had done it, for that now you have bought the palfrey and I have not sold it.' The other laughed at this and being now provided with a palfrey, set out upon his way a few days after and betook himself to Milan, to enter upon the Provostship. The lady, left free in her house, called to mind Il Zima's words and the love he bore her and the palfrey given for her sake and seeing him pa.s.s often by the house, said in herself, 'What do I? Why waste I my youth? Yonder man is gone to Milan and will not return these six months. When will he ever render me them[174] again? When I am old? Moreover, when shall I ever find such a lover as Il Zima? I am alone and have no one to fear. I know not why I should not take this good opportunity what while I may; I shall not always have such leisure as I presently have. None will know the thing, and even were it to be known, it is better to do and repent, than to abstain and repent.' Having thus taken counsel with herself, she one day set two napkins in the garden window, even as Il Zima had said, which when he saw, he was greatly rejoiced and no sooner was the night come than he betook himself, secretly and alone, to the gate of the lady's garden and finding it open, pa.s.sed on to another door that opened into the house, where he found his mistress awaiting him. She, seeing him come, started up to meet him and received him with the utmost joy, whilst he clipped and kissed her an hundred thousand times and followed her up the stair to her chamber, where, getting them to bed without a moment's delay, they knew the utmost term of amorous delight. Nor was this first time the last, for that, what while the gentleman abode at Milan and even after his coming back, Il Zima returned thither many another time, to the exceeding satisfaction of both parties."

[Footnote 169: Lit. "The summit," or in modern slang "The tiptop,"

_i.e._ the pink of fashion.]

[Footnote 170: _i.e._ this love shall I bear you. This is a flagrant instance of the misuse of ellipsis, which so frequently disfigures Boccaccio's dialogue.]

[Footnote 171: _i.e._ my death.]

[Footnote 172: Syn. a rare or strange means (_nuovo consiglio_). The word _nuovo_ is constantly used by Boccaccio in the latter sense, as is _consiglio_ in its remoter signification of means, remedy, etc.]

[Footnote 173: _i.e._ the favour.]

[Footnote 174: _i.e._ the lost six months.]


[Day the Third]


Elisa having no more to say, the queen, after commending the sagacity of Il Zima, bade Fiammetta proceed with a story, who answered, all smilingly, "Willingly, Madam," and began thus: "It behoveth somedele to depart our city (which, like as it aboundeth in all things else, is fruitful in instances of every subject) and as Elisa hath done, to recount somewhat of the things that have befallen in other parts of the world; wherefore, pa.s.sing over to Naples, I shall tell how one of those she-saints, who feign themselves so shy of love, was by the ingenuity of a lover of hers brought to taste the fruits of love, ere she had known its flowers; the which will at once teach you circ.u.mspection in the things that may hap and afford you diversion of those already befallen.

In Naples, a very ancient city and as delightful as any in Italy or maybe more so, there was once a young man, ill.u.s.trious for n.o.bility of blood and noted for his much wealth, whose name was Ricciardo Minutolo. Albeit he had to wife a very fair and lovesome young lady, he fell in love with one who, according to general opinion, far overpa.s.sed in beauty all the other ladies of Naples. Her name was Catella and she was the wife of another young gentleman of like condition, hight Filippello Fighinolfi, whom, like a very virtuous woman as she was, she loved and cherished over all. Ricciardo, then, loving this Catella and doing all those things whereby the love and favour of a lady are commonly to be won, yet for all that availing not to compa.s.s aught of his desire, was like to despair; and unknowing or unable to rid him of his pa.s.sion, he neither knew how to die nor did it profit him to live.

Abiding in this mind, it befell that he was one day urgently exhorted by certain ladies of his kinsfolk to renounce this pa.s.sion of his, seeing he did but weary himself in vain, for that Catella had none other good than Filippello, of whom she lived in such jealousy that she fancied every bird that flew through the air would take him from her. Ricciardo, hearing of Catella's jealousy, forthright bethought himself how he might compa.s.s his wishes and accordingly proceeded to feign himself in despair of her love and to have therefore set his mind upon another lady, for whose love he began to make a show of jousting and tourneying and doing all those things which he had been used to do for Catella; nor did he do this long before well nigh all the Neapolitans, and among the rest the lady herself, were persuaded that he no longer loved Catella, but was ardently enamoured of this second lady; and on this wise he persisted until it was so firmly believed not only of others, but of Catella herself, that the latter laid aside a certain reserve with which she was wont to entreat him, by reason of the love he bore her, and coming and going, saluted him familiarly, neighbourwise, as she did others.

It presently befell that, the weather being warm, many companies of ladies and gentlemen went, according to the usance of the Neapolitans, to divert themselves on the banks of the sea and there to dine and sup, and Ricciardo, knowing Catella to be gone thither with her company, betook himself to the same place with his friends and was received into Catella's party of ladies, after allowing himself to be much pressed, as if he had no great mind to abide there. The ladies and Catella fell to rallying him upon his new love, and he, feigning himself sore inflamed therewith, gave them the more occasion for discourse. Presently, one lady going hither and thither, as commonly happeneth in such places, and Catella being left with a few whereas Ricciardo was, the latter cast at her a hint of a certain amour of Filippello her husband, whereupon she fell into a sudden pa.s.sion of jealousy and began to be inwardly all afire with impatience to know what he meant. At last, having contained herself awhile and being unable to hold out longer, she besought Ricciardo, for that lady's sake whom he most loved, to be pleased to make her clear[175] of that which he had said of Filippello; whereupon quoth he, 'You conjure me by such a person that I dare not deny aught you ask me; wherefore I am ready to tell it you, so but you promise me that you will never say a word thereof either to him or to any other, save whenas you shall by experience have seen that which I shall tell you to be true; for that, when you please, I will teach you how you may see it.'

[Footnote 175: Or, in modern parlance, to enlighten her.]

The lady consented to that which he asked and swore to him never to repeat that which he should tell her, believing it the more to be true. Then, withdrawing apart with her, so they might not be overheard of any, he proceeded to say thus: 'Madam, an I loved you as once I loved, I should not dare tell you aught which I thought might vex you; but, since that love is pa.s.sed away, I shall be less chary of discovering to you the whole truth. I know not if Filippello have ever taken umbrage at the love I bore you or have believed that I was ever loved of you. Be this as it may, he hath never personally shown me aught thereof; but now, having peradventure awaited a time whenas he deemed I should be less suspicious, it seemeth he would fain do unto me that which I mis...o...b.. me he feareth I have done unto him, to wit, [he seeketh] to have my wife at his pleasure. As I find, he hath for some little time past secretly solicited her with sundry messages, all of which I have known from herself, and she hath made answer thereunto according as I have enjoined her. This very day, however, ere I came hither, I found in the house, in close conference with my wife, a woman whom I set down incontinent for that which she was, wherefore I called my wife and asked her what the woman wanted. Quoth she, "She is the agent of Filippello, with whom thou hast saddled me, by dint of making me answer him and give him hopes, and she saith that he will e'en know once for all what I mean to do and that, an I will, he would contrive for me to be privily at a bagnio in this city; nay, of this he prayeth and importuneth me; and hadst thou not, I know not why, caused me keep this traffic with him, I would have rid myself of him after such a fashion that he should never more have looked whereas I might be." Thereupon meseemed this was going too far and that it was no longer to be borne; and I bethought myself to tell it to you, so you might know how he requiteth that entire fidelity of yours, whereby aforetime I was nigh upon death. And so you shall not believe this that I tell you to be words and fables, but may, whenas you have a mind thereto, openly both see and touch it, I caused my wife make this answer to her who awaited it, that she was ready to be at the bagnio in question to-morrow at none, whenas the folk sleep; with which the woman took leave of her, very well pleased. Now methinketh not you believe that I will send my wife thither; but, were I in your place, I would contrive that he should find me there in the room of her he thinketh to meet, and whenas I had abidden with him awhile, I would give him to know with whom he had been and render him such honour thereof as should beseem him; by which means methinketh you would do him such a shame that the affront he would fain put upon yourself and upon me would at one blow be avenged.'

Catella, hearing this, without anywise considering who it was that said it to her or suspecting his design, forthright, after the wont of jealous folk, gave credence to his words and fell a-fitting to his story certain things that had already befallen; then, fired with sudden anger, she answered that she would certainly do as he counselled,--it was no such great matter,--and that a.s.suredly, if Filippello came thither, she would do him such a shame that it should still recur to his mind, as often as he saw a woman. Ricciardo, well pleased at this and himseeming his device was a good one and in a fair way of success, confirmed her in her purpose with many other words and strengthened her belief in his story, praying her, natheless, never to say that she had heard it from him, the which she promised him on her troth.

Next morning, Ricciardo betook himself to a good woman, who kept the bagnio he had named to Catella, and telling her what he purposed to do, prayed her to further him therein as most she might. The good woman, who was much beholden to him, answered that she would well and agreed with him what she should do and say. Now in the house where the bagnio was she had a very dark chamber, for that no window gave thereon by which the light might enter. This chamber she made ready and spread a bed there, as best she might, wherein Ricciardo, as soon as he had dined, laid himself and proceeded to await Catella. The latter, having heard Ricciardo's words and giving more credence thereto than behoved her, returned in the evening, full of despite, to her house, whither Filippello also returned and being by chance full of other thought, maybe did not show her his usual fondness. When she saw this, her suspicions rose yet higher and she said in herself, 'Forsooth, his mind is occupied with yonder lady with whom he thinketh to take his pleasure to-morrow; but of a surety this shall not come to pa.s.s.' An in this thought she abode well nigh all that night, considering how she should bespeak him, whenas she should be with him [in the bagnio].

What more [need I say?] The hour of none come, she took her waiting-woman and without anywise changing counsel, repaired to the bagnio that Ricciardo had named to her, and there finding the good woman, asked her if Filippello had been there that day, whereupon quoth the other, who had been duly lessoned by Ricciardo, 'Are you the lady that should come to speak with him?' 'Ay am I,' answered Catella.

'Then,' said the woman, 'get you in to him.' Catella, who went seeking that which she would fain not have found, caused herself to be brought to the chamber where Ricciardo was and entering with covered head, locked herself in. Ricciardo, seeing her enter, rose joyfully to his feet and catching her in his arms, said softly, 'Welcome, my soul!'

Whilst she, the better to feign herself other than she was, clipped him and kissed him and made much of him, without saying a word, fearing to be known of him if she should speak. The chamber was very dark, wherewith each of them was well pleased, nor for long abiding there did the eyes recover more power. Ricciardo carried her to the bed and there, without speaking, lest their voices should betray them, they abode a long while, to the greater delight and pleasance of the one party than the other.

But presently, it seeming to Catella time to vent the resentment she felt, she began, all afire with rage and despite, to speak thus, 'Alas, how wretched is women's lot and how ill bestowed the love that many of them bear their husbands! I, unhappy that I am, these eight years have I loved thee more than my life, and thou, as I have felt, art all afire and all consumed with love of a strange woman, wicked and perverse man that thou art! Now with whom thinkest thou to have been? Thou hast been with her whom thou hast too long beguiled with thy false blandishments, making a show of love to her and being enamoured elsewhere. I am Catella, not Ricciardo's wife, disloyal traitor that thou art! Hearken if thou know my voice; it is indeed I; and it seemeth to me a thousand years till we be in the light, so I may shame thee as thou deservest, scurvy discredited cur that thou art! Alack, woe is me! To whom have I borne so much love these many years? To this disloyal dog, who, thinking to have a strange woman in his arms, hath lavished on me more caresses and more fondnesses in this little while I have been here with him than in all the rest of the time I have been his. Thou hast been brisk enough to-day, renegade cur that thou art, that usest at home to show thyself so feeble and forspent and impotent; but, praised be G.o.d, thou hast tilled thine own field and not, as thou thoughtest, that of another. No wonder thou camest not anigh me yesternight; thou lookedst to discharge thee of thy lading elsewhere and wouldst fain come fresh to the battle; but, thanks to G.o.d and my own foresight, the stream hath e'en run in its due channel. Why answerest thou not, wicked man? Why sayst thou not somewhat? Art thou grown dumb, hearing me? c.o.c.k's faith, I know not what hindereth me from thrusting my hands into thine eyes and tearing them out for thee. Thou thoughtest to do this treason very secretly; but, perdie, one knoweth as much as another; thou hast not availed to compa.s.s thine end; I have had better beagles at thy heels than thou thoughtest.'

Ricciardo inwardly rejoiced at these words and without making any reply, clipped her and kissed her and fondled her more than ever; whereupon quoth she, following on her speech, 'Ay, thou thinkest to cajole me with thy feigned caresses, fashious dog that thou art, and to appease and console me; but thou art mistaken; I shall never be comforted for this till I have put thee to shame therefor in the presence of all our friends and kinsmen and neighbours. Am I not as fair as Ricciardo's wife, thou villain? Am I not as good a gentlewoman? Why dost thou not answer, thou sorry dog? What hath she more than I? Keep thy distance; touch me not; thou hast done enough feats of arms for to-day. Now thou knowest who I am, I am well a.s.sured that all thou couldst do would be perforce; but, so G.o.d grant me grace, I will yet cause thee suffer want thereof, and I know not what hindereth me from sending for Ricciardo, who hath loved me more than himself and could never boast that I once even looked at him; nor know I what harm it were to do it. Thou thoughtest to have his wife here and it is as if thou hadst had her, inasmuch as it is none of thy fault that the thing hath miscarried; wherefore, were I to have himself, thou couldst not with reason blame me.'

Brief, many were the lady's words and sore her complaining. However, at last, Ricciardo, bethinking himself that, an he let her go in that belief, much ill might ensue thereof, determined to discover himself and undeceive her; wherefore, catching her in his arms and holding her fast, so she might not get away, he said, 'Sweet my soul, be not angered; that which I could not have of you by simply loving you, Love hath taught me to obtain by practice; and I am your Ricciardo.'

Catella, hearing this and knowing him by the voice, would have thrown herself incontinent out of bed, but could not; whereupon she offered to cry out; but Ricciardo stopped her mouth with one hand and said, 'Madam, this that hath been may henceforth on nowise be undone, though you should cry all the days of your life; and if you cry out or cause this ever anywise to be known of any one, two things will come thereof; the one (which should no little concern you) will be that your honour and fair fame will be marred, for that, albeit you may avouch that I brought you hither by practice, I shall say that it is not true, nay, that I caused you come hither for monies and gifts that I promised you, whereof for that I gave you not so largely as you hoped, you waxed angry and made all this talk and this outcry; and you know that folk are more apt to credit ill than good, wherefore I shall more readily be believed than you. Secondly, there will ensue thereof a mortal enmity between your husband and myself, and it may as well happen that I shall kill him as he me, in which case you are never after like to be happy or content. Wherefore, heart of my body, go not about at once to dishonour yourself and to cast your husband and myself into strife and peril. You are not the first woman, nor will you be the last, who hath been deceived, nor have I in this practised upon you to bereave you of your own, but for the exceeding love that I bear you and am minded ever to bear you and to be your most humble servant. And although it is long since I and all that I possess or can or am worth have been yours and at your service, henceforward I purpose that they shall be more than ever so. Now, you are well advised in other things and so I am certain you will be in this.'

Catella, what while Ricciardo spoke thus, wept sore, but, albeit she was sore provoked and complained grievously, nevertheless, her reason allowed so much force to his true words that she knew it to be possible that it should happen as he said; wherefore quoth she, 'Ricciardo, I know not how G.o.d will vouchsafe me strength to suffer the affront and the cheat thou hast put upon me; I will well to make no outcry here whither my simplicity and overmuch jealousy have brought me; but of this be a.s.sured that I shall never be content till one way or another I see myself avenged of this thou hast done to me.

Wherefore, leave me, hold me no longer; thou hast had that which thou desiredst and hast tumbled me to thy heart's content; it is time to leave me; let me go, I prithee.'

Ricciardo, seeing her mind yet overmuch disordered, had laid it to heart never to leave her till he had gotten his pardon of her; wherefore, studying with the softest words to appease her, he so bespoke and so entreated and so conjured her that she was prevailed upon to make peace with him, and of like accord they abode together a great while thereafter in the utmost delight. Moreover, Catella, having thus learned how much more savoury were the lover's kisses than those of the husband and her former rigour being changed into kind love-liking for Ricciardo, from that day forth she loved him very tenderly and thereafter, ordering themselves with the utmost discretion, they many a time had joyance of their loves. G.o.d grant us to enjoy ours!"


[Day the Third]


Fiammetta being now silent, commended of all, the queen, to lose no time, forthright committed the burden of discourse to Emilia, who began thus: "It pleaseth me to return to our city, whence it pleased the last two speakers to depart, and to show you how a townsman of ours regained his lost mistress.

There was, then, in Florence a n.o.ble youth, whose name was Tedaldo Elisei and who, being beyond measure enamoured of a lady called Madam Ermellina, the wife of one Aldobrandino Palermini, deserved for his praiseworthy fashions, to enjoy his desire. However, Fortune, the enemy of the happy, denied him this solace, for that, whatever might have been the cause, the lady, after complying awhile with Tedaldo's wishes, suddenly altogether withdrew her good graces from him and not only refused to hearken to any message of his, but would on no wise see him; wherefore he fell into a dire and cruel melancholy; but his love for her had been so hidden that none guessed it to be the cause of his chagrin. After he had in divers ways studied amain to recover the love himseemed he had lost without his fault and finding all his labour vain, he resolved to withdraw from the world, that he might not afford her who was the cause of his ill the pleasure of seeing him pine away; wherefore, without saying aught to friend or kinsman, save to a comrade of his, who knew all, he took such monies as he might avail to have and departing secretly, came to Ancona, where, under the name of Filippo di Sanlodeccio, he made acquaintance with a rich merchant and taking service with him, accompanied him to Cyprus on board a ship of his.

His manners and behaviour so pleased the merchant that he not only a.s.signed him a good wage, but made him in part his a.s.sociate and put into his hands a great part of his affairs, which he ordered so well and so diligently that in a few years he himself became a rich and famous and considerable merchant; and albeit, in the midst of these his dealings, he oft remembered him of his cruel mistress and was grievously tormented of love and yearned sore to look on her again, such was his constancy that seven years long he got the better of the battle. But, chancing one day to hear sing in Cyprus a song that himself had made aforetime and wherein was recounted the love he bore his mistress and she him and the pleasure he had of her, and thinking it could not be she had forgotten him, he flamed up into such a pa.s.sion of desire to see her again that, unable to endure longer, he resolved to return to Florence.

Accordingly, having set all his affairs in order, he betook himself with one only servant to Ancona and transporting all his good thither, despatched it to Florence to a friend of the Anconese his partner, whilst he himself, in the disguise of a pilgrim returning from the Holy Sepulchre, followed secretly after with his servant and coming to Florence, put up at a little hostelry kept by two brothers, in the neighbourhood of his mistress's house, whereto he repaired first of all, to see her, an he might. However, he found the windows and doors and all else closed, wherefore his heart misgave him she was dead or had removed thence and he betook himself, in great concern, to the house of his brethren, before which he saw four of the latter clad all in black. At this he marvelled exceedingly and knowing himself so changed both in habit and person from that which he was used to be, whenas he departed thence, that he might not lightly be recognized, he boldly accosted a cordwainer hard by and asked him why they were clad in black; whereto he answered, 'Yonder men are clad in black for that it is not yet a fortnight since a brother of theirs, who had not been here this great while, was murdered, and I understand they have proved to the court that one Aldobrandino Palermini, who is in prison, slew him, for that he was a well-wisher of his wife and had returned hither unknown to be with her.'

Tedaldo marvelled exceedingly that any one should so resemble him as to be taken for him and was grieved for Aldobrandino's ill fortune.

Then, having learned that the lady was alive and well and it being now night, he returned, full of various thoughts, to the inn and having supped with his servant, was put to sleep well nigh at the top of the house. There, what with the many thoughts that stirred him and the badness of the bed and peradventure also by reason of the supper, which had been meagre, half the night pa.s.sed whilst he had not yet been able to fall asleep; wherefore, being awake, himseemed about midnight he heard folk come down into the house from the roof, and after through the c.h.i.n.ks of the chamber-door he saw a light come up thither. Thereupon he stole softly to the door and putting his eye to the c.h.i.n.k, fell a-spying what this might mean and saw a comely enough la.s.s who held the light, whilst three men, who had come down from the roof, made towards her; and after some greetings had pa.s.sed between them, one of them said to the girl, 'Henceforth, praised be G.o.d, we may abide secure, since we know now for certain that the death of Tedaldo Elisei hath been proved by his brethren against Aldobrandino Palermini, who hath confessed thereto, and judgment is now recorded; nevertheless, it behoveth to keep strict silence, for that, should it ever become known that it was we [who slew him], we shall be in the same danger as is Aldobrandino.' Having thus bespoken the woman, who showed herself much rejoiced thereat, they left her and going below, betook themselves to bed.

Tedaldo, hearing this, fell a-considering how many and how great are the errors which may befall the minds of men, bethinking him first of his brothers who had bewept and buried a stranger in his stead and after of the innocent man accused on false suspicion and brought by untrue witness to the point of death, no less than of the blind severity of laws and rulers, who ofttimes, under cover of diligent investigation of the truth, cause, by their cruelties, prove that which is false and style themselves ministers of justice and of G.o.d, whereas indeed they are executors of iniquity and of the devil; after which he turned his thought to the deliverance of Aldobrandino and determined in himself what he should do. Accordingly, arising in the morning, he left his servant at the inn and betook himself alone, whenas it seemed to him time, to the house of his mistress, where, chancing to find the door open, he entered in and saw the lady seated, all full of tears and bitterness of soul, in a little ground floor room that was there.

At this sight he was like to weep for compa.s.sion of her and drawing near to her, said, 'Madam, afflict not yourself; your peace is at hand.' The lady, hearing this, lifted her eyes and said, weeping, 'Good man, thou seemest to me a stranger pilgrim; what knowest thou of my peace or of my affliction?' 'Madam,' answered Tedaldo, 'I am of Constantinople and am but now come hither, being sent of G.o.d to turn your tears into laughter and to deliver your husband from death.'

Quoth she, 'An thou be of Constantinople and newly come hither, how knowest thou who I am or who is my husband?' Thereupon, the pilgrim beginning from the beginning, recounted to her the whole history of Aldobrandino's troubles and told her who she was and how long she had been married and other things which he very well knew of her affairs; whereat she marvelled exceedingly and holding him for a prophet, fell on her knees at his feet, beseeching him for G.o.d's sake, an he were come for Aldobrandino's salvation, to despatch, for that the time was short.

The pilgrim, feigning himself a very holy man, said, 'Madam, arise and weep not, but hearken well to that which I shall say to you and take good care never to tell it to any. According to that which G.o.d hath revealed unto me, the tribulation wherein you now are hath betided you because of a sin committed by you aforetime, which G.o.d the Lord hath chosen in part to purge with this present annoy and will have altogether amended of you; else will you fall into far greater affliction.' 'Sir,' answered the lady, 'I have many sins and know not which one, more than another, G.o.d the Lord would have me amend; wherefore, an you know it, tell me and I will do what I may to amend it.' 'Madam,' rejoined the pilgrim, 'I know well enough what it is, nor do I question you thereof the better to know it, but to the intent that, telling it yourself, you may have the more remorse thereof. But let us come to the fact; tell me, do you remember, ever to have had a lover?'

The lady, hearing this, heaved a deep sigh and marvelled sore, supposing none had ever known it, albeit, in the days when he was slain who had been buried for Tedaldo, there had been some whispering thereof, for certain words not very discreetly used by Tedaldo's confidant, who knew it; then answered, 'I see that G.o.d discovereth unto you all men's secrets, wherefore I am resolved not to hide mine own from you. True it is that in my youth I loved over all the ill-fortuned youth whose death is laid to my husband's charge, which death I have bewept as sore as it was grievous to me, for that, albeit I showed myself harsh and cruel to him before his departure, yet neither his long absence nor his unhappy death hath availed to tear him from my heart.' Quoth the pilgrim, 'The hapless youth who is dead you never loved, but Tedaldo Elisei ay.[176] But tell me, what was the occasion of your falling out with him? Did he ever give you any offence?' 'Certes, no,' replied she; 'he never offended against me; the cause of the breach was the prate of an accursed friar, to whom I once confessed me and who, when I told him of the love I bore Tedaldo and the privacy I had with him, made such a racket about my ears that I tremble yet to think of it, telling me that, an I desisted not therefrom, I should go in the devil's mouth to the deepest deep of h.e.l.l and there be cast into everlasting fire; whereupon there entered into me such a fear that I altogether determined to forswear all further converse with him, and that I might have no occasion therefor, I would no longer receive his letters or messages; albeit I believe, had he persevered awhile, instead of getting him gone (as I presume) in despair, that, seeing him, as I did, waste away like snow in the sun, my harsh resolve would have yielded, for that I had no greater desire in the world.'

[Footnote 176: _i.e._ It was not the dead man, but Tedaldo Elisei whom you loved. (_Lo sventurato giovane che fu morto non amasti voi mai, ma Tedaldo Elisei si._)]

'Madam,' rejoined the pilgrim, 'it is this sin alone that now afflicteth you. I know for certain that Tedaldo did you no manner of violence; whenas you fell in love with him, you did it of your own free will, for that he pleased you; and as you yourself would have it, he came to you and enjoyed your privacy, wherein both with words and deeds you showed him such complaisance that, if he loved you before, you caused his love redouble a thousandfold. And this being so (as I know it was) what cause should have availed to move you so harshly to withdraw yourself from him? These things should be pondered awhile beforehand and if you think you may presently have cause to repent thereof, as of ill doing, you ought not to do them. You might, at your pleasure, have ordained of him, as of that which belonged to you, that he should no longer be yours; but to go about to deprive him of yourself, you who were his, was a theft and an unseemly thing, whenas it was not his will. Now you must know that I am a friar and am therefore well acquainted with all their usances; and if I speak somewhat at large of them for your profit, it is not forbidden me, as it were to another; nay, and it pleaseth me to speak of them, so you may henceforward know them better than you appear to have done in the past.

Friars of old were very pious and worthy men, but those who nowadays style themselves friars and would be held such have nothing of the monk but the gown; nor is this latter even that of a true friar, for that,--whereas of the founders of the monastic orders they[177] were ordained strait and poor and of coa.r.s.e stuff and demonstrative[178] of the spirit of the wearers, who testified that they held things temporal in contempt whenas they wrapped their bodies in so mean a habit,--those of our time have them made full and double and glossy and of the finest cloth and have brought them to a quaint pontifical cut, insomuch that they think it no shame to flaunt it withal peac.o.c.k-wise, in the churches and public places, even as do the laity with their apparel; and like as with the sweep-net the fisher goeth about to take many fishes in the river at one cast, even so these, wrapping themselves about with the amplest of skirts, study to entangle therein great store of prudish maids and widows and many other silly women and men, and this is their chief concern over any other exercise; wherefore, to speak more plainly, they have not the friar's gown, but only the colours thereof.

[Footnote 177: _i.e._ friars' gowns. Boccaccio constantly uses this irregular form of enallage, especially in dialogue.]

[Footnote 178: Or, as we should nowadays say, "typical."]

Moreover, whereas the ancients[179] desired the salvation of mankind, those of our day covet women and riches and turn their every thought to terrifying the minds of the foolish with clamours and depicturements[180] and to making believe that sins may be purged with almsdeeds and ma.s.ses, to the intent that unto themselves (who, of poltroonery, not of devoutness, and that they may not suffer fatigue,[181] have, as a last resort, turned friars) one may bring bread, another send wine and a third give them a dole of money for the souls of their departed friends. Certes, it is true that almsdeeds and prayers purge away sins; but, if those who give alms knew on what manner folks they bestow them, they would or keep them for themselves or cast them before as many hogs. And for that these[182] know that, the fewer the possessors of a great treasure, the more they live at ease, every one of them studieth with clamours and bugbears to detach others from that whereof he would fain abide sole possessor. They decry l.u.s.t in men, in order that, they who are chidden desisting from women, the latter may be left to the chiders; they condemn usury and unjust gains, to the intent that, it being entrusted to them to make rest.i.tution thereof, they may, with that which they declare must bring to perdition him who hath it, make wide their gowns and purchase bishop.r.i.c.ks and other great benefices.

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The Decameron of Giovanni Boccaccio Part 14 summary

You're reading The Decameron of Giovanni Boccaccio. This manga has been translated by Updating. Author(s): Giovanni Boccaccio. Already has 172 views.

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