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Therewithal, Calandrino enforcing himself, answered, 'Comrades, be not angered; the case standeth otherwise than as you deem. I (unlucky wretch that I am!) had found the stone in question, and you shall hear if I tell truth. When first you questioned one another of me, I was less than half a score yards distant from you; but, seeing that you made off and saw me not, I went on before you and came back hither, still keeping a little in front of you.' Then, beginning from the beginning, he recounted to them all that they had said and done, first and last, and showed them how the stones had served his back and shins; after which, 'And I may tell you,' continued he, 'that, whenas I entered in at the gate, with all these stones about me which you see here, there was nothing said to me, albeit you know how vexatious and tiresome these gatekeepers use to be in wanting to see everything; more by token that I met by the way several of my friends and gossips, who are still wont to accost me and invite me to drink; but none of them said a word to me, no, nor half a word, as those who saw me not.
At last, being come home hither, this accursed devil of a woman presented herself before me, for that, as you know, women cause everything lose its virtue, wherefore I, who might else have called myself the luckiest man in Florence, am become the most unlucky. For this I have beaten her as long as I could wag my fists and I know not what hindereth me from slitting her weasand, accursed be the hour when first I saw her and when she came to me in this house.' Then, flaming out into fresh anger, he offered to rise and beat her anew.
[Footnote 376: _Sforzandosi_, _i.e._ recovering his wind with an effort.]
Bruno and Buffalmacco, hearing all this, made believe to marvel exceedingly and often confirmed that which Calandrino said, albeit they had the while so great a mind to laugh that they were like to burst; but, seeing him start up in a rage to beat his wife again, they rose upon him and withheld him, avouching that the lady was nowise at fault, but that he had only himself to blame for that which had happened, since he knew that women caused things to lose their virtue and had not bidden her beware of appearing before him that day, and that G.o.d had bereft him of foresight to provide against this, either for that the adventure was not to be his or because he had had it in mind to cozen his comrades, to whom he should have discovered the matter, as soon as he perceived that he had found the stone. Brief, after many words, they made peace, not without much ado, between him and the woebegone lady and went their ways, leaving him disconsolate, with the house full of stones."
THE FOURTH STORY
[Day the Eighth]
THE RECTOR OF FIESOLE LOVETH A WIDOW LADY, BUT IS NOT LOVED BY HER AND THINKING TO LIE WITH HER, LIETH WITH A SERVING-WENCH OF HERS, WHILST THE LADY'S BROTHERS CAUSE THE BISHOP FIND HIM IN THIS CASE
Elisa being come to the end of her story, which she had related to the no small pleasure of all the company, the queen turned to Emilia, and signified to her her wish that she should follow after with her story, whereupon she promptly began thus: "I have not forgotten, n.o.ble ladies, that it hath already been shown, in sundry of the foregoing stories, how much we women are exposed to the importunities of the priests and friars and clergy of every kind; but, seeing that so much cannot be said thereof but that yet more will remain to say, I purpose, to boot, to tell you a story of a rector, who, maugre all the world, would e'en have a gentlewoman wish him well, whether she would or not; whereupon she, like a very discreet woman as she was, used him as he deserved.
[Footnote 377: _i.e._ love him, grant him her favours. See ante, pa.s.sim.]
As all of you know, Fiesole, whose hill we can see hence, was once a very great and ancient city, nor, albeit it is nowadays all undone, hath it ever ceased to be, as it is yet, the seat of a bishop. Near the cathedral church there a widow lady of n.o.ble birth, by name Madam Piccarda, had an estate, where, for that she was not overwell to do, she abode the most part of the year in a house of hers that was not very big, and with her, two brothers of hers, very courteous and worthy youths. It chanced that, the lady frequenting the cathedral church and being yet very young and fair and agreeable, the rector of the church became so sore enamoured of her that he could think of nothing else, and after awhile, making bold to discover his mind to her, he prayed her accept of his love and love him as he loved her.
Now he was already old in years, but very young in wit, malapert and arrogant and presumptuous in the extreme, with manners and fashions full of conceit and ill grace, and withal so froward and ill-conditioned that there was none who wished him well; and if any had scant regard for him, it was the lady in question, who not only wished him no whit of good, but hated him worse than the megrims; wherefore, like a discreet woman as she was, she answered him, 'Sir, that you love me should be mighty pleasing to me, who am bound to love you and will gladly do so; but between your love and mine nothing unseemly should ever befall. You are my spiritual father and a priest and are presently well stricken in years, all which things should make you both modest and chaste; whilst I, on the other hand, am no girl, nor do these amorous toys beseem my present condition, for that I am a widow and you well know what discretion is required in widows; wherefore I pray you hold me excused, for that I shall never love you after the fashion whereof you require me; nor do I wish to be thus loved of you.'
The rector could get of her no other answer for that time, but, nowise daunted or disheartened by the first rebuff, solicited her again and again with the most overweening importunity, both by letter and message, nay, even by word of mouth, whenas he saw her come into the church. Wherefor, herseeming that this was too great and too grievous an annoy, she cast about to rid herself of him after such a fashion as he deserved, since she could no otherwise, but would do nought ere she had taken counsel with her brothers. Accordingly, she acquainted them with the rector's behaviour towards her and that which she purposed to do, and having therein full license from them, went a few days after to the church, as was her wont. As soon as the rector saw her, he came up to her and with his usual a.s.surance, accosted her familiarly. The lady received him with a cheerful countenance and withdrawing apart with him, after he had said many words to her in his wonted style, she heaved a great sigh and said, 'Sir, I have heard that there is no fortalice so strong but that, being every day a.s.saulted, it cometh at last to be taken, and this I can very well see to have happened to myself; for that you have so closely beset me with soft words and with one complaisance and another, that you have made me break my resolve, and I am now disposed, since I please you thus, to consent to be yours.' 'Gramercy, madam,' answered the rector, overjoyed, 'to tell you the truth, I have often wondered how you could hold out so long, considering that never did the like betide me with any woman; nay, I have said whiles, "Were women of silver, they would not be worth a farthing, for that not one of them would stand the hammer." But let that pa.s.s for the present. When and where can we be together?' Whereto quoth the lady, 'Sweet my lord, as for the when, it may be what time soever most pleaseth us, for that I have no husband to whom it behoveth me render an account of my nights; but for the where I know not how to contrive.' 'How?' cried the priest. 'Why, in your house to be sure.' 'Sir,' answered the lady, 'you know I have two young brothers, who come and go about the house with their companions day and night, and my house is not overbig; wherefore it may not be there, except one chose to abide there mute-fashion, without saying a word or making the least sound, and be in the dark, after the manner of the blind. An you be content to do this, it might be, for they meddle not with my bedchamber; but their own is so close to mine that one cannot whisper the least word, without its being heard.' 'Madam,' answered the rector, 'this shall not hinder us for a night or two, against I bethink me where we may foregather more at ease.' Quoth she, 'Sir, let that rest with you; but of one thing I pray you, that this abide secret, so no word be ever known thereof.' 'Madam,' replied he, 'have no fear for that; but, an it may be, make shift that we shall foregather this evening.' 'With all my heart,' said the lady; and appointing him how and when he should come, she took leave of him and returned home.
Now she had a serving-wench, who was not overyoung, but had the foulest and worst-favoured visnomy was ever seen; for she had a nose flattened sore, a mouth all awry, thick lips and great ill-set teeth; moreover, she inclined to squint, nor was ever without sore eyes, and had a green and yellow complexion, which gave her the air of having pa.s.sed the summer not at Fiesole, but at Sinigaglia. Besides all this, she was hipshot and a thought crooked on the right side. Her name was Ciuta, but, for that she had such a dog's visnomy of her own, she was called of every one Ciutazza; and for all she was misshapen of her person, she was not without a spice of roguishness.
The lady called her and said to her, 'Harkye, Ciutazza, an thou wilt do me a service this night. I will give thee a fine new shift.'
Ciutazza, hearing speak of the shift, answered, 'Madam, so you give me a shift, I will cast myself into the fire, let alone otherwhat.'
'Well, then,' said her mistress, 'I would have thee lie to-night with a man in my bed and load him with caresses, but take good care not to say a word, lest thou be heard by my brothers, who, as thou knowest, sleep in the next room; and after I will give thee the shift.' Quoth Ciutazza, 'With all my heart. I will lie with half a dozen men, if need be, let alone one.' Accordingly, at nightfall, my lord the rector made his appearance, according to agreement, whilst the two young men, by the lady's appointment, were in their bedchamber and took good care to make themselves heard; wherefore he entered the lady's chamber in silence and darkness and betook himself, as she had bidden him, straight to the bed, whither on her part came Ciutazza, who had been well lessoned by the lady of that which she had to do. My lord rector, thinking he had his mistress beside him, caught Ciutazza in his arms and fell to kissing her, without saying a word, and she him; whereupon he proceeded to solace himself with her, taking, as he thought, possession of the long-desired good.
[Footnote 378: _i.e._ in the malaria district.]
[Footnote 379: _i.e._ great ugly Ciuta.]
The lady, having done this, charged her brothers carry the rest of the plot into execution, wherefore, stealing softly out of the chamber, they made for the great square and fortune was more favorable to them than they themselves asked in that which they had a mind to do, inasmuch as, the heat being great, the bishop had enquired for the two young gentlemen, so he might go a-pleasuring to their house and drink with them. But, seeing them coming, he acquainted them with his wish and returned with them to their house, where, entering a cool little courtyard of theirs, in which were many flambeaux alight, he drank with great pleasure of an excellent wine of theirs. When he had drunken, the young men said to him, 'My lord, since you have done us so much favour as to deign to visit this our poor house, whereto we came to invite you, we would have you be pleased to view a small matter with which we would fain show you.' The bishop answered that he would well; whereupon one of the young men, taking a lighted flambeau in his hand, made for the chamber where my lord rector lay with Ciutazza, followed by the bishop and all the rest. The rector, to arrive the quicklier at his journey's end, had hastened to take horse and had already ridden more than three miles before they came thither; wherefore, being somewhat weary, he had, notwithstanding the heat, fallen asleep with Ciutazza in his arms. Accordingly, when the young man entered the chamber, light in hand, and after him the bishop and all the others, he was shown to the prelate in this plight; whereupon he awoke and seeing the light and the folk about him, was sore abashed and hid his head for fear under the bed-clothes. The bishop gave him a sound rating and made him put out his head and see with whom he had lain; whereupon the rector, understanding the trick that had been played him of the lady, what with this and what with the disgrace himseemed he had gotten, became of a sudden the woefullest man that was aye. Then, having, by the bishop's commandment, reclad himself, he was despatched to his house under good guard, to suffer sore penance for the sin he had committed. The bishop presently enquiring how it came to pa.s.s that he had gone thither to lie with Ciutazza, the young men orderly related everything to him, which having heard, he greatly commended both the lady and her brothers for that, without choosing to imbrue their hands in the blood of a priest, they had entreated him as he deserved. As for the rector, he caused him bewail his offence forty days' s.p.a.ce; but love and despite made him rue it for more than nine-and-forty, more by token that, for a great while after, he could never go abroad but the children would point at him and say, 'See, there is he who lay with Ciutazza'; the which was so sore an annoy to him that he was like to go mad therefor. On such wise did the worthy lady rid herself of the importunity of the malapert rector and Ciutazza gained the shift and a merry night."
[Footnote 380: _Quarantanove_, a proverbial expression for an indefinite number.]
THE FIFTH STORY
[Day the Eighth]
THREE YOUNG MEN PULL THE BREECHES OFF A MARCHEGAN JUDGE IN FLORENCE, WHAT WHILE HE IS ON THE BENCH, ADMINISTERING JUSTICE
Emilia having made an end of her story and the widow lady having been commended of all, the queen looked to Filostrato and said, "It is now thy turn to tell." He answered promptly that he was ready and began, "Delightsome ladies, the mention by Elisa a little before of a certain young man, to wit, Maso del Saggio, hath caused me leave a story I purposed to tell you, so I may relate to you one of him and certain companions of his, which, if (albeit it is nowise unseemly) it offer certain expressions which you think shame to use, is natheless so laughable that I will e'en tell it.
As you may all have heard, there come oftentimes to our city governors from the Marches of Ancona, who are commonly mean-spirited folk and so paltry and sordid of life that their every fashion seemeth nought other than a lousy cadger's trick; and of this innate paltriness and avarice, they bring with them judges and notaries, who seem men taken from the plough-tail or the cobbler's stall rather than from the schools of law. Now, one of these being come hither for Provost, among the many judges whom he brought with him was one who styled himself Messer Niccola da San Lepidio and who had more the air of a tinker than of aught else, and he was set with other judges to hear criminal causes. As it oft happeneth that, for all the townsfolk have nought in the world to do at the courts of law, yet bytimes they go thither, it befell that Maso del Saggio went thither one morning, in quest of a friend of his, and chancing to cast his eyes whereas this said Messer Niccola sat, himseemed that here was a rare outlandish kind of wild fowl. Accordingly, he went on to examine him from head to foot, and albeit he saw him with the miniver bonnet on his head all black with smoke and grease and a paltry inkhorn at his girdle, a gown longer than his mantle and store of other things all foreign to a man of good breeding and manners, yet of all these the most notable, to his thinking, was a pair of breeches, the backside whereof, as the judge sat, with his clothes standing open in front for straitness, he perceived came halfway down his legs. Thereupon, without tarrying longer to look upon him, he left him with whom he went seeking and beginning a new quest, presently found two comrades of his, called one Ribi and the other Matteuzzo, men much of the same mad humour as himself, and said to them, 'As you tender me, come with me to the law courts, for I wish to show you the rarest scarecrow you ever saw.'
Accordingly, carrying them to the court house, he showed them the aforesaid judge and his breeches, whereat they fell a-laughing, as soon as they caught sight of him afar off; then, drawing nearer to the platform whereon my lord judge sat, they saw that one might lightly pa.s.s thereunder and that, moreover, the boards under his feet were so broken that one might with great ease thrust his hand and arm between them; whereupon quoth Maso to his comrades, 'Needs must we pull him off those breeches of his altogether, for that it may very well be done.' Each of the others had already seen how; wherefore, having agreed among themselves what they should say and do, they returned thither next morning, when, the court being very full of folk, Matteuzzo, without being seen of any, crept under the bench and posted himself immediately beneath the judge's feet. Meanwhile, Maso came up to my lord judge on one side and taking him by the skirt of his gown, whilst Ribi did the like on the other side, began to say, 'My lord, my lord, I pray you for G.o.d's sake, ere yonder scurvy thief on the other side of you go elsewhere, make him restore me a pair of saddle-bags whereof he hath saith indeed he did it not; but I saw him, not a month ago, in act to have them resoled.' Ribi on his side cried out with all his might, 'Believe him not, my lord; he is an arrant knave, and for that he knoweth I am come to lay a complaint against him for a pair of saddle-bags whereof he hath robbed me, he cometh now with his story of the boothose, which I have had in my house this many a day. An you believe me not, I can bring you to witness my next-door neighbor Trecca and Gra.s.sa the tripewoman and one who goeth gathering the sweepings from Santa Masia at Verjaza, who saw him when he came back from the country.
[Footnote 381: _i.e._ how they might do this.]
Maso on the other hand suffered not Ribi to speak, but bawled his loudest, whereupon the other but shouted the more. The judge stood up and leaned towards them, so he might the better apprehend what they had to say, wherefore Matteuzzo, watching his opportunity, thrust his hand between the crack of the boards and laying hold of Messer Niccola's galligaskins by the breech, tugged at them amain. The breeches came down incontinent, for that the judge was lean and lank of the crupper; whereupon, feeling this and knowing not what it might be, he would have sat down again and pulled his skirts forward to cover himself; but Maso on the one side and Ribi on the other still held him fast and cried out, 'My lord, you do ill not to do me justice and to seek to avoid hearing me and get you gone otherwhere; there be no writs granted in this city for such small matters as this.' So saying, they held him fast by the clothes on such wise that all who were in the court perceived that his breeches had been pulled down.
However, Matteuzzo, after he had held them awhile, let them go and coming forth from under the platform, made off out of the court and went his way without being seen; whereupon quoth Ribi, himseeming he had done enough, 'I vow to G.o.d I will appeal to the syndicate!' Whilst Maso, on his part, let go the mantle and said, 'Nay, I will e'en come hither again and again until such time as I find you not hindered as you seem to be this morning.' So saying, they both made off as quickliest they might, each on his own side, whilst my lord judge pulled up his breeches in every one's presence, as if he were arisen from sleep; then, perceiving how the case stood, he enquired whither they were gone who were at difference anent the boothose and the saddle-bags; but they were not to be found, whereupon he began to swear by c.o.c.k's bowels that need must he know and learn if it were the wont at Florence to pull down the judges' breeches, whenas they sat on the judicial bench. The Provost, on his part, hearing of this, made a great stir; but, his friends having shown him that this had only been done to give him notice that the Florentines right well understood how, whereas he should have brought judges, he had brought them sorry patches, to have them better cheap, he thought it best to hold his peace, and so the thing went no farther for the nonce."
THE SIXTH STORY
[Day the Eighth]
BRUNO AND BUFFALMACCO, HAVING STOLEN A PIG FROM CALANDRINO, MAKE HIM TRY THE ORDEAL WITH GINGER BOLUSES AND SACK AND GIVE HIM (INSTEAD OF THE GINGER) TWO DOG-b.a.l.l.s COMPOUNDED WITH ALOES, WHEREBY IT APPEARETH THAT HE HIMSELF HATH HAD THE PIG AND THEY MAKE HIM PAY BLACKMAIL, AN HE WOULD NOT HAVE THEM TELL HIS WIFE
No sooner had Filostrato despatched his story, which had given rise to many a laugh, than the queen bade Filomena follow on, whereupon she began: "Gracious ladies, even as Filostrato was led by the mention of Maso to tell the story which you have just heard from him, so neither more nor less am I moved by that of Calandrino and his friends to tell you another of them, which methinketh will please you.
Who Calandrino, Bruno and Buffalmacco were I need not explain to you, for that you have already heard it well enough; wherefore, to proceed with my story, I must tell you that Calandrino owned a little farm at no great distance from Florence, that he had had to his wife's dowry.
From this farm, amongst other things that he got thence, he had every year a pig, and it was his wont still to betake himself thither, he and his wife, and kill the pig and have it salted on the spot. It chanced one year that, his wife being somewhat ailing, he went himself to kill the pig, which Bruno and Buffalmacco hearing and knowing that his wife was not gone to the farm with him, they repaired to a priest, very great friend of theirs and a neighbor of Calandrino, to sojourn some days with him. Now Calandrino had that very morning killed the pig and seeing them with the priest, called to them saying, 'You are welcome. I would fain have you see what a good husband I am.'
Then carrying them into the house, he showed them the pig, which they seeing to be a very fine one and understanding from Calandrino that he meant to salt it down for his family, 'Good lack,' quoth Bruno to him, 'what a ninny thou art! Sell it and let us make merry with the price, and tell thy wife that it hath been stolen from thee.' 'Nay, answered Calandrino, 'she would never believe it and would drive me out of the house. Spare your pains, for I will never do it.' And many were the words, but they availed nothing.
[Footnote 382: _i.e._ in the old sense of "manager" (_ma.s.sajo_).]
Calandrino invited them to supper, but with so ill a grace that they refused to sup there and took their leave of him; whereupon quoth Bruno and Buffalmacco, 'What sayest thou to stealing yonder pig from him to-night?' 'Marry,' replied the other, 'how can we do it?' Quoth Bruno, 'I can see how well enough, an he remove it not from where it was but now.' 'Then,' rejoined his companion, 'let us do it. Why should we not? And after we will make merry over it with the parson here.' The priest answered that he would well, and Bruno said, 'Here must some little art be used. Thou knowest, Buffalmacco, how n.i.g.g.ardly Calandrino is and how gladly he drinketh when others pay; let us go and carry him to the tavern, where the priest shall make believe to pay the whole scot in our honor nor suffer him to pay aught. Calandrino will soon grow fuddled and then we can manage it lightly enough, for that he is alone in the house.' As he said, so they did and Calandrino seeing that the priest suffered none to pay, gave himself up to drinking and took in a good load, albeit it needed no great matter to make him drunk. It was pretty late at night when they left the tavern and Calandrino, without troubling himself about supper, went straight home, where, thinking to have shut the door, he left it open and betook himself to bed. Buffalmacco and Bruno went off to sup with the priest and after supper repaired quietly to Calandrino's house, carrying with them certain implements wherewithal to break in whereas Bruno had appointed it; but, finding the door open, they entered and unhooking the pig, carried it off to the priest's house, where they laid it up and betook themselves to sleep.
On the morrow, Calandrino, having slept off the fumes of the wine, arose in the morning and going down, missed his pig and saw the door open; whereupon he questioned this one and that if they knew who had taken it and getting no news of it, began to make a great outcry, saying, 'Woe is me, miserable wretch that I am!' for that the pig had been stolen from him. As soon as Bruno and Buffalmacco were risen, they repaired to Calandrino's house, to hear what he would say anent the pig, and he no sooner saw them than he called out to them, well nigh weeping, and said, 'Woe's me, comrades mine; my pig hath been stolen from me!' Whereupon Bruno came up to him and said softly, 'It is a marvel that thou hast been wise for once.' 'Alack,' replied Calandrino, 'indeed I say sooth.' 'That's the thing to say,' quoth Bruno. 'Make a great outcry, so it may well appear that it is e'en as thou sayst.' Therewithal Calandrino bawled out yet loudlier, saying, 'c.o.c.k's body, I tell thee it hath been stolen from me in good earnest!' 'Good, good,' replied Bruno; 'that's the way to speak; cry out l.u.s.tily, make thyself well heard, so it may seem true.' Quoth Calandrino, 'Thou wouldst make me give my soul to the Fiend! I tell thee and thou believest me not. May I be strung up by the neck an it have not been stolen from me!' 'Good lack!' cried Bruno. 'How can that be? I saw it here but yesterday. Thinkest thou to make me believe that it hath flown away?' Quoth Calandrino, 'It is as I tell thee.' 'Good lack,' repeated Bruno, 'can it be?' 'Certes,' replied Calandrino, 'it is so, more by token that I am undone and know not how I shall return home. My wife will never believe me; or even if she do, I shall have no peace with her this year to come.' Quoth Bruno, 'So G.o.d save me, this is ill done, if it be true; but thou knowest, Calandrino, I lessoned thee yesterday to say thus and I would not have thee at once cozen thy wife and us.' Therewithal Calandrino fell to crying out and saying, 'Alack, why will you drive me to desperation and make me blaspheme G.o.d and the Saints? I tell you the pig was stolen from me yesternight.'
Then said Buffalmacco, 'If it be so indeed, we must cast about for a means of having it again, an we may contrive it.' 'But what means,'
asked Calandrino, 'can we find?' Quoth Buffalmacco, 'We may be sure that there hath come none from the Indies to rob thee of thy pig; the thief must have been some one of thy neighbors. An thou canst make shift to a.s.semble them, I know how to work the ordeal by bread and cheese and we will presently see for certain who hath had it.' 'Ay,'
put in Bruno, 'thou wouldst make a fine thing of bread and cheese with such gentry as we have about here, for one of them I am certain hath had the pig, and he would smoke the trap and would not come.' 'How, then, shall we do?' asked Buffalmacco, and Bruno said, 'We must e'en do it with ginger boluses and good vernage and invite them to drink. They will suspect nothing and come, and the ginger boluses can be blessed even as the bread and cheese.' Quoth Buffalmacco, 'Indeed, thou sayst sooth. What sayst thou, Calandrino? Shall's do 't?' 'Nay,'
replied the gull, 'I pray you thereof for the love of G.o.d; for, did I but know who hath had it, I should hold myself half consoled.' 'Marry, then,' said Bruno, 'I am ready to go to Florence, to oblige thee, for the things aforesaid, so thou wilt give me the money.' Now Calandrino had maybe forty shillings, which he gave him, and Bruno accordingly repaired to Florence to a friend of his, a druggist, of whom he bought a pound of fine ginger boluses and caused compound a couple of dogb.a.l.l.s with fresh confect of hepatic aloes; after which he let cover these latter with sugar, like the others, and set thereon a privy mark by which he might very well know them, so he should not mistake them nor change them. Then, buying a flask of good vernage, he returned to Calandrino in the country and said to him, 'Do thou to-morrow morning invite those whom thou suspectest to drink with thee; it is a holiday and all will willingly come. Meanwhile, Buffalmacco and I will to-night make the conjuration over the pills and bring them to thee to-morrow morning at home; and for the love of thee I will administer them myself and do and say that which is to be said and done.'
[Footnote 383: _i.e._ white wine, see p. 372, note.]
Calandrino did as he said and a.s.sembled on the following morning a goodly company of such young Florentines as were presently about the village and of husbandmen; whereupon Bruno and Buffalmacco came with a box of pills and the flask of wine and made the folk stand in a ring.
Then said Bruno, 'Gentlemen, needs must I tell you the reason wherefore you are here, so that, if aught betide that please you not, you may have no cause to complain of me. Calandrino here was robbed yesternight of a fine pig, nor can he find who hath had it; and for that none other than some one of us who are here can have stolen it from him, he proffereth each of you, that he may discover who hath had it, one of these pills to eat and a draught of wine. Now you must know that he who hath had the pig will not be able to swallow the pill; nay, it will seem to him more bitter than poison and he will spit it out; wherefore, rather than that shame be done him in the presence of so many, he were better tell it to the parson by way of confession and I will proceed no farther with this matter.'
All who were there declared that they would willingly eat of the pills, whereupon Bruno ranged them in order and set Calandrino among them; then, beginning at one end of the line, he proceeded to give each his bolus, and whenas he came over against Calandrino, he took one of the dogb.a.l.l.s and put it into his hand. Calandrino clapped it incontinent into his mouth and began to chew it; but no sooner did his tongue taste the aloes, than he spat it out again, being unable to brook the bitterness. Meanwhile, each was looking other in the face, to see who should spit out his bolus, and whilst Bruno, not having made an end of serving them out, went on to do so, feigning to pay no heed to Calandrino's doing, he heard say behind him, 'How now, Calandrino? What meaneth this?' Whereupon he turned suddenly round and seeing that Calandrino had spat out his bolus, said, 'Stay, maybe somewhat else hath caused him spit it out. Take another of them.'
Then, taking the other dogball, he thrust it into Calandrino's mouth and went on to finish giving out the rest. If the first ball seemed bitter to Calandrino, the second was bitterer yet; but, being ashamed to spit it out, he kept it awhile in his mouth, chewing it and shedding tears that seemed hazel-nuts so big they were, till at last, unable to hold out longer, he cast it forth, like as he had the first.
Meanwhile Buffalmacco and Bruno gave the company to drink, and all, seeing this, declared that Calandrino had certainly stolen the pig from himself; nay, there were those there who rated him roundly.
After they were all gone, and the two rogues left alone with Calandrino, Buffalmacco said to him, 'I still had it for certain that it was thou tookst the pig thyself and wouldst fain make us believe that it had been stolen from thee, to escape giving us one poor while to drink of the monies thou hadst for it.' Calandrino, who was not yet quit of the bitter taste of the aloes, began to swear that he had not had it, and Buffalmacco said, 'But in good earnest, comrade, what gottest thou for it? Was it six florins?' Calandrino, hearing this, began to wax desperate, and Bruno said, 'Harkye, Calandrino, there was such an one in the company that ate and drank with us, who told me that thou hast a wench over yonder, whom thou keepest for thy pleasure and to whom thou givest whatsoever thou canst sc.r.a.pe together, and that he held it for certain that thou hadst sent her the pig. Thou hast learned of late to play pranks of this kind; thou carriedst us off t'other day down the Mugnone, picking up black stones, and whenas thou hadst gotten us aboard ship without biscuit, thou madest off and wouldst after have us believe that thou hadst found the magic stone; and now on like wise thou thinkest, by dint of oaths, to make us believe that the pig, which thou hast given away or more like sold, hath been stolen from thee. But we are used to thy tricks and know them; thou shalt not avail to play us any more of them, and to be plain with thee, since we have been at pains to make the conjuration, we mean that thou shalt give us two pairs of capons; else will we tell Mistress Tessa everything.' Calandrino, seeing that he was not believed and himseeming he had had vexation enough, without having his wife's scolding into the bargain, gave them two pairs of capons, which they carried off to Florence, after they had salted the pig, leaving Calandrino to digest the loss and the flouting as best he might."
[Footnote 384: _i.e._ embarked on a bootless quest.]