Here Beginneth the Tenth and Last Day of the Decameron Wherein Under the Governance of Pamfilo Is Discoursed of Whoso Hath Anywise Wrought Generously or Magnificently in Matters of Love or Otherwhat
Certain cloudlets in the West were yet vermeil, what time those of the East were already at their marges grown lucent like unto very gold, when Pamfilo, arising, let call his comrades and the ladies, who being all come, he took counsel with them of whither they should go for their diversion and fared forth with slow step, accompanied by Filomena and Fiammetta, whilst all the others followed after. On this wise, devising and telling and answering many things of their future life together, they went a great while a-pleasuring; then, having made a pretty long circuit and the sun beginning to wax overhot, they returned to the palace. There they let rinse the beakers in the clear fountain and whoso would drank somewhat; after which they went frolicking among the pleasant shades of the garden until the eating-hour. Then, having eaten and slept, as of their wont, they assembled whereas it pleased the king and there he called upon Neifile for the first discourse, who blithely began thus:
THE FIRST STORY
Day the Tenth
A KNIGHT IN THE KING'S SERVICE OF SPAIN THINKING HIMSELF ILL GUERDONED, THE KING BY VERY CERTAIN PROOF SHOWETH HIM THAT THIS IS NOT HIS FAULT, BUT THAT OF HIS OWN PERVERSE FORTUNE, AND AFTER LARGESSETH HIM MAGNIFICENTLY
"Needs, honourable ladies, must I repute it a singular favour to myself that our king hath preferred me unto such an honour as it is to be the first to tell of magnificence, the which, even as the sun is the glory and adornment of all the heaven, is the light and lustre of every other virtue. I will, therefore, tell you a little story thereof, quaint and pleasant enough to my thinking, which to recall can certes be none other than useful.
You must know, then, that, among the other gallant gentlemen who have from time immemorial graced our city, there was one (and maybe the most of worth) by name Messer Ruggieri de' Figiovanni, who, being both rich and high-spirited and seeing that, in view of the way of living and of the usages of Tuscany, he might, if he tarried there, avail to display little or nothing of his merit, resolved to seek service awhile with Alfonso, King of Spain, the renown of whose valiance transcended that of every other prince of his463 time; wherefore he betook himself, very honourably furnished with arms and horses and followers, to Alfonso in Spain and was by him graciously received. Accordingly, he took up his abode there and living splendidly and doing marvellous deeds of arms, he very soon made himself known for a man of worth and valour.
When he had sojourned there a pretty while and had taken particular note of the king's fashions, himseemed he bestowed castles and cities and baronies now upon one and now upon another with little enough discretion, as giving them to those who were unworthy thereof, and for that to him, who held himself for that which he was, nothing was given, he conceived that his repute would be much abated by reason thereof; wherefore he determined to depart and craved leave of the king. The latter granted him the leave he sought and gave him one of the best and finest mules that ever was ridden, the which, for the long journey he had to make, was very acceptable to Messer Ruggieri. Moreover, he charged a discreet servant of his that he should study, by such means as seemed to him best, to ride with Messer Ruggieri on such wise that he should not appear to have been sent by the king, and note everything he should say of him, so as he might avail to repeat it to him, and that on the ensuing morning he should command him return to the court. Accordingly, the servant, lying in wait for Messer Ruggieri's departure, accosted him, as he came forth the city, and very aptly joined company with him, giving him to understand that he also was bound for Italy. Messer Ruggieri, then, fared on, riding the mule given him by the king and devising of one thing and another with the latter's servant, till hard upon tierce, when he said, 'Methinketh it were well done to let our beasts stale.' Accordingly, they put them up in a stable and they all staled, except the mule; then they rode on again, whilst the squire still took note of the gentleman's words, and came presently to a river, where, as they watered their cattle, the mule staled in the stream; which Messer Ruggieri seeing, 'Marry,' quoth he, 'God confound thee, beast, for that thou art made after the same fashion as the prince who gave thee to me!' The squire noted these words and albeit he took store of many others, as he journeyed with him all that day, he heard him say nought else but what was to the highest praise of the king.
Next morning, they being mounted and Ruggieri offering to ride towards Tuscany, the squire imparted to him the king's commandment, whereupon he incontinent turned back. When he arrived at court, the king, learning what he had said of the mule, let call him to himself and receiving him with a cheerful favour, asked him why he had likened him to his mule, or rather why he had likened the mule to him. 'My lord,' replied Ruggieri frankly, 'I likened her to you for that, like as you give whereas it behoveth not and give not whereas it behoveth, even so she staled not whereas it behoved, but staled whereas it behoved not.' Then said the king, 'Messer Ruggieri, if I have not given to you, as I have given unto many who are of no account in comparison with you, it happened not because I knew you not for a most valiant cavalier and worthy of every great gift;464 nay, but it is your fortune, which hath not suffered me guerdon you according to your deserts, that hath sinned in this, and not I; and that I may say sooth I will manifestly prove to you.' 'My lord,' replied Ruggieri, 'I was not chagrined because I have gotten no largesse of you, for that I desire not to be richer than I am, but because you have on no wise borne witness to my merit. Natheless, I hold your excuse for good and honourable and am ready to see that which it shall please you show me, albeit I believe you without proof.' The king then carried him into a great hall of his, where, as he had ordered it beforehand, were two great locked coffers, and said to him, in presence of many, 'Messer Ruggieri, in one of these coffers is my crown, the royal sceptre and the orb, together with many goodly girdles and ouches and rings of mine, and in fine every precious jewel I have; and the other is full of earth. Take, then, one and be that which you shall take yours; and you may thus see whether of the twain hath been ungrateful to your worth, myself of your ill fortune.'
Messer Ruggieri, seeing that it was the king's pleasure, took one of the coffers, which, being opened by Alfonso's commandment, was found to be that which was full of earth; whereupon quoth the king, laughing, 'Now can you see, Messer Ruggieri, that this that I tell you of your fortune is true; but certes your worth meriteth that I should oppose myself to her might. I know you have no mind to turn Spaniard and therefore I will bestow upon you neither castle nor city in these parts; but this coffer, of which fortune deprived you, I will in her despite shall be yours, so you may carry it off to your own country and justly glorify yourself of your worth in the sight of your countrymen by the witness of my gifts.' Messer Ruggieri accordingly took the coffer and having rendered the king those thanks which sorted with such a gift, joyfully returned therewith to Tuscany."
THE SECOND STORY
Day the Tenth
GHINO DI TACCO TAKETH THE ABBOT OF CLUNY AND HAVING CURED HIM OF THE STOMACH-COMPLAINT, LETTETH HIM GO; WHEREUPON THE ABBOT, RETURNING TO THE COURT OF ROME, RECONCILETH HIM WITH POPE BONIFACE AND MAKETH HIM A PRIOR OF THE HOSPITALLERS
The magnificence shown by King Alfonso to the Florentine cavalier having been duly commended, the king, who had been mightily pleased therewith, enjoined Elisa to follow on, and she straightway began thus: "Dainty dames, it cannot be denied that for a king to be munificent and to have shown his munificence to him who had served him is a great and a praiseworthy thing; but what shall we say if a churchman be related to have practised marvellous magnanimity towards one, whom if he had used as an enemy, he had of none been blamed therefor? Certes, we can say none otherwise than that the king's465 magnificence was a virtue, whilst that of the churchman was a miracle, inasmuch as the clergy are all exceeding niggardly, nay, far more so than women, and sworn enemies of all manner of liberality; and albeit all men naturally hunger after vengeance for affronts received, we see churchmen, for all they preach patience and especially commend the remission of offences, pursue it more eagerly than other folk. This, then, to wit, how a churchman was magnanimous, you may manifestly learn from the following story of mine.
Ghino di Tacco, a man very famous for his cruelty and his robberies, being expelled Siena and at feud with the Counts of Santa Fiore, raised Radicofani against the Church of Rome and taking up his sojourn there, caused his swashbucklers despoil whosoever passed through the surrounding country. Now, Boniface the Eighth being pope in Rome, there came to court the Abbot of Cluny, who is believed to be one of the richest prelates in the world, and having there marred his stomach, he was advised by the physicians to repair to the baths of Siena and he would without fail be cured. Accordingly, having gotten the pope's leave, he set out on his way thither in great pomp of gear and baggage and horses and servitors, unrecking of Ghino's [ill] report. The latter, hearing of his coming, spread his nets and hemmed him and all his household and gear about in a strait place, without letting a single footboy escape. This done, he despatched to the abbot one, the most sufficient, of his men, well accompanied, who in his name very lovingly prayed him be pleased to light down and sojourn with the aforesaid Ghino in his castle. The abbot, hearing this, answered furiously that he would nowise do it, having nought to do with Ghino, but that he would fare on and would fain see who should forbid his passage. Whereto quoth the messenger on humble wise, 'Sir, you are come into parts where, barring God His might, there is nothing to fear for us and where excommunications and interdicts are all excommunicated; wherefore, may it please you, you were best comply with Ghino in this.'
During this parley, the whole place had been encompassed about with men-at-arms; wherefore the abbot, seeing himself taken with his men, betook himself, sore against his will, to the castle, in company with the ambassador, and with him all his household and gear, and alighting there, was, by Ghino's orders, lodged all alone in a very dark and mean little chamber in one of the pavilions, whilst every one else was well enough accommodated, according to his quality, about the castle and the horses and all the gear put in safety, without aught thereof being touched. This done, Ghino betook himself to the abbot and said to him, 'Sir, Ghino, whose guest you are, sendeth to you, praying you acquaint him whither you are bound and on what occasion.' The abbot, like a wise man, had by this laid by his pride and told him whither he went and why. Ghino, hearing this, took his leave and bethought himself to go about to cure him without baths. Accordingly, he let keep a great fire still burning in the little room and causing guard the place well, returned not to the abbot till the following morning, when he brought him, in a very white napkin, two slices of toasted bread and466 a great beaker of his own Corniglia vernage and bespoke him thus, 'Sir, when Ghino was young, he studied medicine and saith that he learned there was no better remedy for the stomach-complaint than that which he purposeth to apply to you and of which these things that I bring you are the beginning; wherefore do you take them and refresh yourself.'
The abbot, whose hunger was greater than his desire to bandy words, ate the bread and drank the wine, though he did it with an ill will, and after made many haughty speeches, asking and counselling of many things and demanding in particular to see Ghino. The latter, hearing this talk, let part of it pass as idle and answered the rest very courteously, avouching that Ghino would visit him as quickliest he might. This said, he took his leave of him and returned not until the ensuing day, when he brought him as much toasted bread and as much malmsey; and so he kept him several days, till such time as he perceived that he had eaten some dried beans, which he had of intent aforethought brought secretly thither and left there; whereupon he asked him, on Ghino's part, how he found himself about the stomach. The abbot answered, 'Meseemeth I should fare well, were I but out of his hands; and after that, I have no greater desire than to eat, so well have his remedies cured me.' Thereupon Ghino caused the abbot's own people array him a goodly chamber with his own gear and let make ready a magnificent banquet, to which he bade the prelate's whole household, together with many folk of the burgh. Next morning, he betook himself to the abbot and said to him, 'Sir, since you feel yourself well, it is time to leave the infirmary.' Then, taking him by the hand, he brought him to the chamber prepared for him and leaving him there in company of his own people, occupied himself with caring that the banquet should be a magnificent one.
The abbot solaced himself awhile with his men and told them what his life had been since his capture, whilst they, on the other hand, avouched themselves all to have been wonder-well entreated of Ghino. The eating-hour come, the abbot and the rest were well and orderly served with goodly viands and fine wines, without Ghino yet letting himself be known of the prelate; but, after the latter had abidden some days on this wise, the outlaw, having let bring all his gear into one saloon and all his horses, down to the sorriest rouncey, into a courtyard that was under the windows thereof, betook himself to him and asked him how he did and if he deemed himself strong enough to take horse. The abbot answered that he was strong enough and quite recovered of his stomach-complaint and that he should fare perfectly well, once he should be out of Ghino's hands. Ghino then brought him into the saloon, wherein was his gear and all his train, and carrying him to a window, whence he might see all his horses, said, 'My lord abbot, you must know that it was the being a gentleman and expelled from his house and poor and having many and puissant enemies, and not evilness of mind, that brought Ghino di Tacco (who is none other than myself) to be, for the defence of his life and his nobility, a highway-robber and an enemy467 of the court of Rome. Nevertheless, for that you seem to me a worthy gentleman, I purpose not, now that I have cured you of your stomach-complaint, to use you as I would another, from whom, he being in my hands as you are, I would take for myself such part of his goods as seemed well to me; nay, it is my intent that you, having regard to my need, shall appoint to me such part of your good as you yourself will. It is all here before you in its entirety and your horses you may from this window see in the courtyard; take, therefore, both part and all, as it pleaseth you, and from this time forth be it at your pleasure to go or to stay.'
The abbot marvelled to hear such generous words from a highway-robber and was exceeding well pleased therewith, insomuch that, his anger and despite being of a sudden fallen, nay, changed into goodwill, he became Ghino's hearty friend and ran to embrace him, saying, 'I vow to God that, to gain the friendship of a man such as I presently judge thee to be, I would gladly consent to suffer a far greater affront than that which meseemed but now thou hadst done me. Accursed be fortune that constrained thee to so damnable a trade!' Then, letting take of his many goods but a very few necessary things, and the like of his horses, he left all the rest to Ghino and returned to Rome. The pope had had news of the taking of the abbot and albeit it had given him sore concern, he asked him, when he saw him, how the baths had profited him; whereto he replied, smiling, 'Holy Father, I found a worthy physician nearer than at the baths, who hath excellently well cured me'; and told him how, whereat the pope laughed, and the abbot, following on his speech and moved by a magnanimous spirit, craved a boon of him. The pope, thinking he would demand otherwhat, freely offered to do that which he should ask; and the abbot said, 'Holy Father, that which I mean to ask of you is that you restore your favour to Ghino di Tacco, my physician, for that, of all the men of worth and high account whom I ever knew, he is certes one of the most deserving; and for this ill that he doth, I hold it much more fortune's fault than his; the which if you change by bestowing on him somewhat whereby he may live according to his condition, I doubt not anywise but you will, in brief space of time, deem of him even as I do.' The pope, who was great of soul and a lover of men of worth, hearing this, replied that he would gladly do it, an Ghino were indeed of such account as the abbot avouched, and bade the latter cause him come thither in all security. Accordingly, Ghino, at the abbot's instance, came to court, upon that assurance, nor had he been long about the pope's person ere the latter reputed him a man of worth and taking him into favour, bestowed on him a grand priory of those of the Hospitallers, having first let make him a knight of that order; which office he held whilst he lived, still approving himself a loyal friend and servant of Holy Church and of the Abbot of Cluny."
THE THIRD STORY
Day the Tenth
MITHRIDANES, ENVYING NATHAN HIS HOSPITALITY AND GENEROSITY AND GOING TO KILL HIM, FALLETH IN WITH HIMSELF, WITHOUT KNOWING HIM, AND IS BY HIM INSTRUCTED OF THE COURSE HE SHALL TAKE TO ACCOMPLISH HIS PURPOSE; BY MEANS WHEREOF HE FINDETH HIM, AS HE HIMSELF HAD ORDERED IT, IN A COPPICE AND RECOGNIZING HIM, IS ASHAMED AND BECOMETH HIS FRIEND
Themseemed all they had heard what was like unto a miracle, to wit, that a churchman should have wrought anywhat magnificently; but, as soon as the ladies had left discoursing thereof, the king bade Filostrato proceed, who forthright began, "Noble ladies, great was the magnificence of the King of Spain and that of the Abbot of Cluny a thing belike never yet heard of; but maybe it will seem to you no less marvellous a thing to hear how a man, that he might do generosity to another who thirsted for his blood, nay, for the very breath of his nostrils, privily bethought himself to give them to him, ay, and would have done it, had the other willed to take them, even as I purpose to show you in a little story of mine.
It is a very certain thing (if credit may be given to the report of divers Genoese and others who have been in those countries) that there was aforetime in the parts of Cattajo a man of noble lineage and rich beyond compare, called Nathan, who, having an estate adjoining a highway whereby as of necessity passed all who sought to go from the Ponant to the Levant or from the Levant to the Ponant, and being a man of great and generous soul and desirous that it should be known by his works, assembled a great multitude of artificers and let build there, in a little space of time, one of the fairest and greatest and richest palaces that had ever been seen, the which he caused excellently well furnished with all that was apt unto the reception and entertainment of gentlemen. Then, having a great and goodly household, he there received and honourably entertained, with joyance and good cheer, whosoever came and went; and in this praiseworthy usance he persevered insomuch that not only the Levant, but well nigh all the Ponant, knew him by report. He was already full of years nor was therefore grown weary of the practice of hospitality, when it chanced that his fame reached the ears of a young man of a country not far from his own, by name Mithridanes, who, knowing himself no less rich than Nathan and waxing envious of his renown and his virtues, bethought himself to eclipse469 or shadow them with greater liberality. Accordingly, letting build a palace like unto that of Nathan, he proceeded to do the most unbounded courtesies that ever any did whosoever came or went about those parts, and in a short time he became without doubt very famous.
It chanced one day that, as he abode all alone in the midcourt of his palace, there came in, by one of the gates, a poor woman, who sought of him an alms and had it; then, coming in again to him by the second, she had of him another alms, and so on for twelve times in succession; but, whenas she returned for the thirteenth time, he said to her, 'Good woman, thou art very diligent in this thine asking,' and natheless gave her an alms. The old crone, hearing these words, exclaimed, 'O liberality of Nathan, how marvellous art thou! For that, entering in by each of the two-and-thirty gates which his palace hath, and asking of him an alms, never, for all that he showed, was I recognized of him, and still I had it; whilst here, having as yet come in but at thirteen gates, I have been both recognized and chidden.' So saying, she went her ways and returned thither no more. Mithridanes, hearing the old woman's words, flamed up into a furious rage, as he who held that which he heard of Nathan's fame a diminishment of his own, and fell to saying, 'Alack, woe is me! When shall I attain to Nathan's liberality in great things, let alone overpass it, as I seek to do, seeing that I cannot approach him in the smallest? Verily, I weary myself in vain, an I remove him not from the earth; wherefore, since eld carrieth him not off, needs must I with mine own hands do it without delay.'
Accordingly, rising upon that motion, he took horse with a small company, without communicating his design to any, and came after three days whereas Nathan abode. He arrived there at eventide and bidding his followers make a show of not being with him and provide themselves with lodging, against they should hear farther from him, abode alone at no great distance from the fair palace, where he found Nathan all unattended, as he went walking for his diversion, without any pomp of apparel, and knowing him not, asked him if he could inform him where Nathan dwelt. 'My son,' answered the latter cheerfully, 'there is none in these parts who is better able than I to show thee that; wherefore, whenas it pleaseth thee, I will carry thee thither.' Mithridanes rejoined that this would be very acceptable to him, but that, an it might be, he would fain be neither seen nor known of Nathan; and the latter said, 'That also will I do, since it pleaseth thee.' Mithridanes accordingly dismounted and repaired to the goodly palace, in company with Nathan, who quickly engaged him in most pleasant discourse. There he caused one of his servants take the young man's horse and putting his mouth to his ear, charged him take order with all those of the house, so none should tell the youth that he was Nathan; and so was it done. Moreover, he lodged him in a very goodly chamber, where none saw him, save those whom he had deputed to this service, and let entertain him with the utmost honour, himself bearing him company.
After Mithridanes had abidden with470 him awhile on this wise, he asked him (albeit he held him in reverence as a father) who he was; to which Nathan answered, 'I am an unworthy servant of Nathan, who have grown old with him from my childhood, nor hath he ever advanced me to otherwhat than that which thou seest me; wherefore, albeit every one else is mighty well pleased with him, I for my part have little cause to thank him.' These words afforded Mithridanes some hope of availing with more certitude and more safety to give effect to his perverse design, and Nathan very courteously asking him who he was and what occasion brought him into those parts and proffering him his advice and assistance insomuch as lay in his power, he hesitated awhile to reply, but, presently, resolving to trust himself to him, he with a long circuit of words required him first of secrecy and after of aid and counsel and entirely discovered to him who he was and wherefore and on what motion he came. Nathan, hearing his discourse and his cruel design, was inwardly all disordered; but nevertheless, without much hesitation, he answered him with an undaunted mind and a firm countenance, saying, 'Mithridanes, thy father was a noble man and thou showest thyself minded not to degenerate from him, in having entered upon so high an emprise as this thou hast undertaken, to wit, to be liberal unto all; and greatly do I commend the jealousy thou bearest unto Nathan's virtues, for that, were there many such, the world, that is most wretched, would soon become good. The design that thou hast discovered to me I will without fail keep secret; but for the accomplishment thereof I can rather give thee useful counsel than great help; the which is this. Thou mayst from here see a coppice, maybe half a mile hence, wherein Nathan well nigh every morning walketh all alone, taking his pleasure there a pretty long while; and there it will be a light matter to thee to find him and do thy will of him. If thou slay him, thou must, so thou mayst return home without hindrance, get thee gone, not by that way thou camest, but by that which thou wilt see issue forth of the coppice on the left hand, for that, albeit it is somewhat wilder, it is nearer to thy country and safer for thee.'
Mithridanes, having received this information and Nathan having taken leave of him, privily let his companions, who had, like himself, taken up their sojourn in the palace, know where they should look for him on the morrow; and the new day came, Nathan, whose intent was nowise at variance with the counsel he had given Mithridanes nor was anywise changed, betook himself alone to the coppice, there to die. Meanwhile, Mithridanes arose and taking his bow and his sword, for other arms he had not, mounted to horse and made for the coppice, where he saw Nathan from afar go walking all alone. Being resolved, ere he attacked him, to seek to see him and hear him speak, he ran towards him and seizing him by the fillet he had about his head, said, 'Old man, thou art dead.' Whereto Nathan answered no otherwhat than, 'Then have I merited it.' Mithridanes, hearing his voice and looking him in the face, knew him forthright for him who had so lovingly received him and471 familiarly companied with him and faithfully counselled him; whereupon his fury incontinent subsided and his rage was changed into shame. Accordingly, casting away the sword, which he had already pulled out to smite him, and lighting down from his horse, he ran, weeping, to throw himself at Nathan's feet and said to him, 'Now, dearest father, do I manifestly recognize your liberality, considering with what secrecy you are come hither to give me your life, whereof, without any reason, I showed myself desirous, and that to yourself; but God, more careful of mine honour than I myself, hath, in the extremest hour of need, opened the eyes of my understanding, which vile envy had closed. Wherefore, the readier you have been to comply with me, so much the more do I confess myself beholden to do penance for my default. Take, then, of me the vengeance which you deem conformable to my sin.'
Nathan raised Mithridanes to his feet and tenderly embraced and kissed him, saying, 'My son, it needeth not that thou shouldst ask nor that I should grant forgiveness of thine emprise, whatever thou choosest to style it, whether wicked or otherwise; for that thou pursuedst it, not of hatred, but to win to be held better. Live, then, secure from me and be assured that there is no man alive who loveth thee as I do, having regard to the loftiness of thy soul, which hath given itself, not to the amassing of monies, as do the covetous, but to the expenditure of those that have been amassed. Neither be thou ashamed of having sought to slay me, so though mightest become famous, nor think that I marvel thereat. The greatest emperors and the most illustrious kings have, with well nigh none other art than that of slaying, not one man, as thou wouldst have done, but an infinite multitude of men, and burning countries and razing cities, enlarged their realms and consequently their fame; wherefore, an thou wouldst, to make thyself more famous, have slain me only, thou diddest no new nor extraordinary thing, but one much used.'
Mithridanes, without holding himself excused of his perverse design, commended the honourable excuse found by Nathan and came, in course of converse with him, to say that he marvelled beyond measure how he could have brought himself to meet his death and have gone so far as even to give him means and counsel to that end; whereto quoth Nathan, 'Mithridanes, I would not have thee marvel at my resolution nor at the counsel I gave thee, for that, since I have been mine own master and have addressed myself to do that same thing which thou hast undertaken to do, there came never any to my house but I contented him, so far as in me lay, of that which was required of me by him. Thou camest hither, desirous of my life; wherefore, learning that thou soughtest it, I straightway determined to give it thee, so thou mightest not be the only one to depart hence without his wish; and in order that thou mightest have thy desire, I gave thee such counsel as I thought apt to enable thee to have my life and not lose thine own; and therefore I tell thee once more and pray thee, an it please thee, take it and satisfy thyself thereof. I know not how I may better bestow it. These fourscore years have I occupied it and used it about my pleasures and my diversions, and I know that in the472 course of nature, according as it fareth with other men and with things in general, it can now be left me but a little while longer; wherefore I hold it far better to bestow it by way of gift, like as I have still given and expended my [other] treasures, than to seek to keep it until such times as it shall be taken from me by nature against my will. To give an hundred years is no great boon; how much less, then, is it to give the six or eight I have yet to abide here? Take it, then, an it like thee. Prithee, then, take it, an thou have a mind thereto; for that never yet, what while I have lived here, have I found any who hath desired it, nor know I when I may find any such, an thou, who demandest it, take it not. And even should I chance to find any one, I know that, the longer I keep it, the less worth will it be; therefore, ere it wax sorrier, take it, I beseech thee.'
Mithridanes was sore abashed and replied, 'God forbid I should, let alone take and sever from you a thing of such price as your life, but even desire to do so, as but late I did,—your life, whose years far from seeking to lessen, I would willingly add thereto of mine own!' Whereto Nathan straightway rejoined, 'And art thou indeed willing, it being in thy power to do it, to add of thy years unto mine and in so doing, to cause me do for thee that which I never yet did for any man, to wit, take of thy good, I who never yet took aught of others?' 'Ay am I,' answered Mithridanes in haste. 'Then,' said Nathan, 'thou must do as I shall bid thee. Thou shalt take up thine abode, young as thou art, here in my house and bear the name of Nathan, whilst I will betake myself to thy house and let still call myself Mithridanes.' Quoth Mithridanes, 'An I knew how to do as well as you have done and do, I would, without hesitation, take that which you proffer me; but, since meseemeth very certain that my actions would be a diminishment of Nathan's fame and as I purpose not to mar in another that which I know not how to order in myself, I will not take it.' These and many other courteous discourses having passed between them, they returned, at Nathan's instance, to the latter's palace, where he entertained Mithridanes with the utmost honour sundry days, heartening him in his great and noble purpose with all manner of wit and wisdom. Then, Mithridanes desiring to return to his own house with his company, he dismissed him, having throughly given him to know that he might never avail to outdo him in liberality."
THE FOURTH STORY
Day the Tenth
MESSER GENTILE DE' CARISENDI, COMING FROM MODONA, TAKETH FORTH OF THE SEPULCHRE A LADY WHOM HE LOVETH AND WHO HATH BEEN BURIED FOR DEAD. THE LADY, RESTORED TO LIFE, BEARETH A MALE CHILD AND MESSER GENTILE RESTORETH HER AND HER SON TO NICCOLUCCIO CACCIANIMICO, HER HUSBAND
It seemed to all a marvellous thing that a man should be lavish of his own blood and they declared Nathan's liberality to have verily transcended that of the King of Spain and the Abbot of Cluny. But, after enough to one and the other effect had been said thereof, the king, looking towards Lauretta,473 signed to her that he would have her tell, whereupon she straightway began, "Young ladies, magnificent and goodly are the things that have been recounted, nor meseemeth is there aught left unto us who have yet to tell, wherethrough we may range a story-telling, so throughly have they all been occupied with the loftiness of the magnificences related, except we have recourse to the affairs of love, which latter afford a great abundance of matter for discourse on every subject; wherefore, at once on this account and for that the theme is one to which our age must needs especially incline us, it pleaseth me to relate to you an act of magnanimity done by a lover, which, all things considered, will peradventure appear to you nowise inferior to any of those already set forth, if it be true that treasures are lavished, enmities forgotten and life itself, nay, what is far more, honour and renown, exposed to a thousand perils, so we may avail to possess the thing beloved.
There was, then, in Bologna, a very noble city of Lombardy, a gentleman very notable for virtue and nobility of blood, called Messer Gentile Carisendi, who, being young, became enamoured of a noble lady called Madam Catalina, the wife of one Niccoluccio Caccianimico; and for that he was ill repaid of his love by the lady, being named provost of Modona, he betook himself thither, as in despair of her. Meanwhile, Niccoluccio being absent from Bologna and the lady having, for that she was with child, gone to abide at a country house she had maybe three miles distant from the city, she was suddenly seized with a grievous fit of sickness, which overcame her with such violence that it extinguished in her all sign of life, so that she was even adjudged dead of divers physicians; and for that her nearest kinswomen declared themselves to have had it from herself that she had not been so long pregnant that the child could be fully formed, without giving themselves farther concern, they buried her, such as she was, after much lamentation, in one of the vaults of a neighbouring church.
The thing was forthright signified by a friend of his to Messer Gentile, who, poor as he had still been of her favour, grieved sore therefor and ultimately said in himself, 'Harkye, Madam Catalina, thou art dead, thou of whom, what while thou livedst, I could never avail to have so much as a look; wherefore, now thou canst not defend thyself, needs must I take of thee a kiss or two, all dead as thou art.' This said, he took order so his going should be secret and it being presently night, he mounted to horse with one of his servants and rode, without halting, till he came whereas the lady was buried and opened the sepulchre with all despatch. Then, entering therein, he laid himself beside her and putting his face to hers, kissed her again and again with many tears. But presently,—as we see men's appetites never abide content within any limit, but still desire farther, and especially those of lovers,—having bethought himself to tarry there no longer, he said, 'Marry, now that I am here, why should I not touch her somedele on the breast? I may never touch her more, nor have I ever yet done so.'474 Accordingly, overcome with this desire, he put his hand into her bosom and holding it there awhile, himseemed he felt her heart beat somewhat. Thereupon, putting aside all fear, he sought more diligently and found that she was certainly not dead, scant and feeble as he deemed the life [that lingered in her;] wherefore, with the help of his servant, he brought her forth of the tomb, as softliest he might, and setting her before him on his horse, carried her privily to his house in Bologna.
There was his mother, a worthy and discreet gentlewoman, and she, after she had heard everything at large from her son, moved to compassion, quietly addressed herself by means of hot baths and great fires to recall the strayed life to the lady, who, coming presently to herself, heaved a great sigh and said, 'Ah me, where am I?' To which the good lady replied, 'Be of good comfort; thou art in safety.' Madam Catalina, collecting herself, looked about her and knew not aright where she was; but, seeing Messer Gentile before her, she was filled with wonderment and besought his mother to tell her how she came thither; whereupon Messer Gentile related to her everything in order. At this she was sore afflicted, but presently rendered him such thanks as she might and after conjured him, by the love he had erst borne her and of his courtesy, that she might not in his house suffer at his hands aught that should be anywise contrary to her honour and that of her husband and that, as soon as the day should be come, he would suffer her return to her own house. 'Madam,' answered Messer Gentile, 'whatsoever may have been my desire of time past, I purpose not, either at this present or ever henceforth, (since God hath vouchsafed me this grace that He hath restored you to me from death to life, and that by means of the love I have hitherto borne you,) to use you either here or elsewhere otherwise than as a dear sister; but this my service that I have done you to-night meriteth some recompense; wherefore I would have you deny me not a favour that I shall ask you.'
The lady very graciously replied that she was ready to do his desire, so but she might and it were honourable. Then said he, 'Madam, your kinsfolk and all the Bolognese believe and hold you for certain to be dead, wherefore there is no one who looketh for you more at home, and therefore I would have you of your favour be pleased to abide quietly here with my mother till such time as I shall return from Modona, which will be soon. And the reason for which I require you of this is that I purpose to make a dear and solemn present of you to your husband in the presence of the most notable citizens of this place.' The lady, confessing herself beholden to the gentleman and that his request was an honourable one, determined to do as he asked, how much soever she desired to gladden her kinsfolk of her life, and so she promised it to him upon her faith. Hardly had she made an end of her reply, when she felt the time of her delivery to be come and not long after, being lovingly tended of Messer Gentile's mother, she gave birth to a goodly male child, which manifold redoubled his gladness and her own. Messer Gentile took order that475 all things needful should be forthcoming and that she should be tended as she were his proper wife and presently returned in secret to Modona. There, having served the term of his office and being about to return to Bologna, he took order for the holding of a great and goodly banquet at his house on the morning he was to enter the city, and thereto he bade many gentlemen of the place, amongst whom was Niccoluccio Caccianimico. Accordingly, when he returned and dismounted, he found them all awaiting him, as likewise the lady, fairer and sounder than ever, and her little son in good case, and with inexpressible joy seating his guests at table, he let serve them magnificently with various meats.
Whenas the repast was near its end, having first told the lady what he meant to do and taken order with her of the course that she should hold, he began to speak thus: 'Gentlemen, I remember to have heard whiles that there is in Persia a custom and to my thinking a pleasant one, to wit, that, whenas any is minded supremely to honour a friend of his, he biddeth him to his house and there showeth him the thing, be it wife or mistress or daughter or whatsoever else, he holdeth most dear, avouching that, like as he showeth him this, even so, an he might, would he yet more willingly show him his very heart; which custom I purpose to observe in Bologna. You, of your favour, have honoured my banquet with your presence, and I in turn mean to honour you, after the Persian fashion, by showing you the most precious thing I have or may ever have in the world. But, ere I proceed to do this, I pray you tell me what you deem of a doubt which I shall broach to you and which is this. A certain person hath in his house a very faithful and good servant, who falleth grievously sick, whereupon the former, without awaiting the sick man's end, letteth carry him into the middle street and hath no more heed of him. Cometh a stranger, who, moved to compassion of the sick man, carrieth him off to his own house and with great diligence and expense bringeth him again to his former health. Now I would fain know whether, if he keep him and make use of his services, his former master can in equity complain of or blame the second, if, he demanding him again, the latter refuse to restore him.'
The gentlemen, after various discourse among themselves, concurring all in one opinion, committed the response to Niccoluccio Caccianimico, for that he was a goodly and eloquent speaker; whereupon the latter, having first commended the Persian usage, declared that he and all the rest were of opinion that the first master had no longer any right in his servant, since he had, in such a circumstance, not only abandoned him, but cast him away, and that, for the kind offices done him by the second, themseemed the servant was justly become his; wherefore, in keeping him, he did the first no hurt, no violence, no unright whatsoever. The other guests at table (and there were men there of worth and worship) said all of one accord that they held to that which had been answered by Niccoluccio; and Messer Gentile, well pleased with this476 response and that Niccoluccio had made it, avouched himself also to be of the same opinion. Then said he, 'It is now time that I honour you according to promise,' and calling two of his servants, despatched them to the lady, whom he had let magnificently dress and adorn, praying her be pleased to come gladden the company with her presence. Accordingly, she took her little son, who was very handsome, in her arms and coming into the banqueting-hall, attended by two serving-men seated herself, as Messer Gentile willed it, by the side of a gentleman of high standing. Then said he, 'Gentlemen, this is the thing which I hold and purpose to hold dearer than any other; look if it seem to you that I have reason to do so.'
The guests, having paid her the utmost honour, commending her amain and declaring to Messer Gentile that he might well hold her dear, fell to looking upon her; and there were many there who had avouched her to be herself, had they not held her for dead. But Niccoluccio gazed upon her above all and unable to contain himself, asked her, (Messer Gentile having withdrawn awhile,) as one who burned to know who she was, if she were a Bolognese lady or a foreigner. The lady, seeing herself questioned of her husband, hardly restrained herself from answering; but yet, to observe the appointed ordinance, she held her peace. Another asked her if the child was hers and a third if she were Messer Gentile's wife or anywise akin to him; but she made them no reply. Presently, Messer Gentile coming up, one of his guests said to him, 'Sir, this is a fair creature of yours, but she seemeth to us mute; is she so?' 'Gentlemen,' replied he, 'her not having spoken at this present is no small proof of her virtue.' And the other said, 'Tell us, then, who she is.' Quoth Messer Gentile, 'That will I gladly, so but you will promise me that none, for aught that I shall say, will budge from his place till such time as I shall have made an end of my story.'
All promised this and the tables being presently removed, Messer Gentile, seating himself beside the lady, said, 'Gentlemen, this lady is that loyal and faithful servant, of whom I questioned you awhile agone and who, being held little dear of her folk and so, as a thing without worth and no longer useful, cast out into the midward of the street, was by me taken up; yea, by my solicitude and of my handiwork I brought her forth of the jaws of death, and God, having regard to my good intent, hath caused her, by my means, from a frightful corpse become thus beautiful. But, that you may more manifestly apprehend how this betided me, I will briefly declare it to you.' Then, beginning from his falling enamoured of her, he particularly related to them that which had passed until that time, to the great wonderment of the hearers, and added, 'By reason of which things, an you, and especially Niccoluccio, have not changed counsel since awhile ago, the lady is fairly mine, nor can any with just title demand her again of me.' To this none made answer; nay, all awaited that which he should say farther; whilst Niccoluccio and the lady477 and certain of the others who were there wept for compassion.
Then Messer Gentile, rising to his feet and taking the little child in his arms and the lady by the hand, made for Niccoluccio and said to him, 'Rise up, gossip; I do not restore thee thy wife, whom thy kinsfolk and hers cast away; nay, but I will well bestow on thee this lady my gossip, with this her little son, who I am assured, was begotten of thee and whom I held at baptism and named Gentile; and I pray thee that she be none the less dear to thee for that she hath abidden near upon three months in my house; for I swear to thee,—by that God who belike caused me aforetime fall in love with her, to the intent that my love might be, as in effect it hath been, the occasion of her deliverance,—that never, whether with father or mother or with thee, hath she lived more chastely than she hath done with my mother in my house.' So saying, he turned to the lady and said to her, 'Madam, from this time forth I absolve you of every promise made me and leave you free [to return] to Niccoluccio.' Then, giving the lady and the child into Niccoluccio's arms, he returned to his seat. Niccoluccio received them with the utmost eagerness, so much the more rejoiced as he was the farther removed from hope thereof, and thanked Messer Gentile, as best he might and knew; whilst the others, who all wept for compassion, commended the latter amain of this; yea, and he was commended of whosoever heard it. The lady was received in her house with marvellous rejoicing and long beheld with amazement by the Bolognese, as one raised from the dead; whilst Messer Gentile ever after abode a friend of Niccoluccio and of his kinsfolk and those of the lady.
What, then, gentle ladies, will you say [of this case]? Is, think you, a king's having given away his sceptre and his crown or an abbot's having, without cost to himself, reconciled an evildoer with the pope or an old man's having proffered his weasand to the enemy's knife to be evened with this deed of Messer Gentile, who, being young and ardent and himseeming he had a just title to that which the heedlessness of others had cast away and he of his good fortune had taken up, not only honourably tempered his ardour, but, having in his possession that which he was still wont with all his thoughts to covet and to seek to steal away, freely restored it [to its owner]? Certes, meseemeth none of the magnificences already recounted can compare with this."
THE FIFTH STORY
Day the Tenth
MADAM DIANORA REQUIRETH OF MESSER ANSALDO A GARDEN AS FAIR IN JANUARY AS IN MAY, AND HE BY BINDING HIMSELF [TO PAY A GREAT SUM OF MONEY] TO A NIGROMANCER, GIVETH IT TO HER. HER HUSBAND GRANTETH HER LEAVE TO DO MESSER ANSALDO'S PLEASURE, BUT HE, HEARING OF THE FORMER'S GENEROSITY, ABSOLVETH HER OF HER PROMISE, WHEREUPON THE NIGROMANCER, IN HIS TURN, ACQUITTETH MESSER ANSALDO OF HIS BOND, WITHOUT WILLING AUGHT OF HIS
Messer Gentile having by each of the merry company been extolled to the very skies with the highest praise, the king charged Emilia follow on, who confidently, as if eager to speak, began as follows: "Dainty dames, none can with reason deny that Messer Gentile wrought magnificently; but, if it be sought to say that his magnanimity might not be overpassed, it will not belike be uneath to show that more is possible, as I purpose to set out to you in a little story of mine.
In Friuli, a country, though cold, glad with goodly mountains and store of rivers and clear springs, is a city called Udine, wherein was aforetime a fair and noble lady called Madam Dianora, the wife of a wealthy gentleman named Gilberto, who was very debonair and easy of composition. The lady's charm procured her to be passionately loved of a noble and great baron by name Messer Ansaldo Gradense, a man of high condition and everywhere renowned for prowess and courtesy. He loved her fervently and did all that lay in his power to be beloved of her, to which end he frequently solicited her with messages, but wearied himself in vain. At last, his importunities being irksome to the lady and she seeing that, for all she denied him everything he sought of her, he stinted not therefor to love and solicit her, she determined to seek to rid herself of him by means of an extraordinary and in her judgment an impossible demand; wherefore she said one day to a woman, who came often to her on his part, 'Good woman, thou hast many times avouched to me that Messer Ansaldo loveth me over all things and hast proffered me marvellous great gifts on his part, which I would have him keep to himself, seeing that never thereby might I be prevailed upon to love him or comply with his wishes; but, an I could be certified that he loveth me in very deed as much as thou sayest, I might doubtless bring myself to love him and do that which he willeth; wherefore, an he choose to certify me of this with that which I shall require of him, I shall be ready to do his commandments.' Quoth the good woman, 'And what is that, madam, which you would have him do?' 'That which I desire,' replied the lady, 'is this; I will have, for this coming month of January, a garden, near this city, full of green grass and flowers and trees in full leaf, no otherwise than as it were May; the which if he contrive not, let him never more send me thee nor any other, for that, an he importune me more, so surely as I have hitherto kept his pursuit hidden from my husband479 and my kinsfolk, I will study to rid myself of him by complaining to them.'
The gentleman, hearing the demand and the offer of his mistress, for all it seemed to him a hard thing and in a manner impossible to do and he knew it to be required of the lady for none otherwhat than to bereave him of all hope, determined nevertheless to essay whatsoever might be done thereof and sent into various parts about the world, enquiring if there were any to be found who would give him aid and counsel in the matter. At last, he happened upon one who offered, so he were well guerdoned, to do the thing by nigromantic art, and having agreed with him for a great sum of money, he joyfully awaited the appointed time, which come and the cold being extreme and everything full of snow and ice, the learned man, the night before the calends of January, so wrought by his arts in a very goodly meadow adjoining the city, that it appeared in the morning (according to the testimony of those who saw it) one of the goodliest gardens was ever seen of any, with grass and trees and fruits of every kind. Messer Ansaldo, after viewing this with the utmost gladness, let cull of the finest fruits and the fairest flowers that were there and caused privily present them to his mistress, bidding her come and see the garden required by her, so thereby she might know how he loved her and after, remembering her of the promise made him and sealed with an oath, bethink herself, as a loyal lady, to accomplish it to him.
The lady, seeing the fruits and flowers and having already from many heard tell of the miraculous garden, began to repent of her promise. Natheless, curious, for all her repentance, of seeing strange things, she went with many other ladies of the city to view the garden and having with no little wonderment commended it amain, returned home, the woefullest woman alive, bethinking her of that to which she was bounden thereby. Such was her chagrin that she availed not so well to dissemble it but needs must it appear, and her husband, perceiving it, was urgent to know the reason. The lady, for shamefastness, kept silence thereof a great while; but at last, constrained to speak, she orderly discovered to him everything; which Gilberto, hearing, was at the first sore incensed, but presently, considering the purity of the lady's intent and chasing away anger with better counsel, he said, 'Dianora, it is not the part of a discreet nor of a virtuous woman to give ear unto any message of this sort nor to compound with any for her chastity under whatsoever condition. Words received into the heart by the channel of the ears have more potency than many conceive and well nigh every thing becometh possible to lovers. Thou didst ill, then, first to hearken and after to enter into terms of composition; but, for that I know the purity of thine intent, I will, to absolve thee of the bond of the promise, concede thee that which peradventure none other would do, being thereto the more induced by fear of the nigromancer, whom Messer Ansaldo, an thou cheat him, will maybe cause make us woeful. I will, then, that thou go to him and study to have thyself absolved of this thy promise, preserving thy chastity, if thou mayst anywise contrive it; but, an it may not480 be otherwise, thou shalt, for this once, yield him thy body, but not thy soul.'
The lady, hearing her husband's speech, wept and denied herself willing to receive such a favour from him; but, for all her much denial, he would e'en have it be so. Accordingly, next morning, at daybreak, the lady, without overmuch adorning herself, repaired to Messer Ansaldo's house, with two of her serving-men before and a chamberwoman after her. Ansaldo, hearing that his mistress was come to him, marvelled sore and letting call the nigromancer, said to him, 'I will have thee see what a treasure thy skill hath gotten me.' Then, going to meet her, he received her with decency and reverence, without ensuing any disorderly appetite, and they entered all into a goodly chamber, wherein was a great fire. There he caused set her a seat and said, 'Madam, I prithee, if the long love I have borne you merit any recompense, let it not irk you to discover to me the true cause which hath brought you hither at such an hour and in such company.' The lady, shamefast and well nigh with tears in her eyes, answered, 'Sir, neither love that I bear you nor plighted faith bringeth me hither, but the commandment of my husband, who, having more regard to the travails of your disorderly passion than to his honour and mine own, hath caused me come hither; and by his behest I am for this once disposed to do your every pleasure.' If Messer Ansaldo had marvelled at the sight of the lady, far more did he marvel, when he heard her words, and moved by Gilberto's generosity, his heat began to change to compassion and he said, 'God forbid, madam, an it be as you say, that I should be a marrer of his honour who hath compassion of my love; wherefore you shall, what while it is your pleasure to abide here, be no otherwise entreated than as you were my sister; and whenas it shall be agreeable to you, you are free to depart, so but you will render your husband, on my part, those thanks which you shall deem befitting unto courtesy such as his hath been and have me ever, in time to come, for brother and for servant.'
The lady, hearing these words, was the joyfullest woman in the world and answered, saying, 'Nothing, having regard to your fashions, could ever make me believe that aught should ensue to me of my coming other than this that I see you do in the matter; whereof I shall still be beholden to you.' Then, taking leave, she returned, under honourable escort, to Messer Gilberto and told him that which had passed, of which there came about a very strait and loyal friendship between him and Messer Ansaldo. Moreover, the nigromancer, to whom the gentleman was for giving the promised guerdon, seeing Gilberto's generosity towards his wife's lover and that of the latter towards the lady, said, 'God forbid, since I have seen Gilberto liberal of his honour and you of your love, that I should not on like wise be liberal of my hire; wherefore, knowing it will stand you in good stead, I intend that it shall be yours.' At this the gentleman was ashamed and481 studied to make him take or all or part; but, seeing that he wearied himself in vain and it pleasing the nigromancer (who had, after three days, done away his garden) to depart, he commended him to God and having extinguished from his heart his lustful love for the lady, he abode fired with honourable affection for her. How say you now, lovesome ladies? Shall we prefer [Gentile's resignation of] the in a manner dead lady and of his love already cooled for hope forspent, before the generosity of Messer Ansaldo, whose love was more ardent than ever and who was in a manner fired with new hope, holding in his hands the prey so long pursued? Meseemeth it were folly to pretend that this generosity can be evened with that."
THE SIXTH STORY
Day the Tenth
KING CHARLES THE OLD, THE VICTORIOUS, FALLETH ENAMOURED OF A YOUNG GIRL, BUT AFTER, ASHAMED OF HIS FOND THOUGHT, HONOURABLY MARRIETH BOTH HER AND HER SISTER
It were over longsome fully to recount the various discourse that had place among the ladies of who used the greatest generosity, Gilberto or Messer Ansaldo or the nigromancer, in Madam Dianora's affairs; but, after the king had suffered them debate awhile, he looked at Fiammetta and bade her, telling a story, put an end to their contention; whereupon she, without hesitation, began as follows: "Illustrious ladies, I was ever of opinion that, in companies such as ours, it should still be discoursed so much at large that the overstraitness of intent of the things said be not unto any matter for debate, the which is far more sortable among students in the schools than among us [women,] who scarce suffice unto the distaff and the spindle. Wherefore, seeing that you are presently at cross-purposes by reason of the things already said, I, who had in mind a thing maybe somewhat doubtful [of meaning,] will leave that be and tell you a story, treating nowise of a man of little account, but of a valiant king, who therein wrought knightly, in nothing attainting his honour.
Each one of you must many a time have heard tell of King Charles the Old or First, by whose magnanimous emprise, and after by the glorious victory gained by him over King Manfred, the Ghibellines were expelled from Florence and the Guelphs returned thither. In consequence of this a certain gentleman, called Messer Neri degli Uberti, departing the city with all his household and much monies and being minded to take refuge no otherwhere than under the hand of King Charles, betook himself to Castellamare di Stabia. There, belike a crossbowshot removed from the other habitations of482 the place, among olive-trees and walnuts and chestnuts, wherewith the country aboundeth, he bought him an estate and built thereon a goodly and commodious dwelling-house, with a delightsome garden thereby, amiddleward which, having great plenty of running water, he made, after our country fashion, a goodly and clear fishpond and lightly filled it with good store of fish. Whilst he concerned himself to make his garden goodlier every day, it befell that King Charles repaired to Castellamare, to rest himself awhile in the hot season, and there hearing tell of the beauty of Messer Neri's garden, he desired to behold it. Hearing, moreover, to whom it belonged, he bethought himself that, as the gentleman was of the party adverse to his own, it behoved to deal the more familiarly with him, and accordingly sent to him to say that he purposed to sup with him privily in his garden that evening, he and four companions. This was very agreeable to Messer Neri, and having made magnificent preparation and taken order with his household of that which was to do, he received the king in his fair garden as gladliest he might and knew. The latter, after having viewed and commended all the garden and Messer Neri's house and washed, seated himself at one of the tables, which were set beside the fishpond, and seating Count Guy de Montfort, who was of his company, on one side of him and Messer Neri on the other, commanded other three, who were come thither with them, to serve according to the order appointed of his host. Thereupon there came dainty meats and there were wines of the best and costliest and the ordinance was exceeding goodly and praiseworthy, without noise or annoy whatsoever, the which the king much commended.
Presently, as he sat blithely at meat, enjoying the solitary place, there entered the garden two young damsels of maybe fifteen years of age, with hair like threads of gold, all ringleted and hanging loose, whereon was a light chaplet of pervinck-blossoms. Their faces bespoke them rather angels than otherwhat, so delicately fair they were, and they were clad each upon her skin in a garment of the finest linen and white as snow, the which from the waist upward was very strait and thence hung down in ample folds, pavilionwise, to the feet. She who came first bore on her left shoulder a pair of hand-nets and in her right hand a long pole, and the other had on her left shoulder a frying-pan and under the same arm a faggot of wood, whilst in her left hand she held a trivet and in the other a flask of oil and a lighted flambeau. The king, seeing them, marvelled and in suspense awaited what this should mean. The damsels came forward modestly and blushingly did obeisance to him, then, betaking themselves whereas one went down into the fishpond, she who bore the frying-pan set it down and the other things by it and taking the pole that the other carried, they both entered the water, which came up to their breasts. Meanwhile, one of Messer Neri's servants deftly kindled fire under the trivet and setting the pan thereon, poured therein oil and waited for the damsels to throw him fish. The latter, the one groping with the pole in those parts whereas she knew the fish lay hid and the other standing ready with the net, in a short483 space of time took fish galore, to the exceeding pleasure of the king, who eyed them attently; then, throwing some thereof to the servant, who put them in the pan, well nigh alive, they proceeded, as they had been lessoned, to take of the finest and cast them on the table before the king and his table-fellows. The fish wriggled about the table, to the marvellous diversion of the king, who took of them in his turn and sportively cast them back to the damsels; and on this wise they frolicked awhile, till such time as the servant had cooked the fish which had been given him and which, Messer Neri having so ordered it, were now set before the king, more as a relish than as any very rare and delectable dish.
The damsels, seeing the fish cooked and having taken enough, came forth of the water, their thin white garments all clinging to their skins and hiding well nigh nought of their delicate bodies, and passing shamefastly before the king, returned to the house. The latter and the count and the others who served had well considered the damsels and each inwardly greatly commended them for fair and well shapen, no less than for agreeable and well mannered. But above all they pleased the king, who had so intently eyed every part of their bodies, as they came forth of the water, that, had any then pricked him, he would not have felt it, and as he called them more particularly to mind, unknowing who they were, he felt a very fervent desire awaken in his heart to please them, whereby he right well perceived himself to be in danger of becoming enamoured, an he took no heed to himself thereagainst; nor knew he indeed whether of the twain it was the more pleased him, so like in all things was the one to the other. After he had abidden awhile in this thought, he turned to Messer Neri and asked him who were the two damsels, to which the gentleman answered, 'My lord, these are my daughters born at a birth, whereof the one is called Ginevra the Fair and the other Isotta the Blonde.' The king commended them greatly and exhorted him to marry them, whereof Messer Neri excused himself, for that he was no more able thereunto. Meanwhile, nothing now remaining to be served of the supper but the fruits, there came the two damsels in very goodly gowns of sendal, with two great silver platters in their hands, full of various fruits, such as the season afforded, and these they set on the table before the king; which done, they withdrew a little apart and fell to singing a canzonet, whereof the words began thus:
Whereas I'm come, O Love,
It might not be, indeed, at length recounted, etc.
This song they carolled on such dulcet wise and so delightsomely that to the king, who beheld and hearkened to them with ravishment, it seemed as if all the hierarchies of the angels were lighted there to sing. The song sung, they fell on their knees and respectfully craved of him leave to depart, who, albeit their departure was grievous to him, yet with a show of blitheness accorded it to them. The supper being now at an end, the king remounted to horse with his company and leaving Messer Neri, returned to the royal lodging, devising of one thing and an484other. There, holding his passion hidden, but availing not, for whatsoever great affair might supervene, to forget the beauty and grace of Ginevra the Fair, (for love of whom he loved her sister also, who was like unto her,) he became so fast entangled in the amorous snares that he could think of well nigh nought else and feigning other occasions, kept a strait intimacy with Messer Neri and very often visited his fair garden, to see Ginevra.
At last, unable to endure longer and bethinking himself, in default of other means of compassing his desire, to take not one alone, but both of the damsels from their father, he discovered both his passion and his intent to Count Guy, who, for that he was an honourable man, said to him, 'My lord, I marvel greatly at that which you tell me, and that more than would another, inasmuch as meseemeth I have from your childhood to this day known your fashions better than any other; wherefore, meseeming never to have known such a passion in your youth, wherein Love might lightlier have fixed his talons, and seeing you presently hard upon old age, it is so new and so strange to me that you should love by way of enamourment that it seemeth to me well nigh a miracle, and were it my office to reprove you thereof, I know well that which I should say to you thereanent, having in regard that you are yet with your harness on your back in a kingdom newly gained, amidst a people unknown and full of wiles and treasons, and are all occupied with very grave cares and matters of high moment, nor have you yet availed to seat yourself [in security;] and yet, among such and so many affairs, you have made place for the allurements of love. This is not the fashion of a magnanimous king; nay, but rather that of a pusillanimous boy. Moreover, what is far worse, you say that you are resolved to take his two daughters from a gentleman who hath entertained you in his house beyond his means and who, to do you the more honour, hath shown you these twain in a manner naked, thereby attesting how great is the faith he hath in you and that he firmly believeth you to be a king and not a ravening wolf. Again, hath it so soon dropped your memory that it was the violences done of Manfred to women that opened you the entry into this kingdom? What treason was ever wroughten more deserving of eternal punishment than this would be, that you should take from him who hospitably entreateth you his honour and hope and comfort? What would be said of you, an you should do it? You think, maybe, it were a sufficient excuse to say, "I did it for that he is a Ghibelline." Is this of the justice of kings, that they who resort on such wise to their arms should be entreated after such a fashion, be they who they may? Let me tell you, king, that it was an exceedingly great glory to you to have overcome Manfred, but a far greater one it is to overcome one's self; wherefore do you, who have to correct others, conquer yourself and curb this appetite, nor offer with such a blot to mar that which you have so gloriously gained.'
These words stung the king's conscience to the quick and afflicted him the more inasmuch as he knew them485 for true; wherefore, after sundry heavy sighs, he said, 'Certes, Count, I hold every other enemy, however strong, weak and eath enough to the well-lessoned warrior to overcome in comparison with his own appetites; natheless, great as is the travail and inexpressible as is the might it requireth, your words have so stirred me that needs must I, ere many days be past, cause you see by deed that, like as I know how to conquer others, even so do I know how to overcome myself.' Nor had many days passed after this discourse when the king, having returned to Naples, determined, as well to deprive himself of occasion to do dishonourably as to requite the gentleman the hospitality received from him, to go about (grievous as it was to him to make others possessors of that which he coveted over all for himself) to marry the two young ladies, and that not as Messer Neri's daughters, but as his own. Accordingly, with Messer Neri's accord, he dowered them magnificently and gave Ginevra the Fair to Messer Maffeo da Palizzi and Isotta the Blonde to Messer Guglielmo della Magna, both noble cavaliers and great barons, to whom with inexpressible chagrin consigning them, he betook himself into Apulia, where with continual fatigues he so mortified the fierceness of his appetite that, having burst and broken the chains of love, he abode free of such passion for the rest of his life. There are some belike who will say that it was a little thing for a king to have married two young ladies, and that I will allow; but a great and a very great thing I call it, if we consider that it was a king enamoured who did this and who married to another her whom he loved, without having gotten or taking of his love leaf or flower or fruit. On this wise, then, did this magnanimous king, at once magnificently guerdoning the noble gentleman, laudably honouring the young ladies whom he loved and bravely overcoming himself."
THE SEVENTH STORY
Day the Tenth
KING PEDRO OF ARRAGON, COMING TO KNOW THE FERVENT LOVE BORNE HIM BY LISA, COMFORTETH THE LOVE-SICK MAID AND PRESENTLY MARRIETH HER TO A NOBLE YOUNG GENTLEMAN; THEN, KISSING HER ON THE BROW, HE EVER AFTER AVOUCHETH HIMSELF HER KNIGHT
Fiammetta having made an end of her story and the manful magnanimity of King Charles having been much commended, albeit there was one lady there who, being a Ghibelline, was loath to praise him, Pampinea, by the king's commandment, began thus, "There is no one of understanding, worshipful ladies, but would say that which you say of good King Charles, except she bear him ill-will for otherwhat; but, for that there occurreth to my memory a thing, belike no less commendable than this, done of one his adversary to one of our Florentine damsels, it pleaseth me to relate it to you.486
At the time of the expulsion of the French from Sicily, one of our Florentines was an apothecary at Palermo, a very rich man called Bernardo Puccini, who had by his wife an only daughter, a very fair damsel and already apt for marriage. Now King Pedro of Arragon, become lord of the island, held high festival with his barons at Palermo, wherein he tilting after the Catalan fashion, it chanced that Bernardo's daughter, whose name was Lisa, saw him running [at the ring] from a window where she was with other ladies, and he so marvellously pleased her that, looking upon him once and again, she fell passionately in love with him; and the festival ended and she abiding in her father's house, she could think of nothing but of this her illustrious and exalted love. And what most irked her in this was the consciousness of her own mean condition, which scarce suffered her to cherish any hope of a happy issue; natheless, she could not therefor bring herself to leave loving the king, albeit, for fear of greater annoy, she dared not discover her passion. The king had not perceived this thing and recked not of her, wherefor she suffered intolerable chagrin, past all that can be imagined. Thus it befell that, love still waxing in her and melancholy redoubling upon melancholy, the fair maid, unable to endure more, fell sick and wasted visibly away from day to day, like snow in the sun. Her father and mother, sore concerned for this that befell her, studied with assiduous tenderness to hearten her and succoured her in as much as might be with physicians and medicines, but it availed nothing, for that, despairing of her love, she had elected to live no longer.
It chanced one day that, her father offering to do her every pleasure, she bethought herself, and she might aptly, to seek, before she died, to make the king acquainted with her love and her intent, and accordingly she prayed him bring her Minuccio d'Arezzo. Now this Minuccio was in those days held a very quaint and subtle singer and player and was gladly seen of the king; and Bernardo concluded that Lisa had a mind to hear him sing and play awhile. Accordingly, he sent to tell him, and Minuccio, who was a man of a debonair humour, incontinent came to her and having somedele comforted her with kindly speech, softly played her a fit or two on a viol he had with him and after sang her sundry songs, the which were fire and flame unto the damsel's passion, whereas he thought to solace her. Presently she told him that she would fain speak some words with him alone, wherefore, all else having withdrawn, she said to him, 'Minuccio, I have chosen thee to keep me very faithfully a secret of mine, hoping in the first place that thou wilt never discover it to any one, save to him of whom I shall tell thee, and after that thou wilt help me in that which lieth in thy power; and of this I pray thee Thou must know, then, Minuccio mine, that the day our lord King Pedro held the great festival in honour of his exaltation to the throne, it befell me, as he tilted, to espy him at so dour a point that for the love of him there was487 kindled in my heart a fire that hath brought me to this pass wherein thou seest me, and knowing how ill my love beseemeth to a king, yet availing not, let alone to drive it away, but even to abate it, and it being beyond measure grievous to me to bear, I have as a lesser evil elected to die, as I shall do. True it is that I should begone hence cruelly disconsolate, an he first knew it not; wherefore, unknowing by whom I could more aptly acquaint him with this my resolution than by thyself, I desire to commit it to thee and pray thee that thou refuse not to do it, and whenas thou shalt have done it, that thou give me to know thereof, so that, dying comforted, I may be assoiled of these my pains.' And this said, she stinted, weeping.
Minuccio marvelled at the greatness of the damsel's soul and at her cruel resolve and was sore concerned for her; then, it suddenly occurring to his mind how he might honourably oblige her, he said to her, 'Lisa, I pledge thee my faith, whereof thou mayst live assured that thou wilt never find thyself deceived, and after, commending thee of so high an emprise as it is to have set thy mind upon so great a king, I proffer thee mine aid, by means whereof I hope, an thou wilt but take comfort, so to do that, ere three days be past, I doubt not to bring thee news that will be exceeding grateful to thee; and to lose no time, I mean to go about it forthright.' Lisa, having anew besought him amain thereof and promised him to take comfort, bade him God speed; whereupon Minuccio, taking his leave, betook himself to one Mico da Siena, a mighty good rhymer of those days, and constrained him with prayers to make the following canzonet:
Bestir thee, Love, and get thee to my Sire
And tell him all the torments I aby;
Tell him I'm like to die,
For fearfulness concealing my desire.
Love, with clasped hands I cry thee mercy, so
Thou mayst betake thee where my lord doth dwell.
Say that I love and long for him, for lo,
My heart he hath inflamed so sadly well;
Yea, for the fire wherewith I'm all aglow,
I fear to die nor yet the hour can tell
When I shall part from pain so fierce and fell
As that which, longing, for his sake I dree
In shame and fear; ah me,
For God's sake, cause him know my torment dire.
Since first enamoured, Love, of him I grew,
Thou hast not given me the heart to dare
So much as one poor once my lord unto
My love and longing plainly to declare,
My lord who maketh me so sore to rue;
Death, dying thus, were hard to me to bear.
Belike, indeed, for he is debonair,
'Twould not displease him, did he know what pain
I feel and didst thou deign
488Me daring to make known to him my fire.
Yet, since 'twas not thy pleasure to impart,
Love, such assurance to me that by glance
Or sign or writ I might make known my heart
Unto my lord, for my deliverance
I prithee, sweet my master, of thine art
Get thee to him and give him souvenance
Of that fair day I saw him shield and lance
Bear with the other knights and looking more,
Enamoured fell so sore
My heart thereof doth perish and expire.
These words Minuccio forthwith set to a soft and plaintive air, such as the matter thereof required, and on the third day he betook himself to court, where, King Pedro being yet at meat, he was bidden by him sing somewhat to his viol. Thereupon he fell to singing the song aforesaid on such dulcet wise that all who were in the royal hall appeared men astonied, so still and attent stood they all to hearken, and the king maybe more than the others. Minuccio having made an end of his singing, the king enquired whence came this song that himseemed he had never before heard. 'My lord,' replied the minstrel, 'it is not yet three days since the words were made and the air.' The king asked for whom it had been made; and Minuccio answered, 'I dare not discover it save to you alone.' The king, desirous to hear it, as soon as the tables were removed, sent for Minuccio into his chamber and the latter orderly recounted to him all that he had heard from Lisa; wherewith Don Pedro was exceeding well pleased and much commended the damsel, avouching himself resolved to have compassion of so worthful a young lady and bidding him therefore go comfort her on his part and tell her that he would without fail come to visit her that day towards vespers. Minuccio, overjoyed to be the bearer of such pleasing news, betook himself incontinent, viol and all, to the damsel and bespeaking her in private, recounted to her all that had passed and after sang her the song to his viol; whereat she was so rejoiced and so content that she straightway showed manifest signs of great amendment and longingly awaited the hour of vespers, whenas her lord should come, without any of the household knowing or guessing how the case stood.
Meanwhile, the king, who was a debonair and generous prince, having sundry times taken thought to the things heard from Minuccio and very well knowing the damsel and her beauty, waxed yet more pitiful over her and mounting to horse towards vespers, under colour of going abroad for his diversion, betook himself to the apothecary's house, where, having required a very goodly garden which he had to be opened to him, he alighted therein and presently asked Bernardo what was come of his daughter and if he had yet married her. 'My lord,' replied the apothecary, 'she is not married; nay, she hath been and is yet very sick; albeit it is true that since none she hath mended marvellously.' The king readily apprehended what this amendment meant and said, 'In good sooth, 'twere pity so fair a creature should be yet taken from the world. We would fain go visit her.' Accordingly, a little after,489 he betook himself with Bernardo and two companions only to her chamber and going up to the bed where the damsel, somedele upraised, awaited him with impatience, took her by the hand and said to her, 'What meaneth this, my mistress? You are young and should comfort other women; yet you suffer yourself to be sick. We would beseech you be pleased, for the love of us, to hearten yourself on such wise that you may speedily be whole again.' The damsel, feeling herself touched of his hands whom she loved over all else, albeit she was somewhat shamefast, felt yet such gladness in her heart as she were in Paradise and answered him, as best she might, saying, 'My lord, my having willed to subject my little strength unto very grievous burdens hath been the cause to me of this mine infirmity, whereof, thanks to your goodness, you shall soon see me quit.' The king alone understood the damsel's covert speech and held her momently of more account; nay, sundry whiles he inwardly cursed fortune, who had made her daughter unto such a man; then, after he had tarried with her awhile and comforted her yet more, he took his leave.
This humanity of the king was greatly commended and attributed for great honour to the apothecary and his daughter, which latter abode as well pleased as ever was woman of her lover, and sustained of better hope, in a few days recovered and became fairer than ever. When she was whole again, the king, having taken counsel with the queen of what return he should make her for so much love, mounting one day to horse with many of his barons, repaired to the apothecary's house and entering the garden, let call Master Bernardo and his daughter; then, the queen presently coming thither with many ladies and having received Lisa among them, they fell to making wonder-merry. After a while, the king and queen called Lisa to them and the former said to her, 'Noble damsel, the much love you have borne us hath gotten you a great honour from us, wherewith we would have you for the love of us be content; to wit, that, since you are apt for marriage, we would have you take him to husband whom we shall bestow on you, purposing, notwithstanding this, to call ourselves still your knight, without desiring aught from you of so much love but one sole kiss.' The damsel, grown all vermeil in the face for shamefastness, making the king's pleasure hers, replied in a low voice on this wise, 'My lord, I am well assured that, were it known that I had fallen enamoured of you, most folk would account me mad therefor, thinking belike that I had forgotten myself and knew not mine own condition nor yet yours; but God, who alone seeth the hearts of mortals, knoweth that, in that same hour whenas first you pleased me, I knew you for a king and myself for the daughter of Bernardo the apothecary and that it ill beseemed me to address the ardour of my soul unto so high a place. But, as you know far better than I, none here below falleth in love according to fitness of election, but according to appetite and inclination, against which law I once and again strove with all my might, till, availing no farther, I loved490 and love and shall ever love you. But, since first I felt myself taken with love of you, I determined still to make your will mine; wherefore, not only will I gladly obey you in this matter of taking a husband at your hands and holding him dear whom it shall please you to bestow on me, since that will be mine honour and estate, but, should you bid me abide in the fire, it were a delight to me, an I thought thereby to pleasure you. To have you, a king, to knight, you know how far it befitteth me, wherefore to that I make no farther answer; nor shall the kiss be vouchsafed you, which alone of my love you would have, without leave of my lady the queen. Natheless, of such graciousness as hath been yours towards me and that of our lady the queen here God render you for me both thanks and recompense, for I have not the wherewithal.' And with that she was silent.
Her answer much pleased the queen and she seemed to her as discreet as the king had reported her. Don Pedro then let call the girl's father and mother and finding that they were well pleased with that which he purposed to do, summoned a young man, by name Perdicone, who was of gentle birth, but poor, and giving certain rings into his hand, married him, nothing loath, to Lisa; which done, he then and there, over and above many and precious jewels bestowed by the queen and himself upon the damsel, gave him Ceffalu and Calatabellotta, two very rich and goodly fiefs, and said to him, 'These we give thee to the lady's dowry. That which we purpose to do for thyself, thou shalt see in time to come.' This said, he turned to the damsel and saying, 'Now will we take that fruit which we are to have of your love,' took her head in his hands and kissed her on the brow. Perdicone and Lisa's father and mother, well pleased, (as indeed was she herself,) held high festival and joyous nuptials; and according as many avouch, the king very faithfully kept his covenant with the damsel, for that, whilst she lived, he still styled himself her knight nor ever went about any deed of arms but he wore none other favour than that which was sent him of her. It is by doing, then, on this wise that subjects' hearts are gained, that others are incited to do well and that eternal renown is acquired; but this is a mark at which few or none nowadays bend the bow of their understanding, most princes being presently grown cruel and tyrannical."
THE EIGHTH STORY
Day the Tenth
SOPHRONIA, THINKING TO MARRY GISIPPUS, BECOMETH THE WIFE OF TITUS QUINTIUS FULVUS AND WITH HIM BETAKETH HERSELF TO ROME, WHITHER GISIPPUS COMETH IN POOR CASE AND CONCEIVING HIMSELF SLIGHTED OF TITUS, DECLARETH, SO HE MAY DIE, TO HAVE SLAIN A MAN. TITUS, RECOGNIZING HIM, TO SAVE HIM, AVOUCHETH HIMSELF TO HAVE DONE THE DEED, AND THE TRUE MURDERER, SEEING THIS, DISCOVERETH HIMSELF; WHEREUPON THEY ARE ALL THREE LIBERATED BY OCTAVIANUS AND TITUS, GIVING GISIPPUS HIS SISTER TO WIFE, HATH ALL HIS GOOD IN COMMON WITH HIM
Pampinea having left speaking and all having commended King Pedro, the Ghibelline lady more than the rest, Fiammetta, by the king's commandment, began thus, "Illustrious ladies, who is there knoweth not that kings, when they will, can do everything great and that it is, to boot, especially required of them that they be magnificent? Whoso, then, having the power, doth that which pertaineth unto him, doth well; but folk should not so much marvel thereat nor exalt him to such a height with supreme praise as it would behove them do with another, of whom, for lack of means, less were required. Wherefore, if you with such words extol the actions of kings and they seem to you fair, I doubt not anywise but those of our peers, whenas they are like unto or greater than those of kings, will please you yet more and be yet highlier commended of you, and I purpose accordingly to recount to you, in a story, the praiseworthy and magnanimous dealings of two citizens and friends with each other.
You must know, then, that at the time when Octavianus Cæsar (not yet styled Augustus) ruled the Roman empire in the office called Triumvirate, there was in Rome a gentleman called Publius Quintius Fulvus, who, having a son of marvellous understanding, by name Titus Quintius Fulvus, sent him to Athens to study philosophy and commended him as most he might to a nobleman there called Chremes, his very old friend, by whom Titus was lodged in his own house, in company of a son of his called Gisippus, and set to study with the latter, under the governance of a philosopher named Aristippus. The two young men, coming to consort together, found each other's usances so conformable that there was born thereof a brotherhood between them and a friendship so great that it was never sundered by other accident than death, and neither of them knew weal nor peace save in so much as they were together. Entering upon their studies and being each alike endowed with the highest understanding, they ascended with equal step and marvellous commendation to the glorious altitudes of philosophy; and in this way of life they continued good three years, to the exceeding contentment of492 Chremes, who in a manner looked upon the one as no more his son than the other. At the end of this time it befell, even as it befalleth of all things, that Chremes, now an old man, departed this life, whereof the two young men suffered a like sorrow, as for a common father, nor could his friends and kinsfolk discern which of the twain was the more in need of consolation for that which had betided them.
It came to pass, after some months, that the friends and kinsfolk of Gisippus resorted to him and together with Titus exhorted him to take a wife, to which he consenting, they found him a young Athenian lady of marvellous beauty and very noble parentage, whose name was Sophronia and who was maybe fifteen years old. The term of the future nuptials drawing nigh, Gisippus one day besought Titus to go visit her with him, for that he had not yet seen her. Accordingly, they being come into her house and she seated between the twain, Titus proceeded to consider her with the utmost attention, as if to judge of the beauty of his friend's bride, and every part of her pleasing him beyond measure, what while he inwardly commended her charms to the utmost, he fell, without showing any sign thereof, as passionately enamoured of her as ever yet man of woman. After they had been with her awhile, they took their leave and returned home, where Titus, betaking himself alone into his chamber, fell a-thinking of the charming damsel and grew the more enkindled the more he enlarged upon her in thought; which, perceiving, he fell to saying in himself, after many ardent sighs, 'Alack, the wretchedness of thy life, Titus! Where and on what settest thou thy mind and thy love and thy hope? Knowest thou not that it behoveth thee, as well for the kindness received from Chremes and his family as for the entire friendship that is between thee and Gisippus, whose bride she is, to have yonder damsel in such respect as a sister? Whom, then, lovest thou? Whither lettest thou thyself be carried away by delusive love, whither by fallacious hope? Open the eyes of thine understanding and recollect thyself, wretch that thou art; give place to reason, curb thy carnal appetite, temper thine unhallowed desires and direct thy thoughts unto otherwhat; gainstand thy lust in this its beginning and conquer thyself, whilst it is yet time. This thou wouldst have is unseemly, nay, it is dishonourable; this thou art minded to ensue it behoveth thee, even wert thou assured (which thou art not) of obtaining it, to flee from, an thou have regard unto that which true friendship requireth and that which thou oughtest. What, then, wilt thou do, Titus? Thou wilt leave this unseemly love, an thou wouldst do that which behoveth.'
Then, remembering him of Sophronia and going over to the contrary, he denounced all that he had said, saying, 'The laws of love are of greater puissance than any others; they annul even the Divine laws, let alone those of friendship; how often aforetime hath father loved daughter, brother sister, stepmother stepson, things more monstrous than for one friend to love the other's wife, the which hath already a thousand times befallen! Moreover, I am young and youth is altogether subject to the laws of Love; wherefor that which pleaseth Him, needs must it please me. Things honourable pertain493 unto maturer folk; I can will nought save that which Love willeth. The beauty of yonder damsel deserveth to be loved of all, and if I love her, who am young, who can justly blame me therefor? I love her not because she is Gisippus's; nay, I love her for that I should love her, whosesoever she was. In this fortune sinneth that hath allotted her to Gisippus my friend, rather than to another; and if she must be loved, (as she must, and deservedly, for her beauty,) Gisippus, an he came to know it, should be better pleased that I should love her, I, than another.' Then, from that reasoning he reverted again to the contrary, making mock of himself, and wasted not only that day and the ensuing night in passing from this to that and back again, but many others, insomuch that, losing appetite and sleep therefor, he was constrained for weakness to take to his bed.
Gisippus, having beheld him several days full of melancholy thought and seeing him presently sick, was sore concerned and with every art and all solicitude studied to comfort him, never leaving him and questioning him often and instantly of the cause of his melancholy and his sickness. Titus, after having once and again given him idle tales, which Gisippus knew to be such, by way of answer, finding himself e'en constrained thereunto, with tears and sighs replied to him on this wise, 'Gisippus, had it pleased the Gods, death were far more a-gree to me than to live longer, considering that fortune hath brought me to a pass whereas it behoved me make proof of my virtue and that I have, to my exceeding shame, found this latter overcome; but certes I look thereof to have ere long the reward that befitteth me, to wit, death, and this will be more pleasing to me than to live in remembrance of my baseness, which latter, for that I cannot nor should hide aught from thee, I will, not without sore blushing, discover to thee.' Then, beginning from the beginning, he discovered to him the cause of his melancholy and the conflict of his thoughts and ultimately gave him to know which had gotten the victory and confessed himself perishing for love of Sophronia, declaring that, knowing how much this misbeseemed him, he had for penance thereof resolved himself to die, whereof he trusted speedily to make an end.
Gisippus, hearing this and seeing his tears, abode awhile irresolute, as one who, though more moderately, was himself taken with the charms of the fair damsel, but speedily bethought himself that his friend's life should be dearer to him than Sophronia. Accordingly, solicited to tears by those of his friend, he answered him, weeping, 'Titus, wert thou not in need as thou art of comfort, I should complain of thee to thyself, as of one who hath transgressed against our friendship in having so long kept thy most grievous passion hidden from me; since, albeit it appeared not to thee honourable, nevertheless dishonourable things should not, more than honourable, be hidden from a friend; for that a friend, like as he rejoiceth with his friend in honourable things, even so he studieth to do away the dishonourable from his friend's mind; but for the present I will refrain therefrom and come to that which I perceive to be of greater urgency. That thou lovest Sophronia, who is betrothed to me, I marvel not: nay, I494 should marvel, indeed, if it were not so, knowing her beauty and the nobility of thy mind, so much the more susceptible of passion as the thing that pleaseth hath the more excellence. And the more reason thou hast to love Sophronia, so much the more unjustly dost thou complain of fortune (albeit thou expressest this not in so many words) in that it hath awarded her to me, it seeming to thee that thy love for her had been honourable, were she other than mine; but tell me, if thou be as well advised as thou usest to be, to whom could fortune have awarded her, whereof thou shouldst have more cause to render it thanks, than of having awarded her to me? Whoso else had had her, how honourable soever thy love had been, had liefer loved her for himself than for thee, a thing which thou shouldst not fear from me, an thou hold me a friend such as I am to thee, for that I mind me not, since we have been friends, to have ever had aught that was not as much thine as mine. Now, were the matter so far advanced that it might not be otherwise, I would do with her as I have done with my other possessions; but it is yet at such a point that I can make her thine alone; and I will do so, for that I know not why my friendship should be dear to thee, if, in respect of a thing that may honourably be done, I knew not of a desire of mine to make thine. True it is that Sophronia is my promised bride and that I loved her much and looked with great joyance for my nuptials with her; but, since thou, being far more understanding than I, with more ardour desirest so dear a thing as she is, live assured that she shall enter my chamber, not as my wife, but as thine. Wherefore leave thought-taking, put away melancholy, call back thy lost health and comfort and allegresse and from this time forth expect with blitheness the reward of thy love, far worthier than was mine.'
When Titus heard Gisippus speak thus, the more the flattering hopes given him of the latter afforded him pleasure, so much the more did just reason inform him with shame, showing him that, the greater was Gisippus his liberality, the more unworthy it appeared of himself to use it; wherefore, without giving over weeping, he with difficulty replied to him thus, 'Gisippus, thy generous and true friendship very plainly showeth me that which it pertaineth unto mine to do. God forfend that her, whom He hath bestowed upon thee as upon the worthier, I should receive from thee for mine! Had He judged it fitting that she should be mine, nor thou nor others can believe that He would ever have bestowed her on thee. Use, therefore, joyfully, thine election and discreet counsel and His gifts, and leave me to languish in the tears, which, as to one undeserving of such a treasure, He hath prepared unto me and which I will either overcome, and that will be dear to thee, or they will overcome me and I shall be out of pain.' 'Titus,' rejoined Gisippus, 'an our friendship might accord me such license that I should enforce thee to ensue a desire of mine and if it may495 avail to induce thee to do so, it is in this case that I mean to use it to the utmost, and if thou yield not to my prayers with a good grace, I will, with such violence as it behoveth us use for the weal of our friends, procure that Sophronia shall be thine. I know how great is the might of love and that, not once, but many a time, it hath brought lovers to a miserable death; nay, unto this I see thee so near that thou canst neither turn back nor avail to master thy tears, but, proceeding thus, wouldst pine and die; whereupon I, without any doubt, should speedily follow after. If, then, I loved thee not for otherwhat, thy life is dear to me, so I myself may live. Sophronia, therefore, shall be thine, for that thou couldst not lightly find another woman who would so please thee, and as I shall easily turn my love unto another, I shall thus have contented both thyself and me. I should not, peradventure, be so free to do this, were wives as scarce and as uneath to find as friends; however, as I can very easily find me another wife, but not another friend, I had liefer (I will not say lose her, for that I shall not lose her, giving her to thee, but shall transfer her to another and a better self, but) transfer her than lose thee. Wherefore, if my prayers avail aught with thee, I beseech thee put away from thee this affliction and comforting at once thyself and me, address thee with good hope to take that joyance which thy fervent love desireth of the thing beloved.'
Although Titus was ashamed to consent to this, namely, that Sophronia should become his wife, and on this account held out yet awhile, nevertheless, love on the one hand drawing him and Gisippus his exhortations on the other urging him, he said, 'Look you, Gisippus, I know not which I can say I do most, my pleasure or thine, in doing that whereof thou prayest me and which thou tellest me is so pleasing to thee, and since thy generosity is such that it overcometh my just shame, I will e'en do it; but of this thou mayst be assured that I do it as one who knoweth himself to receive of thee, not only the beloved lady, but with her his life. The Gods grant, an it be possible, that I may yet be able to show thee, for thine honour and thy weal, how grateful to me is that which thou, more pitiful for me than I for myself, dost for me!' These things said, 'Titus,' quoth Gisippus, 'in this matter, an we would have it take effect, meseemeth this course is to be held. As thou knowest, Sophronia, after long treaty between my kinsfolk and hers, is become my affianced bride; wherefore, should I now go about to say that I will not have her to wife, a sore scandal would ensue thereof and I should anger both her kinsfolk and mine own. Of this, indeed, I should reck nothing, an I saw that she was thereby to become thine; but I misdoubt me that, an I renounce her at this point, her kinsfolk will straightway give her to another, who belike will not be thyself, and so wilt thou have lost that which I shall not have gained. Wherefore meseemeth well, an thou be content, that I follow on with that which I have begun and bring her home as mine and hold the nuptials, and thou mayst after, as we shall know how to contrive, privily lie with her as with thy wife. Then, in due place and season, we will make manifest the fact, which, if it496 please them not, will still be done and they must perforce be content, being unable to go back upon it.'
The device pleased Titus; wherefore Gisippus received the lady into his house, as his, (Titus being by this recovered and in good case,) and after holding high festival, the night being come, the ladies left the new-married wife in her husband's bed and went their ways. Now Titus his chamber adjoined that of Gisippus and one might go from the one room into the other; wherefore Gisippus, being in his chamber and having put out all the lights, betook himself stealthily to his friend and bade him go couch with his mistress. Titus, seeing this, was overcome with shame and would fain have repented and refused to go; but Gisippus, who with his whole heart, no less than in words, was minded to do his friend's pleasure, sent him thither, after long contention. Whenas he came into the bed, he took the damsel in his arms and asked her softly, as if in sport, if she chose to be his wife. She, thinking him to be Gisippus, answered, 'Yes'; whereupon he set a goodly and rich ring on her finger, saying, 'And I choose to be thy husband.' Then, the marriage consummated, he took long and amorous pleasance of her, without her or others anywise perceiving that other than Gisippus lay with her.
The marriage of Sophronia and Titus being at this pass, Publius his father departed this life, wherefore it was written him that he should without delay return to Rome, to look to his affairs, and he accordingly took counsel with Gisippus to betake himself thither and carry Sophronia with him; which might not nor should aptly be done without discovering to her how the case stood. Accordingly, one day, calling her into the chamber, they thoroughly discovered to her the fact and thereof Titus certified her by many particulars of that which had passed between them twain. Sophronia, after eying the one and the other somewhat despitefully, fell a-weeping bitterly, complaining of Gisippus his deceit; then, rather than make any words of this in his house, she repaired to that of her father and there acquainted him and her mother with the cheat that had been put upon her and them by Gisippus, avouching herself to be the wife of Titus and not of Gisippus, as they believed. This was exceeding grievous to Sophronia's father, who made long and sore complaint thereof to her kinsfolk and those of Gisippus, and much and great was the talk and the clamour by reason thereof. Gisippus was held in despite both by his own kindred and those of Sophronia and every one declared him worthy not only of blame, but of severe chastisement; whilst he, on the contrary, avouched himself to have done an honourable thing and one for which thanks should be rendered him by Sophronia's kinsfolk, having married her to a better than himself.
Titus, on his part, heard and suffered everything with no little annoy and knowing it to be the usance of the Greeks to press on with clamours and menaces, till such times as they found who should answer them, and then to become not only humble, but abject, he bethought himself that their clamour was no longer to be brooked without reply and having a Roman spirit and an Athenian wit, he adroitly contrived to assemble Gisippus his kinsfolk and497 those of Sophronia in a temple, wherein entering, accompanied by Gisippus alone, he thus bespoke the expectant folk: 'It is the belief of many philosophers that the actions of mortals are determined and foreordained of the immortal Gods, wherefore some will have it that all that is or shall ever be done is of necessity, albeit there be others who attribute this necessity to that only which is already done. If these opinions be considered with any diligence, it will very manifestly be seen that to blame a thing which cannot be undone is to do no otherwhat than to seek to show oneself wiser than the Gods, who, we must e'en believe, dispose of and govern us and our affairs with unfailing wisdom and without any error; wherefore you may very easily see what fond and brutish overweening it is to presume to find fault with their operations and eke how many and what chains they merit who suffer themselves be so far carried away by hardihood as to do this. Of whom, to my thinking, you are all, if that be true which I understand you have said and still say for that Sophronia is become my wife, whereas you had given her to Gisippus, never considering that it was foreordained from all eternity that she should become not his, but mine, as by the issue is known at this present. But, for that to speak of the secret foreordinance and intention of the Gods appeareth unto many a hard thing and a grievous to apprehend, I am willing to suppose that they concern not themselves with aught of our affairs and to condescend to the counsels of mankind, in speaking whereof, it will behove me to do two things, both very contrary to my usances, the one, somedele to commend myself, and the other, in some measure to blame or disparage others; but, for that I purpose, neither in the one nor in the other, to depart from the truth and that the present matter requireth it, I will e'en do it.
Your complainings, dictated more by rage than by reason, upbraid, revile and condemn Gisippus with continual murmurs or rather clamours, for that, of his counsel, he hath given me to wife her whom you of yours had given him; whereas I hold that he is supremely to be commended therefor, and that for two reasons, the one, for that he hath done that which a friend should do, and the other, for that he hath in this wrought more discreetly than did you. That which the sacred laws of friendship will that one friend should do for the other, it is not my intention at this present to expound, being content to have recalled to you this much only thereof, to wit, that the bonds of friendship are far more stringent than those of blood or of kindred, seeing that the friends we have are such as we choose for ourselves and our kinsfolk such as fortune giveth us; wherefore, if Gisippus loved my life more than your goodwill, I being his friend, as I hold myself, none should marvel thereat. But to come to the second reason, whereanent it more instantly behoveth to show you that he hath been wiser than yourselves, since meseemeth you reck nothing of the foreordinance of the Gods and know yet less of the effects of friendship:—I say, then, that you of your judgment, of498 your counsel and of your deliberation, gave Sophronia to Gisippus, a young man and a philosopher; Gisippus of his gave her to a young man and a philosopher; your counsel gave her to an Athenian and that of Gisippus to a Roman; your counsel gave her to a youth of noble birth and his to one yet nobler; yours to a rich youth, his to a very rich; yours to a youth who not only loved her not, but scarce knew her, his to one who loved her over his every happiness and more than his very life. And to show you that this I say is true and that Gisippus his action is more commendable than yours, let us consider it, part by part. That I, like Gisippus, am a young man and a philosopher, my favour and my studies may declare, without more discourse thereof. One same age is his and mine and still with equal step have we proceeded studying. True, he is an Athenian and I am a Roman. If it be disputed of the glory of our native cities, I say that I am a citizen of a free city and he of a tributary one; I am of a city mistress of the whole world and he of a city obedient unto mine; I am of a city most illustrious in arms, in empery and in letters, whereas he can only commend his own for letters. Moreover, albeit you see me here on lowly wise enough a student, I am not born of the dregs of the Roman populace; my houses and the public places of Rome are full of antique images of my ancestors and the Roman annals will be found full of many a triumph led by the Quintii up to the Roman Capitol; nor is the glory of our name fallen for age into decay, nay, it presently flourisheth more splendidly than ever. I speak not, for shamefastness, of my riches, bearing in mind that honourable poverty hath ever been the ancient and most ample patrimony of the noble citizens of Rome; but, if this be condemned of the opinion of the vulgar and treasures commended, I am abundantly provided with these latter, not as one covetous, but as beloved of fortune. I know very well that it was and should have been and should be dear unto you to have Gisippus here in Athens to kinsman; but I ought not for any reason to be less dear to you at Rome, considering that in me you would have there an excellent host and an useful and diligent and powerful patron, no less in public occasions than in matters of private need.
Who then, letting be wilfulness and considering with reason, will commend your counsels above those of my Gisippus? Certes, none. Sophronia, then, is well and duly married to Titus Quintius Fulvus, a noble, rich and long-descended citizen of Rome and a friend of Gisippus; wherefore whoso complaineth or maketh moan of this doth not that which he ought neither knoweth that which he doth. Some perchance will say that they complain not of Sophronia being the wife of Titus, but of the manner wherein she became his wife, to wit, in secret and by stealth, without friend or kinsman knowing aught thereof; but this is no marvel nor thing that betideth newly. I willingly leave be those who have aforetime taken husbands against their parents' will and those who have fled with their499 lovers and have been mistresses before they were wives and those who have discovered themselves to be married rather by pregnancy or child-bearing than with the tongue, yet hath necessity commended it to their kinsfolk; nothing of which hath happened in Sophronia's case; nay, she hath orderly, discreetly and honourably been given by Gisippus to Titus. Others will say that he gave her in marriage to whom it appertained not to do so; but these be all foolish and womanish complaints and proceed from lack of advisement. This is not the first time that fortune hath made use of various means and strange instruments to bring matters to foreordained issues. What have I to care if it be a cordwainer rather than a philosopher, that hath, according to his judgment, despatched an affair of mine, and whether in secret or openly, provided the issue be good? If the cordwainer be indiscreet, all I have to do is to look well that he have no more to do with my affairs and thank him for that which is done. If Gisippus hath married Sophronia well, it is a superfluous folly to go complaining of the manner and of him. If you have no confidence in his judgment, look he have no more of your daughters to marry and thank him for this one.
Nevertheless I would have you to know that I sought not, either by art or by fraud, to impose any stain upon the honour and illustriousness of your blood in the person of Sophronia, and that, albeit I took her secretly to wife, I came not as a ravisher to rob her of her maidenhead nor sought, after the manner of an enemy, whilst shunning your alliance, to have her otherwise than honourably; but, being ardently enkindled by her lovesome beauty and by her worth and knowing that, had I sought her with that ordinance which you will maybe say I should have used, I should not (she being much beloved of you) have had her, for fear lest I should carry her off to Rome, I used the occult means that may now be discovered to you and caused Gisippus, in my person, consent unto that which he himself was not disposed to do. Moreover, ardently as I loved her, I sought her embraces not as a lover, but as a husband, nor, as she herself can truly testify, did I draw near to her till I had first both with the due words and with the ring espoused her, asking her if she would have me for husband, to which she answered ay. If it appear to her that she hath been deceived, it is not I who am to blame therefor, but she, who asked me not who I was. This, then, is the great misdeed, the grievous crime, the sore default committed by Gisippus as a friend and by myself as a lover, to wit, that Sophronia hath secretly become the wife of Titus Quintius, and this it is for which you defame and menace and plot against him. What more could you do, had he bestowed her upon a churl, a losel or a slave? What chains, what prison, what gibbets had sufficed thereunto?
But let that be for the present; the time is come which I looked not for yet, to wit, my father is dead and it behoveth me return to Rome; wherefore, meaning to carry Sophronia with me, I have discovered to you that which I should otherwise belike have yet kept hidden from you and with which, an you be wise, you will cheerfully put up, for that, had I wished to cheat or500 outrage you, I might have left her to you, scorned and dishonored; but God forfend that such a baseness should ever avail to harbour in a Roman breast! She, then, namely Sophronia, by the consent of the Gods and the operation of the laws of mankind, no less than by the admirable contrivance of my Gisippus and mine own amorous astuteness, is become mine, and this it seemeth that you, holding yourselves belike wiser than the Gods and than the rest of mankind, brutishly condemn, showing your disapproval in two ways both exceedingly noyous to myself, first by detaining Sophronia, over whom you have no right, save in so far as it pleaseth me to allow it, and secondly, by entreating Gisippus, to whom you are justly beholden, as an enemy. How foolishly you do in both which things I purpose not at this present to make farther manifest to you, but will only counsel you, as a friend, to lay by your despites and altogether leaving your resentments and the rancours that you have conceived, to restore Sophronia to me, so I may joyfully depart your kinsman and live your friend; for of this, whether that which is done please you or please you not, you may be assured that, if you offer to do otherwise, I will take Gisippus from you and if I win to Rome, I will without fail, however ill you may take it, have her again who is justly mine and ever after showing myself your enemy, will cause you know by experience that whereof the despite of Roman souls is capable.'
Titus, having thus spoken, rose to his feet, with a countenance all disordered for anger, and taking Gisippus by the hand, went forth of the temple, shaking his head threateningly and showing that he recked little of as many as were there. The latter, in part reconciled by his reasonings to the alliance and desirous of his friendship and in part terrified by his last words, of one accord determined that it was better to have him for a kinsman, since Gisippus had not willed it, than to have lost the latter to kinsman and gotten the former for an enemy. Accordingly, going in quest of Titus, they told him that they were willing that Sophronia should be his and to have him for a dear kinsman and Gisippus for a dear friend; then, having mutually done each other such honours and courtesies as beseem between kinsmen and friends, they took their leaves and sent Sophronia back to him. She, like a wise woman, making a virtue of necessity, readily transferred to Titus the affection she bore Gisippus and repaired with him to Rome, where she was received with great honour.
Meanwhile, Gisippus abode in Athens, held in little esteem of well nigh all, and no great while after, through certain intestine troubles, was, with all those of his house, expelled from Athens, in poverty and misery, and condemned to perpetual exile. Finding himself in this case and being grown not only poor, but beggarly, he betook himself, as least ill he might, to Rome, to essay if Titus should remember him. There, learning that the latter was alive and high in favour with all the Romans and enquiring for his dwelling-place, he stationed himself before the door and there abode till such time as Titus came, to whom, by reason of the wretched plight wherein he was, he dared not say a word, but studied to cause himself be seen of him, so he might501 recognize him and let call him to himself; wherefore Titus passed on, [without noting him,] and Gisippus, conceiving that he had seen and shunned him and remembering him of that which himself had done for him aforetime, departed, despiteful and despairing. It being by this night and he fasting and penniless, he wandered on, unknowing whither and more desirous of death than of otherwhat, and presently happened upon a very desert part of the city, where seeing a great cavern, he addressed himself to abide the night there and presently, forspent with long weeping, he fell asleep on the naked earth and ill in case. To this cavern two, who had gone a-thieving together that night, came towards morning, with the booty they had gotten, and falling out over the division, one, who was the stronger, slew the other and went away. Gisippus had seen and heard this and himseemed he had found a way to the death so sore desired of him, without slaying himself; wherefore he abode without stirring, till such time as the Serjeants of the watch, who had by this gotten wind of the deed, came thither and laying furious hands of him, carried him off prisoner. Gisippus, being examined, confessed that he had murdered the man nor had since availed to depart the cavern; whereupon the prætor, who was called Marcus Varro, commanded that he should be put to death upon the cross, as the usance then was.
Now Titus was by chance come at that juncture to the prætorium and looking the wretched condemned man in the face and hearing why he had been doomed to die, suddenly knew him for Gisippus; whereupon, marvelling at his sorry fortune and how he came to be in Rome and desiring most ardently to succour him, but seeing no other means of saving him than to accuse himself and thus excuse him, he thrust forward in haste and cried out, saying, 'Marcus Varro, call back the poor man whom thou hast condemned, for that he is innocent. I have enough offended against the Gods with one crime, in slaying him whom thine officer found this morning dead, without willing presently to wrong them with the death of another innocent.' Varro marvelled and it irked him that all the prætorium should have heard him; but, being unable, for his own honour's sake, to forbear from doing that which the laws commanded, he caused bring back Gisippus and in the presence of Titus said to him, 'How camest thou to be so mad that, without suffering any torture, thou confessedst to that which thou didst not, it being a capital matter? Thou declaredst thyself to be he who slew the man yesternight, and now this man cometh and saith that it was not thou, but he that slew him.'
Gisippus looked and seeing that it was Titus, perceived full well that he did this to save him, as grateful for the service aforetime received from him; wherefore, weeping for pity, 'Varro,' quoth he, 'indeed it was I slew him and Titus his solicitude for my safety is now too late.' Titus on the other hand, said, 'Prætor, do as thou seest, this man is a stranger and was found without arms beside the murdered man, and thou mayst see that his wretchedness giveth him occasion to wish to die; wherefore do thou release him and punish me, who have deserved it.' Varro marvelled at the insistence of these two502 and beginning now to presume that neither of them might be guilty, was casting about for a means of acquitting them, when, behold, up came a youth called Publius Ambustus, a man of notorious ill life and known to all the Romans for an arrant rogue, who had actually done the murder and knowing neither of the twain to be guilty of that whereof each accused himself, such was the pity that overcame his heart for the innocence of the two friends that, moved by supreme compassion, he came before Varro and said, 'Prætor, my fates impel me to solve the grievous contention of these twain and I know not what God within me spurreth and importuneth me to discover to thee my sin. Know, then, that neither of these men is guilty of that whereof each accuseth himself. I am verily he who slew yonder man this morning towards daybreak and I saw this poor wretch asleep there, what while I was in act to divide the booty gotten with him whom I slew. There is no need for me to excuse Titus; his renown is everywhere manifest and every one knoweth him to be no man of such a condition. Release him, therefore, and take of me that forfeit which the laws impose on me.'
By this Octavianus had notice of the matter and causing all three be brought before him, desired to hear what cause had moved each of them to seek to be the condemned man. Accordingly, each related his own story, whereupon Octavianus released the two friends, for that they were innocent, and pardoned the other for the love of them. Thereupon Titus took his Gisippus and first reproaching him sore for lukewarmness and diffidence, rejoiced in him with marvellous great joy and carried him to his house, where Sophronia with tears of compassion received him as a brother. Then, having awhile recruited him with rest and refreshment and reclothed him and restored him to such a habit as sorted with his worth and quality, he first shared all his treasures and estates in common with him and after gave him to wife a young sister of his, called Fulvia, saying, 'Gisippus, henceforth it resteth with thee whether thou wilt abide here with me or return with everything I have given thee into Achaia.' Gisippus, constrained on the one hand by his banishment from his native land and on the other by the love which he justly bore to the cherished friendship of Titus, consented to become a Roman and accordingly took up his abode in the city, where he with his Fulvia and Titus with his Sophronia lived long and happily, still abiding in one house and waxing more friends (an more they might be) every day.
A most sacred thing, then, is friendship and worthy not only of especial reverence, but to be commended with perpetual praise, as the most discreet mother of magnanimity and honour, the sister of gratitude and charity and the enemy of hatred and avarice, still, without waiting to be entreated, ready virtuously to do unto others that which it would have done to itself. Nowadays its divine effects are very rarely to be seen in any twain, by the fault and to the shame of the wretched cupidity of mankind, which, regarding only its503 own profit, hath relegated it to perpetual exile, beyond the extremest limits of the earth. What love, what riches, what kinship, what, except friendship, could have made Gisippus feel in his heart the ardour, the tears and the sighs of Titus with such efficacy as to cause him yield up to his friend his betrothed bride, fair and gentle and beloved of him? What laws, what menaces, what fears could have enforced the young arms of Gisippus to abstain, in solitary places and in dark, nay, in his very bed, from the embraces of the fair damsel, she mayhap bytimes inviting him, had friendship not done it? What honours, what rewards, what advancements, what, indeed, but friendship, could have made Gisippus reck not of losing his own kinsfolk and those of Sophronia nor of the unmannerly clamours of the populace nor of scoffs and insults, so that he might pleasure his friend? On the other hand, what, but friendship, could have prompted Titus, whenas he might fairly have feigned not to see, unhesitatingly to compass his own death, that he might deliver Gisippus from the cross to which he had of his own motion procured himself to be condemned? What else could have made Titus, without the least demur, so liberal in sharing his most ample patrimony with Gisippus, whom fortune had bereft of his own? What else could have made him so forward to vouchsafe his sister to his friend, albeit he saw him very poor and reduced to the extreme of misery? Let men, then, covet a multitude of comrades, troops of brethren and children galore and add, by dint of monies, to the number of their servitors, considering not that every one of these, who and whatsoever he may be, is more fearful of every least danger of his own than careful to do away the great from father or brother or master, whereas we see a friend do altogether the contrary."
THE NINTH STORY
Day the Tenth
SALADIN, IN THE DISGUISE OF A MERCHANT, IS HONOURABLY ENTERTAINED BY MESSER TORELLO D'ISTRIA, WHO, PRESENTLY UNDERTAKING THE [THIRD] CRUSADE, APPOINTETH HIS WIFE A TERM FOR HER MARRYING AGAIN. HE IS TAKEN [BY THE SARACENS] AND COMETH, BY HIS SKILL IN TRAINING HAWKS, UNDER THE NOTICE OF THE SOLDAN, WHO KNOWETH HIM AGAIN AND DISCOVERING HIMSELF TO HIM, ENTREATETH HIM WITH THE UTMOST HONOUR. THEN, TORELLO FALLING SICK FOR LANGUISHMENT, HE IS BY MAGICAL ART TRANSPORTED IN ONE NIGHT [FROM ALEXANDRIA] TO PAVIA, WHERE, BEING RECOGNIZED BY HIS WIFE AT THE BRIDE-FEAST HELD FOR HER MARRYING AGAIN, HE RETURNETH WITH HER TO HIS OWN HOUSE
Filomena having made an end of her discourse and the magnificent gratitude of Titus having been of all alike commended, the king, reserving the last place unto Dioneo, proceeded to speak thus: "Assuredly, lovesome ladies, Filomena speaketh sooth in that which she saith of friendship and with reason com504plaineth, in concluding her discourse, of its being so little in favour with mankind. If we were here for the purpose of correcting the defaults of the age or even of reprehending them, I might ensue her words with a discourse at large upon the subject; but, for that we aim at otherwhat, it hath occurred to my mind to set forth to you, in a story belike somewhat overlong, but withal altogether pleasing, one of the magnificences of Saladin, to the end that, if, by reason of our defaults, the friendship of any one may not be throughly acquired, we may, at the least, be led, by the things which you shall hear in my story, to take delight in doing service, in the hope that, whenassoever it may be, reward will ensue to us thereof.
I must tell you, then, that, according to that which divers folk affirm, a general crusade was, in the days of the Emperor Frederick the First, undertaken by the Christians for the recovery of the Holy Land, whereof Saladin, a very noble and valiant prince, who was then Soldan of Babylon, having notice awhile beforehand, he bethought himself to seek in his own person to see the preparations of the Christian princes for the undertaking in question, so he might the better avail to provide himself. Accordingly, having ordered all his affairs in Egypt, he made a show of going a pilgrimage and set out in the disguise of a merchant, attended by two only of his chiefest and sagest officers and three serving-men. After he had visited many Christian countries, it chanced that, as they rode through Lombardy, thinking to pass beyond the mountains, they encountered, about vespers, on the road from Milan to Pavia, a gentleman of the latter place, by name Messer Torello d'Istria, who was on his way, with his servants and dogs and falcons, to sojourn at a goodly country seat he had upon the Tesino, and no sooner set eyes on Saladin and his company than he knew them for gentlemen and strangers; wherefore, the Soldan enquiring of one of his servants how far they were yet distant from Pavia and if he might win thither in time to enter the city, he suffered not the man to reply, but himself answered, 'Gentlemen, you cannot reach Pavia in time to enter therein.' 'Then,' said Saladin, 'may it please you acquaint us (for that we are strangers) where we may best lodge the night.' Quoth Messer Torello, 'That will I willingly do. I had it presently in mind to dispatch one of my men here to the neighborhood of Pavia for somewhat: I will send him with you and he shall bring you to a place where you may lodge conveniently enough.' Then, turning to the discreetest of his men he [privily] enjoined him what he should do and sent him with them, whilst he himself, making for his country house, let order, as best he might, a goodly supper and set the tables in the garden; which done, he posted himself at the door to await his guests.
Meanwhile, the servant, devising with the gentlemen of one thing and another, led them about by certain by-roads and brought them, without their suspecting it, to his lord's residence, where, whenas Messer Torello saw them, he came to meet them afoot and said, smiling, 'Gentlemen, you are very welcome.' Saladin, who was very quick of appre505hension, understood that the gentleman had misdoubted him they would not have accepted his invitation, had he bidden them whenas he fell in with them, and had, therefore, brought them by practice to his house, so they might not avail to refuse to pass the night with him, and accordingly, returning his greeting, he said, 'Sir, an one could complain of men of courtesy, we might complain of you, for that (letting be that you have somewhat hindered us from our road) you have, without our having merited your goodwill otherwise than by a mere salutation, constrained us to accept of such noble hospitality as is this of yours.' 'Gentlemen,' answered Messer Torello, who was a discreet and well-spoken man, 'it is but a sorry hospitality that you will receive from us, regard had to that which should behove unto you, an I may judge by that which I apprehend from your carriage and that of your companions; but in truth you could nowhere out of Pavia have found any decent place of entertainment; wherefore, let it not irk you to have gone somedele beside your way, to have a little less unease.' Meanwhile, his servants came round about the travellers and helping them to dismount, eased their horses.
Messer Torello then brought the three stranger gentlemen to the chambers prepared for them, where he let unboot them and refresh them somewhat with very cool wines and entertained them in agreeable discourse till such time as they might sup. Saladin and his companions and servants all knew Latin, wherefore they understood very well and were understood, and it seemed to each of them that this gentleman was the most pleasant and well-mannered man they had ever seen, ay, and the best spoken. It appeared to Messer Torello, on the other hand, that they were men of magnificent fashions and much more of account than he had at first conceived, wherefore he was inwardly chagrined that he could not honour them that evening with companions and with a more considerable entertainment. But for this he bethought himself to make them amends on the morrow, and accordingly, having instructed one of his servants of that which he would have done, he despatched him to Pavia, which was very near at hand and where no gate was ever locked, to his lady, who was exceeding discreet and great-hearted. Then, carrying the gentlemen into the garden, he courteously asked them who they were, to which Saladin answered, 'We are merchants from Cyprus and are bound to Paris on our occasions.' 'Would to God,' cried Messer Torello, 'that this our country produced gentlemen of such a fashion as I see Cyprus doth merchants!' In these and other discourses they abode till it was time to sup, whereupon he left it to them to honour themselves at table, and there, for an improvised supper, they were very well and orderly served; nor had they abidden long after the tables were removed, when Messer Torello, judging them to be weary, put them to sleep in very goodly beds and himself a little after in like manner betook himself to rest.
Meanwhile the servant sent to Pavia506 did his errand to the lady, who, with no womanly, but with a royal spirit, let call in haste a great number of the friends and servants of Messer Torello and made ready all that behoved unto a magnificent banquet. Moreover, she let bid by torchlight many of the noblest of the townfolk to the banquet and bringing out cloths and silks and furs, caused throughly order that which her husband had sent to bid her do. The day come, Saladin and his companions arose, whereupon Messer Torello took horse with them and sending for his falcons, carried them to a neighbouring ford and there showed them how the latter flew; then, Saladin enquiring for some one who should bring him to Pavia and to the best inn, his host said, 'I will be your guide, for that it behoveth me go thither.' The others, believing this, were content and set out in company with him for the city, which they reached about tierce and thinking to be on their way to the best inn, were carried by Messer Torello to his own house, where a good half-hundred of the most considerable citizens were already come to receive the stranger gentlemen and were straightway about their bridles and stirrups. Saladin and his companions, seeing this, understood but too well what was forward and said, 'Messer Torello, this is not what we asked of you; you have done enough for us this past night, ay, and far more than we are worth; wherefore you might now fitly suffer us fare on our way.' 'Gentlemen,' replied Messer Torello, 'for my yesternight's dealing with you I am more indebted to fortune than to you, which took you on the road at an hour when it behoved you come to my poor house; but of your this morning's visit I shall be beholden to yourselves, and with me all these gentlemen who are about you and to whom an it seem to you courteous to refuse to dine with them, you can do so, if you will.'
Saladin and his companions, overcome, dismounted and being joyfully received by the assembled company, were carried to chambers which had been most sumptuously arrayed for them, where having put off their travelling gear and somewhat refreshed themselves, they repaired to the saloon, where the banquet was splendidly prepared. Water having been given to the hands, they were seated at table with the goodliest and most orderly observance and magnificently served with many viands, insomuch that, were the emperor himself come thither, it had been impossible to do him more honour, and albeit Saladin and his companions were great lords and used to see very great things, natheless, they were mightily wondered at this and it seemed to them of the greatest, having regard to the quality of the gentleman, whom they knew to be only a citizen and not a lord. Dinner ended and the tables removed, they conversed awhile of divers things; then, at Messer Torello's instance, the heat being great, the gentlemen of Pavia all betook themselves to repose, whilst he himself, abiding alone with his three guests, carried them into a chamber and (that no precious thing of his should remain unseen of them) let call thither his noble lady. Accordingly, the latter, who was very fair and tall of her person, came in to them, arrayed in rich apparel and flanked by two little sons of hers, as they were507 two angels, and saluted them courteously. The strangers, seeing her, rose to their feet and receiving her with worship, caused her sit among them and made much of her two fair children. Therewithal she entered into pleasant discourse with them and presently, Messer Torello having gone out awhile, she asked them courteously whence they were and whither they went; to which they made answer even as they had done to her husband; whereupon quoth she, with a blithe air, 'Then see I that my womanly advisement will be useful; wherefore I pray you, of your especial favour, refuse me not neither disdain a slight present, which I shall cause bring you, but accept it, considering that women, of their little heart, give little things and regarding more the goodwill of the giver than the value of the gift.' Then, letting fetch them each two gowns, one lined with silk and the other with miniver, no wise citizens' clothes nor merchants, but fit for great lords to wear, and three doublets of sendal and linen breeches to match, she said, 'Take these; I have clad my lord in gowns of the like fashion, and the other things, for all they are little worth, may be acceptable to you, considering that you are far from your ladies and the length of the way you have travelled and that which is yet to travel and that merchants are proper men and nice of their persons.'
The Saracens marvelled and manifestly perceived that Messer Torello was minded to leave no particular of hospitality undone them; nay, seeing the magnificence of the unmerchantlike gowns, they misdoubted them they had been recognized of him. However, one of them made answer to the lady, saying, 'Madam, these are very great matters and such as should not lightly be accepted, an your prayers, to which it is impossible to say no, constrained us not thereto.' This done and Messer Torello being now returned, the lady, commending them to God, took leave of them and let furnish their servants with like things such as sorted with their condition. Messer Torello with many prayers prevailed upon them to abide with him all that day; wherefore, after they had slept awhile, they donned their gowns and rode with him somedele about the city; then, the supper-hour come, they supped magnificently with many worshipful companions and in due time betook themselves to rest. On the morrow they arose with day and found, in place of their tired hackneys, three stout and good palfreys, and on likewise fresh and strong horses for their servants, which when Saladin saw, he turned to his companions and said, 'I vow to God that never was there a more accomplished gentleman nor a more courteous and apprehensive than this one, and if the kings of the Christians are kings of such a fashion as this is a gentleman, the Soldan of Babylon can never hope to stand against a single one of them, not to speak of the many whom we see make ready to fall upon him.' Then, knowing that it were in vain to seek to refuse this new gift, they very courteously thanked him therefor and mounted to horse.
Messer Torello, with many companions, brought them a great way without the city, till, grievous as it was to Saladin to part from him, (so much was he by this grown enamoured of him,) natheless, need constraining him to press508 on, he presently besought him to turn back; whereupon, loath as he was to leave them, 'Gentlemen,' quoth he, 'since it pleaseth you, I will do it; but one thing I will e'en say to you; I know not who you are nor do I ask to know more thereof than it pleaseth you to tell me; but, be you who you may, you will never make me believe that you are merchants, and so I commend you to God.' Saladin, having by this taken leave of all Messer Torello's companions, replied to him, saying, 'Sir, we may yet chance to let you see somewhat of our merchandise, whereby we may confirm your belief; meantime, God be with you.' Thereupon he departed with his followers, firmly resolved, if life should endure to him and the war he looked for undo him not, to do Messer Torello no less honour than that which he had done him, and much did he discourse with his companions of him and of his lady and all his affairs and fashions and dealings, mightily commending everything. Then, after he had, with no little fatigue, visited all the West, he took ship with his companions and returned to Alexandria, where, being now fully informed, he addressed himself to his defence. As for Messer Torello, he returned to Pavia and went long in thought who these might be, but never hit upon the truth, no, nor came near it.
The time being now come for the crusade and great preparations made everywhere, Messer Torello, notwithstanding the tears and entreaties of his wife, was altogether resolved to go thereon and having made his every provision and being about to take horse, he said to his lady, whom he loved over all, 'Wife, as thou seest, I go on this crusade, as well for the honour of my body as for the health of my soul. I commend to thee our affairs and our honour, and for that I am certain of the going, but of the returning, for a thousand chances that may betide, I have no assurance, I will have thee do me a favour, to wit, that whatever befall of me, an thou have not certain news of my life, thou shalt await me a year and a month and a day, ere thou marry again, beginning from this the day of my departure.' The lady, who wept sore, answered, 'Messer Torello, I know not how I shall endure the chagrin wherein you leave me by your departure; but, an my life prove stronger than my grief and aught befall you, you may live and die assured that I shall live and die the wife of Messer Torello and of his memory.' 'Wife,' rejoined Messer Torello, 'I am very certain that, inasmuch as in thee lieth, this that thou promisest me will come to pass; but thou art a young woman and fair and of high family and thy worth is great and everywhere known; wherefore I doubt not but many great and noble gentlemen will, should aught be misdoubted of me, demand thee of thy brethren and kinsfolk; from whose importunities, how much soever thou mightest wish, thou wilt not be able to defend thyself and it will behove thee perforce comply with their509 wishes; and this is why I ask of thee this term and not a greater one.' Quoth the lady, 'I will do what I may of that which I have told you, and should it nevertheless behove me to do otherwise, I will assuredly obey you in this that you enjoin me; but I pray God that He bring nor you nor me to such an extremity in these days.' This said, she embraced him, weeping, and drawing a ring from her finger, gave it to him, saying, 'And it chance that I die ere I see you again, remember me when you look upon this ring.'
Torello took the ring and mounted to horse; then, bidding all his people adieu, he set out on his journey and came presently with his company to Genoa. There he embarked on board a galleon and coming in a little while to Acre, joined himself to the other army of the Christians, wherein, well nigh out of hand, there began a sore sickness and mortality. During this, whether by Saladin's skill or of his good fortune, well nigh all the remnant of the Christians who had escaped alive were taken by him, without blow stricken, and divided among many cities and imprisoned. Messer Torello was one of those taken and was carried prisoner to Alexandria, where, being unknown and fearing to make himself known, he addressed himself, of necessity constrained, to the training of hawks, of which he was a great master, and by this he came under the notice of Saladin, who took him out of prison and entertained him for his falconer. Messer Torello, who was called by the Soldan by none other name than the Christian, recognized him not nor did Saladin recognize him; nay, all his thoughts were in Pavia and he had more than once essayed to flee, but without avail; wherefore, certain Genoese coming ambassadors to Saladin, to treat for the ransom of sundry of their townsmen, and being about to depart, he bethought himself to write to his lady, giving her to know that he was alive and would return to her as quickliest he might and bidding her await him. Accordingly, he wrote letters to this effect and instantly besought one of the ambassadors, whom he knew, to cause them come to the hands of the Abbot of San Pietro in Ciel d'Oro, who was his uncle.
Things being at this pass with him, it befell one day that, as Saladin was devising with him of his hawks, Messer Torello chanced to smile and made a motion with his mouth, which the former had much noted, what while he was in his house at Pavia. This brought the gentleman to his mind and looking steadfastly upon him, himseemed it was himself; wherefore, leaving the former discourse, 'Harkye, Christian, said he, 'What countryman art thou of the West?' 'My lord,' replied Torello, 'I am a Lombard of a city called Pavia, a poor man and of mean condition.' Saladin, hearing this, was in a manner certified of the truth of his suspicion and said joyfully in himself, 'God hath vouchsafed me an opportunity of showing this man how grateful his courtesy510 was to me.' Accordingly, without saying otherwhat, he let lay out all his apparel in a chamber and carrying him thither, said to him, 'Look, Christian, if there be any among these gowns that thou hast ever seen.' Torello looked and saw those which his lady had given Saladin; but, natheless, conceiving not that they could possibly be the same, he answered, 'My lord, I know none of them; albeit, in good sooth, these twain do favour certain gowns wherewithal I, together with three merchants who came to my house, was invested aforetime.' Thereupon Saladin, unable to contain himself farther, embraced him tenderly, saying, 'You are Messer Torello d'Istria and I am one of the three merchants to whom your lady gave these gowns; and now is the time come to certify you what manner merchandise mine is, even as I told you, at my parting from you, might chance to betide.' Messer Torello, hearing this, was at once rejoiced and ashamed; rejoiced to have had such a guest and ashamed for that himseemed he had entertained him but scurvily. Then said Saladin, 'Messer Torello, since God hath sent you hither to me, henceforth consider that not I, but you are master here.' Accordingly, after they had mightily rejoiced in each other, he clad him in royal apparel and carrying him into the presence of all his chief barons, commanded, after saying many things in praise of his worth, that he should of all who held his favour dear be honoured as himself, which was thenceforward done of all, but above all of the two gentlemen who had been Saladin's companions in his house.
The sudden height of glory to which Messer Torello thus found himself advanced put his Lombardy affairs somedele out of his mind, more by token that he had good reason to hope that his letters were by this come to his uncle's hands. Now there had died and been buried in the camp or rather in the host, of the Christians, the day they were taken by Saladin, a Provençal gentleman of little account, by name Messer Torello de Dignes, by reason whereof, Messer Torello d'Istria being renowned throughout the army for his magnificence, whosoever heard say, 'Messer Torello is dead,' believed it of Messer Torello d'Istria, not of him of Dignes. The hazard of the capture that ensued thereupon suffered not those who had been thus misled to be undeceived; wherefore many Italians returned with this news, amongst whom were some who scrupled not to avouch that they had seen him dead and had been at the burial. This, coming to be known of his wife and kinsfolk, was the cause of grievous and inexpressible sorrow, not only to them, but to all who had known him. It were longsome to set forth what and how great was the grief and sorrow and lamentation of his lady; but, after having bemoaned herself some months in continual affliction, coming to sorrow less and being sought in marriage with the chiefest men in Lombardy, she began to be presently importuned by her brothers and other her kinsfolk to marry again. After having again and again refused with many tears, needs must she at the last consent perforce to do her kinsfolk's will, on condition that she should abide, without going to a husband, so long as she had promised Messer Torello.511
The lady's affairs at Pavia being at this pass and there lacking maybe eight days of the term appointed for her going to her new husband, it chanced that Messer Torello espied one day in Alexandria one whom he had seen embark with the Genoese ambassadors on board the galley that was to carry them back to Genoa, and calling him, asked him what manner voyage they had had and when they had reached Genoa; whereto the other replied, 'Sir, the galleon (as I heard in Crete, where I remained,) made an ill voyage; for that, as she drew near unto Sicily, there arose a furious northerly wind, which drove her on to the Barbary quicksands, nor was any one saved; and amongst the rest two brothers of mine perished there.' Messer Torello, giving credit to his words, which were indeed but too true, and remembering him that the term required by him of his wife ended a few days thence, concluded that nothing could be known at Pavia of his condition and held it for certain that the lady must have married again; wherefore he fell into such a chagrin that he lost [sleep and] appetite and taking to his bed, determined to die. When Saladin, who loved him above all, heard of this, he came to him and having, by dint of many and urgent prayers, learned the cause of his grief and his sickness, upbraided him sore for that he had not before told it to him and after besought him to be comforted, assuring him that, if he would but take heart, he would so contrive that he should be in Pavia at the appointed term and told him how. Messer Torello, putting faith in Saladin's words and having many a time heard say that this was possible and had indeed been often enough done, began to take comfort and pressed Saladin to despatch. The Soldan accordingly charged a nigromancer of his, of whose skill he had aforetime made proof, to cast about for a means whereby Messer Torello should be in one night transported upon a bed to Pavia, to which the magician replied that it should be done, but that, for the gentleman's own weal, he must put him to sleep.
This done, Saladin returned to Messer Torello and finding him altogether resolved to seek at any hazard to be in Pavia at the term appointed, if it were possible, and in default thereof, to die, bespoke him thus; 'Messer Torello, God knoweth that I neither will nor can anywise blame you if you tenderly love your lady and are fearful of her becoming another's, for that, of all the women I ever saw, she it is whose manners, whose fashions and whose demeanour, (leaving be her beauty, which is but a short-lived flower,) appear to me most worthy to be commended and held dear. It had been very grateful to me, since fortune hath sent you hither, that we should have passed together, as equal masters in the governance of this my realm, such time as you and I have to live, and if this was not to be vouchsafed me of God, it being fated that you should take it to heart to seek either to die or to find yourself in Pavia at the appointed term, I should above all have desired to know it in time, that I might have you transported to your house with such honour, such magnificence and in such company as your worth meriteth. However, since this hath not been vouchsafed and you desire to be presently there, I will e'en, as I may, despatch you thither after the fashion512 whereof I have bespoken you.' 'My lord,' replied Messer Torello, 'your acts, without your words, have given me sufficient proof of your favour, which I have never merited in such supreme degree, and of that which you say, though you had not said it, I shall live and die most assured; but, since I have taken this resolve, I pray you that that which you tell me you will do may be done speedily, for that to-morrow is the last day I am to be looked for.'
Saladin answered that this should without fail be accomplished and accordingly, on the morrow, meaning to send him away that same night, he let make, in a great hall of his palace, a very goodly and rich bed of mattresses, all, according to their usance, of velvet and cloth of gold and caused lay thereon a counterpoint curiously wrought in various figures with great pearls and jewels of great price (the which here in Italy was after esteemed an inestimable treasure) and two pillows such as sorted with a bed of that fashion. This done, he bade invest Messer Torello, who was presently well and strong again, in a gown of the Saracen fashion, the richest and goodliest thing that had ever been seen of any, and wind about his head, after their guise, one of his longest turban-cloths. Then, it growing late, he betook himself with many of his barons to the chamber where Messer Torello was and seating himself, well nigh weeping, by his side, bespoke him thus; 'Messer Torello, the hour draweth near that is to sunder me from you, and since I may not bear you company nor cause you to be accompanied, by reason of the nature of the journey you have to make, which suffereth it not, needs must I take leave of you here in this chamber, to which end I am come hither. Wherefore, ere I commend you to God, I conjure you, by that love and that friendship that is between us, that you remember you of me and if it be possible, ere our times come to an end, that, whenas you have ordered your affairs in Lombardy, you come at the least once to see me, to the end that, what while I am cheered by your sight, I may then supply the default which needs must I presently commit by reason of your haste; and against that betide, let it not irk you to visit me with letters and require me of such things as shall please you; for that of a surety I will more gladly do them for you than for any man alive.'
As for Messer Torello, he could not contain his tears; wherefore, being hindered thereby, he answered, in a few words, that it was impossible his benefits and his nobility should ever escape his mind and that he would without fail do that which he enjoined him, whenas occasion should be afforded him; whereupon Saladin, having tenderly embraced him and kissed him, bade him with many tears God speed and departed the chamber. The other barons then all took leave of him and followed the Soldan into the hall where he had caused make ready the bed. Meanwhile, it waxing late and the nigromant awaiting and pressing for des513patch, there came a physician to Messer Torello with a draught and making him believe that he gave it him to fortify him, caused him drink it; nor was it long ere he fell asleep and so, by Saladin's commandment, was carried into the hall and laid upon the bed aforesaid, whereon the Soldan placed a great and goodly crown of great price and inscribed it on such wise that it was after manifestly understood to be sent by him to Messer Torello's lady; after which he put on Torello's finger a ring, wherein was a carbuncle enchased, so resplendent that it seemed a lighted flambeau, the value whereof could scarce be reckoned, and girt him with a sword, whose garniture might not lightly be appraised. Moreover, he let hang a fermail on his breast, wherein were pearls whose like were never seen, together with other precious stones galore, and on his either side he caused set two great basins of gold, full of doubloons, and many strings of pearls and rings and girdles and other things, which it were tedious to recount, round about him. This done, he kissed him once more and bade the nigromant despatch, whereupon, in his presence, the bed was incontinent taken away, Messer Torello and all, and Saladin abode devising of him with his barons.
Meanwhile, Messer Torello had been set down, even as he had requested, in the church of San Pietro in Ciel d'Oro at Pavia, with all the jewels and ornaments aforesaid, and yet slept when, matins having sounded, the sacristan of the church entered, with a light in his hand, and chancing suddenly to espy the rich bed, not only marvelled, but, seized with a terrible fright, turned and fled. The abbot and the monks, seeing him flee, marvelled and questioned him of the cause, which he told them; whereupon quoth the abbot, 'Marry, thou art no child nor art thou new to the church that thou shouldst thus lightly take fright; let us go see who hath played the bugbear with thee.' Accordingly, kindling several lights, the abbot and all his monks entered the church and saw that wonder-rich and goodly bed and thereon the gentleman asleep; and what while, misdoubting and fearful, they gazed upon the noble jewels, without drawing anywise near to the bed, it befell that, the virtue of the draught being spent, Messer Torello awoke and heaved a great sigh, which when the monks saw and heard, they took to flight, abbot and all, affrighted and crying, 'Lord aid us!' Messer Torello opened his eyes and looking about him, plainly perceived himself to be whereas he had asked Saladin to have him carried, at which he was mightily content. Then, sitting up, he particularly examined that which he had about him, and for all he had before known of the magnificence of Saladin, it seemed to him now greater and he knew it more. Nevertheless, without moving farther, seeing the monks flee and divining why, he proceeded to call the abbot by name, praying him be not afraid, for that he was Torello his nephew. The abbot, hearing this, waxed yet more fearful, as holding him as dead many months before; but, after awhile, taking assurance by true arguments and hearing himself called, he made the sign of the cross and went up to him; whereupon quoth Messer Torello, 'How now, father mine, of what are you adread? Godamercy,514 I am alive and returned hither from beyond seas.'
The abbot, for all he had a great beard and was clad after the Saracen fashion, presently recognized him and altogether reassured, took him by the hand, saying, 'My son, thou art welcome back.' Then he continued, 'Thou must not marvel at our affright, for that there is not a man in these parts but firmly believeth thee to be dead, insomuch that I must tell thee that Madam Adalieta thy wife, overmastered by the prayers and threats of her kinsfolk and against her own will, is married again and is this morning to go to her new husband; ay, and the bride-feast and all that pertaineth unto the nuptial festivities is prepared.' Therewithal Messer Torello arose from off the rich bed and greeting the abbot and the monks with marvellous joyance, prayed them all to speak with none of that his return, against he should have despatched an occasion of his; after which, having caused lay up the costly jewels in safety, he recounted to his uncle all that had befallen him up to that moment. The abbot rejoiced in his happy fortunes and together with him, rendered thanks to God, after which Messer Torello asked him who was his lady's new husband. The abbot told him and Torello said, 'I have a mind, ere folk know of my return, to see what manner countenance is that of my wife in these nuptials; wherefore, albeit it is not the usance of men of your habit to go to entertainments of this kind, I would have you contrive, for the love of me, that we may go thither, you and I.' The abbot replied that he would well and accordingly, as soon as it was day, he sent to the new bridegroom, saying that he would fain be at his nuptials with a friend of his, whereto the gentleman answered that it liked him passing well.
Accordingly, eating-time come, Messer Torello, clad as he was, repaired with his uncle to the bridegroom's house, beheld with wonderment of all who saw him, but recognized of none; and the abbot told every one that he was a Saracen sent ambassador from the Soldan to the King of France. He was, therefore, seated at a table right overagainst his lady, whom he beheld with the utmost pleasure, and himseemed she was troubled in countenance at these new nuptials. She, in her turn, looked whiles upon him, but not of any cognizance that she had of him, for that his great beard and outlandish habit and the firm assurance she had that he was dead hindered her thereof. Presently, whenas it seemed to him time to essay if she remembered her of him, he took the ring she had given him at his parting and calling a lad who served before her, said to him, 'Say to the bride, on my part, that it is the usance in my country, whenas any stranger, such as I am here, eateth at the bride-feast of any new-married lady, like herself, that she, in token that she holdeth him welcome at her table, send him the cup, wherein she drinketh, full of wine, whereof after the stranger hath drunken what he will, the cup being covered again, the bride drinketh the rest.'
The page did his errand to the lady, who, like a well-bred and discreet woman as she was, believing him to be some great gentleman, commanded, to show him that she had his coming in515 gree, that a great gilded cup, which stood before her, should be washed and filled with wine and carried to the gentleman; and so it was done. Messer Torello, taking her ring in his mouth, contrived in drinking to drop it, unseen of any, into the cup, wherein having left but a little wine, he covered it again and despatched it to the lady. Madam Adalieta, taking the cup and uncovering it, that she might accomplish his usance, set it to her mouth and seeing the ring, considered it awhile, without saying aught; then, knowing it for that which she had given to Messer Torello at parting, she took it up and looking fixedly upon him whom she deemed a stranger, presently recognized him; whereupon, as she were waxen mad, she overthrew the table she had before her and cried out, saying, 'It is my lord, it is indeed Messer Torello!' Then, running to the place where he sat, she cast herself as far forward as she might, without taking thought to her clothes or to aught that was on the table, and clipped him close in her arms nor could, for word or deed of any there, be loosed from his neck till she was bidden of Messer Torello contain herself somewhat, for that time enough would yet be afforded her to embrace him. She accordingly having arisen and the nuptials being by this all troubled, albeit in part more joyous than ever for the recovery of such a gentleman, every one, at Messer Torello's request, abode quiet; whereupon he related to them all that had betided him from the day of his departure up to that moment, concluding that the gentleman, who, deeming him dead, had taken his lady to wife, must not hold it ill if he, being alive, took her again unto himself.
The bridegroom, though somewhat mortified, answered frankly and as a friend that it rested with himself to do what most pleased him of his own. Accordingly, the lady put off the ring and crown had of her new groom and donned the ring which she had taken from the cup and the crown sent her by the Soldan; then, issuing forth of the house where they were, they betook themselves, with all the nuptial train, to Messer Torello's house and there recomforted his disconsolate friends and kindred and all the townsfolk, who regarded his return as well nigh a miracle, with long and joyous festival. As for Messer Torello, after imparting of his precious jewels to him who had had the expense of the nuptials, as well as to the abbot and many others, and signifying his happy repatriation by more than one message to Saladin, whose friend and servant he still professed himself, he lived many years thereafterward with his noble lady and thenceforth, used more hospitality and courtesy than ever. Such then was the issue of the troubles of Messer Torello and his beloved lady and the recompense of their cheerful and ready hospitalities, the which many study to practise, who, albeit they have the wherewithal, do yet so ill contrive it that they make those on whom they bestow their courtesies buy them, ere they have done with them, for more than their worth; wherefore, if no reward ensue to them thereof, neither themselves nor others should marvel thereat."
THE TENTH STORY
Day the Tenth
THE MARQUESS OF SALUZZO, CONSTRAINED BY THE PRAYERS OF HIS VASSALS TO MARRY, BUT DETERMINED TO DO IT AFTER HIS OWN FASHION, TAKETH TO WIFE THE DAUGHTER OF A PEASANT AND HATH OF HER TWO CHILDREN, WHOM HE MAKETH BELIEVE TO HER TO PUT TO DEATH; AFTER WHICH, FEIGNING TO BE GROWN WEARY OF HER AND TO HAVE TAKEN ANOTHER WIFE, HE LETTETH BRING HIS OWN DAUGHTER HOME TO HIS HOUSE, AS SHE WERE HIS NEW BRIDE, AND TURNETH HIS WIFE AWAY IN HER SHIFT; BUT, FINDING HER PATIENT UNDER EVERYTHING, HE FETCHETH HER HOME AGAIN, DEARER THAN EVER, AND SHOWING HER HER CHILDREN GROWN GREAT, HONOURETH AND LETTETH HONOUR HER AS MARCHIONESS
The king's long story being ended and having, to all appearance, much pleased all, Dioneo said, laughing, "The good man, who looked that night to abase the phantom's tail upright, had not given a brace of farthings of all the praises that you bestow on Messer Torello." Then, knowing that it rested with him alone to tell, he proceeded: "Gentle ladies mine, it appeareth to me that this day hath been given up to Kings and Soldans and the like folk; wherefore, that I may not remove overfar from you, I purpose to relate to you of a marquess, not an act of magnificence, but a monstrous folly, which, albeit good ensued to him thereof in the end, I counsel not any to imitate, for it was a thousand pities that weal betided him thereof.
It is now a great while agone since the chief of the house among the Marquesses of Saluzzo was a youth called Gualtieri, who, having neither wife nor children, spent his time in nought but hunting and hawking nor had any thought of taking a wife nor of having children; wherein he deserved to be reputed very wise. The thing, however, not pleasing his vassals, they besought him many times to take a wife, so he might not abide without an heir nor they without a lord, and offered themselves to find him one of such a fashion and born of such parents that good hopes might be had of her and he be well content with her; whereto he answered, 'My friends, you constrain me unto that which I was altogether resolved never to do, considering how hard a thing it is to find a wife whose fashions sort well within one's own humour and how great an abundance there is of the contrary sort and how dour a life is his who happeneth upon a woman not well suited unto him. To say that you think, by the manners and fashions of the parents, to know the daughters, wherefrom you argue to give me a wife such as will please me, is a folly, since I know not whence you may avail to know their fathers nor yet the secrets of their mothers; and even did you know them, daughters are often unlike their parents. However, since it e'en pleaseth you to bind me in these chains, I am content to do your desire; but, that I may not517 have occasion to complain of other than myself, if it prove ill done, I mean to find a wife for myself, certifying you that, whomsoever I may take me, if she be not honoured of you as your lady and mistress, you shall prove, to your cost, how much it irketh me to have at your entreaty taken a wife against mine own will.'
The good honest men replied that they were content, so he would but bring himself to take a wife. Now the fashions of a poor girl, who was of a village near to his house, had long pleased Gualtieri, and himseeming she was fair enough, he judged that he might lead a very comfortable life with her; wherefore, without seeking farther, he determined to marry her and sending for her father, who was a very poor man, agreed with him to take her to wife. This done, he assembled all his friends of the country round and said to them, 'My friends, it hath pleased and pleaseth you that I should dispose me to take a wife and I have resigned myself thereto, more to complease you than of any desire I have for marriage. You know what you promised me, to wit, that you would be content with and honour as your lady and mistress her whom I should take, whosoever she might be; wherefore the time is come when I am to keep my promise to you and when I would have you keep yours to me. I have found a damsel after mine own heart and purpose within some few days hence to marry her and bring her home to my house; wherefore do you bethink yourselves how the bride-feast may be a goodly one and how you may receive her with honour, on such wise that I may avouch myself contented of your promise, even as you will have cause to be of mine.' The good folk all answered joyfully that this liked them well and that, be she who he would, they would hold her for lady and mistress and honour her as such in all things; after which they all addressed themselves to hold fair and high and glad festival and on like wise did Gualtieri, who let make ready very great and goodly nuptials and bade thereto many his friends and kinsfolk and great gentlemen and others of the neighbourhood. Moreover, he let cut and fashion store of rich and goodly apparel, after the measure of a damsel who seemed to him like of her person to the young woman he was purposed to marry, and provided also rings and girdles and a rich and goodly crown and all that behoveth unto a bride.
The day come that he had appointed for the nuptials, Gualtieri towards half tierce mounted to horse, he and all those who were come to do him honour, and having ordered everything needful. 'Gentlemen,' quoth he, 'it is time to go fetch the bride.' Then, setting out with all his company, he rode to the village and betaking himself to the house of the girl's father, found her returning in great haste with water from the spring, so she might after go with other women to see Gualtieri's bride come. When the marquess saw her, he called her by name, to wit, Griselda, and asked her where her father was; to which she answered bashfully, 'My lord, he is within the house.' Thereupon Gualtieri dismounted and bidding all await him, entered the poor house alone, where he found her father, whose name was Giannucolo, and said to him, 'I am come to marry Griselda, but first I would fain know of her somewhat in518 thy presence.' Accordingly, he asked her if, an he took her to wife, she would still study to please him, nor take umbrage at aught that he should do or say, and if she would be obedient, and many other like things, to all of which she answered ay; whereupon Gualtieri, taking her by the hand, led her forth and in the presence of all his company and of every one else, let strip her naked. Then, sending for the garments which he had let make, he caused forthright clothe and shoe her and would have her set the crown on her hair, all tumbled as it was; after which, all marvelling at this, he said, 'Gentlemen, this is she who I purpose shall be my wife, an she will have me to husband.' Then, turning to her, where she stood, all shamefast and confounded, he said to her, 'Griselda, wilt thou have me to thy husband?' To which she answered, 'Ay, my lord.' Quoth he, 'And I will have thee to my wife'; and espoused her in the presence of all. Then, mounting her on a palfrey, he carried her, honourably accompanied, to his mansion, where the nuptials were celebrated with the utmost splendour and rejoicing, no otherwise than as he had taken to wife the king's daughter of France.
The young wife seemed to have, together with her clothes, changed her mind and her manners. She was, as we have already said, goodly of person and countenance, and even as she was fair, on like wise she became so engaging, so pleasant and so well-mannered that she seemed rather to have been the child of some noble gentleman than the daughter of Giannucolo and a tender of sheep; whereof she made every one marvel who had known her aforetime. Moreover, she was so obedient to her husband and so diligent in his service that he accounted himself the happiest and best contented man in the world; and on like wise she bore herself with such graciousness and such loving kindness towards her husband's subjects that there was none of them but loved and honoured her with his whole heart, praying all for her welfare and prosperity and advancement; and whereas they were used to say that Gualtieri had done as one of little wit to take her to wife, they now with one accord declared that he was the sagest and best-advised man alive, for that none other than he might ever have availed to know her high worth, hidden as it was under poor clothes and a rustic habit. Brief, it was no great while ere she knew so to do that, not only in her husband's marquisate, but everywhere else, she made folk talk of her virtues and her well-doing and turned to the contrary whatsoever had been said against her husband on her account, whenas he married her.
She had not long abidden with Gualtieri ere she conceived with child and in due time bore a daughter, whereat he rejoiced greatly. But, a little after, a new thought having entered his mind, to wit, to seek, by dint of long tribulation and things unendurable, to make trial of her patience, he first goaded her with words, feigning himself troubled and saying that his vassals were exceeding ill content with her, by reason of her mean extraction, especially since they saw that she bore children, and that they did nothing but519 murmur, being sore chagrined for the birth of her daughter. The lady, hearing this, replied, without anywise changing countenance or showing the least distemperature, 'My lord, do with me that which thou deemest will be most for thine honour and solace, for that I shall be content with all, knowing, as I do, that I am of less account than they and that I was unworthy of this dignity to which thou hast advanced me of thy courtesy.' This reply was mighty agreeable to Gualtieri, for that he saw she was not uplifted into aught of pridefulness for any honour that himself or others had done her; but, a little after, having in general terms told her that his vassals could not brook this girl that had been born of her, he sent to her a serving-man of his, whom he had lessoned and who said to her with a very woeful countenance, 'Madam, an I would not die, needs must I do that which my lord commandeth me. He hath bidden me take this your daughter and....' And said no more. The lady, hearing this and seeing the servant's aspect and remembering her of her husband's words, concluded that he had enjoined him put the child to death; whereupon, without changing countenance, albeit she felt a sore anguish at heart, she straightway took her from the cradle and having kissed and blessed her, laid her in the servant's arms, saying, 'Take her and punctually do that which thy lord hath enjoined thee; but leave her not to be devoured of the beasts and the birds, except he command it thee.' The servant took the child and reported that which the lady had said to Gualtieri, who marvelled at her constancy and despatched him with the child to a kinswoman of his at Bologna, praying her to bring her up and rear her diligently, without ever saying whose daughter she was.
In course of time the lady again conceived and in due season bore a male child, to her husband's great joy; but, that which he had already done sufficing him not, he addressed himself to probe her to the quick with a yet sorer stroke and accordingly said to her one day with a troubled air, 'Wife, since thou hast borne this male child, I have nowise been able to live in peace with these my people, so sore do they murmur that a grandson of Giannucolo should become their lord after me; wherefore I misdoubt me, an I would not be driven forth of my domains, it will behove me do in this case that which I did otherwhen and ultimately put thee away and take another wife.' The lady gave ear to him with a patient mind nor answered otherwhat then, 'My lord, study to content thyself and to satisfy thy pleasure and have no thought of me, for that nothing is dear to me save in so much as I see it please thee.' Not many days after, Gualtieri sent for the son, even as he had sent for the daughter, and making a like show of having him put to death, despatched him to Bologna, there to be brought up, even as he had done with the girl; but the lady made no other countenance nor other words thereof than she had done of the girl; whereat Gualtieri marvelled sore and affirmed in himself that no other woman could have availed to do this that she did; and had he not seen her tender her children with the utmost fondness,520 what while it pleased him, he had believed that she did this because she recked no more of them; whereas in effect he knew that she did it of her discretion. His vassals, believing that he had caused put the children to death, blamed him sore, accounting him a barbarous man, and had the utmost compassion of his wife, who never answered otherwhat to the ladies who condoled with her for her children thus slain, than that that which pleased him thereof who had begotten them, pleased her also.
At last, several years being passed since the birth of the girl, Gualtieri, deeming it time to make the supreme trial of her endurance, declared, in the presence of his people, that he could no longer endure to have Griselda to wife and that he perceived that he had done ill and boyishly in taking her, wherefore he purposed, as far as in him lay, to make interest with the Pope to grant him a dispensation, so he might put her away and take another wife. For this he was roundly taken to task by many men of worth, but answered them nothing save that needs must it be so. The lady, hearing these things and herseeming she must look to return to her father's house and maybe tend sheep again as she had done aforetime, what while she saw another woman in possession of him to whom she willed all her weal, sorrowed sore in herself; but yet, even as she had borne the other affronts of fortune, so with a firm countenance she addressed herself to bear this also. Gualtieri no great while after let come to him from Rome counterfeit letters of dispensation and gave his vassals to believe that the Pope had thereby licensed him to take another wife and leave Griselda; then, sending for the latter, he said to her, in presence of many, 'Wife, by concession made me of the Pope, I am free to take another wife and put thee away, and accordingly, for that mine ancestors have been great gentlemen and lords of this country, whilst thine have still been husbandmen, I mean that thou be no more my wife, but that thou return to Giannucolo his house with the dowry which thou broughtest me, and I will after bring hither another wife, for that I have found one more sorted to myself.'
The lady, hearing this, contained her tears, contrary to the nature of woman, though not without great unease, and answered, 'My lord, I ever knew my mean estate to be nowise sortable with your nobility, and for that which I have been with you I have still confessed myself indebted to you and to God, nor have I ever made nor held it mine, as given to me, but have still accounted it but as a loan. It pleaseth you to require it again and it must and doth please me to restore it to you. Here is your ring wherewith you espoused me; take it. You bid me carry away with me that dowry which I brought hither, which to do you will need no paymaster and I neither purse nor packhorse, for I have not forgotten that you had me naked, and if you account it seemly that this my body, wherein I have carried children begotten of you, be seen of all, I will begone naked; but I pray you, in requital of my maidenhead, which I brought hither and bear not hence with me, that it please you I may carry away at the least one sole shift over and above my dowry.' Gualtieri, who521 had more mind to weep than to otherwhat, natheless kept a stern countenance and said, 'So be it; carry away a shift.' As many as stood around besought him to give her a gown, so that she who had been thirteen years and more his wife should not be seen go forth of his house on such mean and shameful wise as it was to depart in her shift; but their prayers all went for nothing; wherefore the lady, having commended them to God, went forth his house in her shift, barefoot and nothing on her head, and returned to her father, followed by the tears and lamentations of all who saw her. Giannucolo, who had never been able to believe it true that Gualtieri should entertain his daughter to wife and went in daily expectation of this event, had kept her the clothes which she had put off the morning that Gualtieri had married her and now brought them to her; whereupon she donned them and addressed herself, as she had been wont to do, to the little offices of her father's house, enduring the cruel onslaught of hostile fortune with a stout heart.
Gualtieri, having done this, gave out to his people that he had chosen a daughter of one of the Counts of Panago and letting make great preparations for the nuptials, sent for Griselda to come to him and said to her, 'I am about to bring home this lady, whom I have newly taken to wife, and mean, at this her first coming, to do her honour. Thou knowest I have no women about me who know how to array me the rooms nor to do a multitude of things that behove unto such a festival; wherefore do thou, who art better versed than any else in these household matters, order that which is to do here and let bid such ladies as it seemeth good to thee and receive them as thou wert mistress here; then, when the nuptials are ended, thou mayst begone back to thy house.' Albeit these words were all daggers to Griselda's heart, who had been unable to lay down the love she bore him as she had laid down her fair fortune, she replied, 'My lord, I am ready and willing.' Then, in her coarse homespun clothes, entering the house, whence she had a little before departed in her shift, she fell to sweeping and ordering the chambers and letting place hangings and cover-cloths about the saloons and make ready the viands, putting her hand to everything, as she were some paltry serving-wench of the house, nor ever gave over till she had arrayed and ordered everything as it behoved. Thereafter, having let invite all the ladies of the country on Gualtieri's part, she awaited the day of the festival, which being come, with a cheerful countenance and the spirit and bearing of a lady of high degree, for all she had mean clothes on her back, she received all the ladies who came thither.
Meanwhile, Gualtieri, who had caused the two children be diligently reared in Bologna by his kinswoman, (who was married to a gentleman of the Panago family,) the girl being now twelve years old and the fairest creature that ever was seen and the boy six, had sent to his kinsman at Bologna, praying him be pleased to come to Saluzzo with his son and daughter and take order to bring with him a goodly and honourable company and bidding him tell every522 one that he was carrying him the young lady to his wife, without otherwise discovering to any aught of who she was. The gentleman did as the marquess prayed him and setting out, with the girl and boy and a goodly company of gentlefolk, after some days' journey, arrived, about dinner-time, at Saluzzo, where he found all the countryfolk and many others of the neighbourhood awaiting Gualtieri's new bride. The latter, being received by the ladies and come into the saloon where the tables were laid, Griselda came to meet her, clad as she was, and accosted her blithely, saying, 'Welcome and fair welcome to my lady.' Thereupon the ladies (who had urgently, but in vain, besought Gualtieri to suffer Griselda to abide in a chamber or lend her one of the gowns that had been hers, so that she might not go thus before his guests) were seated at table and it was proceeded to serve them. The girl was eyed by every one and all declared that Gualtieri had made a good exchange; and among the rest Griselda commended her amain, both her and her young brother.
Gualtieri perceiving that the strangeness of the case in no wise changed her and being assured that this proceeded not from lack of understanding, for that he knew her to be very quick of wit, himseemed he had now seen fully as much as he desired of his lady's patience and he judged it time to deliver her from the bitterness which he doubted not she kept hidden under her constant countenance; wherefore, calling her to himself, he said to her, smiling, in the presence of every one, 'How deemest thou of our bride?' 'My lord,' answered she, 'I deem exceeding well of her, and if, as I believe, she is as discreet as she is fair, I doubt not a whit but you will live the happiest gentleman in the world with her; but I beseech you, as most I may, that you inflict not on her those pangs which you inflicted whilere on her who was sometime yours; for methinketh she might scarce avail to endure them, both because she is younger and because she hath been delicately reared, whereas the other had been in continual fatigues from a little child.' Thereupon, Gualtieri, seeing she firmly believed that the young lady was to be his wife nor therefore spoke anywise less than well, seated her by his side and said to her, 'Griselda, it is now time that thou reap the fruits of thy long patience and that those who have reputed me cruel and unjust and brutish should know that this which I have done I wrought to an end aforeseen, willing to teach thee to be a wife and to show them how to take and use one and at the same time to beget myself perpetual quiet, what while I had to live with thee; the which, whenas I came to take a wife, I was sore afraid might not betide me, and therefore, to make proof thereof, I probed and afflicted thee after such kind as thou knowest. And meseeming, for that I have never perceived that either in word or in deed hast thou departed from my pleasure, that I have of thee that solace which I desired, I purpose presently to restore thee, at one stroke, that which I took from thee at many and to requite thee with a supreme delight the pangs I have inflicted on thee. Wherefore with a joyful heart take this whom thou deemest my bride and her brother for thy children and mine; for these be they whom523 thou and many others have long accounted me to have barbarously let put to death; and I am thy husband, who loveth thee over all else, believing I may vaunt me that there is none else who can be so content of his wife as can I.'
So saying, he embraced her and kissed her; then, rising up, he betook himself with Griselda, who wept for joy, whereas the daughter, hearing these things, sat all stupefied, and tenderly embracing her and her brother, undeceived her and many others who were there. Thereupon the ladies arose from table, overjoyed, and withdrew with Griselda into a chamber, where, with happier augury, pulling off her mean attire, they clad her anew in a magnificent dress of her own and brought her again to the saloon, as a gentlewoman, which indeed she appeared, even in rags. There she rejoiced in her children with wonder-great joy, and all being overjoyed at this happy issue, they redoubled in feasting and merrymaking and prolonged the festivities several days, accounting Gualtieri a very wise man, albeit they held the trials which he had made of his lady overharsh, nay, intolerable; but over all they held Griselda most sage. The Count of Panago returned, after some days, to Bologna, and Gualtieri, taking Giannucolo from his labour, placed him in such estate as befitted his father-in-law, so that he lived in honour and great solace and so ended his days; whilst he himself, having nobly married his daughter, lived long and happily with Griselda, honouring her as most might be. What more can here be said save that even in poor cottages there rain down divine spirits from heaven, like as in princely palaces there be those who were worthier to tend swine than to have lordship over men? Who but Griselda could, with a countenance, not only dry, but cheerful, have endured the barbarous and unheard proofs made by Gualtieri? Which latter had not belike been ill requited, had he happened upon one who, when he turned her out of doors in her shift, had let jumble her furbelows of another to such purpose that a fine gown had come of it."
Dioneo's story being finished and the ladies having discoursed amain thereof, some inclining to one side and some to another, this blaming one thing and that commending it, the king, lifting his eyes to heaven and seeing that the sun was now low and the hour of vespers at hand, proceeded, without arising from session, to speak thus, "Charming ladies, as I doubt not you know, the understanding of mortals consisteth not only in having in memory things past and taking cognizance of things present; but in knowing, by means of the one and the other of these, to forecast things future is reputed by men of mark to consist the greatest wisdom. To-morrow, as you know, it will be fifteen days since we departed Florence, to take some diversion for the preservation of our health and of our lives, eschewing the woes and dolours and miseries which, since this pestilential season began, are continually to be seen about our city. This, to my judgment, we have well and honourably done; for that, an I have known to see aright, albeit merry stories and belike incentive524 to concupiscence have been told here and we have continually eaten and drunken well and danced and sung and made music, all things apt to incite weak minds to things less seemly, I have noted no act, no word, in fine nothing blameworthy, either on your part or on that of us men; nay, meseemeth I have seen and felt here a continual decency, an unbroken concord and a constant fraternal familiarity; the which, at once for your honour and service and for mine own, is, certes, most pleasing to me. Lest, however, for overlong usance aught should grow thereof that might issue in tediousness, and that none may avail to cavil at our overlong tarriance,—each of us, moreover, having had his or her share of the honour that yet resideth in myself,—I hold it meet, an it be your pleasure, that we now return whence we came; more by token that, if you consider aright, our company, already known to several others of the neighbourhood, may multiply after a fashion that will deprive us of our every commodity. Wherefore, if you approve my counsel, I will retain the crown conferred on me until our departure, which I purpose shall be to-morrow morning; but, should you determine otherwise, I have already in mind whom I shall invest withal for the ensuing day."
Much was the debate between the ladies and the young men; but ultimately they all took the king's counsel for useful and seemly and determined to do as he proposed; whereupon, calling the seneschal, he bespoke him of the manner which he should hold on the ensuing morning and after, having dismissed the company until supper-time, he rose to his feet. The ladies and the young men, following his example, gave themselves, this to one kind of diversion and that to another, no otherwise than of their wont; and supper-time come, they betook themselves to table with the utmost pleasure and after fell to singing and carolling and making music. Presently, Lauretta leading up a dance, the king bade Fiammetta sing a song, whereupon she very blithely proceeded to sing thus:
If love came but withouten jealousy,
I know no lady born
So blithe as I were, whosoe'er she be.
If gladsome youthfulness
In a fair lover might content a maid,
Virtue and worth discreet,
Valiance or gentilesse,
Wit and sweet speech and fashions all arrayed
In pleasantness complete,
Certes, I'm she for whose behoof these meet
In one; for, love-o'erborne,
All these in him who is my hope I see.
But for that I perceive
That other women are as wise as I,
I tremble for affright
And tending to believe
The worst, in others the desire espy
Of him who steals my spright;
Thus this that is my good and chief delight
Enforceth me, forlorn,
Sigh sore and live in dole and misery.
If I knew fealty such
In him my lord as I know merit there,
I were not jealous, I;
525But here is seen so much
Lovers to tempt, how true they be soe'er,
I hold all false; whereby
I'm all disconsolate and fain would die,
Of each with doubting torn
Who eyes him, lest she bear him off from me.
Be, then, each lady prayed
By God that she in this be not intent
'Gainst me to do amiss;
For, sure, if any maid
Should or with words or becks or blandishment
My detriment in this
Seek or procure and if I know't, ywis,
Be all my charms forsworn
But I will make her rue it bitterly.
No sooner had Fiammetta made an end of her song than Dioneo, who was beside her, said, laughing, "Madam, you would do a great courtesy to let all the ladies know who he is, lest you be ousted of his possession through ignorance, since you would be so sore incensed thereat." After this divers other songs were sung and the night being now well nigh half spent, they all, by the king's commandment, betook themselves to repose. As the new day appeared, they arose and the seneschal having already despatched all their gear in advance, they returned, under the guidance of their discreet king, to Florence, where the three young men took leave of the seven ladies and leaving them in Santa Maria Novella, whence they had set out with them, went about their other pleasures, whilst the ladies, whenas it seemed to them time, returned to their houses.
HERE ENDETH THE TENTH AND LAST DAY
OF THE DECAMERON