The Project Gutenberg ebook of The Decameron of Giovanni Boccaccio, by


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What while Giannotto and Spina abode in this doleful case and had

therein already abidden a year's space, unremembered of Currado, it

came to pass that King Pedro of Arragon, by the procurement of Messer

Gian di Procida, raised the island of Sicily against King Charles and

took it from him, whereat Currado, being a Ghibelline,[108] rejoiced

exceedingly, Giannotto, hearing of this from one of those who had him

in guard, heaved a great sigh and said, 'Ah, woe is me! These fourteen

years have I gone ranging beggarlike about the world, looking for

nought other than this, which, now that it is come, so I may never

again hope for weal, hath found me in a prison whence I have no hope

ever to come forth, save dead.' 'How so?' asked the gaoler. 'What doth

that concern thee which great kings do to one another? What hast thou

to do in Sicily?' Quoth Giannotto, 'My heart is like to burst when I

remember me of that which my father erst had to do there, whom, albeit

I was but a little child, when I fled thence, yet do I mind me to have

been lord thereof, in the lifetime of King Manfred.' 'And who was thy

father?' asked the gaoler. 'My father's name,' answered Giannotto, 'I

may now safely make known, since I find myself in the peril whereof I

was in fear, an I discovered it. He was and is yet, an he live, called

Arrighetto Capece, and my name is, not Giannotto, but Giusfredi, and I

doubt not a jot, an I were quit of this prison, but I might yet, by

returning to Sicily, have very high place there.'

[Footnote 108: The Ghibellines were the supporters of the Papal

faction against the Guelphs or adherents of the Emperor Frederick II.

of Germany. The cardinal struggle between the two factions took place

over the succession to the throne of Naples and Sicily, to which the

Pope appointed Charles of Anjou, who overcame and killed the reigning

sovereign Manfred, but was himself, through the machinations of the

Ghibellines, expelled from Sicily by the celebrated popular rising

known as the Sicilian Vespers.]

The honest man, without asking farther, reported Giannotto's words, as

first he had occasion, to Currado, who, hearing this,--albeit he

feigned to the gaoler to make light of it,--betook himself to Madam

Beritola and courteously asked her if she had had by Arrighetto a son

named Giusfredi. The lady answered, weeping, that, if the elder of her

two sons were alive, he would so be called and would be two-and-twenty

years old. Currado, hearing this, concluded that this must be he and

bethought himself that, were it so, he might at once do a great mercy

and take away his own and his daughter's shame by giving her to

Giannotto to wife; wherefore, sending privily for the latter, he

particularly examined him touching all his past life and finding, by

very manifest tokens, that he was indeed Giusfredi, son of Arrighetto

Capece, he said to him, 'Giannotto, thou knowest what and how great is

the wrong thou hast done me in the person of my daughter, whereas, I

having ever well and friendly entreated thee, it behoved thee, as a

servant should, still to study and do for my honour and interest; and

many there be who, hadst thou used them like as thou hast used me,

would have put thee to a shameful death, the which my clemency brooked

not. Now, if it be as thou tellest me, to wit, that thou art the son

of a man of condition and of a noble lady, I purpose, an thou thyself

be willing, to put an end to thy tribulations and relieving thee from

the misery and duresse wherein thou abidest, to reinstate at once

thine honour and mine own in their due stead. As thou knowest, Spina,

whom thou hast, though after a fashion misbeseeming both thyself and

her, taken with love-liking, is a widow and her dowry is both great

and good; as for her manners and her father and mother, thou knowest

them, and of thy present state I say nothing. Wherefore, an thou will,

I purpose that, whereas she hath unlawfully been thy mistress, she

shall now lawfully become thy wife and that thou shalt abide here with

me and with her, as my very son, so long as it shall please thee.'

Now prison had mortified Giannotto's flesh, but had nothing abated the

generous spirit, which he derived from his noble birth, nor yet the

entire affection he bore his mistress; and albeit he ardently desired

that which Currado proffered him and saw himself in the latter's

power, yet no whit did he dissemble of that which the greatness of his

soul prompted him to say; wherefore he answered, 'Currado, neither

lust of lordship nor greed of gain nor other cause whatever hath ever

made me lay snares, traitor-wise, for thy life or thy good. I loved

and love thy daughter and still shall love her, for that I hold her

worthy of my love, and if I dealt with her less than honourably, in

the opinion of the vulgar, my sin was one which still goeth hand in

hand with youth and which an you would do away, it behoveth you first

do away with youth. Moreover, it is an offence which, would the old

but remember them of having been young and measure the defaults of

others by their own and their own by those of others, would show less

grievous than thou and many others make it; and as a friend, and not

as an enemy, I committed it. This that thou profferest me I have still

desired and had I thought it should be vouchsafed me, I had long since

sought it; and so much the dearer will it now be to me, as my hope

thereof was less. If, then, thou have not that intent which thy words

denote, feed me not with vain hope; but restore me to prison and there

torment me as thou wilt, for, so long as I love Spina, even so, for

the love of her, shall I still love thee, whatsoever thou dost with

me, and have thee in reverence.'

Currado, hearing this, marvelled and held him great of soul and his

love fervent and tendered him therefore the dearer; wherefore, rising

to his feet, he embraced him and kissed him and without more delay

bade privily bring Spina thither. Accordingly, the lady--who was grown

lean and pale and weakly in prison and showed well nigh another than

she was wont to be, as on like wise Giannotto another man--being come,

the two lovers in Currado's presence with one consent contracted

marriage according to our usance. Then, after some days, during which

he had let furnish the newly-married pair with all that was necessary

or agreeable to them, he deemed it time to gladden their mothers with

the good news and accordingly calling his lady and Cavriuola, he said

to the latter, 'What would you say, madam, an I should cause you have

again your elder son as the husband of one of my daughters?' Whereto

she answered, 'Of that I can say to you no otherwhat than that, could

I be more beholden to you than I am, I should be so much the more so

as you would have restored to me that which is dearer to me than mine

own self; and restoring it to me on such wise as you say, you would in

some measure re-awaken in me my lost hope.' With this, she held her

peace, weeping, and Currado said to his lady, 'And thou, mistress, how

wouldst thou take it, were I to present thee with such a son-in-law?'

The lady replied, 'Even a common churl, so he pleased you, would

please me, let alone one of these,[109] who are men of gentle birth.'

'Then,' said Currado, 'I hope, ere many days, to make you happy women

in this.'

[Footnote 109: _i.e._ Beritola's sons.]
Accordingly, seeing the two young folk now restored to their former

cheer, he clad them sumptuously and said to Giusfredi, 'Were it not

dear to thee, over and above thy present joyance, an thou sawest thy

mother here?' Whereto he answered, 'I dare not flatter myself that the

chagrin of her unhappy chances can have left her so long alive; but,

were it indeed so, it were dear to me above all, more by token that

methinketh I might yet, by her counsel, avail to recover great part of

my estate in Sicily.' Thereupon Currado sent for both the ladies, who

came and made much of the newly-wedded wife, no little wondering what

happy inspiration it could have been that prompted Currado to such

exceeding complaisance as he had shown in joining Giannotto with her

in marriage. Madam Beritola, by reason of the words she had heard from

Currado, began to consider Giannotto and some remembrance of the

boyish lineaments of her son's countenance being by occult virtue

awakened in her, without awaiting farther explanation, she ran,

open-armed, to cast herself upon his neck, nor did overabounding

emotion and maternal joy suffer her to say a word; nay, they so locked

up all her senses that she fell into her son's arms, as if dead.

The latter, albeit he was sore amazed, remembering to have many times

before seen her in that same castle and never recognized her,

nevertheless knew incontinent the maternal odour and blaming himself

for his past heedlessness, received her, weeping, in his arms and

kissed her tenderly. After awhile, Madam Beritola, being

affectionately tended by Currado's lady and Spina and plied both with

cold water and other remedies, recalled her strayed senses and

embracing her son anew, full of maternal tenderness, with many tears

and many tender words, kissed him a thousand times, whilst he all

reverently beheld and entreated her. After these joyful and honourable

greetings had been thrice or four times repeated, to the no small

contentment of the bystanders, and they had related unto each other

all that had befallen them, Currado now, to the exceeding satisfaction

of all, signified to his friends the new alliance made by him and gave

ordinance for a goodly and magnificent entertainment.

Then said Giusfredi to him, 'Currado, you have made me glad of many

things and have long honourably entertained my mother; and now, that

no whit may remain undone of that which it is in your power to do, I

pray you gladden my mother and bride-feast and myself with the

presence of my brother, whom Messer Guasparrino d'Oria holdeth in

servitude in his house and whom, as I have already told you, he took

with me in one of his cruises. Moreover, I would have you send into

Sicily one who shall thoroughly inform himself of the state and

condition of the country and study to learn what is come of

Arrighetto, my father, an he be alive or dead, and if he be alive, in

what estate; of all which having fully certified himself, let him

return to us.' Giusfredi's request was pleasing to Currado, and

without any delay he despatched very discreet persons both to Genoa

and to Sicily.

He who went to Genoa there sought out Messer Guasparrino and instantly

besought him, on Currado's part, to send him Scacciato and his nurse,

orderly recounting to him all his lord's dealings with Giusfredi and

his mother. Messer Guasparrino marvelled exceedingly to hear this and

said, 'True is it I would do all I may to pleasure Currado, and I

have, indeed, these fourteen years had in my house the boy thou

seekest and one his mother, both of whom I will gladly send him; but

do thou bid him, on my part, beware of lending overmuch credence to

the fables of Giannotto, who nowadays styleth himself Giusfredi, for

that he is a far greater knave than he deemeth.' So saying, he caused

honourably entertain the gentleman and sending privily for the nurse,

questioned her shrewdly touching the matter. Now she had heard of the

Sicilian revolt and understood Arrighetto to be alive, wherefore,

casting off her former fears, she told him everything in order and

showed him the reasons that had moved her to do as she had done.

Messer Guasparrino, finding her tale to accord perfectly with that of

Currado's messenger, began to give credit to the latter's words and

having by one means and another, like a very astute man as he was,

made enquiry of the matter and happening hourly upon things that gave

him more and more assurance of the fact, took shame to himself of his

mean usage of the lad, in amends whereof, knowing what Arrighetto had

been and was, he gave him to wife a fair young daughter of his, eleven

years of age, with a great dowry. Then, after making a great

bride-feast thereon, he embarked with the boy and girl and Currado's

messenger and the nurse in a well-armed galliot and betook himself to

Lerici, where he was received by Currado and went up, with all his

company, to one of the latter's castles, not far removed thence, where

there was a great banquet toward.

The mother's joy at seeing her son again and that of the two brothers

in each other and of all three in the faithful nurse, the honour done

of all to Messer Guasparrino and his daughter and of him to all and

the rejoicing of all together with Currado and his lady and children

and friends, no words might avail to express; wherefore, ladies, I

leave it to you to imagine. Thereunto,[110] that it might be complete,

it pleased God the Most High, a most abundant giver, whenas He

beginneth, to add the glad news of the life and well-being of

Arrighetto Capece; for that, the feast being at its height and the

guests, both ladies and men, yet at table for the first service, there

came he who had been sent into Sicily and amongst other things,

reported of Arrighetto that he, being kept in captivity by King

Charles, whenas the revolt against the latter broke out in the land,

the folk ran in a fury to the prison and slaying his guards, delivered

himself and as a capital enemy of King Charles, made him their captain

and followed him to expel and slay the French: wherefore he was become

in especial favour with King Pedro,[111] who had reinstated him in all

his honours and possessions, and was now in great good case. The

messenger added that he had received himself with the utmost honour

and had rejoiced with inexpressible joy in the recovery of his wife

and son, of whom he had heard nothing since his capture; moreover, he

had sent a brigantine for them, with divers gentlemen aboard, who came

after him.

[Footnote 110: _i.e._ to which general joy.]
[Footnote 111: Pedro of Arragon, son-in-law of Manfred, who, in

consequence of the Sicilian Vespers, succeeded Charles d'Anjou as King

of Sicily.]
The messenger was received and hearkened with great gladness and

rejoicing, whilst Currado, with certain of his friends, set out

incontinent to meet the gentlemen who came for Madam Beritola and

Giusfredi and welcoming them joyously, introduced them into his

banquet, which was not yet half ended. There both the lady and

Giusfredi, no less than all the others, beheld them with such joyance

that never was heard the like; and the gentlemen, ere they sat down to

meat, saluted Currado and his lady on the part of Arrighetto, thanking

them, as best they knew and might, for the honour done both to his

wife and his son and offering himself to their pleasure,[112] in all

that lay in his power. Then, turning to Messer Guasparrino, whose

kindness was unlooked for, they avouched themselves most certain that,

whenas that which he had done for Scacciato should be known of

Arrighetto, the like thanks and yet greater would be rendered him.

[Footnote 112: Or (in modern phrase) putting himself at their


Thereafter they banqueted right joyously with the new-made bridegrooms

at the bride-feast of the two newly-wedded wives; nor that day alone

did Currado entertain his son-in-law and other his kinsmen and

friends, but many others. As soon as the rejoicings were somewhat

abated, it appearing to Madam Beritola and to Giusfredi and the others

that it was time to depart, they took leave with many tears of Currado

and his lady and Messer Guasparrino and embarked on board the

brigantine, carrying Spina with them; then, setting sail with a fair

wind, they came speedily to Sicily, where all alike, both sons and

daughters-in-law, were received by Arrighetto in Palermo with such

rejoicing as might never be told; and there it is believed that they

all lived happily a great while after, in love and thankfulness to God

the Most High, as mindful of the benefits received."


[Day the Second]






Had Emilia's story been much longer protracted, it is like the

compassion had by the young ladies on the misfortunes of Madam

Beritola would have brought them to tears; but, an end being now made

thereof, it pleased the queen that Pamfilo should follow on with his

story, and accordingly he, who was very obedient, began thus, "Uneath,

charming ladies, is it for us to know that which is meet for us, for

that, as may oftentimes have been seen, many, imagining that, were

they but rich, they might avail to live without care and secure, have

not only with prayers sought riches of God, but have diligently

studied to acquire them, grudging no toil and no peril in the quest,

and who,--whereas, before they became enriched, they loved their

lives,--once having gotten their desire, have found folk to slay them,

for greed of so ample an inheritance. Others of low estate, having,

through a thousand perilous battles and the blood of their brethren

and their friends, mounted to the summit of kingdoms, thinking in the

royal estate to enjoy supreme felicity, without the innumerable cares

and alarms whereof they see and feel it full, have learned, at the

cost of their lives, that poison is drunken at royal tables in cups of

gold. Many there be who have with most ardent appetite desired bodily

strength and beauty and divers personal adornments and perceived not

that they had desired ill till they found these very gifts a cause to

them of death or dolorous life. In fine, not to speak particularly of

all the objects of human desire, I dare say that there is not one

which can, with entire assurance, be chosen by mortal men as secure

from the vicissitudes of fortune; wherefore, an we would do aright,

needs must we resign ourselves to take and possess that which is

appointed us of Him who alone knoweth that which behoveth unto us and

is able to give it to us. But for that, whereas men sin in desiring

various things, you, gracious ladies, sin, above all, in one, to wit,

in wishing to be fair,--insomuch that, not content with the charms

vouchsafed you by nature, you still with marvellous art study to

augment them,--it pleaseth me to recount to you how ill-fortunedly

fair was a Saracen lady, whom it befell, for her beauty, to be in some

four years' space nine times wedded anew.

It is now a pretty while since there was a certain Soldan of

Babylon,[113] by name Berminedab, to whom in his day many things

happened in accordance with his pleasure.[114] Amongst many other

children, both male and female, he had a daughter called Alatiel, who,

by report of all who saw her, was the fairest woman to be seen in the

world in those days, and having, in a great defeat he had inflicted

upon a vast multitude of Arabs who were come upon him, been

wonder-well seconded by the King of Algarve,[115] had, at his request,

given her to him to wife, of especial favour; wherefore, embarking her

aboard a ship well armed and equipped, with an honourable company of

men and ladies and store of rich and sumptuous gear and furniture, he

despatched her to him, commending her to God.

[Footnote 113: _i.e._ Egypt, Cairo was known in the middle ages by the

name of "Babylon of Egypt." It need hardly be noted that the Babylon

of the Bible was the city of that name on the Euphrates, the ancient

capital of Chaldæa (Irak Babili). The names Beminedab and Alatiel are

purely imaginary.]
[Footnote 114: _i.e._ to his wish, to whom fortune was mostly

favourable in his enterprises.]

[Footnote 115: _Il Garbo_, Arabic El Gherb or Gharb, [Arabic: al

gharb], the West, a name given by the Arabs to several parts of the

Muslim empire, but by which Boccaccio apparently means Algarve, the

southernmost province of Portugal and the last part of that kingdom to

succumb to the wave of Christian reconquest, it having remained in the

hands of the Muslims till the second half of the thirteenth century.

This supposition is confirmed by the course taken by Alatiel's ship,

which would naturally pass Sardinia and the Balearic Islands on its

way from Alexandria to Portugal.]

The sailors, seeing the weather favourable, gave their sails to the

wind and departing the port of Alexandria, fared on prosperously many

days, and having now passed Sardinia, deemed themselves near the end

of their voyage, when there arose one day of a sudden divers contrary

winds, which, being each beyond measure boisterous, so harassed the

ship, wherein was the lady, and the sailors, that the latter more than

once gave themselves over for lost. However, like valiant men, using

every art and means in their power, they rode it out two days, though

buffeted by a terrible sea; but, at nightfall of the third day, the

tempest abating not, nay, waxing momently, they felt the ship open,

being then not far off Majorca, but knowing not where they were

neither availing to apprehend it either by nautical reckoning or by

sight, for that the sky was altogether obscured by clouds and dark

night; wherefore, seeing no other way of escape and having each

himself in mind and not others, they lowered a shallop into the water,

into which the officers cast themselves, choosing rather to trust

themselves thereto than to the leaking ship. The rest of the men in

the ship crowded after them into the boat, albeit those who had first

embarked therein opposed it, knife in hand,--and thinking thus to flee

from death, ran straight into it, for that the boat, availing not, for

the intemperance of the weather, to hold so many, foundered and they

perished one and all.

As for the ship, being driven by a furious wind and running very

swiftly, albeit it was now well nigh water-logged, (none being left on

board save the princess and her women, who all, overcome by the

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