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


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to penetrate the secrets of the Divine intent), that we peradventure,

beguiled by report, make such an one our advocate unto His

majesty, who is outcast from His presence with an eternal

banishment,--nevertheless He, from whom nothing is hidden, having

regard rather to the purity of the suppliant's intent than to his

ignorance or to the reprobate estate of him whose intercession be

invoketh, giveth ear unto those who pray unto the latter, as if he

were in very deed blessed in His aspect. The which will manifestly

appear from the story which I purpose to relate; I say manifestly,

ensuing, not the judgment of God, but that of men.

[Footnote 29: Or procurators.]
It is told, then, that Musciatto Franzesi,[30] being from a very rich

and considerable merchant in France become a knight and it behoving

him thereupon go into Tuscany with Messire Charles Sansterre,[31]

brother to the king of France,[32] who had been required and bidden

thither by Pope Boniface,[33] found his affairs in one part and

another sore embroiled, (as those of merchants most times are,) and

was unable lightly or promptly to disentangle them; wherefore he

bethought himself to commit them unto divers persons and made shift

for all, save only he abode in doubt whom he might leave sufficient to

the recovery of the credits he had given to certain Burgundians. The

cause of his doubt was that he knew the Burgundians to be litigious,

quarrelsome fellows, ill-conditioned and disloyal, and could not call

one to mind, in whom he might put any trust, curst enough to cope with

their perversity. After long consideration of the matter, there came

to his memory a certain Master Ciapperello da Prato, who came often to

his house in Paris and whom, for that he was little of person and

mighty nice in his dress, the French, knowing not what Cepparello[34]

meant and thinking it be the same with Cappello, to wit, in their

vernacular, Chaplet, called him, not Cappello, but Ciappelletto,[35]

and accordingly as Ciappelletto he was known everywhere, whilst few

knew him for Master Ciapperello.

[Footnote 30: A Florentine merchant settled in France; he had great

influence over Philippe le Bel and made use of the royal favour to

enrich himself by means of monopolies granted at the expense of his


[Footnote 31: Charles, Comte de Valois et d'Alençon.]
[Footnote 32: Philippe le Bel, A.D. 1268-1314.]
[Footnote 33: The Eighth.]
[Footnote 34: Sic. _Cepparello_ means a log or stump. Ciapperello is

apparently a dialectic variant of the same word.]

[Footnote 35: Diminutive of Cappello. This passage is obscure and most

likely corrupt. Boccaccio probably meant to write "hat" instead of

"chaplet" (_ghirlanda_), as the meaning of _cappello_, chaplet

(diminutive of Old English _chapel_, a hat,) being the meaning of

_ciappelletto_ (properly _cappelletto_).]

Now this said Ciappelletto was of this manner life, that, being a

scrivener, he thought very great shame whenas any of his instrument

was found (and indeed he drew few such) other than false; whilst of

the latter[36] he would have drawn as many as might be required of him

and these with a better will by way of gift than any other for a great

wage. False witness he bore with especial delight, required or not

required, and the greatest regard being in those times paid to oaths

in France, as he recked nothing of forswearing himself, he knavishly

gained all the suits concerning which he was called upon to tell the

truth upon his faith. He took inordinate pleasure and was mighty

diligent in stirring up troubles and enmities and scandals between

friends and kinsfolk and whomsoever else, and the greater the

mischiefs he saw ensue thereof, the more he rejoiced. If bidden to

manslaughter or whatsoever other naughty deed, he went about it with a

will, without ever saying nay thereto; and many a time of his proper

choice he had been known to wound men and do them to death with his

own hand. He was a terrible blasphemer of God and the saints, and that

for every trifle, being the most choleric man alive. To church he went

never and all the sacraments thereof he flouted in abominable terms,

as things of no account; whilst, on the other hand, he was still fain

to haunt and use taverns and other lewd places. Of women he was as

fond as dogs of the stick; but in the contrary he delighted more than

any filthy fellow alive. He robbed and pillaged with as much

conscience as a godly man would make oblation to God; he was a very

glutton and a great wine bibber, insomuch that bytimes it wrought him

shameful mischief, and to boot, he was a notorious gamester and a

caster of cogged dice. But why should I enlarge in so many words? He

was belike the worst man that ever was born.[37] His wickedness had

long been upheld by the power and interest of Messer Musciatto, who

had many a time safeguarded him as well from private persons, to whom

he often did a mischief, as from the law, against which he was a

perpetual offender.

[Footnote 36: _i.e._ false instruments.]
[Footnote 37: A "twopence-coloured" sketch of an impossible villain,

drawn with a crudeness unusual in Boccaccio.]

This Master Ciappelletto then, coming to Musciatto's mind, the latter,

who was very well acquainted with his way of life, bethought himself

that he should be such an one as the perversity of the Burgundians

required and accordingly, sending for him, he bespoke him thus:

'Master Ciappelletto, I am, as thou knowest, about altogether to

withdraw hence, and having to do, amongst others, with certain

Burgundians, men full of guile, I know none whom I may leave to

recover my due from them more fitting than thyself, more by token that

thou dost nothing at this present; wherefore, an thou wilt undertake

this, I will e'en procure thee the favour of the Court and give thee

such part as shall be meet of that which thou shalt recover.'

Don Ciappelletto, who was then out of employ and ill provided with the

goods of the world, seeing him who had long been his stay and his

refuge about to depart thence, lost no time in deliberation, but, as

of necessity constrained, replied that he would well. They being come

to an accord, Musciatto departed and Ciappelletto, having gotten his

patron's procuration and letters commendatory from the king, betook

himself into Burgundy, where well nigh none knew him, and there,

contrary to his nature, began courteously and blandly to seek to get

in his payments and do that wherefor he was come thither, as if

reserving choler and violence for a last resort. Dealing thus and

lodging in the house of two Florentines, brothers, who there lent at

usance and who entertained him with great honour for the love of

Messer Musciatto, it chanced that he fell sick, whereupon the two

brothers promptly fetched physicians and servants to tend him and

furnished him with all that behoved unto the recovery of his health.

But every succour was in vain, for that, by the physicians' report,

the good man, who was now old and had lived disorderly, grew daily

worse, as one who had a mortal sickness; wherefore the two brothers

were sore concerned and one day, being pretty near the chamber where

he lay sick, they began to take counsel together, saying one to the

other, 'How shall we do with yonder fellow? We have a sorry bargain on

our hands of his affair, for that to send him forth of our house, thus

sick, were a sore reproach to us and a manifest sign of little wit on

our part, if the folk, who have seen us first receive him and after

let tend and medicine him with such solicitude, should now see him

suddenly put out of our house, sick unto death as he is, without it

being possible for him to have done aught that should displease us. On

the other hand, he hath been so wicked a man that he will never

consent to confess or take any sacrament of the church; and he dying

without confession, no church will receive his body; nay, he will be

cast into a ditch, like a dog. Again, even if he do confess, his sins

are so many and so horrible that the like will come of it, for that

there is nor priest nor friar who can or will absolve him thereof;

wherefore, being unshriven, he will still be cast into the ditches.

Should it happen thus, the people of the city, as well on account of

our trade, which appeareth to them most iniquitous and of which they

missay all day, as of their itch to plunder us, seeing this, will rise

up in riot and cry out, "These Lombard dogs, whom the church refuseth

to receive, are to be suffered here no longer";--and they will run to

our houses and despoil us not only of our good, but may be of our

lives, to boot; wherefore in any case it will go ill with us, if

yonder fellow die.'

Master Ciappelletto, who, as we have said, lay near the place where

the two brothers were in discourse, being quick of hearing, as is most

times the case with the sick, heard what they said of him and calling

them to him, bespoke them thus: 'I will not have you anywise misdoubt

of me nor fear to take any hurt by me. I have heard what you say of me

and am well assured that it would happen even as you say, should

matters pass as you expect; but it shall go otherwise. I have in my

lifetime done God the Lord so many an affront that it will make

neither more nor less, an I do Him yet another at the point of death;

wherefore do you make shift to bring me the holiest and worthiest

friar you may avail to have, if any such there be,[38] and leave the

rest to me, for that I will assuredly order your affairs and mine own

on such wise that all shall go well and you shall have good cause to

be satisfied.'

[Footnote 38: _i.e._ if there be such a thing as a holy and worthy


The two brothers, albeit they conceived no great hope of this,

nevertheless betook themselves to a brotherhood of monks and demanded

some holy and learned man to hear the confession of a Lombard who lay

sick in their house. There was given them a venerable brother of holy

and good life and a past master in Holy Writ, a very reverend man, for

whom all the townsfolk had a very great and special regard, and they

carried him to their house; where, coming to the chamber where Master

Ciappelletto lay and seating himself by his side, he began first

tenderly to comfort him and after asked him how long it was since he

had confessed last; whereto Master Ciappelletto, who had never

confessed in his life, answered, 'Father, it hath been my usance to

confess every week once at the least and often more; it is true that,

since I fell sick, to wit, these eight days past, I have not

confessed, such is the annoy that my sickness hath given me.' Quoth

the friar, 'My son, thou hast done well and so must thou do

henceforward. I see, since thou confessest so often, that I shall be

at little pains either of hearing or questioning.' 'Sir,' answered

Master Ciappelletto, 'say not so; I have never confessed so much nor

so often but I would still fain make a general confession of all my

sins that I could call to mind from the day of my birth to that of my

confession; wherefore I pray you, good my father, question me as

punctually of everything, nay, everything, as if I had never

confessed; and consider me not because I am sick, for that I had far

liefer displease this my flesh than, in consulting its ease, do aught

that might be the perdition of my soul, which my Saviour redeemed with

His precious blood.'

These words much pleased the holy man and seemed to him to argue a

well-disposed mind; wherefore, after he had much commended Master

Ciappelletto for that his usance, he asked him if he had ever sinned

by way of lust with any woman. 'Father,' replied Master Ciappelletto,

sighing, 'on this point I am ashamed to tell you the truth, fearing to

sin by way of vainglory.' Quoth the friar, 'Speak in all security, for

never did one sin by telling the truth, whether in confession or

otherwise.' 'Then,' said Master Ciappelletto, 'since you certify me of

this, I will tell you; I am yet a virgin, even as I came forth of my

mother's body.' 'O blessed be thou of God!' cried the monk. 'How well

hast thou done! And doing thus, thou hast the more deserved, inasmuch

as, an thou wouldst, thou hadst more leisure to do the contrary than

we and whatsoever others are limited by any rule.'

After this he asked him if he had ever offended against God in the sin

of gluttony; whereto Master Ciappelletto answered, sighing, Ay had he,

and that many a time; for that, albeit, over and above the Lenten

fasts that are yearly observed of the devout, he had been wont to fast

on bread and water three days at the least in every week,--he had

oftentimes (and especially whenas he had endured any fatigue, either

praying or going a-pilgrimage) drunken the water with as much appetite

and as keen a relish as great drinkers do wine. And many a time he had

longed to have such homely salads of potherbs as women make when they

go into the country; and whiles eating had given him more pleasure

than himseemed it should do to one who fasteth for devotion, as did

he. 'My son,' said the friar, 'these sins are natural and very slight

and I would not therefore have thee burden thy conscience withal more

than behoveth. It happeneth to every man, how devout soever he be,

that, after long fasting, meat seemeth good to him, and after travail,


'Alack, father mine,' rejoined Ciappelletto, 'tell me not this to

comfort me; you must know I know that things done for the service of

God should be done sincerely and with an ungrudging mind; and whoso

doth otherwise sinneth.' Quoth the friar, exceeding well pleased, 'I

am content that thou shouldst thus apprehend it and thy pure and good

conscience therein pleaseth me exceedingly. But, tell me, hast thou

sinned by way of avarice, desiring more than befitted or withholding

that which it behoved thee not to withhold?' 'Father mine,' replied

Ciappelletto, 'I would not have you look to my being in the house of

these usurers; I have nought to do here; nay, I came hither to

admonish and chasten them and turn them from this their abominable way

of gain; and methinketh I should have made shift to do so, had not God

thus visited me. But you must know that I was left a rich man by my

father, of whose good, when he was dead, I bestowed the most part in

alms, and after, to sustain my life and that I might be able to

succour Christ's poor, I have done my little traffickings, and in

these I have desired to gain; but still with God's poor have I shared

that which I gained, converting my own half to my occasion and giving

them the other, and in this so well hath my Creator prospered me that

my affairs have still gone from good to better.'

'Well hast thou done,' said the friar; 'but hast thou often been

angered?' 'Oh,' cried Master Ciappelletto, 'that I must tell you I

have very often been! And who could keep himself therefrom, seeing men

do unseemly things all day long, keeping not the commandments of God

neither fearing His judgment? Many times a day I had liefer been dead

than alive, seeing young men follow after vanities and hearing them

curse and forswear themselves, haunting the taverns, visiting not the

churches and ensuing rather the ways of the world than that of God.'

'My son,' said the friar, 'this is a righteous anger, nor for my part

might I enjoin thee any penance therefor. But hath anger at any time

availed to move thee to do any manslaughter or to bespeak any one

unseemly or do any other unright?' 'Alack, sir,' answered the sick

man, 'you, who seem to me a man of God, how can you say such words?

Had I ever had the least thought of doing any one of the things

whereof you speak, think you I believe that God would so long have

forborne me? These be the doings of outlaws and men of nought, whereof

I never saw any but I said still, "Go, may God amend thee!"'

Then said the friar, 'Now tell me, my son (blessed be thou of God),

hast thou never borne false witness against any or missaid of another,

or taken others' good, without leave of him to whom it pertained?'

'Ay, indeed, sir,' replied Master Ciappelletto; 'I have missaid of

others; for that I had a neighbour aforetime, who, with the greatest

unright in the world, did nought but beat his wife, insomuch that I

once spoke ill of him to her kinsfolk, so great was the compassion

that overcame me for the poor woman, whom he used as God alone can

tell, whenassoever he had drunken overmuch.' Quoth the friar, 'Thou

tellest me thou hast been a merchant. Hast thou never cheated any one,

as merchants do whiles!' 'I' faith, yes, sir,' answered Master

Ciappelletto; 'but I know not whom, except it were a certain man, who

once brought me monies which he owed me for cloth I had sold him and

which I threw into a chest, without counting. A good month after, I

found that they were four farthings more than they should have been;

wherefore, not seeing him again and having kept them by me a full

year, that I might restore them to him, I gave them away in alms.'

Quoth the friar, 'This was a small matter, and thou didst well to deal

with it as thou didst.'

Then he questioned him of many other things, of all which he answered

after the same fashion, and the holy father offering to proceed to

absolution, Master Ciappelletto said, 'Sir, I have yet sundry sins

that I have not told you.' The friar asked him what they were, and he

answered, 'I mind me that one Saturday, after none, I caused my

servant sweep out the house and had not that reverence for the Lord's

holy day which it behoved me have.' 'Oh,' said the friar, 'that is a

light matter, my son.' 'Nay,' rejoined Master Ciappelletto, 'call it

not a light matter, for that the Lord's Day is greatly to be honoured,

seeing that on such a day our Lord rose from the dead.' Then said the

friar, 'Well, hast thou done aught else?' 'Ay, sir,' answered Master

Ciappelletto; 'once, unthinking what I did, I spat in the church of

God.' Thereupon the friar fell a-smiling, and said, 'My son, that is

no thing to be recked of; we who are of the clergy, we spit there all

day long.' 'And you do very ill,' rejoined Master Ciappelletto; 'for

that there is nought which it so straitly behoveth to keep clean as

the holy temple wherein is rendered sacrifice to God.'

Brief, he told him great plenty of such like things and presently fell

a-sighing and after weeping sore, as he knew full well to do, whenas

he would. Quoth the holy friar, 'What aileth thee, my son?' 'Alas,

sir,' replied Master Ciappelletto, 'I have one sin left, whereof I

never yet confessed me, such shame have I to tell it; and every time I

call it to mind, I weep, even as you see, and meseemeth very certain

that God will never pardon it me.' 'Go to, son,' rejoined the friar;

'what is this thou sayest? If all the sins that were ever wrought or

are yet to be wrought of all mankind, what while the world endureth,

were all in one man and he repented him thereof and were contrite

therefor, as I see thee, such is the mercy and loving-kindness of God

that, upon confession, He would freely pardon them to him. Wherefore

do thou tell it in all assurance.' Quoth Master Ciappelletto, still

weeping sore, 'Alack, father mine, mine is too great a sin, and I can

scarce believe that it will ever be forgiven me of God, except your

prayers strive for me.' Then said the friar, 'Tell it me in all

assurance, for I promise thee to pray God for thee.'

Master Ciappelletto, however, still wept and said nought; but, after

he had thus held the friar a great while in suspense, he heaved a deep

sigh and said, 'Father mine, since you promise me to pray God for me,

I will e'en tell it you. Know, then, that, when I was little, I once

cursed my mother.' So saying, he fell again to weeping sore. 'O my

son,' quoth the friar, 'seemeth this to thee so heinous a sin? Why,

men blaspheme God all day long and He freely pardoneth whoso repenteth

him of having blasphemed Him; and deemest thou not He will pardon thee

this? Weep not, but comfort thyself; for, certes, wert thou one of

those who set Him on the cross, He would pardon thee, in favour of

such contrition as I see in thee.' 'Alack, father mine, what say you?'

replied Ciappelletto. 'My kind mother, who bore me nine months in her

body, day and night, and carried me on her neck an hundred times and

more, I did passing ill to curse her and it was an exceeding great

sin; and except you pray God for me, it will not be forgiven me.'

The friar, then, seeing that Master Ciappelletto had no more to say,

gave him absolution and bestowed on him his benison, holding him a

very holy man and devoutly believing all that he had told him to be

true. And who would not have believed it, hearing a man at the point

of death speak thus? Then, after all this, he said to him, 'Master

Ciappelletto, with God's help you will speedily be whole; but, should

it come to pass that God call your blessed and well-disposed soul to

Himself, would it please you that your body be buried in our convent?'

'Ay, would it, sir,' replied Master Ciappelletto. 'Nay, I would fain

no be buried otherwhere, since you have promised to pray God for me;

more by token that I have ever had a special regard for your order.

Wherefore I pray you that whenas you return to your lodging, you must

cause bring me that most veritable body of Christ, which you

consecrate a-mornings upon the altar, for that, with your leave, I

purpose (all unworthy as I am) to take it and after, holy and extreme

unction, to the intent that, if I have lived as a sinner, I may at the

least die like a Christian.' The good friar replied that it pleased

him much and that he said well and promised to see it presently

brought him; and so was it done.

Meanwhile, the two brothers, misdoubting them sore lest Master

Ciappelletto should play them false, had posted themselves behind a

wainscot, that divided the chamber where he lay from another, and

listening, easily heard and apprehended that which he said to the

friar and had whiles so great a mind to laugh, hearing the things

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