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


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thus ripe of years and wit in love, as if they deemed that that most

pleasant passion of love took root and flourished only in the silly

minds of the young and not otherwhere.
[Footnote 70: Old form of Margherita.]
What while he continued to pass back and forth, it chanced one holiday

that, the lady being seated with many others before her door and

espying Master Alberto making towards them from afar, they one and

all took counsel together to entertain him and do him honour and after

to rally him on that his passion. Accordingly, they all rose to

receive him and inviting him [to enter,] carried him into a shady

courtyard, whither they let bring the choicest of wines and sweetmeats

and presently enquired of him, in very civil and pleasant terms, how

it might be that he was fallen enamoured of that fair lady, knowing

her to be loved of many handsome, young and sprightly gentlemen. The

physician, finding himself thus courteously attacked, put on a blithe

countenance and answered, 'Madam, that I love should be no marvel to

any understanding person, and especially that I love yourself, for

that you deserve it; and albeit old men are by operation of nature

bereft of the vigour that behoveth unto amorous exercises, yet not for

all that are they bereft of the will nor of the wit to apprehend that

which is worthy to be loved; nay, this latter is naturally the better

valued of them, inasmuch as they have more knowledge and experience

than the young. As for the hope that moveth me, who am an old man, to

love you who are courted of many young gallants, it is on this wise: I

have been many a time where I have seen ladies lunch and eat lupins

and leeks. Now, although in the leek no part is good, yet is the

head[71] thereof less hurtful and more agreeable to the taste; but you

ladies, moved by a perverse appetite, commonly hold the head in your

hand and munch the leaves, which are not only naught, but of an ill

savour. How know I, madam, but you do the like in the election of your

lovers? In which case, I should be the one chosen of you and the

others would be turned away.'

[Footnote 71: _i.e._ the base or eatable part of the stem.]
The gentlewoman and her companions were somewhat abashed and said,

'Doctor, you have right well and courteously chastised our

presumptuous emprise; algates, your love is dear to me, as should be

that of a man of worth and learning; wherefore, you may in all

assurance command me, as your creature, of your every pleasure, saving

only mine honour.' The physician, rising with his companions, thanked

the lady and taking leave of her with laughter and merriment, departed

thence. Thus the lady, looking not whom she rallied and thinking to

discomfit another, was herself discomfited; wherefrom, an you be wise,

you will diligently guard yourselves."

* * * * *

The sun had begun to decline towards the evening, and the heat was in

great part abated, when the stories of the young ladies and of the

three young men came to an end; whereupon quoth the queen

blithesomely, "Henceforth, dear companions, there remaineth nought

more to do in the matter of my governance for the present day, save to

give you a new queen, who shall, according to her judgment, order her

life and ours, for that[72] which is to come, unto honest pleasance.

And albeit the day may be held to endure from now until nightfall,

yet,--for that whoso taketh not somewhat of time in advance cannot,

meseemeth, so well provide for the future and in order that what the

new queen shall deem needful for the morrow may be prepared,--methinketh

the ensuing days should commence at this hour. Wherefore, in reverence

of Him unto whom all things live and for our own solacement, Filomena,

a right discreet damsel, shall, as queen, govern our kingdom for the

coming day." So saying, she rose to her feet and putting off the

laurel-wreath, set it reverently on the head of Filomena, whom first

herself and after all the other ladies and the young men likewise

saluted as queen, cheerfully submitting themselves to her governance.

[Footnote 72: _i.e._ that day.]
Filomena blushed somewhat to find herself invested with the queendom,

but, calling to mind the words a little before spoken by

Pampinea,[73]--in order that she might not appear witless, she resumed

her assurance and in the first place confirmed all the offices given

by Pampinea; then, having declared that they should abide whereas they

were, she appointed that which was to do against the ensuing morning,

as well as for that night's supper, and after proceeded to speak thus:
[Footnote 73: See ante, p. 8.]
"Dearest companions, albeit Pampinea, more of her courtesy than for

any worth of mine, hath made me queen of you all, I am not therefore

disposed to follow my judgment alone in the manner of our living, but

yours together with mine; and that you may know that which meseemeth

is to do and consequently at your pleasure add thereto or abate

thereof, I purpose briefly to declare it to you.

If I have well noted the course this day held by Pampinea, meseemeth I

have found it alike praiseworthy and delectable; wherefore till such

time as, for overlong continuance or other reason, it grow irksome to

us, I judge it not to be changed. Order, then, being taken for [the

continuance of] that which we have already begun to do, we will,

arising hence, go awhile a-pleasuring, and whenas the sun shall be for

going under, we will sup in the cool of the evening, and after sundry

canzonets and other pastimes, we shall do well to betake ourselves to

sleep. To-morrow, rising in the cool of the morning, we will on like

wise go somewhither a-pleasuring, as shall be most agreeable to every

one; and as we have done to-day, we will at the due hour come back to

eat; after which we will dance and when we arise from sleep, as to-day

we have done, we will return hither to our story-telling, wherein

meseemeth a very great measure to consist alike of pleasance and of

profit. Moreover, that which Pampinea had indeed no opportunity of

doing, by reason of her late election to the governance, I purpose now

to enter upon, to wit, to limit within some bound that whereof we are

to tell and to declare it[74] to you beforehand, so each of you may

have leisure to think of some goodly story to relate upon the theme

proposed, the which, an it please you, shall be on this wise; namely,

seeing that since the beginning of the world men have been and will

be, until the end thereof, bandied about by various shifts of fortune,

each shall be holden to tell OF THOSE WHO AFTER BEING BAFFLED BY


[Footnote 74: _i.e._ the terms of the limitation aforesaid.]
Ladies and men alike all commended this ordinance and declared

themselves ready to ensue it. Only Dioneo, the others all being

silent, said, "Madam, as all the rest have said, so say I, to wit that

the ordinance given by you is exceeding pleasant and commendable; but

of especial favour I crave you a boon, which I would have confirmed to

me for such time as our company shall endure, to wit, that I may not

be constrained by this your law to tell a story upon the given theme,

an it like me not, but shall be free to tell that which shall most

please me. And that none may think I seek this favour as one who hath

not stories, in hand, from this time forth I am content to be still

the last to tell."

The queen,--who knew him for a merry man and a gamesome and was well

assured that he asked this but that he might cheer the company with

some laughable story, whenas they should be weary of discoursing,--with

the others' consent, cheerfully accorded him the favour he sought.

Then, arising from session, with slow steps they took their way

towards a rill of very clear water, that ran down from a little hill,

amid great rocks and green herbage, into a valley overshaded with many

trees and there, going about in the water, bare-armed and shoeless,

they fell to taking various diversions among themselves, till

supper-time drew near, when they returned to the palace and there

supped merrily. Supper ended, the queen called for instruments of

music and bade Lauretta lead up a dance, whilst Emilia sang a song, to

the accompaniment of Dioneo's lute. Accordingly, Lauretta promptly set

up a dance and led it off, whilst Emilia amorously warbled the

following song:

I burn for mine own charms with such a fire,

Methinketh that I ne'er

Of other love shall reck or have desire.
Whene'er I mirror me, I see therein[75]

That good which still contenteth heart and spright;

Nor fortune new nor thought of old can win

To dispossess me of such dear delight.

What other object, then, could fill my sight,

Enough of pleasance e'er

To kindle in my breast a new desire?
This good flees not, what time soe'er I'm fain

Afresh to view it for my solacement;

Nay, at my pleasure, ever and again

With such a grace it doth itself present

Speech cannot tell it nor its full intent

Be known of mortal e'er,

Except indeed he burn with like desire.
And I, grown more enamoured every hour,

The straitlier fixed mine eyes upon it be,

Give all myself and yield me to its power,

E'en tasting now of that it promised me,

And greater joyance yet I hope to see,

Of such a strain as ne'er

Was proven here below of love-desire.
[Footnote 75: _i.e._ in the mirrored presentment of her own beauty.]
Lauretta having thus made an end of her ballad,[76]--in the burden of

which all had blithely joined, albeit the words thereof gave some much

matter for thought,--divers other rounds were danced and a part of the

short night being now spent, it pleased the queen to give an end to

the first day; wherefore, letting kindle the flambeaux, she commanded

that all should betake themselves to rest until the ensuing morning,

and all, accordingly, returning to their several chambers, did so.

[Footnote 76: _Ballatella_, lit. little dancing song or song made to

be sung as an accompaniment to a dance (from _ballare_, to dance).

This is the origin of our word ballad.]



_Day the Second_





The sun had already everywhere brought on the new day with its light

and the birds, carolling blithely among the green branches, bore

witness thereof unto the ear with their merry songs, when the ladies

and the three young men, arising all, entered the gardens and pressing

the dewy grass with slow step, went wandering hither and thither,

weaving goodly garlands and disporting themselves, a great while. And

like as they had done the day foregone, even so did they at present;

to wit, having eaten in the cool and danced awhile, they betook them

to repose and arising thence after none, came all, by command of their

queen, into the fresh meadows, where they seated themselves round

about her. Then she, who was fair of favour and exceeding pleasant of

aspect, having sat awhile, crowned with her laurel wreath, and looked

all her company in the face, bade Neifile give beginning to the day's

stories by telling one of her fashion; whereupon the latter, without

making any excuse, blithely began to speak thus:


[Day the Second]






"It chanceth oft, dearest ladies, that he who studieth to befool

others, and especially in things reverend, findeth himself with

nothing for his pains but flouts and whiles cometh not off scathless.

Wherefore, that I may obey the queen's commandment and give beginning

to the appointed theme with a story of mine, I purpose to relate to

you that which, first misfortunately and after happily, beyond his

every thought, betided a townsman of ours.

No great while agone there was at Treviso a German called Arrigo, who,

being a poor man, served whoso required him to carry burdens for hire;

and withal he was held of all a man of very holy and good life.

Wherefore, be it true or untrue, when he died, it befell, according to

that which the Trevisans avouch, that, in the hour of his death, the

bells of the great church of Treviso began to ring, without being

pulled of any. The people of the city, accounting this a miracle,

proclaimed this Arrigo a saint and running all to the house where he

lay, bore his body, for that of a saint, to the Cathedral, whither

they fell to bringing the halt, the impotent and the blind and others

afflicted with whatsoever defect or infirmity, as if they should all

be made whole by the touch of the body.

In the midst of this great turmoil and concourse of folk, it chanced

that there arrived at Treviso three of our townsmen, whereof one was

called Stecchi, another Martellino and the third Marchese, men who

visited the courts of princes and lords and diverted the beholders by

travestying themselves and counterfeiting whatsoever other man with

rare motions and grimaces. Never having been there before and seeing

all the folk run, they marvelled and hearing the cause, were for going

to see what was toward; wherefore they laid up their baggage at an inn

and Marchese said, 'We would fain go look upon this saint; but, for my

part, I see not how we may avail to win thither, for that I understand

the Cathedral place is full of German and other men-at-arms, whom the

lord of this city hath stationed there, so no riot may betide; more by

token that they say the church is so full of folk that well nigh none

else might enter there.' 'Let not that hinder you,' quoth Martellino,

who was all agog to see the show; 'I warrant you I will find a means

of winning to the holy body.' 'How so?' asked Marchese, and Martellino

answered, 'I will tell thee. I will counterfeit myself a cripple and

thou on one side and Stecchi on the other shall go upholding me, as it

were I could not walk of myself, making as if you would fain bring me

to the saint, so he may heal me. There will be none but, seeing us,

will make way for us and let us pass.'

The device pleased Marchese and Stecchi and they went forth of the inn

without delay, all three. Whenas they came to a solitary place,

Martellino writhed his hands and fingers and arms and legs and eke his

mouth and eyes and all his visnomy on such wise that it was a

frightful thing to look upon, nor was there any saw him but would have

avouched him to be verily all fordone and palsied of his person.

Marchese and Stecchi, taking him up, counterfeited as he was, made

straight for the church, with a show of the utmost compunction, humbly

beseeching all who came in their way for the love of God to make room

for them, the which was lightly yielded them. Brief, every one gazing

on them and crying well nigh all, 'Make way! Make way!' they came

whereas Saint Arrigo's body lay and Martellino was forthright taken up

by certain gentlemen who stood around and laid upon the body, so he

might thereby regain the benefit of health. Martellino, having lain

awhile, whilst all the folk were on the stretch to see what should

come of him, began, as right well he knew how, to make a show of

opening first one finger, then a hand and after putting forth an arm

and so at last coming to stretch himself out altogether. Which when

the people saw, they set up such an outcry in praise of Saint Arrigo

as would have drowned the very thunder.

Now, as chance would have it, there was therenigh a certain

Florentine, who knew Martellino very well, but had not recognized him,

counterfeited as he was, whenas he was brought thither. However, when

he saw him grown straight again, he knew him and straightway fell

a-laughing and saying, 'God confound him! Who that saw him come had

not deemed him palsied in good earnest?' His words were overheard of

sundry Trevisans, who asked him incontinent, 'How! Was he not

palsied?' 'God forbid!' answered the Florentine. 'He hath ever been as

straight as any one of us; but he knoweth better than any man in the

world how to play off tricks of this kind and counterfeit what shape

soever he will.'

When the others heard this, there needed nothing farther; but they

pushed forward by main force and fell a-crying out and saying, 'Seize

yonder traitor and scoffer at God and His saints, who, being whole of

his body, hath come hither, in the guise of a cripple, to make mock of

us and of our saint!' So saying, they laid hold of Martellino and

pulled him down from the place where he lay. Then, taking him by the

hair of his head and tearing all the clothes off his back, they fell

upon him with cuffs and kicks; nor himseemed was there a man in the

place but ran to do likewise. Martellino roared out, 'Mercy, for God's

sake!' and fended himself as best he might, but to no avail; for the

crowd redoubled upon him momently. Stecchi and Marchese, seeing this,

began to say one to the other that things stood ill, but, fearing for

themselves, dared not come to his aid; nay, they cried out with the

rest to put him to death, bethinking them the while how they might

avail to fetch him out of the hands of the people, who would certainly

have slain him, but for a means promptly taken by Marchese; to wit,

all the officers of the Seignory being without the church, he betook

himself as quickliest he might, to him who commanded for the Provost

and said, 'Help, for God's sake! There is a lewd fellow within who

hath cut my purse, with a good hundred gold florins. I pray you take

him, so I may have mine own again.'

Hearing this, a round dozen of sergeants ran straightway whereas the

wretched Martellino was being carded without a comb and having with

the greatest pains in the world broken through the crowd, dragged him

out of the people's hands, all bruised and tumbled as he was, and

haled him off to the palace, whither many followed him who held

themselves affronted of him and hearing that he had been taken for a

cutpurse and themseeming they had no better occasion[77] of doing him

an ill turn,[78] began each on like wise to say that he had cut his

purse. The Provost's judge, who was a crabbed, ill-conditioned fellow,

hearing this, forthright took him apart and began to examine him of

the matter; but Martellino answered jestingly, as if he made light of

his arrest; whereat the judge, incensed, caused truss him up and give

him two or three good bouts of the strappado, with intent to make him

confess that which they laid to his charge, so he might after have him

strung up by the neck.

[Footnote 77: Or pretext (_titolo_).]
[Footnote 78: Or "having him punished," lit. "causing give him ill

luck" (_fargli dar la mala ventura_). This passage, like so many

others of the Decameron, is ambiguous and may also be read

"themseeming none other had a juster title to do him an ill turn."]

When he was let down again, the judge asked him once more if that were

true which the folk avouched against him, and Martellino, seeing that

it availed him not to deny, answered, 'My lord, I am ready to confess

the truth to you; but first make each who accuseth me say when and

where I cut his purse, and I will tell you what I did and what not.'

Quoth the judge, 'I will well,' and calling some of his accusers, put

the question to them; whereupon one said that he had cut his purse

eight, another six and a third four days agone, whilst some said that

very day. Martellino, hearing this, said, 'My lord, these all lie in

their throats and I can give you this proof that I tell you the truth,

inasmuch as would God it were as sure that I had never come hither as

it is that I was never in this place till a few hours agone; and as

soon as I arrived, I went, of my ill fortune, to see yonder holy body

in the church, where I was carded as you may see; and that this I say

is true, the Prince's officer who keepeth the register of strangers

can certify you, he and his book, as also can my host. If, therefore,

you find it as I tell you, I beseech you torture me not neither put me

to death at the instance of these wicked, men.'

Whilst things were at this pass, Marchese and Stecchi, hearing that

the judge of the Provostry was proceeding rigorously against

Martellino and had already given him the strappado, were sore affeared

and said in themselves, 'We have gone the wrong way to work; we have

brought him forth of the frying-pan and cast him into the fire.'

Wherefore they went with all diligence in quest of their host and

having found him, related to him how the case stood. He laughed and

carried them to one Sandro Agolanti, who abode in Treviso and had

great interest with the Prince, and telling him everything in order,

joined with them in beseeching him to occupy himself with Martellino's

affairs. Sandro, after many a laugh, repaired to the Prince and

prevailed upon him to send for Martellino.

The Prince's messengers found Martellino still in his shirt before the

judge, all confounded and sore adread, for that the judge would hear

nothing in his excuse; nay, having, by chance, some spite against the

people of Florence, he was altogether determined to hang him by the

neck and would on no wise render him up to the Prince till such time

as he was constrained thereto in his despite. Martellino, being

brought before the lord of the city and having told him everything in

order, besought him, by way of special favour, to let him go about his

business, for that, until he should be in Florence again, it would

still seem to him he had the rope about his neck. The Prince laughed

heartily at his mischance and let give each of the three a suit of

apparel, wherewith they returned home safe and sound, having, beyond

all their hope, escaped so great a peril."


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