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Giovanni Boccaccio - Decameron (Day the Twenty Eighth) lyrics

The Sixth Story

Ricciardo Minutolo, Being Enamoured Of The Wife Of Filippello Fighinolfi And Knowing Her Jealousy Of Her Husband, Contriveth, By Representing That Filippello Was On The Ensuing Day To Be With His Own Wife In A Bagnio, To Bring Her To The Latter Place, Where, Thinking To Be With Her Husband, She Findeth That She Hath Abidden With Ricciardo

Elisa having no more to say, the queen, after commending the sagacity of Il Zima, bade Fiammetta proceed with a story, who answered, all smilingly, "Willingly, Madam," and began thus: "It behoveth somedele to depart our city (which, like as it aboundeth in all things else, is fruitful in instances of every subject) and as Elisa hath done, to recount somewhat of the things that have befallen in other parts of the world; wherefore, passing over to Naples, I shall tell how one of those she-saints, who feign themselves so shy of love, was by the ingenuity of a lover of hers brought to taste the fruits of love, ere she had known its flowers; the which will at once teach you circumspection in the things that may hap and afford you diversion of those already befallen.

In Naples, a very ancient city and as delightful as any in Italy or maybe more so, there was once a young man, illustrious for nobility of blood and noted for his much wealth, whose name was Ricciardo Minutolo. Albeit he had to wife a very fair and lovesome young lady, he fell in love with one who, according to general opinion, far overpassed in beauty all the other ladies of Naples. Her name was Catella and she was the wife of another young gentleman of like condition, hight Filippello Fighinolfi, whom, like a very virtuous woman as she was, she loved and cherished over all. Ricciardo, then, loving this Catella and doing all those things whereby the love and favour of a lady are commonly to be won, yet for all that availing not to compass aught of his desire, was like to despair; and unknowing or unable to rid him of his passion, he neither knew how to die nor did it profit him to live.

Abiding in this mind, it befell that he was one day urgently exhorted by certain ladies of his kinsfolk to renounce this passion of his, seeing he did but weary himself in vain, for that Catella had none other good than Filippello, of whom she lived in such jealousy that she fancied every bird that flew through the air would take him from her. Ricciardo, hearing of Catella's jealousy, forthright bethought himself how he might compass his wishes and accordingly proceeded to feign himself in despair of her love and to have therefore set his mind upon another lady, for whose love he began to make a show of jousting and tourneying and doing all those things which he had been used to do for Catella; nor did he do this long before well nigh all the Neapolitans, and among the rest the lady herself, were persuaded that he no longer loved Catella, but was ardently enamoured of this second lady; and on this wise he persisted until it was so firmly believed not only of others, but of Catella herself, that the latter laid aside a certain reserve with which she was won't to entreat him, by reason of the love he bore her, and coming and going, saluted him familiarly, neighbourwise, as she did others.

It presently befell that, the weather being warm, many companies of ladies and gentlemen went, according to the usance of the Neapolitans, to divert themselves on the banks of the sea and there to dine and sup, and Ricciardo, knowing Catella to be gone thither with her company, betook himself to the same place with his friends and was received into Catella's party of ladies, after allowing himself to be much pressed, as if he had no great mind to abide there. The ladies and Catella fell to rallying him upon his new love, and he, feigning himself sore inflamed therewith, gave them the more occasion for discourse. Presently, one lady going hither and thither, as commonly happeneth in such places, and Catella being left with a few whereas Ricciardo was, the latter cast at her a hint of a certain amour of Filippello her husband, whereupon she fell into a sudden passion of jealousy and began to be inwardly all afire with impatience to know what he meant. At last, having contained herself awhile and being unable to hold out longer, she besought Ricciardo, for that lady's sake whom he most loved, to be pleased to make her clear[175] of that which he had said of Filippello; whereupon quoth he, 'You conjure me by such a person that I dare not deny aught you ask me; wherefore I am ready to tell it you, so but you promise me that you will never say a word thereof either to him or to any other, save whenas you shall by experience have seen that which I shall tell you to be true; for that, when you please, I will teach you how you may see it.'

The lady consented to that which he asked and swore to him never to repeat that which he should tell her, believing it the more to be true. Then, withdrawing apart with her, so they might not be overheard of any, he proceeded to say thus: 'Madam, an I loved you as once I loved, I should not dare tell you aught which I thought might vex you; but, since that love is passed away, I shall be less chary of discovering to you the whole truth. I know not if Filippello have ever taken umbrage at the love I bore you or have believed that I was ever loved of you. Be this as it may, he hath never personally shown me aught thereof; but now, having peradventure awaited a time whenas he deemed I should be less suspicious, it seemeth he would fain do unto me that which I misdoubt me he feareth I have done unto him, to wit, [he seeketh] to have my wife at his pleasure. As I find, he hath for some little time past secretly solicited her with sundry messages, all of which I have known from herself, and she hath made answer thereunto according as I have enjoined her. This very day, however, ere I came hither, I found in the house, in close conference with my wife, a woman whom I set down incontinent for that which she was, wherefore I called my wife and asked her what the woman wanted. Quoth she, "She is the agent of Filippello, with whom thou hast saddled me, by dint of making me answer him and give him hopes, and she saith that he will e'en know once for all what I mean to do and that, an I will, he would contrive for me to be privily at a bagnio in this city; nay, of this he prayeth and importuneth me; and hadst thou not, I know not why, caused me keep this traffic with him, I would have rid myself of him after such a fashion that he should never more have looked whereas I might be." Thereupon meseemed this was going too far and that it was no longer to be borne; and I bethought myself to tell it to you, so you might know how he requiteth that entire fidelity of yours, whereby aforetime I was nigh upon death. And so you shall not believe this that I tell you to be words and fables, but may, whenas you have a mind thereto, openly both see and touch it, I caused my wife make this answer to her who awaited it, that she was ready to be at the bagnio in question to-morrow at none, whenas the folk sleep; with which the woman took leave of her, very well pleased. Now methinketh not you believe that I will send my wife thither; but, were I in your place, I would contrive that he should find me there in the room of her he thinketh to meet, and whenas I had abidden with him awhile, I would give him to know with whom he had been and render him such honour thereof as should beseem him; by which means methinketh you would do him such a shame that the affront he would fain put upon yourself and upon me would at one blow be avenged.'

Catella, hearing this, without anywise considering who it was that said it to her or suspecting his design, forthright, after the won't of jealous folk, gave credence to his words and fell a-fitting to his story certain things that had already befallen; then, fired with sudden anger, she answered that she would certainly do as he counselled,—it was no such great matter,—and that assuredly, if Filippello came thither, she would do him such a shame that it should still recur to his mind, as often as he saw a woman. Ricciardo, well pleased at this and himseeming his device was a good one and in a fair way of success, confirmed her in her purpose with many other words and strengthened her belief in his story, praying her, natheless, never to say that she had heard it from him, the which she promised him on her troth.

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Next morning, Ricciardo betook himself to a good woman, who kept the bagnio he had named to Catella, and telling her what he purposed to do, prayed her to further him therein as most she might. The good woman, who was much beholden to him, answered that she would well and agreed with him what she should do and say. Now in the house where the bagnio was she had a very dark chamber, for that no window gave thereon by which the light might enter. This chamber she made ready and spread a bed there, as best she might, wherein Ricciardo, as soon as he had dined, laid himself and proceeded to await Catella. The latter, having heard Ricciardo's words and giving more credence thereto than behoved her, returned in the evening, full of despite, to her house, whither Filippello also returned and being by chance full of other thought, maybe did not show her his usual fondness. When she saw this, her suspicions rose yet higher and she said in herself, 'Forsooth, his mind is occupied with yonder lady with whom he thinketh to take his pleasure to-morrow; but of a surety this shall not come to pass.' An in this thought she abode well nigh all that night, considering how she should bespeak him, whenas she should be with him [in the bagnio].

What more [need I say?] The hour of none come, she took her waiting-woman and without anywise changing counsel, repaired to the bagnio that Ricciardo had named to her, and there finding the good woman, asked her if Filippello had been there that day, whereupon quoth the other, who had been duly lessoned by Ricciardo, 'Are you the lady that should come to speak with him?' 'Ay am I,' answered Catella. 'Then,' said the woman, 'get you in to him.' Catella, who went seeking that which she would fain not have found, caused herself to be brought to the chamber where Ricciardo was and entering with covered head, locked herself in. Ricciardo, seeing her enter, rose joyfully to his feet and catching her in his arms, said softly, 'Welcome, my soul!' Whilst she, the better to feign herself other than she was, clipped him and kissed him and made much of him, without saying a word, fearing to be known of him if she should speak. The chamber was very dark, wherewith each of them was well pleased, nor for long abiding there did the eyes recover more power. Ricciardo carried her to the bed and there, without speaking, lest their voices should betray them, they abode a long while, to the greater delight and pleasance of the one party than the other.

But presently, it seeming to Catella time to vent the resentment she felt, she began, all afire with rage and despite, to speak thus, 'Alas, how wretched is women's lot and how ill bestowed the love that many of them bear their husbands! I, unhappy that I am, these eight years have I loved thee more than my life, and thou, as I have felt, art all afire and all consumed with love of a strange woman, wicked and perverse man that thou art! Now with whom thinkest thou to have been? Thou hast been with her whom thou hast too long beguiled with thy false blandishments, making a show of love to her and being enamoured elsewhere. I am Catella, not Ricciardo's wife, disloyal traitor that thou art! Hearken if thou know my voice; it is indeed I; and it seemeth to me a thousand years till we be in the light, so I may shame thee as thou deservest, scurvy discredited cur that thou art! Alack, woe is me! To whom have I borne so much love these many years? To this disloyal dog, who, thinking to have a strange woman in his arms, hath lavished on me more caresses and more fondnesses in this little while I have been here with him than in all the rest of the time I have been his. Thou hast been brisk enough to-day, renegade cur that thou art, that usest at home to show thyself so feeble and forspent and impotent; but, praised be God, thou hast tilled thine own field and not, as thou thoughtest, that of another. No wonder thou camest not anigh me yesternight; thou lookedst to discharge thee of thy lading elsewhere and wouldst fain come fresh to the battle; but, thanks to God and my own foresight, the stream hath e'en run in its due channel. Why answerest thou not, wicked man? Why sayst thou not somewhat? Art thou grown dumb, hearing me? Cock's faith, I know not what hindereth me from thrusting my hands into thine eyes and tearing them out for thee. Thou thoughtest to do this treason very secretly; but, perdie, one knoweth as much as another; thou hast not availed to compass thine end; I have had better beagles at thy heels than thou thoughtest.'

Ricciardo inwardly rejoiced at these words and without making any reply, clipped her and kissed her and fondled her more than ever; whereupon quoth she, following on her speech, 'Ay, thou thinkest to cajole me with thy feigned caresses, fashious dog that thou art, and to appease and console me; but thou art mistaken; I shall never be comforted for this till I have put thee to shame therefor in the presence of all our friends and kinsmen and neighbours. Am I not as fair as Ricciardo's wife, thou villain? Am I not as good a gentlewoman? Why dost thou not answer, thou sorry dog? What hath she more than I? Keep thy distance; touch me not; thou hast done enough feats of arms for to-day. Now thou knowest who I am, I am well assured that all thou couldst do would be perforce; but, so God grant me grace, I will yet cause thee suffer want thereof, and I know not what hindereth me from sending for Ricciardo, who hath loved me more than himself and could never boast that I once even looked at him; nor know I what harm it were to do it. Thou thoughtest to have his wife here and it is as if thou hadst had her, inasmuch as it is none of thy fault that the thing hath miscarried; wherefore, were I to have himself, thou couldst not with reason blame me.'

Brief, many were the lady's words and sore her complaining. However, at last, Ricciardo, bethinking himself that, an he let her go in that belief, much ill might ensue thereof, determined to discover himself and undeceive her; wherefore, catching her in his arms and holding her fast, so she might not get away, he said, 'Sweet my soul, be not angered; that which I could not have of you by simply loving you, Love hath taught me to obtain by practice; and I am your Ricciardo.' Catella, hearing this and knowing him by the voice, would have thrown herself incontinent out of bed, but could not; whereupon she offered to cry out; but Ricciardo stopped her mouth with one hand and said, 'Madam, this that hath been may henceforth on nowise be undone, though you should cry all the days of your life; and if you cry out or cause this ever anywise to be known of any one, two things will come thereof; the one (which should no little concern you) will be that your honour and fair fame will be marred, for that, albeit you may avouch that I brought you hither by practice, I shall say that it is not true, nay, that I caused you come hither for monies and gifts that I promised you, whereof for that I gave you not so largely as you hoped, you waxed angry and made all this talk and this outcry; and you know that folk are more apt to credit ill than good, wherefore I shall more readily be believed than you. Secondly, there will ensue thereof a mortal enmity between your husband and myself, and it may as well happen that I shall kill him as he me, in which case you are never after like to be happy or content. Wherefore, heart of my body, go not about at once to dishonour yourself and to cast your husband and myself into strife and peril. You are not the first woman, nor will you be the last, who hath been deceived, nor have I in this practised upon you to bereave you of your own, but for the exceeding love that I bear you and am minded ever to bear you and to be your most humble servant. And although it is long since I and all that I possess or can or am worth have been yours and at your service, henceforward I purpose that they shall be more than ever so. Now, you are well advised in other things and so I am certain you will be in this.'

Catella, what while Ricciardo spoke thus, wept sore, but, albeit she was sore provoked and complained grievously, nevertheless, her reason allowed so much force to his true words that she knew it to be possible that it should happen as he said; wherefore quoth she, 'Ricciardo, I know not how God will vouchsafe me strength to suffer the affront and the cheat thou hast put upon me; I will well to make no outcry here whither my simplicity and overmuch jealousy have brought me; but of this be assured that I shall never be content till one way or another I see myself avenged of this thou hast done to me. Wherefore, leave me, hold me no longer; thou hast had that which thou desiredst and hast tumbled me to thy heart's content; it is time to leave me; let me go, I prithee.'

Ricciardo, seeing her mind yet overmuch disordered, had laid it to heart never to leave her till he had gotten his pardon of her; wherefore, studying with the softest words to appease her, he so bespoke and so entreated and so conjured her that she was prevailed upon to make peace with him, and of like accord they abode together a great while thereafter in the utmost delight. Moreover, Catella, having thus learned how much more savoury were the lover's kisses than those of the husband and her former rigour being changed into kind love-liking for Ricciardo, from that day forth she loved him very tenderly and thereafter, ordering themselves with the utmost discretion, they many a time had joyance of their loves. God grant us to enjoy ours!"


[175] Or, in modern parlance, to enlighten her.

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