The girl, glad at heart as was ever lady of her lover, mended with reviving hope, and in a few days recovered her health, and therewith more than all her wonted beauty. Whereupon the King, having taken counsel with the Queen how to reward so great a love, got him one day to horse with a great company of his barons, and hied him to the apothecary's house; and being come into the garden, he sent for the apothecary and his daughter; and there, being joined by the Queen with not a few ladies, who received the girl into their company, they made such cheer as 'twas a wonder to see. And after a while the King and Queen having called Lisa to them, quoth the King:—"Honourable damsel, by the great love that you have borne us we are moved greatly to honour you; and we trust that, for love of us, the honour that we design for you will be acceptable to you. Now 'tis thus we would honour you: to wit, that, seeing that you are of marriageable age, we would have you take for husband him that we shall give you; albeit 'tis none the less our purpose ever to call ourself your knight, demanding no other tribute of all your love but one sole kiss." Scarlet from brow to neck, the girl, making the King's pleasure her own, thus with a low voice replied:—"My lord, very sure am I that, should it come to be known that I was grown enamoured of you, most folk would hold me for a fool, deeming, perchance, that I was out of my mind, and witless alike of my own rank and yours; but God, who alone reads the hearts of us mortals, knows that even then, when first I did affect you, I wist that you were the King, and I but the daughter of Bernardo the apothecary, and that to suffer my passion to soar so high did ill become me; but, as you know far better than I, none loves of set and discreet purpose, but only according to the dictates of impulse and fancy; which law my forces, albeit not seldom opposed, being powerless to withstand, I loved and still love and shall ever love you. But as no sooner knew I myself subjugated to your love, than I vowed to have ever no will but yours; therefore not only am I compliant to take right gladly him whom you shall be pleased to give me for husband, thereby conferring upon me great honour and dignity; but if you should bid me tarry in the fire, delighted were I to obey, so thereby I might pleasure you. How far it beseems me to have you, my King, for my knight, you best know; and therefore I say nought thereof; nor will the kiss which you crave as your sole tribute of my love be granted you save by leave of my Lady the Queen. Natheless, may you have of this great graciousness that you and my Lady the Queen have shewn me, and which I may not requite, abundant recompense in the blessing and favour of God;" and so she was silent.
The Queen was mightily delighted with the girl's answer, and deemed her as discreet as the King had said. The King then sent for the girl's father and mother, and being assured that his intention had their approval, summoned to his presence a young man, Perdicone by name, that was of gentle birth, but in poor circumstances, and put certain rings into his hand, and (he nowise gainsaying) wedded him to Lisa. Which done, besides jewels many and precious that he and the Queen gave the girl, he forthwith bestowed upon Perdicone two domains, right goodly and of ample revenues, to wit, Ceffalu and Calatabellotta, saying:—"We give them to thee for thy wife's dowry; what we have in store for thee thou wilt learn hereafter." Which said, he turned to the girl, and:—"Now," quoth he, "we are minded to cull that fruit which is due to us of thy love;" and so, taking her head between both his hands, he kissed her brow. Wherefore, great was the joy of Perdicone, and the father and mother of Lisa, and Lisa herself, and mighty the cheer they made, and gaily did they celebrate the nuptials. And, as many affirm, right well did the King keep his promise to the girl; for that ever, while he lived, he called himself her knight, nor went to any passage of arms bearing other device than that which he had from her.
Now 'tis by doing after this sort that sovereigns win the hearts of their subjects, give others occasion of well-doing, and gain for themselves an imperishable renown. At which mark few or none in our times have bent the bow of their understanding, the more part of the princes having become but cruel tyrants.
— Sophronia, albeit she deems herself wife to Gisippus, is wife to Titus Quintius Fulvus, and goes with him to Rome, where Gisippus arrives in indigence, and deeming himself scorned by Titus, to compass his own death, avers that he has slain a man. Titus recognizes him, and to save his life, alleges that 'twas he that slew the man: whereof he that did the deed being witness, he discovers himself as the murderer. Whereby it comes to pass that they are all three liberated by Octavianus; and Titus gives Gisippus his sister to wife, and shares with him all his substance. —
So ceased Pampinea; and when all the ladies, and most of all the Ghibelline, had commended King Pedro, Filomena by command of the king thus began:—Magnificent my ladies, who wots not that there is nought so great but kings, when they have a mind, may accomplish it? As also that 'tis of them that magnificence is most especially demanded? Now whoso, being powerful, does that which it appertains to him to do, does well; but therein is no such matter of marvel, or occasion of extolling him to the skies, as in his deed, of whom, for that his power is slight, less is demanded. Wherefore, as you are so profuse of your words in exaltation of the fine deeds, as you deem them, of monarchs, I make no manner of doubt, but that the doings of our peers must seem to you yet more delectable and commendable, when they equal or surpass those of kings. Accordingly 'tis a transaction, laudable and magnificent, that passed between two citizens, who were friends, that I purpose to recount to you in my story.
I say, then, that what time Octavianus Caesar, not as yet hight Augustus, but being in the office called Triumvirate, swayed the empire of Rome, there dwelt at Rome a gentleman, Publius Quintius Fulvus by name, who, having a son, Titus Quintius Fulvus, that was a very prodigy of wit, sent him to Athens to study philosophy, and to the best of his power commended him to a nobleman of that city, Chremes by name, who was his very old friend. Chremes lodged Titus in his own house with his son Gisippus, and placed both Titus and Gisippus under a philosopher named Aristippus, to learn of him his doctrine. And the two youths, thus keeping together, found each the other's conversation so congruous with his own, that there grew up between them a friendship so close and brotherly that 'twas never broken by aught but death; nor knew either rest or solace save when he was with the other. So, gifted alike with pre-eminent subtlety of wit, they entered on their studies, and with even pace and prodigious applause scaled together the glorious heights of philosophy. In which way of life, to the exceeding great delight of Chremes, who entreated Titus as no less his son than Gisippus, they continued for full three years. At the end whereof, it befell (after the common course of things mundane) that Chremes (being now aged) departed this life. Whom with equal grief they mourned as a common father; and the friends and kinsfolk of Chremes were alike at a loss to determine whether of the twain stood in need of the more consolation upon the bereavement.
Some months afterward the friends and kinsfolk of Gisippus came to him and exhorted him, as did also Titus, to take a wife, and found him a maiden, wondrous fair, of one of the most noble houses of Athens, her name Sophronia, and her age about fifteen years. So a time was appointed for their nuptials, and one day, when 'twas near at hand, Gisippus bade Titus come see the maiden, whom as yet he had not seen; and they being come into her house, and she sitting betwixt them, Titus, as he were fain to observe with care the several charms of his friend's wife that was to be, surveyed her with the closest attention, and being delighted beyond measure with all that he saw, grew, as inly he extolled her charms to the skies, enamoured of her with a love as ardent, albeit he gave no sign of it, as ever lover bore to lady. However, after they had tarried a while with her, they took their leave, and went home, where Titus repaired to his chamber, and there gave himself over to solitary musing on the damsel's charms, and the longer he brooded, the more he burned for her. Whereon as he reflected, having heaved many a fervent sigh, thus he began to commune with himself:—Ah! woe worth thy life, Titus! Whom makest thou the mistress of thy soul, thy love, thy hope? Knowest thou not that by reason as well of thy honourable entreatment by Chremes and his kin as of the wholehearted friendship that is between thee and Gisippus, it behoves thee to have his betrothed in even such pious regard as if she were thy sister? Whither art thou suffering beguiling love, delusive hope, to hurry thee? Open the eyes of thine understanding, and see thyself, wretched man, as thou art; obey the dictates of thy reason, refrain thy carnal appetite, control thine inordinate desires, and give thy thoughts another bent; join battle with thy lust at the outset, and conquer thyself while there is yet time. This which thou wouldst have is not meet, is not seemly: this which thou art minded to ensue, thou wouldst rather, though thou wert, as thou art not, sure of its attainment, eschew, hadst thou but the respect thou shouldst have, for the claims of true friendship. So, then, Titus, what wilt thou do? What but abandon this unseemly love, if thou wouldst do as it behoves thee?
But then, as he remembered Sophronia, his thoughts took the contrary direction, and he recanted all he had said, musing on this wise:—The laws of Love are of force above all others; they abrogate not only the law of human friendship, but the law Divine itself. How many times ere now has father loved daughter, brother sister, step-mother step-son? aberrations far more notable than that a friend should love his friend's wife, which has happened a thousand times. Besides which, I am young, and youth is altogether subject to the laws of Love. Love's pleasure, then, should be mine. The seemly is for folk of riper years. 'Tis not in my power to will aught save that which Love wills. So beauteous is this damsel that there is none but should love her; and if I love her, who am young, who can justly censure me? I love her not because she is the affianced of Gisippus; no matter whose she was, I should love her all the same. Herein is Fortune to blame, that gave her to my friend, Gisippus, rather than to another. And if she is worthy of love, as for beauty she is, Gisippus, if he should come to know that I love her, ought to be less jealous than another.
Then, scorning himself that he should indulge such thoughts, he relapsed into the opposing mood, albeit not to abide there, but ever veering to and fro, he spent not only the whole of that day and the ensuing night, but many others; insomuch that, being able neither to eat nor to sleep, he grew so weak that he was fain to take to his bed. Gisippus, who had marked his moodiness for some days, and now saw that he was fairly sick, was much distressed; and with sedulous care, never quitting his side, he tended, and strove as best he might to comfort, him, not seldom and most earnestly demanding to know of him the cause of his melancholy and his sickness. Many were the subterfuges to which Titus resorted; but, as Gisippus was not to be put off with his fables, finding himself hard pressed by him, with sighs and sobs he made answer on this wise:—"Gisippus, had such been the will of the Gods, I were fain rather to die than to live, seeing that Fortune has brought me to a strait in which needs must my virtue be put to the ordeal, and, to my most grievous shame, 'tis found wanting: whereof I confidently expect my due reward, to wit, death, which will be more welcome to me than to live, haunted ever by the memory of my baseness, which, as there is nought that from thee I either should or can conceal, I, not without burning shame, will discover to thee." And so he recounted the whole story from first to last, the occasion of his melancholy, its several moods, their conflict, and with which of them the victory rested, averring that he was dying of love for Sophronia, and that, knowing how ill such love beseemed him, he had, for penance, elected to die, and deemed the end was now not far off. Gisippus, hearing his words and seeing his tears, for a while knew not what to say, being himself smitten with the damsel's charms, albeit in a less degree than Titus; but ere long he made up his mind that Sophronia must be less dear to him than his friend's life.
And so, moved to tears by his friend's tears:—"Titus," quoth he between his sobs, "but that thou art in need of comfort, I should reproach thee, that thou hast offended against our friendship in that thou hast so long kept close from me this most distressful passion; and albeit thou didst deem it unseemly, yet unseemly things should no more than things seemly be withheld from a friend, for that, as a friend rejoices with his friend in things seemly, so he does his endeavour to wean his friend from things unseemly: but enough of this for the nonce: I pass to that which, I wot, is of greater moment. If thou ardently lovest Sophronia, my affianced, so far from marvelling thereat, I should greatly marvel were it not so, knowing how fair she is, and how noble is thy soul, and thus the apter to be swayed by passion, the more excelling is she by whom thou art charmed. And the juster the cause thou hast to love Sophronia, the greater is the injustice with which thou complainest of Fortune (albeit thou dost it not in so many words) for giving her to me, as if thy love of her had been seemly, had she belonged to any other but me; whereas, if thou art still the wise man thou wast wont to be, thou must know that to none could Fortune have assigned her, with such good cause for thee to thank her, as to me. Had any other had her, albeit thy love had been seemly, he had loved her as his own, rather than as thine; which, if thou deem me even such a friend to thee as I am, thou wilt not apprehend from me, seeing that I mind me not that, since we were friends, I had ever aught that was not as much thine as mine. And so should I entreat thee herein as in all other matters, were the affair gone so far that nought else were possible; but as it is, I can make thee sole possessor of her; and so I mean to do; for I know not what cause thou shouldst have to prize my friendship, if, where in seemly sort it might be done, I knew not how to surrender my will to thine. 'Tis true that Sophronia is my betrothed, and that I loved her much, and had great cheer in expectation of the nuptials: but as thou, being much more discerning than I, dost more fervently affect this rare prize, rest assured that she will enter my chamber not mine but thine. Wherefore, away with thy moodiness, banish thy melancholy, recover thy lost health, thy heartiness and jollity, and gladsomely, even from this very hour, anticipate the guerdon of thy love, a love worthier far than mine."
Delightful as was the prospect with which hope flattered Titus, as he heard Gisippus thus speak, no less was the shame with which right reason affected him, admonishing him that the greater was the liberality of Gisippus, the less it would become him to profit thereby. Wherefore, still weeping, he thus constrained himself to make answer:—"Gisippus, thy generous and true friendship leaves me in no doubt as to the manner in which it becomes me to act. God forefend that her, whom, as to the more worthy, He has given to thee, I should ever accept of thee for mine. Had He seen fit that she should be mine, far be it from thee or any other to suppose that He would ever have awarded her to thee. Renounce not, then, that which thy choice and wise counsel and His gift have made thine, and leave me, to whom, as unworthy, He has appointed no such happiness, to waste my life in tears; for either I shall conquer my grief, which will be grateful to thee, or it will conquer me, and so I shall be quit of my pain." Quoth then Gisippus:—"If our friendship, Titus, is of such a sort as may entitle me to enforce thee to ensue behests of mine, or as may induce thee of thine own free will to ensue the same, such is the use to which, most of all, I am minded to put it; and if thou lend not considerate ear unto my prayers, I shall by force, that force which is lawful in the interest of a friend, make Sophronia thine. I know the might of Love, how redoubtable it is, and how, not once only, but oftentimes, it has brought ill-starred lovers to a miserable death; and thee I see so hard bested that turn back thou mightst not, nor get the better of thy grief, but holding on thy course, must succumb, and perish, and without doubt I should speedily follow thee. And so, had I no other cause to love thee, thy life is precious to me in that my own is bound up with it. Sophronia, then, shall be thine; for thou wouldst not lightly find another so much to thy mind, and I shall readily find another to love, and so shall content both thee and me. In which matter, peradventure, I might not be so liberal, were wives so scarce or hard to find as are friends; wherefore, as 'tis so easy a matter for me to find another wife, I had liefer—I say not lose her, for in giving her to thee lose her I shall not, but only transfer her to one that is my alter ego, and that to her advantage—I had liefer, I say, transfer her to thee than lose thee. And so, if aught my prayers avail with thee, I entreat thee extricate thyself from this thy woeful plight, and comfort at once thyself and me, and in good hope, address thyself to pluck that boon which thy fervent love craves of her for whom thou yearnest."
Still scrupling, for shame, to consent that Sophronia should become his wife, Titus remained yet a while inexorable; but, yielding at last to the solicitations of Love, reinforced by the exhortations of Gisippus, thus he made answer:—"Lo now, Gisippus, I know not how to call it, whether 'tis more thy pleasure than mine, this which I do, seeing that 'tis as thy pleasure that thou so earnestly entreatest me to do it; but, as thy liberality is such that my shame, though becoming, may not withstand it, I will even do it. But of this rest assured, that I do so, witting well that I receive from thee, not only the lady I love, but with her my very life. And, Fate permitting, may the Gods grant me to make thee such honourable and goodly requital as may shew thee how sensible I am of the boon, which thou, more compassionate of me than I am of myself, conferrest on me." Quoth then Gisippus:—"Now, for the giving effect to our purpose, methinks, Titus, we should proceed on this wise. Thou knowest that Sophronia, by treaty at length concluded between my family and hers, is become my betrothed: were I now to say that she should not be my wife, great indeed were the scandal that would come thereof, and I should affront both her family and mine own; whereof, indeed, I should make no account, so it gave me to see her become thine; but I fear that, were I to give her up at this juncture, her family would forthwith bestow her upon another, perchance, than thee, and so we should both be losers. Wherefore methinks that, so thou approve, I were best to complete what I have begun, bring her home as my wife, and celebrate the nuptials, and thereafter we can arrange that thou lie with her, privily, as thy wife. Then, time and occasion serving, we will disclose the whole affair, and if they are satisfied, well and good; if not, 'twill be done all the same, and as it cannot be undone, they must perforce make the best of it."
Which counsel being approved by Titus, Gisippus brought the lady home as his wife, Titus being now recovered, and quite himself again; and when they had made great cheer, and night was come, the ladies, having bedded the bride, took their departure. Now the chambers of Titus and Gisippus were contiguous, and one might pass from one into the other: Gisippus, therefore, being come into his room, extinguished every ray of light, and stole into that of Titus, and bade him go get him to bed with his lady. Whereat Titus gave way to shame, and would have changed his mind, and refused to go in; but Gisippus, no less zealous at heart than in words to serve his friend, after no small contention prevailed on him to go thither. Now no sooner was Titus abed with the lady, than, taking her in his arms, he, as if jestingly, asked in a low tone whether she were minded to be his wife. She, taking him to be Gisippus, answered, yes; whereupon he set a fair and costly ring on her finger, saying:—"And I am minded to be thy husband." And having presently consummated the marriage, he long and amorously disported him with her, neither she, nor any other, being ever aware that another than Gisippus lay with her.
Now Titus and Sophronia being after this sort wedded, Publius, the father of Titus, departed this life. For which cause Titus was bidden by letter to return forthwith to Rome to see to his affairs; wherefore he took counsel with Gisippus how he might take Sophronia thither with him; which might not well be done without giving her to know how matters stood. Whereof, accordingly, one day, having called her into the chamber, they fully apprised her, Titus for her better assurance bringing to her recollection not a little of what had passed between them. Whereat she, after glancing from one to the other somewhat disdainfully, burst into a flood of tears, and reproached Gisippus that he had so deluded her; and forthwith, saying nought of the matter to any there, she hied her forth of Gisippus' house and home to her father, to whom and her mother she recounted the deceit which Gisippus had practised upon them as upon her, averring that she was the wife not of Gisippus, as they supposed, but of Titus. Whereby her father was aggrieved exceedingly, and prolonged and grave complaint was made thereof by him and his own and Gisippus' families, and there was not a little parleying, and a world of pother. Gisippus earned the hatred of both his own and Sophronia's kin, and all agreed that he merited not only censure but severe punishment. He, however, averred that he had done a thing seemly, and that Sophronia's kinsfolk owed him thanks for giving her in marriage to one better than himself.
All which Titus witnessed with great suffering, and witting that 'twas the way of the Greeks to launch forth in high words and menaces, and refrain not until they should meet with one that answered them, whereupon they were wont to grow not only humble but even abject, was at length minded that their clavers should no longer pass unanswered; and, as with his Roman temper he united Athenian subtlety, he cleverly contrived to bring the kinsfolk, as well of Gisippus as of Sophronia, together in a temple, where, being entered, attended only by Gisippus, thus (they being intent to hear) he harangued them:—"'Tis the opinion of not a few philosophers that whatsoever mortals do is ordained by the providence of the immortal Gods; for which cause some would have it that nought either is, or ever shall be, done, save of necessity, albeit others there are that restrict this necessity to that which is already done. Regard we but these opinions with some little attention, and we shall very plainly perceive that to censure that which cannot be undone is nought else but to be minded to shew oneself wiser than the Gods; by whom we must suppose that we and our affairs are swayed and governed with uniform and unerring wisdom. Whereby you may very readily understand how vain and foolish a presumption it is to pass judgment on their doings, and what manner and might of chains they need who suffer themselves to be transported to such excess of daring. Among whom, in my judgment, you must one and all be numbered, if 'tis true, what I hear, to wit, that you have complained and do continue to complain that Sophronia, albeit you gave her to Gisippus, is, nevertheless, become my wife; not considering that 'twas ordained from all eternity that she should become, not the wife of Gisippus, but mine, as the fact does now declare.
"But, for that discourse of the secret providence and purposes of the Gods seems to many a matter hard and scarce to be understood, I am willing to assume that they meddle in no wise with our concerns, and to descend to the region of human counsels; in speaking whereof I must needs do two things quite at variance with my wont, to wit, in some degree praise myself and censure or vilify another. But, as in either case I mean not to deviate from the truth, and 'tis what the occasion demands, I shall not fail so to do. With bitter upbraidings, animated rather by rage than by reason, you cease not to murmur, nay, to cry out, against Gisippus, and to harass him with your abuse, and hold him condemned, for that her, whom you saw fit to give him, he has seen fit to give me, to wife; wherein I deem him worthy of the highest commendation, and that for two reasons, first, because he has done the office of a friend, and secondly, because he has done more wisely than you did. After what sort the sacred laws of friendship prescribe that friend shall entreat friend, 'tis not to my present purpose to declare; 'twill suffice to remind you that the tie of friendship should be more binding than that of blood, or kinship; seeing that our friends are of our own choosing, whereas our kinsfolk are appointed us by Fortune; wherefore, if my life was more to Gisippus than your goodwill, since I am, as I hold myself, his friend, can any wonder thereat?
"But pass we to my second reason; in the exposition whereof I must needs with yet more cogency prove to you that he has been wiser than you, seeing that, methinks, you wot nought of the providence of the Gods, and still less of the consequences of friendship. I say then, that, as 'twas your premeditated and deliberate choice that gave Sophronia to this young philosopher Gisippus, so 'twas his that gave her to another young philosopher. 'Twas your counsel that gave her to an Athenian; 'twas his that gave her to a Roman: 'twas your counsel that gave her to a man of gentle birth; 'twas his that gave her to one of birth yet gentler: wealthy was he to whom your counsel gave her, most wealthy he to whom his counsel gave her. Not only did he to whom your counsel gave her, love her not, but he scarce knew her, whereas 'twas to one that loved her beyond all other blessings, nay, more dearly than his own life, that his counsel gave her. And to the end that it may appear more plainly that 'tis even as I say, and Gisippus' counsel more to be commended than yours, let us examine it point by point. That I, like Gisippus, am young and a philosopher, my countenance and my pursuits may, without making more words about the matter, sufficiently attest. We are also of the same age, and have ever kept pace together in our studies. Now true it is that he is an Athenian, and I am a Roman. But, as touching the comparative glory of the cities, should the matter be mooted, I say that I am of a free city, and he of a city tributary; that I am of a city that is mistress of all the world, and he of one that is subject to mine; that I am of a city that flourishes mightily in arms, in empire, and in arts; whereas he cannot boast his city as famous save in arts.
"Moreover, albeit you see me here in the guise of a most humble scholar, I am not born of the dregs of the populace of Rome. My halls and the public places of Rome are full of the antique effigies of my forefathers, and the annals of Rome abound with the records of triumphs led by the Quintii to the Roman Capitol; and so far from age having withered it, to-day, yet more abundantly than ever of yore, flourishes the glory of our name. Of my wealth I forbear, for shame, to speak, being mindful that honest poverty is the time-honoured and richest inheritance of the noble citizens of Rome; but, allowing for the nonce the opinion of the vulgar, which holds poverty in disrepute, and highly appraises wealth, I, albeit I never sought it, yet, as the favoured of Fortune, have abundant store thereof. Now well I wot that, Gisippus being of your own city, you justly prized and prize an alliance with him; but not a whit less should you prize an alliance with me at Rome, considering that there you will have in me an excellent host, and a patron apt, zealous and potent to serve you as well in matters of public interest as in your private concerns. Who, then, dismissing all bias from his mind, and judging with impartial reason, would deem your counsel more commendable than that of Gisippus? Assuredly none. Sophronia, then, being married to Titus Quintius Fulvus, a citizen of Rome, of an ancient and illustrious house, and wealthy, and a friend of Gisippus, whoso takes umbrage or offence thereat, does that which it behoves him not to do, and knows not what he does.
"Perchance some will say that their complaint is not that Sophronia is the wife of Titus, but that she became his wife after such a sort, to wit, privily, by theft, neither friend nor any of her kin witting aught thereof; but herein is no matter of marvel, no prodigy as yet unheard-of. I need not instance those who before now have taken to them husbands in defiance of their fathers' will, or have eloped with their lovers and been their mistresses before they were their wives, or of whose marriages no word has been spoken, until their pregnancy or parturition published them to the world, and necessity sanctioned the fact: nought of this has happened in the case of Sophronia; on the contrary, 'twas in proper form, and in meet and seemly sort, that Gisippus gave her to Titus. And others, peradventure, will say that 'twas by one to whom such office belonged not that she was bestowed in marriage. Nay, but this is but vain and womanish querulousness, and comes of scant consideration. Know we not, then, that Fortune varies according to circumstances her methods and her means of disposing events to their predetermined ends? What matters it to me, if it be a cobbler, rather than a philosopher, that Fortune has ordained to compass something for me, whether privily or overtly, so only the result is as it should be? I ought, indeed, to take order, if the cobbler be indiscreet, that he meddle no more in affairs of mine, but, at the same time, I ought to thank him for what he has done. If Gisippus has duly bestowed Sophronia in marriage, it is gratuitous folly to find fault with the manner and the person. If you mistrust his judgment, have a care that it be not in his power to do the like again, but thank him for this turn.
"Natheless, you are to know that I used no cunning practice or deceit to sully in any degree the fair fame of your house in the person of Sophronia; and, albeit I took her privily to wife, I came not as a ravisher to despoil her of her virginity, nor in any hostile sort was I minded to make her mine on dishonourable terms, and spurn your alliance; but, being fervently enamoured of her bewitching beauty and her noble qualities, I wist well that, should I make suit for her with those formalities which you, perchance, will say were due, then, for the great love you bear her, and for fear lest I should take her away with me to Rome, I might not hope to have her. Accordingly I made use of the secret practice which is now manifest to you, and brought Gisippus to consent in my interest to that whereto he was averse; and thereafter, ardently though I loved her, I sought not to commingle with her as a lover, but as a husband, nor closed with her, until, as she herself by her true witness may assure you, I had with apt words and with the ring made her my lawful wife, asking her if she would have me to husband, whereto she answered, yes. Wherein if she seem to have been tricked, 'tis not I that am to blame, but she, for that she asked me not who I was.
"This, then, is the great wrong, sin, crime, whereof for love and friendship's sake Gisippus and I are guilty, that Sophronia is privily become the wife of Titus Quintius: 'tis for this that you harass him with your menaces and hostile machinations. What more would you do, had he given her to a villein, to a caitiff, to a slave? Where would you find fetters, dungeons, crosses adequate to your vengeance? But enough of this at present: an event, which I did not expect, has now happened; my father is dead; and I must needs return to Rome; wherefore, being fain to take Sophronia with me, I have discovered to you that which otherwise I had, perchance, still kept close. Whereto, if you are wise, you will gladly reconcile yourselves; for that, if I had been minded to play you false, or put an affront upon you, I might have scornfully abandoned her to you; but God forefend that such baseness be ever harboured in a Roman breast. Sophronia, then, by the will of the Gods, by force of law, and by my own love-taught astuteness, is mine. The which it would seem that you, deeming yourselves, peradventure, wiser than the Gods, or the rest of mankind, do foolishly set at nought, and that in two ways alike most offensive to me; inasmuch as you both withhold from me Sophronia, in whom right, as against me, you have none, and also entreat as your enemy Gisippus, to whom you are rightfully bounden. The folly whereof I purpose not at present fully to expound to you, but in friendly sort to counsel you to abate your wrath and abandon all your schemes of vengeance, and restore Sophronia to me, that I may part from you on terms of amity and alliance, and so abide: but of this rest assured, that whether this, which is done, like you or not, if you are minded to contravene it, I shall take Gisippus hence with me, and once arrived in Rome, shall in your despite find means to recover her who is lawfully mine, and pursuing you with unremitting enmity, will apprise you by experience of the full measure and effect of a Roman's wrath."
Having so said, Titus started to his feet, his countenance distorted by anger, and took Gisippus by the hand, and with manifest contempt for all the rest, shaking his head at them and threatening them, led him out of the temple. They that remained in the temple, being partly persuaded by his arguments to accept his alliance and friendship, partly terrified by his last words, resolved by common consent that 'twas better to have the alliance of Titus, as they had lost that of Gisippus, than to add to that loss the enmity of Titus. Wherefore they followed Titus, and having come up with him, told him that they were well pleased that Sophronia should be his, and that they should prize his alliance and the friendship of dear Gisippus; and having ratified this treaty of amity and alliance with mutual cheer, they departed and sent Sophronia to Titus. Sophronia, discreetly making a virtue of necessity, transferred forthwith to Titus the love she had borne Gisippus, and being come with Titus to Rome, was there received with no small honour. Gisippus tarried in Athens, held in little account by well-nigh all the citizens, and being involved in certain of their broils, was, not long afterwards, with all his household, banished the city, poor, nay, destitute, and condemned to perpetual exile. Thus hard bested, and at length reduced to mendicancy, he made his way, so as least discomfortably he might, to Rome, being minded to see whether Titus would remember him: and there, learning that Titus lived, and was much affected by all the Romans, and having found out his house, he took his stand in front of it, and watched until Titus came by; to whom, for shame of the sorry trim that he was in, he ventured no word, but did his endeavour that he might be seen of him, hoping that Titus might recognize him, and call him by his name: but Titus passing on, Gisippus deeming that he had seen and avoided him, and calling to mind that which aforetime he had done for him, went away wroth and desperate. And fasting and penniless, and—for 'twas now night—knowing not whither he went, and yearning above all for death, he wandered by chance to a spot, which, albeit 'twas within the city, had much of the aspect of a wilderness, and espying a spacious grotto, he took shelter there for the night; and worn out at last with grief, on the bare ground, wretchedly clad as he was, he fell asleep.
Now two men that had that night gone out a thieving, having committed the theft, came towards morning to the grotto, and there quarrelled, and the stronger slew the other, and took himself off. Aroused by the noise, Gisippus witnessed the murder, and deeming that he had now the means of compassing, without suicide, the death for which he so much longed, budged not a jot, but stayed there, until the serjeants of the court, which had already got wind of the affair, came on the scene, and laid violent hands upon him, and led him away. Being examined, he confessed that he had slain the man, and had then been unable to make his escape from the grotto. Wherefore the praetor, Marcus Varro by name, sentenced him to death by crucifixion, as was then the custom. But Titus, who happened at that moment to come into the praetorium, being told the crime for which he was condemned, and scanning the poor wretch's face, presently recognized him for Gisippus, and marvelled how he should come to be there, and in such a woeful plight. And most ardently desiring to succour him, nor seeing other way to save his life except to exonerate him by accusing himself, he straightway stepped forward, and said with a loud voice:—"Marcus Varro, call back the poor man on whom thou hast passed sentence, for he is innocent. 'Tis enough that I have incurred the wrath of the Gods by one deed of violence, to wit, the murder of him whom your serjeants found dead this morning, without aggravating my offence by the death of another innocent man." Perplexed, and vexed that he should have been heard by all in the praetorium, but unable honourably to avoid compliance with that which the laws enjoined, Varro had Gisippus brought back, and in presence of Titus said to him:—"How camest thou to be so mad as, though no constraint was put upon thee, to confess a deed thou never didst, thy life being at stake? Thou saidst that 'twas thou by whom the man was slain last night, and now comes this other, and says that 'twas not thou but he that slew him." Gisippus looked, and seeing Titus, wist well that, being grateful for the service rendered by him in the past, Titus was now minded to save his life at the cost of his own: wherefore, affected to tears, he said:—"Nay but, Varro, in very sooth I slew him, and 'tis now too late, this tender solicitude of Titus for my deliverance." But on his part:—"Praetor," quoth Titus, "thou seest this man is a stranger, and was found unarmed beside the murdered man; thou canst not doubt that he was fain of death for very wretchedness: wherefore discharge him, and let punishment light on me who have merited it."
Marvelling at the importunity of both, Varro readily surmised that neither was guilty. And while he was casting about how he might acquit them, lo, in came a young man, one Publius Ambustus, a desperate character, and known to all the Romans for an arrant thief. He it was that had verily committed the murder, and witting both the men to be innocent of that of which each accused himself, so sore at heart was he by reason of their innocence, that, overborne by an exceeding great compassion, he presented himself before Varro, and:—"Praetor," quoth he, "'tis destiny draws me hither to loose the knot of these men's contention; and some God within me leaves me no peace of his whips and stings, until I discover my offence: wherefore know that neither of these men is guilty of that of which each accuses himself. 'Tis verily I that slew the man this morning about daybreak; and before I slew him, while I was sharing our plunder with him, I espied this poor fellow asleep there. Nought need I say to clear Titus: the general bruit of his illustrious renown attests that he is not a man of such a sort. Discharge him, therefore, and exact from me the penalty prescribed by the laws."
The affair had by this time come to the ears of Octavianus, who caused all three to be brought before him, and demanded to know the causes by which they had been severally moved to accuse themselves; and, each having told his story, Octavianus released the two by reason of their innocence, and the third for love of them. Titus took Gisippus home, having first chidden him not a little for his faint-heartedness and diffidence, and there, Sophronia receiving him as a brother, did him marvellous cheer; and having comforted him a while, and arrayed him in apparel befitting his worth and birth, he first shared with him all his substance, and then gave him his sister, a young damsel named Fulvia, to wife, and said to him:—"Choose now, Gisippus, whether thou wilt tarry here with me, or go back to Achaia with all that I have given thee."
Partly perforce of his banishment from his city, partly for that the sweet friendship of Titus was justly dear to him, Gisippus consented to become a Roman. And so, long and happily they lived together at Rome, Gisippus with his Fulvia, and Titus with his Sophronia, in the same house, growing, if possible, greater friends day by day.
Exceeding sacred then, is friendship, and worthy not only to be had in veneration, but to be extolled with never-ending praise, as the most dutiful mother of magnificence and seemliness, sister of gratitude and charity, and foe to enmity and avarice; ever, without waiting to be asked, ready to do as generously by another as she would be done by herself. Rarely indeed is it to-day that twain are found, in whom her most holy fruits are manifest; for which is most shamefully answerable the covetousness of mankind, which, regarding only private interest, has banished friendship beyond earth's farthest bourne, there to abide in perpetual exile. How should love, or wealth, or kinship, how should aught but friendship have so quickened the soul of Gisippus that the tears and sighs of Titus should incline his heart to cede to him the fair and gracious lady that was his betrothed and his beloved? Laws, menaces, terror! How should these, how should aught but friendship, have withheld Gisippus, in lonely places, in hidden retreats, in his own bed, from enfolding (not perchance unsolicited by her) the fair damsel within his youthful embrace? Honours, rewards, gains! Would Gisippus for these, would he for aught but friendship, have made nothing of the loss of kindred—his own and Sophronia's—have made nothing of the injurious murmurs of the populace, have made nothing of mocks and scorns, so only he might content his friend? And on the other hand, for what other cause than friendship had Titus, when he might decently have feigned not to see, have striven with the utmost zeal to compass his own death, and set himself upon the cross in Gisippus' stead? And what but friendship had left no place for suspicion in the soul of Titus, and filled it with a most fervent desire to give his sister to Gisippus, albeit he saw him to be reduced to extreme penury and destitution? But so it is that men covet hosts of acquaintance, troops of kinsfolk, offspring in plenty; and the number of their dependants increases with their wealth; and they reflect not that there is none of these, be he who he may, but will be more apprehensive of the least peril threatening himself than cumbered to avert a great peril from his lord or kinsman, whereas between friends we know 'tis quite contrariwise.
— Saladin, in guise of a merchant, is honourably entreated by Messer Torello. The Crusade ensuing, Messer Torello appoints a date, after which his wife may marry again: he is taken prisoner, and by training hawks comes under the Soldan's notice. The Soldan recognizes him, makes himself known to him, and entreats him with all honour. Messer Torello falls sick, and by magic arts is transported in a single night to Pavia, where his wife's second marriage is then to be solemnized, and being present thereat, is recognized by her, and returns with her to his house. —
So ended Filomena her story, and when all alike had commended the magnificence shewn by Titus in his gratitude, the king, reserving the last place for Dioneo, thus began:—Lovesome my ladies, true beyond all question is what Filomena reports of friendship, and with justice did she deplore in her closing words the little account in which 'tis held to-day among mortals. And were we here for the purpose of correcting, or even of censuring, the vices of the age, I should add a copious sequel to her discourse; but as we have another end in view, it has occurred to me to set before you in a narrative, which will be of considerable length, but entertaining throughout, an instance of Saladin's magnificence, to the end that, albeit, by reason of our vices, it may not be possible for us to gain to the full the friendship of any, yet by the matters whereof you shall hear in my story we may at least be incited to take delight in doing good offices, in the hope that sooner or later we may come by our reward thereof.
I say, then, that in the time of the Emperor Frederic I., as certain writers affirm, the Christians made common emprise for the recovery of the Holy Land. Whereof that most valiant prince, Saladin, then Soldan of Babylonia, being in good time apprised, resolved to see for himself the preparations made by the Christian potentates for the said emprise, that he might put himself in better trim to meet them. So, having ordered all things to his mind in Egypt, he made as if he were bound on a pilgrimage, and attended only by two of his chiefest and sagest lords, and three servants, took the road in the guise of a merchant. And having surveyed many provinces of Christendom, as they rode through Lombardy with intent to cross the Alps, they chanced, between Milan and Pavia, to fall in with a gentleman, one Messer Torello d'Istria da Pavia, who with his servants and his dogs and falcons was betaking him to a fine estate that he had on the Ticino, there to tarry a while. Now Messer Torello no sooner espied Saladin and his lords than he guessed them to be gentlemen and foreigners; and, being zealous to do them honour, when Saladin asked one of his servants how far off Pavia might still be, and if he might win there in time to enter the town, he suffered not the servant to make answer, but:—"No, gentlemen," quoth he, "by the time you reach Pavia 'twill be too late for you to enter." "So!" replied Saladin, "then might you be pleased to direct us, as we are strangers, where we may best be lodged?" "That gladly will I," returned Messer Torello. "I was but now thinking to send one of these my men on an errand to Pavia; I will send him with you, and he will guide you to a place where you will find very comfortable quarters." Then, turning to one of his most trusty servants, he gave him his instructions, and despatched him with them: after which, he repaired to his estate, and forthwith, as best he might, caused a goodly supper to be made ready, and the tables set in his garden; which done, he stationed himself at the gate on the look-out for his guests.
The servant, conversing with the gentlemen of divers matters, brought them by devious roads to his lord's estate without their being ware of it. Whom as soon as Messer Torello espied, he came forth afoot to meet them, and said with a smile:—"A hearty welcome to you, gentlemen." Now Saladin, being very quick of apprehension, perceived that the knight had doubted, when he met them, that, were he to bid them to his house, they might not accept his hospitality; and accordingly, that it might not be in their power to decline it, had brought them to his house by a ruse. And so, returning his greeting:—"Sir," quoth he, "were it meet to find fault with those that shew courtesy, we should have a grievance against you, for that, to say nought of somewhat delaying our journey, you have in guerdon of a single greeting constrained us to accept so noble a courtesy as yours." Whereto the knight, who was of good understanding and well-spoken, made answer:—"Gentlemen, such courtesy as we shew you will, in comparison of that which, by what I gather from your aspect, were meet for you, prove but a sorry thing; but in sooth this side of Pavia you might not anywhere have been well lodged; wherefore take it not amiss that you have come somewhat out of your way to find less discomfortable quarters." And as he spoke, about them flocked the servants, who, having helped them to dismount, saw to their horses; whereupon Messer Torello conducted them to the chambers that were made ready for them, where, having caused them to be relieved of their boots, and refreshed with the coolest of wines, he held pleasant converse with them until supper-time. Saladin and his lords and servants all knew Latin, so that they both understood and made themselves understood very well, and there was none of them but adjudged this knight to be the most agreeable and debonair man, and therewithal the best talker, that he had ever seen; while to Messer Torello, on the other hand, they shewed as far greater magnificoes than he had at first supposed, whereby he was inly vexed that he had not been able that evening to do them the honours of company, and a more ceremonious banquet. For which default he resolved to make amends on the ensuing morning: wherefore, having imparted to one of his servants that which he would have done, he sent him to his most judicious and highminded lady at Pavia, which was close by, and where never a gate was locked. Which done, he brought the gentlemen into the garden, and courteously asked them who they were. "We are Cypriote merchants," replied Saladin, "and 'tis from Cyprus we come, and we are on our way to Paris on business." Quoth then Messer Torello:—"Would to God that our country bred gentlemen of such a quality as are the merchants that I see Cyprus breeds!" From which they passed to discourse of other matters, until, supper-time being come, he besought them to seat them at table; whereat, considering that the supper was but improvised, their entertainment was excellent and well-ordered.
The tables being cleared, Messer Torello, surmising that they must be weary, kept them no long time from their rest, but bestowed them in most comfortable beds, and soon after went to rest himself. Meanwhile the servant that he had sent to Pavia did his lord's errand to the lady, who, in the style rather of a queen than of a housewife, forthwith assembled not a few of Messer Torello's friends and vassals, and caused all meet preparation to be made for a magnificent banquet, and by messengers bearing torches bade not a few of the noblest of the citizens thereto; and had store of silken and other fabrics and vair brought in, and all set in order in every point as her husband had directed. Day came, and the gentlemen being risen, Messer Torello got him to horse with them, and having sent for his hawks, brought them to a ford, and shewed them how the hawks flew. By and by, Saladin requesting of him a guide to the best inn at Pavia:—"I myself will be your guide," returned Messer Torello, "for I have occasion to go thither." Which offer they, nothing doubting, did gladly accept, and so with him they set forth; and about tierce, being come to the city, and expecting to be directed to the best inn, they were brought by Messer Torello, to his own house, where they were forthwith surrounded by full fifty of the greatest folk of the city, gathered there to give the gentlemen a welcome; and 'twas who should hold a bridle or a stirrup, while they dismounted. Whereby Saladin and his lords more than guessing the truth:—"Messer Torello," quoth they, "'twas not this that we craved of you. Honour enough had we from you last night, and far in excess of our desires; wherefore thou mightst very well have left us to go our own road." Whereto:—"Gentlemen," replied Messer Torello, "for that which was done yestereve I have to thank Fortune rather than you: seeing that Fortune surprised you on the road at an hour when you must needs repair to my little house: for that which shall be done this morning I shall be beholden to you, as will also these gentlemen that surround you, with whom, if you deem it courteous so to do, you may refuse to breakfast, if you like."
Fairly conquered, Saladin and his lords dismounted, and heartily welcomed by the gentlemen, were conducted to the chambers which had been most sumptuously adorned for their use; and having laid aside their riding dress, and taken some refreshment, repaired to the saloon, where all had been made ready with splendour. There, having washed their hands, they sat them down to table, and were regaled with a magnificent repast of many courses, served with all stately and fair ceremony, insomuch that, had the Emperor himself been there, 'twould not have been possible to do him more honour. And albeit Saladin and his lords were grandees and used to exceeding great displays of pomp and state, nevertheless this shewed to them as not a little marvellous, and one of the greatest they had ever seen, having regard to the quality of their host, whom they knew to be but a citizen, and no lord. Breakfast done, and the tables cleared, they conversed a while of high matters, and then, as 'twas very hot, all the gentlemen of Pavia—so it pleased Messer Torello—retired for their siesta, while he remained with his three guests; with whom he presently withdrew into a chamber, whither, that there might be nought that he held dear which they had not seen, he called his noble lady. And so the dame, exceeding fair and stately of person, and arrayed in rich apparel, with her two little boys, that shewed as two angels, on either hand, presented herself before them, and graciously greeted them. Whereupon they rose, and returned her salutation with reverence, and caused her to sit down among them, and made much of her two little boys. But after some interchange of gracious discourse, Messer Torello being withdrawn somewhat apart, she asked them courteously, whence they came and whither they were bound, and had of them the same answer that Messer Torello had received. "So!" quoth the lady with a joyful air, "then I see that my woman's wit will be of service to you; wherefore I pray you as a special favour neither to reject nor to despise the little gift that I am about to present to you; but reflecting that, as women have but small minds, so they make but small gifts, accept it, having regard rather to the good will of the giver than the magnitude of the gift." She then caused bring forth for each of them two pair of robes, lined the one with silk, the other with vair, no such robes as citizens or merchants, but such as lords, use to wear, and three vests of taffeta, besides linen clothes, and:—"Take them," quoth she. "The robes I give you are even such as I have arrayed my lord withal: the other things, considering that you are far from your wives, and have come a long way, and have yet a long way to go, and that merchants love to be neat and trim, may, albeit they are of no great value, be yet acceptable to you."
Wondering, the gentlemen acknowledged without reserve that there was no point of courtesy wherein Messer Torello was not minded to acquit himself towards them. And noting the lordly fashion of the robes, unsuited to the quality of merchants, they misdoubted that Messer Torello had recognized them. However, quoth one of them to the lady:—"Gifts great indeed are these, Madam, nor such as lightly to accept, were it not that thereto we are constrained by your prayers, to which we may on no account say, no." Whereupon, Messer Torello being now come back, the lady bade them adieu, and took her leave of them; and in like manner did she cause their servants to be supplied with equipment suitable to them. The gentlemen, being much importuned thereto by Messer Torello, consented to tarry the rest of the day with him; and so, having slept, they donned their robes, and rode a while with him about the city; and supper-time being come, they feasted magnificently, and with a numerous and honourable company. And so in due time they betook them to rest; and at daybreak, being risen, they found, in lieu of their jaded nags, three stout and excellent palfreys, and in like manner fresh and goodly mounts for their servants. Which Saladin marking turned to his lords, and:—"By God," quoth he, "never was gentleman more complete and courteous and considerate than this Messer Torello, and if the Christian kings are as kingly as he is knightly, there is none of them whose onset the Soldan of Babylon might well abide, to say nought of so many as we see making ready to fall upon him." However, knowing that 'twas not permissible to refuse, he very courteously thanked Messer Torello: and so they got them to horse. Messer Torello with a numerous company escorted them far beyond the gate of the city, until, loath though Saladin was to part from him, so greatly did he now affect him, yet as he must needs speed on, he besought him to turn back. Whereupon, albeit it irked him to take leave of them:—"Gentlemen," quoth Messer Torello, "since such is your pleasure, I obey; but this I must say to you. Who you are I know not, nor would I know more than you are pleased to impart; but whoever you may be, you will not make me believe that you are merchants this while; and so adieu!" To whom Saladin, having already taken leave of all his company, thus made answer:—"Peradventure, Sir, we shall one day give you to see somewhat of our merchandise, and thereby confirm your belief: and so adieu!"
Thus parted Saladin and his company from Messer Torello, Saladin burning with an exceeding great desire, if life should be continued to him, and the war, which he anticipated, should not undo him, to shew Messer Torello no less honour than he had received at his hands, and conversing not a little with his lords both of Messer Torello himself and of his lady, and all that he did and that in any wise concerned him, ever more highly commending them. However, having with much diligence spied out all the West, he put to sea, and returned with his company to Alexandria; and having now all needful information, he put himself in a posture of defence. Messer Torello, his mind full of his late guests, returned to Pavia; but, though he long pondered who they might be, he came never at or anywhere near the truth.
Then with great and general mustering of forces came the time for embarking on the emprise, and Messer Torello, heeding not the tearful entreaties of his wife, resolved to join therein. So, being fully equipped and about to take horse, he said to his lady, whom he most dearly loved:—"Wife, for honour's sake and for the weal of my soul, I go, as thou seest, on this emprise: our substance and our honour I commend to thy care. Certain I am of my departure, but, for the thousand accidents that may ensue, certitude have I none of my return: wherefore I would have thee do me this grace, that, whatever be my fate, shouldst thou lack certain intelligence that I live, thou wilt expect me a year and a month and a day from this my departure, before thou marry again." Whereto the lady, weeping bitterly, made answer:—"Messer Torello, I know not how I shall support the distress in which, thus departing, you leave me; but should my life not fail beneath it, and aught befall thee, live and die secure that I shall live and die the wife of Messer Torello, and of his memory." Whereupon:—"Wife," returned Messer Torello, "well assured I am that, so far as in thee shall lie, this promise of thine will be kept; but thou art young, and fair, and of a great family, and thy virtue is rare and generally known: wherefore I make no doubt that, should there be any suspicion of my death, thou wilt be asked of thy brothers and kinsmen by many a great gentleman: against whose attacks, though thou desire it never so, thou wilt not be able to hold out, but wilt perforce be fain to gratify one or other of them; for which cause it is that I ask thee to wait just so long and no longer." "As I have said," replied the lady, "so, in so far as I may, I shall do; and if I must needs do otherwise, rest assured that of this your behest I shall render you obedience. But I pray God that He bring neither you nor me to such a strait yet a while." Which said, the lady wept, and having embraced Messer Torello, drew from her finger a ring, and gave it to him, saying:—"Should it betide that I die before I see you again, mind you of me, when you look upon it."
Messer Torello took the ring, and got him to horse, and having bidden all adieu, fared forth on his journey; and being arrived with his company at Genoa, he embarked on a galley, and having departed thence, in no long time arrived at Acre, and joined the main Christian host; wherein there by and by broke out an exceeding great and mortal sickness; during which, whether owing to Saladin's strategy, or his good fortune, he made an easy capture of well-nigh all the remnant of the Christians that were escaped, and quartered them in divers prisons in many cities; of which captives Messer Torello being one, was brought to Alexandria and there confined. Where, not being known, and fearing to make himself known, he, under constraint of necessity, applied him to the training of hawks, whereof he was a very great master; and thereby he fell under the notice of Saladin, who took him out of the prison, and made him his falconer. The Soldan called him by no other name than "Christian," and neither recognized, nor was recognized by, him, who, his whole soul ever in Pavia, essayed many a time to escape, that he might return thither, but still without success: wherefore, certain Genoese, that were come to Alexandria as ambassadors to the Soldan for the redemption of some of their townsfolk, being about to return, he resolved to write to his lady, how that he lived, and would come back to her, as soon as he might, and that she should expect his return; and having so done, he earnestly besought one of the ambassadors, whom he knew, to see that the letter reached the hands of the Abbot of San Pietro in Ciel d'Oro, who was his uncle.
Now, such being the posture of Messer Torello's affairs, it befell one day that, while he talked with Saladin of his hawks, he smiled; whereby his mouth shaped itself in a fashion, of which Saladin had taken particular note, while he was at Pavia. And so, recalling Messer Torello to mind, he fixed his gaze upon him, and it seemed to him that 'twas indeed Messer Torello; wherefore, leaving the matter of which they were conversing:—"Tell me, Christian," quoth he, "of what country art thou in the West?" "My lord," replied Messer Torello, "I am a Lombard, of a city called Pavia, a poor man, and of humble condition." Which when he heard, Saladin, well-nigh resolved of his doubt, said joyfully to himself:—"God has provided me with occasion meet to prove to this man what store I set by his courtesy;" and without another word he brought him into a room where he kept all his wearing apparel, and said:—"Look, Christian, if among these robes there be any that thou hast ever seen before." So Messer Torello examined the robes, and espied those which his lady had given to Saladin; but, deeming they could not be the same, he replied:—"My lord, there is no robe here that I recognize, albeit 'tis true that those two robes are such as I once wore myself, in company with three merchants that came to my house." Whereupon Saladin could refrain himself no longer; but, tenderly embracing him:—"You," quoth he, "are Messer Torello d'Istria, and I am one of those three merchants to whom your lady gave these robes; and now is the time to warrant you of the quality of my merchandise, as, when I parted from you, I told you might come to pass." Which to hear, Messer Torello was at once overjoyed and abashed, overjoyed to have entertained so illustrious a guest, and abashed, for that it seemed to him that he had given him but a sorry entertainment. To whom:—"Messer Torello," quoth Saladin, "since hither has God sent you to me, deem that 'tis no more I that am lord here, but you." And so they made great cheer together; and then Saladin caused Messer Torello to be royally arrayed; and presented him to all his greatest lords, and having extolled his merit in no stinted measure, bade all, as they hoped for grace from him, honour Messer Torello even as himself. And so from that hour did they all; but most especially the two lords that had been with Saladin at Messer Torello's house.
The glory, to which Messer Torello thus suddenly found himself raised, somewhat diverted his mind from the affairs of Lombardy, and the more so, for that he entertained no doubt that his letter had reached his uncle's hands. But for that in the camp, or rather army, of the Christians, on the day when they were taken by Saladin, there died and was buried one Messer Torello de Dignes, an obscure knight of Provence, whereas Messer Torello d'Istria was known to all the host for a right noble gentleman, whoso heard tell that Messer Torello was dead, supposed that 'twas Messer Torello d'Istria, and not Messer Torello de Dignes; nor did what happened after, to wit, the capture, avail to undeceive them; for not a few Italians had carried the report home with them; among whom there were some who made bold to say that they had seen Messer Torello d'Istria's dead body, and had been present at its interment. Which rumour coming to the ears of his lady and his kinsfolk, great indeed, nay, immeasurable was the distress that it occasioned not only to them, but to all that had known him. The mode and measure of his lady's grief, her mourning, her lamentation, 'twere tedious to describe. Enough that, after some months spent in almost unmitigated tribulation, her sorrow shewed signs of abatement; whereupon, suit being made for her hand by some of the greatest men of Lombardy, her brothers and other kinsfolk began to importune her to marry again. Times not a few, and with floods of tears, she refused; but, overborne at last, she consented to do as they would have her, upon the understanding that she was to remain unmarried until the term for which she had bound herself to Messer Torello was fulfilled.
Now the lady's affairs being in this posture at Pavia, it befell that some eight days or so before the time appointed for her marriage, Messer Torello one day espied in Alexandria one that he had observed go with the Genoese ambassadors aboard the galley that took them to Genoa; wherefore he called him, and asked him what sort of a voyage they had had, and when they had reached Genoa. "My lord," replied the other, "the galley made but a sorry voyage of it, as I learned in Crete, where I remained; for that, while she was nearing Sicily, there arose a terrible gale from the North that drove her on to the shoals of Barbary, and never a soul escaped, and among the rest my two brothers were lost." Which report believing—and 'twas indeed most true—and calling to mind that in a few days the term that he had asked of his wife would be fulfilled, and surmising that there could be no tidings of him at Pavia, Messer Torello made no question but that the lady was provided with another husband; whereby he sank into such a depth of woe that he lost all power to eat, and betook him to his bed and resigned himself to die. Which when Saladin, by whom he was most dearly beloved, learned, he came to him, and having plied him with many and most instant entreaties, learned at length the cause of his distress and sickness; and, having chidden him not a little that he had not sooner apprised him thereof, he besought him to put on a cheerful courage, assuring him, that, if so he did, he would bring it to pass that he should be in Pavia at the time appointed, and told him how. Believing Saladin's words the more readily that he had many times heard that 'twas possible, and had not seldom been done, Messer Torello recovered heart, and was instant with Saladin that he should make all haste.
Accordingly Saladin bade one of his necromancers, of whose skill he had already had proof, to devise a method whereby Messer Torello should be transported abed in a single night to Pavia: the necromancer made answer that it should be done, but that 'twere best he put Messer Torello to sleep. The matter being thus arranged, Saladin hied him back to Messer Torello, and finding him most earnestly desirous to be in Pavia at the time appointed, if so it might be, and if not, to die:—"Messer Torello," quoth he, "if you dearly love your lady, and misdoubt that she may become the bride of another, no wise, God wot, do I censure you, for that, of all the ladies that ever I saw, she, for bearing, manners, and address—to say nought of beauty, which is but the flower that perishes—seems to me the most worthy to be lauded and cherished. Much had I been gratified, since Fortune has sent you hither to me, that, while you and I yet live, we had exercised equal lordship in the governance of this my realm, and, if such was not God's will, and this must needs come upon you, that you are fain either to be at Pavia at the time appointed or to die, I had desired of all things to have been apprised thereof at such a time that I might have sent you home with such honourable circumstance and state and escort as befit your high desert; which not being vouchsafed me, and as nought will content you but to be there forthwith, I do what I can, and speed you thither on such wise as I have told you." "My lord," replied Messer Torello, "had you said nought, you have already done enough to prove your goodwill towards me, and that in so high a degree as is quite beyond my deserts, and most assured of the truth of what you say shall I live and die, and so had done, had you not said it; but, seeing that my resolve is taken, I pray you that that, which you promise to do, be done speedily, for that after to-morrow I may no longer count on being expected."
Saladin assured him that 'twas so ordered that he should not be disappointed. And on the morrow, it being his purpose to speed him on his journey that same night, he caused to be set up in one of his great halls a most goodly and sumptuous bed composed of mattresses, all, as was their wont, of velvet and cloth of gold, and had it covered with a quilt, adorned at certain intervals with enormous pearls, and most rare precious stones, insomuch that 'twas in after time accounted a priceless treasure, and furnished with two pillows to match it. Which done, he bade array Messer Torello, who was now quite recovered, in a robe after the Saracenic fashion, the richest and goodliest thing of the kind that was ever seen, and wrap about his head, according to their wont, one of their huge turbans. Then, at a late hour, Saladin, attended by certain of his lords, entered the chamber where Messer Torello was, and seating himself beside him, all but wept as thus he began:—"Messer Torello, the time is nigh at hand when you and I must part; wherefore, since I may neither give you my own, nor others' company (the journey that you are about to make not permitting it), I am come here, as 'tis fitting, in this chamber to take my leave of you. Wherefore, before I bid you adieu, I entreat you, by that friendship, that love, which is between us, that you forget me not, and that, if it be possible, when you have settled your affairs in Lombardy, you come at least once, before our days are ended, to visit me, that thereby I may both have the delight of seeing you again, and make good that omission which, by reason of your haste, I must needs now make; and that in the meanwhile it irk thee not to visit me by letter, and to ask of me whatever you shall have a mind to, and be sure that there lives not the man whom I shall content more gladly than you." Messer Torello could not refrain his tears, and so, with words few, and broken by his sobs, he answered that 'twas impossible that the Soldan's generous deeds and chivalrous character should ever be forgotten by him, and that without fail he would do as he bade him, so soon as occasion should serve him. Whereupon Saladin tenderly embraced and kissed him, and with many a tear bade him adieu, and quitted the chamber. His lords then took leave of Messer Torello, and followed Saladin into the hall, where he had had the bed made ready.
'Twas now late, and the necromancer being intent to hasten Messer Torello's transit, a physician brought him a potion, and having first shewn him what he was to give him by way of viaticum, caused him to drink it; and not long after he fell asleep. In which state he was carried by Saladin's command, and laid on the goodly bed, whereon he set a large and fair and most sumptuous crown, marking it in such sort that there could be no mistake that it was sent by Saladin to Messer Torello's wife. He next placed on Messer Torello's finger a ring, in which was set a carbuncle of such brilliance that it shewed as a lighted torch, and of well-nigh inestimable value. After which he girded on him a sword, the appointments of which might not readily be appraised. And therewithal he adorned him in front with a pendant, wherein were pearls, the like of which had never been seen, and not a few other rare jewels. And, moreover, on either side of him he set two vast basins of gold full of pistoles; and strings of pearls not a few, and rings and girdles, and other things, which 'twere tedious to enumerate, he disposed around him. Which done, he kissed Messer Torello again, and bade the necromancer speed him on his journey. Whereupon, forthwith, the bed, with Messer Torello thereon, was borne away from before Saladin's eyes, and he and his barons remained conversing thereof.
The bed, as Messer Torello had requested, had already been deposited in the church of San Piero in Ciel d'Oro at Pavia, and Messer Torello, with all the aforesaid jewels and ornaments upon and about him, was lying thereon, and still slept, when, upon the stroke of matins, the sacristan came into the church, light in hand, and presently setting eyes on the sumptuous bed, was not only amazed, but mightily terrified, insomuch that he turned back, and took to flight. Which the abbot and monks observing with no small surprise, asked wherefore he fled and he told them. Whereupon:—"Oh," quoth the abbot, "thou art no longer a child, nor yet so new to this church, that thou shouldst so lightly be appalled: go we now, and see who it is that has given thee this childish fright." So, with a blaze of torches, the abbot, attended by his monks, entered the church, and espied this wondrous costly bed whereon the knight slept, and while, hesitant and fearful, daring not to approach the bed, they scanned the rare and splendid jewels, it befell that, the efficacy of the potion being exhausted, Messer Torello awoke and heaved a great sigh. Whereat the monks and the abbot quaking and crying out:—"Lord, help us!" one and all took to flight. Messer Torello, opening his eyes and looking about him, saw, to his no small satisfaction, that without a doubt he was in the very place where he had craved of Saladin to be; so up he sate, and taking particular note of the matters with which he was surrounded, accounted the magnificence of Saladin to exceed even the measure, great though it was, that he already knew. However, he still kept quiet, save that, perceiving the monks in flight, and surmising the reason, he began to call the abbot by name, bidding him be of good courage, for that he was his nephew, Torello. Whereat the abbot did but wax more terrified, for that he deemed Torello had been many a month dead; but, after a while, as he heard himself still called, sound judgment got the better of his fears, and making the sign of the cross, he drew nigh Torello; who said to him:—"Father, what is't you fear? By God's grace I live, and hither am come back from overseas." Whom, for all he had grown a long beard and was dressed in the Saracenic fashion, the abbot after a while recognized, and now, quite reassured, took by the hand, saying:—"Son, welcome home:" then:—"No cause hast thou to marvel at our fears," he went on, "seeing that there is never a soul in these parts but firmly believes thee to be dead, insomuch that I may tell thee that Madonna Adalieta, thy wife, overborne by the entreaties and menaces of her kinsfolk, and against her will, is provided with another husband, to whom she is this morning to go, and all is made ready for the nuptials and the attendant festivities."
Whereupon Messer Torello, being risen from the sumptuous bed, did the abbot and the monks wondrous cheer, and besought them, one and all, to tell never a soul of his return, until he had completed something that he had on hand. After which, having put the costly jewels in safe keeping, he recounted to the abbot all the story of his adventures to that very hour. The abbot, rejoicing in his good fortune, joined with him in offering thanks to God. Messer Torello then asked him who might be his wife's new husband, and the abbot told him. Quoth then Messer Torello:—"Before my return be known, I purpose to see how my wife will comport herself at the nuptials: wherefore, though 'tis not the wont of men of religion to go to such gatherings, I had lief that for love of me you arranged for us to go thither together." The abbot answered that, he would gladly do so, and as soon as 'twas day, he sent word to the bridegroom that he had thoughts of being present at his nuptials, accompanied by a friend; whereto the gentleman made answer that he was much gratified. So, at the breakfast hour Messer Torello, dressed as he was, hied him with the abbot to the bridegroom's house, as many as saw them gazing on him with wonder, but none recognizing him, and the abbot giving all to understand that he was a Saracen sent by the Soldan as ambassador to the King of France. Messer Torello was accordingly seated at a table directly opposite that of his lady, whom he eyed with exceeding great delight, the more so that he saw that in her face which shewed him that she was chagrined by the nuptials. She in like manner from time to time bent her regard on him; howbeit, what with his long beard, and his foreign garb, and her firm persuasion that he was dead, she had still no sort of recollection of him. However, Messer Torello at length deemed it time to make trial of her, whether she would remember him; wherefore he took the ring that the lady had given, him on his departure, and keeping it close in the palm of his hand, he called to him a page that waited upon her, and said to him:—"Tell the bride from me that 'tis the custom in my country, that, when a stranger, such as I, eats with a bride, like herself, at her wedding-feast, she, in token that he is welcome to her board, sends him the cup from which she herself drinks, full of wine; and when the stranger has drunk his fill, he closes the cup, and the bride drinks what is left therein."
The page carried the message to the lady, who, being of good understanding and manners, and supposing him to be some very great man, by way of shewing that she was gratified by his presence, commanded that a gilt cup, that was on the table before her, should be rinsed, and filled with wine, and borne to the gentleman. Which being done, Messer Torello, having privily conveyed her ring into his mouth, let it fall (while he drank) into the cup on such wise that none wist thereof; and leaving but a little wine at the bottom, closed the cup and returned it to the lady; who, having taken it, that she might do full honour to the custom of her guest's country, lifted the lid, and set the cup to her mouth; whereby espying the ring, she thereon mutely gazed a while, and recognizing it for that which she had given Messer Torello on his departure, she steadfastly regarded the supposed stranger, whom now she also recognized. Whereupon well-nigh distracted, oversetting the table in front of her, she exclaimed:—"'Tis my lord, 'tis verily Messer Torello;" and rushing to the table at which he sate, giving never a thought to her apparel, or aught that was on the table, she flung herself upon it; and reaching forward as far as she could, she threw her arms about him, and hugged him; nor, for aught that any said or did, could she be induced to release his neck, until Messer Torello himself bade her forbear a while, for that she would have time enough to kiss him thereafter. The lady then stood up, and for a while all was disorder, albeit the feast was yet more gladsome than before by reason of the recovery of so honourable a knight: then, at Messer Torello's entreaty, all were silent, while he recounted to them the story of his adventures from the day of his departure to that hour, concluding by saying that the gentleman who, deeming him to be dead, had taken his lady to wife, ought not to be affronted, if he, being alive, reclaimed her. The bridegroom, albeit he was somewhat crestfallen, made answer in frank and friendly sort, that 'twas for Messer Torello to do what he liked with his own. The lady resigned the ring and the crown that her new spouse had given her, and put on the ring she had taken from the cup, and likewise the crown sent her by the Soldan; and so, forth they hied them, and with full nuptial pomp wended their way to Messer Torello's house; and there for a great while they made merry with his late disconsolate friends and kinsfolk and all the citizens, who accounted his restoration as little short of a miracle.
Messer Torello, having bestowed part of his rare jewels upon him who had borne the cost of the wedding-feast, and part on the abbot, and many other folk; and having by more than one messenger sent word of his safe home-coming and prosperous estate to Saladin, acknowledging himself ever his friend and vassal, lived many years thereafter with his worthy lady, acquitting himself yet more courteously than of yore. Such, then, was the end of the troubles of Messer Torello and his dear lady, and such the reward of their cheerful and ready courtesies.
Now some there are that strive to do offices of courtesy, and have the means, but do them with so ill a grace, that, ere they are done, they have in effect sold them at a price above their worth: wherefore, if no reward ensue to them thereof, neither they nor other folk have cause to marvel.
— The Marquis of Saluzzo, overborne by the entreaties of his vassals, consents to take a wife, but, being minded to please himself in the choice of her, takes a husbandman's daughter. He has two children by her, both of whom he makes her believe that he has put to death. Afterward, feigning to be tired of her, and to have taken another wife, he turns her out of doors in her shift, and brings his daughter into the house in guise of his bride; but, finding her patient under it all, he brings her home again, and shews her her children, now grown up, and honours her, and causes her to be honoured, as Marchioness. —
Ended the king's long story, with which all seemed to be very well pleased, quoth Dioneo with a laugh:—"The good man that looked that night to cause the bogey's tail to droop, would scarce have contributed two pennyworth of all the praise you bestow on Messer Torello:" then, witting that it now only remained for him to tell, thus he began:—Gentle my ladies, this day, meseems, is dedicate to Kings and Soldans and folk of the like quality; wherefore, that I stray not too far from you, I am minded to tell you somewhat of a Marquis; certes, nought magnificent, but a piece of mad folly, albeit there came good thereof to him in the end. The which I counsel none to copy, for that great pity 'twas that it turned out well with him.
There was in olden days a certain Marquis of Saluzzo, Gualtieri by name, a young man, but head of the house, who, having neither wife nor child, passed his time in nought else but in hawking and hunting, and of taking a wife and begetting children had no thought; wherein he should have been accounted very wise: but his vassals, brooking it ill, did oftentimes entreat him to take a wife, that he might not die without an heir, and they be left without a lord; offering to find him one of such a pattern, and of such parentage, that he might marry with good hope, and be well content with the sequel. To whom:—"My friends," replied Gualtieri, "you enforce me to that which I had resolved never to do, seeing how hard it is to find a wife, whose ways accord well with one's own, and how plentiful is the supply of such as run counter thereto, and how grievous a life he leads who chances upon a lady that matches ill with him. And to say that you think to know the daughters by the qualities of their fathers and mothers, and thereby—so you would argue—to provide me with a wife to my liking, is but folly; for I wot not how you may penetrate the secrets of their mothers so as to know their fathers; and granted that you do know them, daughters oftentimes resemble neither of their parents. However, as you are minded to rivet these fetters upon me, I am content that so it be; and that I may have no cause to reproach any but myself, should it turn out ill, I am resolved that my wife shall be of my own choosing; but of this rest assured, that, no matter whom I choose, if she receive not from you the honour due to a lady, you shall prove to your great cost, how sorely I resent being thus constrained by your importunity to take a wife against my will."
The worthy men replied that they were well content, so only he would marry without more ado. And Gualtieri, who had long noted with approval the mien of a poor girl that dwelt on a farm hard by his house, and found her fair enough, deemed that with her he might pass a tolerably happy life. Wherefore he sought no further, but forthwith resolved to marry her; and having sent for her father, who was a very poor man, he contracted with him to take her to wife. Which done, Gualtieri assembled all the friends he had in those parts, and:—"My friends," quoth he, "you were and are minded that I should take a wife, and rather to comply with your wishes, than for any desire that I had to marry, I have made up my mind to do so. You remember the promise you gave me, to wit, that, whomsoever I should take, you would pay her the honour due to a lady. Which promise I now require you to keep, the time being come when I am to keep mine. I have found hard by here a maiden after mine own heart, whom I purpose to take to wife, and to bring hither to my house in the course of a few days. Wherefore bethink you, how you may make the nuptial feast splendid, and welcome her with all honour; that I may confess myself satisfied with your observance of your promise, as you will be with my observance of mine." The worthy men, one and all, answered with alacrity that they were well content, and that, whoever she might be, they would entreat her as a lady, and pay her all due honour as such. After which, they all addressed them to make goodly and grand and gladsome celebration of the event, as did also Gualtieri. He arranged for a wedding most stately and fair, and bade thereto a goodly number of his friends and kinsfolk, and great gentlemen, and others, of the neighbourhood; and therewithal he caused many a fine and costly robe to be cut and fashioned to the figure of a girl who seemed to him of the like proportions as the girl that he purposed to wed; and laid in store, besides, of girdles and rings, with a costly and beautiful crown, and all the other paraphernalia of a bride.
The day that he had appointed for the wedding being come, about half tierce he got him to horse with as many as had come to do him honour, and having made all needful dispositions:—"Gentlemen," quoth he, "'tis time to go bring home the bride." And so away he rode with his company to the village; where, being come to the house of the girl's father, they found her returning from the spring with a bucket of water, making all the haste she could, that she might afterwards go with the other women to see Gualtieri's bride come by. Whom Gualtieri no sooner saw, than he called her by her name, to wit, Griselda, and asked her where her father was. To whom she modestly made answer:—"My lord, he is in the house." Whereupon Gualtieri dismounted, and having bidden the rest await him without, entered the cottage alone; and meeting her father, whose name was Giannucolo:—"I am come," quoth he, "to wed Griselda, but first of all there are some matters I would learn from her own lips in thy presence." He then asked her, whether, if he took her to wife, she would study to comply with his wishes, and be not wroth, no matter what he might say or do, and be obedient, with not a few other questions of a like sort: to all which she answered, ay. Whereupon Gualtieri took her by the hand, led her forth, and before the eyes of all his company, and as many other folk as were there, caused her to strip naked, and let bring the garments that he had had fashioned for her, and had her forthwith arrayed therein, and upon her unkempt head let set a crown; and then, while all wondered:—"Gentlemen," quoth he, "this is she whom I purpose to make my wife, so she be minded to have me for husband." Then, she standing abashed and astonied, he turned to her, saying:—"Griselda, wilt thou have me for thy husband?" To whom:—"Ay, my lord," answered she. "And I will have thee to wife," said he, and married her before them all. And having set her upon a palfrey, he brought her home with pomp.