From Tales from the Italian and Spanish, Vol. III, Stories of Humor and Adventure, The Review of Reviews Co.; New York; 1920; pp. 103-107.103
GHINO DI TACCO was a man famous for his bold and insolent robberies, who being banished from Siena, and at utter enmity with the count of di Santa Fiore, caused the town of Radicofani to rebel against the church, and lived there, whilst his gang robbed all who passed that way. Now, when Boniface VIII. was pope, there came to court the Abbot of Cligni, reputed to be one of the richest prelates in the world, and having impaired his stomach with high living, he was advised by his physicians to go to the baths of Siena as a certain cure. Having leave from the pope, the abbot set out with a goodly train of coaches, carriages, horses, and servants, paying no respect to the rumors concerning this robber.
Ghino was apprised of his coming, and took his measures accordingly; when, without the loss of a man, he enclosed the abbot and his whole retinue in a narrow defile, whence it was impossible for them to escape. This being done, he sent one of his principal fellows to the abbot with his service, requesting he would do him the favor to alight and visit him at his castle. The abbot replied with a great deal of passion that he had nothing to do with Ghino, but that his resolution was to go on, and he would see who dared stop him.
“My lord,” quoth the man, with a great deal of humility, “you are now in a place where all excommunications are kicked out of doors, so please to oblige my master in this thing; it will be your best way.”
Whilst they were talking together, the place was soon surrounded with highwaymen, and the abbot, seeing himself a prisoner, went with a great deal of illwill with the 104 fellow to the castle, followed by his whole retinue, where he dismounted, and was lodged by Ghino’s appointment in a poor, dark little room whilst every other person was well accommodated according to his respective station, and the carriages and all the horses taken exact care of. This being done, Ghino went to the abbot, and said:
“My lord, Ghino, whose guest you are, requests the favor of you to let him know whither you are going and upon what account?”
The abbot was wise enough to lay all his haughtiness aside for the present, and satisfied him with regard to both. Ghino went away on hearing this; and having made up his mind that he would cure his lordship without a bath, he ordered a great fire to be kept constantly in his room, coming to him no more till next morning, when he brought him two slices of toasted bread, in a fine napkin, and a large glass of his own rich white wine, saying to him:
“My lord, when Ghino was young he studied physic, and he declares that the very best medicine for a pain in the stomach is what he has now provided for you of which these things are to be the beginning. Then take them, and have a good heart.”
The abbot, whose hunger was much greater than was his will to joke, ate the bread, though with a great deal of indignation, and drank the glass of wine, after which he began to talk a little arrogantly, asking many questions, and demanding more particularly to see this Ghino. But Ghino passed over part of what he said as vain, and the rest he answered very courteously, declaring that Ghino meant to make him a visit very soon, and then left him. The abbot saw him no more till next morning, when he brought him as much bread and wine as before, and in the same manner. And thus he continued doing many days, till he found the abbot had eaten some dried beans, which he had left purposely in the chamber, when he inquired of him, as from Ghino, how he found his stomach? The abbot replied:
“I should be well enough if I were out of this man’s 105 clutches. There is nothing I want now so much as to eat, for his medicines have had such an effect upon me that I am ready to die with hunger.”
Ghino, then, having furnished a room with the abbot’s own goods and provided an elegant entertainment, to which many people of the town were invited, as well as the abbot’s own domestics, went the next morning to him, and said:
“My lord, now you find yourself recovered, it is time for you to quit this infirmary.”
So he took him by the hand, and leading him into the chamber, left him there with his own people. Whilst Ghino was away giving orders about the feast, the abbot gave his people an account of the life he had led in that place, they on the other hand declaring that they had been used by Ghino with all possible respect. When the time came, they sat down and were nobly entertained, but still without Ghino’s making himself known. After the abbot had been treated for some days in that manner, Ghino had all the goods and furniture brought into a large room, and the horses were likewise led into a courtyard which was under it. Then he inquired how his lordship now found himself, and whether he was yet able to ride. The abbot made answer that he was strong enough, and his stomach perfectly well, and that he only wanted to be quit of this man. Ghino then brought him into the room where all his goods were, and leading him also to the window, that he might take a view of his horses, he said:
“My lord, you must understand it was no evil disposition, but his being driven a poor exile from his won house, and persecuted by many enemies, that forced Ghino di Tacco, whom you see before you, to be a robber upon the highways and an enemy to the court of Rome. You seem, however, to be a person of honor; since, therefore, I have cured you of your weakness of stomach, I do not mean to treat you as I would do another person that should fall into my hands, that is, to take what I please; but I would have you consider my necessity, and then give me what 106 you will yourself. Here is all that belongs to you; the horses you may see out of the window: take either part or the whole, just as you are disposed, and go or stay, as is most agreeable to you.”
The abbot was surprised to hear a highwayman talk in so courteous a manner, which did not a little please him; so, turning all his former passion and resentment into kindness and goodwill, he ran with a heart full of friendship to embrace him:
“I protest solemnly that to procure the friendship of such a one as I take you to be, I would undergo more than what you have already made me suffer. Cursed be that evil fortune which has thrown you into this way of life!”
So taking only a few of his most necessary things, and also of his horses, and leaving all the rest, he came back to Rome.
The pope had heard of the abbot’s being a prisoner, and though he was concerned at it, yet upon seeing him, he inquired what benefit he had received from the baths? The abbot replied, with a smile, “Holy father, I found a physician much nearer, who has cured me exceedingly well,” and he told him the manner of it, which made the pope laugh heartily. Then, going on with his story, and moved by a truly generous spirit, he requested of his holiness one favor. The pope, imagining he would ask something else, freely consented to grant it. Then said the abbot:
“Holy father, what I have to ask is, that you would bestow a free pardon on Ghino di Tacco, my doctor, because, of all the people of worth that I ever met with, he certainly is most to be esteemed, and the damage he does is more the fault of fortune than himself. Change but his condition, and give him something to live upon, according to his rank and station, and I dare say you will have the same opinion of him that I have.”
The pope, being of a noble spirit and a great encourager of merit, promised to do so, if he was such a person as the abbot reported, and in the meantime gave letters of safe conduct for his coming hither. Upon that assurance, 107 Ghino came to court, when the pope was soon convinced of his worth and reconciled to him, giving him the priory of an hospital, and creating him a knight. And there he continued as a friend and loyal servant to the holy church, and to the Abbot of Cligni, as long as he lived.