From Tales from the Italian and Spanish, Vol. III, Stories of Humor and Adventure, The Review of Reviews Co.; New York; 1920; pp. 47-49.47
IN Florence there was a man, the greatest epicure perhaps that ever was born, and for that reason he was nicknamed Ciacco, i.e. glutton; who, unable to support the expense which such a craving disposition required, and being in other respects a very agreeable and merry companion, used frequently to go amongst the rich people, such particularly as loved to live well, and dine and sup with them, though perhaps he was not always invited. There was also a little dapper spark called Biondello, a perfect butterfly; so exact and finical always as to his person that there never was a hair amiss; and he followed the same way of life. Being, therefore, in the fish-market one morning in Lent, and buying a couple of very large lampreys for Signor Vieri de’ Ciecchi, he was taken notice of by the other, who immediately asked whom they were for? Biondello replied:
“Yesterday Signor Corso Donati had three larger than these sent him along with a sturgeon; but, not thinking them sufficient for all his company, he has ordered me to buy two more; will you not go?”
“You know very well that I shall,” said Ciacco.
As soon as he thought it was the time, away went Ciacco to Signor Corso’s house, and found him talking at the door with some of his neighbors, dinner not being quite ready. Signor Corso asked him whither he was going?48
“Sir,” he replied, “I came to dine with you and your friends.”
“You are welcome,” said the hospitable gentleman; “it is about the time, then let us go in.”
So they sat down to some peas, and a few small fried fish, without anything more. Ciacco now saw the trick and resolved to return it.
A few days afterwards he met with Biondello, who had made many people merry with the thing, and who accosted him, asking how he liked Signor Corso’s lampreys? Ciacco replied:
“Before eight days are over, you will know much better than I.”
So the moment he parted from him, he met with a porter, whom he took near to the hall of the Cavicciuli, where showing him a certain knight named Filippo Argenti, the most boisterous, ill-tempered man that could be, he said:
“Go, take this bottle in your hand, and say thus to yonder gentleman, ‘Sir, Biondello gives his service, and desires you will rubify this flask with some of your best red wine, to treat his friends withal’: but take care he does not lay his hands upon you, for you would have a bad time of it if he should, and my scheme would be quite defeated.”
“Must I say anything else?” quoth the porter.
“No, only say as I bid you, and when you come here again I will pay you.”
Accordingly the man delivered his message. Filippo, who was easily heated, imagining that this was done on purpose to enrage him, jumped up in a great passion and said, “Stay a little, honest friend, and I will give thee what thou comest for”; and was going to lay hold on him; but the man was aware of it, took to his heels, and returned to Ciacco, who saw the whole proceeding and paid him with a great deal of pleasure.
His next business was to find out Biondello; when he said:
“Have you been lately at the Cavicciuli?”
“No,” he replied, “but why do you ask the question?”49
“Because Filippo has been everywhere to seek for you; I do not know what it is for.”
“Then,” said Biondello, “I will go and speak to him.”
So he went, whilst the other followed at a distance, to see how he would be received. Now Filippo had not yet digested the porter’s message, and thinking over an over about it, he concluded it could have no other meaning than that Biondello had a mind to affront him. In the meantime Biondello came up to him. The moment Filippo saw him, he made at him, and hit him a great thump in the face.
“Oh Lord!” cried Biondello, “what is this for?”
Filippo took him by the hair and threw him upon the ground, saying, “Villain, I will teach thee to crack thy jokes on me.” At last, after he had pummeled him almost to a jelly, the people interposed and rescued him. When they understood what the matter was, they all blamed Biondello for sending such a message, telling him:
“You should know Filippo better than to exercise any of your wit upon him.”
Biondello, crying like a child, protested that he had never sent any such message, and departed full of grief to his own house, concluding that this was a trick of Ciacco’s. Some time afterwards Ciacco, happening to meet him, said with a laugh:
“Well! what think you of Filippo’s wine?”
“Just as you thought of Corso’s lampreys,” he replied.
“Whenever you are disposed,” quoth Ciacco, “to give me such a dinner, I can give you as good wine as this you have tasted.”
Biondello, now finding that the other was more than his match, begged to be friends with him, and thenceforth took care to give him no more provocation.