From "The Italian Novelists" translated from the originals with Critical and Biographical Notices by Thomas Roscoe; Frederick Warne and Co.; London; [undated edition, <1900>, first published c. 1824]; pp. 67-80.
Novels of Giovanni Boccaccio.
FIFTH DAY, NOVELLA I.
IN the island of Cyprus there once lived a nobleman of the name of Aristippus, a man of great wealth and possession. Fortune favoured him in all things, except in regard to one of his sons, who, indeed, exceeded all the young men of his own age in stature and beauty of person, but whose mind seemed lost in hopeless idiocy. His true name was Galeso, but as he was not susceptible of any kind of instruction, and could neither by indulgence nor threats be taught anything, he became, from his gross and deformed speech and brutal manners, the scorn of all who knew him, and was in derision called Cimon, or the Brute. The course of life which he led was a great grief to his noble father, who now lost all hopes of his recovery, and in order to avoid having so sad an object always before his eyes, gave orders that he should be carried to one of his farms in the country, and should there reside with the peasants and labourers. Cimon himself was delighted with this change, as a rural life and the rude and unrestrained conversation of the country people were preferred by him to the polished manners of the city. Living thus in a retired village, and amusing himself in rural occupations, it happened that one day about noon, as he was passing through the fields from one farm to another with his staff on his shoulder, he came to a small grove or thicket of trees, one of the most beautiful in the country, and which, it being now the month of May, was in full leaf. When he had passed through this thicket, it came to pass that (as if guided by good fortune) he entered upon a fair meadow, surrounded by trees, on one side of which there was a beautiful and cool fountain, and near it on the soft grass he saw a beautiful damsel asleep, whose graceful form was easily traced through her light and delicate vesture. At her feet reposed two maids and a man, who were her servants. Cimon’s steps were suddenly arrested, and leaning on his staff, he paused to gaze upon the lady as if he had never before seen the form of a woman, and without uttering a word he remained with his eyes fixed on her with the most intent admiration, and in his rugged breast, on which all art and instruction had been exercised in vain, there now awoke a spark which seemed to whisper to his rude mind that this damsel was the most enchanting being ever seen by human eyes. He then began to count her several beauties, praising her hair, rich as gold, then her forehead, her nose and mouth, her neck and ears, and above all her delicate bosom; and becoming thus suddenly transformed from a rude clown to an arbiter of beauty, he was seized with a desire to behold her eyes, which were now closed in deep slumbers. His first thoughts were to awake her for that purpose, but she so far exceeded in beauty all other women whom he had seen, that he was overawed, and regarded her as more than mortal and a goddess; and his mind was now so far endued with reason, that he considered divine and celestial things worthy of more respect than terrestrial objects, and on this account he forbore to disturb her,
patiently awaiting until she should herself awake, and although the time seemed tedious, he yet had not power to move from the spot. After some little time, it happened that the lady, whose name was Iphigenia, awoke before any of her attendants, and looking up, saw, to her great astonishment, Cimon leaning on his staff regarding her. Addressing him by name, “Cimon,” she said, “whither art thou wandering, and what seekest thou in the wood?” for Cimon as well for the beauty of his person and rude manners, as the rank and riches of his father, was well known to all the country round. Cimon did not make any reply to the words of Iphigenia, but as soon as he saw her beautiful eyes open, he gazed on them intently, receiving from them an intense delight which he had never before experienced; but the young lady seeing him obstinately persist in his admiration, and apprehending some rudeness from him, awakened her servants, and suddenly departing, said, “Adieu, Cimon!” To which Cimon, to her great surprise, replied, “Not so, for I will accompany you;” and notwithstanding the endeavours of the young lady to be rid of him, she could not prevent his attending her until she arrived at her house. From thence he hastened home to his father, informing him that he was resolved to remain no longer in the country; which intelligence was very unpleasing to his father, yet he consented to his wishes, waiting to see his motives for this sudden change. Cimon being now pierced to the heart, — a heart which had hitherto been proof to all human sympathy, — by the beauty of Iphigenia, in a very short time excited great amazement in his father and kindred, and all that knew him, by the unlooked-for alteration in the temper of his mind. He requested, in the first place, that he might be habited and treated as his brothers were, to which his father gladly consented. He then sought the society of young and gallant men of his own years, adopting in every respect the manners of a gentleman. Devoting himself to learning, he soon became well instructed in philosophy; and soon afterwards (love to Iphigenia being the sole cause of this happy change) not only was his harsh and rude voice modulated to the expressions of polished life, but he became enamoured of music, and sang and played with skill, and at the same time excelled in riding and in all martial exercises, as he was naturally possessed of great strength and courage. To be brief, he had not yet finished the fourth year from the day of his first falling in love, when he became the most accomplished cavalier, both in learning and manners, that was to be found in the island of Cyprus. Cimon, though loving Iphigenia to such excess, was, as young men in his situation often are, not a little capricious; but his father considering that his passion had wrought this wonderful change in him, patiently bore his humours, in the hopes of contributing to his happiness. He could not, however, prevail on him to assume his proper name of Galeso, for recollecting that Iphigenia had addressed him by his usual appellation, he persisted in retaining the name of Cimon. Cimon wishing now to crown his desires, made many petitions to Cipseus, the father of Iphigenia, to bestow her on him in marriage; but her father replied that he had already betrothed her to Pasimunda, a nobleman of Rhodes, with whom he was bound to
keep his promise; and the period agreed on for the nuptials being now arrived and the intended husband having sent for his bride, Cimon said to himself, “Now is the time, Iphigenia, to prove my honourable passion. Through love to thee I am raised to the dignity of a man, and if I can possess thee, I do not doubt that I shall be happier than any mortal, and I am resolved to make thee my own or die in the attempt.” Acting in conformity to this resolution, he secretly prevailed on some young men of rank, his friends, to assist him in his enterprise, and preparing with great secrecy an armed vessel with every requisite for a naval fight, he put to sea, and awaited the sailing of the ship on board of which Iphigenia was to embark for Rhodes. In the course of a few days, after an honourable entertainment had been given by her father to the friends of her intended husband, the vessel, on receiving Iphigenia, set sail and directed her course to Rhodes. Cimon, who was so vigilant that he could not close his eyes in sleep, intercepted them the next day with his vessel of war, and called from the deck of his own ship to those on board the vessel of Iphigenia to stay their course and strike their sails or expect to be sunk in the sea. The adversaries of Cimon were not to be daunted by words, and immediately stood on their defence, upon which Cimon ordered the grappling-irons to be brought, with which he firmly grappled the Rhodian ship, and leaping on board with his drawn sword, and with the fury of a lion, he dispersed the crew, who in a panic threw down their arms, and with one voice confessed themselves his prisoners. Cimon then addressing them, said, “Young men, it is neither a desire of booty nor enmity to you that has induced me to sail out of Cyprus and attack you thus in the open sea. All my desire is that you yield up the lady you have on board, who is all the world to me, and you may then pursue your voyage; for not being able to obtain her from her father in an amicable manner, I have been thus compelled to appear as an enemy to rescue her from the hands of Pasimunda. Deliver her, then, up to me, and depart in peace.” The young men, from force rather than compliance, then surrendered Iphigenia, weeping, to Cimon, who seeing her tears, said, “Noble lady, do not alarm yourself. I am no other than your faithful Cimon, who for the long affection I have borne you deserve much more than Pasimunda to possess you.” Then carrying her on board his own ship, he introduced her to his companions, and allowed the Rhodians to depart without further molestation. Cimon’s happiness being now complete in the seizure of so noble a prey, after having devoted some time to console Iphigenia, who still sat weeping, he held a council with his friends, when they resolved not to return immediately to Cyprus, but to direct their course to Crete, where most of them, but particularly Cimon, having many relations and friends, they hoped to be favourably received and to place Iphigenia in safety. They had, however, scarcely resolved on this plan, when Fortune, who had before been so kind to Cimon in giving him possession of his beloved Iphigenia, with her usual inconstancy suddenly changed the rapture of the enamoured youth into the deepest sorrow; for four hours were not yet completed since the departure of the Rhodians, when dark night surprised them
as Cimon was conversing with his fair mistress, and a furious tempest arose, with contrary winds, obscuring the sky to such a degree that the mariners could scarcely see to work the ship. It would be impossible to describe the grief of Cimon, for it now seemed to him that the gods had granted his wishes only to the end that he should die in greater affliction, losing both his life and his love at the same time. His friends likewise were not less sensible to their misfortune, but above all Iphigenia, who, terrified at the raging sea, wept bitterly, reproaching Cimon for his violent passion, and affirming that so dreadful a tempest could only arise from the anger of the gods, who would not permit him to possess her against her will, and thus punished his presumption by dooming him to see her perish miserably. Amidst these bitter lamentations, the storm increasing more and more, the mariners, being ignorant of their course, were, unknown to themselves, carried to the island of Rhodes, and being eager to save their lives, they endeavoured to gain the first land that presented itself to them. In this Fortune favoured them, and carried them into a small sheltered bay, in which the Rhodian ship boarded by Cimon has just before taken refuge. They were, however, not aware that they were driven on the island of Rhodes until the next morning, when, the storm subsiding, they saw themselves at little more than an arrow’s flight distant from the ship which they had encountered the day before. Cimon became not a little alarmed at this circumstance, and fearing what in fact afterwards befell him, he commanded every effort to be made to escape from the island, and leave it to Fortune to carry them whither she pleased, since it was impossible that they could fall into a greater danger. The mariners exerted their skill and force to the utmost, but were unable to stir, as the violence of the wind would not allow them to escape out of the bay, and they were, notwithstanding all their endeavours, at last driven on shore and instantly recognised by the Rhodians. A party of the latter immediately ran to the neighbouring town and informed some young noblemen of Rhodes of the event, narrating how Cimon had seized upon Iphigenia, and carried her on board his ship, and had been subsequently driven on shore in the island. On hearing this intelligence, the young noblemen, accompanied by many men of the city, ran with all speed to the sea-coast, and meeting with Cimon and his comrades, who were hastening into the woods for safety, they made them all prisoners and carried them, together with Iphigenia, to the city. No soon had they arrived there than Lysimachus, who was that year chief magistrate of the Rhodians, with a large body of armed men immediately led Cimon and his friends to prison, at the moment that Pasimunda, whom these tidings had just reached, was making his complaints to the Senate. In this unhappy manner the unfortunate and enamoured Cimon lost his Iphigenia almost as soon as he had won her, his love being only poorly requited with a single kiss. Iphigenia met with a kind reception from the noble ladies of Rhodes, who endeavoured to comfort her for the misfortune of her being seized by Cimon and the fatigues of her voyage, and with these ladies she remained until the day appointed for her marriage. At the earnest entreaties of several Rhodian gentlemen who were in the
ship with Iphigenia, and had their liberty given them by Cimon, both Cimon and his companions had their lives spared, although Pasimunda used all his interest to have them put to death. They were, nevertheless, condemned to perpetual imprisonment, from which Cimon despaired of any deliverance; but as Pasimunda was making preparation for his nuptials with all despatch, Fortune, as if repenting of her late injustice to Cimon, prepared a new event to console him in his deep affliction. It happened, then, that Pasimunda had a brother, younger indeed than himself, but in nowise inferior to him in good qualities. He was called Ormisda, and it had long been expected that he should marry a beautiful and noble young lady of the city called Cassandra, of whom Lysimachus was also violently enamoured, though from one cause or other the marriage had been long delayed. Now Pasimunda, wishing to celebrate his nuptials with great magnificence, in order to lessen the expense, was desirous that Ormisda should be married at the same time; and mentioning it to his brother, he consulted with the parents of the lady, who expressed their consent to the measure. When this reached the ears of Lysimachus he was disconcerted beyond measure, for he felt assured that if he could prevent Ormisda from marrying her he should possess her himself. He, however, dissembled his fears, and began to consider in what way he could obstruct the marriage, but saw no possible mode except that of carrying off Cassandra by force. This appeared an easy matter to him, from his high office in the state, but he deemed it dishonourable to use his power for such an end. After a long deliberation, however, his honour gave way to his love, and he resolved, whatever might be the consequence, to possess himself of Cassandra’s person; and considering which of his friends could assist him, and of the conduct of his enterprise, he recollected Cimon, whom with his companions he held in imprisonment; and it occurring to him that he could not have a better and more faithful assistant than Cimon in this affair, he commanded him the next evening to be secretly introduced into his chamber, and addressed him in the following manner: “Cimon, as the gods are bountiful and liberal benefactors to men, so do they likewise make proof of their virtues, that to those whom they find constant and firm in all changes of fortune, they may give the reward of their valour, and crown them agreeably to their merits. Wishing to have experience of thy virtue beyond the bounds of thy father’s house, whom I know to be a man abounding in riches, at first by the over-ruling passion of love elevating thee, as I have heard, from a brutal condition to the dignity of man, they have tried thee with a grievous misfortune, and have now cast thee into prison in order to see if thy mind be still as constant as when Fortune favoured thee by giving thee possession of thy mistress. Wherefore, if thy constancy of mind remains the same as heretofore, the gods can give thee no greater reward than her whom they are now prepared to bestow on thee again, and in order to animate thy courage, I will show thee the means of accomplishing this object. Know then that Pasimunda, who rejoices at thy misfortune and earnestly endeavours to procure thy death, is making all haste to celebrate his marriage with thy Iphigenia, and
thus enjoy the prize which Fortune first granted and afterward snatched from thee. Now, if thou lovest Iphigenia, as I believe thou dost, it must fill thy soul with affliction, as I know from my own fate, for a similar injury will be offered to me on the same day by Ormisda, the brother of Pasimunda, who is on the point of robbing me of Cassandra, the sole object of my life and love. And to avoid such injuries, I do not see that Fortune has left us any other means than our valour and our swords, with which thou must accomplish the second seizure of thy lady, and I the first of mine. Thou seest, then, that if thou wishest to regain not only thy liberty, which, if I judge aright, is only valuable to thee with thy mistress, but also thy mistress herself, the gods, if thou art willing to assist me in my enterprise, will once more place her in thy hands.” These words seemed like new life to the despairing Cimon, who thus instantly replied to Lysimachus: “Thou canst not, Lysimachus, have a more faithful and valiant friend than myself, if indeed the reward is to be such as thou sayest. Acquaint me therefore with thy wishes, which shall be executed with courage and despatch.” To which Lysimachus replied, “Know, then, that three days hence the new brides will be claimed by their husbands, and the nuptials celebrated at the house of Pasimunda, when thyself and I, with some of my own friends, will, by favour of the night, enter the house, and bearing off the brides by force in the midst of the solemnity, will carry them to a ship which I have secretly prepared for the purpose, killing all persons who may oppose us in our enterprise.” Cimon expressed himself highly satisfied with this plan, and remained contented in prison, without revealing a word to his comrades, until the expected day arrived. The day of the marriage being come, the nuptials were celebrated with great pomp and magnificence, and Pasimunda’s house was filled with joy and festivity. Lysimachus, after having arranged all things, and Cimon and his companions and also his own friends being prepared, and the time being now arrived, he first addressed a few animating words to his people, and then divided them into three parties, one of which he prudently despatched to the harbour, that they might not meet with any interruption in going on board their ship and making their escape, and with the other two parties he then proceeded to the house of Pasimunda. They suddenly entered the hall, where they found the brides with a numerous company all seated at supper. Rushing forward among the attendants, they threw down the tables, and Cimon and Lysimachus, each of them laying hold of his mistress, delivered them into the hands of their followers to be carried on board their ship. The brides and the ladies shrieked, and the whole house was instantly filled with terror and alarm, but Cimon and Lysimachus and their friends made way for themselves with their drawn swords. As they came to descend the stairs, Pasimunda presented himself with a huge club and opposed their exit, but Cimon smote him so severe a blow on the head that he fell dead on the spot. Ormisda running to his brother’s aid, was at the same moment slain, and several others besides, by the companions of Lysimachus and Cimon. Leaving the house thus filled with blood, tears, and lamentations,
without any further interruption they carried off their brides in triumph. They had no sooner embarked than the shore was crowded with armed men who came to the rescue of the ladies, but, diligently plying their oars, they happily got out to sea, and arriving in Crete, were joyfully received by their relations. They there celebrated their nuptials with great joy and festivity, and thus reaped the reward of their love and courage. Cyprus and Rhodes were long disturbed by this affair, but in the end, by the intervention of noble friends and kindred, and after the lapse of some time, Cimon found the happy means to return home to Cyprus with Iphigenia, and Lysimachus carried his beloved Cassandra to Rhodes, each leading a long and happy life in his own country.
FIFTH DAY, NOVELLA VIII.
RAVENNA, an ancient city of Romagna, formerly abounded with nobility and gentry, among whom was a young man of the name of Anastasio, descended from the family of Honesti, who, on the death of his father and an uncle, succeeded to great riches. Being yet unmarried, he became enamoured of a daughter of Messer Paolo Traversari, who was of one of the most ancient and noble families in the country. This Anastasio was of a generous and liberal nature, courteous and affable, and hoped by his assiduities to obtain a return of his affection; but all his good qualities seemed rather to retard than advance his wishes, so cruel and relentless was the young lady in her conduct to him, either through a consciousness of her extraordinary beauty, or presuming on her high nobility of birth. Anastasio thus meeting with nothing but disdain, was so wounded by her conduct, that several times through excess of grief he was ready to lay violent hands on himself. The current of his affections was in consequence perverted, and he resolved to requite hate with hate. But it was in vain he formed this resolution, for as his hopes lessened his love increased the more. His friends seeing him persevere in this fruitless passion, and at the same time consuming his means of life, in order to save him from ruin advised him to quit the city of Ravenna, and reside in some other place where he might surmount his indiscreet passion and repair his injured fortunes. Anastasio for a long time resisted this counsel, but he was in the end so earnestly pressed to it, that he consented to comply with their wishes, and making great preparations, as if for a journey to France or Spain, or some other distant country, he one morning mounted his horse, and, accompanied by some few of his intimate friends, departed from Ravenna, and proceeded to a retired country place, three or four miles distant from the city, called Chiassi. He there, on the greensward, erected tents and pavilion, and told his friends who accompanied him that he meant to make that spot his future residence, and that
after their return to Ravenna they might visit him as often as they pleased. Anastasio now commenced a joyful life, entertaining his friends at dinners and suppers in the most agreeable manner. Now it came to pass that one day about the beginning of the month of May, when the season was mild and serene, the cruelty of his mistress recurred to his remembrance, and he went forth to indulge in a solitary walk, desiring his servants to leave him free and not interrupt his meditations, and in this frame of mine he continued his walk, until at some distance he entered a grove of pine-trees. It was now about the ninth hour of the day, and forgetful of his dinner-hour, he had wandered nearly to the centre of the pine-wood, when the shrieks of a woman in distress suddenly burst upon his ear. Starting from his day-dreams, he gazed earnestly around, and out of a little thicket of underwood and briers he saw a young damsel running towards him, her hair dishevelled, and her fair skin rent and torn with the thorns and brambles, and she shrieking and crying out for mercy. At her side ran two bloodhounds, fierce and swift of foot, that ever and anon inflicted grievous wounds on her trembling limbs, and behind in full pursuit on a black courser came a knight of dark complexion, with a furious countenance, and a drawn sword in his hand, upbraiding her in outrageous language, and threatening to kill her. Anastasio beheld this strange vision in amaze, but compassion for the wretched victim soon overcame his fear, and he ran to save her from a death so full of anguish and horror; but being all unarmed, he snatched up the huge bough of a pine, and raising it, rushed forward to check the dogs and the knight in their infuriate chase. The knight seeing him thus prepared for resistance, called out to him from a distance, “Anastasio, do not trouble thyself, but let these dogs and me punish this wicked woman as she deserves.” and, in saying these words, the dogs fastened on the lady, and held her until the knight reached her and alighted from his horse. Anastasio advancing to him, said, “I know not who thou art, although thou hast addressed me by name, but whoever thou be, I tell thee thou art a recreant knight, armed as thou art, thus to attack an innocent and helpless woman, chasing her with thy dogs as if she were a wild beast of the forest; therefore defend thyself, for I will protect her at the risk of my life!” “Anastasio,” said the knight, “forbear, and listen. Be it known to thee that I was of the same country as thyself, and that thou were yet an infant boy when I, who was called Messer Guido de gli Anastagi, became more enamoured of this woman than even thou art at this moment of the daughter of Traversari; but her disdain and cruelty so preyed on my spirits, that at length, in a moment of despair, I slew myself with this sword thou now seest in my hand; for which rash deed I am doomed to eternal punishment; and she, rejoicing beyond measure in my unhappy death, died shortly after me, and for the pleasure she took in my torments, and dying unrepentant, had the like sentence of condemnation passed on her; and it was decreed as a punishment to us both, that she should flee before me in the manner thou hast just now seen, and that I, who loved her so fondly whilst living, should pursue her as my deadly enemy, and not like a woman of whom I was deeply enamoured; and
so often as I can overtake her, I am bound to kill her with this sword, the same weapon wherewith I slew myself. I am then enjoined to cut open her body and tear out her heart, as now thou seest me do, and give it to my hounds to be devoured. After a little space of time — such is the appointment of Heaven — she reassumes her life as if she had not been dead, and falling again to the same kind of flight, I with my hounds am again to follow her without respite or intermission. Every Friday, and precisely at this hour, her course is through this forest, where she suffers the just punishment inflicted on her. Nor do we rest any of the other days of the week, but are appointed unto other places where she disdainfully executed her malice against me, who from being her passionate lover am ordained to be her endless enemy, and to pursue her in this manner for as many years as she exercised months of cruelty towards me. Hinder me not, therefore, in being the executor of Divine justice, for all thy interposition is vain in seeking to remit the just vengeance of Heaven.” When Anastasio heard these words his hair bristled on his head with terror, and he stepped back aghast to suffer the knight to do what was enjoined. The hapless fugitive was then seized on by the two bloodhounds, and the ghastly knight, in spite of her cries for mercy, rushed on her in fury and with his drawn sword pierced her breast, and drawing forth her heart threw it to his dogs, which greedily devoured it. A little space after, the damsel (as forgetful of the punishment inflicted on her) again started up suddenly, running in affright towards the sea-shore, the hounds swiftly pursuing her, and followed by the knight as soon as he had again mounted his steed, so that Anastasio had soon lost sight of them and could not guess what had become of them. Reflecting for a space on what he had heard and seen, he stood still for a time, fear and compassion alternately taking possession of his soul; but after a little reflection it occurred to him that he might turn this event to his own advantage. He therefore, after having carefully marked the spot, returned back to his house, and sending for his relations and friends, thus addressed them: “My dear kinsmen and friends, you have long entreated me to relinquish my love to one whom you deem my mortal enemy, and to renounce my lavish expenses on her behalf, which request of yours I am now ready to comply with, but upon the condition of your granting me one favour, which is, that on Friday next Messer Paolo Traversari and his wife and daughter, and all their female relatives, and any other guests you may choose to bring with you, will vouchsafe to accept a dinner here with me, when you shall be acquainted more at large with my reason for making this request.” This appeared to his friends not very difficult for them to accomplish, and on their return to Ravenna they invited such persons as Anastasio had named, and although they found it somewhat difficult to obtain the company of the young lady whom Anastasio so dearly loved, yet the other ladies at length prevailed on her to accompany them. Anastasio had provided a most magnificent dinner, and the tables were covered under the pine-trees, near the spot where he saw the cruel lady pursued and slain; and he so arranged his guests that the young lady, his unkind mistress, sate with her face opposite that part of the wood
where the dismal spectacle was likely to be seen. The dinner was not yet concluded, when the noise as of an approaching chase startled the company, who, desirous to know whence the cry proceeded, rose in a body from table, and looking into the forest, they saw in consternation the woful woman, the dogs eagerly pursuing her, and the spectre-knight on horseback in full career after them with his drawn sword in his hand, cheering his hounds. The chase now approached the company, who all exclaimed against the dogs and the knight, and many of the cavaliers rushed forward to rescue the injured woman. The knight then addressed them as he had before done Anastasio, on which they fell back in terror and amaze, and he then repeated his cruelty in every way as on the former Friday. Most of the ladies present being nearly allied to the unfortunate woman, and likewise to the knight, and remembering well both his love and death, shed abundance of tears; and when the tragic scene was over, and the lady and knight had vanished from their sight, all that had seen this occurrence fell into a diversity of opinions on the meaning of the vision. But the young maid whom Anastasio loved was more surprised and terrified than any of the ladies, apprehending that the moral of this dismal spectacle bore a much nearer application to her than to any other person in company. She now called to mind how unkind and cruel she had shown herself to Anastasio, not less so than the other lady had formerly done to her lover; and she imagined she already heard the bloodhounds at her heels, and saw the sword drawn to mangle her body. This fear so far increased on her, that to avoid the like cruel fate she studied to change her hatred into love, which at length she fully accomplished, and secretly sent a faithful maid of her own to Anastasio to entreat him to come to see her, as she was determined to return his honourable affections. Anastasio replied that he joyfully accepted her message, and desired no higher happiness than to receive her as his wife in honourable marriage, as she had herself proposed. The maid, well knowing that he could not be more desirous of the match than her mistress, made answer in her name that this message would be most welcome to her. The young lady now informed her father and mother that she was willing to become the wife of Anastasio, which so greatly rejoiced them, that upon the Sunday following the marriage was solemnised with all splendour, and Anastasio and his bride lived ever after fondly attached to each other. Nor was the impression of this salutary terror confined to the young lady alone; for it was remarked that all the ladies of Ravenna, admonished by her example, became thenceforth less unrelenting towards their formerly despised admirers and lovers.
FIFTH DAY, NOVELLA IX.
COPPO DI BORGHESE DOMENICHI, who was of our city, and a man of reverence and authority in his day, and from his virtues and manners,
much more than from the nobility of his descent, worthy of everlasting remembrance, being now advanced in years, often took pleasure in the narration of past events, to which his retentive memory and pleasing delivery lent an unusual attraction. Among other interesting events he narrated to us that there once lived in Florence a youth called Federigo, son of Messer Phillippo Alberighi, who for feats of arms and accomplishment was held in higher esteem than any cavalier of his age in Tuscany. This young man became deeply enamoured of a lady called Monna Giovanna, reputed in her time one of the most beautiful and agreeable women in Florence; and in order to win her affections he gave a succession of tournaments, feasts, and banquets, and spared no expense in his entertainments. But this lady, not less discreet than beautiful, paid no regard to all that was done in her honour, nor condescended to notice the author of them. Federigo thus spending all his property, and acquiring none in return, was soon stripped of his wealth, and became suddenly impoverished, having nothing now remaining but a small farm, on the produce of which he found a bare subsistence; yet he still retained a favourite falcon, which for her rare qualities was nowhere to be matched. Being thus unable to live any longer in the city in the style he was accustomed to, and being more than ever enamoured of the lady, he departed to his little estate in the country, and there, without inviting any one to his house, he amused himself with his falcon, and endured his poverty with tranquil patience. It happened that when Federigo was reduced to this extremity, the husband of Monna Giovanna fell sick, and feeling the approach of death, made his will, leaving his possessions, which were very great, to an only son now growing up, and in the event of the son’s death, to Monna Giovanni, whom he dearly loved; and he had no sooner subscribed his will than he died. Monna Giovanna, having thus become a widow, went according to the custom of our ladies to pass her year of mourning in retirement, removing to one of her estates very near to the farm of Federigo. Hereupon it happened that her son was accustomed to visit Federigo, and taking great delight in hawks and dogs, and having often seen Federigo’s falcon, he became wonderfully fond of it and ardently longed to possess it, but did not venture to ask for it, as he well knew how dear it was to its owner. Within a short time after this the boy fell sick. His mother, who had no other child, and loved him to excess, stood over him the whole day to tend and comfort him, often asking him and entreating him to tell her if there were anything in the world he desired, as, if it were possible to procure it, he should have it. The youth, after a repetition of these questions, at length said, “My dear mother, if you could by any means procure me Federigo’s falcon, I think I should recover from my sickness.” The lady hearing a request so far out of her power, began to consider what she might do to gratify her son’s wish. She knew that Federigo had long loved her, but had never received from her so much as a single glance in return. How then (she reflected) shall I send or go to beg this falcon, which from all I hear is the best bird that ever flew, and moreover is now Federigo’s sole maintenance; and how can I be
guilty of so great a rudeness as to deprive a gentleman who has no other pleasure remaining of this his only recreation? Thus troubled in her thoughts, she knew not what to reply to her son. Her maternal love, however, at last prevailed, and she determined to attempt to gratify his wishes, but resolved not to send, but to go herself to Federigo. She then said to her son, “My dear son, be comforted, and get well, for I promise you that the first thing in the morning, I will go myself for the falcon, and bring it to you.” This promise brought a beam of joy into the boy’s countenance, and the same day he showed evident signs of amendment. The next morning Monna Giovanna, taking with her another lady as companion, proceeded to Federigo’s humble habitation, and inquired for him. As it happened not to be a day fit for hawking, he was in his garden, and desired one of his people to go to the gate. He was beyond measure surprised when he heard that Monna Giovanna was asking for him, and ran in great joy to meet her. As soon as she saw him approach she gracefully moved to meet him, and respectfully saluting him, said, “Federigo, I am come to recompense you in some sort for the evil you have received at my hands, at a time when you loved me more than was wise on your part, and the recompense I intend is to make myself and my companion your guests at dinner to-day.” To which Federigo with great humility replied, “Alas! madam, I do not recollect to have received any evil at your hands, but so much good that, if it were ever in my power, I should be happy, for the love I have borne you, and more so for the honour of this visit, to expend my fortune a second time in your honour;” and thus speaking, he respectfully led her into his house, and thence conducted her into his garden, and there, not having any other person to introduce her to, said, “Madam, this good woman, the wife of my husbandman, will wait on you whilst I prepare our table.” Living in extreme poverty, Federigo was seldom in a state to receive any one in his house, and this morning being less prepared than usual, and finding nothing to show respect to a lady in whose honour he had entertained such numbers of people, he was grieved beyond measure, and stood in great perplexity, inveighing against his evil fortune as a man bereft of his senses, and running hither and thither, and finding neither money nor provision, and the hour being late, and his desire being great to show the lady some mark of attention, and happening to cast his eyes on his favourite falcon, which was resting on its perch in his chamber, and seeing no other resource, he seized the poor bird, and finding it fat and in good condition, thought it would be a dish worthy of the lady, and without further hesitation he wrung its neck, and giving it to a girl, ordered her to pluck it and place it on the spit and carefully roast it. He then spread on his table a napkin of snowy whiteness, one of the few things which yet remained to him of his former possessions, and after some time, with a cheerful aspect returned into the garden to the lady, and told her that a dinner, the best he could provide, was prepared for her. On this the lady with her companion went and seated themselves at the table, where Federigo with great courtesy waited on them, whilst they unknowingly ate his favourite bird. When they had risen from table, after some
agreeable conversation, it seemed to the lady to be now a proper time to make known the purpose of her visit, and turning politely to Federigo, she thus spoke: “Calling to recollection your past life, Federigo, and remembering my reserve, which you perhaps esteemed hard-heartedness and cruelty, I doubt not that you will wonder at my presumption when you learn the object of my visit; but if you now had, or ever had had children, and knew the strength of a parent’s affection, I feel assured that you would in some measure pardon me; and though you have none, I who have a dear and beloved son, cannot yet forego the common affections of a mother. I am, then, by maternal love and duty compelled to ask of you the gift of a possession which I know is indeed very dear to you, and justly so, since your evil fortune has left you no other comfort in your adversity. The gift then I ask is your falcon, which my son is so desirous of possessing, that if I do not obtain it for him, I fear it will so far aggravate the illness under which he labours, that I shall lose him. On this account, therefore, I entreat you, not by the love which you profess for me (by which you ought in no degree to be governed), but by the magnanimity of your character, which is better manifested in a courtesy of this kind than in any other way, that you would do me the favour to bestow it on me, so that by this gift I may be enabled to preserve the life of my dear and only son, and I shall myself be for ever indebted to you.” Federigo thus hearing the request of the lady, and seeing it out of his power to gratify her, as he had served his falcon for dinner, began in her presence to weep most bitterly, and became unable to utter a word in reply. The lady supposing that Federigo’s grief arose from his affection to his falcon, and his regret to part with it, and expecting a refusal, prepared herself for the worst. “Since the hour, most honoured lady,” began Federigo, “that I first fixed my affection on you, I have always found Fortune most perverse and cruel to me, but all her blows I consider light in comparison with the one she has now dealt me, seeing that you have condescended to visit my house, which when I was rich you would not deign to enter, and entreat me for so small a gift, for she has so contrived that it is not in my power to grant it you, and why it is not you shall briefly hear. When you informed me that you meant to honour me with your company to dinner, considering your rank, and that it was only proper that I should pay you due honor by procuring every delicacy in my power, as is becoming on such occasions, and recollecting the falcon which you now request of me, and its many excellent qualities, I considered it a dish not unworthy to be placed before you, and I therefore this morning served it up to you roasted at dinner, a thing which at the time I considered most opportune, but finding now that you wished to possess the falcon alive for you sick son, my inability to gratify you grieves me so far that I think I shall never know happiness more.” In confirmation of his words he then produced the feathers and beak and talons of the poor bird. Monna Giovanna at this recital reprehended him for killing so fine a falcon for a lady’s dinner, at the same time, however, highly commending in her own mind his magnanimity, which it had not been in the power of Fortune to abase. The
lady having thus lost all chance of possessing the falcon, and despairing of the recovery of her son, thanked Federigo for the honour done her, and for his intended good-will, and departed very much dejected. Her son, either through pining for the falcon, or from his complaint being aggravated by disappointment, died a few days after, to the great grief of his mother. After having for some time indulged her sorrow and tears, her brothers seeing that she was left extremely rich, and was still young, entreated her to marry again. This she was not desirous of doing, but finding herself constantly assailed by their request, and recollecting the noble conduct of Federigo, and this last instance of his magnanimity, in having sacrificed the finest falcon in the world out of respect to her, she said to her brothers, “I should willingly, if it were agreeable to you, remain in my present state, but if you insist that I marry, I will assuredly take no one for my husband but Federigo de gli Alberighi.” On which her brothers, smiling, replied, “What folly is this? Would you marry a man who is a beggar?” To this she answered, “Brothers, I well know that the matter is as you state it, but I choose rather a man that hath need of wealth, than wealth that hath need of a man.” The brothers seeing her fixed determination, and knowing the genuine worth of Federigo, notwithstanding his poverty, bestowed their sister on him with all her fortune. Federigo thus unexpectedly found himself united to a beautiful lady whom he had long dearly loved, and passed the remainder of his days in peace and happiness.*
* This story is the “Faucon” of Fontaine. It has been remarked of it “that as a picture of the habitual workings of some one powerful feeling, where the heart reposes almost entirely on itself, without the violent excitement of opposing duties or untoward circumstances, nothing can come up to the story of Federigo and his falcon.” — History of Fiction, vol. ii. p. 296. The two novels immediately preceding this are familiarly known to the lovers of poetry in the verse of Dryden, who has founded upon them his tales of “Cimon and Iphigenia,” and “Theodore and Honoria.” The latter story, Mr. Dunlop observes, seems to be the origin of all retributory spectres. It has afforded a congenial subject for the wild and powerful pencil of Fuseli.