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Tosetto of Padua

Tosetto of Padua, doctor of philosophy, was a gallant and witty man. Meeting a woman in the road, and steeping aside that she might pass, he told her he had done so because she was beautiful.

She, being vain and ill-bred, instead of thanking him as another might have done, answered: "You are ugly, you are."

"Madonna", he replied, "you have told a lie, and so have I. Pass on your way, if it please you!"


Of Messer Marco of Lodi

Messer Marco of Lodi wrote a letter to a friend at Ferrara, and, as there was no one to carry it for him, he had a fancy to take it himself.

He arrived at Ferrara, and, having handed the letter to his friend, without a single word, he immediately departed and returned to Treviso.



Two Knights of Castille

Two knights of Castille, one called Don Francesco di Anaia, who was old but gallant and refined, and the other Don Diego d'Aroa, who was young but coarse, were both courting the same lady.

The young man, wising to shame the other, asked him in the lady's presence, how old he was.

To which the old man answered: "In truth, I do not know exactly, but I do know this — that an ass of twenty is always older than a man of sixty."

[This story was so good, that it was included (without the names) in the most famous joke book (on this site) of the 19th century, 400 years later, see Jest CCLXXXVIII, The Joe Miller Jest Book, by Mark Lemon. — Elf.Ed.]


Of a Man who asked Pardon of his Sick Wife

A man was consoling his wife on her deathbed, and he reminded her that he had always been a good husband, and asked her pardon if ever he had done her any wrong. And he said, moreover, that among his other duties he had never neglected that of the marriage-bed, save in that 70 time since she had fallen ill, and he had abstained because he had not wished to weary her.

Then the woman, sick though she was, reproved him, saying: "Oh, I can never forgive you that, for at no time have I been so ill that I could not lie down comfortably."

Let men, therefore, always do their duty so that they may never have to ask pardon of their wives of a thing they might with good reason refuse to forgive.


A Woman's Answer

A woman who was often asked by her husband why, if the pleasure of love was equal for men and women, it was the men who solicited and importuned the women, rather than vice-versa.

The woman replied: "It is a certain thing that it is not we women who seek the men. It is proved that we women are ready for the matter: not so you men. And we should therefore ask the men in vain, if they were not ready and willing."



Of the King of Tunis

The King of Aragon had amongst his senators a certain Queraldo, who was very ugly in face and figure, but a man of wit and discretion withal.

On one occasion, having gone as ambassador to the King of Tunis, he was invited to supper. The King had the supper spread out on a trestle-table according to our usage, and carpets laid on the floor after the manner of the Moors.

Many persons were present at the supper, and the King, who was a man given to jesting and pleasantries, secretly ordered that all the bones from the repast should be laid at the feet of Queraldo.

When supper was finished and the tables removed, a large heap of bones we seen by Queraldo; whereupon one instructed thereto by the King said: "What bones are these? Certain it is that a wolf and not a man has supped here."

And Queraldo, turning towards the King, said:

"From what I see, I have been supping with wolves who eat both bones and meat, as it appears 72 your guests have done. Whereas I, a discreet and moderate man, have eaten the meat, and thrown the bones on the floor as a meal for the dogs."


The Wife's Confession

A certain peasant, wishing to know what sins his wife would confess, hid himself behind the place where the priest sat.

Among other sins, the woman confessed that she had not been faithful to her husband. The priest, wishing to be done with the confession, began with the sin of adultery, when the peasant came out of his hiding-place and said:

"Absolve her of the other sins. I myself will chastise her well for that one, so that there will be no need of any other penance from you."


Story of a man who sent Letters to his Wife and his Creditor

Francesco da Ortano, a Neapolitan knight who was charged with the government of Perugia 73 by King Ladislaus, received one day a letter from his wife, and at the same time another from a merchant to whom he owed some money.

His wife's letter exhorted him to come home, reminding him of his conjugal duties and of his promise to return soon. The other letter asked for the return of money lent.

The knight replied, as was right, to the merchant that he intended to pay soon, and asked for a brief delay, while to his wife he wrote seeking to calm her desire with bland phrases and promises. He said he would soon return, and would do all in his power to make her forget his long absence when he should return, and, with the familiarity that naturally exists between husband and wife, he jested a little on the matter, and used some gay expressions, hinting as strongly as not that he would serve her in diverse pleasant fashions on his return.

In sealing the letters, he sent the merchant's letter to his wife, and that meant for his wife to the merchant.

When the wife received the letter; she was much surprised at the cold tone of his lines, 74 and that he had not in fact answered her at all.

The Genoese merchant, when he opened the letter and saw that it was full of broad jests and licentious hints such as may be permitted between husband and wife, especially when they are young, supposed that the other man was seeking to play a trick upon him and mock him for the money lent.

And he showed the letter to the King, and lamented that, instead of sending him his just money, he promised to play all kinds of pranks with him, to pursue him all round the room, and to assault him in the high name of Venus until he was weary.

"And I am weary enough of him now," he added.


A Priest's Awkward Question

Outside the gates of Perugia there used to be the church of St. Mark, and one holiday, when all the people were assembled in church, Cicero, the 75 parish priest, in the course of his Easter sermon, uttered the following words:

"Brethren, I should like you to relieve me of a grave doubt. When, during Lent, I had occasion to hear the confessions of your wives, there was not a single one of them who did not assert she had maintained her fidelity to her husband. You men, on the other hand, almost all confessed to me that you have sinned with the wives of others. Now I should like to ask you, so as to remove this doubt of mine, who and where are these women?"


Of some Ambassadors sent from Perugia to Pope Urban

When Pope Urban was in Avignon, the people of Perugia sent three ambassadors to him, and when they arrived, they found the Pope seriously ill. His Holiness, reluctant to keep them waiting, gave them audience, begging them, however, before they began to speak, to be brief.

A learned doctor, who during the voyage had 76 learnt by heart a long speech to deliver to the Pope, had no respect for his malady, and launched into an interminable and tiresome discourse.

When, finally, the doctor had ended his wearying address, Urban courteously asked the other two what was their wish.

One of the other two ambassadors, who had realized the stupidity of his companion and the annoyance he had caused the Pope, said: "Holy Father, we have instructions from our people that, if Your Holiness does not do all you can for us in this matter, this companion of mine will read his address all over again."

The jest made the Pope laugh, and he ordered that what the Perugians wanted should be done.


Foolish Saying of some Florentine Ambassadors

Our ambassadors from Florence on their way to France, when they came to Milan went to visit Duke Bernabò, to do him honour. And when they were before him, and were asked by him who they were, they answered:


"We are citizens and ambassadors of Florence, if it please you", as such was the custom in those times. And the Duke received them, and sent them away.

When they came to Vercelli, they began to think over what they had done, and they remembered the words they had used to Bernabò, and, as one of them argued, that the expression "if it please you" was badly said, because even if it did not please him they were Florentine citizens and ambassadors all the same. So they all decided to return to Milan to withdraw the words.

When they came before the Duke again, the oldest and most learned among them spoke and said:

"Duke, when we were at Vercelli, we remembered to have said to you that we were citizens and ambassadors of Florence, 'if it pleased you', but this we did speaking like foolish men and ignorant, for, with or without your pleasure, we are Florentines, citizens, and ambassadors."

The Duke, who was a very severe man, laughed at the foolish exactitude of them, and said he was pleased, for they were exactly what he had supposed them to be.



Of a Drinker

A famous drinker of wine was taken with the fever, which caused his thirst to increase. The doctors came and discussed on the best method of curing the fever and the extraordinary thirst.

"Look here", said the drinker; "do you occupy yourselves only with curing my fever. As for my thirst, I will look after that myself."


Of a woman who in order to cover her head Exposed Herself

A woman who, owing to some disease, had shaved all the hair off her head, was one day called out of doors by a neighbour for a certain matter, and rushed out, forgetting to put anything on her head.

When the other woman saw her in that fashion, she reproved her for having come out without any covering, and looking so ugly. Whereat, the woman, in order to cover her head, lifted up her 79 skirt, and displayed her behind. All who saw this laughed.

So now they say "to cover your head' of one who, to hide a small misdeed, commits a greater crime.


Bernabò, Duke of Milan

Bernabò, Duke of Milan, was a man much given to women. One day when he was in his garden dallying with a woman, a friar who was his confessor suddenly arrived. The friar's authority in the Duke's household was such that all the doors of the palace were open to him.

The Duke, at the unexpected visit of the friar, and owing to the situation in which he had been discovered, blushed and then grew angry, and, in order to elicit some remark from the friar, asked him: "What would you do if you found yourself in bed with a woman as pretty as this one here?"

"I know what I ought to do", said the friar, "but what I should do, I cannot say."


With this answer he calmed the Duke's anger, confessing to be a man capable of weakness like everyone else.


Of One who wanted to spend 1000 Florins to be Famous

A young Florentine, of meagre intelligence, said one day to a friend that he would like to travel the world, and would spend one thousand florins to be known and famous.

The other, who knew his man well, said: "You would do much better to spend two thousand florins not to be known at all."


Facetia of the Celebrated Dante

When Dante, our poet of Florence, was exiled to Siena, one day when he was kneeling in the church of the Minor Friars before an altar in profound meditation, a certain man came up to him and accosted him, asking him some foolish questions.


Dante said to him: "Tell me what is the greatest of all the beasts."

"The elephant", said the other.

"Very well, leave me alone, elephant, for I have more important things to think of, and I don't want to be worried."


Answer given by a Woman to a Man who asked if his Wife could have a Twelve-months' Child

A citizen of Florence who had been away from his own town for a year, found on his return that his wife was just about to have a child. The matter perturbed him considerably, for he feared that the woman had been unfaithful to him during his absence.

Full of his doubt, he went to see the noble lady of the countryside, who was a woman of great talent, and he asked her If it were possible for a woman to have a child after twelve months.

The lady, knowing the dull kind of fellow she had to deal with, sought to console him, 82 saying: "The thing is quite possible if your wife on the day that she conceived chanced to see an ass, for it is the custom of these animals to bring forth their young after a year."

And the man became tranquil at the lady's words, and thanked God that an ugly suspicion had been taken from him, and from his wife the possibility of a grave scandal, and he kept for his own the child that was born.


Dispute between a Florentine and a Venetian

The Venetians had concluded a treaty of peace with the Duke of Milan that was to last fourteen years. During this time, war broke out between the Florentines and the Duke, and, since it seemed likely that the former were going to get the worst of it, the Venetians, while the Duke was not afraid at all of them, fearing that if he conquered in the war he would turn his armies against them, broke the pact and occupied Brescia.

Some time afterwards a Venetian came for83ward, and said: "You Florentines owe your liberty to us. You are only free men through us."

And the Florentine, answering the taunt of the Venetian, said: "It wasn't you who freed us. Rather was it we who made you traitors."


Antonio Lusco's Story

Ciriaco d'Ancona, a talkative and wordy fellow, one day when we were together, began deploring the fall and destruction of the Roman Empire, and seemed to be greatly afflicted thereat.

Then Antonio Lusco, a most learned man who was present, laughing at the foolish sorrow of the other, said:

"You remind me of that man from Milan who one holiday, hearing in the public square one of those singers and travelling bards who tell the stories of the old heroes to the people, listened to his narration of the death of Roland, who had been dead seven hundred years. The man began to weep hot tears at the story-teller's words, and when he went home his wife, who saw him all 84 depressed and afflicted with grief, asked him what the matter was.

"Alas, my dear, I am a dead man."

"My friend", said the wife, "whatever is the matter with you? What has happened? Come, cheer up, and take your supper!"

But he continued to weep, and refused his food.

Finally he gave way to the entreaties of his wife, and told her the reason of his woe.

"Don't you know?" he said —— "haven't you heard?"

"What?" asked the woman.

"Roland is dead, Roland the only man who defended the Christian."

The wife consoled the foolish fellow, and persuaded him to take his supper.


Of a Young Woman Separated from her Husband

A young man of Verona, of handsome form and elegant mien, took a wife, and, since he gave 85 himself up overmuch to marital joys, it happened that he grew pallid and sick.

His mother, who loved him much and feared that a greater ill might come upon him, took him away to a country-house far from his wife.

The latter, lamenting the loss of her husband, saw two sparrows making love by the roadside and said:

"Go away! Go away! If your mother-in-law sees you she will send you, one to one place and the other to another."


Contest between Two Men about their Crest

A Genoese, master of a fine ship which had been hired to make war against the English, had a crest, on which was figured a bull's head. A French nobleman saw it, and said the crest was his, and, coming to words over the matter, the Frenchman challenged the other to a duel.

The two met at the agreed spot — the Frenchman arriving with great ceremony, the Genoese unarmed.


Said the man from Genoa: "Why are we fighting this duel?"

"I maintain", answered the Frenchman, "that your crest is mine, and belonged to me and my family long before your family used it."

"What is your crest?" asked the Genoese.

"A bull's head of course", replied the Frenchman.

"Well then, there is no reason for us to fight", said the other. "My crest is not a bull's, but a cow's head."

And with this witty saying, the vain exaggeration of the Frenchman was foiled.


Story of a Tutor

Daccono of the Ardingbelli, citizen of Florence, called to become tutor and curator of a young man, looked after his affairs for a long time, and ended by eating and drinking away all his charge's substance.

One day an account was asked of him, and the 87 magistrate bade him produce the ledger with the entries of income and outgoings.

The tutor pointed to his mouth and his rear, and said he had no other record of incomings and outgoings than that.


Of a Woman who insisted on calling her Husband Lousy

We were speaking one day of the obstinacy of women, which is so great that they will prefer death to yielding their point.

"A woman of my part of the country", said one of the group, "was always arguing with her husband, and finding fault with him, so that nothing he could do was right.

"One day, she had a serious argument with him, and called him lousy, and he, in order to make her retract her expression, gave her blows and kicks. But the more he beat her, the more did she continue to call him lousy.

"Tired, finally, of beating her, in order to overcome her obstinacy, he took a rope and let her 88 down a well with it, threatening to drown her, if she did not cease to use the opprobrious expression. But the woman continued all the same, and even when the water was at her throat she called her husband lousy.

"Then the man let her deeper down into the well in order that she should speak no more, hoping that the nearness of death would silence her.

"But even when she was about to drown, and could no longer use her voice, she sought to express herself by signs, and putting her thumb-nails together made the gesture of killing a louse, for the women are used to kill these insects in this manner with their nails."


Of a Man who sought for his Wife Drowned in a Stream

Another man, whose wife had drowned in a stream, went up the river against the current to look for the body. A peasant who saw him 89 marvelled greatly at this, and advised him to follow the flow of the current.

"In that case", returned the first, "I should never find her, for when she was alive she was always difficult and contrary and went against the ways of others, so I am sure now that she is dead, she will go against the current of the stream."


Elegant Reply of Dante, Florentine Poet

Dante Alighieri, our poet of Florence, was for some time a guest at Verona of Can della Scala, a very liberal Prince. At his Court was another Cane, a member of the family and a Florentine, but an ignoble and ignorant fellow, good for nothing but laughter and foolish jests, not worthy to be called facetiæ.

But he was very rich, as many made him presents and gifts.

Dante, who was a most learned man, as wise as he was modest, despised this Cane as a foolish animal.


One day, this Cane came and said to Dante: "How is it that you are so poor and miserable, you who are supposed to be so wise and learned, while I, the fool and ignoramus, am rich?"

Dante replied: "When I find a gentleman who resembles me and has my way of thinking, as you have found gentlemen of your kind, this man will make me rich."


Pleasant Answer of the same Poet

Dante was dining one day between Cane the elder and Cane the younger, and the servants of both, to play a jest on him, threw all the bones down at the poet's feet on the sly.

When the meal was over, all turned to Dante, wondering why only before him were all these bones.

But Dante was ready-witted and said: "There's nothing to marvel at. If dogs eat bones, I am not a dog" (Cane).1

1 Play on words: Cane and cane.



The Story of Francesco Filelfo

We were among friends, and it came up for discussion what punishment should be inflicted upon unfaithful wives.

Boniface Salutati said the best punishment of all, according to him, was that with which a Bolognese friend of his had once threatened his wife.

And when we asked him what this might be, he said: "There was a man of Bologna, much esteemed by his friends. He had a wife of a generous and expansive nature, and she was even once or twice very kind to me.

"One night I went to his house, when I heard the two of them engaged in a terrible quarrel. The husband reproved his wife for her infidelities, while the woman answered, as women usually do on these occasions, by denying everything.

"The husband then began to cry out in a loud voice, 'Giovanna! Giovanna! I shall not beat you. I shall not strike you, but I propose to 92 give you so many children that the house will be filled with them. Then I will leave you alone with them, and go away.'"

We all laughed at this wonderful kind of punishment by means of which the stupid fellow thought to avenge himself for his wife's infidelities.


The Story of a Mountebank told by the Cardinal of Bordeaux

Gregory XII, before he was made Pope, and during the conclave, and even after, promised to do many things for the schism which in those times was rending the Church.

For some time he kept his promises, and even went so far as to say that, rather than fail in his efforts, he would relinquish the papacy.

But when he came to the sweets of power, he forgot his vows and promises, and did nothing of what he had sworn he would do.

The Cardinal Bishop of Bordeaux, a man of great experience and wisdom, ill supported this 93 state of things, and one day he spoke to me in this fashion

"He has acted," he said, "like that mountebank did with the people of Bologna when he promised that he would fly from a certain tower."

I begged him to tell me the story.

"A little while ago", he related, "there was in Bologna a mountebank who announced to the public that he would fly from a certain tower, which is near the Bridge of St Raphael, for the distance of a mile from the city.

"On the day fixed for the performance, all the people were gathered together, and the mountebank made fools of them, leaving them all day waiting in the sun without food till almost evening.

"All eyes were turned towards the tower, waiting for the man to begin his flight. And when he showed himself on the tower and flapped his wings as it about to fly and it seemed that he was about to cast himself into the air, a great applause rose from the throng that stood watching him with open mouths.

"And at dusk, the mountebank, just to do 94 something, turned his shoulders on the people, and showed them his behind. So all the disappointed people, tired out with hunger and waiting, went off home.

"In the same way", he concluded, "the Pope, after so many promises, contents himself with exhibiting to us his posterior rotundities.


The Husband's Revenge

There was a certain good man who so loved his wife that he said he could not bear to live, if another were to touch her.

Not long afterwards, whilst they were walking together in a wood, they met a knight, who seized the woman for his pleasure, and left the husband to take care of his horse and cloak.

When the woman returned, she reproached him for suffering her to be carried off by another.

"Be quiet!" said he. "Have I not torn his cloak to pieces?"

And this was his revenge for the honour of his wife.



Messer Franco's Cat

Messer Matteo Franco, whose cat mewed when he pulled its ears, threw it out of the window, saying: "Now, I will catch my own mice."


Of a Doctor who Cured the Mad

There were a number of us talking of that vanity, not to say stupidity, practised by many of keeping dogs and falcons for the chase. Paul, the Florentine, stood up and said:

"That madman of Milan was quite right when he laughed at such folk."

Then was we begged him to tell the story, he continued:

"There was once a citizen of Milan who practised as a mad doctor, curing the insane and the demented, and he undertook to cure within a certain time those who were entrusted to his care.

"And the way he did it was this.

"In the courtyard of his house there was a 96 fountain of stagnant water, dirty and fetid, and in this water the doctor would immerse those that were brought to him for cure, fastening them to a stake in the pool. Some he immersed up to the knees, others up to their thighs, other even more deeply, according to the gravity of the case, and there he kept them to steep in the water almost without food, until they appeared to be cured.

"Among the men who were brought to him was one whom he put in the water up to his thighs, and after fifteen days the man recovered his reason, and begged the doctor to take him out of the dirty pool, which the doctor did on condition that the patient would not stir from the courtyard,

"When the man had obeyed the doctor for several days, he was allowed to roam about the house, on condition, however, that he did not cross the threshold.

"The other companions of the madman remained in the pool, but the liberated man faithfully observed the instructions of the doctor, not stirring from the house.

"Once, while he was standing by the door, which 97 he dared not cross for fear of the moat before it, he saw, passing, a young knight, with a falcon on his wrist and two hunting dogs, and, since he remembered little of what had happened or what he had seen in the world before his madness, the thing seemed quite new to him, so he called the young man to him and said:

"'Oh, listen to me for a moment, and answer me. What is that on which you are seated, and what use is it to you?'

"'It is a horse', said the other, 'and I keep it for the chase.'

"'And the other thing you have on your wrist, what is it called, and what good is it to you?'

"'It is a trained falcon for catching wild ducks and partridges.'

"'And those beasts that accompany you, what are they, and what use are they to you?'

"'They are dogs trained to find game.'

"'Good,' said the madman; 'but this game for which you have made such preparations, what does it bring you in a year.'

"'I don't know, but not more than six ducats.'


"'And what do you spend for horse, falcon and dogs?'

"'Fifty ducats.'

"'Get away from here as quickly as you can before the doctor returns, for, if he finds you here, he will throw you into the fountain for the most foolish of all living persons, in order to cure you like the other mad folk and he will plunge you in right up to the neck, you may be sure.'"

Thus he showed that the passion for the chase is a folly if not practised by the rich or for the sake of bodily exercise.1

1 The similarity of this facetia with the modern jest of the idiot on the asylum-wall and the fisherman at once suggests itself.


Of a Mad Woman

A woman of my country who seemed mad was brought by her husband and relations to a certain 99 witch in the hope of curing her, and when the party came to the Arno, which it was necessary to cross, they placed her astride the back of a strong man.

But in this position she began to wriggle and cry out in her mad fashion: "I want the man; give me the man!"

And all those who were present saw what was the matter with her.

He who carried her burst out laughing so loudly that he fell with the woman into the water. And all the others began to laugh, and perceived that there was no need of magic or enchantment to remedy the woman's complaint, but of something quite different, and that with this show would soon regain her sanity.

And turning to the husband, they said: "You are the best doctor for your wife." And they all went home.

And after the husband went with her and contented her, and she became quite sane.

And this, in fact, is the best remedy for women's madness.



Of A Woman who stood on the Banks of the Po

On a little vessel that came to Ferrara, there stood together with some men of the Curia1 one of those women who do a certain service for men.

Another woman standing on the banks of the Po, cried out:

"What fools you are! Do you think that there are no strumpets in Ferrara? You will find more here than there are honest women in Venice."

1 Curia Romana, or, more probably, the local Curia.


The Abbot of Settimo

The abbot of Settimo, a huge fat man, came to Florence one evening and asked a peasant through which gate he ought to enter the city. The abbot meant what gate was still open at that hour.

But the peasant, jesting about the abbot's corpulence, said to him: "If a wagon of hay goes through, I'll think you'll get through the gate all right."



Saying of Lorenzo, Roman Priest

The day on which Pope Eugenius created a priest of the city of Rome, by name Angelotti, cardinal, another priest of the city called Lorenzo, a man of gay humour, came home all jubilant and full of mirth.

When his neighbours asked him what new thing had happened to him that he was so happy and gay, he replied:

"The most stupendous thing. I have now the highest hopes, for since the mad and the fools are made cardinals, and Angelotti is madder than I am, I shall certainly be raised to the purple too."


Of a Prodigy

This year nature has brought many monsters into the world in diverse places. In the territory of Sinigallia, which is in the Picentino country, a cow gave birth to a dragon of marvellous proportions. Its head was larger than a calf's, 102 and it's neck as long as a man's arm, while its body was like a dog's, only longer. When the cow had given birth to it, she looked at it, and gave a loud bellow, and sought to run off. But the dragon tied its tail round the cow's legs, and put its mouth to its udders and sucked the milk. Then, leaving the cow, it made off into the woods.

After this, the cow's teats and the parts of her body touched by the dragon became black and as if burnt, and remained like this for some time.

Shepherds related this tale, for the cow was one of a herd, and they state that later the cow had a calf.

And this is told in a letter that comes from Ferrara.


The Exhortation of a Cardinal

One day, during the war waged by the Spanish cardinal against the enemies of the Pontiff, the two armies found themselves face to face at Agro Piceno, forced to fight a decisive battle.


With many prayers, the cardinal exhorted his soldiers to fight, assuring them that those who died would dine with God and the angels, and in order that the combatants should kill each other with greater good will, he promised his men the remission of all their sins.

Then, having made this exhortation, he withdrew to a great distance from the battle.

Then said one of his soldiers: "Why then, Eminence, are you not coming with us to this dinner?"

The cardinal replied: "I am not in the habit of dining at this hour. I haven't an appetite yet."

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