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Of a Preacher who preferred Virgins to Married Women

A friar who was not at all circumspect was preaching to the people of Tivoli, and denounced at great length, and with much fury, the sin of adultery.

Among other things, he said that he himself 104would rather have ten virgins than one married woman.

And many of those present were also of his opinion.


Poor Cocchino

Poor Cocchino lived in a little cottage which was bare of everything, and therefore he did not trouble to lock his door at night.

In the middle of a certain night a thief entered, and went into the room where Cocchino himself was sleeping.

The thief searched about, feeling with his hands to see if he could find anything to steal.

Cocchino, hearing him, said, "I shall be glad to see if you can find in the night that which I cannot find by day."


Witty Answer on the Few Friends of God

One of our citizens, who was a man of spirit, had for a long time been tormented by a grave malady.


A friar came to exhort him to patience, and, among other things which he said to console the sick man, he told him that God often inflicts evils on those whom He loves.

"I don't wonder, then, that God has so few friends," said the sick man. "If He treats them in this way, He will have fewer still."


Of a Friar of St Anthony, a Peasant, and a Wolf

One of those friars who wander about and ask alms in the name of St Anthony, persuaded a peasant to give him some grain, promising him in return that all his belongings, and his sheep especially, should be free for a year of any harm or damage.

The peasant, believing in the promise, allowed his sheep to stray about freely, so that a wolf came and ate many of them.

When next year, the friar returned and asked for his ration of grain, the peasant indignantly refused to give it him, lamenting how vain had proved the friar's promise.


Asked by the religious the reason, the countryman replied that a wolf had gone off with several of his sheep.

"A wolf!" said the other. "The wolf is an evil beast, which you must not trust. He would not only deceive St Anthony but even Christ himself, if he could."

It is a foolish thing to put trust in those whose business is deceit.


Marvellous Compensation between Penitent and Confessor

A certain man, either seriously or to play a trick on the priest, went to him saying that he wished to confess his sins. Invited to say what he remembered of his wickedness, he related that he had stolen something from another, but added that this other had stolen more from him.

Said the confessor: "One thing cancels out another, so you are quits now."

Then the man added that he had beaten a certain fellow with a stick, but that he had received several blows in return from this person.


And the priest said that here, too, one thing cancelled out another, and that all was well.

At last the penitent said that there remained a sin for which he was much ashamed, and blushed before the priest to have to tell it.

The confessor exhorted him to forget his shame and reveal the sin. Yielding at last to the persistence of the friar, the man said: "I once had your sister."

"And I", replied the priest, "on several occasions had your mother, and here, as in the other cases, one thing cancels out another."

And for this equality in sin, he absolved him.


Of one who Spoke Ill of the Life of Cardinal Angelotto

A certain man spoke with bitter words against the life and habits of Cardinal Angelotto, when the latter was dead. And, in fact, he was a violent and rapacious man without any conscience.

A man who listened to the discourse said:


"I think that the Devil has already eaten and digested him for his terrible sins."

And another, who was a very witty fellow, said: "He has such bad flesh that no devil, even with the strongest stomach, would have dared to eat him for fear of vomiting."


How a daughter Excused her Sterility to her Father

The wife of a gentleman was put aside by him on account of her sterility after several years of marriage.

When she came back to her father's house, her parent asked her in secret why she had not done all she could, even favoring other men, in order to have a child.

She answered: "My father, I am not to blame in the matter at all. It have tried all the men-servants in the house, and even called in the stablemen, but it has all been useless."

And the father lamented his daughter's misfortune, seeing that she was not to blame for her sterility.



Of a Friar who had a Child by an Abbess

A friar of the minor orders once loved an abbess of a convent in Rome, and several times he sought her favours, but the woman would not consent for fear of having a child and the scandal that would result therefrom.

So the friar promised her immunity from this, and gave her a breve, or little scapular, which was sewn up and which she was to wear hung over her shoulders by a silken cord. By virtue of this she would never have any children.

So the abbess consented to the friar's wish, believing what he said.

After three months, when the friar perceived that the woman was going to have a child, he ran away, and the abbess seeing herself deceived, unsewed the scapular to see what it contained, and she found inside of it a piece of paper on which was written" "asca imbarasca non facias te supponi et non implebis tascam", which its to say, If you do not go with a man you will not 110 have a child. And this is certainly the best remedy against conceiving.


Of a Man who declared that the Archbishop of Cologne was a Quadruped

The Archbishop of Cologne, who is dead, was very fond of a poor simpleton, and he often had him to sleep with him in his room, and sometimes even at the foot of his bed.

Once there was also a woman in the bed, and the archbishop's fool perceived that there were more than the ordinary number of feet in the bed.

He touched one foot and asked whose it was. The archbishop answered that it was his. Then the fool touched another foot, and again the archbishop replied that it was his. Then he touched a third and a fourth foot, and still the archbishop answered that the foot was his.

The simple fellow burst into a rage and rushed to the window and shouted as loudly as he could:

"Come here everybody and witness a 111remarkable new prodigy of nature. Our archbishop has become a quadruped."

Thus the archbishop's wickedness was revealed.


Of a Man who Vowed a Candle

When I was in England, I heard a witty saying from the captain of an Irish merchant-vessel.

One day, when on the high seas, there came a great storm, and his ship was so buffeted and tossed about by the tempest that he despaired of saving it. The captain made a vow that, if his ship were saved from the tempest, he would make an ex-voto to a certain shrine of Our Lady of a huge candle, which should be as big as the mast of his ship.

And when a friend said to him that the vow was an impossible one, since there was not in all England wax enough to make such a candle, the captain answered:

"Be quiet! Let me promise what I like to the Mother of God, for when we are all saved, she will be just as happy with a penny candle."



Another Jest of a Man who made a Vow to St Ciriac

A merchant of Ancona felt the same way about St Ciriac, who is the patron of the city, and is always shown with a long beard.

Once, when his ship was being tossed about by the tempest and he feared to die, he made a vow to offer a house to St Ciriac.

And when the peril had passed, the merchant confessed his vow to the curate of the parish, who, since he saw an advantage in the matter for himself, ordered the man to carry out his vow.

The merchant was several times afterwards reproved for his tardiness in carrying out his vow, until one day, tired of the expostulations of the priest, or from sheer lack of piety, he said:

"Do not bother my any further with this matter. I have humbugged many people in the world with beards a good deal longer than St Ciriac."



Of a widow who desired a Husband of advanced Age

A widow said to a neighbour of hers that, thought she cared little for the things of this world, she would like to find a peaceful man of advanced age to live with her, so that they could mutually be of comfort to each other.

She cared more, she said, for the welfare of the soul than the miseries of the flesh.

The other woman promised to find her a man of such a sort, and the day after came to the widow's house saying that she had already found the man, who had all the good qualities she desired, for, in fact, he was a eunuch.

Then the widow said: "I won't have him at any price. I want to live in peace with my husband, and how can we live in peace, if when we quarrel, there can be no way of making it up together?"



The Jealous Husband

There was a certain man of Gubbio called Giovanni, and he was a very jealous person, and could never find a sure way of convincing himself if his wife was faithful to him or not.

So the jealous fellow thought of a plan worthy of himself, and castrated himself, with the idea that, should his wife afterwards have a child, he would be sure of her adultery.


Pleasant Tale

A Florentine had in his house a young man who taught his children. The young man, after living a long time with the family, had in turn the chambermaid, the nurse, and, finally, the lady of the house.

When the master of the house, who was a jovial kind of man, learnt of this, he called the young tutor to his room in secret, and complained that, in the youth's amorous exercises, he alone of all the family had been left out in the cold.



Facetious Answer applicable to Bishops

Luigi Marsili, asked by a friend what the two points in a bishop's mitre meant, replied that the one in front signified the New Testament and the one behind the Old Testament.

The other, continuing his questions, asked what the meaning of the two velvet ribbons that hang down from the mitre was, and Marsili replied:

"They mean that the bishops know nothing about either of them.


How a Hospital was Cleared of its Inmates

The cardinal of Bari, who was a Neapolitan, owned a hospital at Vercelli, which is in Trans-Alpine Gaul, but he drew little profit from it, on account of the great expenses which the poor patients necessitated.

So he set there one of his own friends called Petrillo to make money1.


This Petrillo, when he arrived, found the hospital full of lazy folk and sick, who consumed all the income of he place.

Dressing himself as a doctor, he examined a great number of patients, and saw all kinds of diseases. And he said to them:

"There is only one medicine which can cure all of your ill, and it is made with the fat of a man. So to-day, we are going to draw lots to see which among you will be put into the pot and boiled down to provide a cure for the others."

At his words, the patients took their things and fled from the hospital, fearing, each one of them, to die. And so the hospital was liberated of its undesirable guests.

1 Put the finances in a better state.


The Priest's Mistake

A priest who was preaching to his parishioners a sermon from the gospel text which tells how Our Saviour gave to eat to five thousand with only five loaves, spoke of five hundred instead of five thousand.


His cleric whispered to him under his breath that he had made a mistake, speaking of five hundred, instead of five thousand.

"Shut up, fool!" said the priest," they'll be hard put to it to believe five hundred, let alone five thousand."


Of a Young Woman made Fun of by her Old Husband

A Florentine who was already old took a young woman to wife, and she had been told by her young married friends not to give way to the first insistences of her husband, but to defend herself against his initial attack.

So, on their marriage-night, she met his advance with icy disdain.

The man, who was an expert navigator on the ocean of love, when he saw the turn things were taking, asked his wife the reason why she was not more docile with him. And the virgin said that she had a headache. So the man turned over, and went to sleep until dawn.


The girl, when she saw that her husband no longer sought her, regretted having taken the advice that had been given her, and whispered into her husband's ear that her headache had gone.

And he said: "Yes, but alas, my tail hurts me now."

It is always wise to accept good things when they are offered.


The Beautiful Scholar

A beautiful scholar, asked by one who wished to ridicule him whether his skin was fair like his hair, replied: "Messer, ask your daughter."


Galba's Cloak

Galba, besought by a friend to lend him his cloak, pleasantly replied:

"If it doesn't rain, you will not need it, and if it rains, I shall wear it."



The Cabbage and the Cauldron

Two men were boasting of the wonderful things they had seen, and one of them said that in a certain part of the country there was a cabbage so large that fifteen hundred men could stand beneath it.

Then said the other: "And I have seen a cauldron so big that five hundred men engaged in making it were spread over so much ground that when they spoke they could not hear one another."

"What the devil were they going to do with such a cauldron?"

"Cook that cabbage."


The Blind Man and the Virgin

A man who was blind of one eye took to wife a young girl whom he believed to be a virgin, but she proved not to be, for which he reproved her bitterly.


Whereupon, she answered him saying: "Why should you wish to have me whole, when you yourself are blind and have only one eye?"

Then the husband said: "My enemies did that to me."

And the girl replied: "And this my friends did to me."


Of Finetto

G——— used often to go to draw at Finetto's house, and Finetto was highly displeasing to him on account of his person and his mean nature.

On a certain occasion, when G——— went there for his drawing lesson, Finetto prolonged the correction of the sketch for a considerable time, and, after waiting a while, G———, who thought it was late and felt hungry, said: "Oh, Finetto, when do you dine?"

"When you have gone", replied Finetto.



Of the Numerous Doctors in Ferrara

Gonella, a charming and modest jester, on one occasion was asked by the Marchese Nicolò di Ferrara what art or profession had most representatives in Ferrara. Gonella immediately replied:

"Who does not know that the doctors here are the most numerous?"

Then said the Marchese: "It is easy to see that you know little about the arts and crafts of this city, for between citizens and foreigners Ferrara has at the most two or three doctors."

To which Gonella replied:

"One easily perceives that Your Excellency's mind is much occupied in matters of State and great importance, and that therefore you have no knowledge of your city or its citizens."

"I can prove that what I say is true", said the Marchese.

"And I can prove that what I affirm is true", said Gonella.

So there was arranged between them a bet or 122 penalty to be paid by the one who was found to have spoken falsely.

The next morning Gonella placed himself betimes at the door of the cathedral, with his face and throat all plastered, and to all who passed by or entered the church and asked him what ill he had, he replied that he was suffering from the toothache, whereon each of them suggested some remedy, and he wrote down the name of each one, and the recipe he had given.

In this manner, and by going about the city and asking all he met for a remedy for toothache, he made a list of three hundred persons who had told of cures and medicines to ease the pain.

When he had done this, he went in the morning to the palace at the hour when he was sure to find the Marchese, and, presenting himself with his face and throat all bandaged, he pretended to be in great suffering.

The Marchese, not perceiving the artfulness of Gonella, and supposing him to be suffering from the toothache, said at once:

"Gonella, you must use the remedy I am 123 going to give you, and you will be grateful to me, because you will be cured at once."

Gonella, when he had received the recipe, returned to his house, and made a complete list of all the remedies and the names of those who had furnished them in the order of their rank, and at the top of the list he wrote the name and recipe of the Marchese.

Then the following day, he went whole and sound to find the Marchese and show him all the recipes for the toothache, and to ask him for the money which he had won; and, if he would not pay it, he would show him the proofs.

Now when Marchese, seeing himself at the top of the list of doctors, followed by the names of many other gentlemen, was unable to keep from laughing, and, confessing that he had lost the bet, ordered that Gonella should be paid.


Two Young Men

Two young men went to an inn to eat, and the younger breaking open an egg that 124 had been brought to table, found inside an almost full-grown chick. He showed it to his companion, who advised him to hide it, or even to swallow it, since, if the host saw it, he would have to pay ten times more than his share.

The younger man obeyed, and, when the bill was being made out, the other man whispered softly to his friend:

"Brother, you will not mind paying my bill for me, because if you do not, I will tell the host of the chicken you have eaten, and you will pay ten times as much."


A complaint to Facino Cane

A certain man went to Facino Cane, who was one of the best captains of our time and by nature rather cruel. The visitor lamented that one of Facino's soldiers had robbed him of his cloak.

Facino, perceiving that the other wore a very handsome doublet, asked him if he had worn it on the day of the robbery of his cloak. The other said that he had.


"Be off with you", cried Facino. "The soldier who stole your cloak was not one of mine, because no soldier of mine would ever have left you that doublet."


The Jest told by a Friar on Easter Day

When I was still a boy, I heard the preaching of a Dominican monk who had a natural gift of speech. To awaken those of his congregation who were asleep, he told the following tale.

It was discovered in a certain convent that a nun was going to have a child. She was summoned before the abbess, for having shamed the convent by having given way to a man. The nun excused herself by saying that the man had used force.

"A young man", she said, "stronger than myself, came into my room. It was impossible to offer resistance. Do not accuse me, therefore, of sin, or blame me on account of his violence."

And the abbess said: "You would have been excused had you cried out, as it is written in the rule."


To which the nun replied: "I would have cried out, but we were in the dormitory, and it is the rule of our order to keep silence there."


Of Ottaviano Dagnano

A Milanese gentleman, called Ottaviano Dagnano, a very elegant and well-dressed man, was talking to a friend who had just lost his mother and his brother, who had died within a short space of time, one after the other.

Sighing deeply, he said: "I could have borne that trouble, if worse had not befallen me."

"Why, what worse could befall you?" asked Dagnano.

"I heard to-day that all my sheep up in the mountains have died. Now you can understand that I have reason to weep and be truly sad."


How to be Remembered

Messer Giuseppe Pulla, a kindly and courteous friend, was asked in what manner a man 127 might be remembered and regretted after death.

He answered briefly, as was his way: "By leaving many debts behind him."


Of a woman who Deceived her Husband

Pietro, a compatriot of mine, told me one day a very pleasant tale of a clever trick played by a woman. He had an amour with the wife of a stupid peasant, who, in order to escape his creditors, often passed his night out-of-doors.

One evening, when my friend was with the woman, the husband suddenly returned. The woman, hiding her lover under the bed, began reproving her husband bitterly for having come back, saying that he was going the right way to get himself put into prison.

"Only a few minutes ago", she said, "the podestà's soldiers were looking for you here. They want to put you in prison, and they searched all the house. I told them that you generally 128 pass the night out-of-doors, and so they went away, promising to return soon."

The poor man, terrified by her words, did not know what to do, and tremblingly asked his wife for counsel. She, who was ready to play a trick on him, said:

"Get you up into the dove-cote and stay the night there. I will shut you in, and take the ladder away, so that nobody will suspect you are there."

The man obeyed his wife's orders, and she locked him in, and took away the key and the ladder, so that he could not get out. Then she went back to the house, and called her lover from his hiding-place.

And he, pretending that the soldiers of the podestà had returned, cried out as for many, and the wife joined in with prayers for her husband's safety till the wretched man was overcome with terror.

Then, when the tumult had died down, the two lovers returned to bed, and gave the night to Venus, while the husband stayed amid the dung and the pigeons.



Of a Gambler who was sent to Prison

At Terravona there are certain penalties for those who play at dice. A man I knew was caught in the act, and taken to prison.

And when his friends asked him why he was there, he replied: "This podestà of ours has shut me up in prison, because I gambled with my own money. What would he have done if I had played with his?"


Of a father who was Reproved by his Drunken Son

A father who had often reproved his son for drunkenness, seeing one day a drunkard lying in the road with all his clothes in disorder and in a disgusting condition, with a crowd of little boys around him laughing and jeering at him, asked his son to look upon the sad spectacle, hoping that this example of the vice of drunkenness would serve to correct his ways.


But the young man, seeing the drunkard, said: "Father, I beg of you, tell me where one can get a wine that gives a drunkenness like that, for I should certainly like to taste it myself."

And he showed himself moved, not by the ugly sight, but by the desire for wine.


Happy Answer of a Woman to a Young Man in Love

A young man of Florence burned with love for a noble and virtuous lady, and often he followed her into church or to any other place where she happened to be going.

He used to say to his friends that he wished to find an opportunity of saying a few words to her which he had already prepared.

One holiday the lady went to the Church of St Lucia, and one of the young man's companions said to him that this was his chance to speak to her, when she should go to the font and take the Holy Water. The young man, heeding his friend's suggestion, approached the lady, but he 131 became suddenly stupid, and forgot his carefully prepared phrases. Then when his friend told him it was the moment to say something, he blurted out: "Lady, I am your servant." To which words the lady smilingly replied:

"I have enough—indeed too many—servants at home who sweep the rooms and wash the floors, so I have no need of you."

And all laughed at the stupidity of the young man, and the happy answer of the lady.


Dante and King Robert of Naples

At the time when King Robert of Naples was alive, the poet called Dante of Florence lived too, and, since he was unable to remain in Florence or in any land where the Church ruled, sometimes he dwelt with the Lord of Mantua and sometimes in the Duchy of the Duke of Lucca, that is with Messer Castruccio Castracani. And, Dante's fame having already travelled far, King Robert desired to have him by him in order to enjoy his wit and worth, and so he sent letters to the Duke and 132 to Dante begging that the latter should visit him

Dante determined to go to King Robert's Court, and set out from Lucca, and travelled so far that he came to Naples. He arrived at the Court poorly dressed, as is the way of poets, and when it was made known to King Robert that Dante had come, he had him brought before him in the room where the dinner was laid.

When all had washed their hands, and the King had taken his seat, and the barons all were in their places, Dante was finally given a seat at the bottom of the table. Dante, as a wise man, perceived that the King had acted with little tact and courtesy, but nevertheless, since he felt hungry, he ate, and no sooner had he eaten than he got up and went away, and set out again for Ancona, to make return to Tuscany.

King Robert, when he had dined, asked where Dante was. They told him he had gone away to Ancona. The King, recognizing that he had not treated Dante with due honour, thought that he must be incensed at this.

"I have done wrong", said the King to 133 himself, "for since I sent for him, I ought to have done him honour and listened to his wisdom."

So he sent his servants after him, and they reached him before he came to Ancona.

When he had read the King's letter, Dante returned to Naples, and dressed himself in a magnificent robe, and presented himself to the King. The King placed him beside him at the head of the table, and Dante, finding himself there, thought to show the King what he had done. So, as the viands and the wine were brought on, Dante took the food and dabbed it on his splendid robe and sprinkled his clothes with the wine.

King Robert and the barons said to themselves, "This man must be a fool, throwing food and wine over his clothes." Dante heard the remarks of the others, but remained silent. Then the King, who had seen everything, turned to Dante and said: "What is this I see you doing? I have heard your wisdom and your learning so highly spoke of: how comes it that you have such vulgar manners?" Dante replied" "Majesty, I recognize that the honour which you have done 134 me to-day is done to my clothes, and so I have wished that my robes should enjoy the food and the wine. When I came badly dressed, you set me at the bottom of the table, and now for my fine robe you seat me up here."

King Robert, recognizing that Dante had spoken the truth, ordered that a fine new robe be given him, and, dressed anew, Dante sat down to eat again; and, when the meal was over, the King took Dante apart, and talking with him, found him to be a man of even greater wisdom and worth than was commonly said, and he honoured him, and made him stay at his court for a while.


Of Bardella of Mantua

Bardella of Mantua, being brought to the scaffold, one of his comforters said to him: "Be of good heart, for to-night you will dine with the Virgin Mary and the Apostles."

Bardella replied: "Thanks very much, but won't you go in my stead, for I am fasting to-day?"



The Timorous Duellists

Cocco da Trevigi and Pieri da Santo Stefano, a Venetian, fought a duel in Mantua. After many wild blows had been aimed at the air on either side, Cocco said to Pierino: "Surrender, for I am a good fellow."

But Pierino did not surrender.

Then Cocco said: "Surrender and sheath your sword—otherwise I will surrender."

"You do it," said Pierino, "for I don't want to give in."

"All right, then", said Cocco; "then I'll surrender."


Second Thoughts

Pietro Marzi, a gentleman of Siena, was living in his villa at San Chirico during the summer when a terrible storm arose with rain and hail. A friend of his passed on horseback before the house.


Pietro, who was a man of courteous and gentle nature, called his friend by name, and begged him with great insistence to come inside and shelter from the storm. The friend thanked him, but refused the proffered hospitality, and went on his way. He had hardly gone more than the eighth of a mile, when the storm burst out more violently than ever, so that he was forced to return and accept the kind invitation of Pietro.

Being come to the house, he knocked and called out saying: "Pietro, I've thought better of it."

Whereat, Pietro, appearing at the window, said at once without hesitation, "So have I."


The King of the Canaries

You must know that in the times when our Amerigo Vespucci discovered the New World, there lived in our city a merchant whose name was Messer Ansaldo degli Ormanni, who, though very rich, still desired to double his wealth. He provisioned a fine ship, and began to trade with the newly discovered lands of the West. And 137 having made the voyage successfully two or three times with notable gain, he wished to travel on a fourth trip, but no sooner had his vessel left Cadiz than a furious storm arose, and he drifted for many days without knowing whither he was sailing.

Fortune, however, was kind to him, and he brought up at an island called Canary Island. As soon as he touched the shore, the King, seeing the arrival of a ship, came down to the port with all his barons, and made Messer Ansaldo a great welcome, and urged him to come with him to the royal palace. Then in the dining-hall the tables were laid with great sumptuousness, and Ansaldo was given a place by the King. And Ansaldo, seeing a number of young men behind the King with long sticks in their hands such as pilgrims carry, marvelled greatly. No sooner were the viands brought on than he perceived the reason for such service, for a vast number of big rats, running up from all sides, sought to attack the delicate foods; and it was a marvellous sight.

It was only with great efforts that the young 138 men succeeded in protecting the King's plate with their sticks. Messer Ansaldo, having seen the hordes of rats which were without number in the island — nor had any way of getting rid of them been so far discovered — sought by means of signs to make the King understand that he would give him a remedy by means of which the country might be freed of the dirty animals.

So he went back to his ship, and took two fine cats, one male and the other female, and gave them to the King, and asked that the tables be set with food again. No sooner did the odour of the food begin to spread than the usual procession of rats began; but the cats, perceiving this, dashed here and there among the rats and with such skill that in a brief time they had made a great slaughter. The King, delighted at this and wishing to reward Messer Ansaldo's courtesy with rich gifts, had many strings of pearls brought in, and gold and silver and a number of precious stones: all of which he gave to Messer Ansaldo, who, without sailing to the New World, turned his ship for home, where he arrived in due time richer than ever.


He related several times to companies of his friends the story of his adventure with the King of the Canaries, so that one of these friends, called Giacomo de' Fifanti, was taken with the desire of sailing to the Canaries to try his fortune also.

So he sold a property of his in the Val d'Elsa, and with the money he bought many jewels, rings, and objects of value, and he gave out the report that he was going to the Holy Land. He embarked at Cadiz, and duly arrived in the Canaries. He presented all his fine gifts to the King, arguing with himself: "If I give him so much, then so much will he give me. Since he rewarded Messer Ansaldo so handsomely for a couple of cats, what will he not give me for all these precious things?"

But the poor man was deceiving himself, for the King of Canary Island, much appreciating Giacomo's presents, thought that he could offer in return no finer gift than a cat. Therefore, he brought him a handsome one which was the son of the two cats given the King by Messer Ansaldo. Thus in great unhappiness and very poor he 140 returned to Florence, cursing the King of Canary Island, the rats, the cats, and Messer Ansaldo. But he was in the wrong, for, when the King gave him a cat, he thought he was giving him the most precious thing in his country.


Facetia of an Ignoramus

Several friars were discussing among themselves the life and works of Our Lord, and how He began to preach after His thirtieth year.

A man present, who knew nothing of letters or learning, asked the company what Jesus did after He had completed His thirtieth year.

And since many of the friars were silent, and others sought to answer in divers ways, the man added: "What! with all your learning, you do not know as simple a thing as that!"

And the others asking him what Jesus did after He had completed His thirtieth year, he said: "He began His thirty-first."



A Biting Answer

Carlo Gerio, Florentine merchant and one of those bankers who follow the Roman Curia, came to Avignon, as is the custom of merchants who ply their trade in various parts; and afterwards returned to Rome.

And there, one day at a banquet of friends, he was asked how the Florentines who lived at Avignon fared. He replied that they were all as happy and contented as mad people, because, he added, after a year in that city everyone goes mad.

Then one of the company, by name Alighieri, who was known for a clever man, asked Carlo how long he had been in Avignon, and Carlo answered that he had lived there only six months.

"Then you are evidently a man of great talent", said the other, "for you have accomplished in six months what it takes others a year to do."



Of an English Dyer who had an Adventure with his Wife

When I was in England1, there happened to a dyer an amusing thing which is worthy of inclusion here. The man was married, and had in his house many apprentices and serving-maids, and he had cast his eyes on one of these latter, for she seemed to him prettier than the rest.

Several times he asked the wench to grant him her favours, and in the end the girl told everything to her mistress, who advised her to consent.

But on the day and at the hour fixed for the appointment, the mistress went instead of the maid to a dark and secret place, where shortly after arrived the dyer and accomplished his purpose.

And when he had finished, he went away and told one of his apprentices about it, and said that if he liked he might take the girl, too.

And the apprentice went into the dark cup 143 board, and the wife took him for her husband, and after him a second apprentice came, and for a third time the woman supported the sacrifice.

When at last she was able, she came out of the cupboard, and that night she bitterly reproved her husband for being so cold to her and yet so inflamed by the serving-maid as to go with her three times in one day.

The husband pretended not to know of his error, nor of his wife's fall, of which he had been the cause.

1 Bracciolini.


The Merchant of Ascoli

There was a merchant of Ascoli whose name was Simon Adam. He was a very rich man, and did no little business in the Abruzzi countryside. Now it happened once that going into these parts to collect his monies, he pushed on his horse hard so as to reach Aquila before nightfall. But it came on to rain, and he arrived at a river so swollen with water that he could not ford it. He looked around, and saw a poor peasant's house 144 standing on a little hillock near-by. He went and asked for hospitality, which was at once given him. Dismounting, he gave his horse to the peasant, bidding him care for it. Then he went and dried his clothes by the fire, while his money-bags, which contained much money, he kept under his feet. The Abruzzi folk are men who, owing to their strange manner of dress, their speech, and their rough manners seem at first glance desperate and evil persons.

Simon looked intently at the men of this strange family, who were three in number. He began to think that, if they knew he had all his money upon him, they would kill him and take it from him. He supped wretchedly on a little ham and bread, and then he asked where he might sleep. One of the men told him to follow him, and he took him up to the garret, and showed him a miserable ugly room, almost without door or window, in which there was a rough bed. The men said: "Sir, we have no better to offer you." And then he left him.

Simon, looking around, saw nothing else in the room save an old bench, which he drew close 145 to the bed to lay his clothes down upon it. His purse he hid under the pillow. He tried to lock the door, but found it all broken and without bolt or lock. He began to think he had come upon bad fortune, and had fallen into the hands of thieves. He sighed, and, being of a timid nature, he was troubled with evil thoughts, and could think of no way to deliver himself from his misadventure. Finally, he concluded that the best thing to do was to throw him fully dressed on the bed, and to put out the light, so as not to give any cause to the peasants to enter the room. He determined not to go to sleep, nor did he sleep. Two hours had not passed when he heard the door creak and saw it open, whereat his fear increased, and he began to sweat and kept his eyes half-closed as though feigning to sleep. Then he saw one of the three men enter — he who was the roughest and most evil-looking of them all. In one hand he carried a light and in the other a long, broad-bladed knife. Whereat Simon, conquered by his fears, felt certain now the peasant had come to kill him. He recommended his soul to God, and at the same 146 time took a vow of great penitence should he come safe out of his danger.

When the peasant arrived in the middle of the room, he laid down the light and the knife on the ground, and moved slowly towards the bed. Then he put his right knee softly on the bed, and began to draw up his other leg, when Simon, seeing himself so near to death, decided to pray for mercy, and, without waiting further, jumped up out of bed, and fell on his knees before the peasant and said: "Why, brother, do you want to take away my life? If you want the little money I have with me, I will give it you without your working the worst of all ills on me."

The man of the Abruzzi, amazed at this piteous speech, answered: "Sir, you are wrong. I did not come here to do you any harm."

"Why then", said Simon, "did you come in so quietly that I could hardly hear you, and why do you carry that huge knife, and why did you get up on the bed?"

The other replied, laughing: "You must know that some other people have come here to seek shelter from the bad weather. So I came up 147 here this big knife to cut off a little of that ham which, as you see, is hanging from the beam above the bed where you were lying, since we have nothing else to give the people downstairs. I did not want to wake you, so I came quietly."

Simon, lifting up his eyes, saw, in fact, a ham hanging from a beam above him as the other had said. Then, taking heart, he embraced the man of the Abruzzi, who, having cut off what he wanted of the ham, went away.

But Simon, though reassured, could not sleep all night. Indeed, without waiting for the sun to get high, as soon as he saw that the sky was clear, he gave a generous tip to the peasants, had his horse saddled, and mounting it with his money-bags, spurred it and rode away as fast as he could.


The Ass and the Noble's Servant

Bernabò Visconti, gentleman of Milan, was walking along the banks of the Po when he met a peasant riding an ass. As the path was very 148 narrow and Bernabò could not easily pass, the peasant pushed his ass into the steam as an act of respect towards the noble, saying at the same time, "Pass, my lord!"

Then Bernabò ordered one of his servants to be thrown into the stream after the peasant, saying: "I do not want you, among so many rascals, to be the only one who can boast of having done a courteous deed."


Newly Married

Said a gentleman who was but a few weeks wed to his wife:

"Dearest, shall we do first in that certain fashion or shall we have dinner?" And the lady answered: "My dear, just as you like, and then we will dine."

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