Florio, jealous of his wife, is cleverly fooled by her, and is thereby so well cured of his malady, that hereafter they live happily together.
AGAIN and again have I heard it said, dear ladies, that the cleverest stratagems of art and science are helpless when they are pitted against the tricks of a woman, and the reason of this is that woman sprang at her creation, not from the dry barren earth, but from the ribs of Adam our first father. Thus in the beginning they are made of flesh and not of dust, what though in the end their bodies, like men's, must come to ashes. Therefore, as it is my duty to begin our pleasant entertainment to-night, I have deter mined to tell you the story of a jealous husband, who, though he was always held to be one well dowered with knowledge and good sense, was nevertheless duped by his wife, and by this discipline quickly changed from a fool into a wise man.
In Ravenna, an ancient town of Romagna, the dwelling-place of many notable men, and especially of those skilled in medicine, there lived formerly a worthy physician of rich and noble family named Florio. He, being a sprightly youth and well looked upon by all - both on account of his gracious bearing and of his skill in his art-took to wife a very fair and graceful maiden by name Dorotea; but after the nuptials it fell out, by ill-hap, that her exceeding beauty kindled in his mind so great jealousy and fear lest someone should defile his marriage bed, that he caused to be stopped with brick and mortar every aperture of the house down to the smallest crack, and in addition to this he fixed over all the windows strong gratings of iron. He even went so far as to forbid anyone, however closely related by blood or joined by affinity or by friendship, from entering his house. In short, the jealous wretch spent all his strength and study, and kept watch day and night to rid himself of every cause which could possibly sully the chastity of his wife or make her forgetful of her marriage vow. Now, under both the civil and the municipal law it is held that those who are incarcerated on account of their own debts, or of bail or surety given to their creditors, ought to be liberated and discharged after a certain season of duresse; nay, even malefactors and delinquents come under the same rule; but, as far as this poor lady was concerned, it was never found possible for her, in her long- enduring affliction, to cross the threshold of the house or to break loose from her captivity, for the reason that her husband kept for the guarding of his house and for his own service varlets who were de voted to his interests. Nor was he in any less degree watchful over these guardians themselves, except when he went in and out of the house for his own pleasure. He, however, like a far-seeing cautious man, never left his home without having first searched every nook and cranny of the house, and shut close all the issues thereof, and with the utmost diligence bolted the windows with bolts and locked them with keys made with the most marvellous cunning. Thus in this cruel affliction the lady passed every day of her life. Now this discreet and prudent wife (who was in sooth the very mirror of virtue and modesty, and might justly have been put on a level with the Roman Lucretia her self), being moved with pity for this sottish delusion of her husband, considered well in her mind how she might best work a cure of his grievous distemper. The plan she ultimately fixed upon could never have been brought to a successful issue if her own natural wit had not made plain to her what notable enterprises women may perform and bring to p It happened that on a certain day she and her husband made an agreement to go together on the following morning, both of them clad in monkish garb, to confess themselves at a convent which stood outside the city. Having found out a method of opening one of the windows, she chanced to see, by looking through the bars of the iron grating, that there was passing by in the street a certain youth who had professed himself to be consumed by an ardent love of her. Wherefore, after she had cautiously called to him, she said, 'To morrow morning early you must go, clad in monkish habit, to the monastery which stands just outside the town. Then I pray you to wait for me until you shall see me coming, and my husband as well, both clad in the self-same fashion, when you must hasten in merry guise to come towards me and embrace me and kiss me, begging me at the same time to come and dine with you, and showing yourself overjoyed at meeting me in this unexpected manner; because, as I have already told you, I and my husband have agreed to go to-morrow both of us clad in the garb of religious persons to confess ourselves at the monastery afore said. So be wary and of good courage, and take care that you fail not to carry out these directions which I give you.'
As soon as she had spoken, the gallant youth went his way, and having put on monk's attire and laid in a good stock of all sorts of delicate viands and exquisite wine, repaired to the monastery the lady had spoken of and made an agreement with the reverend fathers for the loan of one of the cells in which to sleep that night. When the morning had come, he caused to be got ready yet more dainty dishes for the feast over and above those which he had already prepared, and, this business being despatched, he began to walk up and down before the doors of the monastery. Before many minutes had passed he espied his lady Dorotea approaching, clad in the habit worn by the brethren, whereupon he straightway ran to meet her with glad and joyful countenance, like to one al together overcome by some unlooked for and excessive happiness. Then, casting aside all fear, he cried, 'Ah! I leave you to think what a pleasure and delight it is to see you once again, dearly beloved brother Felix, forasmuch as so long a time has elapsed without our meeting.' And with discourse like this they embraced and kissed one another, bedewing one another's faces with imaginary tears; and, this done, he made both Dorotea and her husband his guests, and invited them to enter his cell. Then he bade them rest them selves at the table, which was superbly spread, not a single thing being wanting which the heart of man could desire. And he, having seated himself by the dame, kept pressing the choicest morsels upon her, and kissing her ardently between every mouthful. The poor jealous husband, utterly dumbfoundered by this strange freak, and with his belly fuller of rage than meat, knew not where to look, and forgot his eating and drinking in the heart-breaking vexation of seeing the rare and delicate beauty of his wife, which he had so carefully guarded for himself, thus polluted by the unlawful embraces and kissing of a lecherous monk.
With pastime such as this the day was spent, and when the dusk began to fall the husband of Dorotea, whose en- durance was now almost at an end, thus addressed the young man 'Brother, it nowise irks us to be in your company, and I take it that ours is not displeasing to you, judging from the caresses you lavish on my companion But since nightfall is approaching, and since we have now been some hours absent from our convent, whither, as you know, we are bound to return for our lodging, we pray you to suffer us to take our leave' To this speech the young man paid little heed, but the lady, marking a sign which her husband made to her, re quested on her part that they might be allowed to go their way, which grace they obtained with some difficulty, and only after Dorotea and the young man had hugged one another closely, and ex changed dozens of ardent kisses.
When the two novices in disguise had returned to their home, the husband straightway began to consider how he himself had been the cause of all the ill and torment he had lately suffered, and how, after all, it was ever lost labour on a man's part to strive against the deceits and subtle inventions of women. After a short review of his conduct, he recognized his past folly and pocketed his defeat, following up his recantation by opening all his windows, and knocking off all the bars and padlocks from the doors, so that in all the city there was not a house freer or more open than his. Thus, having abolished all restraints and granted to his wife full liberty to go whithersoever she would, he lived with her in peace, being cured of the grave and serious malady which oppressed him. And Dorotea, freed from her cruel imprisonment, loyally kept faith with her husband.
When the graceful Lionora had brought to an end her diverting story, which commended itself fully to the taste of the company, the Signora gave the word for her to complete her task by setting forth her enigma, which with out waiting for further direction she did in the following terms:
One day upon a bank of grass
Although nobody fathomed the meaning of this enigma, the men began to laugh, and the ladies blushed somewhat and hid their faces. When she saw this, Lionora at once gave the interpretation: "It is a pretty village girl seated on a bank of grass and holding between her knees a large mortar, and in her hands a pestle. This latter she works lustily, braying certain herbs, to extract therefrom their juices, which she uses to flavour her sauce."
The company received the solution of this difficult enigma with approbation, and when they had given over laughing, the Signora directed Lodovica to set forth her story, and she, to show her readiness, began at once in these terms.
Straparola, Giovanni Francesco. The Facetious Nights by Straparola. W. G. Waters, translator. Jules Garnier and E. R. Hughes, illustrators. London: Privately Printed for Members of the Society of Bibliophiles, 1901. 4 volumes.