Galafro, King of Spain, persuaded by the words of a chiromantist, who affirmed that his wife would make a wittol of him, builds a tower in which to keep his wife, but she is in the end cozened and enjoyed by Galeotto, the son of Diego, King of Castile.
IN like measure, lovesome ladies, as that fidelity, which finds its place in the nature of every honest woman, deserves praise and the highest commendation in the mouths of all men; so that opposite quality of disloyalty, if by ill-hap it should dominate her character, merits nothing but censure, and in equal degree to be visited with universal castigation and blame. The former stretches forth her arms into all parts, and is greeted by all the world with the most cordial welcome and caresses; while the latter, by reason of her feeble gait and of her defective strength, finds it a hard matter to go forward on her way, and on this account falls at last into miserable case and is forsaken by all. Wherefore, seeing that it is my duty to make a beginning of the story-telling this evening, it has come into my mind to relate to you a fable which may perchance give you somewhat of pleasure and satisfaction.
Once upon a time there reigned over Spain a certain very powerful king, Galafro by name, a man of a very warlike temper, who by his valour conquered many adjacent provinces, which he added to his dominions. When King Galafro had grown to be an old man, he took to wife a young damsel who was called by name Feliciana. In sooth she was a very fair lady, very courteous in her manner, and fresh as a rose to look upon, and, by reason of her gentleness and gracious carriage, the king her husband loved her exceedingly, taking thought of nothing else than how he might please her. One day it happened that, while the king was passing the time in conversation with a certain man who by common fame was reputed to be exceedingly well skilled in the art of chiromancy, the desire came upon him that this soothsayer should examine his hand in order that he might know what things fortune held in store for him. The chiromantist, when he understood what the king's wish was, took hold of his hand and examined with the greatest care all the lines which were traced therein, and, after he had diligently considered them one and all, he stood silent and grew pale in the face. The king, remarking that the chiromantist had nothing to say and that his face was all white and confused, was at once fully assured that he must have discovered somewhat in the lines of his hand which was mightily displeasing to him; but, collecting his courage, he thus ad dressed him: Good master, tell me straightway what this thing is you have seen. Have no fear of any kind, because I will cheerfully listen to any declaration you may have to make to me.'
The chiromantist, assured by these words of the king that he might tell what he had seen without restraint, said: 'Sacred majesty, of a truth it irks me sorely that I should have come here to tell of things on account of which sorrow and hurt must needs arise. But, seeing that you have given me your good assurance and allowed me to speak, I will reveal to you all I have to say. Know, O king! that the wife for whom you nourish so ardent a love will one day furnish you with two horns for your brows, wherefore it is necessary that you should keep a very sharp and diligent watch over her.'
The king, as soon as he understood the purport of these words, fell into such a state that he seemed more dead than alive, and, when he had given strict command to the chiromantist that he should keep the matter a secret, he granted him leave to depart. It came to pass after this that the king, haunted by this distressing thought, and pondering both by day and by night over what the chiromantist had revealed to him, and how he might best steer clear of the rocks of hurt and ignominy which lay before him, made up his mind to shut his wife close in a strong and massy tower, and to have her carefully secured and watched, which thing he straightway carried out. Already the report was spread through all the country how Galafro the king had caused to be built a stronghold, in which he placed the queen his wife under the most jealous guard, but no one knew what was the cause of her imprisonment. This report in the course of time came to the ears of Galeotto, the son of Diego, King of Castile, who, when he had well deliberated over all he heard of the angelic beauty of the young queen and the advanced age of her husband, and the manner in which he let her pass her days, keeping her shut up a close prisoner in a strong-built tower, resolved to make an attempt to put a trick upon this king, and in the end his scheming led him to the fulfilment of his plans exactly according to his desire.
Galeotto, therefore, for the carrying out of his project, gathered together a great quantity of money and store of rich stuffs, and set forth secretly for Spain; then, having come to his destination, he took two rooms on hire in the house of a certain poor widow. It chanced that one morning early King Galafro mounted his horse, and, together with the whole of his court, went forth to the chase, with the intention of spending several days abroad. When this news was made known to Galeotto he straightway set his enterprise afoot, and, having put on the raiment of a merchant, and taken divers of his wares of gold and silver which were fairest to look upon and were in themselves of the value of a kingdom, he went forth from the house and took his way through the city, exhibiting the merchandise he had to sell now in this place and now in that. At last, when he had come into the neighbourhood of the tower, he cried out over and over again in a loud voice, 'If anyone wants to buy of my merchandise let him come forward.'
Now the handmaidens of the queen, when they heard the chapman shouting so loudly in the street, ran forthwith to the window, and, looking down there from, they remarked how he had with him all manner of beautiful cloths, embroidered with gold and silver in such wise that it was a delight to gaze there upon. The damsels ran immediately to the queen and said to her: 'Oh! Signora, a little way from here there is a chapman going about with a store of the fairest stuffs ever seen, ware in no way fitting for mere townsfolk, but for kings and princes and noble men of high estate. And amongst these we have espied divers articles which are exactly fitted for your own use and enjoyment, all studded with gems and precious stones.' Where upon the queen, being earnestly desirous to have sight of wares so lovely as these, besought the keepers of the place that they would suffer the merchant to enter; but they, fearing mightily lest they should be discovered and ill-handled therefor, had no mind to consent to her request, because the commandment laid upon them by the king was a weighty one, and they would assuredly have to pay with their lives for disregard of the same; nevertheless, cajoled by the soft and win- fling speech of the queen and by the lavish promises made by the merchant, they at last gave him free leave to enter. Then the chapman, having first made to the queen the due and accustomed obeisance, spread out before her eyes the rich and precious things he had brought in. The queen, who was of a sprightly disposition and somewhat bold of temper, as soon as she marked that the merchant was well-seeming and pleasant to look upon, began to throw glances at him out of the corner of her eye in order to rouse in him an amorous feeling. The merchant, who kept his eyes wide open the while, let his looks tell her without doubt that he was entirely of the same mind, and ready to give back love for love. And when the queen had looked at a great number of his things, she said: 'Master merchant, your wares in sooth are very fine: no one can gainsay. But amongst them all this one pleases me mightily, and I would fain know what price you put upon it.' To this the merchant made answer: Signora, there is no sum of money in the world which would purchase these things; but, seeing that you nourish so great a desire to possess them, I am willing to give them to you, rather than to sell them, if by these means I may be sure of winning your grace and favour, for upon these I set a higher value than upon every other pos session.' The queen, when she listened to this magnificent and generous offer, and considered the loftiness of mind which must have prompted it, said to herself that this man could not possibly be of mean condition, but must needs be someone of the highest station. There fore, turning towards him, she spake thus: 'Good master, this speech you have just made is not the speech of a low-born man, or of one altogether given up to the greed of gain; but it shows in happy wise the magnanimity which bears rule in your kindly heart. Wherefore I, however unworthy I may appear to be, make offer of myself to you in order that you may dispose of me according to your pleasure.' The merchant, when he perceived how kindly the queen looked upon him, and that the whole affair was like to come to the issue he so ardently desired, said to her: 'Signora, of a truth you are the one firm and enduring support of my life. Your angelic beauty, joined to the sweet and kindly welcome you have held out to me, has bound me with so strong a chain that I find it vain to hope I shall ever again be able to free myself therefrom. In sooth I am all afire with love for you, and all the water in the world could never extinguish the ardent flames which consume my heart. I am a wanderer come from a distant land for no other cause than to look upon that rare and radiant beauty which raises you far above every other lady now alive. If you, like the kindly and courteous lady you are, should take me into your favour, you would thereby gain a devoted servant, of whom you might dispose as if he were a part of yourself.' The queen, as soon as she heard these words, was quite overcome, and was seized with no small wonderment that the merchant was thus hotly inflamed with love of her; but when she looked upon him and marked that he was well-favoured and graceful, and considered moreover how cruel was the wrong worked her by her husband in thus keeping her a close prisoner in the tower, she was entirely disposed to follow the drift of her desires. But before she granted to her suitor full compliance, she said, 'Good master, in sooth the strength of love must be mighty, seeing that it has brought me to such a pass that T seem to belong to you rather than to myself. But since that, by the will of fortune, I am as it were under the sway of another, I am content that what we have been discussing should have its issue in deeds, on one condition, which is, that I should keep for myself the wares you have brought hither as the price of my compliance.' The merchant, when he perceived of what a greedy temper the queen was, forthwith took up his costly merchandise and handed it over to her as a gift, and the queen, on her part, was overjoyed at the costly and precious wares which the merchant bestowed upon her, proving thereby that her heart was neither as cold as a stone nor as hard as a diamond. Then she took the young man by the hand, and having led him aside into a little chamber adjoining, threw her arms about him and kissed and embraced him ardently. Whereupon the youth, drawing her towards him on the couch, threw himself down beside her, and, having put aside what stood in the way of his enjoyment, he turned towards her, and in their close embracements they tasted together the sweetest joys that lovers may.
Now as soon as the merchant had accomplished
his full desire, he took his way out of the chamber, demanding of the
queen that she would give him back the wares he had brought with him.
She, when she heard what he required of her, was struck with amazement,
and, all over come with grief and shame, thus addressed him: 'Surely
it does not become a noble-minded and liberal gentleman to demand a
return of anything which he may have given away in good faith. This
may indeed be the way of children, who by reason of their tender age
have no great store of sense or intellect, but in sooth I am in no mood
to hand back to you these wares of yours, seeing that you are come to
the years of full under standing, and are very wary and circumspect,
and stand in no need of guidance.' The young man, who was much diverted
at this, made answer to her thus: 'Signora, if you will not give me
what I ask of you, and let me take my leave straight way, I will not
quit this place at all until the king shall have come back; and then
his majesty, as a just and upright judge, will cause to be given back
to me either the goods or the price thereof.'
But the merchant, who was their master in subtlety, made answer to them thus: 'Good brethren, if it be your pleasure to forbid me egress, causing me to tarry here and lose my time, I promise you I will not budge from hence until your king shall have come back. Then he, as a high-minded and just sovereign, shall give judgment on the question between us.' Whereupon the guardians, who were greatly afraid lest the king should return, and, finding the young man there, should forthwith cause them to be put to death for disobedience, threw the doors of the castle open to the merchant and let him go out at his pleasure. Having got free of the castle, and left therein the queen with a greater store of shame and vexation than of costly goods, he began to cry out in the streets with a loud voice, ' I know well enough all about it, but I have no mind to tell. I know well enough all about it, but I have no mind to tell.'
At this juncture King Galafro returned to the city from his hunting, and hearing from afar the clamour which the merchant was making, was mightily diverted thereanent, and, when he had come to the palace and repaired to the tower wherein the queen was kept in hold, he went to her apartment, and instead of greeting her in his accustomed manner, he said jestingly: 'Madama, I know well enough all about it, but I have no mind to tell;' and these words he repeated several times. The queen, when she heard this speech of her husband, was seized with the thought that what he said was in real earnest, and not by way of jest, and stood as if she were dead. Then, trembling in every limb, she fell down at the king's feet, saying, 'O my lord and king! know that I have been a false wife to you; still I beg you graciously to pardon my heinous fault, although there is no sort of death I do not deserve therefor. Trusting in your mercy I hope to get your grace and pardon.' The king, who knew nought as to the meaning of the words of the queen, was mightily astonished, and commanded her to rise to her feet and give him a full account of what might be troubling her. Whereupon the queen, with trembling voice and plentiful weeping, and speaking as one bereft of her wits, told him her adventure from beginning to end. The king, when he thoroughly under stood the matter, spake thus to her: 'Madama, be of good cheer, and cease to disquiet yourself so pitifully, because whatever heaven wills to be must of a certainty come to pass.' And the king forthwith gave orders that the tower should be razed to the ground, and ac corded to his wife full liberty to do whatsoever she would, in which state they lived happily and joyfully; while Galeotto, having victoriously carried out his intent, made his way home, carrying all his goods with him.
This fable told by Diana in the fore going words pleased the company mightily, but they were much astonished that the queen should have been led to bring to light so easily her hidden fault, holding that she would have done better to suffer death a thousand-fold than to take upon herself such a scandalous disgrace. But fortune was kind to her, and kinder still was the king, who, by his pardon and by the strength of the love he had for her, set her at liberty. And now, in order to suffer the other damsels to go on with their story-telling, the Signora gave the word to Diana to propound her enigma forthwith, and she, when she heard the commandment of the Signora, spake it in these words:
Flying from their northern home
Diana's enigma was a source of great pleasure to all the listeners, some of them interpreting it in one fashion and some in another; but very few gathered its real meaning. Then Diana expounded it in these terms: "This enigma of mine is intended to describe the white snow, which falls down in great flakes, and comes from the north, and without ceasing alights upon everyone- especially in the season of great cold- and there is no place to be found where men can shelter themselves therefrom." As soon as she had thus excellently set forth the meaning of her enigma, Lionora rose from her seat, which was beside Diana's, and in the following words made a beginning of her fable.
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.