Dalfreno, King of Tunis, had two sons, one called Listico and the other Livoretto. The latter afterwards was known as Porcarollo, and in the end won for his wife Bellisandra, the daughter of Attarante, King of Damascus.
IT IS no light matter for the steersman, let him be ever so watchful, to bring his tempest- strained bark safely into a sheltered port when he may be vexed by envious and contrary fortune, and tossed about amongst the hard and ragged rocks. And so it happened to Livoretto, son of the great King of Tunis, who, after many dangers hardly to be believed, heavy afflictions, and lengthened fatigues, succeeded at last, through the valour of his spirit, in trampling under foot his wretched fortune, and in the end reigned peacefully over his kingdom in Cairo. All this I shall make abundantly clear in the fable I am about to relate to you.
In Tunis, a stately city on the coast of Africa, there reigned, not long ago, a famous and powerful king named Dalfreno. He had to wife a beautiful and wise lady, and by her begot two sons, modest, well-doing and obedient in everything to their father, the elder being named Listico, and the younger Livoretto. Now it happened that by royal decree, as well as by the approved usage of the state, these youths were barred in the succession to their father’s throne, which ran entirely in the female line. Wherefore the king, when he saw that he was by evil fortune deprived of female issue, and was assured by knowledge of himself that he was come to an age when he could hardly expect any further progeny, was sorely troubled, and felt his heart wrung thereanent with unbounded grief. And his sorrow was all the heavier because he was haunted by the dread that after his death his sons might be looked at askance, and evilly treated, and driven with ignominy from his kingdom.
The unhappy king, infected by these dolorous humours, and knowing not where might lie any remedy therefor, turned to the queen, whom he loved very dearly, and thus addressed her: ‘Madam, what shall we do with these Sons of ours, seeing that we are bereft of all power to leave them heirs to our kingdom both by the law and by the ancient custom of the land?’ The sagacious queen at once made answer to him in these words: ‘Sire, it seems to me that, as you have a greater store of riches than any other king in the world, you should send them away into some foreign country where no man would know them, giving them first a great quantity of money and jewels. In such case they may well find favour in the sight of some well-disposed sovereign, who will see that no ill befall them. And if (which may God forbid) they should happen to come to want, no one will know whose Sons they are. They are young, fair to look upon, of good address, high spirited and on the alert for every honourable and knightly enterprise, and let them go where they will they will scarcely find any king or prince or great lord who will not love them and set great store upon them for the sake of the rich gifts which nature has lavished upon them.’ This answer of the prudent queen ac corded fully with the humour of King Dalfreno, and having summoned into his presence his sons Listico and Livoretto, he said to them: ‘My well-beloved sons, you must by this time know that, after I am dead, you will have no chance of succeeding to the sovereignty of this my kingdom; not, indeed, on account of your or from your ill manner of living, but because it has been thus determined by law and by the ancient custom of the country. You being men, created by mother nature and ourselves, and not women, are barred from all claim. Wherefore your mother and I, for the benefit and advantage of you both, have determined to let you voyage into some strange land, taking with you jewels and gems and money in plenty; so that when ever you may light upon some honourable position you may gain your living in honourable wise, and do credit to us at the same time. And for this reason I look that you shall show yourselves obedient to our wishes.’
Listico and Livoretto were as much pleased at this proposition as the king and the queen themselves had been, be cause both one and other of the young men desired ardently to see new lands and to taste the pleasures of the world. It happened that the queen (as is not seldom the way with mothers) loved the younger son more tenderly than she loved the elder, and before they took their departure she called him aside and gave him a prancing high-mettled horse, flecked with spots, with a small shapely head, and high courage shining in its eye. Moreover, in addition to all these good qualities with which it was endowed it was gifted with magic powers, but this last fact the queen told only to Livoretto, her younger son.
As soon, then, as the two sons had received their parents’ benediction, and secured the treasure prepared for them, they departed secretly together; and after they had ridden for many days without lighting upon any spot which pleased them, they began to be sorely troubled at their fate. Then Livoretto spoke and addressed his brother: ‘We have all this time ridden in one another’s company, and narrowly searched the country without having wrought any deed which could add aught to our repute. Wherefore it seems to me wiser (supposing what I propose contents you also) that we should separate one from the other, and that each one should go in search of adventures for himself.’
Listico, having taken thought of his brother’s proposition, agreed thereto, and then, after they had warmly embraced and kissed each other, they bade farewell and went their several ways. Listico, of whom nothing more was ever heard, took his way towards the West, while Livoretto journeyed into the East. And it happened that, after he had consumed a great space of time in going from one place to another, and seen almost every country under the sun, and spent all the jewels and the money and the other treasures his good father had given him, save and except the magic horse, Livoretto found himself at last in Cairo, the royal city of Egypt, which was at that time under the rule of a sultan whose name was Danebruno, a man wise in all the secrets of statecraft, and powerful through his riches and his high estate, but now heavily stricken in years. But, notwithstanding his advanced age, he was in flamed with the most ardent love for Bellisandra, the youthful daughter of Attarante, the King of Damascus, against which city he had at this time sent a powerful army with orders to camp round bout it, and to lay siege to it, and to take it by storm, in order that, either by love or by force, he might win for him self the princess to wife. But Bellisandra, who had already a certain foreknowledge that the Sultan of Cairo was both old and ugly, had made up her mind once for all that, rather than be forced to become the wife-of such a man, she would die by her own hand.
As soon as Livoretto had arrived at Cairo, and had gone into the city, and wandered into every part thereof, and marvelled at all he saw, he felt this was a place to his taste, and seeing that he had by this time lavished all his substance in paying for his maintenance, he determined that he would not depart thence until he should have taken ser vice with some master or other. And one day, when he found himself by the palace of the sultan, he espied in the court thereof a great number of guards and mamelukes and slaves, and he questioned some of these as to whether there was in the court of the sultan lack of servants of any sort, and they answered him there was none. But, after a little, one of these, calling to mind that there was room in the household for a man to tend the pigs, shouted after him, and questioned him whether he would be willing to be a swineherd, and Livoretto answered ‘Yes.’ Then the man bade him get off his horse, and took him to the pigsties, asking at the same time what was his name. Livoretto told him, but hereafter men always called him Porcarollo, the name they gave him.
And thus it happened that Livoretto, now known by the name of Porcarollo, settled himself in the court of the sultan, and had no other employ than to let fat ten the pigs, and in this duty he showed such great care and diligence that he brought to an end easily in two months tasks which would have taken any other man six months to accomplish. When, therefore, the guards and the mamelukes and the slaves perceived what a serviceable fellow he was, they persuaded the sultan that it would be well to provide some other employment for him, because his diligence and cleverness deserved some better office than the low one he now held. Wherefore, by the decree of the sultan, he was put in charge of all the horses in the royal stables, with a large augmentation of his salary, a promotion which pleased him mightily, because he deemed that, when he should be the master of all the other horses, he would be the better able to see well to his own. And when he got to work in his new office he cleaned and trimmed the horses so thoroughly, and made such good use of the currycomb, that their skins shone like satin.
Now, amongst the other horses there was an exceedingly beautiful high-spirited young palfrey, to which, on account of its good looks, he paid special attention in order to train it perfectly, and he trained it so well that the palfrey, besides going anywhere he might be told to go, would curve his neck, and dance, and stand at his whole height on his hind legs and paw the air so rapidly that every motion seemed like the flight of a bolt from a crossbow. The mamelukes and slaves, when they saw what Livoretto had taught the palfrey to do by his training, were thunderstruck with amazement, for it seemed to them that such things could hardly ensue in the course of nature. Wherefore they determined to tell the whole matter to the sultan, in order that he might take pleasure in witnessing the marvellous skill of Porcarollo.
The sultan, who always wore an appearance of great melancholy, whether from the torture of his amorous passion or by reason of his great age, cared little or nothing for recreation of any sort; but, weighed down by his troublesome humours, would pass the time in thinking of nothing else besides his beloved mistress. However, the mamelukes and the slaves made so much ado about the matter, that before long the sultan was moved to take his stand at the window one morning, and there to witness all the various wonderful and dexterous feats of horsemanship which Porcarollo per formed with his trained palfrey, and, seeing what a good-looking youth he was, and how well formed in his person, and finding, moreover, that what he had seen was even more attractive than he had been led to expect, he came to the conclusion that it was mighty ill management (which now he began greatly to regret) to have sent so accomplished a youth to no better office than the feeding and tending of beasts. Wherefore, having turned the matter over in his mind, and considered it in every light, he realized to the full the eminent qualities, hitherto concealed, of the graceful young man, and found there was nothing lacking in him. So he resolved at once to remove him from the office he now filled, and to place him in one of higher consideration; so, having caused Porcarollo to be summoned into his presence, he thus addressed him: ‘ Porcarollo, it is my will that you do service no longer in the stables, as heretofore, but that you attend me at my own table and do the office of cupbearer, and taste everything that may be put before me, as a guarantee that I may eat thereof without hurt.’
The young man, after he had duly entered upon the office of cupbearer to the sultan, discharged his duties with so great art and skillfulness that he won the approbation, not only of the Sultan, but of all those about the court. But amongst the mamelukes and slaves there arose against him such a bitter hatred and envy on account of the great favour done to him by the sultan that they could scarce bear the sight of him, and, had they not been kept back by the fear of their master, they would assuredly have taken his life. Therefore, in order to deprive the unfortunate youth of the favour of the sultan, and to let him either be slain or driven into perpetual exile, they devised a most cunning and ingenious plot for the furtherance of their design. They made beginning in this wise. One morning a slave named Chebur, who had been sent in his turn to do service to the sultan, said,’ ‘My lord, I have some good news to give you.’ ‘And what may this be?’ inquired the sultan. ‘It is,’ replied the slave, ‘that Porcarollo, who bears by right the name of Livoretto, has been boasting that he would be able to accomplish for you even so heavy a task as to give into your keeping the daughter of Attarante, King of Damascus.’ ‘And how can such a thing as this be possible?’ asked the sultan. To whom Chebur replied, ‘It is indeed possible, O my lord! but if you will not put faith in my words, inquire of the mamelukes and of the other slaves, in whose presence he has boasted more than once of his power to do this thing, and then you will easily know whether the tale I am telling you be false or true.’ After the sultan had duly assured him... self that what the slave had told to him was just, he summoned Livoretto into his presence, and demanded of him whether this saying concerning him which was openly bruited about the court, was true. Then the young man, who knew nothing of what had gone before, gave a stout denial, and spake so bluntly that the sultan, with his rage and animosity fully aroused, thus addressed him: ‘Get you hence straightway, and if within the space of thirty days you have not brought into my power the Princess Bellisandra, the daughter of Attarante, King of Damascus, I will have your head taken off your shoulders.’ The young man, when he heard this cruel speech of the sultan, withdrew from the presence over whelmed with grief and confusion, and betook himself to the stables.
As soon as he had entered, the fairy horse, who remarked at once the sad looks of his master and the scalding tears which fell so plentifully from his eyes, turned to him and said: ‘Alas! my master, why do I see you so deeply agitated and so full of grief?’ The young man, weeping and sighing deeply the while, told him from beginning to end all that the sultan had required him to perform. Whereupon the horse, tossing his head and making signs as if he were ‘laughing, managed to comfort him somewhat, and went on to bid him be of good heart and fear not, for all his affairs would come to a prosperous issue in the end. Then he said to his master: ‘Go back to the sultan and beg him to give you a letter patent addressed to the captain-general of his army who is now laying siege to Damascus, in which letter he shall write to the general an express command that, as soon as he shall have seen and read the letter patent sealed with the sultan’s great seal, he shall forthwith raise the siege of the city, and give to you money and fine clothing and arms in order that you may be able to prosecute with vigour and spirit the great enterprise which lies before you. And if peradventure it should happen, during your voyage thitherward, that any person or any animal of whatever sort or condition should entreat you to do them service of any kind, take heed that you perform the favour which may be required of you, nor, as you hold your life dear to you, refuse to do the service asked for. And if you should meet with any man who is anxious to purchase me of you, tell him that you are willing to sell me, but at the same time demand for me a price so extravagant that he shall give up all thought of the bargain. But if at any time a woman should wish to buy me, bear yourself gently towards her, and do her every possible courtesy, giving her full liberty to stroke my head, my forehead, my eyes and ears, and my loins, and to do anything else she may have a mind to, for I will let them handle me as they will without doing them the least mischief or hurt of any kind.’
When he heard these words the young man, full of hope and spirit, went back to the sultan and made a request to him for the letter patent and for everything else that the fairy horse had named to him. And when he had procured all these from the sultan, he straightway mounted the horse and took the road which led to Damascus, giving by his departure great delight to all the mamelukes and slaves, who, on account of the burning envy and unspeakable hate they harboured against him, held it for certain that he would never again come back alive to Cairo. Now it happened that, when Livoretto had been a long time on his journey, he came one day to a pool, and he marked, as he passed by the end thereof that the shore gave forth every offensive smell, the cause of which I cannot tell, so that one could hardly go near to the place, and there upon the shore he saw lying a fish half dead. The fish, when it saw Livoretto approaching, cried out: ‘Alas! kind gentleman, I beseech you of your courtesy to set me free from this foul-smelling mud, for I am, as you may see, wellnigh dead on account of it. The young man, taking good heed of all that the fairy horse had told him, forthwith got down from his saddle and drew the fish out of the ill smelling water, and washed it clean with his own hands. Then the fish, after it had returned due thanks to Livoretto for the kindness he had done for it, said to him: ‘Take from my back the three biggest scales you can find, and keep them carefully by you; and if at any time it shall happen that you are in need of succour, put down the scales by the bank of the river, and I will come to you straightway and will give you instant help.’
Livoretto accordingly took the three scales, and, having thrown the fish, which was now quite clean and shining, into the clear water, remounted his horse and rode on until he came to a certain place where he found a peregrine falcon which had been frozen into a sheet of ice as far as the middle of its body, and could not get free. The falcon, when it saw the young man, cried out: ‘Alas! fair youth take pity on me, and release me from this ice in which, as you see, I am imprisoned, and I promise, if you will deliver me from this great misfortune, ‘I will lend you my aid if at any time you should chance to stand in need thereof.’ The young man, overcome by compassion and pity, went kindly to the succour of the bird, and having drawn a knife which he carried attached to the scabbard of his sword, he beat and pierced with the point thereof the hard ice round about the bird so that he brake it, and then he took out the falcon and cherished it in his bosom in order to bring back somewhat of warmth to its body. The falcon, when it had recovered its strength and was itself again, thanked the young man profusely for his kindness, and as a recompense for the great service he had wrought, it gave him two feathers which he would find growing under its left wing, begging him at the same time to guard and preserve them most carefully for the sake of the love it bore him; for if in the future he should chance to stand in need of any succour, he might take the two feathers to the river and stick them in the bank there, and then immediately it would come to his assistance. And having thus spoken the bird flew away.
After Livoretto had continued his journey for some days he came to the sultan’s army encamped before the city, and there he found the captain-general, who was vexing the place with fierce assaults. Having been brought into the general’s presence, he drew forth the sultan’s letter patent, and the general, as soon as he had mastered the contents thereof; immediately gave orders that the siege should be raised, and this having been done he marched back to Cairo with his whole army. Livoretto, after watching the departure of the captain-general made his way the next morning into the city of Damascus by himself; and having taken up his quarters at an inn, he attired himself in a very fair and rich garment, all covered with most rare and precious gems, which shone bright enough to make the sun envious, and mounted his fairy horse, and rode into the piazza in front of the royal palace, where he made the horse go through all the exercises he had taught it with so great readiness and dexterity, that every one who beheld him stood still in amazement and could look at nought beside.
Now it happened that the noise made by the tumultuous crowd in the piazza below roused from sleep the Princess Bellisandra, and she forthwith arose from her bed. Having gone out upon a balcony, which commanded a view of all the square beneath, she saw there a very handsome youth; but what she marked especially was the beauty and vivacity of the gallant and high-mettled horse on which he sat. In short, she was seized with a desire to get this horse for her own, just as keen as the passion of an amorous youth for the fair maiden on whom he has set his heart. So she went at once to her father and besought him most urgently to buy the horse for her, because ever since she had looked upon his beauty and grace she had come to feel that she could not live without him. Then the king, for the gratification of the fancy of his daughter, whom he loved very tenderly, sent out one of his chief nobles to ask Livoretto whether he would be willing to sell his horse for any reasonable price, because the only daughter of the king was taken with the keenest desire to possess it. On hearing this Livoretto answered that there was nothing on earth precious and excellent enough to be accounted as a price for the horse, and demanded therefor a greater sum of money than there was in all the dominions which the king had inherited from his fathers. When the king heard the enormous price asked by Livoretto, he called his daughter and aid to her: ‘My daughter, I cannot bring myself to lavish the value of my whole kingdom in purchasing for you this horse and in satisfying your desire. Wherefore have a little patience, and live happy and contented, for I will make search and buy you another horse even better and more beautiful than this.’
But the effect of these words of the king was to inflame Bellisandra with yet more ardent longing to possess the horse, and she besought her father more insistently than ever to buy it for her, no matter how great might be the price he had to pay for it. Then the maiden, after much praying and intercession, found that her entreaties had no avail with her father, so she left him, and betook herself to her mother, and feigning to be half dead and prostrate with despair, fell into her arms. The mother, filled with pity, and seeing her child so deeply grief-stricken and pale, gave her what gentle consolation she could, and begged her to moderate her grief, and suggested that, as soon as the king should be out of the way, they two should seek out the young man and should bargain with him for the purchase of the horse, and then perhaps (because they were women) he would let them have it at a more reasonable price. The maiden, when she heard these kindly words of her beloved mother, was somewhat comforted, and as soon as the king was gone elsewhere the queen straightway despatched a messenger to Livoretto, bidding him to come at once to the palace and to bring his horse with him; and he, when he heard the message thus delivered to him, rejoiced greatly, and at once betook himself to the court. When he was come into the queen’s presence, she forthwith asked him what price he demanded for the horse which her daughter so much desired to possess, and he answered her in these words: ‘Madam, if you were to offer to give me all you possess in the world for my horse it could never be come your daughter’s as a purchase, but if it should please her to accept it as a gift, she can have it for nothing. Before she takes it as a present, however, I had rather that she should make trial of it, for it is so gentle and well-trained that it will allow anybody to mount it without difficulty.’ With these words he got down from the saddle and helped the princess to mount therein; whereupon, holding the reins in her hand, made it go here and there and managed it perfectly. But after a little, when the princess had gone on the horse about a stone’s throw distant from her mother, Livoretto sprang suddenly upon the crupper of the horse, and struck his spurs deep into the flanks of the beast, and pricked it so sharply that it went as quickly as if it had been a bird flying through the air. The maiden, bewildered at this strange conduct, began to cry out: ‘You wicked and disloyal traitor! Whither are you carrying me, you dog, and son of a dog?’ How ever, all her cries and reproaches were to no purpose, for there was no one near to give her aid or even to comfort her with a word.
It happened as they rode along that they came to the bank of a river, and in passing this the maiden drew off from her finger a very beautiful ring which she wore thereon, and cast it secretly into the water. And after they had been for many days on their journey, they arrived at last at Cairo, and as soon as Livoretto had come to the palace he immediately took the princess and presented her to the sultan, who, when he saw how lovely and graceful and pure she was, rejoiced greatly, and bade her welcome with all sorts of kindly speeches. And after a while, when the hour for re tiring to rest had come, and the sultan had retired with the princess to a chamber as richly adorned as it was beautiful in itself, the princess spake thus to the sultan: ‘Sire, do not dream that I will ever yield to your amorous wishes unless you first command that wicked and rascally servant of yours to find my ring which fell into the river as we journeyed hither. When he shall have recovered it and brought it back to me you will see that I shall be ready to comply with your desire.’ The sultan, who was by this time all on fire with love for the deeply injured princess, could deny her nothing which might please her; so he turned to Livoretto and bade him straightway set forth in quest of the ring, threatening him that if he should fail in his task he should immediately be put to death.
Livoretto, as soon as he heard the words of the sultan, perceived that these were orders which must be carried out at once, and that he would put himself in great danger by running counter to his master’s wishes; so he went out of his presence deeply troubled, and betook himself to the stables, where he wept long and bitterly, for he was altogether without hope that he would ever be able to recover the princess’s ring. The fairy horse, when he saw his master thus heavily stricken with grief and weeping so piteously, asked him what evil could have come to him to make him shed such bitter tears; and after Livoretto had told him the cause thereof, the horse thus addressed his master: ‘Ah, my poor master! cease, I pray you, to talk in this strain. Remember the words that the fish spake to you, and open your ears to hear what I shall say, and take good heed to carry out everything as I shall direct you. Go back to the sultan and ask him for all you may need for your enterprise, and then set about it with a confident spirit, and have no doubts.’ Livoretto therefore did exactly what the horse commanded him to do, no more and no less; and, after having travelled for some time, came at last to that particular spot where he had crossed the river with the princess, and there he laid the three scales of the fish on the green turf of the bank. Whereupon the fish, gliding through the bright and limpid stream, leaping now to this side and now to that, swam up to where Livoretto stood with every manifestation of joy and gladness, and, having brought out of his mouth the rare and precious ring, (the delivered it into Livoretto’s hand, band when he had taken back his three scales he plunged beneath the water and disappeared.
As soon as Livoretto had got the ring safely back, all his sorrow at once gave place to gladness, and without any delay he took his way home to Cairo, and when he had come into the sultan’s presence and had made formal obeisance to him, he presented the ring to the princess. The sultan, as soon as he saw that her wishes had been fulfilled by the restoration of the precious ring she had desired so ardently, began to court her with the most tender and amorous caresses and flattering speeches, hoping thereby to induce her to lie with him that night; but all his supplications and wooings were in vain, for the princess said to him: ‘Sir, do not think to deceive me with your fine words and false speeches. I swear to you that you shall never take your pleasure of me until that ruffian, that false rascal who entrapped me with his horse and conveyed me hither, shall have brought me some of the water of life.’ The sultan, who was anxious not to cross or contradict in any way this lady of whom he was so much enamoured, but did all in his power to please her, straightway summoned Livoretto, and bade him in a severe tone to go forth and to bring back with him some of the water of life, or to lose his head.
Livoretto, when he heard the impossible demand that was made upon him, was terribly overcome with grief; more over, the wrath which was kindled in his heart burst out into a flame, and he complained bitterly that the sultan should offer him so wretched a return as this for all the faithful service he had given, and for all the heavy and prolonged fatigue he had undergone, putting his own life the while in the most imminent danger. But the sultan, burning with love, was in no mind to set aside the purpose he had formed for satisfying the wishes of the lady he loved so much, and let it be known that he would have the water of life found for her at any cost. So when Livoretto went out of his master’s presence he betook himself, as was his wont, to the stables, cursing his evil fortune and weeping bitterly all the while. The horse, when he saw the heavy grief in which his master was, and listened to his bitter lamentations, spake to him thus: ‘O my master! why do you torment yourself in this fashion? Tell me if any fresh ill has happened to you. Calm yourself as well as you can, and remember that a remedy is to be found for every evil under the sun, except for death.’ And when the horse had heard the reason of Livoretto’s bitter weeping, it comforted him with gentle words, bidding him recall to memory what had been spoken to him by the falcon which he had delivered from its frozen bonds of ice, and the valuable gift of the two feathers. Whereupon the unhappy Livoretto, having taken heed of all the horse said to him, mounted it and rode away. He carried with him a small phial of glass, well sealed at the mouth, and this he made fast to his girdle. Then he rode onward and onward till he came to the spot where he had set the falcon at liberty, and there he planted the two feathers in the bank of the river according to the direction he had received, and suddenly the falcon appeared in the air and asked him what his need might be. To this Livoretto answered that he wanted some of the water of life; and the falcon, when he heard these words, cried out, ‘Alas, alas, gentle knight! the thing you seek is impossible. You will never get it by your own power, because the fountain from which it springs is always guarded and narrowly watched by two savage lions and by two dragons, who roar horribly day and night without ceasing, and mangle miserably and devour all those who would approach the fountain to take of the water. But now, as a recompense for the great service you once rendered me, take the phial which hangs at your side, and fasten it under my right wing, and see that you depart not from this place until I shall have returned.’
When Livoretto had done all this as the falcon had ordered, the bird rose up from the earth with the phial attached to its wing, and flew away to the region where was the fountain of the water of life, and, having secretly filled the phial with the water, returned to the place where Livoretto was, and gave to him the phial. Then he took up his two feathers and flew away out of sight.
Livoretto, in great joy that he had indeed procured some of the precious water, without making any more delay returned to Cairo in haste, and, having arrived there, he presented himself to the sultan, who was passing the time in pleasant converse with Bellisandra, his beloved lady. The sultan took the water of life, and in high glee gave it to the princess, and, as soon as she could call this precious fluid her own, he recommenced his entreaties that she would, according to her promise, yield herself to his pleasure. But she, firm as a strong tower beaten about by the raging winds, declared that she would never consent to gratify his desire unless he should first cut off with his own hands the head of that Livoretto who had been to her the cause of so great shame and disaster. When the sultan heard this savage demand of the cruel princess, he was in no degree moved to comply with it, because it seemed to him a most shameful thing that, as a recompense for all the great labours he had accomplished, Livoretto should be thus cruelly bereft of life. But the treacherous and wicked princess, resolutely determined to work her nefarious purpose, snatched up a naked dagger, and with all the daring and violence of a man struck the youth in the throat while the sultan was standing by, and, because there was no one present with courage enough to give succour to the unhappy Livoretto, he fell dead.
And not content with this cruel out rage, the bloody-minded girl hewed off his head from his shoulders, and, having chopped his flesh into small pieces, and torn up his nerves, and broken his hard bones and ground them to a fine powder, she took a large bowl of copper, and little by little she threw therein the pounded and cut-up flesh, compounding it with the bones and the nerves as women of a household are wont to do when they make a great pasty with a leavened crust thereto. And after all was well kneaded, and the cut-up flesh thoroughly blended with the powdered bones and the nerves, the princess fashioned out of the mixed-up mass the fine and shapely image of a man, and this she sprinkled with the water of life out of the phial, and straightway the young man was restored to life from death more handsome and more graceful than he had ever been before.
The sultan, who felt the weight of his years heavy upon him, no sooner saw this amazing feat and the great miracle which was wrought, than he was struck with astonishment and stood as one confounded. Then he felt a great longing to be made again a youth, so he begged Bellisandra to treat him in the same way as she had treated Livoretto. Then the princess, who tarried not a moment to obey this command of the sultan, took up the sharp knife which was still wet with Livoretto’s blood, and, having seized him by the throat with her left hand, held him fast while she dealt him a mortal blow in the breast. Then she commanded the slaves to throw the body of the sultan out of the window into the deep ditch which ran round the walls of the palace, and thus, instead of being restored to youth as was Livoretto, he became food for dogs after the miserable end he made.
After she had wrought this terrible deed the Princess Bellisandra was greatly feared and reverenced by all in the city n account of the strange and marvel bus power that was in her, and when the news was brought to her that the young man was a son of Dalfreno, King of Tunis, and that his rightful name was Livoretto, she wrote a letter to the old father, giving him therein a full account of all the amazing accidents which had befallen his son, and begging him most urgently to come at once to Cairo in order that he might be present at the nuptials of herself and Livoretto. And King Dalfreno, when he heard this good news about his son—of whom no word had been brought since he left Tunis with his brother—rejoiced greatly, and, having put all his affairs in good order, betook himself to Cairo and was welcomed by the whole city with the most distinguished marks of honour. After the space of a few days Bellisandra and Livoretto were married amidst the rejoicings of the whole people, and thus with the princess as his lawful spouse, with sumptuous triumphs and feastings, and with the happiest omens, Livoretto was made the Sultan of Cairo, where for many years he governed his realm in peace and lived a life of pleasure and tranquility. Dalfreno tarried in Cairo a few days after the nuptials, and then took leave of his son and daughter-in- law and returned to Tunis safe and sound.
As soon as Arianna had come to the end of her interesting story, she pro pounded her enigma forthwith, in order that the rule which governed the entertainment might be strictly kept:
Small what though my compass be,
A mighty furnace gendered me.
The covering which round me clings,
Is what from marshy plains upsprings.
My soul, which should be free as air,
Is doomed a prisoner close to fare.
It is a liquor bland and sweet.
No jest is this which I repeat
All silken are my festal clothes,
And man will put me to his nose,
To make me all my charms disclose.
All those assembled listened with the keenest attention to the ingenious enigma set forth by Arianna, and they made her repeat it over and over again, but not one of the whole company proved to have wit sharp enough for the disentangling thereof. At last the fair Arianna gave the solution in these words: “Ladies and gentlemen, my enigma is supposed to describe a little flask of rose water, which has a body of glass born in a fiery furnace. Its covering comes from the marshes, for it is made of straw, and the soul which is contained within is the rose water. The gown or robe with which it is surrounded is the vessel, and whosoever sees it puts it under his nose to enjoy the odour thereof.
As soon as Arianna had given the solution of her enigma, Lauretta, who was seated next to her, remembered that it was her turn to speak. Wherefore without waiting for any further command from the Signora she thus began.