Guerrino, only son of Filippomaria, King of Sicily, sets free from his father’s prison a certain savage man. His mother, through fear of the king, drives her sun into exile, and him the savage man, now humanized, delivers from many and measure less ills.
I HAVE heard by report, and likewise gathered from my own experience, most gracious and pleasure-loving ladies, that a kindly service done to another (although at the time the one served may seem in no sense grateful for the boon conferred) will more often than not come back to the doer thereof with abundant usury of benefit. Which thing happened to the son of a king who, having liberated from one of his father’s prisons a wild man of the woods, was more than once rescued from a violent death by the captive he had freed. This you will easily understand from the fable which I intend to relate to you, and for the love I bear to all of you I will exhort you never to be backward in aiding others; because, even though you be not repaid by those in whose behalf you have wrought, God Himself the rewarder of all, will assuredly never leave your good deed unrecompensed; nay, on the contrary, He will make you partakers with Him of His divine grace.
Sicily, my dear ladies (as must be well known to all of you), is an island very fertile and complete in itself, and in antiquity surpassing all the others of which we have knowledge, abounding in towns and villages which render it still more beautiful. In past times the lord of this island was a certain king named Filippomaria, a man wise and amiable and of rare virtue, who had to wife a courteous, winsome, and lovely lady, the mother of his only son, who was called Guerrino. The king took greater de light in following the chase than any other man in the country, and, for the reason that he was of a strong and robust habit of body, this diversion was well suited to him.
Now it happened one day that, as he was coming back from hunting in company with divers of his barons and huntsmen, he saw, coming out of a thick wood a wild man, tall and big and so deformed and ugly that they all looked upon him with amazement. In strength of body he seemed no whit inferior to any of them; wherefore the king, having put himself in fighting trim, together with two of the most valiant of his barons, attacked him boldly, and after a long and doughty struggle overcame him and took him a prisoner with his own hands. Then, having bound him, they conveyed him back to the palace, and selected for him a safe lodging, fitted for the purpose, into which they cast him, and there under strong locks he was kept by the king’s command closely confined and guarded. And seeing that the king set high store upon his captive, he ordained that the keys of the prison should be held in charge by the queen, and never a day passed when he would not for pastime go to visit him.
Before many days had gone by the king once more put himself in array for the chase, and, having furnished himself with all the various things which are necessary thereto, he set forth with a gallant company of courtiers, but before he left he gave into the queen’s care the keys of the prison. And during the time that the king was absent on his hunting a great longing came over Guerrino, who was at that season a young lad, to see the wild man of the woods; so having betaken himself all alone, carrying his bow, in which he delighted greatly, to the prison grating, the creature saw him and straightway began to converse with him in decent orderly fashion. And while they talked thus, the wild man, who was caressing the boy, dexterously snatched out of his hand the arrow, which was richly ornamented. Whereupon the boy began to weep, and could not keep back his tears, crying out that the savage ought to give him back his arrow. But the wild man said to him: ‘If you will open the door and let me go free from this prison I will give you back your arrow, but if you refuse I will not let you have it.’ The boy answered, ‘How would you that I should open the door for you and set you free, seeing that I have not the means therefor.’ Then said the wild man, ‘If indeed you were in the mood to release me and to let me out of this narrow cell, I would soon teach you the way in which it might be done.’ ‘But how replied Guerrino; ‘tell me the way.’ To which the wild man made answer: ‘Go to the chamber of the queen your mother, and when you see that she is taking her mid day sleep, put your hand softly under the pillow upon which she is resting, and take therefrom the keys of the prison in such wise that she shall not notice the theft, and bring them here and open my prison door. When you shall have done this I will give you back your arrow forthwith, and peradventure at some future time I may be able to make you a return for your kindness.’
Guerrino, wishing beyond everything to get back his gilded dart, did every thing that the wild man had told him, and found the keys exactly as he had said, and with these in his hand he re turned to the prison, and said to him ‘Behold! here are the keys; but if I let you out of this place you must go so far from hence that not even the scent of you may be known, for if my father, who is a great huntsman, should find you and capture you again, he would of a surety kill you out of hand.’ ‘Let not that trouble you, my child,’ said the captive, ‘for as soon as ever you shall open the prison and see me a free man, I will give you back your arrow and will get me away into such distant parts that neither your father nor any other man shall ever find me.’ Guerrino, who had all the strength of a man, worked away at the door, and finally threw open the prison, when the wild man, having given back to him his arrow and thanked him heartily, went his way.
Now this wild man had been formerly a very handsome youth, who, through despair at his inability to win the favour of the lady he ardently loved, let go all dreams of love and urbane pursuits, and took up his dwelling amongst beasts of the forest, abiding always in the gloomy woods and bosky thickets, eating grass and drinking water after the fashion of a brute. On this account the wretched man had become covered with a great fell of hair; his skin was hard, his beard thick and tangled and very long, and, through eating herbs and grass, his beard, his hairy covering, and the hair of his head had become so green that they were quite monstrous to behold.
As soon as ever the queen awoke from her slumbers she thrust her hand under her pillow to seek for the keys she had put there, and, when she found they were gone, she was terrified amain, and having turned the bed upside down without meeting with any trace of them, she ran straightway like one bereft of wit to the prison, which was standing open. When on searching further she found no sign of the wild man, she was so sore stricken with grief and fear that she was like to die, and, having returned to the palace, she made diligent search in every corner thereof, questioning the while now this courtier and now that as to who the presumptuous and insolent varlet was who had been brazen enough to lay hands upon the keys of the prison without her knowledge. To this questioning they one and all declared that they knew nought of the matter which thus disturbed her. And when Guerrino met his mother, and remarked that she was almost beside herself in a fit of passion, he said to her: ‘Mother, see that you cast no blame on any of these in respect to the opening of the prison door, be cause if punishment is due to any there anent it is due to me, for I, and I alone, unlocked it.’ The queen, when she heard these words, was plunged in deeper sorrow than ever, fearing lest the king, when he should come back from his hunting, might kill his son through sheer anger at the fault he had committed, seeing that he had given into her charge the keys, to guard them as preciously as her own person. Wherefore the queen in her desire to escape the consequences of a venial mistake fell into another error far more weighty, for without the shortest delay she summoned two of her most trusty servants, and her son as well, and, having given to them a great quantity of jewels and much money and divers fine horses, sent him forth to seek his fortune, at the same time begging the servants most earnestly to take the greatest care of Guerrino.
A very short time after the son had departed from the presence of his mother, the king came back to the palace from following the chase, and as soon as he had alighted from his horse he betook himself straightway to the prison to go and see the wild man, and when he found the door wide open and the captive gone, and no trace of him left behind, he was forthwith inflamed with such violent anger that he determined in his mind to cause to be slain without fail the per son who had wrought such a flagrant misdeed. And, having sought out the queen, who was sitting overcome with grief in her chamber, he commanded her to tell him what might be the name of the impudent, rash, and presumptuous varlet who had been bold enough of heart to open the doors of the prison and thereby give opportunity to the wild man of the woods to make his escape. Whereupon the queen, in a meek and trembling voice, made answer to him: ‘O sire! be not troubled on account of this thing, for Guerrino our son (as he himself has made confession to me) admits that he has done this.’ And then she told to the king everything that Guerrino had said to her, and he, when he heard her story, was greatly incensed with rage. Next she told him that, on account of the fear she felt lest he should slay his son, she had sent the youth away into a far distant country, accompanied by two of their most faithful servants, and carrying with him rich store of jewels and of money sufficient to serve their needs. The king, when he listened to this speech of the queen, felt one sorrow heaping itself upon another, and he came within an ace of falling to the ground or of losing his wits, and, if it had not been for the courtiers who fell upon him and held him back, he would assuredly have slain his unhappy queen on the spot.
Now when the poor king had in some measure recovered his composure and calmed the fit of unbridled rage which had possessed him, he said to the queen: ‘Alas, my wife! what fancy was this of yours which induced you to send away into some unknown land our son, the fruit of our mutual love? Is it possible that you imagined I should hold this wild man of greater value than one who was my own flesh and blood?’ And without awaiting any reply to these remarks of his, he bade a great troop of soldiers mount their horses forthwith, and, after having divided themselves into four companies, to make a close search and endeavour to find the prince. But all their inquest was in vain, seeing that Guerrino and his attendants had made their journey secretly, and had let no one know who they might be.
Guerrino, after he had ridden far and traversed divers valleys and mountains and rivers, making a halt now in one spot and now in another, attained at last his sixteenth year, and so fair a youth was he by this time that he resembled nothing so much as a fresh morning rose.
But after a short time had passed, the servants who accompanied him were seized with the devilish thought of killing him, and then taking the store of jewels and money and parting it amongst themselves. This wicked plot, however, came to nought, because by the working of divine justice they were not able to agree amongst themselves. For by good fortune it happened that, one day while they were devising this wickedness, there rode by a very fair and graceful youth, mounted upon a superb steed, and accoutred with the utmost magnificence. This youth bowed and graciously saluted Guerrino, and thus addressed him: ‘Most gracious sir, if it should not prove distasteful to you, I would fain make my journey in your company.’ And to this Guerrino replied: ‘Your courtesy in making your request will not permit me to refuse it and the pleasure of your company. Therefore I give you cordial thanks, and I beg you as a special favour that you will accompany us on our road. We are strangers in this country and know but little of its highways, and you may be able of your kindness to direct our paths therein. Moreover, as we ride on together we can discuss the various chances which have befallen us, and thus our journey will be less irksome.’
Now this young man was no other than the wild man whom Guerrino had set free from the prison of King Filippomaria his father. This youth, after wandering through various countries and strange lands, met one day by chance a very lovely and benignant fairy, who was at that time suffering from a certain distemper. She, when she looked upon him and saw how misshapen and hideous he was, laughed so violently at the sight of his ugliness that she caused to burst an imposthume which had formed in the vicinity of her heart—an ailment which might well have caused her death by suffocation. And at that very moment she was delivered from all pain and trouble of this infirmity, as if she had never been afflicted therewith in the past, and restored to health. Wherefore the good fairy, in recompense for so great a favour done to her, said to him, not wishing to appear ungrateful to him: ‘O thou creature, who art now so deformed and filthy, since thou hast been the means of restoring to me my health which I so greatly de sired, go thy ways, and be thou changed from what thou art into the fairest, the wisest, and the most graceful youth that may anywhere be found. And, besides this, I make you the sharer with me of all the power and authority conferred upon me by nature, whereby you will be able to do and to undo whatsoever you will according to your desire.’ And having presented to him a noble horse endowed with magic powers, she gave him leave to go whithersoever he would. Thus as Guerrino journeyed along with the young man, knowing nothing as to who he might be, but well known of him the while, they came at last to a mighty and strong city called Irlanda, over which at that time ruled King Zifroi. This King Zifroi was the father of two daughters, graceful to look upon, of modest manners, and in beauty surpassing Venus herself, one of them named Potentiana and the other Eleuteria. They were held so dear by the king their father, that he could see by no other eyes than theirs. 4s soon as Guerrino entered the city of Irlanda with the unknown youth and with his train of servants, he hired a lodging of a certain householder who was the wittiest fellow in the whole of Irlanda, and who treated his guests with cheer of the best. And on the day following, the unknown youth made believe that he must needs depart and travel into another country, and went to take leave of Guerrino, thanking him in hearty wise for the boon of his company and good usage, but Guerrino, who had conceived the strongest love and friendship for him, would on no account let him go, and showed him such strong evidence of his good feeling that in the end the young man agreed to tarry with him.
In the country round about Irlanda there lived at this time two very fearful and savage animals, one of which was a wild horse, and the other a mare of like nature, and so ferocious and cruel were these beasts that they not only ravaged and devastated all the fair cultivated fields, but likewise killed all the animals and the men and women dwelling therein. And through the ruin wrought by these beasts the country had come to such piteous condition that no one was found willing to abide there, so that the peasants abandoned their farms and the homes which were dear to them and betook themselves to find dwelling-places in another land. And there was nowhere to be found any man strong and bold enough to face them, much less to fight with them and slay them. Wherefore the king, seeing that the whole country was being made desolate of all victuals, and of cattle, and of human creatures, and not knowing how to devise any remedy for this wretched pass, gave way to dolorous lamentations, and cursed the hard and evil fortune which had befallen him. The two servants of Guerrino, who during the journey had not been able to carry out their wicked intent through want of concord between themselves, and on ac count of the arrival of the unknown youth, now deliberated how they might compass Guerrino’s death and remain possessors of the money and jewels, and said one to the other: ‘Let us now see and take counsel together how we may easiest take the life of our master.’ But not being able to find any means thereto which seemed fitting, seeing that they would stand in peril of losing their own lives by the law if they should kill him, they decided to speak privily with their host and to tell him that Guerrino was a youth of great prowess and valour; furthermore, that he had often boasted in their presence that he would be ready to slay this wild horse without incurring any danger to himself. Thus they reasoned with themselves: ‘Now this saying may easily come to the ears of the king, who, being so keenly set on the destruction of these two animals and on safeguarding the welfare of his country, will straight- way command them to bring Guerrino before him, and will then inquire of the youth in what manner he means to accomplish this feat. Then Guerrino, knowing nothing what to say or to do, will at once be put to death by the king, and we shall remain sole masters of the jewels and the money.’ And they forth with set to work to put this wicked plan of theirs into action.
The host, when he listened to this speech, rejoiced amain, and was as glad as any man in all the world, and without losing a moment of time he ran swiftly to the palace, and having knelt down be fore the king and made due reverence, he said to him secretly, ‘Gracious king, I have come to tell you that there is at present sojourning in my hostel a fair and gallant knight errant, who is called by name Guerrino. Now whilst I was confabulating about divers matters with his servants they told me, amongst other things, how their master was a man of great prowess and well skilled in the use and practice of arms, and that in this our time one might search in vain to find another who could be compared with him. Moreover, they had many and many a time heard him boast that of his strength and valour he could without difficulty overcome and slay the wild horse which is working such dire loss and damage to your kingdom.’
When King Zifroi heard these words he immediately gave command that Guerrino should be brought before him. Whereupon the innkeeper, obedient to the word of the king, returned at once to his inn and said to Guerrino that he was to betake himself alone into the presence of the king, who greatly desired to speak with him. When Guerrino heard this he went straightway to the palace and presented himself to the king, and after saluting him with becoming reverence begged to be told for what reason he had been honoured with the royal commands. To this Zifroi the king made answer: ‘Guerrino, the reason which has induced me to send for you is that I have heard you are a knight of great valour, and one excelling all the other knights now alive in the world. They tell me, too, that you have many and many a time declared that you are strong and valorous enough to overcome and slay the wild horse which is working such cruel ruin and devastation to this my kingdom, without risk of hurt to yourself or to others. If you can pluck up courage enough to make trial of ‘an emprise so full of honour as this, and prove yourself a conqueror, I promise you by this head of mine to bestow upon you a gift which will make you a happy man for the rest of your days.’
Guerrino, when he heard this proposition of the king, so grave and weighty, was mightily amazed, and at once denied that he had ever spoken such words as had been, attributed to him. The king, who was greatly disconcerted at this answer of Guerrino, thus addressed him: ‘Guerrino, it is my will that you should without delay undertake this task, and be sure if you refuse and fail to comply with my wishes I will take away your life.’ The king, having thus spoken, dismissed from his presence Guerrino, who returned to his inn overwhelmed with deep sorrow, which he did not dare to disclose to anyone. Whereupon the unknown youth, marking that Guerrino, contrary to his wont, was plunged in melancholy, inquired the reason why he was so sad and full of grief. Then Guerrino, on account of the brotherly love subsisting between them, and finding himself unable to refuse this just and kind r told him word for word everything that had happened to him. As soon as the unknown youth heard this, he said, ‘Be of good cheer, and put aside all doubts and fears, for I will point out to you a way by which you will save your life, and be a conqueror in your enterprise, and fulfil the wishes of the king. Return, therefore, to the king, and beg of him to grant you the service of a skilful blacksmith. Then order this smith to make for you four horseshoes, which must be thicker and broader by the breadth of two fingers than the ordinary measure of horseshoes, well roughed, and each one to be fitted behind with two spikes of a finger’s length and sharpened to a point. And when these shoes are prepared, you must have my horse, which is enchanted, shod therewith, and then you need have no further fear of anything.’
Guerrino, after he had heard these words, returned to the presence of the king, and told him everything as the young man had directed him. The king then caused to be brought before him a well-skilled marshal smith, to whom he gave orders that he should carry out whatever work Guerrino might require of him. When they had gone to the smith’s forge, Guerrino instructed him how to make the four horseshoes according to the words of the young stranger, but when the smith understood in what fashion he was required to make these shoes, he mocked at Guerrino; and treated him like a madman, for this way of making shoes was quite strange and unknown to him. When Guerrino saw that the marshal smith was inclined to mock him, and unwilling to serve him as he had been ordered, he went once more to the king, and complained that the smith would not carry out his directions. Where fore the king bade them bring the marshal before him, and gave him express command that, under pain of his highest displeasure, he should at once carry out the duties which had been imposed upon him, or, failing this, he himself should forthwith make ready to carry out the perilous task which had been assigned to Guerrino. The smith, thus hard pressed by the orders of the king, made the horseshoes in the way described by Guerrino, and shod the horse there with.
When the horse was thus shod and well-accoutred with everything that was necessary for the enterprise, the young stranger addressed Guerrino in these words: ‘Now mount quickly this my horse, and go in peace, and as soon as you shall hear the neighing of the wild horse dismount at once, and, having taken off from him his saddle and his bridle, let him range at will. You your self climb up into a high tree, and there await the issue of the enterprise.’ Guerrino, having been fully instructed by his dear companion in all that he ought to do, took his leave, and departed with a light heart.
Already the glorious news had been spread abroad through all the parts of Irlanda how a valiant and handsome young knight had undertaken to subjugate and capture the wild horse and to present him to the king, and for this reason everyone in the city, men and women alike, all flew to their windows to see him go by on his perilous errand. When they marked how handsome and young and gallant he was, their hearts were moved to pity on his account, and they said one to another, ‘Ah, the poor youth! with what a willing spirit he goes to his death. Of a surety it is a piteous thing that so valiant a youth should thus wretchedly perish.’ And they could none of them keep back their tears on account of the compassion they felt.
But Guerrino, full of manly boldness, went on his way blithely, and when he had come to the spot where the wild horse was wont to abide, and heard the sound of his neigh, he got down from his own horse, and having taken the saddle and bridle therefrom he let him go free, and himself climbed up into the branches of a great oak, and there awaited the fierce and bloody contest.
Scarcely had Guerrino climbed up into the tree when the wild horse appeared and forthwith attacked the fairy horse, and then the two beasts engaged in the fiercest struggle that the world had ever seen, for they rushed at one another as if they had been two unchained lions, and they foamed at the mouth as if they had been bristly wild-boars pursued by savage and eager hounds. Then, after they had fought for some time with the greatest fury, the fairy horse dealt the wild horse two kicks full on the jaw, which was put out of joint thereby; wherefore the wild horse was at once disabled, and could no longer either fight or defend himself. When Guerrino saw this he rejoiced greatly, and having come down from the oak, he took a halter which he had brought with him and se cured the wild horse therewith, and led him with his dislocated jaw back to the city, where he was welcomed by all the people with the greatest joy. According to his promise he presented the horse to the king, who, together with all the inhabitants of the city, held high festival, and rejoiced amain over the gallant deed wrought by Guerrino.
But the servants of Guerrino were greatly overcome with grief and confusion, inasmuch as their evil designs had miscarried; wherefore, inflamed with rage and hatred, they once more let it come to the hearing of King Zifroi that Guerrino had vaunted that he could with the greatest ease kill the wild mare also when ever it might please him. When the king heard this he laid exactly the same commands on Guerrino as he had done in the matter of the horse, and because the youth refused to undertake this task, which appeared to him impossible, the king threatened to have him hung up by one foot as a rebel against his crown. After Guerrino had returned to his inn, he told everything to his unknown companion, who smilingly said: ‘My good brother, fret not yourself because of this, but go and find the marshal smith, and command him to make for you four more horseshoes, as big again as the last, and see that they are duly furnished with good sharp spikes. Then you must follow exactly the same course as you took with the horse, and you will return here covered with greater honour than ever.’ When therefore he had commanded to be made the sharply-spiked horseshoes, and had caused the valiant fairy horse to be shod therewith, he set forth on his gallant enterprise.
As soon as Guerrino had come to the spot where the wild mare was wont to graze, and heard her neighing, he did everything exactly in the same manner as before, and when he had set free the fairy horse, the mare came towards it and attacked it with such fierce and terrible biting that it could with difficulty defend itself against such an attack. But it bore the assault valiantly, and at last succeeded in planting so sharp and dexterous a kick on the mare that she was lamed in her right leg, whereupon Guerrino came down from the high tree into which he had climbed, and having captured her, bound her securely. Then he mounted his own horse and rode back to the palace, where he presented the wild mare to the king, amidst the rejoicings and acclamations of all the people. And everyone, attracted by wonderment and curiosity, ran to see this wild beast, which, on account of the grave injuries she had received in the fight, soon died. And by these means the country was freed from the great plague which had for so long a time vexed it.
Now when Guerrino had returned to his hostel, and had betaken himself to repose somewhat on account of the weariness which had come over him, he found that he was unable to get any sleep by reason of a strange noise which he heard somewhere in the chamber. Wherefore, having risen from his couch, he perceived that there was something, I know not what, beating about inside a pot of honey, and not able to get out. So Guerrino opened the honey-pot, and saw within a large hornet, which was struggling with its wings without being able to free itself from the honey around it. Moved by pity, he took hold of the insect and let it go free.
Now Zifroi the king had as yet given to Guerrino no reward for the two valiant deeds which he had wrought, but he was conscious in his heart that he would be acting in a very base fashion were he to leave such great valour without a rich guerdon, so he caused Guerrino to be called into his presence, and thus ad dressed him: ‘Guerrino, by your noble deeds the whole of my kingdom is now free from the scourge, therefore I intend to reward you for the great benefits you have wrought in our behalf; but as I can conceive of no other gift which would be worthy and sufficient for your merits, I have determined to give you one of my two daughters to wife. But you must know that of these two sisters one is called Potentiana, and she has hair braided in such marvellous wise that it shines like golden coils. The other is called Eleuteria, and her tresses are of such texture that they flash brightly like the finest silver. Now if you can guess—the maidens being closely veiled the while—which is she of the golden tresses, I will give her to you as your wife, together with a mighty dowry of money; but’ if you fail in this, I will have your head struck off your shoulders.’
Guerrino, when he heard this cruel ordeal which was proposed by Zifroi the king, was mightily amazed, and turning to him spake thus: ‘O gracious sovereign! Is this a worthy guerdon for all the perils and fatigues I have undergone? Is this a reward for the strength I have spent on your behalf? Is this the gratitude you give me for having delivered your country from the scourge by which it was of late laid desolate? Alas! I did not merit this return, which of a truth is not a deed worthy of such a mighty king as yourself. But since this is your pleasure and I am helpless in your hands, you must do with me what pleases you best.’ ‘Now go,’ said Zifroi, ‘and tarry no longer in my presence. I give you till to-morrow to come to a decision.’
When Guerrino went out of the king’s presence full of sadness, he sought his dear companion and repeated to him everything that the king had said. The unknown when he heard this seemed but little troubled thereanent, and said: ‘Guerrino, be of good cheer, and do not despair, for I will deliver you from this great danger. Remember how a few days ago you set free the hornet which you found with its wings entangled in the honey. Now this same hornet will be the means of saving you, for to morrow, after the dinner at the palace, when you are put to the test, it will fly three times buzzing and humming round the head of her with the golden hair, and she with her white hands will drive it away. And you, when you shall have marked her do this action three times, may know for certain that this is she who is to be your wife.’ ‘Ah me!’ cried Guerrino to his companion, ‘when will the time come when I shall be able to make you some repayment for all the kind offices you have done me? Certes, were I to live for a thousand years, I should never have it in my power to recompense you the very smallest portion thereof. But that one, who is the re warder of all, will in this matter make up for me in that respect in which I am wanting.’ To this speech of Guerrino his companion made answer: ‘Guerrino, my brother, there is in sooth no need for you to trouble yourself about making any return to me for the services I may have wrought you, but assuredly it is now full time that I should reveal to you, and that you should know clearly who I am. For in the same fashion as you delivered me from death, I on my part have desired to render to you the recompense you deserve so highly at my hands. Know, then, that I am the wild man of the woods whom you, with such loving compassion, set free from the prison- house of the king your father, and that I am called by name Rubinetto.’ And then he went on to tell Guerrino by what means the fairy had brought him back into his former state of a fair young man. Guerrino, when he heard these words, stood like one bemused, and out of the great tenderness and pity he had in his heart he embraced Rubinetto, weeping the while, and kissed him, and claimed him as his own brother.
And forasmuch as the day was now approaching for Guerrino to solve the question to be set to him by King Zifroi, the two repaired o the palace, where upon the king gave order that his two beloved daughters, Potentiana and Eleuteria, should be brought into the presence of Guerrino covered from head to foot with white veils, and this was straightway done. When the two daughters had come in so much alike in seeming that it was impossible to tell the one from the other, the king said: ‘Now which of these two, Guerrino, do you will that I should give you to wife? But Guerrino stood still in a state of doubt and hesitation, and answered no thing, but the king, who was mightily curious to see how the matter would end, pressed him amain to speak, crying out that time was flying, and that it behoved him to give his answer at once. To this Guerrino made answer: ‘Most sacred majesty, time forsooth may be flying, but the end is not yet come to this day, which is the limit you have given me for my decision.’ And all those standing by affirmed that Guerrino only claimed his right.
When, therefore, the king and Guerrino and all the others had stood for a long time in expectation, behold! there suddenly appeared a hornet, which at once began to fly and buzz round the head and the fair face of Potentiana of the golden hair. And she, as if she were afeared of the thing, raised her hand to drive it away, and when she had done this three times the hornet flew away out of sight. But even after this sign Guerrino remained uncertain for a short time, although he had full faith in the words of Rubinetto, his well-beloved companion. Then said the king, ‘How now, Guerrino, what do you say? The time has now come when you must put an end to this delay, and make up your mind.’ And Guerrino, having looked well first at one and then at the other of the maidens, put his hand on the head of Potentiana, who had been pointed out to him by the hornet, and said, ‘Gracious king, this one is your daughter of the golden tresses.’ And when the maiden had raised her veil it was clearly proved that it was indeed she, greatly to the joy of all those who were present, and to the satisfaction of the people of the city. And Zifroi the king gave her to Guerrino as his wife, and they did not depart thence until Rubinetto had wedded the other sister. After this Guerrino declared himself to be the son of Filippomaria, King of Sicily, hearing which Zifroi was greatly rejoiced, and caused the marriages to be celebrated with the greatest pomp and magnificence.
When this news came to the father and the mother of Guerrino they felt the greatest joy and contentment, seeing that they had by this time given up their son as lost. When he returned to Sicily with his dear wife and his well-loved brother and sister-in-law, they all received a gracious and loving welcome from his father and mother, and they lived a long time in peace and happiness, and he left behind him fair children as the heirs of his kingdom.
This touching story told by Eritrea won the highest praise of all the hearers, and she, when she saw that all were silent, pro posed her enigma in the following words:
A cruel beast of nature dread
From out a tiny germ is bred.
In hate all beings else it holds,
And each one trembles who beholds
Its form of fear. Death all around
It spreads, and oft itself is found
The victim of its fatal rage,
And war on all the world will wage.
Beneath its breath the trees decay,
The living plants will fade away.
A beast more cruel, fierce, and fell,
Ne’er rose from out the pit of hell.
When the enigma set to the worshipful company by the clever damsel had been considered and highly praised by everyone, some found one solution there- for and some another, but not one of them gave the one which rightly explained its meaning. Wherefore Eritrea, seeing that her riddle had not been understood, said, “It seems to me that the cruel animal I have described cannot be anything else than the basilisk, which hates all other living beasts in the world, and slays them with its sharp and piercing glances. And if peradventure it should chance to see its own form mirrored anywhere, it straightway dies.” When Eritrea had come to the end of the interpretation of her enigma, the Signor Evangelist,  who sat by her side, said to her smiling: “Of a truth you yourself are this basilisk, signora, for with your beautiful eyes you bring soft death to all those who gaze upon you.” But Eritrea, with her cheeks suffused with the lovely tint of nature, answered nought. Alteria sat near by, and, as soon as she perceived that the enigma was now completed, having been highly praised by all, she called to mind that it was now her turn to tell a story ac cording to the Signora’s pleasure, so she began in the following wise a fable which proved in the end to be fully as mirthful as it was commendable.