Adamantina, the daughter of Bagolana Savonese, by the working of a certain doll becomes the wife of Drusiano, King of Bohemia.
SO POWERFUL, so commanding, so subtle is the wit of man that without doubt it may be held to overtop and to exceed every other human force to be found in the world; wherefore it has been said, not without just cause, that the wise man is the governor of the stars. This saying recalls to my memory a fable, by the telling of which I hope to make quite clear to you how a young girl, of mean estate and very poor, was succoured by fortune, and in the end became the wife of a mighty king. Although my fable will be very short, it may, if I mistake not, be found to be none the less pleasing and diverting on that account. I beg you therefore to lend me your ears attentively, and listen to me, as hitherto you have listened to our very worthy associates, who, of a surety, have merited from you praise rather than blame.
In the country of Bohemia, dear la dies, there lived not a long time ago a little old woman known by the name of Bagolana Savonese, miserably poor in her way of life, and the mother of two daughters, one of whom was called Cassandra and the other Adamantina. Now this woman, though she had scarce any thing to call her own, was anxious to set her affairs in order, so that she might die in peace, and as the whole of the wealth that she had to dispose of in her house and out of it consisted of a small coffer filled with tow, she made her will and gave this coffer and what it contained to her two daughters, begging them at the same time to live peacefully together after she should be dead.
These two sisters, though they were very poor in any of the endowments of fortune, were by no means wanting in mental gifts, so that in all virtues and in righteous behaviour they were no whit inferior to other women. After the old woman was dead and her body had been buried, Cassandra, who was the elder sister of the two, took a pound of the tow and sat down and began to spin the same with great care, and, as soon as she had spun it, she gave the thread she had made to Adamantina, her younger sister, bidding her to take it out into the piazza and to sell it, and with the proceeds of the sale to purchase some bread where with they might keep themselves alive. Thereupon Adamantina took the thread, and, having put it under her arm, she went her way into the piazza to sell her wares, according to the commandment of her sister Cassandra; but, as chance would have it, what she did ran entirely counter to her own wishes and to those of her sister, for as she was walking in the piazza she happened to meet there an old woman who was carrying in her apron the most beautiful and most perfectly made doll that had ever been seen. So much indeed was Adamantina’s fancy taken by the doll that, after she had looked at it and feasted her eyes upon it, her thoughts were more occupied in considering how she might become the owner thereof, than how she should dispose of her yarn. Therefore Adamantina, letting her thoughts run on in this wise, and not knowing how to get possession of the doll by anything she might say or do, made up her mind at last to tempt fortune and to see whether she could not obtain the doll through exchange. So having gone up to the old woman she spake thus: ‘Good mother, if it seem a fair thing to you, I will gladly give you this thread of mine in barter for your doll.’ The old woman, when she saw that this fine handsome young girl was so eager to have the doll for her own, was not disposed to baulk her fancy; so, having taken the thread, she handed the doll over to Adamantina.
As soon as the girl could call the doll her own, she went back to her home as joyous and content as anyone in all the world, and her sister Cassandra, when she saw her, at once inquired of her whether she had sold the yarn. To this Adamantina replied that she had sold it. ‘But where is the bread which you have bought with the price you got for the thread?’ inquired Cassandra. Then Adamantina opened wide the apron she was wearing and showed Cassandra the doll which she had got by barter of her own ware. Cassandra, who was sorely hungry and eager for the bread, when she saw the doll was filled with such violent anger and indignation that she seized Adamantina by the hair of her head, and belaboured her so grievously with cuffs and blows that the unfortunate girl could scarcely move. Adamantina took the blows with patience, and, without making any attempt to defend herself, she went away and hid herself in another room, taking her doll with her.
When the evening had come Adamantina, according to the habit of young girls, sat down by the fireside, and, having taken some oil out of the lamp, she anointed therewith the doll’s stomach and loins. Then she wrapped the doll carefully in some bits of tattered cloth, and placed it in her own bed, and a very short time afterwards she went to bed herself and lay down beside the doll. Scarcely had Adamantina fallen into her first sleep when the doll began to cry out: ‘The stool, mother, the stool. Whereupon Adamantina, wakening from her sleep, said: ‘What is the matter with you, my daughter?’ and to this the doll replied in the same words as before. Then Adamantina said: ‘Wait a little, my daughter;’ and she straightway arose ‘and ministered to the doll as if it had been a young child, and to her amazement she found that the doll filled the stool with a great quantity of coins of all sorts.
As soon as Adamantina saw what had happened she straightway awakened her sister Cassandra and showed her the money which had come to her in this strange fashion. Cassandra, when she marked what a great sum of money was there, stood as one stricken with wonder, and rendered hearty thanks to God for sending them such welcome succour in their want and misery, and, turning to Adamantina, she begged pardon of her for the blows which she had so cruelly and unjustly given to her, and she took the doll and caressed it tenderly and kissed it, holding it closely in her arms. And when the next day had come, the two sisters took of the money and purchased therewith bread and wine and oil and wood, and all other sorts of provisions which are suitable to a well-ordered house, taking care every evening to anoint the stomach of the doll with oil, and to wrap it in a piece of the finest linen, and the doll on its part never failed to supply them with money in abundance whenever they had need thereof.
It chanced on a certain day that one of their neighbours, having gone into the house of the two sisters, remarked that their home was well furnished with all the necessaries of life in great abundance, and on this account began to wonder how it was that they could have become rich in so short a time, remembering, moreover, how miserably poor they had been hitherto, and knowing full well that no one could say otherwise than that they were honest and upright in all their ways. Wherefore the neighbour, having given the matter due consideration, determined to find out the source from which they might have gathered such gain; so having betaken herself once more to the house of the two sisters, she thus addressed them: My daughters, I beg you to tell me by what means you have been able to furnish your house so plentifully, seeing that but yesterday you were in sore poverty.’ To this question Cassandra, the elder sister, made reply: ‘Good neighbour, we have done all this by the means of a single pound of flaxen yarn, which we gave in exchange for a doll, and this doll gives us money in abundance, and supplies us with every thing we need.’ The neighbour, when she heard these words was greatly disturbed in her mind, and was so filled with envy of the good fortune which had befallen the girls that she determined to steal the doll. As soon as she returned to her house, she told her husband how the two sisters had a certain doll which every night was accustomed to give them great store of gold and silver, and that she had made up her mind to steal the doll from them come what might.
Now although the husband made mock of his wife’s words at first, she went on telling her story with such a show of reason that in the end she convinced him that it was nought but the truth. But he said to his wife: ‘And how do you mean to steal it?’ To this the good woman made answer: ‘To-night you must feign to be drunk, and, having caught up your sword, you must run after me threatening to take my life, but at the same time only striking the wall. And I, pretending to be in great terror of you, will run out of the house into the street, and the two sisters, who are kindly and compassionate by nature, will assuredly open their door to me, and take me in and shelter me. I will stay there for the night, and will do the best I can for the futherance of my plan.’
And when the evening had come, the husband of this good dame took a rusty old sword of his, and, laying about with it now against this wall and now against that, ran after his wife, who, screaming and crying with a loud voice, fled out of the house. The two sisters, when they heard this hurlyburly, ran to look out into the street to see what might be the cause thereof, whereupon they recognized the voice of their neighbour, who was screaming lustily. They at once rushed away from the window, and ran down to the door giving on to the street, and having opened this they pulled her into the house. The good woman, when she had been questioned by them for what reason her husband had pursued and assaulted her with such anger, thus made reply: ‘This evening he came home so dazed with winebibbing that he wots not anything that he does. And only for the reason that I reproved him on ac count of his drunkenness, he seized his sword and ran after me threatening to kill me; but as I am more nimble and swift of foot than he, I was only too ready to get out of his way, so as to keep him from working some scandalous deed, and here I am in your charge.’ When they heard these words both the sisters said: You did well, my mother, and you must assuredly bide this night with us, lest you should fall into some fresh danger of your life, and in the meantime your husband’s drunken humour will dissipate itself.’ And when they had prepared the supper they all sat down together.
Adamantina, when she went to bed, anointed the doll according to her wont, and afterwards at the same hour of the night the doll cried out as before, and Adamantina, when she had attended to its wants, found that a large quantity of money had come from the doll in the same marvellous wise as before. The good woman who had sought refuge with the sisters was mightily astonished at what she saw, and every hour which must pass until she could steal the doll, and work this miracle for her own benefit, seemed a thousand years.
When the morning had come the good woman rose secretly from her bed, leaving the two sisters still sleeping, and stole the doll from Adamantina’s side without letting the girl know aught of the theft. Then having aroused the girls she begged leave of them to return to her home, affirming that by this time her husband would doubtlessly have got rid of the flumes of the wine with which he had so inordinately filled himself. Therefore, when she had returned to her home, she said to her husband, with a joyful face: ‘My husband, we have at last alighted upon our good fortune, for see, here is the doll I told you about, which can work such wonders.’ And one hour seemed a thousand years till night should come, and she should be able to work the charm that would make her a rich woman. And when the night had fallen the woman took the doll, and, having lighted a good fire in her chamber, she anointed with oil the stomach and loins of the doll, and wrapped it carefully in child’s clouts. Then, having taken off her own clothes, she got into bed and placed it by her side.
After the first sleep of the night was over the doll woke up and cried out: ‘The stool, madonna, the stool!’ (it did not call her mother, inasmuch as it did not know who she was), and the good woman, who was anxiously awaiting the result which was to follow, rose from her bed and attended to the doll as if it had been a young child; but this time it happened that, in lieu of coins of gold and silver, the doll filled the chamber with so offensive a smell that the good woman was fain to get as far away from it as she could. The husband, when he perceived what had happened, said to her: ‘See, fool that you are, what a pretty trick this doll has played you, and I myself am just as big a fool for having lent an ear to such crazy trash.’ But the wife, waxing angry with her husband on account of these reproaches, affirmed with many an oath that she had seen with her own eyes the vast quantity of money that the doll had given to the two sisters. However, seeing that she was mightily anxious to make a fresh experiment on the following night, the husband, who was in no humour to face again the discomfort he had lately felt, began to abuse her roundly, and launched against her the most opprobrious speeches that ever man applied to woman. Not content with this, he seized the doll in his hand, and having opened the window, he hurled it out into the street, letting it fall upon a heap of sweepings which lay below. Soon after he had done this, it happened that some peasants who tilled the ground outside the city loaded on their cart this heap of refuse, and without knowing what they did loaded up the doll likewise, and when they had filled their cart they returned to the country, and spread the load of sweepings over their fields in order to enrich the soil. Not many days after this, it chanced that Drusiano the king, who had gone out into the country to seek diversion in the chase, was seized with a sharp pain of his intestines, and forthwith sought relief of the same by the remedy of nature, but not having upon him where with to accommodate himself afterwards, he called to him one of his servants and charged him to go search for something which might serve his ends. Where upon the servant went towards the manure heap which the peasants aforesaid had collected, to see whether he might be able to find anything which would be suitable for the purpose, and, looking now on this side and now on that, his eye fell upon the doll, and having picked it up, he bore it at once to the king, who without any fear or suspicion, took hold of it and proceeded to apply it to ‘the use for which he wanted it. But the next moment the king broke out into loud cries and bellowings of pain, for the doll had seized upon his hinder parts with its teeth, and held on thereto with so tight a grip that he screamed out with agony at the top of his voice. And when those of his train heard these terrible cries, they forthwith all ran towards the king to lend him their aid. Seeing him lying on the ground more dead than alive, they were hugely astonished to find that he was suffering pain on ac count of the doll which had fastened on to him, and they began at once with their united strength to try to disengage it from his hinder parts; but all their strivings were in vain, for the more violently they tugged to get the thing away, the greater torment it inflicted on the poor king, and there was not one of them who could disturb its hold, much less make it let go. And now and again the doll would claw him with its sharp fingers so grievously that he seemed to see all the stars of the firmament, although it was yet high noon.
When the unfortunate king had re turned to his palace with the doll still hanging on to him, and was still unable to find any means of getting rid of his plague, he caused to be put forth a proclamation declaring that any man, no matter what his condition might be, who should have the wit and courage to remove the doll should be rewarded by a gift of one third part of the king’s dominions, and if it should chance that any maiden might be found able to per form this work he would take her for his beloved wife. And in addition to this King Drusiano swore by his crown, and bound himself by the most solemn oaths to keep every promise he had made in the proclamation above named. As soon as the king’s proclamation was made public, a vast crowd of people re paired to the palace in the hope of obtaining the promised reward, but to not one of them was granted the good for tune of being able to rid the king of his trouble; on the contrary, as soon as any one chanced to come near the king the doll tormented him more grievously than ever, so the wretched Drusiano, thus cruelly vexed and tortured, and unable to light upon any remedy for his strange and incomprehensible affliction, lay there almost as if he were a dead man.
Cassandra and Adamantina, who in the meantime had shed many tears over the loss of their doll, as soon as they heard the terms of the proclamation which had been issued, went straightway to the palace and presented themselves before the king. Then Cassandra, who was the elder of the two, began at once to fondle and caress the doll with signs of the greatest affection, but thereupon, so far from loosening its hold, it only vexed the poor king yet more sorely with its teeth and claws. Then Adamantina, who stood somewhat apart from the others, now came forward and said: ‘Gracious king! I beg you that you will now suffer me to try my fortune in ridding you of this ill,’ and, having gone close to the doll, she spake thus: ‘Ah, my child! leave my lord the king in peace now, and do not torment him any longer.’ And with these words she took hold of it by its clothes, and began to fondle and caress it. The doll, as soon as it recognized its own little mother, who had been in the habit of tending and caring for it, at once let go its hold on the king’s per son and sprang into Adamantina’s arms. And when Drusiano perceived what was done, he was utterly astonished and amazed, and forthwith lay down to get some repose, for during many and many nights and days he had not been able to find either rest or peace on account of the sharp agony he had undergone.
When King Drusiano was at length healed of the ills that had befallen him on account of the biting of the doll, in order that he might not fail in the fulfilment of the promise he had made, he caused Adamantina to be brought into his presence, and, seeing that she was a fair and graceful young maiden, he married her in the presence of all his people. A short time afterwards he honourably bestowed her elder sister Cassandra in marriage with sumptuous feastings and triumphs, and they all lived long together in peace and happiness.
The doll, when it saw how both of the sisters had been so honourably and richly married, and how everything had come to a happy issue, suddenly disappeared, and whither it went and what became of it no man ever knew. But in my opinion it merely disappeared after the common fashion of phantoms.
The fable told by Alteria, which here came to an end, gave great pleasure to all the company, and the laughter was loud and long as they recalled to mind the beneficent ways and habits of the doll, arid in what fashion the thing hung with its teeth and its claws upon the hinder parts of the king. And when the laughter had somewhat abated, the Signora at once gave the word to Alteria to follow the customary rule and propound her enigma, which the damsel gave in the following words, smiling pleasantly the while:
Just a span in length is he,
And plump-in form in due degree.
Full of eagerness and pride,
And ready aye with men to bide.
Very fair his seeming shows;
Capote red he wears and hose;
Bells also. A thing of pleasure
To those who love him in due measure.
As soon as Alteria had spoken the last word of her gracefully turned and difficult enigma, the Signora, who by this time had put off her kindly mood and was casting angry looks upon the damsel, cried out that it was most un seemly to speak such immodest words to the ears of honest women in her presence, and that for the future she must be careful not to trespass in like manner. Whereupon Alteria, blushing somewhat, rose from her seat, and having turned her bright face towards the Signora, spake thus: “Signora, of a truth the enigma which I have just proposed is not in any way immodest as you seem to believe, and this I shall make quite clear to you by giving you the real interpretation thereof, which I will straightway make known to you and to the rest of my gracious hearers. For be it understood my enigma signifies nothing else except the falcon, which is a bird at once tractable and bold, and comes readily to the falconer’s call. It wears on its feet jesses and bells, and it will give great pleasure and diversion to anyone who goes out fowling therewith.” When the real interpretation of this clever riddle, which had been set down by the Signora as being unseemly, had been given, all the listeners praised it heartily, and the Signora, having by this time laid aside every sinister imagining she had harboured concerning Alteria’s riddle, turned her face towards Lauretta and made a sign to her that she should approach her, and the damsel at once came in obedience to the command. And because Lauretta stood next in turn to follow with her fable, the Signora thus addressed her: “It is my wish that you refrain for a while from telling us your story, and that you should instead listen to that which the others may say. It is not because I hold you in light esteem that I speak thus to you, or rate your powers less than those of your companions, but in order that we may be entertained this evening in a fashion that is beyond our wont.” To this Lauretta made reply: “Signora, any word of yours is to me as a command,” and having made a profound obeisance to the Signora she went back to her place.
Then the Signora, turning an earnest gaze upon Molino’s face, made a sign to him thus with her hand to bid him come to her, whereupon he got up quickly from his seat and went most respectfully towards her. To him she spake in these words: “Signor Antonio, this last evening of the week is for us a special time, a season of privilege for anyone to say whatsoever he may wish to say, so for my own pleasure and for the pleasure of this honourable company, I would that you yourself should relate to us a fable in your best and happiest vein and manner, and I further beg you that you will tell us this story in the speech of Bergamo. And if—as I hope you will—you grant us this favour, we shall all of us be held by a lasting obligation to you.” Molino, when he rightly understood the Signora’s speech, stood at first as one confounded, but when he realized that he had sailed up to a point he could not weather, he said: “Signora, it is for you to command and for us to obey, but I would warn you not to expect from me n that shall give you any great pleasure, seeing that the illustrious damsels I see around me have brought the art of story-telling to such a high pitch of excellence that there is little or no chance for one like me to contribute aught to our diversion. Nevertheless, such as I am, I will do my best to give you satisfaction, not, indeed, so great as you wish, or as I would, but according to the measure of my humble powers.” And having thus spoken, Molino went back to his seat and began his story in the following words.