The Seventh Story

The Soldan Of Babylon Sendeth A Daughter Of His To Be Married To The King Of Algarve, And She, By Divers Chances, In The Space Of Four Years Cometh To The Hands Of Nine Men In Various Places. Ultimately, Being Restored To Her Father For A Maid, She Goeth To The King Of Algarve To Wife, As First She Did

Had Emilia's story been much longer protracted, it is like the compassion had by the young ladies on the misfortunes of Madam Beritola would have brought them to tears; but, an end being now made thereof, it pleased the queen that Pamfilo should follow on with his story, and accordingly he, who was very obedient, began thus, "Uneath, charming ladies, is it for us to know that which is meet for us, for that, as may oftentimes have been seen, many, imagining that, were they but rich, they might avail to live without care and secure, have not only with prayers sought riches of God, but have diligently studied to acquire them, grudging no toil and no peril in the quest, and who,—whereas, before they became enriched, they loved their lives,—once having gotten their desire, have found folk to slay them, for greed of so ample an inheritance. Others of low estate, having, through a thousand perilous battles and the blood of their brethren and their friends, mounted to the summit of kingdoms, thinking in the royal estate to enjoy supreme felicity, without the innumerable cares and alarms whereof they see and feel it full, have learned, at the cost of their lives, that poison is drunken at royal tables in cups of gold. Many there be who have with most ardent appetite desired bodily strength and beauty and divers personal adornments and perceived not that they had desired ill till they found these very gifts a cause to them of death or dolorous life. In fine, not to speak particularly of all the objects of human desire, I dare say that there is not one which can, with entire assurance, be chosen by mortal men as secure from the vicissitudes of fortune; wherefore, an we would do aright, needs must we resign ourselves to take and possess that which is appointed us of Him who alone knoweth that which behoveth unto us and is able to give it to us. But for that, whereas men sin in desiring various things, you, gracious ladies, sin, above all, in one, to wit, in wishing to be fair,—insomuch that, not content with the charms vouchsafed you by nature, you still with marvellous art study to augment them,—it pleaseth me to recount to you how ill-fortunedly fair was a Saracen lady, whom it befell, for her beauty, to be in some four years' space nine times wedded anew.

It is now a pretty while since there was a certain Soldan of Babylon,[113] by name Berminedab, to whom in his day many things happened in accordance with his pleasure.[114] Amongst many other children, both male and female, he had a daughter called Alatiel, who, by report of all who saw her, was the fairest woman to be seen in the world in those days, and having, in a great defeat he had inflicted upon a vast multitude of Arabs who were come upon him, been wonder-well seconded by the King of Algarve,[115] had, at his request, given her to him to wife, of especial favour; wherefore, embarking her aboard a ship well armed and equipped, with an honourable company of men and ladies and store of rich and sumptuous gear and furniture, he despatched her to him, commending her to God.

The sailors, seeing the weather favourable, gave their sails to the wind and departing the port of Alexandria, fared on prosperously many days, and having now passed Sardinia, deemed themselves near the end of their voyage, when there arose one day of a sudden divers contrary winds, which, being each beyond measure boisterous, so harassed the ship, wherein was the lady, and the sailors, that the latter more than once gave themselves over for lost. However, like valiant men, using every art and means in their power, they rode it out two days, though buffeted by a terrible sea; but, at nightfall of the third day, the tempest abating not, nay, waxing momently, they felt the ship open, being then not far off Majorca, but knowing not where they were neither availing to apprehend it either by nautical reckoning or by sight, for that the sky was altogether obscured by clouds and dark night; wherefore, seeing no other way of escape and having each himself in mind and not others, they lowered a shallop into the water, into which the officers cast themselves, choosing rather to trust themselves thereto than to the leaking ship. The rest of the men in the ship crowded after them into the boat, albeit those who had first embarked therein opposed it, knife in hand,—and thinking thus to flee from death, ran straight into it, for that the boat, availing not, for the intemperance of the weather, to hold so many, foundered and they perished one and all.

As for the ship, being driven by a furious wind and running very swiftly, albeit it was now well nigh water-logged, (none being left on board save the princess and her women, who all, overcome by the tempestuous sea and by fear, lay about the decks as they were dead,) it stranded upon a beach of the island of Majorca and such and so great was the shock that it well nigh buried itself in the sand some stone's cast from the shore, where it abode the night, beaten by the waves, nor might the wind avail to stir it more. Broad day came and the tempest somewhat abating, the princess, who was half dead, raised her head and weak as she was, fell to calling now one, now another of her household, but to no purpose, for that those she called were too far distant. Finding herself unanswered of any and seeing no one, she marvelled exceedingly and began to be sore afraid; then, rising up, as best she might, she saw the ladies who were in her company and the other women lying all about and trying now one and now another, found few who gave any signs of life, the most of them being dead what with sore travail of the stomach and what with affright; wherefore fear redoubled upon her.

Nevertheless, necessity constraining her, for that she saw herself alone there and had neither knowledge nor inkling where she was, she so goaded those who were yet alive that she made them arise and finding them unknowing whither the men were gone and seeing the ship stranded and full of water, she fell to weeping piteously, together with them. It was noon ere they saw any about the shore or elsewhere, whom they might move to pity and succour them; but about that hour there passed by a gentleman, by name Pericone da Visalgo, returning by chance from a place of his, with sundry of his servants on horseback. He saw the ship and forthright conceiving what it was, bade one of the servants board it without delay and tell him what he found there. The man, though with difficulty, made his way on board and found the young lady, with what little company she had, crouched, all adread, under the heel of the bowsprit. When they saw him, they besought him, weeping, of mercy again and again; but, perceiving that he understood them not nor they him, they made shift to make known to him their misadventure by signs.

The servant having examined everything as best he might, reported to Pericone that which was on board; whereupon the latter promptly caused to bring the ladies ashore, together with the most precious things that were in the ship and might be gotten, and carried them off to a castle of his, where, the women being refreshed with food and rest, he perceived, from the richness of her apparel, that the lady whom he had found must needs be some great gentlewoman, and of this he was speedily certified by the honour that he saw the others do her and her alone; and although she was pale and sore disordered of her person, for the fatigues of the voyage, her features seemed to him exceeding fair; wherefore he forthright took counsel with himself, an she had no husband, to seek to have her to wife, and if he might not have her in marriage, to make shift to have her favours.

He was a man of commanding presence and exceeding robust and having for some days let tend the lady excellently well and she being thereby altogether restored, he saw her lovely past all conception and was grieved beyond measure that he could not understand her nor she him and so he might not learn who she was. Nevertheless, being inordinately inflamed by her charms, he studied, with pleasing and amorous gestures, to engage her to do his pleasure without contention; but to no avail; she altogether rejected his advances and so much the more waxed Pericone's ardour. The lady, seeing this and having now abidden there some days, perceived, by the usances of the folk, that she was among Christians and in a country where, even if she could, it had little profited her to make herself known and foresaw that, in the end, either perforce or for love, needs must she resign herself to do Pericone's pleasure, but resolved nevertheless by dint of magnanimity to override the wretchedness of her fortune; wherefore she commanded her women, of whom but three were left her, that they should never discover to any who she was, except they found themselves whereas they might look for manifest furtherance in the regaining of their liberty, and urgently exhorted them, moreover, to preserve their chastity, avouching herself determined that none, save her husband, should ever enjoy her. They commended her for this and promised to observe her commandment to the best of their power.

Meanwhile Pericone, waxing daily more inflamed, insomuch as he saw the thing desired so near and yet so straitly denied, and seeing that his blandishments availed him nothing, resolved to employ craft and artifice, reserving force unto the last. Wherefore, having observed bytimes that wine was pleasing to the lady, as being unused to drink thereof, for that her law forbade it, he bethought himself that he might avail to take her with this, as with a minister of enus. Accordingly, feigning to reck no more of that whereof she showed herself so chary, he made one night by way of special festival a goodly supper, whereto he bade the lady, and therein, the repast being gladdened with many things, he took order with him who served her that he should give her to drink of various wines mingled. The cupbearer did his bidding punctually and she, being nowise on her guard against this and allured by the pleasantness of the drink, took more thereof than consisted with her modesty; whereupon, forgetting all her past troubles, she waxed merry and seeing some women dance after the fashion of Majorca, herself danced in the Alexandrian manner.

Pericone, seeing this, deemed himself on the high road to that which he desired and continuing the supper with great plenty of meats and wines, protracted it far into the night. Ultimately, the guests having departed, he entered with the lady alone into her chamber, where she, more heated with wine than restrained by modesty, without any reserve of shamefastness, undid herself in his presence, as he had been one of her women, and betook herself to bed. Pericone was not slow to follow her, but, putting out all the lights, promptly hid himself beside her and catching her in his arms, proceeded, without any gainsayal on her part, amorously to solace himself with her; which when once she had felt,—having never theretofore known with what manner horn men butt,—as if repenting her of not having yielded to Pericone's solicitations, thenceforth, without waiting to be bidden to such agreeable nights, she oftentimes invited herself thereto, not by words, which she knew not how to make understood, but by deeds.

But, in the midst of this great pleasance of Pericone and herself, fortune, not content with having reduced her from a king's bride to be the mistress of a country gentleman, had foreordained unto her a more barbarous alliance. Pericone had a brother by name Marato, five-and-twenty years of age and fair and fresh as a rose, who saw her and she pleased him mightily. Himseemed, moreover, according to that which he could apprehend from her gestures, that he was very well seen of her and conceiving that nought hindered him of that which he craved of her save the strait watch kept on her by Pericone, he fell into a barbarous thought, whereon the nefarious effect followed without delay.

There was then, by chance, in the harbour of the city a vessel laden with merchandise and bound for Chiarenza[116] in Roumelia; whereof two young Genoese were masters, who had already hoisted sail to depart as soon as the wind should be fair. Marato, having agreed with them, took order how he should on the ensuing night be received aboard their ship with the lady; and this done, as soon as it was dark, having inwardly determined what he should do, he secretly betook himself, with certain of his trustiest friends, whom he had enlisted for the purpose, to the house of Pericone, who nowise mistrusted him. There he hid himself, according to the ordinance appointed between them, and after a part of the night had passed, he admitted his companions and repaired with them to the chamber where Pericone lay with the lady. Having opened the door, they slew Pericone, as he slept, and took the lady, who was now awake and in tears, threatening her with death, if she made any outcry; after which they made off, unobserved, with great part of Pericone's most precious things and betook themselves in haste to the sea-shore, where Marato and the lady embarked without delay on board the ship, whilst his companions returned whence they came.

The sailors, having a fair wind and a fresh, made sail and set out on their voyage, whilst the princess sore and bitterly bewailed both her former and that her second misadventure; but Marato, with that Saint Waxeth-in-hand, which God hath given us [men,] proceeded to comfort her after such a fashion that she soon grew familiar with him and forgetting Pericone, began to feel at her ease, when fortune, as if not content with the past tribulations wherewith it had visited her, prepared her a new affliction; for that, she being, as we have already more than once said, exceeding fair of favour and of very engaging manners, the two young men, the masters of the ship, became so passionately enamoured of her that, forgetting all else, they studied only to serve and pleasure her, being still on their guard lest Marato should get wind of the cause. Each becoming aware of the other's passion, they privily took counsel together thereof, and agreed to join in getting the lady for themselves and enjoy her in common, as if love should suffer this, as do merchandise and gain.

Seeing her straitly guarded by Marato and being thereby hindered of their purpose, one day, as the ship fared on at full speed under sail and Marato stood at the poop, looking out on the sea and nowise on his guard against them, they went of one accord and laying hold of him suddenly from behind, cast him into the sea, nor was it till they had sailed more than a mile farther that any perceived Marato to be fallen overboard. Alatiel, hearing this and seeing no possible way of recovering him, began anew to make moan for herself; whereupon the two lovers came incontinent to her succour and with soft words and very good promises, whereof she understood but little, studied to soothe and console the lady, who lamented not so much her lost husband as her own ill fortune. After holding much discourse with her at one time and another, themseeming after awhile they had well nigh comforted her, they came to words with one another which should first take her to lie with him. Each would fain be the first and being unable to come to any accord upon this, they first with words began a sore and hot dispute and thereby kindled into rage, they clapped hands to their knives and falling furiously on one another, before those on board could part them, dealt each other several blows, whereof one incontinent fell dead, whilst the other abode on life, though grievously wounded in many places.

This new mishap was sore unpleasing to the lady, who saw herself alone, without aid or counsel of any, and feared lest the anger of the two masters' kinsfolk and friends should revert upon herself; but the prayers of the wounded man and their speedy arrival at Chiarenza delivered her from danger of death. There she went ashore with the wounded man and took up her abode with him in an inn, where the report of her great beauty soon spread through the city and came to the ears of the Prince of the Morea, who was then at Chiarenza and was fain to see her. Having gotten sight of her and himseeming she was fairer than report gave out, he straightway became so sore enamoured of her that he could think of nothing else and hearing how she came thither, doubted not to be able to get her for himself. As he cast about for a means of effecting his purpose, the wounded man's kinsfolk got wind of his desire and without awaiting more, sent her to him forthright, which was mighty agreeable to the prince and to the lady also, for that herseemed she was quit of a great peril. The prince, seeing her graced, over and above her beauty, with royal manners and unable otherwise to learn who she was, concluded her to be some noble lady, wherefore he redoubled in his love for her and holding her in exceeding honour, entreated her not as a mistress, but as his very wife.

The lady, accordingly, having regard to her past troubles and herseeming she was well enough bestowed, was altogether comforted and waxing blithe again, her beauties flourished on such wise that it seemed all Roumelia could talk of nothing else. The report of her loveliness reaching the Duke of Athens, who was young and handsome and doughty of his person and a friend and kinsman of the prince, he was taken with a desire to see her and making a show of paying him a visit, as he was won't bytimes to do, repaired, with a fair and worshipful company, to Chiarenza, where he was honourably received and sumptuously entertained. Some days after, the two kinsmen coming to discourse together of the lady's charms, the duke asked if she were indeed so admirable a creature as was reported; to which the prince answered, 'Much more so; but thereof I will have not my words, but thine own eyes certify thee.' Accordingly, at the duke's solicitation, they betook themselves together to the princess's lodging, who, having had notice of their coming, received them very courteously and with a cheerful favour, and they seated her between them, but might not have the pleasure of conversing with her, for that she understood little or nothing of their language; wherefore each contented himself with gazing upon her, as upon a marvel, and especially the duke, who could scarce bring himself to believe that she was a mortal creature and thinking to satisfy his desire with her sight, heedless of the amorous poison he drank in at his eyes, beholding her, he miserably ensnared himself, becoming most ardently enamoured of her.

After he had departed her presence with the prince and had leisure to bethink himself, he esteemed his kinsman happy beyond all others in having so fair a creature at his pleasure, and after many and various thoughts, his unruly passion weighing more with him than his honour, he resolved, come thereof what might, to do his utmost endeavour to despoil the prince of that felicity and bless himself therewith. Accordingly, being minded to make a quick despatch of the matter and setting aside all reason and all equity, he turned his every thought to the devising of means for the attainment of his wishes, and one day, in accordance with the nefarious ordinance taken by him with a privy chamberlain of the prince's, by name Ciuriaci, he let make ready in secret his horses and baggage for a sudden departure.

The night come, he was, with a companion, both armed, stealthily introduced by the aforesaid Ciuriaci into the prince's chamber and saw the latter (the lady being asleep) standing, all naked for the great heat, at a window overlooking the sea-shore, to take a little breeze that came from that quarter; whereupon, having beforehand informed his companion of that which he had to do, he went softly up to the window and striking the prince with a knife, stabbed him, through and through the small of his back; then, taking him up in haste, he cast him forth of the window. The palace stood over against the sea and was very lofty and the window in question looked upon certain houses that had been undermined by the beating of the waves and where seldom or never any came; wherefore it happened, as the duke had foreseen, that the fall of the prince's body was not nor might be heard of any. The duke's companion, seeing this done, pulled out a halter he had brought with him to that end and making a show of caressing Ciuriaci, cast it adroitly about his neck and drew it so that he could make no outcry; then, the duke coming up, they strangled him and cast him whereas they had cast the prince.

This done and they being manifestly certified that they had been unheard of the lady or of any other, the duke took a light in his hand and carrying it to the bedside, softly uncovered the princess, who slept fast. He considered her from head to foot and mightily commended her; for, if she was to his liking, being clothed, she pleased him, naked, beyond all compare. Wherefore, fired with hotter desire and unawed by his new-committed crime, he couched himself by her side, with hands yet bloody, and lay with her, all sleepy-eyed as she was and thinking him to be the prince. After he had abidden with her awhile in the utmost pleasure, he arose and summoning certain of his companions, caused take up the lady on such wise that she could make no outcry and carry her forth by a privy door, whereat he had entered; then, setting her on horseback, he took to the road with all his men, as softliest he might, and returned to his own dominions. However (for that he had a wife) he carried the lady, who was the most distressful of women, not to Athens, but to a very goodly place he had by the sea, a little without the city, and there entertained her in secret, causing honourably furnish her with all that was needful.

The prince's courtiers on the morrow awaited his rising till none, when, hearing nothing, they opened the chamber-doors, which were but closed, and finding no one, concluded that he was gone somewhither privily, to pass some days there at his ease with his fair lady, and gave themselves no farther concern. Things being thus, it chanced next day that an idiot, entering the ruins where lay the bodies of the prince and Ciuriaci, dragged the latter forth by the halter and went haling him after him. The body was, with no little wonderment, recognized by many, who, coaxing the idiot to bring them to the place whence he had dragged it, there, to the exceeding grief of the whole city, found the prince's corpse and gave it honourable burial. Then, enquiring for the authors of so heinous a crime and finding that the Duke of Athens was no longer there, but had departed by stealth, they concluded, even as was the case, that it must be he who had done this and carried off the lady; whereupon they straightway substituted a brother of the dead man to their prince and incited him with all their might to vengeance. The new prince, being presently certified by various other circumstances that it was as they had surmised, summoned his friends and kinsmen and servants from divers parts and promptly levying a great and goodly and powerful army, set out to make war upon the Duke of Athens.

The latter, hearing of this, on like wise mustered all his forces for his own defence, and to his aid came many lords, amongst whom the Emperor of Constantinople sent Constantine his son and Manual his nephew, with a great and goodly following. The two princes were honourably received by the duke and yet more so by the duchess, for that she was their sister,[117] and matters drawing thus daily nearer unto war, taking her occasion, she sent for them both one day to her chamber and there, with tears galore and many words, related to them the whole story, acquainting them with the causes of the war. Moreover, she discovered to them the affront done her by the duke in the matter of the woman whom it was believed he privily entertained, and complaining sore thereof, besought them to apply to the matter such remedy as best they might, for the honour of the duke and her own solacement.

The young men already knew all the facts as it had been; wherefore, without enquiring farther, they comforted the duchess, as best they might, and filled her with good hope. Then, having learned from her where the lady abode, they took their leave and having a mind to see the latter, for that they had oftentimes heard her commended for marvellous beauty, they besought the duke to show her to them. He, unmindful of that which had befallen the Prince of the Morea for having shown her to himself, promised to do this and accordingly next morning, having let prepare a magnificent collation in a very goodly garden that pertained to the lady's place of abode, he carried them and a few others thither to eat with her. Constantine, sitting with Alatiel, fell a-gazing upon her, full of wonderment, avouching in himself that he had never seen aught so lovely and that certes the duke must needs be held excused, ay, and whatsoever other, to have so fair a creature, should do treason or other foul thing, and looking on her again and again and each time admiring her more, it betided him no otherwise than it had betided the duke; wherefore, taking his leave, enamoured of her, he abandoned all thought of the war and occupied himself with considering how he might take her from the duke, carefully concealing his passion the while from every one.

Whilst he yet burnt in this fire, the time came to go out against the new prince, who now drew near to the duke's territories; wherefore the latter and Constantine and all the others, sallied forth of Athens according to the given ordinance and betook themselves to the defence of certain frontiers, so the prince might not avail to advance farther. When they had lain there some days, Constantine having his mind and thought still intent upon the lady and conceiving that, now the duke was no longer near her, he might very well avail to accomplish his pleasure, feigned himself sore indisposed of his person, to have an occasion of returning to Athens; wherefore, with the duke's leave, committing his whole power to Manuel, he returned to Athens to his sister, and there, after some days, putting her upon talk of the affront which herseemed she suffered from the duke by reason of the lady whom he entertained, he told her that, an it liked her, he would soon ease her thereof by causing take the lady from whereas she was and carry her off. The duchess, conceiving that he did this of regard for herself and not for love of the lady, answered that it liked her exceeding well so but it might be done on such wise that the duke should never know that she had been party thereto, which Constantine fully promised her, and thereupon she consented that he should do as seemed best to him.

Constantine, accordingly, let secretly equip a light vessel and sent it one evening to the neighbourhood of the garden where the lady abode; then, having taught certain of his men who were on board what they had to do, he repaired with others to the lady's pavilion, where he was cheerfully received by those in her service and indeed by the lady herself, who, at his instance, betook herself with him to the garden, attended by her servitors and his companions. There, making as he would speak with her on the duke's part, he went with her alone towards a gate, which gave upon the sea and had already been opened by one of his men, and calling the bark thither with the given signal, he caused suddenly seize the lady and carry her aboard; then, turning to her people, he said to them, 'Let none stir or utter a word, an he would not die; for that I purpose not to rob the duke of his wench, but to do away the affront which he putteth upon my sister.'

To this none dared make answer; whereupon Constantine, embarking with his people and seating himself by the side of the weeping lady, bade thrust the oars into the water and make off. Accordingly, they put out to sea and not hieing, but flying,[118] came, after a little after daybreak on the morrow, to Egina, where they landed and took rest, whilst Constantine solaced himself awhile with the lady, who bemoaned her ill-fated beauty. Thence, going aboard the bark again, they made their way, in a few days, to Chios, where it pleased Constantine to take up his sojourn, as in a place of safety, for fear of his father's resentment and lest the stolen lady should be taken from him. There the fair lady bewailed her ill fate some days, but, being presently comforted by Constantine, she began, as she had done otherwhiles, to take her pleasure of that which fortune had foreordained to her.

Things being at this pass, Osbech, King of the Turks, who abode in continual war with the Emperor, came by chance to Smyrna, where hearing how Constantine abode in Chios, without any precaution, leading a wanton life with a mistress of his, whom he had stolen away, he repaired thither one night with some light-armed ships and entering the city by stealth with some of his people, took many in their beds, ere they knew of the enemy's coming. Some, who, taking the alert, had run to arms, he slew and having burnt the whole place, carried the booty and captives on board the ships and returned to Smyrna. When they arrived there, Osbech, who was a young man, passing his prisoners in review, found the fair lady among them and knowing her for her who had been taken with Constantine asleep in bed, was mightily rejoiced at sight of her. Accordingly, he made her his wife without delay, and celebrating the nuptials forthright, lay with her some months in all joyance.

Meanwhile, the Emperor, who had, before these things came to pass, been in treaty with Bassano, King of Cappadocia, to the end that he should come down upon Osbech from one side with his power, whilst himself assailed him on the other, but had not yet been able to come to a full accord with him, for that he was unwilling to grant certain things which Bassano demanded and which he deemed unreasonable, hearing what had betided his son and chagrined beyond measure thereat, without hesitating farther, did that which the King of Cappadocia asked and pressed him as most he might to fall upon Osbech, whilst himself made ready to come down upon him from another quarter. Osbech, hearing this, assembled his army, ere he should be straitened between two such puissant princes, and marched against Bassano, leaving his fair lady at Smyrna, in charge of a trusty servant and friend of his. After some time he encountered the King of Cappadocia and giving him battle, was slain in the mellay and his army discomfited and dispersed; whereupon Bassano advanced in triumph towards Smyrna, unopposed, and all the folk submitted to him by the way, as to a conqueror.

Meanwhile, Osbech's servant, Antiochus by name, in whose charge the lady had been left, seeing her so fair, forgot his plighted faith to his friend and master and became enamoured of her, for all he was a man in years. Urged by love and knowing her tongue (the which was mighty agreeable to her, as well as it might be to one whom it had behoved for some years live as she were deaf and dumb, for that she understood none neither was understanded of any) he began, in a few days, to be so familiar with her that, ere long, having no regard to their lord and master who was absent in the field, they passed from friendly commerce to amorous privacy, taking marvellous pleasure one of the other between the sheets. When they heard that Osbech was defeated and slain and that Bassano came carrying all before him, they took counsel together not to await him there and laying hands on great part of the things of most price that were there pertaining to Osbech, gat them privily to Rhodes, where they had not long abidden ere Antiochus sickened unto death.

As chance would have it, there was then in lodging with him a merchant of Cyprus, who was much loved of him and his fast friend, and Antiochus, feeling himself draw to his end, bethought himself to leave him both his possessions and his beloved lady; wherefore, being now nigh upon death, he called them both to him and bespoke them thus, 'I feel myself, without a doubt, passing away, which grieveth me, for that never had I such delight in life as I presently have. Of one thing, indeed, I die most content, in that, since I must e'en die, I see myself die in the arms of those twain whom I love over all others that be in the world, to wit, in thine, dearest friend, and in those of this lady, whom I have loved more than mine own self, since first I knew her. True, it grieveth me to feel that, when I am dead, she will abide here a stranger, without aid or counsel; and it were yet more grievous to me, did I not know thee here, who wilt, I trust, have that same care of her, for the love of me, which thou wouldst have had of myself. Wherefore, I entreat thee, as most I may, if it come to pass that I die, that thou take my goods and her into thy charge and do with them and her that which thou deemest may be for the solacement of my soul. And thou, dearest lady, I prithee forget me not after my death, so I may vaunt me, in the other world, of being beloved here below of the fairest lady ever nature formed; of which two things an you will give me entire assurance, I shall depart without misgiving and comforted.'

The merchant his friend and the lady, hearing these words, wept, and when he had made an end of his speech, they comforted him and promised him upon their troth to do that which he asked, if it came to pass that he died. He tarried not long, but presently departed this life and was honourably interred of them. A few days after, the merchant having despatched all his business in Rhodes and purposing to return to Cyprus on board a Catalan carrack that was there, asked the fair lady what she had a mind to do, for that it behoved him return to Cyprus. She answered that, an it pleased him, she would gladly go with him, hoping for Antiochus his love to be of him entreated and regarded as a sister. The merchant replied that he was content to do her every pleasure, and the better to defend her from any affront that might be offered her, ere they came to Cyprus, he avouched that she was his wife. Accordingly, they embarked on board the ship and were given a little cabin on the poop, where, that the fact might not belie his words, he lay with her in one very small bed. Whereby there came about that which was not intended of the one or the other of them at departing Rhodes, to wit, that—darkness and commodity and the heat of the bed, matters of no small potency, inciting them,—drawn by equal appetite and forgetting both the friendship and the love of Antiochus dead, they fell to dallying with each other and before they reached Baffa, whence the Cypriot came, they had clapped up an alliance together.

At Baffa she abode some time with the merchant till, as chance would have it, there came thither, for his occasions, a gentleman by name Antigonus, great of years and greater yet of wit, but little of wealth, for that, intermeddling in the affairs of the King of Cyprus, fortune had in many things been contrary to him. Chancing one day to pass by the house where the fair lady dwelt with the merchant, who was then gone with his merchandise into Armenia, he espied her at a window and seeing her very beautiful, fell to gazing fixedly upon her and presently began to recollect that he must have seen her otherwhere, but where he could on no wise call to mind. As for the lady, who had long been the sport of fortune, but the term of whose ills was now drawing near, she no sooner set eyes on Antigonus than she remembered to have seen him at Alexandria in no mean station in her father's service; wherefore, conceiving a sudden hope of yet by his aid regaining her royal estate, and knowing her merchant to be abroad, she let call him to her as quickliest she might and asked him, blushing, an he were not, as she supposed, Antigonus of Famagosta. He answered that he was and added, 'Madam, meseemeth I know you, but on no wise can I remember me where I have seen you; wherefore I pray you, an it mislike you not, put me in mind who you are.'

The lady hearing that it was indeed he, to his great amazement, cast her arms about his neck, weeping sore, and presently asked him if he had never seen her in Alexandria. Antigonus, hearing this, incontinent knew her for the Soldan's daughter Alatiel, who was thought to have perished at sea, and would fain have paid her the homage due to her quality; but she would on no wise suffer it and besought him to sit with her awhile. Accordingly, seating himself beside her, he asked her respectfully how and when and whence she came thither, seeing that it was had for certain, through all the land of Egypt, that she had been drowned at sea years agone. 'Would God,' replied she, 'it had been so, rather than that I should have had the life I have had; and I doubt not but my father would wish the like, if ever he came to know it.'

So saying, she fell anew to weeping wonder-sore; whereupon quoth Antigonus to her, 'Madam, despair not ere it behove you; but, an it please you, relate to me your adventures and what manner of life yours hath been; it may be the matter hath gone on such wise that, with God's aid, we may avail to find an effectual remedy.' 'Antigonus,' answered the fair lady, 'when I beheld thee, meseemed I saw my father, and moved by that love and tenderness, which I am bounden to bear him, I discovered myself to thee, having it in my power to conceal myself from thee, and few persons could it have befallen me to look upon in whom I could have been so well-pleased as I am to have seen and known thee before any other; wherefore that which in my ill fortune I have still kept hidden, to thee, as to a father, I will discover. If, after thou hast heard it, thou see any means of restoring me to my pristine estate, prithee use it; but, if thou see none, I beseech thee never tell any that thou hast seen me or heard aught of me.'

This said, she recounted to him, still weeping, that which had befallen her from the time of her shipwreck on Majorca up to that moment; whereupon he fell a-weeping for pity and after considering awhile, 'Madam,' said he, 'since in your misfortunes it hath been hidden who you are, I will, without fail, restore you, dearer than ever, to your father and after to the King of Algarve to wife.' Being questioned of her of the means, he showed her orderly that which was to do, and lest any hindrance should betide through delay, he presently returned to Famagosta and going in to the king, said to him, 'My lord, an it like you, you have it in your power at once to do yourself exceeding honour and me, who am poor through you, a great service, at no great cost of yours.' The king asked how and Antigonus replied, 'There is come to Baffa the Soldan's fair young daughter, who hath so long been reputed drowned and who, to save her honour, hath long suffered very great unease and is presently in poor case and would fain return to her father. An it pleased you send her to him under my guard, it would be much to your honour and to my weal, nor do I believe that such a service would ever be forgotten of the Soldan.'

The king, moved by a royal generosity of mind, answered forthright that he would well and sending for Alatiel, brought her with all honour and worship to Famagosta, where she was received by himself and the queen with inexpressible rejoicing and entertained with magnificent hospitality. Being presently questioned of the king and queen of her adventures, she answered according to the instructions given her by Antigonus and related everything;[119] and a few days after, at her request, the king sent her, under the governance of Antigonus, with a goodly and worshipful company of men and women, back to the Soldan, of whom let none ask if she was received with rejoicing, as also was Antigonus and all her company.

As soon as she was somewhat rested, the Soldan desired to know how it chanced that she was yet alive and where she had so long abidden, without having ever let him know aught of her condition; whereupon the lady, who had kept Antigonus his instructions perfectly in mind, bespoke him thus, 'Father mine, belike the twentieth day after my departure from you, our ship, having sprung a leak in a terrible storm, struck in the night upon certain coasts yonder in the West,[120] near a place called Aguamorta, and what became of the men who were aboard I know not nor could ever learn; this much only do I remember that, the day come and I arisen as it were from death to life, the shattered vessel was espied of the country people, who ran from all the parts around to plunder it. I and two of my women were first set ashore and the latter were incontinent seized by certain of the young men, who fled with them, one this way and the other that, and what came of them I never knew.

As for myself, I was taken, despite my resistance, by two young men, and haled along by the hair, weeping sore the while; but, as they crossed over a road, to enter a great wood, there passed by four men on horseback, whom when my ravishers saw, they loosed me forthwith and took to flight. The new comers, who seemed to me persons of great authority, seeing this, ran where I was and asked me many questions; whereto I answered much, but neither understood nor was understanded of them. However, after long consultation they set me on one of their horses and carried me to a convent of women vowed to religion, according to their law, where, whatever they said, I was of all the ladies kindly received and still entreated with honour, and there with great devotion I joined them in serving Saint Waxeth-in-Deepdene, a saint for whom the women of that country have a vast regard.

After I had abidden with them awhile and learned somewhat of their language, they questioned me of who I was and fearing, an I told the truth, to be expelled from amongst them, as an enemy of their faith, I answered that I was the daughter of a great gentleman of Cyprus, who was sending me to be married in Crete, when, as ill-luck would have it, we had run thither and suffered shipwreck. Moreover, many a time and in many things I observed their customs, for fear of worse, and being asked by the chief of the ladies, her whom they call abbess, if I wished to return thence to Cyprus, I answered that I desired nothing so much; but she, tender of my honour, would never consent to trust me to any person who was bound for Cyprus, till some two months agone, when there came thither certain gentlemen of France with their ladies. One of the latter being a kinswoman of the abbess and she hearing that they were bound for Jerusalem, to visit the Sepulchre where He whom they hold God was buried, after He had been slain by the Jews, she commended me to their care and besought them to deliver me to my father in Cyprus.

With what honour these gentlemen entreated me and how cheerfully they received me together with their ladies, it were a long story to tell; suffice it to say that we took ship and came, after some days, to Baffa, where finding myself arrived and knowing none in the place, I knew not what to say to the gentlemen, who would fain have delivered me to my father, according to that which had been enjoined them of the reverend lady; but God, taking pity belike on my affliction, brought me Antigonus upon the beach what time we disembarked at Baffa, whom I straightway hailed and in our tongue, so as not to be understood of the gentlemen and their ladies, bade him receive me as a daughter. He promptly apprehended me and receiving me with a great show of joy, entertained the gentlemen and their ladies with such honour as his poverty permitted and carried me to the King of Cyprus, who received me with such hospitality and hath sent me back to you [with such courtesy] as might never be told of me. If aught remain to be said, let Antigonus, who hath ofttimes heard from me these adventures, recount it.'

Accordingly Antigonus, turning to the Soldan, said, 'My lord, even as she hath many a time told me and as the gentlemen and ladies, with whom she came, said to me, so hath she recounted unto you. Only one part hath she forborne to tell you, the which methinketh she left unsaid for that it beseemeth her not to tell it, to wit, how much the gentlemen and ladies, with whom she came, said of the chaste and modest life which she led with the religious ladies and of her virtue and commendable manners and the tears and lamentations of her companions, both men and women, when, having restored her to me, they took leave of her. Of which things were I fain to tell in full that which they said to me, not only this present day, but the ensuing night would not suffice unto us; be it enough to say only that (according to that which their words attested and that also which I have been able to see thereof,) you may vaunt yourself of having the fairest daughter and the chastest and most virtuous of any prince that nowadays weareth a crown.'

The Soldan was beyond measure rejoiced at these things and besought God again and again to vouchsafe him of His grace the power of worthily requiting all who had succoured his daughter and especially the King of Cyprus, by whom she had been sent back to him with honour. After some days, having caused prepare great gifts for Antigonus, he gave him leave to return to Cyprus and rendered, both by letters and by special ambassadors, the utmost thanks to the king for that which he had done with his daughter. Then desiring that that which was begun should have effect, to wit, that she should be the wife of the King of Algarve, he acquainted the latter with the whole matter and wrote to him to boot, that, an it pleased him have her, he should send for her. The King of Algarve was mightily rejoiced at this news and sending for her in state, received her joyfully; and she, who had lain with eight men belike ten thousand times, was put to bed to him for a maid and making him believe that she was so, lived happily with him as his queen awhile after; wherefore it was said, 'Lips for kissing forfeit no favour; nay, they renew as the moon doth ever.'"

Footnotes

[113] i.e. Egypt, Cairo was known in the middle ages by the name of "Babylon of Egypt." It need hardly be noted that the Babylon of the Bible was the city of that name on the Euphrates, the ancient capital of Chaldæa (Irak Babili). The names Beminedab and Alatiel are purely imaginary.

[114] i.e. to his wish, to whom fortune was mostly favourable in his enterprises.

[115] Il Garbo, Arabic El Gherb or Gharb, الﻐرب, the West, a name given by the Arabs to several parts of the Muslim empire, but by which Boccaccio apparently means Algarve, the southernmost province of Portugal and the last part of that kingdom to succumb to the wave of Christian reconquest, it having remained in the hands of the Muslims till the second half of the thirteenth century. This supposition is confirmed by the course taken by Alatiel's ship, which would naturally pass Sardinia and the Balearic Islands on its way from Alexandria to Portugal.

[116] The modern Klarentza in the north-west of the Morea, which latter province formed part of Roumelia under the Turkish domination.

[117] i.e. sister to the one and cousin to the other.

[118] Non vogando, ma volando.

[119] Sic (contò tutto); but this is an oversight of the author's, as it is evident from what follows that she did not relate everything.

[120] Lit. Ponant (Ponente), i.e. the Western coasts of the Mediterranean, as opposed to the Eastern or Levant.
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Decameron (Day The Eighteenth) Lyrics

Giovanni Boccaccio – Decameron (Day The Eighteenth) Lyrics