The Eighth Story

Two Men Consorting Together, One Lieth With The Wife Of His Comrade, Who, Becoming Aware Thereof, Doth With Her On Such Wise That The Other Is Shut Up In A Chest, Upon Which He Lieth With His Wife, He Being Inside The While

Elena's troubles had been irksome and grievous to the ladies to hear; natheless, for that they deemed them in part justly befallen her, they passed them over with more moderate compassion, albeit they held the scholar to have been terribly stern and obdurate, nay, cruel. But, Pampinea being now come to the end of her story, the queen charged Fiammetta follow on, who, nothing loath to obey, said, "Charming ladies, for that meseemeth the severity of the offended scholar hath somedele distressed you, I deem it well to solace your ruffled spirits with somewhat more diverting; wherefore I purpose to tell you a little story of a young man who received an injury in a milder spirit and avenged it after a more moderate fashion, by which you may understand that, whenas a man goeth about to avenge an injury suffered, it should suffice him to give as good as he hath gotten, without seeking to do hurt overpassing the behoof of the feud.

You must know, then, that there were once in Siena, as I have understood aforetime, two young men in easy enough case and of good city families, whereof one was named Spinelloccio Tanena and the other Zeppa di Mino, and they were next-door neighbours in Camollia.[394] These two young men still companied together and loved each other, to all appearance, as they had been brothers, or better; and each of them had a very fair wife. It chanced that Spinelloccio, by dint of much frequenting Zeppa's house, both when the latter was at home and when he was abroad, grew so private with his wife that he ended by lying with her, and on404 this wise they abode a pretty while, before any became aware thereof. However, at last, one day, Zeppa being at home, unknown to his wife, Spinelloccio came to call him and the lady said that he was abroad; whereupon the other came straightway up into the house and finding her in the saloon and seeing none else there, he took her in his arms and fell to kissing her and she him. Zeppa, who saw this, made no sign, but abode hidden to see in what the game should result and presently saw his wife and Spinelloccio betake themselves, thus embraced, to a chamber and there lock themselves in; whereat he was sore angered. But, knowing that his injury would not become less for making an outcry nor for otherwhat, nay, that shame would but wax therefor, he set himself to think what revenge he should take thereof, so his soul might abide content, without the thing being known all about, and himseeming, after long consideration, he had found the means, he abode hidden so long as Spinelloccio remained with his wife.

As soon as the other was gone away, he entered the chamber and there finding the lady, who had not yet made an end of adjusting her head-veils, which Spinelloccio had plucked down in dallying with her, said to her, 'Wife, what dost thou?' Quoth she, 'Seest thou not?' And Zeppa answered, 'Ay, indeed, I have seen more than I could wish.' So saying, he taxed her with that which had passed and she, in sore affright, confessed to him, after much parley, that which she could not aptly deny of her familiarity with Spinelloccio. Then she began to crave him pardon, weeping, and Zeppa said to her, 'Harkye, wife, thou hast done ill, and if thou wilt have me pardon it to thee, bethink thee punctually to do that which I shall enjoin thee, which is this; I will have thee bid Spinelloccio find an occasion to part company with me to-morrow morning, towards tierce, and come hither to thee. When he is here I will come back and so soon as thou hearest me, do thou make him enter this chest here and lock him therein. Then, when thou shalt have done this, I will tell thee what else thou shalt do; and have thou no fear of doing this, for that I promise thee I will do him no manner of hurt.' The lady, to satisfy him, promised to do his bidding, and so she did.

The morrow come and Zeppa and Spinelloccio being together towards tierce, the latter, who had promised the lady to be with her at that hour, said to the former, 'I am to dine this morning with a friend, whom I would not keep waiting for me; wherefore God be with thee.' Quoth Zeppa, 'It is not dinner-time yet awhile'; but Spinelloccio answered, 'No matter; I am to speak with him also of an affair of mine, so that needs must I be there betimes.' Accordingly, taking leave of him, he fetched a compass and making for Zeppa's house, entered a chamber with the latter's wife. He had not been there long ere Zeppa returned, whom when the lady heard, feigning to be mightily affrighted, she made him take refuge in the chest, as her husband had bidden her, and locking him therein, went forth of the chamber. Zeppa, coming up, said, 'Wife, is it dinner-time?' 'Ay,' answered she, 'forthright.' Quoth he, 'Spinelloccio is gone to dine this morning with a friend of his and hath left his wife alone; get thee to the window and call her and bid her come dine with us.' The lady, fearing for herself and grown therefor mighty obedient, did as he bade her and Spinelloccio's wife, being much pressed by her and hearing that her own husband was to dine abroad, came hither.

Zeppa made much of her and whispering his wife begone into the kitchen, took her familiarly by the hand and carried her into the chamber, wherein no sooner were they come than, turning back, he locked the door within. When the lady saw him do this, she said, 'Alack, Zeppa, what meaneth this? Have you then brought me hither for this? Is this the love you bear Spinelloccio and the loyal companionship you practise towards him?' Whereupon quoth Zeppa, drawing near to the chest wherein was her husband locked up and holding her fast, 'Madam, ere thou complainest, hearken to that which I have to say to thee. I have loved and love Spinelloccio as a brother, and yesterday, albeit he knoweth it not, I found that the trust I had in him was come to this, that he lieth with my wife even as with thee. Now, for that I love him, I purpose not to take vengeance of him, save on such wise as the offence hath been; he hath had my wife and I mean to have thee. An thou wilt not, needs must I take him here and for that I mean not to let this affront go unpunished, I will play him such a turn that neither thou nor he shall ever again be glad.' The lady, hearing this and believing what Zeppa said, after many affirmations made her of him, replied, 'Zeppa mine, since this vengeance is to fall on me, I am content, so but thou wilt contrive, notwithstanding what we are to do, that I may abide at peace with thy wife, even as I intend to abide with her, notwithstanding this that she hath done to me.' 'Assuredly,' rejoined Zeppa, 'I will do it; and to boot, I will give thee a precious and fine jewel as none other thou hast.' So saying, he embraced her; then, laying her flat on the chest, there to his heart's content, he solaced himself with her, and she with him.

Spinelloccio, hearing from within the chest all that Zeppa said his wife's answer and feeling the morrisdance[395] that was toward over his head, was at first so sore despited that himseemed he should die; and but that he stood in fear of Zeppa, he had rated his wife finely, shut up as he was. However, bethinking himself that the offence had begun with him and that Zeppa was in his right to do as he did and had indeed borne himself towards him humanely and like a comrade, he presently resolved in himself to be, an he would, more than ever his friend. Zeppa, having been with the lady so long as it pleased him, dismounted from the chest, and she asking for the promised jewel, he opened the chamber-door and called his wife, who said nought else than 'Madam, you have given me a loaf for my bannock'; and this she said laughing. To her quoth Zeppa, 'Open this chest.' Accordingly she opened it and therein Zeppa showed the lady her husband, saying, 'Here is the jewel I promised thee.' It were hard to say which was the more abashed of the twain, Spinelloccio, seeing Zeppa and knowing that he knew what he had done, or his wife, seeing her husband and knowing that he had both heard and felt that which she had done over his head. But Spinelloccio, coming forth of the chest, said, without more parley, 'Zeppa, we are quits; wherefore it is well, as thou saidst but now to my wife, that we be still friends as we were, and that, since there is nothing unshared between us two but our wives, we have these also in common.' Zeppa was content and they all four dined together in the utmost possible harmony; and thenceforward each of the two ladies had two husbands and each of the latter two wives, without ever having any strife or grudge anent the matter."

Footnotes

[394] Quære, the street of that name?

[395] Danza trivigiana, lit. Trevisan dance, O.E. the shaking of the sheets.
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