The Second Story

Costanza Loveth Martuccio Gomito And Hearing That He Is Dead, Embarketh For Despair Alone In A Boat, Which Is Carried By The Wind To Susa. Finding Her Lover Alive At Tunis, She Discovereth Herself To Him And He, Being Great In Favour With The King For Counsels Given, Espouseth Her And Returneth Rich With Her To Lipari

The queen, seeing Pamfilo's story at an end, after she had much commended it, enjoined Emilia to follow on, telling another, and she accordingly began thus: "Every one must naturally delight in those things wherein he seeth rewards ensue according to the affections;[267] and for that love in the long run deserveth rather happiness than affliction, I shall, intreating of the present theme, obey the queen with much greater pleasure to myself than I did the king in that of yesterday.

You must know, then, dainty dames, that near unto Sicily is an islet called Lipari, wherein, no great while agone, was a very fair damsel called Costanza, born of a very considerable family there. It chanced that a young man of the same island, called Martuccio Gomito, who was very agreeable and well bred and of approved worth[268] in his craft,[269] fell in love with her; and she in like manner so burned for him that she was never easy save whenas she saw him. Martuccio, wishing to have her to wife, caused demand her of her father, who answered that he was poor and that therefore he would not give her to him. The young man, enraged to see himself rejected for poverty, in concert with certain of his friends and kinsmen, equipped a light ship and swore never to return to Lipari, except rich. Accordingly, he departed thence and turning corsair, fell to cruising off the coast of Barbary and plundering all who were weaker than himself; wherein fortune was favourable enough to him, had he known how to set bounds to his wishes; but, it sufficing him not to have waxed very rich, he and his comrades, in a brief space of time, it befell that, whilst they sought to grow overrich, he was, after a long defence, taken and plundered with all his companions by certain ships of the Saracens, who, after scuttling the vessel and sacking the greater part of the crew, carried Martuccio to Tunis, where he was put in prison and long kept in misery.

The news was brought to Lipari, not by one or by two, but by many and divers persons, that he and all on board the bark had been drowned; whereupon the girl, who had been beyond measure woebegone for her lover's departure, hearing that he was dead with the others, wept sore and resolved in herself to live no longer; but, her heart suffering her not to slay herself by violence, she determined to give a new occasion[270] to her death.[271] Accordingly, she issued secretly forth of her father's house one night and betaking herself to the harbour, happened upon a fishing smack, a little aloof from the other ships, which, for that its owners had but then landed therefrom, she found furnished with mast and sail and oars. In this she hastily embarked and rowed herself out to sea; then, being somewhat skilled in the mariner's art, as the women of that island mostly are, she made sail and casting the oars and rudder adrift, committed herself altogether to the mercy of the waves, conceiving that it must needs happen that the wind would either overturn a boat without lading or steersman or drive it upon some rock and break it up, whereby she could not, even if she would, escape, but must of necessity be drowned. Accordingly, wrapping her head in a mantle, she laid herself, weeping, in the bottom of the boat.

But it befell altogether otherwise than as she conceived, for that, the wind being northerly and very light and there being well nigh no sea, the boat rode it out in safety and brought her on the morrow, about vespers, to a beach near a town called Susa, a good hundred miles beyond Tunis. The girl, who, for aught that might happen, had never lifted nor meant to lift her head, felt nothing of being ashore more than at sea;[272] but, as chance would have it, there was on the beach, whenas the bark struck upon it, a poor woman in act to take up from the sun the nets of the fishermen her masters, who, seeing the bark, marvelled how it should be left to strike full sail upon the land. Thinking that the fishermen aboard were asleep, she went up to the bark and seeing none therein but the damsel aforesaid, who slept fast, called her many times and having at last aroused her and knowing her by her habit for a Christian, asked her in Latin how she came there in that bark all alone. The girl, hearing her speak Latin, misdoubted her a shift of wind must have driven her back to Lipari and starting suddenly to her feet, looked about her, but knew not the country, and seeing herself on land, asked the good woman where she was; to which she answered, 'Daughter mine, thou art near unto Susa in Barbary.' The girl, hearing this, was woeful for that God had not chosen to vouchsafe her the death she sought, and being in fear of shame and knowing not what to do, she seated herself at the foot of her bark and fell a-weeping.

The good woman, seeing this, took pity upon her and brought her, by dint of entreaty, into a little hut of hers and there so humoured her that she told her how she came thither; whereupon, seeing that she was fasting, she set before her her own dry bread and somewhat of fish and water and so besought her that she ate a little. Costanza after asked her who she was that she spoke Latin thus; to which she answered that she was from Trapani and was called Carapresa and served certain Christian fishermen there. The girl, hearing the name of Carapresa, albeit she was exceeding woebegone and knew not what reason moved her thereunto, took it unto herself for a good augury to have heard this name[273] and began to hope, without knowing what, and somewhat to abate of her wish to die. Then, without discovering who or whence she was, she earnestly besought the good woman to have pity, for the love of God, on her youth and give her some counsel how she might escape any affront being offered her.

Carapresa, like a good woman as she was, hearing this, left her in her hut, whilst she hastily gathered up her nets; then, returning to her, she wrapped her from head to foot in her own mantle and carried her to Susa, where she said to her, 'Costanza, I will bring thee into the house of a very good Saracen lady, whom I serve oftentimes in her occasions and who is old and pitiful. I will commend thee to her as most I may and I am very certain that she will gladly receive thee and use thee as a daughter; and do thou, abiding with her, study thine utmost, in serving her, to gain her favour, against God send thee better fortune.' And as she said, so she did. The lady, who was well stricken in years, hearing the woman's story, looked the girl in the face and fell a-weeping; then taking her by the hand, she kissed her on the forehead and carried her into her house, where she and sundry other women abode, without any man, and wrought all with their hands at various crafts, doing divers works of silk and palm-fibre and leather. Costanza soon learned to do some of these and falling to working with the rest, became in such favour with the lady and the others that it was a marvellous thing; nor was it long before, with their teaching, she learnt their language.

What while she abode thus at Susa, being now mourned at home for lost and dead, it befell that, one Mariabdela[274] being King of Tunis, a certain youth of great family and much puissance in Granada, avouching that that kingdom belonged to himself, levied a great multitude of folk and came upon King Mariabdela, to oust him from the kingship. This came to the ears of Martuccio Gomito in prison and he knowing the Barbary language excellent well and hearing that the king was making great efforts for his defence, said to one of those who had him and his fellows in keeping, 'An I might have speech of the king, my heart assureth me that I could give him a counsel, by which he should gain this his war.' The keeper reported these words to his chief, and he carried them incontinent to the king, who bade fetch Martuccio and asked him what might be his counsel; whereto he made answer on this wise, 'My lord, if, what time I have otherwhiles frequented these your dominions, I have noted aright the order you keep in your battles, meseemeth you wage them more with archers than with aught else; wherefore, if a means could be found whereby your adversary's bowmen should lack of arrows, whilst your own had abundance thereof, methinketh your battle would be won.' 'Without doubt,' answered the king, 'and this might be compassed, I should deem myself assured of victory.' Whereupon, 'My lord,' quoth Martuccio, 'an you will, this may very well be done, and you shall hear how. You must let make strings for your archers' bows much thinner than those which are everywhere commonly used and after let make arrows, the notches whereof shall not serve but for these thin strings. This must be so secretly done that your adversary should know nought thereof; else would he find a remedy therefor; and the reason for which I counsel you thus is this. After your enemy's archers and your own shall have shot all their arrows, you know that, the battle lasting, it will behove your foes to gather up the arrows shot by your men and the latter in like manner to gather theirs; but the enemy will not be able to make use of your arrows, by reason of the strait notches which will not take their thick strings, whereas the contrary will betide your men of the enemy's arrows, for that the thin strings will excellently well take the wide-notched arrows; and so your men will have abundance of ammunition, whilst the others will suffer default thereof.'

The king, who was a wise prince, was pleased with Martuccio's counsel and punctually following it, found himself thereby to have won his war. Wherefore Martuccio became in high favour with him and rose in consequence to great and rich estate. The report of these things spread over the land and it came presently to Costanza's ears that Martuccio Gomito, whom she had long deemed dead, was alive, whereupon the love of him, that was now grown cool in her heart, broke out of a sudden into fresh flame and waxed greater than ever, whilst dead hope revived in her. Therewithal she altogether discovered her every adventure to the good lady, with whom she dwelt, and told her that she would fain go to Tunis, so she might satisfy her eyes of that whereof her ears had made them desireful, through the reports received. The old lady greatly commended her purpose and taking ship with her, carried her, as if she had been her mother, to Tunis, where they were honourably entertained in the house of a kinswoman of hers. There she despatched Carapresa, who had come with them, to see what she could learn of Martuccio, and she, finding him alive and in great estate and reporting this to the old gentlewoman, it pleased the latter to will to be she who should signify unto Martuccio that his Costanza was come thither to him; wherefore, betaking herself one day whereas he was, she said to him, 'Martuccio, there is come to my house a servant of thine from Lipari, who would fain speak with thee privily there; wherefore, not to trust to others, I have myself, at his desire, come to give thee notice thereof.' He thanked her and followed her to her house, where when Costanza saw him, she was like to die of gladness and unable to contain herself, ran straightway with open arms to throw herself on his neck; then, embracing him, without availing to say aught, she fell a-weeping tenderly, both for compassion of their past ill fortunes and for present gladness.

Martuccio, seeing his mistress, abode awhile dumb for amazement, then said sighing, 'O my Costanza, art thou then yet alive? It is long since I heard that thou wast lost; nor in our country was aught known of thee.' So saying, he embraced her, weeping, and kissed her tenderly. Costanza then related to him all that had befallen her and the honourable treatment which she had received from the gentlewoman with whom she dwelt; and Martuccio, after much discourse, taking leave of her, repaired to the king his master and told him all, to wit, his own adventures and those of the damsel, adding that, with his leave, he meant to take her to wife, according to our law. The king marvelled at these things and sending for the damsel and hearing from her that it was even as Martuccio had avouched, said to her, 'Then hast thou right well earned him to husband.' Then, letting bring very great and magnificent gifts, he gave part thereof to her and part to Martuccio, granting them leave to do one with the other that which was most pleasing unto each of them; whereupon Martuccio, having entreated the gentlewoman who had harboured Costanza with the utmost honour and thanked her for that which she had done to serve her and bestowed on her such gifts as sorted with her quality, commended her to God and took leave of her, he and his mistress, not without many tears from the latter. Then, with the king's leave, they embarked with Carapresa on board a little ship and returned with a fair wind to Lipari, where so great was the rejoicing that it might never be told. There Martuccio took Costanza to wife and held great and goodly nuptials; after which they long in peace and repose had enjoyment of their loves."

Footnotes

[267] Syn. inclinations (affezioni). This is a somewhat obscure passage, owing to the vagueness of the word affezioni (syn. affetti) in this position, and may be rendered, with about equal probability, in more than one way.

[268] Or "eminent" (valoroso), i.e. in modern parlance, "a man of merit and talent."

[269] Valoroso nel suo mestiere. It does not appear that Martuccio was a craftsman and it is possible, therefore, that Boccaccio intended the word mestiere to be taken in the sense (to me unknown) of "condition" or "estate," in which case the passage would read, "a man of worth for (i.e. as far as comported with) his [mean] estate"; and this seems a probable reading.

[270] Lit. necessity (necessità).

[271] i.e. to use a new (or strange) fashion of exposing herself to an inevitable death (nuova necessità dare alla sua morte).

[272] i.e. knew not whether she was ashore or afloat, so absorbed was she in her despair.

[273] Or "augured well from the hearing of the name." Carapresa signifies "a dear or precious prize, gain or capture."

[274] This name is apparently a distortion of the Arabic Amir Abdullah.
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