The Seventh Story

King Pedro Of Arragon, Coming To Know The Fervent Love Borne Him By Lisa, Comforteth The Love-Sick Maid And Presently Marrieth Her To A Noble Young Gentleman; Then, Kissing Her On The Brow, He Ever After Avoucheth Himself Her Knight

Fiammetta having made an end of her story and the manful magnanimity of King Charles having been much commended, albeit there was one lady there who, being a Ghibelline, was loath to praise him, Pampinea, by the king's commandment, began thus, "There is no one of understanding, worshipful ladies, but would say that which you say of good King Charles, except she bear him ill-will for otherwhat; but, for that there occurreth to my memory a thing, belike no less commendable than this, done of one his adversary to one of our Florentine damsels, it pleaseth me to relate it to you.

At the time of the expulsion of the French from Sicily, one of our Florentines was an apothecary at Palermo, a very rich man called Bernardo Puccini, who had by his wife an only daughter, a very fair damsel and already apt for marriage. Now King Pedro of Arragon, become lord of the island, held high festival with his barons at Palermo, wherein he tilting after the Catalan fashion, it chanced that Bernardo's daughter, whose name was Lisa, saw him running [at the ring] from a window where she was with other ladies, and he so marvellously pleased her that, looking upon him once and again, she fell passionately in love with him; and the festival ended and she abiding in her father's house, she could think of nothing but of this her illustrious and exalted love. And what most irked her in this was the consciousness of her own mean condition, which scarce suffered her to cherish any hope of a happy issue; natheless, she could not therefor bring herself to leave loving the king, albeit, for fear of greater annoy, she dared not discover her passion. The king had not perceived this thing and recked not of her, wherefor she suffered intolerable chagrin, past all that can be imagined. Thus it befell that, love still waxing in her and melancholy redoubling upon melancholy, the fair maid, unable to endure more, fell sick and wasted visibly away from day to day, like snow in the sun. Her father and mother, sore concerned for this that befell her, studied with assiduous tenderness to hearten her and succoured her in as much as might be with physicians and medicines, but it availed nothing, for that, despairing of her love, she had elected to live no longer.

It chanced one day that, her father offering to do her every pleasure, she bethought herself, and she might aptly, to seek, before she died, to make the king acquainted with her love and her intent, and accordingly she prayed him bring her Minuccio d'Arezzo. Now this Minuccio was in those days held a very quaint and subtle singer and player and was gladly seen of the king; and Bernardo concluded that Lisa had a mind to hear him sing and play awhile. Accordingly, he sent to tell him, and Minuccio, who was a man of a debonair humour, incontinent came to her and having somedele comforted her with kindly speech, softly played her a fit or two on a viol he had with him and after sang her sundry songs, the which were fire and flame unto the damsel's passion, whereas he thought to solace her. Presently she told him that she would fain speak some words with him alone, wherefore, all else having withdrawn, she said to him, 'Minuccio, I have chosen thee to keep me very faithfully a secret of mine, hoping in the first place that thou wilt never discover it to any one, save to him of whom I shall tell thee, and after that thou wilt help me in that which lieth in thy power; and of this I pray thee Thou must know, then, Minuccio mine, that the day our lord King Pedro held the great festival in honour of his exaltation to the throne, it befell me, as he tilted, to espy him at so dour a point[459] that for the love of him there was kindled in my heart a fire that hath brought me to this pass wherein thou seest me, and knowing how ill my love beseemeth to a king, yet availing not, let alone to drive it away, but even to abate it, and it being beyond measure grievous to me to bear, I have as a lesser evil elected to die, as I shall do. True it is that I should begone hence cruelly disconsolate, an he first knew it not; wherefore, unknowing by whom I could more aptly acquaint him with this my resolution than by thyself, I desire to commit it to thee and pray thee that thou refuse not to do it, and whenas thou shalt have done it, that thou give me to know thereof, so that, dying comforted, I may be assoiled of these my pains.' And this said, she stinted, weeping.

Minuccio marvelled at the greatness of the damsel's soul and at her cruel resolve and was sore concerned for her; then, it suddenly occurring to his mind how he might honourably oblige her, he said to her, 'Lisa, I pledge thee my faith, whereof thou mayst live assured that thou wilt never find thyself deceived, and after, commending thee of so high an emprise as it is to have set thy mind upon so great a king, I proffer thee mine aid, by means whereof I hope, an thou wilt but take comfort, so to do that, ere three days be past, I doubt not to bring thee news that will be exceeding grateful to thee; and to lose no time, I mean to go about it forthright.' Lisa, having anew besought him amain thereof and promised him to take comfort, bade him God speed; whereupon Minuccio, taking his leave, betook himself to one Mico da Siena, a mighty good rhymer of those days, and constrained him with prayers to make the following canzonet:

Bestir thee, Love, and get thee to my Sire
And tell him all the torments I aby;
Tell him I'm like to die,
For fearfulness concealing my desire.

Love, with clasped hands I cry thee mercy, so
Thou mayst betake thee where my lord doth dwell.
Say that I love and long for him, for lo,
My heart he hath inflamed so sadly well;
Yea, for the fire wherewith I'm all aglow,
I fear to die nor yet the hour can tell
When I shall part from pain so fierce and fell
As that which, longing, for his sake I dree
In shame and fear; ah me,
For God's sake, cause him know my torment dire.

Since first enamoured, Love, of him I grew,
Thou hast not given me the heart to dare
So much as one poor once my lord unto
My love and longing plainly to declare,
My lord who maketh me so sore to rue;
Death, dying thus, were hard to me to bear.
Belike, indeed, for he is debonair,
'Twould not displease him, did he know what pain
I feel and didst thou deign
Me daring to make known to him my fire.

Yet, since 'twas not thy pleasure to impart,
Love, such assurance to me that by glance
Or sign or writ I might make known my heart
Unto my lord, for my deliverance
I prithee, sweet my master, of thine art
Get thee to him and give him souvenance
Of that fair day I saw him shield and lance
Bear with the other knights and looking more,
Enamoured fell so sore
My heart thereof doth perish and expire.

These words Minuccio forthwith set to a soft and plaintive air, such as the matter thereof required, and on the third day he betook himself to court, where, King Pedro being yet at meat, he was bidden by him sing somewhat to his viol. Thereupon he fell to singing the song aforesaid on such dulcet wise that all who were in the royal hall appeared men astonied, so still and attent stood they all to hearken, and the king maybe more than the others. Minuccio having made an end of his singing, the king enquired whence came this song that himseemed he had never before heard. 'My lord,' replied the minstrel, 'it is not yet three days since the words were made and the air.' The king asked for whom it had been made; and Minuccio answered, 'I dare not discover it save to you alone.' The king, desirous to hear it, as soon as the tables were removed, sent for Minuccio into his chamber and the latter orderly recounted to him all that he had heard from Lisa; wherewith Don Pedro was exceeding well pleased and much commended the damsel, avouching himself resolved to have compassion of so worthful a young lady and bidding him therefore go comfort her on his part and tell her that he would without fail come to visit her that day towards vespers. Minuccio, overjoyed to be the bearer of such pleasing news, betook himself incontinent, viol and all, to the damsel and bespeaking her in private, recounted to her all that had passed and after sang her the song to his viol; whereat she was so rejoiced and so content that she straightway showed manifest signs of great amendment and longingly awaited the hour of vespers, whenas her lord should come, without any of the household knowing or guessing how the case stood.

Meanwhile, the king, who was a debonair and generous prince, having sundry times taken thought to the things heard from Minuccio and very well knowing the damsel and her beauty, waxed yet more pitiful over her and mounting to horse towards vespers, under colour of going abroad for his diversion, betook himself to the apothecary's house, where, having required a very goodly garden which he had to be opened to him, he alighted therein and presently asked Bernardo what was come of his daughter and if he had yet married her. 'My lord,' replied the apothecary, 'she is not married; nay, she hath been and is yet very sick; albeit it is true that since none she hath mended marvellously.' The king readily apprehended what this amendment meant and said, 'In good sooth, 'twere pity so fair a creature should be yet taken from the world. We would fain go visit her.' Accordingly, a little after, he betook himself with Bernardo and two companions only to her chamber and going up to the bed where the damsel, somedele upraised,[460] awaited him with impatience, took her by the hand and said to her, 'What meaneth this, my mistress? You are young and should comfort other women; yet you suffer yourself to be sick. We would beseech you be pleased, for the love of us, to hearten yourself on such wise that you may speedily be whole again.' The damsel, feeling herself touched of his hands whom she loved over all else, albeit she was somewhat shamefast, felt yet such gladness in her heart as she were in Paradise and answered him, as best she might, saying, 'My lord, my having willed to subject my little strength unto very grievous burdens hath been the cause to me of this mine infirmity, whereof, thanks to your goodness, you shall soon see me quit.' The king alone understood the damsel's covert speech and held her momently of more account; nay, sundry whiles he inwardly cursed fortune, who had made her daughter unto such a man; then, after he had tarried with her awhile and comforted her yet more, he took his leave.

This humanity of the king was greatly commended and attributed for great honour to the apothecary and his daughter, which latter abode as well pleased as ever was woman of her lover, and sustained of better hope, in a few days recovered and became fairer than ever. When she was whole again, the king, having taken counsel with the queen of what return he should make her for so much love, mounting one day to horse with many of his barons, repaired to the apothecary's house and entering the garden, let call Master Bernardo and his daughter; then, the queen presently coming thither with many ladies and having received Lisa among them, they fell to making wonder-merry. After a while, the king and queen called Lisa to them and the former said to her, 'Noble damsel, the much love you have borne us hath gotten you a great honour from us, wherewith we would have you for the love of us be content; to wit, that, since you are apt for marriage, we would have you take him to husband whom we shall bestow on you, purposing, notwithstanding this, to call ourselves still your knight, without desiring aught from you of so much love but one sole kiss.' The damsel, grown all vermeil in the face for shamefastness, making the king's pleasure hers, replied in a low voice on this wise, 'My lord, I am well assured that, were it known that I had fallen enamoured of you, most folk would account me mad therefor, thinking belike that I had forgotten myself and knew not mine own condition nor yet yours; but God, who alone seeth the hearts of mortals, knoweth that, in that same hour whenas first you pleased me, I knew you for a king and myself for the daughter of Bernardo the apothecary and that it ill beseemed me to address the ardour of my soul unto so high a place. But, as you know far better than I, none here below falleth in love according to fitness of election, but according to appetite and inclination, against which law I once and again strove with all my might, till, availing no farther, I loved and love and shall ever love you. But, since first I felt myself taken with love of you, I determined still to make your will mine; wherefore, not only will I gladly obey you in this matter of taking a husband at your hands and holding him dear whom it shall please you to bestow on me, since that will be mine honour and estate, but, should you bid me abide in the fire, it were a delight to me, an I thought thereby to pleasure you. To have you, a king, to knight, you know how far it befitteth me, wherefore to that I make no farther answer; nor shall the kiss be vouchsafed you, which alone of my love you would have, without leave of my lady the queen. Natheless, of such graciousness as hath been yours towards me and that of our lady the queen here God render you for me both thanks and recompense, for I have not the wherewithal.' And with that she was silent.

Her answer much pleased the queen and she seemed to her as discreet as the king had reported her. Don Pedro then let call the girl's father and mother and finding that they were well pleased with that which he purposed to do, summoned a young man, by name Perdicone, who was of gentle birth, but poor, and giving certain rings into his hand, married him, nothing loath, to Lisa; which done, he then and there, over and above many and precious jewels bestowed by the queen and himself upon the damsel, gave him Ceffalu and Calatabellotta, two very rich and goodly fiefs, and said to him, 'These we give thee to the lady's dowry. That which we purpose to do for thyself, thou shalt see in time to come.' This said, he turned to the damsel and saying, 'Now will we take that fruit which we are to have of your love,' took her head in his hands and kissed her on the brow. Perdicone and Lisa's father and mother, well pleased, (as indeed was she herself,) held high festival and joyous nuptials; and according as many avouch, the king very faithfully kept his covenant with the damsel, for that, whilst she lived, he still styled himself her knight nor ever went about any deed of arms but he wore none other favour than that which was sent him of her. It is by doing, then, on this wise that subjects' hearts are gained, that others are incited to do well and that eternal renown is acquired; but this is a mark at which few or none nowadays bend the bow of their understanding, most princes being presently grown cruel and tyrannical."

Footnotes

[459] In si forte punto, or, in modern parlance, at so critical or ill-starred a moment.

[460] Sollevata, syn. solaced, relieved or (3) agitated, troubled.
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