The Ninth Story

Two Young Men Seek Counsel Of Solomon, One How He May Be Loved And The Other How He May Amend His Froward Wife, And In Answer He Biddeth The One Love And The Other Get Him To Goosebridge

None other than the queen remaining to tell, so she would maintain Dioneo his privilege, she, after the ladies had laughed at the unlucky Biondello, began blithely to speak thus: "Lovesome ladies, if the ordinance of created things be considered with a whole mind, it will lightly enough be seen that the general multitude of women are by nature, by custom and by law subjected unto men and that it behoveth them order and govern themselves according to the discretion of these latter; wherefore each woman, who would have quiet and ease and solace with those men to whom she pertaineth, should be humble, patient and obedient, besides being virtuous, which latter is the supreme and especial treasure of every wise woman. Nay, though the laws, which in all things regard the general weal, and usance or (let us say) custom, whose puissance is both great and worship-worth, taught us not this, nature very manifestly showeth it unto us, inasmuch as she hath made us women tender and delicate of body and timid and fearful of spirit and hath given us little bodily strength, sweet voices and soft and graceful movements, all things testifying that we have need of the governance of others. Now, those who have need to be helped and governed, all reason requireth that they be obedient and submissive and reverent to their governors; and whom have we to governors and helpers, if not men? To men, therefore, it behoveth us submit ourselves, honouring them supremely; and whoso departeth from this, I hold her deserving, not only of grave reprehension, but of severe punishment. To these considerations I was lead, though not for the first time, by that which Pampinea told us a while ago of Talano's froward wife, upon whom God sent that chastisement which her husband had not known to give her; wherefore, as I have already said, all those women who depart from being loving, compliant and amenable, as nature, usance and law will it, are, in my judgment, worthy of stern and severe chastisement. It pleaseth me, therefore, to recount to you a counsel given by Solomon, as a salutary medicine for curing women who are thus made of that malady; which counsel let none, who meriteth not such treatment, repute to have been said for her, albeit men have a byword which saith, 'Good horse and bad horse both the spur need still, And women need the stick, both good and ill.' Which words, an one seek to interpret them by way of pleasantry, all women will lightly allow to be true; nay, but considering them morally,[438] I say that the same must be conceded of them; for that women are all naturally unstable and prone [to frailty,] wherefore, to correct the iniquity of those who allow themselves too far to overpass the limits appointed them, there needeth the stick which punisheth them, and to support the virtue of others who suffer not themselves to transgress, there needeth the stick which sustaineth and affeareth them. But, to leave be preaching for the nonce and come to that which I have it in mind to tell.

You must know that, the high renown of Solomon's miraculous wisdom being bruited abroad well nigh throughout the whole world, no less than the liberality with which he dispensed it unto whoso would fain be certified thereof by experience, there flocked many to him from divers parts of the world for counsel in their straitest and most urgent occasions. Amongst others who thus resorted to him was a young man, Melisso by name, a gentleman of noble birth and great wealth, who set out from the city of Lajazzo,[439] whence he was and where he dwelt; and as he journeyed towards Jerusalem, it chanced that, coming forth of Antioch, he rode for some distance with a young man called Giosefo, who held the same course as himself. As the custom is of wayfarers, he entered into discourse with him and having learned from him what and whence he was, he asked him whither he went and upon what occasion; to which Giosefo replied that he was on his way to Solomon, to have counsel of him what course he should take with a wife he had, the most froward and perverse woman alive, whom neither with prayers nor with blandishments nor on any other wise could he avail to correct of her waywardness. Then he in his turn questioned Melisso whence he was and whither he went and on what errand, and he answered, 'I am of Lajazzo, and like as thou hast a grievance, even so have I one; I am young and rich and spend my substance in keeping open house and entertaining my fellow-townsmen, and yet, strange to say, I cannot for all that find one who wisheth me well; wherefore I go whither thou goest, to have counsel how I may win to be beloved.'

Accordingly, they joined company and journeyed till they came to Jerusalem, where, by the introduction of one of Solomon's barons, they were admitted to the presence of the king, to whom Melisso briefly set forth his occasion. Solomon answered him, 'Love'; and this said, Melisso was straightway put forth and Giosefo told that for which he was there. Solomon made him no other answer than 'Get thee to Goosebridge'; which said, Giosefo was on like wise removed, without delay, from the king's presence and finding Melisso awaiting him without, told him that which he had had for answer. Thereupon, pondering Solomon's words and availing to apprehend therefrom neither significance nor profit whatsoever for their occasions, they set out to return home, as deeming themselves flouted. After journeying for some days, they came to a river, over which was a fine bridge, and a caravan of pack-mules and sumpter-horses being in act to pass, it behoved them tarry till such time as these should be crossed over. Presently, the beasts having well nigh all crossed, it chanced that one of the mules took umbrage, as oftentimes we see them do, and would by no means pass on; whereupon a muleteer, taking a stick, began to beat it at first moderately enough to make it go on; but the mule shied now to this and now to that side of the road and whiles turned back altogether, but would on no wise pass on; whereupon the man, incensed beyond measure, fell to dealing it with the stick the heaviest blows in the world, now on the head, now on the flanks and anon on the crupper, but all to no purpose.

Melisso and Giosefo stood watching this and said often to the muleteer, 'Alack, wretch that thou art, what dost thou? Wilt thou kill the beast? Why studiest thou not to manage him by fair means and gentle dealing? He will come quicklier than for cudgeling him as thou dost.' To which the man answered, 'You know your horses and I know my mule; leave me do with him.' So saying, he fell again to cudgelling him and belaboured him to such purpose on one side and on the other, that the mule passed on and the muleteer won the bout. Then, the two young men being now about to depart, Giosefo asked a poor man, who sat at the bridge-head, how the place was called, and he answered, 'Sir, this is called Goosebridge.' When Giosefo heard this, he straightway called to mind Solomon's words and said to Melisso, 'Marry, I tell thee, comrade, that the counsel given me by Solomon may well prove good and true, for I perceive very plainly that I knew not how to beat my wife; but this muleteer hath shown me what I have to do.'

Accordingly, they fared on and came, after some days, to Antioch, where Giosefo kept Melisso with him, that he might rest himself a day or two, and being scurvily enough received of his wife, he bade her prepare supper according as Melisso should ordain; whereof the latter, seeing that it was his friend's pleasure, acquitted himself in a few words. The lady, as her usance had been in the past, did not as Melisso had ordained, but well nigh altogether the contrary; which Giosefo seeing, he was vexed and said, 'Was it not told thee on what wise thou shouldst prepare the supper?' The lady, turning round haughtily, answered, 'What meaneth this? Good lack, why dost thou not sup, an thou have a mind to sup? An if it were told me otherwise, it seemed good to me to do thus. If it please thee, so be it; if not, leave it be.' Melisso marvelled at the lady's answer and blamed her exceedingly; whilst Giosefo, hearing this, said, 'Wife, thou art still what thou wast won't to be; but, trust me, I will make thee change thy fashion.' Then turning to Melisso, 'Friend,' said he, 'we shall soon see what manner of counsel was Solomon's; but I prithee let it not irk thee to stand to see it and hold that which I shall do for a sport. And that thou mayest not hinder me, bethink thee of the answer the muleteer made us, when we pitied his mule.' Quoth Melisso, 'I am in thy house, where I purpose not to depart from thy good pleasure.'

Giosefo then took a round stick, made of a young oak, and repaired a chamber, whither the lady, having arisen from table for despite, had betaken herself, grumbling; then, laying hold of her by the hair, he threw her down at his feet and proceeded to give her a sore beating with the stick. The lady at first cried out and after fell to threats; but, seeing that Giosefo for all that stinted not and being by this time all bruised, she began to cry him mercy for God's sake and besought him not to kill her, declaring that she would never more depart from his pleasure. Nevertheless, he held not his hand; nay, he continued to baste her more furiously than ever on all her seams, belabouring her amain now on the ribs, now on the haunches and now about the shoulder, nor stinted till he was weary and there was not a place left unbruised on the good lady's back. This done, he returned to his friend and said to him, 'To-morrow we shall see what will be the issue of the counsel to go to Goosebridge.' Then, after he had rested awhile and they had washed their hands, he supped with Melisso and in due season they betook themselves to bed.

Meanwhile the wretched lady arose with great pain from the ground and casting herself on the bed, there rested as best she might until the morning, when she arose betimes and let ask Giosefo what he would have dressed for dinner. The latter, making merry over this with Melisso, appointed it in due course, and after, whenas it was time, returning, they found everything excellently well done and in accordance with the ordinance given; wherefore they mightily commended the counsel at first so ill apprehended of them. After some days, Melisso took leave of Giosefo and returning to his own house, told one, who was a man of understanding, the answer he had had from Solomon; whereupon quoth the other, 'He could have given thee no truer nor better counsel. Thou knowest thou lovest no one, and the honours and services thou renderest others, thou dost not for love that thou bearest them, but for pomp and ostentation. Love, then, as Solomon bade thee, and thou shalt be loved.' On this wise, then, was the froward wife corrected and the young man, loving, was beloved."

Footnotes

[438] i.e. from a serious or moral point of view.

[439] Apparently Laodicea (hod. Eskihissar) in Anatolia, from which a traveller, taking the direct land route, would necessarily pass Antioch (hod. Antakhia) on his way to Jerusalem.
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