Emilia, who sat next after Fiammetta,—the courage of the marchioness and the quaint rebuke administered by her to the King of France having been commended of all the ladies,—began, by the queen's pleasure, boldly to speak as follows: "I also, I will not keep silence of a biting reproof given by an honest layman to a covetous monk with a speech no less laughable than commendable.

There was, then, dear lasses, no great while agone, in our city, a Minor friar and inquisitor of heretical pravity, who, for all he studied hard to appear a devout and tender lover of the Christian religion, as do they all, was no less diligent in enquiring of who had a well-filled purse than of whom he might find wanting in the things of the Faith. Thanks to this his diligence, he lit by chance upon a good simple man, richer, by far in coin than in wit, who, of no lack of religion, but speaking thoughtlessly and belike overheated with wine or excess of mirth, chanced one day to say to a company of his friends that he had a wine so good that Christ himself might drink thereof. This being reported to the inquisitor and he understanding that the man's means were large and his purse well filled, ran in a violent hurry cum gladiis et fustibus[53] to clap up a right grievous suit against him, looking not for an amendment of misbelief in the defendant, but for the filling of his own hand with florins to ensue thereof (as indeed it did,) and causing him to be cited, asked him if that which had been alleged against him were true.

The good man replied that it was and told him how it chanced; whereupon quoth the most holy inquisitor, who was a devotee of St. John Goldenbeard,[54] 'Then hast thou made Christ a wine-bibber and curious in wines of choice, as if he were Cinciglione[55] or what not other of your drunken sots and tavern-haunters; and now thou speakest lowly and wouldst feign this to be a very light matter! It is not as thou deemest; thou hast merited the fire therefor, an we were minded to deal with thee as we ought.' With these and many other words he bespoke him, with as menacing a countenance as if the poor wretch had been Epicurus denying the immortality of the soul, and in brief so terrified him that the good simple soul, by means of certain intermediaries, let grease his palm with a good dose of St. John Goldenmouth's ointment[56] (the which is a sovereign remedy for the pestilential covetise of the clergy and especially of the Minor Brethren, who dare not touch money), so he should deal mercifully with him.

This unguent, being of great virtue (albeit Galen speaketh not thereof in any part of his Medicines), wrought to such purpose that the fire denounced against him was by favour commuted into [the wearing, by way of penance, of] a cross, and to make the finer banner, as he were to go a crusading beyond seas, the inquisitor imposed it him yellow upon black. Moreover, whenas he had gotten the money, he detained him about himself some days, enjoining him, by way of penance, hear a mass every morning at Santa Croce and present himself before him at dinner-time, and after that he might do what most pleased him the rest of the day; all which he diligently performed.

One morning, amongst others, it chanced that at the Mass he heard a Gospel, wherein these words were chanted, 'For every one ye shall receive an hundred and shall possess eternal life.'[57] This he laid fast up in his memory and according to the commandment given him, presented him at the eating hour before the inquisitor, whom he found at dinner. The friar asked him if he had heard mass that morning, whereto he promptly answered, 'Ay have I, sir.' Quoth the inquisitor, 'Heardest thou aught therein whereof thou doubtest or would question?' 'Certes,' replied the good man, 'I doubt not of aught that I heard, but do firmly believe all to be true. I did indeed hear something which caused and yet causeth me have the greatest compassion of you and your brother friars, bethinking me of the ill case wherein you will find yourselves over yonder in the next life.' 'And what was it that moved thee to such compassion of us?' asked the inquisitor. 'Sir,' answered the other, 'it was that verse of the Evangel, which saith, "For every one ye shall receive an hundred." 'That is true,' rejoined the inquisitor; 'but why did these words move thee thus?' 'Sir,' replied the good man, 'I will tell you. Since I have been used to resort hither, I have seen give out every day to a multitude of poor folk now one and now two vast great cauldrons of broth, which had been taken away from before yourself and the other brethren of this convent, as superfluous; wherefore, if for each one of these cauldrons of broth there be rendered you an hundred in the world to come, you will have so much thereof that you will assuredly all be drowned therein.'

All who were at the inquisitor's table fell a-laughing; but the latter, feeling the hit at the broth-swilling[58] hypocrisy of himself and his brethren, was mightily incensed, and but that he had gotten blame for that which he had already done, he would have saddled him with another prosecution, for that with a laughable speech he had rebuked him and his brother good-for-noughts; wherefore, of his despite, he bade him thenceforward do what most pleased him and not come before him again."

Footnotes

[53] i.e. with sword and whips, a technical term of ecclesiastical procedure, about equivalent to our "with the strong arm of the law."

[54] i.e. a lover of money.

[55] A notorious drinker of the time.

[56] i.e. money.

[57] "And every one that hath forsaken houses or brethren or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands for my name's sake shall receive an hundredfold and shall inherit everlasting life."—Matthew xix. 29. Boccaccio has garbled the passage for the sake of his point.

[58] Syn. gluttonous (brodajuola).
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Decameron (Day The Sixth) Lyrics

Giovanni Boccaccio – Decameron (Day The Sixth) Lyrics