The Seventh Story
Madam Filippa, Being Found By Her Husband With A Lover Of Hers And Brought To Justice, Delivereth Herself With A Prompt And Pleasant Answer And Causeth Modify The Statute
Fiammetta was now silent and all laughed yet at the novel argument used by Scalza for the ennoblement over all of the Cadgers, when the queen enjoined Filostrato to tell and he accordingly began to say, "It is everywise a fine thing, noble ladies, to know how to speak well, but I hold it yet goodlier to know how to do it whereas necessity requireth it, even as a gentlewoman, of whom I purpose to entertain you, knew well how to do on such wise that not only did she afford her hearers matter for mirth and laughter, but did herself loose from the toils of an ignominious death, as you shall presently hear.
There was, then, aforetime, in the city of Prato, a statute in truth no less blameworthy than cruel, which, without making any distinction, ordained that any woman found by her husband in adultery with any her lover should be burnt, even as she who should be discovered to have sold her favours for money. What while this statute was in force, it befell that a noble and beautiful lady, by name Madam Filippa, who was of a singularly amorous complexion, was one night found by Rinaldo de' Pugliesi her husband, in her own chamber in the arms of Lazzerino de' Guazzagliotri, a noble and handsome youth of that city, whom she loved even as herself. Rinaldo, seeing this, was sore enraged and scarce contained himself from falling upon them and slaying them; and but that he feared for himself, an he should ensue the promptings of his anger, he had certainly done it. However, he forbore from this, but could not refrain from seeking of the law of Prato that which it was not permitted him to accomplish with his own hand, to wit, the death of his wife. Having, therefore, very sufficient evidence to prove the lady's default, no sooner was the day come than, without taking other counsel, he lodged an accusation against her and caused summon her before the provost.
Madam Filippa, being great of heart, as women commonly are who are verily in love, resolved, although counselled to the contrary by many of her friends and kinsfolk, to appear, choosing rather, confessing the truth, to die with an undaunted spirit, than, meanly fleeing, to live an outlaw in exile and confess herself unworthy of such a lover as he in whose arms she had been the foregoing night. Wherefore, presenting herself before the provost, attended by a great company of men and ladies and exhorted of all to deny the charge, she demanded, with a firm voice and an assured air, what he would with her. The magistrate, looking upon her and seeing her very fair and commendable of carriage and according as her words testified, of a lofty spirit, began to have compassion of her, fearing lest she should confess somewhat wherefore it should behoove him, for his own honour's sake, condemn her to die. However, having no choice but to question her of that which was laid to her charge, he said to her, 'Madam, as you see, here is Rinaldo your husband, who complaineth of you, avouching himself to have found you in adultery with another man and demanding that I should punish you therefor by putting you to death, according to the tenor of a statute which here obtaineth; but this I cannot do, except you confess it; wherefore look well what you answer and tell me if that be true whereof your husband impeacheth you.'
The lady, no wise dismayed, replied very cheerfully, 'Sir, true it is that Rinaldo is my husband and that he found me last night in the arms of Lazzarino, wherein, for the great and perfect love I bear him, I have many a time been; nor am I anywise minded to deny this. But, as I am assured you know, laws should be common to all and made with the consent of those whom they concern; and this is not the case with this statute, which is binding only upon us unhappy women, who might far better than men avail to satisfy many; more by token that, when it was made, not only did no woman yield consent thereunto, but none of us was even cited to do so; wherefore it may justly be styled naught. However, an you choose, to the prejudice of my body and of your own soul, to be the executor of this unrighteous law, it resteth with you to do so; but, ere you proceed to adjudge aught, I pray you do me one slight favour, to wit, that you question my husband if at all times and as often as it pleased him, without ever saying him nay, I have or not vouchsafed him entire commodity of myself.'
Rinaldo, without waiting to be questioned of the provost, straightway made answer that undoubtedly the lady had, at his every request, accorded him his every pleasure of herself; whereupon, 'Then, my lord provost,' straightway rejoined she, 'if he have still taken of me that which was needful and pleasing to him, what, I ask you, was or am I to do with that which remaineth over and above his requirements? Should I cast it to the dogs? Was it not far better to gratify withal a gentleman who loveth me more than himself, than to leave it waste or spoil?' Now well nigh all the people of Prato had flocked thither to the trial of such a matter and of so fair and famous a lady, and hearing so comical a question, they all, after much laughter, cried out as with one voice that she was in the right of it and that she said well. Moreover, ere they departed thence, at the instance of the provost, they modified the cruel statute and left it to apply to those women only who should for money make default to their husbands. Thereupon Rinaldo, having taken nought but shame by so fond an emprise, departed the court, and the lady returned in triumph to her own house, joyful and free and in a manner raised up out of the fire."