The First Story

Gianni Lotteringhi Heareth Knock At His Door By Night And Awakeneth His Wife, Who Giveth Him To Believe That It Is A Phantom; Whereupon They Go To Exorcise It With A Certain Orison And The Knocking Ceaseth

"My Lord, it had been very agreeable to me, were such your pleasure, that other than I should have given a beginning to so goodly a matter as is that whereof we are to speak; but, since it pleaseth you that I give all the other ladies assurance by my example, I will gladly do it. Moreover, dearest ladies, I will study to tell a thing that may be useful to you in time to come, for that, if you others are as fearful as I, and especially of phantoms, (though what manner of thing they may be God knoweth I know not, nor ever found I any woman who knew it, albeit all are alike adread of them,) you may, by noting well my story, learn a holy and goodly orison of great virtue for the conjuring them away, should they come to you.

There was once in Florence, in the quarter of San Brancazio, a wool-comber called Gianni Lotteringhi, a man more fortunate in his craft than wise in other things, for that, savoring of the simpleton, he was very often made captain of the Laudsingers[340] of Santa Maria Novella and had the governance of their confraternity, and he many a time had other little offices of the same kind, upon which he much valued himself. This betided him for that, being a man of substance, he gave many a good pittance to the clergy, who, getting of him often, this a pair of hose, that a gown and another a scapulary, taught him in return store of goodly orisons and gave him the paternoster in the vulgar tongue, the Song of Saint Alexis, the Lamentations of Saint Bernard, the Canticles of Madam Matilda and the like trumpery, all which he held very dear and kept very diligently for his soul's health. Now he had a very fair and lovesome lady to wife, by name Mistress Tessa, who was the daughter of Mannuccio dalla Cuculia and was exceeding discreet and well advised. She, knowing her husband's simplicity and being enamoured of Federigo di Neri Pegolotti, a brisk and handsome youth, and he of her, took order with a serving-maid of hers that he should come speak with her at a very goodly country house which her husband had at Camerata, where she sojourned all the summer and whither Gianni came whiles to sup and sleep, returning in the morning to his shop and bytimes to his Laudsingers.

Federigo, who desired this beyond measure, taking his opportunity, repaired thither on the day appointed him towards vespers and Gianni not coming thither that evening, supped and lay the night in all ease and delight with the lady, who, being in his arms, taught him that night a good half dozen of her husband's lauds. Then, neither she nor Federigo purposing that this should be the last, as it had been the first time [of their foregathering], they took order together on this wise, so it should not be needful to send the maid for him each time, to wit, that every day, as he came and went to and from a place he had a little farther on, he should keep his eye on a vineyard that adjoined the house, where he would see an ass's skull set up on one of the vine poles, which whenas he saw with the muzzle turned towards Florence, he should without fail and in all assurance betake himself to her that evening after dark; and if he found the door shut he should knock softly thrice and she would open to him; but that, whenas he saw the ass's muzzle turned towards Fiesole, he should not come, for that Gianni would be there; and doing on this wise, they foregathered many a time.

But once, amongst other times, it chanced that, Federigo being one night to sup with Mistress Tessa and she having let cook two fat capons, Gianni, who was not expected there that night, came thither very late, whereat the lady was much chagrined and having supped with her husband on a piece of salt pork, which she had let boil apart, caused the maid wrap the two boiled capons in a white napkin and carry them, together with good store of new-laid eggs and a flask of good wine, into a garden she had, whither she could go, without passing through the house, and where she was won't to sup whiles with her lover, bidding her lay them at the foot of a peach-tree that grew beside a lawn there. But such was her trouble and annoy that she remembered not to bid the maid wait till Federigo should come and tell him that Gianni was there and that he should take the viands from the garden; wherefore, she and Gianni betaking themselves to bed and the maid likewise, it was not long before Federigo came to the door and knocked softly once. The door was so near to the bedchamber that Gianni heard it incontinent, as also did the lady; but she made a show of being asleep, so her husband might have no suspicion of her. After waiting a little, Federigo knocked a second time, whereupon Gianni, marvelling, nudged his wife somewhat and said, 'Tessa, hearest thou what I hear? Meseemeth there is a knocking at our door.'

The lady, who had heard it much better than he, made a show of awaking and said, 'Eh? How sayst thou?' 'I say,' answered Gianni, 'that meseemeth there is a knocking at our door.' 'Knocking!' cried she. 'Alack, Gianni mine, knowst thou not what it is? It is a phantom, that hath these last few nights given me the greatest fright that ever was, insomuch that, whenas I hear it, I put my head under the clothes and dare not bring it out again until it is broad day.' Quoth Gianni, 'Go to, wife; have no fear, if it be so; for I said the Te Lucis and the Intemerata and such and such other pious orisons, before we lay down, and crossed the bed from side to side, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, so that we have no need to fear, for that, what power soever it have, it cannot avail to harm us.'

The lady, fearing lest Federigo should perchance suspect otherwhat and be angered with her, determined at all hazards to arise and let him know that Gianni was there; wherefore quoth she to her husband, 'That is all very well; thou sayst thy words, thou; but, for my part, I shall never hold myself safe nor secure, except we exorcise it, since thou art here.' 'And how is it to be exorcised?' asked he; and she, 'I know full well how to exorcise it; for, the other day, when I went to the Pardon at Fiesole, a certain anchoress (the very holiest of creatures, Gianni mine, God only can say how holy she is,) seeing me thus fearful, taught me a pious and effectual orison and told me that she had made trial of it several times, ere she became a recluse, and that it had always availed her. God knoweth I should never have dared go alone to make proof of it; but, now that thou art here, I would have us go exorcise the phantom.'

Gianni answered that he would well and accordingly they both arose and went softly to the door, without which Federigo, who now began to misdoubt him of somewhat, was yet in waiting. When they came thither, the lady said to Gianni, 'Do thou spit, whenas I shall bid thee.' And he answered, 'Good.' Then she began the conjuration and said, 'Phantom, phantom that goest by night, with tail upright[341] thou cam'st to us; now get thee gone with tail upright. Begone into the garden to the foot of the great peach tree; there shalt thou find an anointed twice-anointed one[342] and an hundred turds of my sitting hen;[343] set thy mouth to the flagon and get thee gone again and do thou no hurt to my Gianni nor to me.' Then to her husband, 'Spit, Gianni,' quoth she, and he spat. Federigo, who heard all this from without and was now quit of jealousy, had, for all his vexation, so great a mind to laugh that he was like to burst, and when Gianni spat, he said under his breath '[Would it were] thy teeth!'

The lady, having thrice conjured the phantom on this wise, returned to bed with her husband, whilst Federigo, who had not supped, looking to sup with her, and had right well apprehended the words of the conjuration, betook himself to the garden and finding the capons and wine and eggs at the foot of the great peach-tree, carried them off to his house and there supped at his ease; and after, when he next foregathered with the lady, he had a hearty laugh with her anent the conjuration aforesaid. Some say indeed that the lady had actually turned the ass's skull towards Fiesole, but that a husbandman, passing through the vineyard, had given it a blow with a stick and caused it spin round and it had become turned towards Florence, wherefore Federigo, thinking himself summoned, had come thither, and that the lady had made the conjuration on this wise: 'Phantom, phantom, get thee gone in God's name; for it was not I turned the ass's head; but another it was, God put him to shame! and I am here with my Gianni in bed'; whereupon he went away and abode without supper or lodging. But a neighbour of mine, a very ancient lady, telleth me that, according to that which she heard, when a child, both the one and the other were true; but that the latter happened, not to Gianni Lotteringhi, but to one Gianni di Nello, who abode at Porta San Piero and was no less exquisite a ninny than the other. Wherefore, dear my ladies, it abideth at your election to take whether of the two orisons most pleaseth you, except you will have both. They have great virtue in such cases, as you have had proof in the story you have heard; get them, therefore, by heart and they may yet avail you."

Footnotes

[340] See p. 144, note 2.

[341] i.e. pene arrecto.

[342] i.e. a fattened capon well larded.

[343] i.e. eggs.
Correct  |  Mail  |  Print  |  Vote

Decameron (Day The Sixty Seventh) Lyrics

Giovanni Boccaccio – Decameron (Day The Sixty Seventh) Lyrics