The Eighth Story

Ferondo, Having Swallowed A Certain Powder, Is Entombed For Dead And Being Taken Forth Of The Sepulchre By The Abbot, Who Enjoyeth His Wife The While, Is Put In Prison And Given To Believe That He Is In Purgatory; After Which, Being Raised Up Again, He Reareth For His Own A Child Begotten Of The Abbot On His Wife

The end being come of Emilia's long story,—which had not withal for its length been unpleasing to any of the company, nay, but was held of all the ladies to have been briefly narrated, having regard to the number and diversity of the incidents therein recounted,—the queen, having with a mere sign intimated her pleasure to Lauretta, gave her occasion to begin thus: "Dearest ladies, there occurreth to me to tell you a true story which hath much more semblance of falsehood than of that which it indeed is and which hath been recalled to my mind by hearing one to have been bewept and buried for another. I purpose then, to tell you how a live man was entombed for dead and how after he and many other folk believed himself to have come forth of the sepulchre as one raised from the dead, by reason whereof he[192] was adored as a saint who should rather have been condemned as a criminal.

There was, then, and yet is, in Tuscany, an abbey situate, like as we see many thereof, in a place not overmuch frequented of men, whereof a monk was made abbot, who was a very holy man in everything, save in the matter of women, and in this he contrived to do so warily that well nigh none, not to say knew, but even suspected him thereof, for that he was holden exceeding godly and just in everything. It chanced that a very wealthy farmer, by name Ferondo, contracted a great intimacy with him, a heavy, clodpate fellow and dull-witted beyond measure, whose commerce pleased the abbot but for that his simplicity whiles afforded him some diversion, and in the course of their acquaintance, the latter perceived that Ferondo had a very handsome woman to wife, of whom he became so passionately enamoured that he thought of nothing else day or night; but, hearing that, simple and shallow-witted as Ferondo was in everything else, he was shrewd enough in the matter of loving and guarding his wife, he well nigh despaired of her.

However, like a very adroit man as he was, he wrought on such wise with Ferondo that he came whiles, with his wife, to take his pleasance in the abbey-garden, and there he very demurely entertained them with discourse of the beatitude of the life eternal and of the pious works of many men and women of times past, insomuch that the lady was taken with a desire to confess herself to him and asked and had Ferondo's leave thereof. Accordingly, to the abbot's exceeding pleasure, she came to confess to him and seating herself at his feet, before she proceeded to say otherwhat, began thus: 'Sir, if God had given me a right husband or had given me none, it would belike be easy to me, with the help of your exhortations, to enter upon the road which you say leadeth folk unto life eternal; but I, having regard to what Ferondo is and to his witlessness, may style myself a widow, and yet I am married, inasmuch as, he living, I can have no other husband; and dolt as he is, he is without any cause, so out of all measure jealous of me that by reason thereof I cannot live with him otherwise than in tribulation and misery; wherefore, ere I come to other confession, I humbly beseech you, as most I may, that it may please you give me some counsel concerning this, for that, an the occasion of my well-doing begin not therefrom, confession or other good work will profit me little.'

This speech gave the abbot great satisfaction and himseemed fortune had opened him the way to his chief desire; wherefore, 'Daughter,' quoth he, 'I can well believe that it must be a sore annoy for a fair and dainty dame such as you are to have a blockhead to husband, but a much greater meseemeth to have a jealous man; wherefore, you having both the one and the other, I can lightly credit that which you avouch of your tribulation. But for this, speaking briefly, I see neither counsel nor remedy save one, the which is that Ferondo be cured of this jealousy. The medicine that will cure him I know very well how to make, provided you have the heart to keep secret that which I shall tell you.' 'Father mine,' answered the lady, 'have no fear of that, for I would liefer suffer death than tell any that which you bid me not repeat; but how may this be done?' Quoth the abbot, 'An we would have him cured, it behoveth of necessity that he go to purgatory.' 'But how,' asked she, 'can he go thither alive?' 'Needs must he die,' replied the abbot, 'and so go thither; and whenas he shall have suffered such penance as shall suffice to purge him of his jealousy, we will pray God, with certain orisons that he restore him to this life, and He will do it.' 'Then,' said the lady, 'I am to become a widow?' 'Ay,' answered the abbot, 'for a certain time, wherein you must look well you suffer not yourself to be married again, for that God would take it in ill part, and whenas Ferondo returned hither, it would behove you return to him and he would then be more jealous than ever.' Quoth she, 'Provided he be but cured of this calamity, so it may not behove me abide in prison all my life, I am content; do as it pleaseth you.' 'And I will do it,'[193] rejoined he; 'but what guerdon am I to have of you for such a service?' 'Father,' answered the lady, 'you shall have whatsoever pleaseth you, so but it be in my power; but what can the like of me that may befit such a man as yourself?' 'Madam,' replied the abbot 'you can do no less for me than that which I undertake to do for you; for that, like as I am disposed to do that which is to be your weal and your solacement, even so can you do that which will be the saving and assainment of my life.' Quoth she, 'An it be so, I am ready.' 'Then,' said the abbot, 'you must give me your love and vouchsafe me satisfaction of yourself, for whom I am all afire with love and languishment.'

The lady, hearing this, was all aghast and answered, 'Alack, father mine, what is this you ask? Methought you were a saint. Doth it beseem holy men to require women, who come to them for counsel, of such things?' 'Fair my soul,' rejoined the abbot, 'marvel not, for that sanctity nowise abateth by this, seeing it hath its seat in the soul and that which I ask of you is a sin of the body. But, be that as it may, your ravishing beauty hath had such might that love constraineth me to do thus; and I tell you that you may glory in your charms over all other women, considering that they please holy men, who are used to look upon the beauties of heaven. Moreover, abbot though I be, I am a man like another and am, as you see, not yet old. Nor should this that I ask be grievous to you to do; nay, you should rather desire it, for that, what while Ferondo sojourneth in purgatory, I will bear you company by night and render you that solacement which he should give you; nor shall any ever come to know of this, for that every one believeth of me that, and more than that, which you but now believed of me. Reject not the grace that God sendeth you, for there be women enough who covet that which you may have and shall have, if, like a wise woman, you hearken to my counsel. Moreover, I have fair and precious jewels, which I purpose shall belong to none other than yourself. Do, then, for me, sweet my hope, that which I willingly do for you.'

The lady hung her head, knowing not how to deny him, whilst herseemed it were ill done to grant him what he asked; but the abbot, seeing that she hearkened and hesitated to reply and himseeming he had already half converted her, followed up his first words with many others and stayed not till he had persuaded her that she would do well to comply with him. Accordingly, she said, blushing, that she was ready to do his every commandment, but might not avail thereto till such time as Ferondo should be gone to purgatory; whereupon quoth the abbot, exceeding well pleased, 'And we will make shift to send him thither incontinent; do you but contrive that he come hither to-morrow or next day to sojourn with me.' So saying, he privily put a very handsome ring into her hand and dismissed her. The lady rejoiced at the gift and looking to have others, rejoined her companions, to whom she fell to relating marvellous things of the abbot's sanctity, and presently returned home with them.

A few days after Ferondo repaired to the abbey, whom, whenas the abbot saw, he cast about to send him to purgatory. Accordingly, he sought out a powder of marvellous virtue, which he had gotten in the parts of the Levant of a great prince who avouched it to be that which was won't to be used of the Old Man of the Mountain,[194] whenas he would fain send any one, sleeping, into his paradise or bring him forth thereof, and that, according as more or less thereof was given, without doing any hurt, it made him who took it sleep more or less [time] on such wise that, whilst its virtue lasted, none would say he had life in him. Of this he took as much as might suffice to make a man sleep three days and putting it in a beaker of wine, that was not yet well cleared, gave it to Ferondo to drink in his cell, without the latter suspecting aught; after which he carried him into the cloister and there with some of his monks fell to making sport of him and his dunceries; nor was it long before, the powder working, Ferondo was taken with so sudden and overpowering a drowsiness, that he slumbered as yet he stood afoot and presently fell down fast asleep.

The abbot made a show of being concerned at this accident and letting untruss him, caused fetch cold water and cast it in his face and essay many other remedies of his fashion, as if he would recall the strayed life and senses from [the oppression of] some fumosity of the stomach or what not like affection that had usurped them. The monks, seeing that for all this he came not to himself and feeling his pulse, but finding no sign of life in him, all held it for certain that he was dead. Accordingly, they sent to tell his wife and his kinsfolk, who all came thither forthright, and the lady having bewept him awhile with her kinswomen, the abbot caused lay him, clad as he was, in a tomb; whilst the lady returned to her house and giving out that she meant never to part from a little son, whom she had had by her husband, abode at home and occupied herself with the governance of the child and of the wealth which had been Ferondo's. Meanwhile, the abbot arose stealthily in the night and with the aid of a Bolognese monk, in whom he much trusted and who was that day come thither from Bologna, took up Ferondo out of the tomb and carried him into a vault, in which there was no light to be seen and which had been made for prison of such of the monks as should make default in aught. There they pulled off his garments and clothing him monk-fashion, laid him on a truss of straw and there left him against he should recover his senses, whilst the Bolognese monk, having been instructed by the abbot of that which he had to do, without any else knowing aught thereof, proceeded to await his coming to himself.

On the morrow, the abbot, accompanied by sundry of his monks, betook himself, by way of visitation, to the house of the lady, whom he found clad in black and in great tribulation, and having comforted her awhile, he softly required her of her promise. The lady, finding herself free and unhindered of Ferondo or any other and seeing on his finger another fine ring, replied that she was ready and appointed him to come to her that same night. Accordingly, night come, the abbot, disguised in Ferondo's clothes and accompanied by the monk his confidant, repaired thither and lay with her in the utmost delight and pleasance till the morning, when he returned to the abbey. After this he very often made the same journey on a like errand and being whiles encountered, coming or going, of one or another of the villagers, it was believed he was Ferondo who went about those parts, doing penance; by reason whereof many strange stories were after bruited about among the simple countryfolk, and this was more than once reported to Ferondo's wife, who well knew what it was.

As for Ferondo, when he recovered his senses and found himself he knew not where, the Bolognese monk came in to him with a horrible noise and laying hold of him, gave him a sound drubbing with a rod he had in his hand. Ferondo, weeping and crying out, did nought but ask, 'Where am I?' To which the monk answered, 'Thou art in purgatory.' 'How?' cried Ferondo. 'Am I then dead?' 'Ay, certes,' replied the other; whereupon Ferondo fell to bemoaning himself and his wife and child, saying the oddest things in the world. Presently the monk brought him somewhat of meat and drink, which Ferondo seeing, 'What!' cried he. 'Do the dead eat?' 'Ay do they,' answered the monk. 'This that I bring thee is what the woman, thy wife that was, sent this morning to the church to let say masses for thy soul, and God the Lord willeth that it be made over to thee.' Quoth Ferondo, 'God grant her a good year! I still cherished her ere I died, insomuch that I held her all night in mine arms and did nought but kiss her, and t' other thing also I did, when I had a mind thereto.' Then, being very sharp-set, he fell to eating and drinking and himseeming the wine was not overgood, 'Lord confound her!' quoth he. 'Why did not she give the priest wine of the cask against the wall?'

After he had eaten, the monk laid hold of him anew and gave him another sound beating with the same rod; whereat Ferondo roared out lustily and said, 'Alack, why dost thou this to me?' Quoth the monk, 'Because thus hath God the Lord ordained that it be done unto thee twice every day.' 'And for what cause?' asked Ferondo. 'Because,' answered the monk, 'thou wast jealous, having the best woman in the country to wife.' 'Alas!' said Ferondo. 'Thou sayst sooth, ay, and the kindest creature; she was sweeter than syrup; but I knew not that God the Lord held it for ill that a man should be jealous; else had I not been so.' Quoth the monk, 'Thou shouldst have bethought thyself of that, whenas thou wast there below,[195] and have amended thee thereof; and should it betide that thou ever return thither, look thou so have in mind that which I do unto thee at this present that thou be nevermore jealous.' 'What?' said Ferondo. 'Do the dead ever return thither?' 'Ay,' answered the monk; 'whom God willeth.' 'Marry,' cried Ferondo, 'and I ever return thither, I will be the best husband in the world; I will never beat her nor give her an ill word, except it be anent the wine she sent hither this morning and for that she sent no candles, so it behoved me to eat in the dark.' 'Nay,' said the monk, 'she sent candles enough, but they were all burnt for the masses.' 'True,' rejoined Ferondo; 'and assuredly, an I return thither, I will let her do what she will. But tell me, who art thou that usest me thus?' Quoth the monk, 'I also am dead. I was of Sardinia and for that aforetime I much commended a master of mine of being jealous, I have been doomed of God to this punishment, that I must give thee to eat and drink and beat thee thus, till such time as God shall ordain otherwhat of thee and of me.' Then said Ferondo, 'Is there none here other than we twain?' 'Ay,' answered the monk, 'there be folk by the thousands; but thou canst neither see nor hear them, nor they thee.' Quoth Ferondo, 'And how far are we from our own countries?' 'Ecod,' replied the other, 'we are distant thence more miles than we can well cack at a bout.' 'Faith,' rejoined the farmer, 'that is far enough; meseemeth we must be out of the world, an it be so much as all that.'

In such and the like discourse was Ferondo entertained half a score months with eating and drinking and beating, what while the abbot assiduously visited the fair lady, without miscarriage, and gave himself the goodliest time in the world with her. At last, as ill-luck would have it, the lady found herself with child and straightway acquainted the abbot therewith, wherefore it seemed well to them both that Ferondo should without delay be recalled from purgatory to life and return to her, so she might avouch herself with child by him. Accordingly, the abbot that same night caused call to Ferondo in prison with a counterfeit voice, saying, 'Ferondo, take comfort, for it is God's pleasure that thou return to the world, where thou shalt have a son by thy wife, whom look thou name Benedict, for that by the prayers of thy holy abbot and of thy wife and for the love of St. Benedict He doth thee this favour.' Ferondo, hearing this, was exceedingly rejoiced and said, 'It liketh me well, Lord grant a good year to Seignior God Almighty and to the abbot and St. Benedict and my cheesy[196] sweet honey wife.' The abbot let give him, in the wine that he sent him, so much of the powder aforesaid as should cause him sleep maybe four hours and with the aid of his monk, having put his own clothes on him, restored him privily to the tomb wherein he had been buried.

Next morning, at break of day, Ferondo came to himself and espying light,—a thing which he had not seen for good ten months,—through some crevice of the tomb, doubted not but he was alive again. Accordingly, he fell to bawling out, 'Open to me! Open to me!' and heaving so lustily at the lid of the tomb with his head that he stirred it, for that it was eath to move, and had begun to move it away, when the monks, having now made an end of saying matins, ran thither and knew Ferondo's voice and saw him in act to come forth of the sepulchre; whereupon, all aghast for the strangeness of the case, they took to their heels and ran to the abbot, who made a show of rising from prayer and said, 'My sons, have no fear; take the cross and the holy water and follow after me, so we may see that which God willeth to show forth to us of His might'; and as he said, so he did.

Now Ferondo was come forth of the sepulchre all pale, as well might he be who had so long abidden without seeing the sky. As soon as he saw the abbot, he ran to cast himself at his feet and said, 'Father mine, according to that which hath been revealed to me, your prayers and those of St. Benedict and my wife have delivered me from the pains of purgatory and restored me to life, wherefore I pray God to give you a good year and good calends now and always.' Quoth the abbot, 'Praised be God His might! Go, my son, since He hath sent thee back hither; comfort thy wife, who hath been still in tears, since thou departedst this life, and henceforth be a friend and servant of God.' 'Sir,' replied Ferondo, 'so hath it indeed been said to me; only leave me do; for, as soon as I find her, I shall buss her, such goodwill do I bear her.'

The abbot, left alone with his monks, made a great show of wonderment at this miracle and caused devoutly sing Miserere therefor. As for Ferondo, he returned to his village, where all who saw him fled, as men use to do from things frightful; but he called them back and avouched himself to be raised up again. His wife on like wise feigned to be adread of him; but, after the folk were somewhat reassured anent him and saw that he was indeed alive, they questioned him of many things, and he, as it were he had returned wise, made answer to all and gave them news of the souls of their kinsfolk, making up, of his own motion, the finest fables in the world of the affairs of purgatory and recounting in full assembly the revelation made him by the mouth of the Rangel Bragiel[197] ere he was raised up again. Then, returning to his house and entering again into possession of his goods, he got his wife, as he thought, with child, and by chance it befell that, in due time,—to the thinking of the fools who believe that women go just nine months with child,—the lady gave birth to a boy, who was called Benedict Ferondi.[198]

Ferondo's return and his talk, well nigh every one believing him to have risen from the dead, added infinitely to the renown of the abbot's sanctity, and he himself, as if cured of his jealousy by the many beatings he had received therefor, thenceforward, according to the promise made by the abbot to the lady, was no more jealous; whereat she was well pleased and lived honestly with him, as of her won't, save indeed that, whenas she conveniently might, she willingly foregathered with the holy abbot, who had so well and diligently served her in her greatest needs."

Footnotes

[192] i.e. the abbot who played the trick upon Ferondo. See post.

[193] i.e. I will cure your husband of his jealousy.

[194] The well-known chief of the Assassins (properly Heshashin, i.e. hashish or hemp eaters). The powder in question is apparently a preparation of hashish or hemp. Boccaccio seems to have taken his idea of the Old Man of the Mountain from Marco Polo, whose travels, published in the early part of the fourteenth century, give a most romantic account of that chieftain and his followers.

[195] i.e. in the sublunary world.

[196] Sic (casciata); meaning that he loves her as well as he loves cheese, for which it is well known that the lower-class Italian has a romantic passion. According to Alexandre Dumas, the Italian loves cheese so well that he has succeeded in introducing it into everything he eats or drinks, with the one exception of coffee.

[197] i.e. the Angel Gabriel.

[198] The plural of a surname is, in strictness, always used by the Italians in speaking of a man by his full name, dei being understood between the Christian and surname, as Benedetto (dei) Ferondi, Benedict of the Ferondos or Ferondo family, whilst, when he is denominated by the surname alone, it is used in the singular, il (the) being understood, e.g. (Il) Boccaccio, (Il) Ferondo, i.e. the particular Boccaccio or Ferondo in question for the nonce.
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