The Third Story

Three Young Men Love Three Sisters And Flee With Them Into Crete, Where The Eldest Sister For Jealousy Slayeth Her Lover. The Second, Yielding Herself To The Duke Of Crete, Saveth Her Sister From Death, Whereupon Her Own Lover Slayeth Her And Fleeth With The Eldest Sister. Meanwhile The Third Lover And The Youngest Sister Are Accused Of The New Murder And Being Taken, Confess It; Then, For Fear Of Death, They Corrupt Their Keepers With Money And Flee To Rhodes, Where They Die In Poverty

Filostrato, having heard the end of Pampinea's story, bethought himself awhile and presently, turning to her, said, "There was some little that was good and that pleased me in the ending of your story; but there was overmuch before that which gave occasion for laughter and which I would not have had there." Then, turning to Lauretta, "Lady," said he, "ensue you with a better, and it may be." Quoth she, laughing, "You are too cruel towards lovers, an you desire of them only an ill end;[231] but, to obey you, I will tell a story of three who all ended equally ill, having had scant enjoyment of their loves." So saying, she began thus: "Young ladies, as you should manifestly know, every vice may turn to the grievous hurt of whoso practiseth it, and often of other folk also; but of all others that which with the slackest rein carrieth us away to our peril, meseemeth is anger, which is none otherwhat than a sudden and unconsidered emotion, aroused by an affront suffered, and which, banishing all reason and overclouding the eyes of the understanding with darkness, kindleth the soul to the hottest fury. And although this often cometh to pass in men and more in one than in another, yet hath it been seen aforetime to work greater mischiefs in women, for that it is lightlier enkindled in these latter and burneth in them with a fiercer flame and urgeth them with less restraint. Nor is this to be marvelled at, for that, an we choose to consider, we may see that fire, of its nature, catcheth quicklier to light and delicate things than to those which are denser and more ponderous; and we women, indeed,—let men not take it ill,—are more delicately fashioned than they and far more mobile. Wherefore, seeing that we are naturally inclined thereunto[232] and considering after how our mansuetude and our loving kindness are of repose and pleasance to the men with whom we have to do and how big with harm and peril are anger and fury, I purpose, to the intent that we may with a more steadfast, mind keep ourselves from these latter, to show you by my story how the loves of three young men and as many ladies came, as I said before, to an ill end, becoming through the ire of one of the latter, from happy most unhappy.

Marseilles is, as you know, a very ancient and noble city, situate in Provence on the sea-shore, and was once more abounding in rich and great merchants than it is nowadays. Among the latter was one called Narnald Cluada, a man of mean extraction, but of renowned good faith and a loyal merchant, rich beyond measure in lands and monies, who had by a wife of his several children, whereof the three eldest were daughters. Two of these latter, born at a birth, were fifteen and the third fourteen years old, nor was aught awaited by their kinsfolk to marry them but the return of Narnald, who was gone into Spain with his merchandise. The names of the two elder were the one Ninetta and the other Maddalena and the third called Bertella. Of Ninetta a young man of gentle birth, though poor, called Restagnone, was enamoured as much as man might be, and she of him, and they had contrived to do on such wise that, without any knowing it, they had enjoyment of their loves.

They had already a pretty while enjoyed this satisfaction when it chanced that two young companions, named the one Folco and the other Ughetto, whose fathers were dead, leaving them very rich, fell in love, the one with Maddalena and the other with Bertella. Restagnone, noting this (it having been shown him of Ninetta), bethought himself that he might make shift to supply his own lack by means of the newcomers' love. Accordingly, he clapped up an acquaintance with them, so that now one, now the other of them accompanied him to visit their mistresses and his; and when himseemed he was grown privy enough with them and much their friend, he called them one day into his house and said to them, 'Dearest youths, our commerce should have certified you how great is the love I bear you and that I would do for you that which I would do for myself; and for that I love you greatly, I purpose to discover to you that which hath occurred to my mind, and you and I together will after take such counsel thereof as shall seem to you best. You, an your words lie not and for that to boot which meseemeth I have apprehended by your deeds, both daily and nightly, burn with an exceeding passion for the two young ladies beloved of you, as do I for the third their sister; and to this ardour, an you will consent thereunto,[233] my heart giveth me to find a very sweet and pleasing remedy, the which is as follows. You are both very rich, which I am not; now, if you will agree to bring your riches into a common stock, making me a third sharer with you therein, and determine in which part of the world we shall go lead a merry life with our mistresses, my heart warranteth me I can without fail so do that the three sisters, with a great part of their father's good, will go with, us whithersoever we shall please, and there, each with his wench, like three brothers, we may live the happiest lives of any men in the world. It resteth with you now to determine whether you will go about to solace yourself in this or leave it be.'

The two young men, who were beyond measure inflamed, hearing that they were to have their lasses, were not long in making up their minds, but answered that, so this[234] should ensue, they were ready to do as he said. Restagnone, having gotten this answer from the young men, found means a few days after to foregather with Ninetta, to whom he could not come without great unease, and after he had abidden with her awhile, he told her what he had proposed to the others and with many arguments studied to commend the emprise to her. This was little uneath to him, seeing that she was yet more desirous than himself to be with him without suspect; wherefore she answered him frankly that it liked her well and that her sisters would do whatever she wished, especially in this, and bade him make ready everything needful therefor as quickliest he might. Restagnone accordingly returned to the two young men, who still importuned him amain to do that whereof he had bespoken them, and told them that, so far as concerned their mistresses, the matter was settled. Then, having determined among themselves to go to Crete, they sold certain lands they had, under colour of meaning to go a-trading with the price, and having made money of all their other goods, bought a light brigantine and secretly equipped it to the utmost advantage.

Meanwhile, Ninetta, who well enough knew her sisters' mind, with soft words inflamed them with such a liking for the venture that themseemed they might not live to see the thing accomplished. Accordingly, the night come when they were to go aboard the brigantine, the three sisters opened a great coffer of their father's and taking thence a vast quantity of money and jewels, stole out of the house, according to the given order. They found their gallants awaiting them and going straightway all aboard the brigantine, they thrust the oars into the water and put out to sea nor rested till they came, on the following evening, to Genoa, where the new lovers for the first time took ease and joyance of their loves. There having refreshed themselves with that whereof they had need, they set out again and sailing from port to port, came, ere it was the eighth day, without any hindrance, to Crete, where they bought great and goodly estates near Candia and made them very handsome and delightsome dwelling-houses thereon. Here they fell to living like lords and passed their days in banquets and joyance and merrymaking, the happiest men in the world, they and their mistresses, with great plenty of servants and hounds and hawks and horses.

Abiding on this wise, it befell (even as we see it happen all day long that, how much soever things may please, they grow irksome, an one have overgreat plenty thereof) that Restagnone, who had much loved Ninetta, being now able to have her at his every pleasure, without let or hindrance, began to weary of her, and consequently his love for her began to wane. Having seen at entertainment a damsel of the country, a fair and noble young lady, who pleased him exceedingly, he fell to courting her with all his might, giving marvellous entertainments in her honor and plying her with all manner gallantries; which Ninetta coming to know, she fell into such a jealousy that he could not go a step but she heard of it and after harassed both him and herself with words and reproaches on account thereof. But, like as overabundance of aught begetteth weariness, even so doth the denial of a thing desired redouble the appetite; accordingly, Ninetta's reproaches did but fan the flame of Restagnone's new love and in process of time it came to pass that, whether he had the favours of the lady he loved or not, Ninetta held it for certain, whoever it was reported it to her; wherefore she fell into such a passion of grief and thence passed into such a fit of rage and despite that the love which she bore Restagnone was changed to bitter hatred, and blinded by her wrath, she bethought herself to avenge, by his death, the affront which herseemed she had received.

Accordingly, betaking herself to an old Greek woman, a past mistress in the art of compounding poisons, she induced her with gifts and promises to make her a death-dealing water, which she, without considering farther, gave Restagnone one evening to drink he being heated and misdoubting him not thereof; and such was the potency of the poison that, ere morning came, it had slain him. Folco and Ughetto and their mistresses, hearing of his death and knowing not of what poison he had died,[235] bewept him bitterly, together with Ninetta, and caused bury him honourably. But not many days after it chanced that the old woman, who had compounded the poisoned water for Ninetta, was taken for some other misdeed and being put to the torture, confessed to this amongst her other crimes, fully declaring that which had betided by reason thereof; whereupon the Duke of Crete, without saying aught of the matter, beset Folco's palace by surprise one night and without any noise or gainsayal, carried off Ninetta prisoner, from whom, without putting her to the torture, he readily got what he would know of the death of Restagnone.

Folco and Ughetto (and from them their ladies) had privy notice from the duke why Ninetta had been taken, the which was exceeding grievous to them and they used their every endeavour to save her from the fire, whereto they doubted not she would be condemned, as indeed she richly deserved; but all seemed vain, for that the duke abode firm in willing to do justice upon her. However, Maddalena, who was a beautiful young woman and had long been courted by the duke, but had never yet consented to do aught that might pleasure him, thinking that, by complying with his wishes, she might avail to save her sister from the fire, signified to him by a trusty messenger that she was at his commandment in everything, provided two things should ensue thereof, to wit, that she should have her sister again safe and sound and that the thing should be secret. Her message pleased the duke, and after long debate with himself if he should do as she proposed, he ultimately agreed thereto and said that he was ready. Accordingly, one night, having, with the lady's consent, caused detain Folco and Ughetto, as he would fain examine them of the matter, he went secretly to couch with Maddalena and having first made a show of putting Ninetta in a sack and of purposing to let sink her that night in the sea, he carried her with him to her sister, to whom on the morrow he delivered her at parting, in payment of the night he had passed with her, praying her that this,[236] which had been the first of their loves, might not be the last and charging her send the guilty lady away, lest blame betide himself and it behove him anew proceed against her with rigour.

Next morning, Folco and Ughetto, having heard that Ninetta had been sacked overnight and believing it, were released and returned home to comfort their mistresses for the death of their sister. However, for all Maddalena could do to hide her, Folco soon became aware of Ninetta's presence in the palace, whereat he marvelled exceedingly and suddenly waxing suspicious,—for that he had heard of the duke's passion for Maddalena,—asked the latter how her sister came to be there. Maddalena began a long story, which she had devised to account to him therefor, but was little believed of her lover, who was shrewd and constrained her to confess the truth, which, after long parley, she told him. Folco, overcome with chagrin and inflamed with rage, pulled out a sword and slew her, whilst she in vain besought mercy; then, fearing the wrath and justice of the duke, he left her dead in the chamber and repairing whereas Ninetta was, said to her, with a feigned air of cheerfulness, 'Quick, let us begone whither it hath been appointed of thy sister that I shall carry thee, so thou mayst not fall again into the hands of the duke.' Ninetta, believing this and eager, in her fearfulness, to begone, set out with Folco, it being now night, without seeking to take leave of her sister; whereupon he and she, with such monies (which were but few) as he could lay hands on, betook themselves to the sea-shore and embarked on board a vessel; nor was it ever known whither they went.

On the morrow, Maddalena being found murdered, there were some who, of the envy and hatred they bore to Ughetto, forthright gave notice thereof to the duke, whereupon the latter, who loved Maddalena exceedingly, ran furiously to the house and seizing Ughetto and his lady, who as yet knew nothing of the matter,—to wit, of the departure of Folco and Ninetta,—constrained them to confess themselves guilty, together with Folco, of his mistress's death. They, apprehending with reason death in consequence of this confession, with great pains corrupted those who had them in keeping, giving them a certain sum of money, which they kept hidden in their house against urgent occasions, and embarking with their guards, without having leisure to take any of their goods, fled by night to Rhodes, where they lived no great while after in poverty and distress. To such a pass, then, did Restagnone's mad love and Ninetta's rage bring themselves and others."


[231] i.e. semble "an you would wish them nought but an ill end."

[232] i.e. to anger.

[233] i.e. to the proposal I have to make.

[234] i.e. the possession of their mistresses.

[235] Sic (di che veleno fosse morto), but this is probably a copyist's error for che di veleno fosse morto, i.e. that he had died of poison.

[236] i.e. that night.
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Decameron (Day The Thirty Sixth) Lyrics

Giovanni Boccaccio – Decameron (Day The Thirty Sixth) Lyrics