Whereon, Under The Government Of Madame Pampinea, The Argument Of Each Severall Descourse, Is Not Limitted To Any One Peculiar Subject.
Gracious Ladies, so often as I consider with my selfe, and observe respectively, how naturally you are enclined to compassion; as many times doe I acknowledge, that this present worke of mine, will (in your judgement) appeare to have but a harsh and offensive beginning, in regard of the mournfull remembrance it beareth at the verie entrance of the last Pestilentiall mortality, universally hurtfull to all that beheld it, or otherwise came to knowledge of it. But for all that, I desire it may not be so dreadfull to you, to hinder your further proceeding in reading, as if none were to looke thereon, but with sighes and teares. For, I could rather wish, that so fearefull a beginning, should seeme but as an high and steepy hil appeares to them, that attempt to travell farre on foote, and ascending the same with some difficulty, come afterward to walk upon a goodly even plaine, which causeth the more contentment in them, because the attayning thereto was hard and painfull. For even as pleasures are cut off by griefe and anguish; so sorrowes cease by joyes most sweete and happie arriving.
After this briefe mollestation; briefe I say, because it is contained within small compasse of Writing; immediately followeth the most sweete and pleasant taste of pleasure, whereof (before) I made promise to you. Which (peradventure) could not bee expected by such a beginning, if promise stood not thereunto engaged. And indeed, if I could well have conveyed you to the center of my desire, by any other way, then so rude and rocky a passage as this is, I would gladly have done it. But because without this Narration, we could not demonstrate the occasion how and wherefore the matters hapned, which you shall reade in the ensuing Discourses: I must set them downe (even as constrained thereto by meere necessity) in writing after this manner.
The yeare of our blessed Saviours incarnation, 1348, that memorable mortality happened in the excellent City, farre beyond all the rest in Italy; which plague, by operation of the superiour bodies, or rather for our enormous iniquities, by the just anger of God was sent upon us mortals. Some few yeeres before, it tooke beginning in the Easterne partes, sweeping thence an innumerable quantity of living soules: extending it selfe afterward from place to place Westward, until it seized on the said City. Where neither humane skill or providence, could use any prevention, notwithstanding it was cleansed of many annoyances, by diligent Officers thereto deputed: besides prohibition of all sickly persons enterance, and all possible provision dayly used for conservation of such as were in health, with incessant prayers and supplications of devoute people, for the asswaging of so dangerous a sicknesse.
About the beginning of the yeare, it also began in very strange manner, as appeared by divers admirable effects; yet not as it had done in the East Countries, where Lord or Lady being touched therewith, manifest signes of inevitable death followed thereon, by bleeding at the nose. But here it began with yong children, male and female, either under the armepits, or in the groine by certaine swellings, in some to the bignesse of an Apple, in others like an Egge, and so in divers greater or lesser, which (in their vulgar Language) they termed to be a Botch or Byle. In very short time after, those two infected parts were growne mortiferous, and would disperse abroad indifferently, to all parts of the body; whereupon, such was the quality of the disease, to shew it selfe by blacke or blew spottes, which would appeare on the armes of many, others on their thighes, and every part else of the body: in some great and few, in others small and thicke.
Now, as the Byle (at the beginning) was an assured signe of neere approaching death; so prooved the spots likewise to such as had them: for the curing of which sicknesse it seemed, that the Physitians counsell, the vertue of Medicines, or any application else, could not yeeld any remedy: but rather it plainely appeared, that either the nature of the disease would not endure it, or ignorance in the Physitians could not comprehend from whence the cause proceeded, and so by consequent, no resolution was to be determined. Moreover, beside the number of such as were skilfull in Art, many more both women and men, without ever having any knowledge in Physicke, became Physitians: so that not onely few were healed, but (well-neere) all dyed, within three dayes after the saide signes were seene; some sooner, and others later, commonly without either Feaver, or any other accident.
And this pestilence was yet of farre greater power or violence; for, not onely healthfull persons speaking to the sicke, comming to see them, or ayring cloathes in kindnesse to comfort them, was an occasion of ensuing death: but touching their garments, or any foode whereon the sicke person fed, or any thing else used in his service, seemed to transferre the disease from the sicke to the sound, in very rare and miraculous manner. Among which matter of marvell, let me tell you one thing, which if the eyes of many (as well as mine owne) had not seene, hardly could I be perswaded to write it, much lesse to beleeve it, albeit a man of good credit should report it. I say, that the quality of this contagious pestilence was not onely of such efficacy, in taking and catching it one of another, either men or women: but it extended further, even in the apparent view of many, that the cloathes, or anything else, wherein one died of that disease, being toucht, or lyen on by any beast, farre from the kind or quality of man, they did not onely contaminate and infect the said beast, were it Dogge, Cat, or any other; but also it died very soone after.
Mine owne eyes (as formerly I have said) among divers other, one day had evident experience heereof: for some poore ragged cloathes of linnen and wollen, torne from a wretched body dead of that disease, and hurled in the open streete; two Swine going by, and (according to their naturall inclination) seeking for foode on every dunghill, tossed and tumbled the cloaths with their snouts, rubbing their heads likewise upon them; and immediately, each turning twice or thrice about, they both fell downe dead on the saide cloathes, as being fully infected with the contagion of them: which accident, and other the like, if not far greater, begat divers feares and imaginations in them that beheld them, all tending to a most inhumane and uncharitable end; namely, to flie thence from the sicke, and touching any thing of theirs, by which meanes they thought their health should be safely warranted.
Some there were, who considered with themselves, that living soberly, with abstinence from all superfluity; it would be a sufficient resistance against all hurtfull accidents. So combining themselves in a sociable manner, they lived as separatists from all other company, being shut up in such houses, where no sicke body should be neere them. And there, for their more security, they used delicate viands and excellent wines, avoiding luxurie, and refusing speech to one another, not looking forth at the windowes, to heare no cries of dying people, or see any coarses carried to buriall; but having musicall instruments, lived there in all possible pleasure. Others, were of a contrary opinion, who avouched, that there was no other physicke more certaine, for a disease so desperate, then to drinke hard, be merry among themselves, singing continually, walking every where, and satisfying their appetites with whatsoever they desired, laughing, and mocking at every mournefull accident, and so they vowed to spend day and night: for now they would goe to one Taverne, then to another, living without any rule or measure; which they might very easily doe, because every one of them, (as if he were to live no longer in this World) had even forsaken all things that hee had. By meanes whereof, the most part of the houses were become common, and all strangers, might do the like (if they pleased to adventure it) even as boldly as the Lord or owner, without any let or contradiction.
Yet in all this their beastly behaviour, they were wise enough, to shun (so much as they might) the weake and sickly: In misery and affliction of our City, the venerable authority of the Lawes, as well divine as humane, was even destroyed, as it were, through want of the lawfull Ministers of them. For they being all dead, or lying sicke with the rest, or else lived so solitary, in such great necessity of servants and attendants, as they could not execute any office, whereby it was lawfull for every one to do as he listed.
Betweene these two rehearsed extremities of life, there were other of a more moderate temper, not being so daintily dieted as the first, nor drinking so dissolutely as the second; but used all things sufficient for their appetites, and without shutting up themselves, walked abroad, some carrying sweete nosegayes of flowers in their hands; others odoriferous herbes, and others divers kinds of spiceries, holding them to their noses, and thinking them most comfortable for the braine, because the ayre seemed to be much infected by the noysome smell of dead carkases, and other hurtfull savours. Some other there were also of more inhumane minde (howbeit peradventure it might be the surest) saying, that there was no better physicke against the pestilence, nor yet so good, as to flie away from it, which argument mainely moving them, and caring for no body but themselves, very many, both men and women, forsooke the City, their owne houses, their Parents, Kindred, Friends, and Goods, flying to other mens dwellings else-where. As if the wrath of God, in punnishing the sinnes of men with this plague, would fall heavily upon none, but such as were enclosed within the City wals; or else perswading themselves, that not any should there bee left alive, but that the finall ending of all things was come.
Now albeit these persons in their diversity of opinions died not all, so undoubtedly they did not all escape; but many among them becomming sicke, and making a generall example of their flight and folly, among them that could not stirre out of their beds, they languished more perplexedly then the other did. Let us omit, that one Citizen fled after another, and one neighbour had not any care of another, Parents nor kinred never visiting them, but utterly they were forsaken on all sides: this tribulation pierced into the hearts of men, and with such a dreadfull terrour, that one Brother forsooke another, the Unkle the Nephew, the Sister the Brother, and the Wife her Husband: nay, a matter much greater, and almost incredible; Fathers and Mothers fled away from their owne Children, even as if they had no way appertained to them. In regard whereof, it could be no otherwise, but that a countlesse multitude of men and women fell sicke; finding no charity among their friends, except a very few, and subject to the avarice of servants, who attended them constrainedly, (for great and unreasonable wages) yet few of those attendants to be found any where too. And they were men or women but of base condition, as also of groser understanding, who never before had served in any such necessities, nor indeed were any way else to be imployed; but to give the sicke person such things as hee called for, or to awaite the houre of his death; in the performance of which service, oftentimes for gaine, they lost their owne lives.
In this extreame calamity, the sicke being thus forsaken of neighbors, kinred, and friends, standing also in such need of servants; a custome came up among them, never heard of before, that there was not any woman, how noble, young, or faire soever shee was, but falling sicke, shee must of necessity have a man to attend her, were hee young or otherwise, respect of shame or modesty no way prevailing, but all parts of her body must be discovered to him, which (in the like urgency) was not to be seene by any but women: whereon ensued afterward, that upon the parties healing and recovery, it was the occasion of further dishonesty, which many being more modestly curious of, refused such disgracefull attending, chusing rather to die, then by such helpe to bee healed. In regard whereof, as well through the want of convenient remedies, (which the sicke by no meanes could attaine unto) as also the violence of the contagion, the multitude of them that died night and day, was so great, that it was a dreadfull sight to behold, and as much to heare spoken of. So that meere necessity (among them that remained living) begat new behaviours, quite contrary to all which had beene in former times, and frequently used among the City Inhabitants.
The custome of precedent dayes (as now againe it is) was, that women, kinred, neighbours, and friends, would meete together at the deceased parties house, and there, with them that were of neerest alliance, expresse their hearts sorrow for their friends losse. If not thus, they would assemble before the doore, with many of the best Cittizens and kindred, and (according to the quality of the deceased) the Cleargy met there likewise, and the dead body was carried (in comely manner) on mens shoulders, with funerall pompe of Torch light, and singing, to the Church appointed by the deceased. But these seemely orders, after that the fury of the pestilence began to encrease, they in like manner altogether ceased, and other new customes came in their place; because not onely people died, without having any women about them, but infinites also past out of this life, not having any witnesse, how, when, or in what manner they departed. So that few or none there were, to deliver outward shew of sorrow and grieving: but insteed thereof, divers declared idle joy and rejoycing, a use soone learned of immodest women, having put off all feminine compassion, yea, or regard of their owne welfare.
Very few also would accompany the body to the grave, and they not any of the Neighbours, although it had beene an honourable Citizen, but onely the meanest kinde of people, such as were grave-makers, coffin-bearers, or the like, that did these services onely for money, and the beere being mounted on their shoulders, in all hast they would runne away with it, not perhaps to the Church appointed by the dead, but to the neerest at hand, having some foure or sixe poore Priests following, with lights or no lights, and those of the silliest; short service being said at the buriall, and the body unreverently throwne into the first open grave they found. Such was the pittifull misery of poore people, and divers, who were of better condition, as it was most lamentable to behold; because the greater number of them, under hope of healing, or compelled by poverty, kept still within their house weake and faint, thousands falling sicke daily, and having no helpe, or being succoured any way with foode or physicke, all of them died, few or none escaping.
Great store there were, that died in the streetes by day or night, and many more beside, although they died in their houses; yet first they made it knowne to their neighbours, that their lives perished, rather by the noysome smell of dead and putrified bodies, then by any violence of the disease in themselves. So that of these and the rest, dying in this manner every where, the neighbours observed one course of behaviour, (moved thereto no lesse by feare, that the smell and corruption of dead bodies should harme them, then charitable respect of the dead) that themselves when they could, or being assisted by some bearers of coarses, when they were able to procure them, would hale the bodies (already dead) out of their houses, laying them before their doores, where such as passed by, especially in the mornings, might see them lying in no meane numbers. Afterward, Bieres were brought thither, and such as might not have the helpe of Bieres, were glad to lay them on tables; and Bieres have bin observed, not onely to be charged with two or three dead bodies at once, but many times it was seene also, that the wife with the husband, two or three Brethren together; yea, the Father and the Mother, have thus beene carried along to the grave upon one Biere.
Moreover, oftentimes it hath beene seene, that when two Priests went with one Crosse to fetch the body; there would follow (behind) three or foure bearers with their Bieres, and when the Priests intended the buriall but of one body, sixe or eight more have made up the advantage, and yet none of them being attended by any seemly company, lights, teares, or the very least decencie, but it plainly appeared, that the very like account was then made of Men or Women, as if they had bene Dogges or Swine. Wherein might manifestly bee noted, that that which the naturall course of things could not shew to the wise, with rare and little losse, to wit, the patient support of miseries and misfortunes, even in their greatest height: not onely the wise might now learne, but also the very simplest people; and in such sort, that they should alwaies bee prepared against all infelicities whatsoever.
Hallowed ground could not now suffice, for the great multitude of dead bodies, which were daily brought to every Church in the City, and every houre in the day; neither could the bodies have proper place of buriall, according to our ancient custome: wherefore, after that the Churches and Church-yards were filled, they were constrained to make use of great deepe ditches, wherein they were buried by hundreds at once, ranking dead bodies along in graves, as Merchandizes are laide along in ships, covering each after other with a small quantity of earth, and so they filled at last up the whole ditch to the brim.
Now, because I would wander no further in everie particularity, concerning the miseries happening in our Citie: I tell you, that extremities running on in such manner as you have heard, little lesse spare was made in the Villages round about; wherein (setting aside enclosed Castles which were now filled like to small Cities) poore Labourers and Husband-men, with their whole Families, dyed most miserably in outhouses, yea, and in the open fieldes also; without any assistance of physicke, or helpe of servants; and likewise in the high-wayes, or their ploughed landes, by day or night indifferently, yet not as men, but like brute beasts.
By meanes whereof, they became lazie and slothfull in their dayly endevours, even like to our Citizens; not minding or medling with their wonted affaires: but, as a waiting for death every houre, imployed all their paines, not in caring any way for themselves, their cattle, or gathering the fruits of the earth, or any of their accustomed labours; but rather wasted and consumed, even such as were for their instant sustenance. Whereupon, it fell so out, that their Oxen, Asses, Sheepe, and Goates, their Swine, Pullen, yea their verie Dogges, the truest and faithfullest servants to men, being beaten and banished from their houses, went wildly wandring abroad in the fields, where the Corne grew still on the ground without gathering, or being so much as reapt or cut. Many of the foresaid beasts (as endued with reason) after they had pastured themselves in the day time, would returne full fed at night home to their houses, without any government of Heardsmen, or any other.
How many faire Palaces! How many goodly Houses! How many noble habitations, filled before with families of Lords and Ladies, were then to be seene emptie, without any one there dwelling, except some silly servant? How many Kindreds, worthy of memory! How many great inheritances! And what plenty of riches; were left without any true successours? How many good men! How many woorthy Women! How many valiant and comely young men, whom none but Galen, Hippocrates, and Aeesculapius (if they were living) could have bene reputed any way unhealthfull; were seene to dine at morning with their Parents, Friends, and familiar confederates, and went to sup in another world with their Predecessors?
It is no meane breach to my braine, to make repetition of so many miseries; wherefore, being willing to part with them as easily as I may: I say that our Citie being in this case, voide of inhabitants, it came to passe (as afterward I understoode by some of good credite) that in the venerable Church of S. Marie la Neufue, on a Tuesday morning, there being then no other person, after the hearing of divine Service, in mourning habits (as the season required) returned thence seven discrete young Gentlewomen, all allyed together, either by friendship, neighbor-hood, or parentage. She among them that was most entred into yeares, exceeded not eight and twenty; and the yongest was no lesse then eighteene; being of Noble descent, faire forme, adorned with exquisite behaviour, and gracious modesty.
Their names I could report, if just occasion did not forbid it, in regard of the occasions following by them related, and because times heereafter shall not taxe them with reproofe; the lawes of pleasure being more straited now adayes (for the matters before revealed) then at that time they were, not onely to their yeares but to many much riper. Neither will I likewise minister matter to rash heades (over-readie in censuring commendable life) any way to impaire the honestie of Ladies, by their idle detracting speeches. And therefore, to the end that what each of them saith, may be comprehended without confusion; I purpose to stile them by names, wholly agreeing, or (in part) conformable to their qualities. The first and most aged, we will name Pampinea; the second Fiametta; the third Philamena; the fourth Aemilia; the fift Lauretta; the sixt Neiphila; and the last we terme (not without occasion) Elissa, or Eliza. All of them being assembled at a corner of the Church, not by any deliberation formerly appointed, but meerely by accident, and sitting, as it were in a round ring: after divers sighs severelly delivered, they conferred on sundry matters answerable to the sad qualitie of the time, and within a while after, Madam Pampinea began in this manner.
Faire Ladies, you may (no doubt as well as I) have often heard, that no injury is offered to any one, by such as make use but of their owne right. It is a thing naturall for everie one which is borne in this World, to aide, conserve, and defend her life so long as shee can; and this right hath bene so powerfully permitted, that although it hath sometimes happened, that (to defend themselves) men have beene slaine without any offence: yet Lawes have allowed it to be so, in whose solicitude lieth the best living of all mortals. How much more honest and just is it then for us, and for every other well-disposed person, to seeke for (without wronging any) and to practise all remedies that wee can, for the conservation of our lives? When I well consider, what we have heere done this morning, and many other already past (remembring (withall) what likewise is proper and convenient for us:) I conceive (as all you may do the like) that everie one of us hath a due respect of her selfe, and then I mervaile not, but rather am much amazed (knowing none of us to be deprived of a Womans best judgement) that wee seeke not after some remedies for our selves, against that, which everie one among us, ought (in reason) to feare.
Heere we meete and remaine (as it seemeth to mee) in no other manner, then as if we would or should be witnesses, to all the dead bodies at rest in their grave; or else to listen, when the religious Sisters heere dwelling (whose number now are well-neere come to bee none at all) sing Service at such houres as they ought to doe; or else to acquaint all commers hither (by our mourning habits) with the quality and quantitie of our hearts miseries. And when we part hence, we meete with none but dead bodies; or sicke persons transported from one place to another; or else we see running thorow the City (in most offensive fury) such as (by authoritie of publike Lawes) were banished hence, onely for their bad and brutish behaviour in contempt of those Lawes, because now they know, that the executors of them are dead and sicke. And if not these, more lamentable spectacles present themselves to us, by the base rascality of the City; who being fatted with our blood, tearme themselves Grave-makers, and in meere contemptible mockeries of us, are mounted on horsebacke, gallopping every where, reproaching us with our losses and misfortunes, with lewd and dishonest songs: so that we can heare nothing else but such and such are dead, and such and such lie a dying: here hands wringing, and every where most pittifull complaining.
If we returne home to our houses (I know not whether your case be answerable to mine) when I can finde none of all my Family, but onely my poore waiting Chamber-maide; so great are my feares, that the very haire on my head declareth my amazement, and wheresoever I go or sit downe, methinkes I see the ghostes and shadowes of deceased friends, not with such lovely lookes as I was wont to behold them, but with most horrid and dreadfull regards, newly stolne upon them I know not how. In these respects, both heere, else-where, and at home in my house, methinkes I am alwaies ill, and much more (in mine owne opinion) then any other body, not having meanes or place of retirement, as all we have, and none to remaine heere but onely we.
Moreover, I have often heard it said, that in tarrying or departing, no distinction is made in things honest or dishonest; onely appetite will be served; and be they alone or in company, by day or night, they do whatsoever their appetite desireth: not secular persons onely, but such as are recluses, and shut up within Monasteries, breaking the Lawes of obedience, and being addicted to pleasures of the flesh, are become lascivious and dissolute, making the world beleeve, that whatsoever is convenient for other women, is no way unbeseeming them, as thinking in that manner to escape.
If it be so, as manifestly it maketh shew of it selfe; What do we here? What stay we for? And whereon do we dreame? Why are we more respectlesse of our health, then all the rest of the Citizens? Repute we our selves lesse precious then all the other? Or do we beleeve, that life is linked to our bodies with stronger chaines, then to others, and that therefore we should not feare any thing that hath power to offend us? Wee erre therein, and are deceived. What brutishnesse were it in us, if we should urge any such beleefe? So often as we call to minde, what and how many gallant yong men and women, have beene devoured by this cruell pestilence; we may evidently observe a contrary argument.
Wherefore, to the end, that by being over-scrupulous and carelesse, we fall not into such danger, whence when we would (perhaps) we cannot recover our selves by any meanes: I thinke it meete (if your judgement therein shall jumpe with mine) that all of us as we are (at least, if we will doe as divers before us have done, and yet dally endeavour to doe) shunning death by the honest example of other, make our retreate to our Country houses, wherewith all of us are sufficiently furnished, and there to delight our selves as best we may, yet without transgressing (in any act) the limits of reason. There shall we heare the pretty birds sweetly singing, see the hilles and plaines verdantly flouring; the Corne waving in the field like the billowes of the Sea, infinite store of goodly trees, and the Heavens more fairely open to us, then here we can behold them. And although they are justly displeased, yet will they not there deny us better beauties to gaze on, then the walles in our City (emptied of Inhabitants) can affoord us.
Moreover, the Ayre is much fresh and cleere, and generally, there is farre greater abundance of all things whatsoever, needefull at this time for preservation of our health, and lesse offence or mollestation then we find here.
And although Country people die, as well as heere our Citizens doe, the griefe notwithstanding is so much the lesse, as the houses and dwellers there are rare, in comparison of them in our City. And beside, if we well observe it, here we forsake no particular person, but rather we may tearme our selves forsaken; in regard that our Husbands, Kinred, and Friends, either dying, or flying from the dead, have left us alone in this great affliction, even as if we were no way belonging unto them. And therefore, by following this counsell, we cannot fall into any reprehension; whereas if we neglect and refuse it, danger, distresse, and death (perhaps) may ensue thereon.
Wherefore, if you thinke good, I would allow it for well done, to take our waiting women, with all such things as are needfull for us, and (as this day) betake our selves to one place, to morrow to another, taking there such pleasure and recreation, as so sweete a season liberally bestoweth on us. In which manner we may remaine, till we see (if death otherwise prevent us not) what end the gracious Heavens have reserved for us. I would have you also to consider, that it is no lesse seemely for us to part hence honestly, then a great number of other Women to remaine here immodestly.
The other Ladies and Gentlewomen, having heard Madam Pampinea, not onely commended her counsell, but desiring also to put it in execution; had already particularly consulted with themselves, by what meanes they might instantly depart from thence. Neverthelesse, Madam Philomena, who was very wise, spake thus.
Albeit faire Ladies, the case propounded by Madam Pampinea hath beene very well delivered; yet (for all that) it is against reason for us to rush on, as we are overready to doe. Remember that we are all women, and no one among us is so childish, but may consider, that when wee shall be so assembled together, without providence or conduct of some man, we can hardly governe our selves. Wee are fraile, offensive, suspitious, weake spirited, and fearefull: in regard of which imperfections, I greatly doubt (if we have no better direction then our owne) this society will sooner dissolve it selfe, and (perchance) with lesse honour to us, then if we never had begunne it. And therefore it shall bee expedient for us, to provide before we proceede any further. Madam Eliza hereon thus replyed.
Most true it is, that men are the chiefe or head of women, and without their order, sildome times do any matters of ours sort to recommendable end. But what meanes shal we make for men? We all know well enough, that the most part of our friends are dead, and such as are living, some be dispersed heere, others there, into divers places and companies, where we have no knowledge of their being; and to accept of strangers, would seeme very inconvenient: wherefore as we have such care of our health, so should we bee as respective withall, in ordering our intention, that wheresoever we ayme at our pleasure and contentment, reproofe and scandall may by no meanes pursue us.
While this discourse thus held among the Ladies, three young Gentlemen came foorth of the Church (yet not so young, but the youngest had attained to five and twenty yeares:) in whom neyther malice of the time, losse of friends or kindred, nor any fearefull conceit in themselves, had the power to quench affection, but (perhaps) might a little coole it, in regard of the queazie season. One of them called himselfe Pamphilus, the second Philostratus, and the last Dioneus. Each of them was very affable and well conditioned, and walked abroad (for their greater comfort in such a time of tribulation) to try if they could meete with their fayre friends, who (happily) might all three be among these seaven, and the rest kinne unto them in one degree or other. No sooner were these Ladies espyed by them, but they met with them also in the same advantage; whereupon Madam Pampinea (amiably smiling) said.
See how graciously Fortune is favourable to our beginning, by presenting our eyes with three so wise and worthy young Gentlemen, who will gladly be our guides and servants, if wee doe not disdaine them the office. Madam Neiphila began immediatly to blush, because one of them had a Love in the company, and said; Good Madam Pampinea take heed what you say, because (of mine owne knowledge) nothing can be spoken but good of them all; and I thinke them all to be absolutely sufficient for a farre greater employment then is here intended: as being well worthy to keepe company not onely with us, but them of more faire and precious esteeme then we are. But because it appeareth plainly enough, that they beare affection to some heere among us, I feare, if wee should make the motion, that some dishonor or reproofe may ensue thereby, and yet without blame either in us or them. That is nothing at all, answered Madam Philomena, let me live honestly, and my Conscience not checke me with any crime; speake then who can to the contrary, God and truth shall enter armes for me. I wish that they were as willing to come, as all we are to bid them welcome: for truly (as Madam Pampinea saide) we may very well hope, that Fortune will bee furtherous to our purposed journey.
The other Ladies hearing them speake in such manner, not only were silent to themselves, but all with one accord and consent said, that it were well done to call them, and to acquaint them with their intention, entreating their company in so pleasant a voyage. Whereupon, without any more words, Madam Pampinea mounting on her feete (because one of the three was her Kinsman) went towards them, as they stood respectively observing them; and (with a pleasing countenance) giving them a gracious salutation, declared to them their deliberation, desiring (in behalfe of all the rest) that with a brotherly and modest mind, they would vouchsafe to beare them company.
The Gentlemen imagined at the first apprehension, that this was spoken in mockage of them; but when they better perceived that her words tended to solenme earnest, they made answer, That they were all hartily ready to doe them any service. And without any further delaying, before they departed thence, took order for their aptest furnishing with all convenient necessaries, and sent word to the place of their first appointment. On the morrow, being Wednesday, about breake of day, the Ladies, with certaine of their attending Gentlewomen, and the three Gentlemen, having three servants to waite on them, left the Citie to beginne their journey; and having travelled about a leagues distance, arrived at the place of their first purpose of stay, which was seated on a little hill, distant (on all sides) from any high way, plentifully stored with faire spreading Trees, affoording no meane delight to the eye. On the top of all, stood a stately Palace, having a large and spacious Court in the middest round engirt with Galleries, Hals, and Chambers, every one separate alone by themselves, and beautified with Pictures of admirable cunning. Nor was there any want of Gardens, Meadowes, and other most pleasant Walkes, with Welles and Springs of faire running waters, all encompassed with branching Vines, fitter for curious and quaffing bibbers, then women sober, and singularly modest.
This Pallace the company found fully fitted and prepared, the beddes in the Chambers made and daintily ordred, thickly strewed with variety of flowers, which could not but give them the greater contentment. Dioneus, who (above the other) was a pleasant young gallant, and full of infinite witty conceits, saide; Your wit (faire Ladies) hath better guided us hither, then our providence: I know not how you have determined to dispose of your cares; as for mine owne, I left them at the Cittie gate, when I came thence with you: and therefore let your resolution bee, to spend the time here in smiles and singing, (I meane, as may fittest agree with your dignity) or else give me leave to go seeke my sorrowes agains, and so to remaine discontented in our desolate City. Madam Pampinea having in like manner shaken off her sorrowes, delivering a modest and bashfull smile, replyed in this manner.
Dioneus, well have you spoken, it is fit to live merrily, and no other occasion made us forsake the sicke and sad Cittie. But, because such things as are without meane or measure, are subject to no long continuance: I, who began the motion, whereby this societie is thus assembled, and ayme at the long lasting thereof, doe hold it verie convenient, that wee should all agree, to have one chiefe Commander among us, in whom the care and providence should consist, for direction of our merriment, performing honour and obedience to the partie, as to our Patrone and sole Governour. And because every one may feele the burthen of solicitude, as also the pleasure of commanding, and consequently have a sensible taste of both, whereby no envy may arise on any side, I could wish, that each one of us (for a day onely) should feele both the burthen and honour, and the person so to be advanced, shall receive it from the election of us all. As for such as are to succeed, after him or her that hath had the dayes of dominion, the party thought fit for succession, must be named so soone as night approacheth. And being in this eminency (according as he or she shall please) he may order and dispose how long the time of his rule shall last, as also of the place and maner, where best we may continue our delight.
These words were highly pleasing to them all, and by generall voice, Madame Pampinea was chosen Queene for the first day. Whereupon, Madame Philomena ranne presently to a Bay-tree, because she had often heard what honor belonged to those branches, and how worthy of honour they were, that rightfully were crowned with them, plucking off divers branches, shee made of them an apparant and honourable Chaplet, placing it (by generall consent) upon her head; and this so long as their company continued, manifested to all the rest, the signall of Dominion, and Royall greatnesse.
After that Madame Pampinea was thus made Queen, she commanded publique silence, and causing the Gentlemens three servants, and the wayting women also (being foure in number) to be brought before her, thus she beganne. Because I am to give the first example to you all, whereby proceeding on from good to better, our company may live in order and pleasure, acceptable to all, and without shame to any; I create Parmeno (servant to Dioneus) Maister of the Houshold, hee taking the care and charge of all our Trayne, and for whatsoever appertayneth to our Hall service. I appoint also, that Silisco servant to Pamphilus, shall bee our Dispenser and Treasurer, performing that which Parmeno shal command him. Likewise that Tindaro serve as Groome of the Chamber, to Philostratus his Master, and the other two, when his fellowes impeached by their offices, cannot be present. Misia my Chambermaid, and Licisca belonging to Philomena, shall serve continually in the Kitchin, and diligently make ready such Vyands, as shal be delivered them by Parmeno. Chimera, waitingwoman to Lauretta, and Stratilia appertaining to Fiammetta, shall have the charge and governement of the Ladies Chambers, and preparing all places where we shall be present. Moreover, we will and commaund everie one of them (as they desire to deserve our grace) that wheresoever they goe or come, or whatsoever they heare or see: they especially respect to bring us tydings of them. After shee had summarily delivered them these orders, very much commended of everie one, she arose fairely, saying: Heere we have Gardens, Orchardes, Medowes, and other places of sufficient pleasure, where every one may sport and recreate themselves: but so soone as the ninth houre striketh, then all to meet here againe, to dine in the coole shade.
This jocund company having received licence from their Queene to disport themselves, the Gentlemen walked with the Ladies into a goodly Garden, making Chaplets and Nosegayes of divers flowers, and singing silently to themselves. When they had spent the time limitted by the Queene, they returned into the house, where they found that Parmeno had effectually executed his office. For, when they entred into the hall, they saw the Tables covered with delicate white Napery, and the glasses looking like silver, they were so transparantly cleere, all the roome beside strewed with Flowers of Juniper. When the Queen and all the rest had washed, according as Parmeno gave order, so every one was seated at the Table: the Viands (delicately drest) were served in, and excellent wines plentifully delivered, none attending but the three servants, and little or no lowd Table-talke passing among them.
Dinner being ended, and the Tables withdrawne (all the Ladies, and the Gentlemen likewise, being skilfull both in singing and dancing, and playing on instruments artificially) the Queene commanded, that divers Instruments should be brought, and (as she gave charge) Dioneus tooke a Lute, and Fiammetta a Violl de gamba, and began to play an excellent daunce. Whereupon, the Queene with the rest of the Ladies, and the other two young Gentlemen (having sent their attending servants to dinner) paced foorth a daunce very majestically. And when the dance was ended, they sung sundry excellent Canzonets, outwearing so the time, untill the Queene commanded them all to rest, because the houre did necessarily require it. The Gentlemen having their Chambers farre severed from the Ladies, curiously strewed with flowers, and their beds adorned in exquisite manner, as those of the Ladies were not a jotte inferiour to them; the silence of the night bestowed sweet rest on them al. In the morning, the Queene and all the rest being risen, accounting over much sleepe to be very hurtfull, they walked abroad into a goodly Meadow, where the grasse grew verdantly, and the beames of the Sun heated not overviolently, because the shades of faire spreading Trees, gave a temperate calmnesse, coole and gentle winds fanning their sweet breath pleasingly among them. All of them being there set downe in a round ring, and the Queen in the middest, as being the appointed place of eminency, she spake:
You see (faire company) that the Sunne is highly mounted, the heate (elsewhere) too extreme for us, and therefore here is our fittest refuge, the ayre being so coole, delicate, and acceptable, and our folly well worthy reprehension, if we should walke further, and speede worse. Heere are Tables, Cards, and Chesse, as your dispositions may bee addicted. But if mine advice might passe for currant, I would admit none of those exercises, because they are too troublesome both to them that play, and such as looke on. I could rather wish, that some quaint discourse might passe among us, a tale or fable related by some one, to urge the attention of all the rest. And so wearing out the warmth of the day, one prety Novell will draw on another, untill the Sun be lower declined, and the heates extremity more diminished, to solace our selves in some other place, as to our minds shall seeme convenient. If therefore what I have sayde bee acceptable to you (I purposing to follow in the same course of pleasure,) let it appeare by your immediate answere; for, till the Evening, I thinke we can devise no exercise more commodious for us.
The Ladies and Gentlemen allowed of the motion, to spend the time in telling pleasant tales; whereupon the Queene saide: Seeing you have approved mine advice, I grant free permission for this first day, that every one shall relate, what to him or her is best pleasing. And turning her selfe to Pamphilus (who was seated on her right hand) gave him favour, with one of his Novels, to begin the recreation: which he not daring to deny, and perceiving generall attention prepared for him, thus he began.[Hide Induction]
It is a matter most convenient (deare Ladies) that a man ought to begin whatsoever he doth, in the great and glorious name of him, who was the Creator of all things. Wherefore, seeing that I am the man appointed, to begin this your invention of discoursing Novelties: I intend to begin also with one of his wonderfull workes. To the end, that this being heard, our hope may remaine on him, as the thing onely permanent, and his name for ever to be praised by us. Now, as there is nothing more certaine, but that even as temporall things are mortall and transitory, so are they both in and out of themselves, full of sorrow, paine, and anguish, and subjected to infinite dangers: So in the same manner, we live mingled among them, seeming as part of them, and cannot (without some error) continue or defend our selves, if God by his especiall grace and favour, give us not strength and good understanding. Which power we may not beleeve, that either it descendeth to us, or liveth in us, by any merites of our owne; but of his onely most gracious benignity. Mooved neverthelesse and entreated by the intercessions of them, who were (as we are) mortals; and having diligently observed his commandements, are now with him in eternall blessednes. To whom (as to advocates and procurators, informed by the experience of our frailty) wee are not to present our prayers in the presence of so great a Judge; but onely to himselfe, for the obtaining of all such things as his wisedome knoweth to be most expedient for us. And well may we credit, that his goodnesse is more fully enclined towards us, in his continuall bounty and liberality; then the subtilty of mortall eye, can reach into the secret of so divine a thought: and sometimes therefore we may be beguiled in opinion, by electing such and such as our intercessors before his high Majesty, who perhaps are farre off from him, or driven into perpetuall exile, as unworthy to appeare in so glorious a presence. For he, from whom nothing can be hidden, more regardeth the sincerity of him that prayeth, then ignorant devotion, committed to the trust of a heedlesse intercessor; and such prayers have alwaies gracious acceptation in his sight. As manifestly will appeare, by the Novell which I intend to relate; manifestly (I say) not as in the judgement of God, but according to the apprehension of men.
There was one named, Musciatto Francesi, who from beeing a most rich and great Merchant in France, was become a Knight, and preparing to goe into Tuscany, with Mounsieur Charles without Land, Brother to the King of France (who was desired and incited to come thither by Pope Boniface) found his affaires greatly intricated heere and there (as oftentimes the matters of Merchants fall out to bee) and that very hardly hee should sodainly unintangle them, without referring the charge of them to divers persons. And for all he tooke indifferent good order, onely he remained doubtfull, whom he might sufficiently leave, to recover his debts among many Burgundians. And the rather was his care the more heerein, because he knew the Burgundians to be people of badde nature, rioters, brablers, full of calumny, and without any faithfulnesse: so that he could not bethinke himselfe of any man (how wicked soever he was) in whom he might repose trust to meete with their lewdnesse. Having a long while examined his thoughts upon this point, at last hee remembred one Master Chappelet du Prat, who ofttimes had resorted to his house in Paris. And because he was a man of little stature, yet handsome enough, the French not knowing what this word Chappelet might meane, esteeming he should be called rather (in their tongue) Chappell; imagined, that in regard of his small stature, they termed him Chappelet, and not Chappell, and so by the name of Chappelet he was every where known, and by few or none acknowledged for Chappell.
This Master Chappelet, was of so good and commendable life; that, being a Notarie, he held it in high disdaine, that any of his Contractes (although he made but few) should be found without falshoode. And looke how many soever hee dealt withall, he would be urged and required thereto, offering them his paines and travaile for nothing, but to bee requited otherwise then by money; which prooved to bee his much larger recompencing, and returned to him the farre greater benefit. Hee tooke the onely pleasure of the world, to beare false witnesse, if hee were thereto entreated, and (oftentimes) when hee was not requested at all. Likewise because in those times, great trust and beleefe was given to an oath, he making no care or conscience to be perjured: greatly advantaged himselfe by Law suites, in regard that many matters relyed upon his oath, and delivering the truth according to his knowledge.
He delighted (beyond measure) and addicted his best studies, to cause enmities and scandals betweene kindred and friends, or any other persons, agreeing well together; and the more mischiefe he could procure in this kind, so much the more pleasure and delight tooke he therein. If he were called to kill any one, or to do any other villanous deede, he never would make deniall, but go to it very willingly; and divers times it was well knowen, that many were cruelly beaten, ye slaine by his hands. Hee was a most horrible blasphemer of God and his Saints, upon the very least occasion, as being more addicted to choller, then any other man could be. Never would he frequent the Church, but basely contemned it, with the Sacraments and religious rites therein administred, accounting them for vile and unprofitable things: but very voluntarily would visit Tavernes, and other places of dishonest accesse, which were continually pleasing unto him, to satisfie his lust and inordinate lubricitie. Hee would steale both in publike and private, even with such a conscience, as if it were given to him by nature so to do. He was a great glutton and a drunkarde, even he was not able to take any more: being also a continuall gamester, and carrier of false Dice, to cheate with them the very best Friends he had.
But why do I waste time in such extent of words? When it may suffice to say, that never was there a worse man borne; whose wickednesse was for long time supported, by the favour, power, and Authoritie of Monsieur Musciatto, for whose sake many wrongs and injuries were patiently endured, as well by private persons (whom hee would abuse notoriously) as others of the Court, betweene whom he made no difference at all in his vile dealing. This Master Chappelet, being thus remembred by Musciatto (who very well knew his life and behaviour) he perfectly perswaded himselfe, that this was a man apt in all respects, to meete with the treachery of the Burgundians: whereupon, having sent for him, thus he beganne.
Chappelet, thou knowest how I am wholly to retreate my selfe from hence, and having some affaires among the Burgundians, men full of wickednesse and deceite; I can bethinke my selfe of no meeter a man then Chappelet, to recover such debts as are due to mee among them. And because it falleth out so well, that thou art not now hindered by any other businesse; if thou wilt undergoe this office for me, I will procure thee favourable Letters from the Court, and give thee a reasonable portion in all thou recoverest. Master Chappelet, seeing himselfe idle, and greedy after worldly goods, considering that Mounsieur Musciatto (who had beene alwayes his best buckler) was now to depart from thence, without any dreaming on the matter, and constrained thereto (as it were) by necessity, set downe his resolution, and answered, that hee would gladly doe it.
Having made their agreement together, and received from Musciatto his expresse procuration, and also the Kings gracious Letters; after that Musciatto was gone on his journey, Master Chappelet went to Dijon, where he was unknowne (well-neere) of any. And there (quite from his naturall disposition) he beganne benignely and graciously, in recovering the debts due; which course he tooke the rather, because they should have a further feeling of him in the end. Being lodged in the house of two Florentine brethren, that living on their monies usance; and (for Mounsieur Musciattoes sake) using him with honour and respect: it fortuned that he fell sicke, and the two brethren sent for Physitions to attend him, allowing their servants to be diligent about him, making no spare of any thing, which gave the best likelyhood of restoring his health. But all their paines proved to no purpose, because he (honest man) being now growne aged, and having lived all his life time very disorderly, fell day by day (according to the Physicions judgement) from bad to worse, as no other way appeared but death, whereat the brethren greatly grieved.
Upon a day, neere to the Chamber where the sicke man lay, they entred into this communication. What shall we doe (quoth the one to the other) with this man? We are much hindered by him: for to send him away (sicke as he is) we shall be greatly blamed thereby, and it will be a manifest note of our weake wisedome; the people knowing that first of all we gave him entertainement, and have allowed him honest physicall attendance, and he not having any way injuried or offended us, to let him be suddenly expulsed our house (sicke to death as he is) it can be no way for our credit.
On the other side, we are to consider also, that hee hath bin so badde a man, as he will not now make any confession thereof, neither receive the blessed Sacrament of the Church, and dying so without confession; there is no Church that will accept his body, but it must be buried in prophane ground, like to a Dogge. And yet if hee would confesse himselfe, his sinnes are so many and monstrous, as the like case also may happen, because there is not any Priest or Religious person, that can or will absolve him. And being not absolved, he must be cast into some ditch or pit, and then the people of the Towne, as well in regard of the account we carry heere, (which to them appeareth so little pleasing, as we are daily pursued with their worst words) as also coveting our spoile and overthrow, upon this accident will cry out and mutiny against us; Behold these Lombard dogs, which are not to be received into the Church, why should we suffer them to live heere among us? In furious madnesse will they come upon us, and our house, where (peradventure) not contended with robbing us of our goods, our lives will remaine in their mercy and danger; so that, in what sort soever it happen, this mans dying here, must needs be banefull to us.
Master Chappelet, who (as we have formerly saide) was lodged neere to the place where they thus conferred, having a subtle attention (as oftentimes we see sicke persons to be possessed withall) heard all these speeches spoken of him, and causing them to bee called unto him, thus hee spake.
I would not have you to be any way doubtfull of me; neither that you should receive the least damage by me: I have heard what you have said, and am certaine, that it will happen according to your words, if matters should fall out as you conceite; but I am minded to deale otherwise. I have committed so many offences against our Lord God, in the whole current of my life; that now I intend one action at the houre of my death, which I trust will make amends for all. Procure therefore, I pray you, that the most holy and religious man that is to be found (if there bee any one at all) may come unto me, and referre the case then to me, for I will deale in such sort for you and my selfe, that all shall be well, and you no way discontented.
The two Brethren, although they had no great hope in his speeches, went yet to a Monastery of Gray-Friars, and requested; that some one holy and learned man, might come to heare the confession of a Lombard, that lay very weake and sicke in their house. And one was granted unto them, being an aged religious Frier, a great read master in the sacred Scripture, a very venerable person, who being of good and sanctified life, all the Citizens held him in great respect and esteeme, and on hee went with them to their house. When he was come up into the Chamber where Master Chappelet lay, and being there seated downe by him; he beganne first to comfort him very lovingly, demanding also of him, how many times he had bin at confession? Whereto Master Chappelet (who never had bin shrived in all his life time) thus replied.
Holy Father, I alwayes used (as a common custome) to bee confessed once (at the least) every weeke, albeit sometimes much more often; but true it is, that being falne into this sicknesse, now eight daies since I have not beene confest, so violent hath bene the extremity of my weaknesse. My sonne (answered the good old man) thou hast done well, and so keep thee still hereafter in that minde: but I plainly perceive, seeing thou hast so often confessed thy selfe, that I shall take the lesse labour in urging questions to thee.
Master Chappelet replyed; Say not so good Father, for albeit I have bene so oftentimes confessed, yet am I willing now to make a generall confession, even of all sinnes comming to my remembrance, from the very day of my birth, until this instant houre of my shrift. And therefore I entreat you (holy Father) to make a particular demand of everie thing, even as if I had never bene confessed at all, and to make no respect of my sicknesse: for I had rather be offensive to mine owne flesh, then by favoring or allowing it ease, to hazard the perdition of my soule, which my Redeemer bought with so precious a price.
These words were highly pleasing to the holy Friar, and seemed to him as an argument of a good conscience: Wherefore, after hee had much commended this forwardnesse in him, he began to demand of him if he had never offended with any Woman? Whereunto master Chappelet (breathing forth a great sigh) answered.
Holy Father, I am halfe ashamed to tell you the truth in this case, as fearing least I should sinne in vaine-glory. Whereto the Confessor replyed; Speake boldly sonne, and feare not, for in telling the truth, bee it in confession or otherwise, a man can never sinne. Then sayde Maister Chappelet, Father, seeing you give me so good an assurance, I will resolve you faithfully heerein. I am so true a Virgin-man in this matter, even as when I issued forth of my mothers Wombe. O sonne (quoth the Friar) how happy and blessed of God art thou? Well hast thou lived, and therein hast thou not meanly merited, having had so much libertie to doe the contrary if thou wouldest, wherein verie few of us can so answer for our selves.
Afterward, he demanded of him, how much displeasing to God hee had beene in the sinne of Gluttony? When (sighing againe greatly) hee answered: Too much, and too often, good Father. For, over and beside the Fasts of our Lent season, which everie yeare ought to bee duely observed by devout people, I brought my selfe to such a customarie use, that I could fast three dayes in every Weeke, with Bread and Water. But indeede (holy Father) I confesse, that I have drunke water with such a pleasing appetite and delight (especially in praying, or walking on pilgrimages) even as greedy drunkards doe, in drinking good Wine. And many times I have desired such Sallades of small hearbes, as Women do gather abroad in the open fields, and feeding onely upon them, without coveting after any other kinde of sustenance, hath seemed much more pleasing to me, then I thought to agree with the nature of Fasting, especially, when as it swerveth from devotion, or is not done as it ought to bee. Sonne, Sonne, replied the Confessour, these sinnes are naturall, and very light, and therefore I would not have thee to charge thy conscience with them, more then is needfull. It happeneth to every man (how holy soever he be) that after he hath fasted overlong, feeding will be welcome to him, and drinking good drinke after his travaile. O Sir, (said Maister Chappelet) never tell me this to comfort me, for well you know, and I am not ignorant therein, that such things as are done for the service of God, ought all to be performed purely, and without any blemish of the minde; what otherwise is done, savoureth of sinne. The Friar being well contented with his words, said: It is not amisse that thou understandest it in this manner, and thy conscience thus purely cleared, is no little comfort to me. But tell me now concerning Avarice, hast thou sinned therein, by desiring more then was reasonable, or withholding from others, such things as thou oughtst not to detaine? Wherein Maister Chappelet answered. Good Father, I would not have you to imagine, because you see me lodged heere in the house of two Usurers, that therefore I am of any such disposition. No truely Sir, I came hither to no other end, but onely to chastise and admonish them in friendly manner, to clense their mindes from such abhominable profit: And assuredly, I should have prevailed therein, had not this violent sicknesse hindered mine intention. But understand (holy Father) that my parents left me a rich man, and immediatly after my Fathers death, the greater part of his goods I gave away for Gods sake, and then, to sustaine mine owne life, and to helpe the poore members of Jesus Christ, I betooke my selfe to a meane estate of Merchandise, desiring none other then honest gaine thereby, and evermore whatsoever benefit came to me; I imparted halfe thereof to the poore, converting mine owne small portion about my necessary affaires, which that other part would scarcely serve to supply: yet alwayes God gave thereto such a mercifull blessing, that my businesse dayly thrived more and more, arising still from good to better.
Well hast thou done therein good Sonne, said the Confessour: but how oftentimes hast thou beene angry? Oh Sir (said Maister Chappelet) therein I assure yee, I have often transgressed. And what man is able to forbeare it; beholding the dayly actions of men to be so dishonest? No care of keeping Gods Commandements, nor any feare of his dreadfull judgements. Many times in a day, I have rather wished my selfe dead then living, beholding youth pursuing idle vanities, to sweare and forsweare themselves, tipling in Tavernes, and never haunting Churches; but rather affecting the worlds follies, then any such duties as they owe to God. Alas Sonne (quoth the Friar) this is a good and holy anger, and I can impose no penance on thee for it. But tell me, hath not rage or furie at any time so over-ruled thee, as to commit murther or man-slaughter, or to speake evill of any man, or to doe any other such kinde of injurie? Oh Father (answered Maister Chappelet) you that seeme to be a man of God, how dare you use any such vile words? If I had had the very least thought, to doe any such act as you speake, doe you thinke that God would have suffered me to live? These are deeds of darknesse, fit for villaines and wicked livers, of which hellish crew, when at any time I have happened to meet with some one of them, I have said; God, God convert thee.
Worthy, and charitable words, replied the Friar: but tell me Sonne, Didst thou ever beare false witnes against any man, or hast spoken falsly, or taken ought from any one, contrary to the will of the owner? Yes indeed Father, said Maister Chappelet, I have spoken ill of another, because I have sometime seene one of my neighbors, who with no meane shame of the world, would do nothing else but beat his wife: and of him once I complained to the poore mans parents, saying, that he never did it but when he was overcome with drinke. Those were no ill words, quoth the Friar; but I remember you said, that you were a Merchant: Did you ever deceive any, as some Merchants use to doe? Truely Father, answered M. Chappelet, I thinke not any, except one man, who one day brought me money which he owed me for a certaine peece of cloath I sold him, and I put it into a purse without accounting it. About a moneth afterward, I found that there were foure small pence more then was due to mee: and never happening to meete with the man againe, after I had kept them the space of a whole yeare, I then gave them away unto foure poore people, for Gods sake.
A small matter, said the Friar, and truly payed backe againe to the owner, in bestowing them on the poore. Many other questions he demanded of him, whereto still he answered in the same manner. But before he proceeded to absolution, Master Chappelet spake thus: I have yet one sinne more, which I have not revealed to you: when being urged by the Friar to confesse it, he said. I remember, that I should afford one day in the weeke, to cleanse the house of my soule, for better entertainement to my Lord and Saviour, and yet I have done no such reverence to the Sunday or Sabbath, as I ought to have done. A small fault Sonne, replyed the Friar. O no (quoth Master Chappelet) doe not terme it a small fault, because Sunday being a holy day, is highly to be reverenced: for as on that day, our blessed Lord arose from death to life. But (quoth the Confessor) hast thou done nothing else on that day? Yes, said he, being forgetfull of my selfe, once I did spet in Gods Church. The Friar smiling, said: Alas Sonne, that is a matter of no moment; for wee that are Religious persons, doe use to spet there every day. The more is your shame, answered Master Chappelet, for no place ought to bee kept more pure and cleane then the sacred Temple, wherein our daily sacrifices are offered up to God.
In this manner he held on an houre and more, uttering the like transgressions as these; and at last began to sigh very passionately, and to shed a few teares, as one that was skilfull enough in such dissembling pranks: whereat the Confessor being much mooved, saide: Alas Sonne, what aylest thou? Oh Father (quoth Chappelet) there remaineth yet one sinne more upon my conscience, wherof I never at any time made confession, so shamefull it appeareth to mee to disclose it; and I am partly perswaded, that God will never pardon me for that sinne. How now Sonne? said the Friar, never say so; for if all the sinnes that ever were committed by men, or shall be committed so long as the World endureth, were onely in one man, and he repenting them, and being so contrite for them, as I see thou art; the grace and mercy of God is so great, that upon penitent confession, he will freely pardon him, and therefore spare not to speake it boldly. Alas Father (said Chappelet, still in pretended weeping) this sinne of mine is so great, that I can hardly beleeve (if your earnest prayers do not assist me) that ever I shall obtaine remission for it. Speake it Sonne, said the Friar, and feare not, I promise that I will pray to God for thee.
Master Chappelet still wept and sighed, and continued silent, notwithstanding all the Confessors comfortable perswasions; but after hee had helde him a long while in suspence, breathing forth a sighe, even as if his very heart would have broken, he saide; Holy Father, seeing you promise to pray to God for me, I will reveale it to you: Know then, that when I was a little boy, I did once curse my Mother; which he had no sooner spoken, but he wrung his hands, and greeved extraordinarily. Oh good Son, saide the Friar: doth that seeme so great a sinne to thee? Why, men doe daily blaspheme our Lord God, and yet neverthelesse, upon their hearty repentance, he is alwayes ready to forgive them; and wilt not thou beleeve to obtaine remission, for a sinne so ignorantly committed? Weepe no more deare Sonne, but comfort thy selfe and rest resolved, that if thou wert one of them, who nayled our blessed Saviour to his Crosse; yet being so truly repentant, as I see thou art, he would freely forgive thee. Say you so Father? quoth Chappelet. What mine owne deare Mother? that bare me in her wombe nine moneths, day and night, and afterwards fed me with her breasts a thousand times, can I be pardoned for cursing her? Oh no, it is too haynous a sinne, and except you pray to God very instantly for me, he will not forgive me.
When the religious man perceived, that nothing more was to bee confessed by Master Chappelet; he gave him absolution, and his owne benediction beside, reputing him to be a most holy man, as verily beleeving all that hee had said. And who would not have done the like, hearing a man to speake in this manner, and being upon the very point of death? Afterward, he saide unto him, Master Chappelet, by Gods grace you may be soone restored to health, but if it so come to passe, that God doe take your blessed and well disposed soule to his mercy, will it please you to have your body buried in our Convent? Whereto Master Chappelet answered; I thanke you Father for your good motion, and sorry should I be, if my friends did bury me any where else, because you have promised to pray to God for me; and beside, I have alwayes carried a religious devotion to your Order. Wherefore, I beseech you, so soone as you are come home to your Convent, prevaile so much by your good meanes, that the holy Eucharist, consecrated this morning on your high Altar, may be brought unto me: for although I confesse my selfe utterly unworthy, yet I purpose (by your reverend permission) to receive it, as also your holy and latest unction, to this ende, that having lived a greevous sinner, I may yet (at the last) die a Christian. These words were pleasing to the good olde man, and he caused every thing to be performed, according as Master Chappelet had requested.
The two Brethren, who much doubted the dissembling of Chappelet, being both in a small partition, which sundered the sicke mans Chamber from theirs, heard and understood the passage of all, betweene him and the ghostly Father, being many times scarcely able to refraine from laughter, at the fraudulent course of his confession. And often they said within themselves, What manner of man is this, whom neither age, sickenesse, nor terror of death so neere approaching, and sensible to his owne soule, nor that which is much more, God, before whose judgement he knowes not how soone he shall appeare, or else be sent to a more fearefull place; none of these can alter his wicked disposition, but that he will needes die according as he hath lived? Notwithstanding, seeing he had so ordered the matter, that he had buriall freely allowed him, they cared for no more.
After that Chappelet had received the Communion, and the other Ceremonies appointed for him; weakenesse encreasing on him more and more, the very same day of his goodly confession, he died (not long after) towards the evening. Whereupon the two Brethren tooke order, that all needefull things should be in a readinesse, to have him buried honourably; sending to acquaint the Fathers of the Convent therewith, that they might come to say their Vigilles, according to precedent custome, and then on the morrow to fetch the body. The honest Friar that had confessed him, hearing he was dead, went to the Prior of the Convent, and by sound of the house Bell, caused all the Brethren to assemble together, giving them credibly to understand, that Master Chappelet was a very holy man, as appeared by all the parts of his confession, and made no doubt, but that many miracles would be wrought by his sanctified body, perswading them to fetch it thither with all devoute solemnity and reverence: whereto the Prior, and all the credulous Brethren presently condiscended very gladly.
When night was come, they went all to visit the dead body of Master Chappelet, where they used an especiall and solemne Vigill; and on the morrow, apparelled in their richest Coapes and Vestiments, with bookes in their hands, and the Crosse borne before them, singing in the forme of a very devoute procession, they brought the body pompeously into their Church, accompanied with all the people of the Towne, both men and women. The Father Confessor, ascending up into the Pulpit, preached wonderfull things of him, and the rare holinesse of his life; his fastes, his virginity, simplicity, innocency, and true sanctity, recounting also (among other especiall observations) what Chappelet had confessed, as this most great and greevous sinne, and how hardly he could be perswaded, that God would grant him pardon for it. Whereby he tooke occasion to reprove the people then present, saying; And you (accursed of God) for the verie least and trifling matter hapning, will not spare to blaspheme God, his blessed Mother, and the whole Court of heavenly Paradise: Oh, take example by this singular man, this Saint-like man, nay, a very Saint indeede.
Many additions more he made, concerning his faithfulnesse, truth, and integrity; so that, by the vehement asseveration of his words (whereto all the people there present gave credible beleefe) he provoked them unto such zeale and earnest devotion; that the Sermon was no sooner ended, but (in mighty crowds and throngs) they pressed about the Biere, kissing his hands and feete, and all the garments about him were torne in peeces, as precious Reliques of so holy a person, and happy they thought themselves, that could get the smallest peece or shred of any thing that came neere to his body: and thus they continued all the day, the body lying still open, to be visited in this manner.
When night was come, they buried him in a goodly Marble tombe, erected in a faire Chappell purposely; and for many dayes after following, it was most strange to see, how the people of the Country came thither on heapes, with holy Candles and other offerings, with Images of waxe fastened to the Tombe, in signe of Sacred and solemne Vowes, to this new created Saint. And so farre was spread the fame and renowne of his sanctity, devotion, and integrity of life, maintained constantly by the Fathers of the Convent; that if any one fell sicke in neede, distresse, or adversity, they would make their Vowes to no other Saint but him: naming him (as yet to this day they do) Saint Chappelet, affirming upon their Oathes, that infinite miracles were there daily performed by him, and especially on such, as came in devotion to visit his shrine.
In this manner lived and died Master Chappelet du Prat, who before he became a Saint, was as you have heard: and I will not deny it to be impossible, but that he may bee at rest among other blessed bodies. For although he lived lewdly and wickedly, yet such might be his contrition in the latest extreamity, that (questionlesse) he might finde mercie. But, because such things remaine unknowne to us, and speaking by outward appearance, vulgar judgement will censure otherwise of him, and thinke him to be rather in perdition, then in so blessed a place as Paradice. But referring that to the Omnipotents appointment, whose clemencie hath alwayes beene so great to us, that he regards not our errors, but the integrity of our Faith, making (by meanes of our continuall Mediator) of an open enemy, a converted sonne and servant. And as I began in his name, so will I conclude, desiring that it may evermore be had in due reverence, and referre we our selves thereto in all our necessities, with this setled assurance, that he is alwayes ready to heare us. And so he ceased.[Hide First Novell]
The Novell recited by Pamphilus, was highly pleasing to the company, and much commended by the Ladies: and after it had beene diligently observed among them, the Queene commanded Madam Neiphila (who was seated neerest to Pamphilus) that, in relating another of hers, she should follow on in the pastime thus begun. She being no lesse gracious in countenance, then merrily disposed; made answere, that shee would obey her charge, and began in this manner.
Pamphilus hath declared to us, by his Tale, how the goodnesse of God regardeth not our errors, when they proceede from things which wee cannot discerne. And I intend to approove by mine, what argument of infallible truth, the same benignity delivereth of it selfe, by enduring patiently the faults of them, that (both in word and worke) should declare unfaigned testimony of such gracious goodnesse, and not to live so dissolutely as they doe. To the end, that others illumined by their light of life, may beleeve with the stronger constancy of minde.
As I have heeretofore heard (Gracious Ladies) there lived a wealthy Marchant in Paris, being a Mercer, or seller of Silkes, named Jehannot de Chevigny, a man of faithfull, honest, and upright dealing; who held great affection and friendship with a very rich Jew, named Abraham, that was a Merchant also, and a man of very direct conversation. Jehannot well noting the honesty and loyall dealing of this Jew, began to have a Religious kinde of compassion in his soule, much pittying that a man so good in behaviour, so wise and discreete in all his actions, should be in danger of perdition thorow want of Faith. In which regard, lovingly he began to intreate him, that he would leave the errors of his Jewish beleefe, and follow the truth of Christianity, which he evidently saw (as being good and holy) daily to prosper and enlarge it selfe, whereas on the contrary, his profession decreased, and grew to nothing.
The Jew made answer, that he beleeved nothing to be so good and holy, as the Jewish Religion, and having beene borne therein, therein also he purposed to live and dye, no matter whatsoever being able to remove him from that resolution. For all this stiffe deniall, Jehannot would not so give him over; but pursued him still day by day, reitterating continually his former speeches to him: delivering infinite excellent and pregnant reasons, that Merchants themselves were not ignorant, how farre the Christian faith excelled the Jewish falshoods. And albeit the Jew was a very learned man in his owne Law, yet notwithstanding the intire amity he bare to Jehannot, or (perhaps) his words fortified by the blessed Spirit, were so prevailant with him, that the Jew felt a pleasing apprehension in them, though as yet his obstinacie stoode farre off from Conversion. But as he thus continued strong in opinion, so Jehannot lefte not hourely to labour him: insomuch, that the Jew being conquered by such earnest and continuall importunity, one day spake to Jehannot, saying.
My worthy friend Jehannot, thou art extremely desirous, that I should convert to Christianitie, and I am well contented to doe it; onely upon this condition: That first I wil journey to Rome, to see him whom thou sayest, is Gods general Vicar here on earth, and to consider on the course of his life and manners, and likewise of his Colledge of Cardinals. If he and they doe appeare such men to mee, as thy speeches affirme them to be, and thereby I may comprehend that thy Faith and Religion is better then mine, as with no meane paines thou endevourest to perswade mee, I will become a Christian as thou art: but if I finde it otherwise, I will continue as I am, a Jew.
Jehannot hearing these words, became exceeding sorrowfull, and sayd within himselfe; I have lost all the paines which I did thinke to be well employed, as hoping to have this man converted heere. For, if he go to the Court of Rome, and behold there the wickednes of the Priests lives, farewell all hope in me, of ever seeing him to become a Christian. But rather, were he already a Christian, without all question he would turne a Jew. And so going neerer to Abraham, he said. Alas my loving friend, why shouldst thou undertake such a tedious travel, and so great a charge, as thy journey from hence to Rome will cost thee? Consider, that to a rich man (as thou art) travaile by land or Sea is full of infinite dangers. Doest thou not thinke, that here are Religious men enow, who wil gladly bestow Baptisme upon thee? To mee therefore it plainely appeareth, that such a voyage is to no purpose. If thou standest upon any doubt or scruple, concerning the faith whereto I wish thee; where canst thou desire conference with greater Doctours, or men more learned in all respects, then this famous Cittie doth affoord thee, to resolve thee in any questionable case? Thou must thinke, that the Prelates are such there, as heere thou seest them to be, and yet they must needes be in much better condition at Rome, because they are neere to the principall Pastor. And therefore, if thou wilt credit my counsell, reserve this journey to some time more convenient, when the Jubilee of generall Pardon happeneth, and then (perchance) I will beare thee company, and go along with thee as in vowed Pilgrimage.
Whereto the Jew replyed: I beleeve Jehannot that all which thou hast said, may be so. But, to make short with thee, I am fully determined (if thou wouldst have me a Christian, as thou instantly urgest me to bee) to goe thither, for otherwise, I will continue as I am. Jehannot perceyving his setled purpose, said: Goe then in Gods name. But perswaded himselfe, that hee would never become a Christian, after he had once seene the Court of Rome: neverthelesse, he counted his labour not altogither lost, in regard he bestowed it to a good end, and honest intentions are to be commended.
The Jew mounted on horse-backe, and made no lingering in his journey to Rome; where being arrived, he was very honourably entertained by other Jewes dwelling in Rome. And during the time of his abiding there (without revealing to any one the reason of his comming thither) very heedfully he observed the maner of the Popes life, of the Cardinals, Prelates, and all the Courtiers. And being a man very discreet and judicious, hee apparantly perceived, both by his owne eye, and further information of friends; that from the highest to the lowest (without any restraint, remorse of conscience, shame, or feare of punishment) all sinned in abhominable luxurie, and not naturally onely, but in foule Sodomie, so that the credite of Strumpets and Boyes was not small, and yet might be too easily obtayned. Moreover, drunkards, belly-Gods, and servants of the paunch, more then of any thing else (even like brutish beasts after their luxury) were every where to be met withall. And upon further observation, hee saw all men so covetous and greedie of Coyne, that every thing was bought and solde for ready money, not onely the blood of men, but (in plaine termes) the faith of Christians, yea, and matters of divinest qualities, how, or to whomsoever appertaining, were it for Sacrifices or Benefices, whereof was made no mean merchandize, and more Brokers were there to be found (then in Paris attending upon all Trades) of manifest Symonie, under the nice name of Negotiation, and for gluttony, not sustentation: even as if God had not knowne the signification of vocables, nor the intentions of wicked hearts, but would suffer himselfe to bee deceived by the outward names of things, as wretched men commonly use to doe.
These things, and many more (fitter for silence, then for publication) were so deepely displeasing to the Jew, being a most sober and modest man; that he had soone seene enough, resolving on his returne to Paris, which very speedily he performed. And when Jehannot heard of his arrivall, crediting much rather other newes from him, then ever to see him a converted Christian; he went to welcome him, and kindly they feasted one another. After some few dayes of resting, Jehannot demanded of him; what he thought of our holy Father the Pope and his Cardinals, and generally of all the other Courtiers? Whereto the Jew readily answered; It is strange Jehannot, that God should give them so much as he doth. For I will truely tell thee, that if I had beene able to consider all those things, which there I have both heard and seene: I could then have resolved my selfe, never to have found in any Priest, either sanctity, devotion, good worke, example of honest life, or any good thing else beside. But if a man desire to see luxury, avarice, gluttony, and such wicked things, yea, worse, if worse may be, and held in generall estimation of all men; let him but goe to Rome, which I thinke rather to be the forge of damnable actions, then any way leaning to grace or goodnesse. And, for ought I could perceive, me thinkes your chiefe Pastour, and (consequently) all the rest of his dependants, doe strive so much as they may (with all their engine arte and endevour) to bring to nothing, or else to banish quite out of the world, Christian Religion, whereof they should be the support and foundation.
But because I perceive, that their wicked intent will never come to passe, but contrariwise, that your faith enlargeth it selfe, shining every day much more cleare and splendant: I gather thereby evidently, that the blessed Spirit is the true ground and defence thereof, as being more true and holy then any other. In which respect, whereas I stood stiffe and obstinate against the good admonitions, and never minded to become a Christian: now I freely open my heart unto thee, that nothing in the world can or shall hinder me, but I will be a Christian, as thou art. Let us therefore presently goe to the Church, and there (according to the true custome of your holy faiths) helpe me to be baptized.
Jehannot, who expected a farre contrary conclusion then this, hearing him speake it with such constancy; was the very gladdest man in the world, and went with him to the Church of Nostre Dame in Paris, where he requested the Priests there abiding, to bestow baptisme on Abraham, which they joyfully did, hearing him so earnestly to desire it. Jehannot was his Godfather, and named him John, and afterward, by learned Divines he was more fully instructed in the grounds of our faith; wherein he grew of great understanding, and led a very vertuous life.[ Hide Second Novell ]
Madame Neiphila having ended her Discourse, which was well allowed of by all the company; it pleased the Queene, that Madame Philomena should next succeede in order, who thus began.
The Tale delivered by Neiphila, maketh mee remember a doubtfull case, which sometime hapned to another Jew. And because that God, and the truth of his holy Faith, hath bene already very well discoursed on: it shall not seeme unfitting (in my poore opinion) to descend now into the accidents of men. Wherefore, I will relate a matter unto you, which being attentively heard and considered; may make you much more circumspect, in answering to divers questions and demands, then (perhaps) otherwise you would be. Consider then (most woorthy assembly) that like as folly or dulnesse, many times hath overthrowne some men from place of eminencie, into most great and greevous miseries: even so, discreet sense and good understanding, hath delivered many out of irksome perils, and seated them in safest security. And to prove it true, that folly hath made many fall from high authority, into poore and despised calamity; may be avouched by infinite examples, which now were needelesse to remember: But, that good sense and able understanding, may proove to be the occasion of great desolation, without happy prevention, I will declare unto you in very few words, and make it good according to my promise.
Saladine, was a man so powerfull and valiant, as not onely his very valour made him Soldan of Babylon, and also gave him many signall victories, over Kings of the Sarrazens, and of Christians likewise. Having in divers Warres, and other magnificent employments, of his owne, wasted all his treasure, and (by reason of some sodaine accident happening to him) standing in neede to use some great summe of money, yet not readily knowing where, or how to procure it; he remembred a rich Jew named Melchisedech, that lent out money to use or interest in the City of Alexandria. This man he imagined best able to furnish him, if he could be won to do it willingly: but he was knowne to be so gripple and miserable, that hardly any meanes would drawe him to it. In the end, constrained by necessity, and labouring his wits for some apt device whereby he might have it: he concluded, though hee might not compell him to do it, yet by a practise shadowed with good reason to ensnare him. And having sent for him, entertained him very familiarly in his Court, and sitting downe by him, thus began.
Honest man, I have often heard it reported by many, that thou art very skilfull, and in cases concerning God, thou goest beyond all other of these times: wherefore, I would gladly bee informed by thee, which of those three Lawes or Religions, thou takest to be truest; that of the Jew, the other of the Sarazen, or that of the Christian? The Jew, being a very wise man, plainely perceived, that Saladine sought to entrap him in his answere, and so to raise some quarrell against him. For, if he commended any one of those Lawes above the other, he knew that Saladine had what he aymed at. Wherefore, bethinking himselfe to shape such an answere, as might no way trouble or entangle him: summoning all his sences together, and considering, that dallying with the Soldane might redound to his no meane danger, thus he replied.
My Lord, the question propounded by you, is faire and worthy, and to answere my opinion truely thereof, doth necessarily require some time of consideration, if it might stand with your liking to allow it: but if not, let me first make entrance to my reply, with a pretty tale, and well worth the hearing. I have oftentimes heard it reported, that (long since) there was a very wealthy man, who (among other precious Jewels of his owne) had a goodly Ring of great valew; the beauty and estimation whereof, made him earnestly desirous to leave it as a perpetuall memory and honour to his successors. Whereupon, he willed and ordained, that he among his male children, with whom this Ring (being left by the Father) should be found in custody after his death; hee and none other, was to bee reputed his heire, and to be honoured and reverenced by all the rest, as being the prime and worthiest person. That Sonne, to whom this Ring was left by him, kept the same course to his posterity, dealing (in all respects) as his predecessor had done; so that (in short time) the Ring (from hand to hand) had many owners by Legacie.
At length, came to the hand of one, who had three sonnes, all of them goodly and vertuous persons, and verie obedient to their Father: in which regard, he affected them all equally, without any difference or partiall respect. The custome of this Ring being knowne to them, each one of them (coveting to beare esteeme above the other) desired (as hee could best make his meanes) his Father, that in regard he was now growne very old, he would leave that Ring to him, whereby he should bee acknowledged for his heire. The good man, who loved no one of them more then the other, knew not how to make his choise, nor to which of them he should leave the Ring: yet having past his promise to them severally, he studied by what meanes to satisfie them all three. Wherefore, secretly having conferred with a curious and excellent Goldsmith, hee caused two other Rings to bee made, so really resembling the first made Ring, that himselfe (when he had them in his hand) could not distinguish which was the right one.
Lying upon his death-bed, and his Sonnes then plying him by their best opportunities, he gave to each of them a Ring. And they (after his death) presuming severally upon their right to the inheritance and honor, grew to great contradiction and square: each man producing then his Ring, which were so truely all alike in resemblance, as no one could know the right Ring from the other. And therefore, suite in Law, to distinguish the true heire to his Father, continued long time, and so it dooth yet to this very day. In like manner my good Lord, concerning those three Lawes given by God the Father, to three such people as you have propounded: each of them do imagine that they have the heritage of God, and his true Law, and also duely to performe his Commandements; but which of them do so indeede, the question (as of the three Rings) is yet remaining.
Saladine well perceyving, that the Jew was too cunning to bee caught in his snare, and had answered so well, that to doe him further violence, would redound unto his perpetuall dishonour; resolved to reveale his neede and extremity, and try if hee would therein friendly sted him. Having disclosed the matter, and how he purposed to have dealt with him, if he had not returned so wise an answere; the Jew lent him so great a sum of money as hee demanded, and Saladine repayed it againe to him justly, giving him other great gifts beside: respecting him as his especiall friend, and maintaining him in very honourable condition, neere unto his owne person.
So ceased Madame Philotnena, after the conclusion of her Tale: when Dioneus sitting next unto her, (without tarrying for any other command from the Queene, knowing by the order formerly begun, that hee was to follow in the same course) spake in this manner.
Gracious Ladies, if I faile not in understanding your generall intention, we are purposely assembled heere to tell Tales; and especially such as may please our selves. In which respect, because nothing shold be done disorderly, I hold it lawfull for every one (as our Queene decreed before her Dignity) to relate such a Noveltie, as in their owne judgement may cause most contentment. Wherefore having heard that by the good admonitions of Jehannot de Chevigny, Abraham the Jew was advised to the salvation of his soule, and Melchisedech (by his witty understanding) defended his riches from the traines of Saladine: I now purpose to tell you in a few plaine words, without feare of receiving any reprehension, how cunningly a Monke compassed his deliverance, from a punishment intended towards him.
There was in the Country of Lunigiana (which is not far distant from our owne) a Monastery, which sometime was better furnished with holinesse and Religion, then now adayes they are: wherein lived (among divers other) a yong Novice Monke, whose hot and lusty disposition (being in the vigour of his yeeres) was such, as neither Fasts nor prayers had any great power over him. It chanced on a fasting day about high noon, when all the other Monkes were asleep in their Dormitaries or Dorters, this frolicke Friar was walking alone in their Church, which stoode in a very solitarie place, where ruminating on many matters by himselfe, hee espyed a prettie handsome Wench (some Husbandmans daughter in the Countrey, that had beene gathering rootes and hearbes in the field) upon her knees before in Altar; whom he had no sooner seene, but immediately hee felt effeminate temptations, and such as ill fitted with his profession.
Lascivious desire, and no religious devotion, made him draw neere her, and whether under shrift (the onely cloake to compasse carnal affections) or some other as close conference to as pernitious and vile a purpose, I know not: but so farre he prevailed upon her frailety, and such a bargaine passed betweene them, that from the Church, he wonne her to his Chamber, before any person could perceive it. Now, while this yong lusty Monke (transported with overfond affection) was more carelesse of his dalliance, then he should have bene: the Lord Abbot being newly arisen from sleepe, and walking softly about the Cloyster, came to the Monkes Dorter doore, where hearing what noyse was made betweene them, and a feminine voyce more strange then hee was wont to heare; he layed his eare close to the Chamber doore, and plainly perceived, that a woman was within. Wherewith being much moved, he intended sodainly to make him open the doore; but (upon better consideration) hee conceyved it farre more fitting for him, to returne backe to his owne Chamber, and tarry till the Monke should come forth.
The Monke, though his delight with the Damosell was extraordinary, yet feare and suspition followed upon it; for, in the very height of all his wantonnesse, he heard a soft treading about the doore. And prying thorow a small crevice in the same dore, perceived apparantly, that the Abbot himselfe stood listening there, and could not be ignorant but that the Maide was with him in the Chamber. As after pleasure ensueth paine, for the veniall Monke knew well enough (though wanton heate would not let him heede it before) that most greevous punishment must bee inflicted on him, which made him sad beyond all measure: Neverthelesse, without disclosing his dismay to the yong Maiden, he began to consider with himselfe on many meanes, whereby to find out one that might best fit his turne. And suddenly conceited an apt stratagem, which sorted to such effect as he would have it: whereupon, seeming satisfied for that season, he tolde the Damosell, that (being carefull of her credit) as hee had brought her in unseene of any, so he would free her from thence againe, desiring her to tarrie there (without making any noyse at all) untill such time as he returned to her.
Going forth of the chamber, and locking it fast with the key, he went directly to the Lord Abbots lodging, and delivering him the saide key (as every Monke used to doe the like, when he went abroade out of the Convent) setting a good countenance on the matter, boldly saide; My Lord, I have not yet brought in all my part of the wood, which lieth ready cut downe in the Forrest; and having now convenient time to doe it, if you please to give me leave, I will goe and fetch it. The Abbot perswading himselfe, that he had not beene discovered by the Monke, and to be resolved more assuredly in the offence committed; being not a little jocund of so happy an accident, gladly tooke the key, and gave him leave to fetch the wood.
No sooner was he gone, but the Abbot beganne to consider with himselfe, what he were best to doe in this case, either (in the presence of all the other Monkes) to open the Chamber doore, that so the offence being knowne to them all, they might have no occasion of murmuring against him, when he proceeded in the Monkes punishment; or rather should first understand of the Damosell her selfe, how, and in what manner shee was brought thither. Furthermore, he considered, that shee might be a woman of respect, or some such mans daughter, as would not take it well, to have her disgraced before all the Monkes. Wherefore hee concluded, first to see (himselfe) what shee was, and then (afterward) to resolve upon the rest. So going very softly to the Chamber, and entring in, locked the doore fast with the key, when the poore Damosell thinking it had beene the gallant young Monke; but finding it to be the Lord Abbot, shee fell on her knees weeping, as fearing now to receive publike shame, by being betrayed in this unkinde manner.
My Lord Abbot looking demurely on the Maide, and perceiving her to be faire, feate, and lovely; felt immediately (although he was olde) no lesse spurring on to fleshly desires, then the young Monke before had done; whereupon he beganne to conferre thus privately with himselfe. Why should I not take pleasure, when I may freely have it? Cares and molestations I endure every day, but sildome find such delights prepared for me. This is a delicate sweete young Damosell, and here is no eye that can discover me. If I can enduce her to doe as I would have her, I know no reason why I should gaine-say it. No man can know it, or any tongue blaze it abroade; and sinne so concealed, is halfe pardoned. Such a faire fortune as this is, perhaps hereafter will never befall me; and therefore I hold it wisedome, to take such a benefit when a man may enjoy it.
Upon this immodest meditation, and his purpose quite altered which he came for; he went neerer to her, and very kindly began to comfort her, desiring her to forbeare weeping: and (by further insinuating speeches) acquainted her with his amorous intention. The Maide, who was made neither of yron nor diamond, and seeking to prevent one shame by another, was easily wonne to the Abbots will, which caused him to embrace and kisse her often.
Our lusty young novice Monke, whom the Abbot imagined to bee gone for wood, had hid himselfe aloft upon the roofe of the Dorter, where, when he saw the Abbot enter alone into the Chamber, he lost a great part of his former feare, promising to himselfe a kinde of perswasion, that somewhat would ensue to his better comfort; but when he beheld him lockt into the Chamber, then his hope grew to undoubted certainty. A little chincke or crevice favoured him, whereat he could both heare and see, whatsoever was done or spoken by them: so, when the Abbot thought hee had staide long enough with the Damosell, leaving her still there, and locking the doore fast againe, hee returned thence to his owne Chamber.
Within some short while after, the Abbot knowing the Monke to be in the Convent, and supposing him to be lately returned with the wood, determined to reprove him sharpely, and to have him closely imprisoned, that the Damosell might remaine solie to himselfe. And causing him to be called presently before him, with a very stearne and angry countenance, giving him many harsh and bitter speeches, commanded, that he should be clapt in prison.
The Monke very readily answered, saying. My good Lord, I have not yet beene so long in the Order of Saint Benedict, as to learne all the particularities thereto belonging. And beside Sir, you never shewed mee or any of my Brethren, in what manner we young Monkes ought to use women, as you have otherwise done for our custome of prayer and fasting. But seeing you have so lately therein instructed mee, and by your owne example how to doe it: I heere solemnely promise you, if you please to pardon me but this one error, I will never faile therein againe, but dayly follow what I have seene you doe.
The Abbot, being a man of quicke apprehension, perceived instantly by this answere; that the Monke not onely knew as much as he did, but also had seene (what was intended) that hee should not. Wherefore, finding himselfe to be as faulty as the Monke, and that hee could not shame him, but worthily had deserved as much himselfe; pardoning him, and imposing silence on eithers offence: they convayed the poore abused Damosell forth of their doores, she purposing (never after) to transgresse in the like manner.
The Tale reported by Dioneus, at the first hearing of the Ladies, began to rellish of some immodestie, as the bashfull blood mounting up into their faces, delivered by apparant testimonie. And beholding one another with scarse-pleasing lookes, during all the time it was in discoursing, no sooner had he concluded: but with a few milde and gentle speeches, they gave him a modest reprehension, and meaning to let him know that such tales ought not to be tolde among women. Afterward, the Queene commaunded Madam Fiammetta, (sitting on a banke of flowers before her) to take her turne as next in order; and she, smiling with such a virgin blush, as very beautifully became her, began in this manner.
It is no little joy to mee, that we understand so well (by the discourses already past) what power consisteth in the delivery of wise and readie answeres; And because it is a great part of sence and judgement in men, to affect women of greater birth and quality then themselves, as also an admirable fore-sight in women, to keepe off from being surprized in love, by Lords going beyond them in degree: a matter offereth it selfe to my memory, well deserving my speech and your attention, how a Gentlewoman (both in word and deede) should defend her honor in that kind, when importunity laboureth to betray it.
The Marquesse of Montferrat was a worthy and valiant Knight, who being Captaine Generall for the Church, the necessary service required his company on the Seas, in a goodly Army of the Christians against the Turkes. Upon a day, in the Court of King Philip, sirnamed the one eyed King (who likewise made preparation in France, for a royall assistance to that expedition) as many speeches were delivered, concerning the valour and manhoode of this Marquesse: it fortuned, that a Knight was then present, who knew him very familiarly, and he gave an addition to the former commendation, that the whole world contained not a more equall couple in marriage, then the Marquesse and his Lady. For, as among all knights, the Marquesse could hardly be paraleld for Armes and Honour; even so his wife, in comparison of all other Ladies, was scarcely matchable for beauty and vertue. Which words were so weighty in the apprehension of King Philip, that sodainly (having as yet never seen her) he began to affect her very earnestly, concluding to embarke himselfe at Gennes or Genoua, there to set forward on the intended voyage, and journying thither by land, hee would shape some honest excuse to see the Lady Marquesse, whose Lord being then from home, opinion perswaded him over fondly, that he should easily obtaine the issue of his amorous desire.
When hee was come within a dayes journey, where the Ladie Marquesse then lay; he sent her word that she should expect his company on the morrow at dinner. The Lady, being singularly wise and judicious, answered the Messenger, that she reputed the Kings comming to her, as an extraordinary grace and favour, and that he should bee most heartily welcome. Afterward, entring into further consideration with her selfe, what the King might meane by his private visitation, knowing her Husband to be from home, and it to bee no meane barre to his apter entertainement: at last she discreetly conceited (and therin was not deceived) that babling report of her beauty and perfections, might thus occasion the Kings comming thither, his journey lying else a quite contrary way. Notwithstanding, being a Princely Lady, and so loyal a wife as ever lived shee intended to give him her best entertainement: summoning the chiefest Gentlemen in the Country together, to take due order (by their advice) for giving the King a gracious Welcome. But concerning the dinner, and diet for service to his Table, that remained onely at her own disposing.
Sending presently abroad, and buying all the Hennes that the Country affoorded, shee commaunded her Cookes, that onely of them (without any other provision beside) they should prepare all the services that they could devise. On the morrow, the King came according to his promise, and was most honourably welcomed by the Lady, who seemed in his eye (far beyond the Knights speeches of her) the fairest creature that ever he had seene before; whereat he mervailed not a little, extolling her perfections to be peerelesse, which much the more enflamed his affections, and (almost) made his desires impatient. The King beeing withdrawne into such Chambers, as orderly were prepared for him, and as beseemed so great a Prince: the houre of dinner drawing on, the King and the Lady Marquesse were seated at one Table, and his attendants placed at other tables, answerable to their degrees of honour.
Plenty of dishes being served in, and the rarest Wines that the Countrey yeelded, the King had more minde to the faire Lady Marques, then any meate that stood on the Table. Neverthelesse, observing each service after other, and that all the Viands (though variously cooked, and in divers kindes) were nothing else but Hennes onely, he began to wonder; and so much the rather, because he knew the Country to be of such quality, that it afforded all plenty both of Fowles and Venison: beside, after the time of his comming was heard, they had respite enough, both for hawking and hunting; and therefore it encreased his marvell the more, that nothing was provided for him, but Hennes onely: wherein to be the better resolved, turning a merry countenance to the Lady, thus he spake. Madam, are Hennes onely bred in this Country, and no Cockes? The Lady Marquesse, very well understanding his demand, which fitted her with an apt opportunity, to thwart his idle hope, and defend her owne honour; boldly returned the King this answere. Not so my Lord, but women and wives, howsoever they differ in garments and graces one from another; yet notwithstanding, they are all heere as they bee in other places.
When the King heard this reply, he knew well enough the occasion of his Henne dinner, as also, what vertue lay couched under her answere; perceiving apparantly, that wanton words would prove but in vaine, and such a woman was not easily to be seduced; wherefore, as hee grew enamored on her inconsiderately, so he found it best fitting for his honour, to quench this heate with wisedome discreetly. And so, without any more words, or further hope of speeding in so unkingly a purpose, dinner being ended, by a sudden departing, he smoothly shadowed the cause of his comming, and thanking her for the honour shee had done him, commended her to her chaste disposition, and posted away with speede to Gennes.
Madam Aemilia sitting next to the gentle Lady Fiammetta, perceiving the modest chastisement, which the vertuous Lady Marquesse had given to the King of France, was generally graced by the whole Assembly; began (after the Queene had thereto appointed her) in these words. Nor will I conceale the deserved reprehension, which an honest simple lay-man, gave to a covetous holy Father, in very few words; yet more to be commended, then derided.
Not long since (worthy Ladies) there dwelt in our owne native City, a Friar Minor, an Inquisitor after matters of Faith; who, although he laboured greatly to seeme a sanctified man, and an earnest affecter of Christian Religion, (as all of them appeare to be in outward shew;) yet he was a much better Inquisitor after them that had their purses plenteously stored with money, then of such as were slenderly grounded in Faith. By which diligent continued care in him, he found out a man, more rich in purse, then understanding; and yet not so defective in matters of faith, as misguided by his owne simple speaking, and (perhaps) when his braine was well warmed with wine, words fell more foolishly from him, then in better judgement they could have done.
Being on a day in company, (very little differing in quality from him selfe) he chanced to say; that he had beene at such good wine, as God himselfe did never drinke better. Which words (by some Sicophant then in presence) being carried to this curious Inquisitor, and he well knowing, that the mans faculties were great, and his bagges swolne up full with no meane abundance: Cum gladijs et fustibus; With Booke, Bell, and Candle, he raysed an hoast of execrations against him, and the Sumner cited him with a solemne Processe to appeare before him, understanding sufficiently, that this course would sooner fetch money from him, then amend any misbeliefe in the man; for no further reformation did he seeke after.
The man comming before him, hee demanded, if the accusation intimated against him, was true or no? Whereto the honest man answered, that he could not denie the speaking of such words, and declared in what manner they were uttered. Presently the Inquisitor, most devoutly addicted to Saint John with the golden beard, saide; What? Doest thou make our Lord a drinker, and a curious quaffer of wines, as if he were a glutton, a belly-god, or a Taverne haunter, as thou, and other drunkards are. Being an hypocrite, as thou art, thou thinkest this to be but a light matter, because it may seeme so in thine owne opinion: but I tell thee plainely, that it deserveth fire and faggot, if I should proceede in justice to inflict it on thee: with these, and other such like threatning words, as also a very stearne and angry countenance, he made the man beleeve himselfe to be an Epicure, and that hee denied the eternity of the soule; whereby he fell into such a trembling feare, as doubting indeede, least he should be burned; that, to be more mercifully dealt withal, he rounded him in the eare, and by secret meanes, so annointed his hands with Saint Johns golden grease (a verie singular remedie against the Disease Pestilentiall in covetous Priests, especially Friars Minors, that dare touch no money) as the case became very quickly altered.
This soveraigne Unction was of such vertue (though Galen speakes not a word thereof among all his cheefest Medicines) and so farre prevailed, that the terrible threatning words of fire and faggot, became meerly frozen up, and gracious language blew a more gentle and calmer ayre; the Inquisitor delivering him an hallowed Crucifixe, creating him a Soldier of the Crosse (because he had payed Crosses good store for it,) and even as if he were to travell under that Standard to the holy Land; so did hee appoint him a home-paying pennance, namely, to visit him thrice every weeke in his Chamber, and to annoint his hands with the selfe-same yellow unguent, and afterward, to heare Masse of the holy Crosse, visiting him also at dinner time, which being ended, to do nothing all the rest of the day, but according as he directed him.
The simple man, yet not so simple, but seeing that this weekely greazing the Inquisitors hands, would in time graspe away all his gold, grew weary of this annointing, and began to consider with himselfe, how to stay the course of this chargeable penance. And comming one morning (according to his injunction) to heare Masse, in the Gospell he observed these words; You shall receive an hundred for one, and so possesse eternall life; which saying, he kept perfectly in his memory: and as he was commanded, at dinner time, he came to the Inquisitor, finding him (among his fellowes) seated at the Table. The Inquisitor presently demaunded of him, whether he had heard Masse that morning, or no? Yes Sir, replyed the man very readily. Hast thou heard any thing therein (quoth the Inquisitor) whereof thou art doubtfull, or desirst to be further informed? Surely Sir, answered the plaine-meaning man, I make no doubt of any thing I have heard, but do beleeve all constantly: onely one thing troubleth me much, and maketh me very compassionate of you, and of all these holy Fathers your brethren, perceiving in what wofull and wretched estate you will be, when you shall come into another world. What words are these, quoth the Inquisitor? And why art thou moved to such compassion of us? O good Sir, saide the man, do you remember the wordes in the Gospell this morning, You shall receive an hundred for one? That is verie true replyed the Inquisitor, but what mooveth thee to urge those words? I will tell you Sir, answered the plain fellow, so it might please you not to be offended. Since the time of my resorting hither, I have daily seene many poore people at your doore, and (out of your abundance) when you and your Brethren have fed sufficiently, every one hath had a good messe of Pottage: now Sir, if for every dishfull given, you are sure to receive an hundred againe, you will all be meerely drowned in pottage. Although the rest (sitting at the Table with the Inquisitor) laughed heartily at this jest; yet he found himselfe toucht in another nature, having hypocritically received for one poore offence, above three hundred peeces of Gold, and not a mite to be restored againe. But fearing to be further disclosed, yet threatning him with another Processe in law, for abusing the words of the Gospel, he was content to dismisse him for altogither, without any more golden greasing in the hand.
The courteous demeanor of Madam Aemilia, and the quaintnesse of her discourse, caused both the Queene, and the rest of the company, to commend the invention of carrying the Crosse, and the golden oyntment appointed for pennance. Afterward, Philostratus, who was in order to speake next, began in this manner.
It is a commendable thing (faire Ladies) to hit a But that never stirreth out of his place: but it is a matter much more admirable, to see a thing suddainely appearing, and sildome or never frequented before, to bee as suddenly hit by an ordinary Archer. The vicious and polluted lives of Priests, yeeldeth matter of it selfe in many things, deserving speech and reprehension, as a true But of wickednes, and well worthy to be sharply shot at. And therefore, though that honest meaning man did wisely, in touching Master Inquisitor to the quicke, with the hypocriticall charity of Monkes and Friars, in giving such things to the poore, as were more meete for Swine, or to be worse throwne away, yet I hold him more to be commended, who (by occasion of a former tale, and which I purpose to relate) pleasantly reprooved Master Can de la Scala, a Magnifico and mighty Lord, for a sudden and unaccustomed covetousnesse appearing in him, figuring by other men, that which hee intended to say of him, in manner following.
Master Can de la Scala, as fame ranne abroad of him in all places, was (beyond the infinite favours of Fortune towards him) one of the most notable and magnificent Lords that ever lived in Italy, since the daies of Fredericke the second, Emperor. He determining to procure a very solemne assembly at Verona, and many people being met there from divers places, especially Gentlemen of all degrees; suddenly (upon what occasion I know not) his minde altred, and hee would not goe forward with his intention. Most of them he partly recompenced which were come thither, and they dismissed to depart at their pleasure, one onely man remained unrespected, or in any kinde sort sent away, whose name was Bergamino, a man very pleasantly disposed, and so wittily readie in speaking and answering, as none could easily credit it, but such as heard him; and although his recompence seemed over-long delayed, yet hee made no doubt of a beneficiall ending.
By some enemies of his, Master Can de la Scala was incensed, that whatsoever he gave or bestowed on him, was as ill imployed and utterly lost, as if it were throwne into the fire, and therefore he neither did or spake any thing to him. Some few dayes being passed over, and Bergamino perceiving, that hee was neither called, nor any account made of, notwithstanding many manly good parts in him; observing beside, that hee found a shrewd consumption in his purse, his Inne, horses, and servants, being chargeable to him, he began to grow extremely melancholly, and yet hee attended in expectation day by day, as thinking it farre unfitting for him, to depart before he was bidden farewell.
Having brought with him thither three goodly rich garments, which had beene given him by sundrie Lords, for his more sightly appearance at this great meeting; the importunate Host being greedie of payment, first he delivered him one of them, and yet not halfe the score being wiped off, the second must needes follow; and beside, except he meant to leave his lodging, hee must live upon the third so long as it would last, till hee saw what end his hopes would sort too. It fortuned, during the time of living thus upon his last refuge, that hee met with Maister Can one day at dinner, where he presented himselfe before him, with a discontented countenance: which Maister Can well observing, more to distaste him, then take delight in any thing that could come from him, he sayd. Bergamino, how cheerest thou? Thou art very melancholly, I prythee tell us why? Bergamino suddenly, without any premeditation, yet seeming as if he had long considered thereon, reported this Tale.
Sir, I have heard of a certaine man, named Primasso, one skilfully learned in the Grammar, and (beyond all other) a very witty and ready versifier: in regard whereof, he was so much admired, and farre renowned, that such as never saw him, but onely heard of him, could easily say, this is Primasso. It came to passe, that being once at Paris, in poore estate, as commonly he could light on no better fortune (because vertue is slenderly rewarded, by such as have the greatest possessions) he heard much fame of the Abbot of Clugni, a man reputed (next to the Pope) to be the richest Prelate of the Church. Of him he heard wonderfull and magnificent matters, that he alwayes kept an open and hospitable Court, and never made refusall of any (from whence soever hee came or went) but they did eate and drinke freely there; provided, that they came when the Abbot was set at the Table. Primasso hearing this, and being an earnest desirer to see magnificent and vertuous men, hee resolved to goe see this rare bounty of the Abbot, demanding how far he dwelt from Paris? Being answered, about some three Leagues thence. Primasso made account, that if he went on betimes in the morning, he should easily reach thither before the houre for dinner.
Being instructed in the way, and not finding any to walke along with him; fearing, if he went without some furnishment, and should stay long there for his dinner, he might (perhaps) complaine of hunger: he therefore carried three loaves of bread with him, knowing that he could meet with water every where, albeit he used to drinke but little. Having aptly conveyed his bread about him, he went on his journy, and arrived at the Lord Abbots Court, an indifferent while before dinner time: wherefore entering into the great Hall, and so from place to place, beholding the great multitude of Tables, bountifull preparation in the Kitchin, and what admirable provision there was for dinner, he said to himselfe; Truly this man is more magnificent then fame hath made him, because shee speakes too sparingly of him.
While thus he went about, considering on all these things very respectively, he saw the Maister of the Abbots Houshold (because then it was the houre of dinner) command water to be brought for washing hands, so everie one sitting down at the Tatle, it fell to the lot of Primasso, to sit directly against the doore, whereat the Abbot must enter into the Hall. The custome in this Court was such, that no manner of Foode should be served to any of the Table, untill such time as the Lord Abbot was himselfe set: whereupon, every thing being fit and ready, the Master of the Houshold went to tell his Lord, that nothing now wanted but his onely presence.
The Abbot comming from his Chamber to enter the Hall, looking about him, as hee was wont to doe; the first man hee saw was Primasso, who being but in homely habite, and he having not seene him before to his remembrance, a present bad conceite possessed his braine, that he never saw an unworthier person, saying within himselfe: See how I give my goods away to bee devoured. So returning backe to his Chamber againe; commaunded the doore to be made fast, demaunding of every man neere about him, if they knew the base Knave that sate before his entrance into the Hall, and all his servants answered no. Primasso being extreamely hungry, with travailing on foote so farre, and never used to fast so long; expecting still when meate would be served in, and that the Abbot came not at all: drew out one of his loaves which hee brought with him, and very heartily fell to feeding.
My Lord Abbot, after hee had stayed within an indifferent while, sent forth one of his men, to see if the poore fellow was gone, or no. The servant told him, that he stayed there, and fed upon dry bread, which it seemed he had brought thither with him. Let him feede on his owne (replyed the Abbot) for he shall taste of none of mine this day. Gladly wold the Abbot, that Primasso should have gone thence of himselfe, and yet held it scarsely honest in his Lordship, to dismisse him by his owne command. Primasso having eaten one of his Loaves, and yet the Abbot was not come; began to feede upon the second: the Abbot still sending to expect his absence, and answered as he was before. At length, the Abbot not comming, and Primasso having eaten up his second loafe, hunger compeld him to begin with the third.
When these newes were carried to the Abbot, sodainly he brake forth and saide. What new kinde of needy tricke hath my braine begotte this day? Why do I grow disdainfull against any man whatsoever? I have long time allowed my meate to be eaten by all commers that did please to visit me, without exception against any person, Gentleman, Yeoman, poore or rich, Marchant or Minstrill, honest man or knave, never refraining my presence in the Hall, by basely contemning one poore man. Beleeve me, covetousnesse of one mans meate, doth ill agree with mine estate and calling. What though he appeareth a wretched fellow to me? He may be of greater merit then I can imagine, and deserve more honor then I am able to give him.
Having thus discoursed with himselfe, he would needs understand of whence, and what he was, and finding him to be Primasso, come onely to see the magnificence which he had reported of him, knowing also (by the generall fame noysed every where of him) that he was reputed to be a learned, honest, and ingenious man: he grew greatly ashamed of his owne folly, and being desirous to make him an amends, strove many waies how to do him honor. When dinner was ended, the Abbot bestowed honorable garments on him, such as beseemed his degree and merit, and putting good store of money in his purse, as also giving him a good horse to ride on, left it at his owne free election, whether he would stay there still with him, or depart at his pleasure. Wherewith Primasso being highly contented, yeelding him the heartiest thankes he could devise to do, returned to Paris on horse-backe, albeit he came poorely thether on foot.
Master Can de la Scala, who was a man of good understanding, perceived immediately (without any further interpretation) what Bergamino meant by this morall, and smiling on him, saide: Bergamino, thou hast honestly expressed thy vertue and necessities, and justly reprooved mine avarice, niggardnesse, and base folly. And trust me Bergamino, I never felt such a fit of covetousnesse come upon me, as this which I have dishonestly declared to thee: and which I will now banish from me, with the same correction as thou hast taught mee. So, having payed the Host all his charges, redeeming also his robes or garments, mounting him on a good Gelding, and putting plenty of Crownes in his purse, he referd it to his owne choise to depart, or dwell there still with him.
Madam Lauretta, sitting next to Philostratus, when she had heard the witty conceite of Bergamino; knowing, that she was to say somewhat, without injunction or command, pleasantly thus began.
This last discourse (faire and vertuous company) induceth me to tell you, how an honest Courtier reprehended in like manner (and nothing unprofitably) base covetousnesse in a Merchant of extraordinary wealth. Which Tale, although (in effect) it may seeme to resemble the former; yet perhaps, it will prove no lesse pleasing to you, in regard it sorted to as good an end.
It is no long time since, that there lived in Genes or Geneway, a Gentleman named Signior Herminio de Grimaldo, who (as every one wel knew) was more rich in inheritances, and ready summes of currant money then any other knowne Citizen in Italy. And as hee surpassed other men in wealth, so did he likewise excell them in wretched Avarice, being so miserably greedy and covetous, as no man in the world could be more wicked that way; because, not onely he kept his purse lockt up from pleasuring any, but denied needfull things to himselfe, enduring many miseries onely to avoid expences, contrary to the Genewayes generall custom, who alwayes delighted to be decently cloathed, and to have their dyet of the best. By reason of which most miserable basenesse, they tooke away from him the Sirname of Grimaldi, whereof he was in right descended, and called him master Herminio the covetous Mizer, a nickname very notably agreeing with his gripple nature.
It came to passe, that in this time of his spending nothing, but multiplying daily by infinite meanes, that a civill honest Gentleman (a Courtier of ready wit, and discoursive in Languages) came to Geneway, being named Guillaume Boursier. A man very farre differing from divers Courtiers in these dayes, who for soothing shamefull and gracelesse maners in such as allow them maintenance, are called and reputed to bee Gentlemen, yea speciall favourites: whereas much more worthily, they should be accounted as knaves and villaines, being borne and bred in all filthinesse, and skilfull in every kinde of basest behaviour, not fit to come in Princes Courts. For, whereas in passed times, they spent their dayes and paines in making peace, when Gentlemen were at warre or dissention, or treating on honest marriages, betweene friends and familiars, and (with loving speeches) would recreate disturbed mindes, desiring none but commendable exercises in Court, and sharpely reprooving (like Fathers) disordred life, or ill actions in any, albeit with recompence little, or none at all; these upstarts now adayes, employ all their paines in detractions, sowing questions and quarrels betweene one another, making no spare of lyes and falshoods. Nay which is worse, they wil do this in the presence of any man, upbraiding him with injuries, shames, and scandals (true or not true) upon the very least occasion. And by false and deceitful flatteries and villanies of their owne inventing, they make Gentlemen to become as vile as themselves. For which detestable qualities, they are better beloved and respected of their misdemeanored Lords, and recompenced in more bountifull maner, then men of vertuous carriage and desert. Which is an argument sufficient, that goodnesse is gone up to heaven, and hath quite forsaken these loathed lower Regions, where men are drowned in the mud of all abhominable vices.
But returning where I left (being led out of my way by a just and religious anger against such deformity) this Gentleman, Master Guillaume Boursier, was willingly seene, and gladly welcommed by all the best men in Geneway. Having remained some few daies in the City, and amongst other matters, heard much talke of the miserable covetousnesse of master Herminio, he grew very desirous to have a sight of him. Master Herminio had already understood, that this Gentleman, Master Guillaume Boursier was vertuously disposed, and (how covetously soever hee was inclined) having in him some sparkes of noble nature, gave him very good words, and gracious entertainment, discoursing with him on divers occasions.
In company of other Genewayes with him, he brought him to a new erected house of his, a building of great cost and beauty; where, after he had shewne him all the variable rarieties, he beganne thus. Master Guillaume, no doubt but you have heard and seene many things, and you can instruct me in some queint conceit or device, to be fairly figured in painting, at the entrance into the great Hall of my House. Master Guillaume hearing him speake so simply, returned him this answer: Sir, I cannot advise you in any thing, so rare or unseene as you talk of: but how to sneeze (after a new manner) upon a full and over-cloyed stomacke, to avoyde base humours that stupifie the braine, or other matters of the like quality. But if you would be taught a good one indeede, and had a disposition to see it fairely effected, I could instruct you in an excellent Emblem, wherwith (as yet) you never came acquainted.
Master Herminio hearing him say so, and expecting no such answer as he had, saide, Good Master Guillaume, tell me what it is, and on my faith I will have it fairely painted. Whereto Master Guillaume suddenly replied; Do nothing but this Sir: Paint over the Portall of your Halles enterance, the lively picture of Liberality, to bid all your friends better welcome, then hitherto they have beene. When Master Herminio heard these words, he becam possessed with such a sudden shame, that his complexion changed from the former palenesse, and answered thus. Master Guillaume, I will have your advice so truly figured over my gate, and shee shall give so good welcome to all my guests, that both you, and all these Gentlemen shall say, I have both seene her, and am become reasonably acquainted with her. From that time forward, the words of Master Guillaume were so effectuall with Signior Herminio, that he became the most bountifull and best house-keeper, which lived in his time in Geneway: no man more honouring and friendly welcoming both strangers and Citizens, then he continually used to do.
The last command of the Queene, remained upon Madam Elissa, or Eliza, who (without any delaying) thus beganne. Young Ladies, it hath often beene seene, that much paine hath beene bestowed, and many reprehensions spent in vaine, till a word happening at adventure, and perhaps not purposely determined, hath effectually done the deede: as appeareth by the Tale of Madame Lauretta, and another of mine owne, where with I intend briefly to acquaint you, approving that when good words are discreetly observed, they are of soveraigne power and vertue.
In the dayes of the first King of Cyprus, after the Conquest made in the holy Land by Godfrey of Bullen, it fortuned that a Gentlewoman of Gascoignie, travelling in pilgrimage to visit the sacred Sepulcher in Jerusalem, returning home againe, arrived at Cyprus, where shee was villanously abused by certaine base wretches. Complaining thereof, without any comfort or redresse, shee intended to make her moane to the King of the Country. Whereupon it was tolde her, that therein shee should but loose her labour, because hee was so womanish, and faint-hearted; that not onely he refused to punish with justice the offence of others, but also suffered shamefull injuries done to himselfe. And therefore, such as were displeased by his negligence, might easily discharge their spleene against him, and doe him what dishonour they would.
When the Gentlewoman heard this, despairing of any consolation, or revenge for her wrongs, shee resolved to checke the Kings deniall of justice, and comming before him weeping, spake in this manner. Sir, I presume not into your presence, as hoping to have redresse by you, for divers dishonourable injuries done unto me; but, as full satisfaction for them, doe but teach me how you suffer such vile abuses, as daily are offered to your selfe. To the end, that being therein instructed by you, I may the more patiently beare mine owne; which (as God knoweth) I would bestow on you very gladly, because you know so well how to endure them.
The King, who (till then) had beene very bad, dull, and slothfull, even as sleeping out his time of governement; beganne to revenge the wrongs done to this Gentlewoman very severely, and (thence forward) became a most sharpe Justicer, for the least offence offered against the honour of his Crowne, or to any of his subjects beside.
After that Madam Eliza sate silent, the last charge and labour of the like employment, remained to the Queene her selfe; whereupon shee beganne thus to speake: Honest and vertuous young Ladies, like as the Starres (when the Ayre is faire and cleere) are the adorning and beauty of Heaven, and flowers (while the Spring time lasteth) doe graciously embellish the Meadowes; even so sweete speeches and pleasing conferences, to passe the time with commendable discourses, are the best habit of the minde, and an outward beauty to the body: which ornaments of words, when they appeare to be short and sweete, are much more seemely in women, then in men; because long and tedious talking (when it may be done in lesser time) is a greater blemish in women, then in men.
Among us women, this day, I thinke few or none have therein offended, but as readily have understood short and pithy speeches, as they have beene quicke and quaintly delivered. But when answering suteth not with understanding, it is generally a shame in us, and all such as live; because our moderne times have converted that vertue, which was within them who lived before us, into garments of the body, and shew whose habites were noted to bee most gaudy, fullest of imbroyderies and fantastick fashions: she was reputed to have most matter in her, and therefore to be more honoured and esteemed. Never considering, that whosoever loadeth the backe of an Asse, or puts upon him the richest braverie; he becommeth not thereby a jot the wiser, or meriteth any more honor then an Asse should have. I am ashamed to speake it, because in detecting other, I may (perhaps) as justly taxe my selfe.
Such imbroydered bodies, tricked and trimmed in such boasting bravery, are they any thing else but as Marble Statues, dumbe, dull, and utterly insensible? Or if (perchaunce) they make an answere, when some question is demanded of them; it were much better for them to be silent. For defence of honest devise and conference among men and women, they would have the world to thinke, that it proceedeth but from simplicity and precise opinion, covering their owne folly with the name of honesty: as if there were no other honest woman, but shee that conferres onely with her Chambermaide, Laundresse, or Kitchin-woman: as if nature had allowed them, (in their owne idle conceite) no other kinde of talking.
Most true it is, that as there is a respect to be used in the action of things; so, time and place are necessarily to be considered, and also whom we converse withall; because sometimes it happeneth, that a man or woman, intending (by a word of jest and merriment) to make another body blush or be ashamed: not knowing what strength of wit remaineth in the opposite, doe convert the same disgrace upon themselves. Therefore, that we may the more advisedly stand upon our owne guard, and to prevent the common proverbe, That Women (in all things) make choyse of the worst: I desire that this dayes last tale, which is to come from my selfe, may make us all wise. To the end, that as in gentlenesse of minde we conferre with other; so by excellency in good manners, we may shew our selves not inferiour to them.
It is not many yeares since (worthy assembly) that in Bulloigne there dwelt a learned Physitian, a man famous for skill, and farre renowned, whose name was Master Albert, and being growne aged, to the estimate of threescore and tenne yeares: hee had yet such a sprightly disposition, that though naturall heate and vigour had quite shaken hands with him, yet amorous flames and desires had not wholly forsaken him. Having seene (at a Banquet) a very beautifull woman, being then in the estate of widdowhood, named (as some say) Madam Margaret de Chisolieri, shee appeared so pleasing in his eye; that his sences became no lesse disturbed, then as if he had beene of farre younger temper, and no night could any quietnesse possesse his soule, except (the day before) he had seene the sweet countenance of this lovely widdow. In regard whereof, his dayly passage was by her doore, one while on horsebacke, and then againe on foot; as best might declare his plaine purpose to see her.
Both shee and other Gentlewomen, perceiving the occasion of his passing and repassing; would privately jest thereat together, to see a man of such yeares and discretion, to be amorously addicted, or overswayed by effeminate passions. For they were partly perswaded, that such wanton Ague fits of Love, were fit for none but youthfull apprehensions, as best agreeing with their chearefull complexion. Master Albert continuing his dayly walkes by the widdowes lodging, it chaunced upon a Feastivall day, that shee (accompanied with divers other women of great account) being sitting at her doore; espied Master Albert (farre off) comming thitherward, and a resolved determination among themselves was set downe, to allow him favourable entertainement, and to jest (in some merry manner) at his loving folly, as afterward they did indeede.
No sooner was he come neere, but they all arose, and courteously invited him to enter with them, conducting him into a goodly Garden, where readily was prepared choyse of delicate wines and banquetting. At length, among other pleasant and delightfull discourses, they demanded of him; how it was possible for him, to be amorously affected towards so beautifull a woman, both knowing and seeing, how earnestly she was sollicited by many gracious, gallant, and youthfull spirits, aptly suting with her yeares and desires? Master Albert perceiving, that they had drawne him in among them, onely to scoffe and make a mockery of him; set a merry countenance on the matter, and honestly thus answered.
Beleeve mee Gentlewoman (speaking to the widdowe her selfe) it should not appeare strange to any of wisedome and discretion, that I am amorously enclined, and especially to you, because you are well worthy of it. And although those powers, which naturally appertaine to the exercises of Love, are bereft and gone from aged people; yet good will thereto cannot be taken from them, neither judgement to know such as deserve to be affected: for, by how much they exceede youth in knowledge and experience, by so much the more hath nature made them meet for respect and reverence. The hope which incited me (being aged) to love you, that are affected of so many youthfull Gallants, grew thus. I have often chaunced into divers places, where I have seene Ladies and Gentlwomen, being disposed to a Collation or rerebanquet after dinner, to feede on Lupines, and young Onions or Leekes, and although it may be so, that there is little or no goodnesse at all in them; yet the heads of them are least hurtfull, and most pleasing in the mouth. And you Gentlewomen generally (guided by unreasonable appetite) will hold the heads of them in your hands, and feede upon the blades or stalkes: which not onely are not good for any thing, but also are of very bad savour. And what know I (Lady) whether among the choise of friends, it may fit your fancy to doe the like? For, if you did so, it were no fault of mine to be chosen of you, but thereby were all the rest of your suters the sooner answered.
The widdowed Gentlewoman, and all the rest in her company, being bashfully ashamed of her owne and their folly, presently said. Master Albert, you have both well and worthily chastised our over-bold presumption, and beleeve me Sir, I repute your love and kindnesse of no meane merrit, comming from a man so wise and vertuous: And therefore (mine honour reserved) commaund my uttermost, as alwayes ready to do you any honest service. Master Albert, arising from his seat, thanking the faire widdow for her gentle offer; tooke leave of her and all the company, and she blushing, as all the rest were therein not much behinde her, thinking to checke him, became chidden her selfe, whereby (if we be wise) let us all take warning.
The Sunne was now somewhat farre declined, and the heates extremity well worne away: when the Tales of the seaven Ladies and three Gentlemen were thus finished, whereupon their Queene pleasantly said. For this day (faire company) there remaineth nothing more to be done under my regiment, but onely to bestow a new Queene upon you, who (according to her judgement) must take her turne, and dispose what next is to be done, for continuing our time in honest pleasure. And although the day should endure till darke night; in regard, that when some time is taken before, the better preparation may bee made for occasions to follow, to the end also, that whatsoever the new Queene shall please to appoint, may be the better fitted for the morrow: I am of opinion, that at the same houre as we now cease, the following dayes shall severally begin. And therefore, in reverence to him that giveth life to all things, and in hope of comfort by our second day; Madam Philomena, a most wise young Lady, shall governe as Queene this our Kingdome.
So soone as she had thus spoken, arising from her seate of dignity, and taking the Lawrell Crowne from off her owne head; she reverently placed it upon Madam Philomenaes, shee first of all humbly saluting her, and then all the rest, openly confessing her to be their Queene, made gracious offer to obey whatsoever she commanded. Philomena, her cheekes delivering a scarlet tincture, to see her selfe thus honoured as their Queene, and well remembring the words, so lately uttered by Madam Pampinea; that dulnesse or neglect might not be noted in her, tooke cheerefull courage to her, and first of all, she confirmed the officers, which Pampinea had appointed the day before, then she ordained for the morrowes provision, as also for the supper so neere approiching, before they departed away from thence, and then thus began.
Lovely Companions, although that Madam Pampinea, more in her owne courtesie, then any matter of merit remaining in me, hath made me your Queene: I am not determined, to alter the forme of our intended life, nor to be guided by mine owne judgement, but to associate the same with your assistance. And because you may know what I intend to do, and so (consequently) adde or diminish at your pleasure; in very few words, you shall plainly understand my meaning. If you have well considered on the course, which this day hath bene kept by Madam Pampinea, me thinkes it hath bene very pleasing and commendable; in which regard, untill by over-tedious continuation, or other occasions of irkesome offence, it shall seeme injurious, I am of the minde, not to alter it. Holding on the order then as we have begun to doe, we will depart from hence to recreate our selves a while, and when the Sun groweth towards setting, we will sup in the fresh and open ayre; afterward, with Canzonets and other pastimes, we will out-weare the houres till bed time. To morrow morning, in the fresh and gentle breath thereof, we will rise and walke to such places, as every one shall finde fittest for them, even as already this day we have done; untill due time shall summon us hither againe, to continue our discoursive Tales, wherein (me thinkes) consisteth both pleasure and profit, especially by discreete observation.
Very true it is, that some things which Madam Pampinea could not accomplish, by reason of her so small time of authority, I will begin to undergo, to wit, in restraining some matters whereon we are to speake, that better premeditation may passe upon them. For, when respite and a little leysure goeth before them, each discourse will savour of the more formality; and if it might so please you, thus would I direct the order. As since the beginning of the world, all men have bene guided (by Fortune) thorow divers accidents and occasions: so beyond all hope and expectation, the issue and successe hath bin good and successful, and accordingly should every one of our arguments be chosen.
The Ladies, and the yong Gentlemen likewise, commended her advice, and promised to imitate it; onely Dioneus excepted, who when every one was silent, spake thus. Madam, I say as all the rest have done, that the order by you appointed, is most pleasing and worthy to bee allowed. But I intreate one speciall favour for my selfe, and to have it confirmed to mee, so long as our company continueth; namely, that I may not be constrained to this Law of direction, but to tell my Tale at liberty, after mine owne minde, and according to the freedome first instituted. And because no one shall imagine, that I urge this grace of you, as being unfurnished of discourses in this kinde, I am well contented to bee the last in every dayes exercise.
The Queene, knowing him to be a man full of mirth and matter, began to consider very advisedly, that he would not have mooved this request, but onely to the end, that if the company grew wearied by any of the Tales re-counted, hee would shut up the dayes disport with some mirthfull accident. Wherefore willingly, and with consent of all the rest he had his suite granted. So, arising all, they walked to a Christall river, descending downe a little hill into a valley, graciously shaded with goodly Trees; where washing both their hands and feete, much pretty pleasure passed among them; till supper time drawing neere, made them returne home to the Palace. When supper was ended, and bookes and instruments being laide before them, the Queene commanded a dance, and that Madam Aemilia, assisted by Madam Lauretta and Dioneus, should sing a sweet ditty. At which command, Lauretta undertooke the dance, and led it, Aemilia singing this song ensuing.
And if not I, what Lady else can sing,
Of those delights, which kind contentment bring?
Come, come, sweet Love, the cause of my chiefe good,
Of all my hopes, the firme and full effect;
Sing wee together, but in no sad mood,
Of sighes or teares, which joy doth countercheck:
Stolne pleasures are delightfull in the taste,
But yet Loves fire is oftentimes too fierce;
Consuming comfort with ore-speedy haste,
Which into gentle hearts too far doth pierce.
And if not I, etc.
The first day that I felt this fiery heate,
So sweete a passion did possesse my soule,
That though I found the torment sharp, and great;
Yet still me thought t'was but a sweete controule.
Nor could I count it rude, or rigorous,
Taking my wound from such a piercing eye:
As made the paine most pleasing, gracious,
That I desire in such assaults to die.
And if not I, etc.
Grant then great God of Love, that I may still
Enjoy the benefit of my desire;
And honour her with all my deepest skill,
That first enflam'd my heart with holy fire.
To her my bondage is free liberty,
My sicknesse health, my tortures sweet repose;
Say shee the word, in full felicity
All my extreames joyne in an happy close.
Then if not I, what Lover else can sing,
Of those delights which kind contentment bring?
After this Song was ended, they sung divers other beside, and having great variety of instruments' they played to them as many pleasing dances. But the Queene considering that the meete houre for rest was come, with their lighted Torches before them, they all repaired to their Chambers; sparing the other dayes next succeeding, for those reasons by the Queene alledged, and spending the Sunday in solemne devotion.