The Decameron (Day 1 to Day 5)
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 be 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 outwarde 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 Omnipotent 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 readie to heare us. And so he ceased.
Abraham a Jew, being admonished or advised by a friend of his, named Jehannot de Chevigny, travailed from Paris unto Rome: And beholding there the wicked behaviour of men in the Church, returned backe to Paris again, where yet (neverthelesse) he became a Christian
The Second Novell
Wherein is contained and expressed, the liberality and goodnesse of God, extended to the Christian Faith
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 Queen 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 answer, 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 faithful, 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 kind 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 entreate 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 & 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 hee bare to Jehannot, or (perhaps) his words fortified by the blessed Spirit, were so prevalent with him: that the Jew felt a pleasing apprehension in them, though his obstinacie stood (as yet) farre off from conversion. But as hee thus continued strong in opinion, so Jehannot left not hourely to labour him: in so much that the Jew, being conquered by such earnest and continuall importunity, one day spake to Jehannot thus.
My worthy friend Jehannot, thou art extremely desirous, that I should convert to Christianity, and I am well contended to doe it, onely upon this condition. That first I will journey to Rome, to see him (whom thou sayest) is Gods generall 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 me, as thy speeches affirmes them to be, and thereby I may comprehend, that thy faith and Religion is better then mine, as (with no meane paines) thou endeavourest to perswade me: I will become a Christian as thou art, but if I finde it otherwise, I will continue a Jew as I am.
When Jehannot heard these words, he became exceeding sorrowfull, saide within himselfe. I have lost all the paines, which I did thinke to be well imployed, as hoping to have this man converted here: For, if he goe 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 Jew: And so (going neerer to Abraham) he said. Alas my loving friend, why shouldst thou undertake such a tedious travell, 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 will gladly bestowe Baptisme upon thee. To me 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 Citie doth affoord thee, to resolve thee in any questionable case? Thou must thinke, that the Prelates are such there, as here thou seest them to be, and yet they must needes be in much better condition at Rome, because they are neere to the principall Pastour. 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 goe along with thee as in vowed pilgrimage.
Whereto the Jew replied. 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 be) to goe thither, for otherwise, I will continue as I am. Jehannot perceiving his setled purpose, said: Goe then in Gods name. But perswaded himselfe, that hee would never become a Christian, after hee had once seene the Court of Rome: neverthelesse, he counted his labour not altogether 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 manner of the Popes life, of the Cardinals, Prelates, and all the Courtiers. And being a man very discreete and judicious, he 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 credit of Strumpets and Boyes was not small, and yet might be too easily obtained. Moreover, drunkards, belly-Gods, and servants of the paunch, more then of any thing else (even like brutish beasts after their luxurie) were every where to be met withall. And, upon further observation, hee saw all men so covetous and greedy 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 meane 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 be deceived by the outward names of things, as wretched men commonly use to doe.
These things, and many more (fitter for silence, then 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 fewe dayes of resting, Jehannot demaunded 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 truly 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 endeavour) 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 itselfe, 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 faith) 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 greatly understanding, and led a very vertuous life.
Melchisedech a Jew, by recounting a Tale of three Rings, to the great Soldan, named Saladine, prevented a great danger which was prepared for him
The third Novell
Whereby the Author, approving the Christian Faith, sheweth, how beneficiall a sodaine and ingenious answer may fall out to bee, especially when a man finds himselfe in some evident danger
Madame Neiphila having ended her Discourse, which was well allowed of by all the company; it pleased the Queene, that Madam 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 wel 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 needeless 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, but 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 be 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, plainly perceived, that Saladine sought to entrap him in his answer, 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 answer, 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, & to answer mine opinion truly 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, it 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 grown 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 himself (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 & honour, grew to great contradiction and square: each man producing then his Ring, which were so truly 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 Ringes) is yet remaining.
Saladine well perceyving, that the Jew was too cunning to be 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 he 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 answer; 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.
A Monke, having committed an offence, deserving to be very grievously punished; freede himselfe from the paine to be inflicted on him, by wittily reprehending his Abbot, with the very same fault
The fourth Novell
Wherein may be noted, that such men as will reprove those errors in others, which remaine in themselves, commonly are the Authors of their owne reprehension
So ceased Madam Philomena, 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 begunne, that he 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 here to tell Tales, and especially such as may please our selves. In which respect, because nothing should be done disorderly, I hold it lawfull for every one (as our Queene decreed before her dignity) to relate such a novelty, 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 farre distant from our owne) a Monastery, which sometime was better furnished with holinesse and Religion, then nowadayes they are; wherein lived (among divers other) a young novice Monke, whose hot and lusty disposition (being in the vigour of his yeeres) was such, as neither fastes nor prayers had any great power over him. It chanced on a fasting day about high noone, when all the other Monkes were asleepe in their Dormitaries or Dorters, this frolicke Friar was walking alone in their Church, which stood in a very solitary place, where ruminating on many matters by himselfe, hee espied a pretty hansome wench (some Husbandmans daughter in the Countrey, that had beene gathering rootes and hearbes in the field) uppon her knees before an 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 carnall affections) or some other as close conference, to as pernicious 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 over-fond affection) was more carelesse of his dalliance, then he should have beene; 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 between 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 suddenly to make him open the doore; but (upon better consideration) hee conceived it farre more fitting for him, to returne backe to his owne chamber, and tary untill the Monke should come forth.
The Monke, though his delight with the Damosel 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 doore, 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, so the veneriall Monke knew well enough (though wanton heate would not let him heede it before) that most greevous punishment must be inflicted on him; which made him sad beyond all measure. Neverthelesse, without disclosing his dismay to the young 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, hee tolde the Damosell, that (being carefull of her credit) as he had brought her in unseen of any, so he would free her from thence again, desiring her to tarrie there (without making any noyse at all) until 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 he 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 be gone for wood, had hid himselfe aloft upon the roofe of the Dorter, where, when he saw the Abbot enter alone into the Chamber, hee 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 Lady Marquesse of Montferrat, with a Banquet of Hennes, and divers other gracious speeches beside, repressed the fond love of the King of France
The fift Novell
Declaring, that wise and vertuous Ladies, ought to hold their chastitie in more esteeme, then the greatnesse and treasures of Princes: and that a discreete Lord should not offer modestie violence
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 hee concluded: but with a fewe 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 Madame 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 me, that wee understand so well (by the discourses already past) what power consisteth in the delivery of wise and ready answeres; And because it is a great part offence and judgement in men, to affect women of great 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 honour 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 manhood of this Marquesse: it fortuned, that a Knight was then present, who knew him very familiarly, and hee gave an addition to the former commendation, that the whole world contained not a more equall couple in mariage, then the Marquesse & 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 waighty in the apprehension of King Philip, that suddainly (having as yet never seene her) he began to affect her very earnestly, concluding to embarque himselfe at Gennes or Genoua, there to set forward on the intended voyage, and journeying 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 Lady 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 hee should be most heartily welcome. Afterward, entring into further consideration with her selfe, what the King might meane by this private visitation, knowing her husband to be from home, and it to be no meane barre to his apter entertainement: at last she discreetly conceited (and therein was not deceived) that babling report of her beauty and perfections, might thus occasion the Kings comming thither, his journy lying else a quite contrary way. Notwithstanding, being a Princely Lady, and so loyall 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 advise) for giving the King a gracious welcome. But concerning the dinner, and diet for service to his table; that remained onely at her owne disposing.