The Decameron

Sixth day

Giovanni Boccaccio

Endeth here the fifth day of the Decameron, beginneth the sixth, wherein, under the rule of Elisa, discourse is had of such as by some sprightly sally have repulsed an attack, or by some ready retort or device have avoided loss, peril or scorn.

STILL in mid heaven, the moon had lost her radiance, nor was any part of our world unillumined by the fresh splendour of the dawn, when, the queen being risen and having mustered her company, they hied them, gently sauntering, across the dewy mead some distance from the beautiful hill, conversing now of this, now of the other matter, canvassing the stories, their greater or less degree of beauty, and laughing afresh at divers of their incidents, until, the sun being now in his higher ascendant, they began to feel his heat, and turning back by common consent, retraced their steps to the palace, where, the tables being already set, and fragrant herbs and fair flowers strewn all about, they by the queen’s command, before it should grow hotter, addressed themselves to their meal. So, having blithely breakfasted, they first of all sang some dainty and jocund ditties, and then, as they were severally minded, composed them to sleep or sat them down to chess or dice, while Dioneo and Lauretta fell a singing of Troilus and Cressida.

The hour of session being come, they took their places, at the queen’s summons, in their wonted order by the fountain; but, when the queen was about to call for the first story, that happened which had not happened before; to wit, there being a great uproar in the kitchen among the maids and men, the sound thereof reached the ears of the queen and all the company. Whereupon the queen called the seneschal and asked him who bawled so loud, and what was the occasion of the uproar. The seneschal made answer that ’twas some contention between Licisca and Tindaro; but the occasion he knew not, having but just come to quiet them, when he received her summons. The queen then bade him cause Licisca and Tindaro to come thither forthwith: so they came, and the queen enquired of them the cause of the uproar. Tindaro was about to make answer, when Licisca, who was somewhat advanced in years, and disposed to give herself airs, and heated to the strife of words, turned to Tindaro, and scowling upon him said:—“Unmannerly varlet that makest bold to speak before me; leave me to tell the story.” Then, turning to the queen, she said:—“Madam, this fellow would fain instruct me as to Sicofante’s wife, and—neither more or less—as if I had not known her well—would have me believe that, the first night that Sicofante lay with her, ’twas by force and not without effusion of blood that Master Yard made his way into Dusky Hill; which I deny, averring that he met with no resistance, but, on the contrary, with a hearty welcome on the part of the garrison. And such a numskull is he as fondly to believe that the girls are so simple as to let slip their opportunities, while they wait on the caprice of father or brothers, who six times out of seven delay to marry them for three or four years after they should. Ay, ay indeed, doubtless they were well advised to tarry so long! Christ’s faith! I should know the truth of what I swear; there is never a woman in my neighbourhood whose husband had her virginity; and well I know how many and what manner of tricks our married dames play their husbands; and yet this booby would fain teach me to know women as if I were but born yesterday.”

While Licisca thus spoke, the ladies laughed till all their teeth were ready to start from their heads. Six times at least the queen bade her be silent: but all in vain; she halted not till she had said all that she had a mind to. When she had done, the queen turned with a smile to Dioneo saying:—“This is a question for thee to deal with, Dioneo; so hold thyself in readiness to give final judgment upon it, when our stories are ended.” “Madam,” replied Dioneo forthwith, “I give judgment without more ado: I say that Licisca is in the right; I believe that ’tis even as she says, and that Tindaro is a fool.” Whereupon Licisca burst out laughing, and turning to Tindaro:—“Now did I not tell thee so?” quoth she. “Begone in God’s name: dost think to know more than I, thou that art but a sucking babe? Thank God, I have not lived for nothing, not I.” And had not the queen sternly bade her be silent, and make no more disturbance, unless she had a mind to be whipped, and sent both her and Tindaro back to the kitchen, the whole day would have been spent in nought but listening to her. So Licisca and Tindaro having withdrawn, the queen charged Filomena to tell the first story: and gaily thus Filomena began.

The Decameron - Contents    |     Sixth day - Novel I

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