Illustration for Facetious Nights by E. R. Hughes

The Facetious Nights

Illustration for Facetious Nights by E. R. Hughes

The Facetious Nights

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Night the Twelfth:
Third Fable:
Federigo da Pozzuolo

Federigo da Pozzuolo a man learned in the language of animals, is urgently pressed by his wife to tell her a certain secret, but in lieu of this he beats her in strange fashion.

IT is the duty of all wise and prudent men to hold their wives in due fear and subjection, and on no account to be induced by them to wear their breeches as head gear. If indeed they should be led to follow other courses than these they will of a surety have good cause to repent in the end.

It happened one day that Federigo da Pozzuolo, a young man of great parts and prudence, was riding towards Naples on a mare of his which was in foal, carrying behind him on the crupper his wife, who was also pregnant. Likewise there was a young colt which followed the mare its mother, and, having been left some distance behind on the road, it began to neigh, and to cry out in its own language, 'Mother, mother, go slowly, I pray you; because I, being very young and tender, and only just a year old, am not able in my pace to follow in your footsteps.' Hearing this the mare pricked up her ears, and, sniffing the air with her nostrils, began also to neigh loudly, and said in answer to her colt, 'I have to carry my mistress, who is with child, and in addition to this I bear a young brother of yours in my womb; while you, who are young and brisk, carry no burden of any sort strapped on your back, and yet you declare that you cannot travel. Come on, if you wish to come; but if not, go and do whatever pleases you.' The young man, when he understood the meaning of these words (for be it known he was well skilled in the utterances of birds and of all the animals that live on earth), smiled somewhat; where upon his wife, who was greatly filled with wonder thereanent, questioned him as to the reason why he smiled. To this her husband made answer that he had laughed spontaneously; but that, if in any event he should be led to tell her the cause of his laughter, she might take it for certain that the Fates would without more ado cut the thread of his life, and that he would die on the spot. But the importunate woman was not satisfied with this, and replied that she wanted, at all hazard, to know the reason why he had thus laughed; adding that if he would not tell her she would lay hold of him by the weazand. Then the husband, finding himself thus placed in a position of difficulty and danger, answered her, speaking thus: 'When we shall have returned to Pozzuolo you shall set in order all my affairs, and make all the necessary provisions both for my body and my soul after death. Then I will make known to you all you want to learn.'

As soon as her husband had given her this promise the wicked and malicious woman was silent, and when they were returned to Pozzuolo she quickly re called to mind the promise which had been made to her, and forthwith be sought her husband to be as good as his word. Whereupon Federigo replied by charging her to go at once and fetch the priest, forasmuch as, seeing that he must needs die on account of this matter, he was anxious first to confess himself, and to recommend himself to his Maker. As soon as she should have done this, he would tell her all. Thereupon the wife, who was determined to see her husband lying dead rather than give up aught of her pestilent wishes, went forth with to summon the confessor.

At this moment, while Federigo was lying in his bed, overcome with grief, he heard his dog address certain words to his cock, who was crowing aloud: 'Are you not ashamed of yourself, wretch and ribald that you are, to crow thus? Our good master is lying very near his last breath, and you, who ought to be sorrowful and full of melancholy, keep on crowing as if you rejoiced thereat.'

To these words the cock promptly made answer: 'And supposing that our master should die, what have I to do with that? Am I, indeed, to be charged with causing his death? He wishes to die of his own accord. Do you not know what is written in the first book of the "Politics," "The wife and the servant stand on the same footing."1 Seeing, therefore, that the husband is the head of the wife, it is her bounden duty to regard the usages and customs of her husband as the laws of her life. I, forsooth, have a hundred wives, and, through the workings of fear, I make them all most obedient to my commandments, castigating now one and now another, and giving pecks wherever I may think they are deserved. And this master of ours has only a single wife, yet he knows nought how to manage her, and to make her obedient to his commands. Let him die forthwith. Do you not believe that our mistress will soon find for herself another husband? So let it be with him, seeing that he is a man of such little account, and one disposed to give way to the foolish and unbridled will of his wife.'

The young man, when he had comprehended and well considered in his mind the words he had just listened to, at once altered his purpose, and felt deeply grateful to the cock for what he had said. The wife, after she had come back from seeking the priest, was still pertinacious to learn the cause of her husband's laughter; wherefore he, having seized her by the hair, began to beat her, and gave her so many and lusty 'blows that he nearly left her for dead.

This fable did not vastly please those of the listeners who were ladies, especially when they heard tell of the sound basting which Federigo gave his wife. Nevertheless, they grieved amain when they heard how she would fain have been the cause of her husband's death. When all were at length silent, Fiordiana, so as not to disturb the order they had followed from the beginning, pro pounded her enigma in the following words:

Once on a time I had a view
Of what would have seemed strange to you.
A damsel, working at her trade,
Who flow an opening roomy made,
Now shut it close; then took with care
Something a span in length and fair;
Its name I knew not. First within
The space she thrust its point so thin,
And then the whole; and worked away
With merry eye and aspect gay;
As you would say, were you to meet
One plying thus with hands and feet.

This enigma which Fiordiana set the company to guess gave plentiful occasion for jest and merriment, forasmuch as the greater part, if not all of the listeners put a very immodest gloss upon it. But Fiordiana, who, on ac count of the laughter which went round, perceived that the company had judged evilly of her enigma, rose to her feet, and with a smiling face said; "Ladies and gentlemen, the sound of your merry laughter tells me plainly that you imagine the sense of the enigma I have just told to you to be indecent, or, I should say, flagrantly indecent. But, in sooth, if you will listen to me with attention, you will find there is nothing lewd about it, as you now seem to think; for indeed my enigma is meant to display a graceful damsel working at a loom. She works the treadles with her feet, and with her hands makes the shuttle fly from this side to that through the space between the threads, and pulls forward the frame of the loom in order that the weft may be closely woven."

All the company gave praise to this high flight of Fiordiana's wit, which they affirmed to be more excellent even than they had anticipated from her, and thereupon they all together held merry discourse. But, in order that too much time should not be taken up in laughing, the Signora made a sign to Vicenza that she should take her turn in telling a story; when the damsel, with a merry smile, began in the following words.

1. "Amongst non-Greek peoples, on the other hand, females and slaves stand on one and the same footing."
--Aristotle, Politics, b. i., c. 2.
Return to place in story.

Next: Night the Twelfth: Fourth Fable

Straparola, Giovanni Francesco. The Facetious Nights by Straparola. W. G. Waters, translator. Jules Garnier and E. R. Hughes, illustrators. London: Privately Printed for Members of the Society of Bibliophiles, 1901. 4 volumes.

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