Sixth Diversion

Of the Fourth Day

Marchetta is stolen by the wind, and carried to the house of a ghula, whence, after various accidents, receiving a buffet, she goeth forth disguised in man's clothing. She wendeth to the palace of a king, where the queen becometh enamoured of her, and because her love meeteth with no corresponding feelings, accuseth her to her husband of having tempted her to a deed of shame. Thereupon Marchetta is condemned to be hanged, but by the virtue of a charm that had been given to her by the ghula, she is saved, and at last becometh queen.

The story of Popa well satisfied the hearers, who rejoiced to hear of the good fortune of Porziella. Yet not one envied her this fate, which was bought at the price of so many travails, since, to arrive at the royal estate, she had nearly lost her personal real estate. But Tolla, perceiving that the misfortunes of Porziella had troubled the souls of the prince and princess, desired to raise their spirits, and thus began speaking:

The truth, O my lord, and ladies, is like oil which always swimmeth on the top, and the lamp is a fire that cannot be hidden, but rather is it a modern gun, which slayeth whoso fires it, nor is it above calling him a liar whoso is not faithful in words; it burneth and consumeth not only the virtues and the good that are carried within the breast, but even the very purse which containeth them: as I will cause you to confess by this story that ye will hear.

In days of yore there lived a king of Valle-tescosse, who was not blessed with children; and at all hours, wherever he found himself, he would say, 'O Heaven, send me an heir of the estate, that I may not leave desolate mine house.' And one time of the times, when, finding himself within a garden, he cried aloud the same words, he heard a voice coming out of the bushes, which said:--

'O king, what dost thou want before thee?
Daughter, that will fly thee?
Or son, that will destroy thee?'

The king was confused at this proposal, and knew not what answer to make, and he bethought him to take counsel with the sages of his court. Returning at once to the palace, and retiring within his apartments, he summoned his counsellors, and when they stood before him, he commanded them to discourse upon this matter. Some answered that honour should be thought more of than life and others that life should be thought more of than honour as an intrinsic matter of real good, whilst honour was but an exterior matter and therefore to be held of less worth; one said that life being but water which passeth away, it mattered little the expense to lose it; and thus all things are the columns of life laid upon the unstable wheel of fortune; but honour being a durable matter, which leaveth the footsteps of fame, and is a signal of glory, must be guarded jealously, and kept with love; another argued that life, by which the race is preserved, and wealth, by which is maintained the greatness of the house, are to be held dearer than honour, because honour is but an opinion, by reason of virtue, and to lose a daughter through ill-fortune does not prejudice the father's virtue, nor carry filthiness to the honour of the house; but above all there were some who concluded that honour did not consist in a woman's petticoat, in other way than as a just prince ought to look more readily to the common weal than to his own particular interests; and that a woman given to lewdness cause but little scorn in the sire's house, whilst a wicked son would set fire to his own house, as well as to the realm. Therefore as the king longed for a child, and to him had been proposed these two divided courses, let him ask for the female, who could not endanger the life and the estate.

This rede pleased the king, and he returned to the garden, and again crying out his plaints as before, and hearing the same voice, he answered, 'Woman, woman. And returning home in the evening, when the sun invites the hours of the day to take a view of the small ill-made folk of the Antipodes, he lay with his wife, and at the end of nine months she was brought to bed of a beauteous female child. As soon as the child was born, he bade them take her and shut her up in a palace with wet-nurses, and nurses, and good guards, using all possible diligence, so as not to leave for his own part anything undone which could remedy the bad influence under which she was born; and he had her brought up with care, and taught all virtues which sit well in a race of kings. When she had grown up, he treated to marry her to King Pierdisenno, and having concluded the compact, he brought her forth from that palace, which she had never before left, to send her to her husband. But a strong wind arose, and she was lifted up, and swept away, and no more seen. The wind, carrying her in air for a space of time, at last set her down before the house of a ghula, within a forest which had banished the sun, as one struck down by plague because he had slain Pitone the infected; here she found an old woman, whom the ghula had left to guard her goods, and the old woman said to her, 'Oh! bitter be thy life, and where hast thou set thy foot? O unhappy thou, if the ghula, mistress of this house, should come, I would not pledge thy skin for three coppers, for she feedeth on naught else but human flesh, and my life is sure only because the need of my services detains her, or because this wretched shellful of syncope, heart-disease, flatulency, and sand is declined by her tusks. But knowest thou, what is best to do? here is the key of the house, do thou enter within, set to rights the chambers and clean everything, and when the ghula shall come, hide thyself that she see thee not, and I will not let thee want in food; meanwhile who knows? Heaven helpeth; time may bring to pass great things; enough, be wise and patient, and thou shalt pass every gulf, and overcome the storm.'

Marchetta, thus was the girl hight, making a virtue of necessity, took the key, and entering the chamber of the ghula, and seizing a broom, swept the house so clean that one could have eaten maccaroni from off the flooring; with a piece of lard she rubbed so well the walnut presses and chests, and made them so bright, that one could have looked in them as in a looking-glass; and afterwards she made the bed; and when she heard the ghula come in, she entered a cask, which had been full of corn. The ghula finding such unusual event, was pleased and calling the old woman, said to her, 'Who hath put things in order so well?' and the old woman answered that it had been herself; and rejoined the ghula, 'Whoso doeth for thee whatso he doeth not usually, hath either cheated thee or will deceive thee. In very sooth thou mayest put the stopper in the hole, seeing that thou hast done a most unusual thing, and therefore thou deservest a fat pottage.' And saying thus, she ate, and after she had taken her sufficiency, she fared forth, and when she returned, she found the beams swept clean of spiders' webs, and the copper utensils made bright and hanging symmetrically upon the walls, and the dirty linen put in soak; and the ghula was pleased with exceeding pleasure, and she blessed a thousand times the old woman, saying to her, 'May Heaven prosper thee always, Madam Pentatola mine, mayest thou ever reign and go forward, for thou dost fill me with joy, and my heart overjoyeth to behold this fine putting in order, so that I see a house fit for a doll, and a bed fit for a bride.' And the old woman was glad with exceeding gladness to have won the good opinion of the ghula, and repaid Marchetta for her pleasure with good mouthfuls, feeding her and stuffing her like a young capon. And when the ghula fared out again, the old woman said to Marchetta, 'Be silent, and we will try to reach this lame matter and tempt thy fortune; therefore make something nice with thine own hand, which should suit the ghula's taste, and if she take an oath by the seven celestial matters, believe her not, but if she should swear by her three crowns, then thou mayest come forth and let her see thee, for the matter will succeed, and then thou wilt acknowledge that my rede hath been the rede of a mother.' Marchetta, hearing this, slew a fine fat goose, and from the giblets she made a stew, and then stuffing the goose well with cut-up lard, and onions, and garlic, put it on the spit, and providing a few priest-chokers (1) on the bottom of a basket, she laid the cloth upon the table and then filled it full with roses and orange leaves.

Now when the ghula came home and found these preparations, she nearly went out of her clothes with joy, and calling the old woman, said to her, 'Who hath done this good service?' 'Do thou eat,' answered the old woman, 'and do not seek for other; 'tis enough that thou hast one who serveth thee and giveth thee satisfaction.' The ghula, whilst eating, felt the good morsels going down to the marrows of her bones, and began saying, 'I swear by the three words of Naples, that if I knew who hath been the cook of this good repast, I would give him my eye-balls;' and she added, 'I swear by the three bows and arrows, that if I knew him, I would enshrine him within my heart; I swear it by the three candles, which are lit when a deed or a will is written by night; by the three witnesses, who cause a man to be hanged; by the three feet of rope that twist the man that is hanged; by the three things that chase a man from his house, stink, smoke, and a wicked woman; by the three things which wear out a house, fritters, warm bread, and maccaroni; by the three women and a goose which make up a market; by the three F's of fried fish, cold fish, and stewed fish; by the three first singers of Naples, John de la Carrejola, Gossip Junno, and the king of music; by the three S's which are needful to a lover, solitude, solicitude, and secrecy; by the three things which are needful to a merchant, credit, spirit, and fair fortune; by the three sort of folk to whom the whore holds, the boasters, the beauteous youths, and the spiteful; by the three things most important to the thief, eyes to lighten well, claws to grapple well, and feet to disappear well; by the three things which are the ruin of youths, gambling, women, and taverns; by the three virtues necessary to a bailiff, sight, speed, and success; by the three things useful to a courtier, deceit, phlegm, and fortune; by the three things needful to a pimp, large heart, great prattling, and small shame; by the three things which are observed by a doctor, the pulse, the face, and the night-vase.' But the ghula might have spoken from to-day till to-morrow, for Marchetta would not have moved from her hiding place. But hearing her say at last, 'By my three crowns, if I ever know the industrious good housewife who hath done me such good service, I will do her more caresses and kindnesses than she can imagine,' she came forth, and said, 'Here am I;' and when the ghula beheld her, she answered, 'Thou shouldst give me a kick, for thou hast known more than I; thou hast done a masterly matter, and hast safely guarded thyself from being baked in this my body; but as thou hast known to do so much, and hast pleased me, I will keep thee by me as my own daughter; therefore here are the keys of all the chambers, and be thou mistress, and faculty, and most arbitrary power; only one thing I reserve for myself, and that is, that on no account must thou open the door of the last chamber, which this key fitteth, because then thou wouldst make the mustard rise to my nose; therefore mind thy housework, and blessed be thou, and I promise thee by my three crowns to marry thee to a rich mate.' Marchetta kissed her hand, and thanked her gratefully, and promised to serve her more than a slave.

Now when the ghula went forth, great curiosity got hold of Marchetta to see what was within that forbidden chamber, and she opened the door, and found therein three damsels arrayed in golden raiments, seated upon three imperial seats, and seemingly fast asleep. And these damsels were the daughters of the ghula, and had been ensorcelled by their mother, because it had been foretold them that they should have to pass a great danger if a king's daughter did not come to awaken them; and therefore she had ensorcelled them and shut them up in that room, to save them from the risk they ran, which was threatened by the stars. Now when Marchetta entered therein, the noise she made with her feet roused them, and they awoke and asked for food, and Marchetta took three eggs for each, and laid them to cook under the ashes, and when they were done she gave them each three, and they ate, and their spirit returned to them. Then they wished to go forth and breathe the fresh air, and they entered the saloon. But when the ghula came back and found them there, she was so much distressed and wroth, that raising her hand she dealt Marchetta a buffet, and the damsel felt such shame for such treatment, that there and then she begged leave of the ghula to depart, and to go forth a wanderer through the world, seeking her fate and fortune. So the ghula sought to pacify her with kind words and kinder deeds, saying that she was but trifling, and that she would not touch her again; but all was in vain, she could not be persuaded to stay; and therefore the ghula was obliged to allow her to depart, but before leaving, she gave her a ring, and told her to wear it always but to turn the stone, which was set in it, within the hand, and think of it only when she found herself in some great strait, and heard her name repeated by the echo; moreover she gifted her with a sumptuous suit of man's clothes that Marchetta had asked of her; and arraying herself in it, the damsel fared forth, and she wended onwards till she came to a forest, where the night was going to gather wood to warm herself from the frozen time past; and there Marchetta met a king who had gone an-hunting, and he, seeing this handsome youth (for thus she seemed), enquired whence he came, and whither he was going, and what he was doing in those parts; and she answered that she was a merchant's son, whose mother had died, and that, because of his step-mother's ill-treatment, he had run away from home. The king was pleased with the readiness and fluency of speech of Marchetta, and took her with him as page, and he led her to his palace, and when the queen sighted him, she felt taken by the grace and beauty of the stranger, and all her desires were sent high in air. And although for a few days, partly from fear and partly from pride, which have always been encased with beauty, the queen sought to subdue her flame and to constrain the pricking of love under the tail of desire; nathless, being short in the heels, she could not stand firm against the meetings of the unbridled and licentious desires; and therefore she called Marchetta aside, one day of the days, and began to discover to her all her suffering and longing; and to tell her what a weight of cark and care she bare upon her since the day that she had beholden his beauty, grace, and comeliness; so that if he would not resolve to give water to the grounds of her desires, she would dry up without any other hope of life. And she praised the manifold beauties of his face, putting before his eyes that ill would it suit a scholar in the school of love to make a daub and a mistake of cruelty within a book of so much grace, and that he would afterwards have the horse (2) of repentance; to the praise she added prayers, beseeching him by all the celestial spheres not to be so hardened as to behold within a furnace of sighs, and amid a mire of tears, one who held as ensign at the shop of her thoughts his beauteous vision; thereafter followed offers, promising him for every finger's depth of enjoyment a foot of benefits, and for ever to keep open for him the bazaar of her gratitude to every pleasure of so fine account. At last she bade him remember that she was a queen, and when she had entered the ship he must not leave her amid the gulf without some help, because she would surely wreck upon the rocks with his damage. Marchetta, hearing these tender and loving words, these promises and threats, these face-washings and takings-off of hoods, would have answered, that to open the door of her pleasures and joyments the key was wanting; she would have revealed that to give her the peace she desired she was not Mercury, and she carried not his caduceus; but not wishing to unmask herself she answered that she could not believe that the queen would have wrought crooked spindles to a king of such great merit, like unto her husband; but even if she was ready to put aside the reputation of her house, she could not and would not do this wrong to a master that loved his page so well.

The queen, hearing this first reply to the intimation of her desires, said to her, 'Now without delay walk straight, and think well that my peers, when they beseech, then they command, and when they kneel, then they kick thee down the throat; therefore do thou make well thine accounts, and see how may succeed for thee this merchandise; enough and sufficient, as I will tell thee clearly one thing more, and then I will depart, and 'tis this, that when a woman of my degree remaineth scorned, she taketh care to wash with the blood of the offender the smear from upon her face.' And thus saying, with a wrathful face, she turned her shoulders, leaving poor Marchetta confused and frozen. But for a few days more the queen continued to assault this beautiful fortress, and seeing at last that her work was useless, and was scattered to the winds, and that she sweated in vain, and cast her words to the wind, and the sighs in emptiness, she changed her register, dissolving love in hatred, and the desire to joy with the beloved object in a desire for revenge. And with this thought, feigning the tears filling the eyes, she fared to her husband, and said to him, `Who would have told us, O my husband, that we should cherish a serpent in our sleeve? Who could ever have imagined it, that a little, wretched, idle bit of goods could have such daring? But the fault lies in all the kindness and caresses which thou hast dealt to him; to the peasant if one holds out a finger, he will take all the hand; in conclusion, we all desire to piddle in the urinal; but, an thou punish him not as he deserveth, I will return to my sire's house, and will never see thee again, nor hear thee named.' 'What has he done to thee?' answered the king; and the queen replied, 'A mere nothing. The little rogue wished to exact from me the matrimonial debt that I have with thee; and without any respect, and with no fear, and shameless, he had the face to come before me, and tongue to seek from me the free pass to the territory, where thou hast sowed in honour.' The king hearing this fact, without seeking any further witnesses, not to prejudice the faith and the authority of his wife, had Marchetta caught and pinioned by the country folk, and there and then, without giving her time for defence, condemned her to see how much the hangman statue could carry around the neck; and she was carried to the place of punishment, knowing not what had happened to her, nor what crime nor evil deed she had committed, and she began to cry aloud, 'O Heaven, what have I done, to deserve the funeral of this wretched neck, and the obsequies of this miserable body? Who could have told me that, without absenting myself from the place, under the standard of rogues and highwaymen, I should enter on guard in this palace of death, with three paces of rope round my throat? Alas! who will console me at this my extreme pass? who will help me in this great danger? who will save me from this gibbet? 'Ibbet,' answered Echo, and Marchetta, hearing that she was answered in this manner, remembered the ring which she wore upon her finger, and the words of the ghula when she departed; and glancing at the stone, at which she had never glanced before, behold, a voice was heard three times in the air repeating, 'Let her go, she is a woman'; and it was so terrible that neither policemen, nor soldiers, nor shopkeepers remained in the place of justice; and the king hearing these words, which made the palace tremble from the foundation, bade them bring Marchetta before him; and when she stood in his presence, he bade her tell the truth, and relate who she was, and how she had come in that country. And she, forced by necessity, related to him all that had occurred in her life, how she was born, how she had been kept shut up in that palace, how the wind had carried her away, how she was deposited before the gate of the ghula's house, how she departed and what the ghula had told her, and she related also what had passed between her and the queen, and how, not knowing in what she had erred, she beheld herself in danger to row with her feet in the three-beamed galley. The king, hearing this story, and comparing it with one that in past times had happened to the King of Valletescosse, his friend, recognised Marchetta for who she was in reality; and knew also the malignity of his wife, who had cast such an infamous calumny upon the innocent; for which matter he commanded that she should directly have a weight tied to her feet, and be cast into the sea; and he sent messengers to invite the sire and the mother of Marchetta, and he took her to wife, which made clear the problem that

'For a ship in distress
God findeth safe harbour.'

1. Strangola-preti: 'gnocchi,' a kind of home-made maccaroni, to be eaten with gravy or butter and cheese.

2. In the Neapolitan schools the 'horse' means that when a boy is disobedient or fails to do his lessons, the teacher calls two of the elder boys and the culprit out, and then one of the boys makes the culprit get upon his shoulders, horse guise, but with his face lying upon the shoulders and his behind up, and the other boy canes him well till the teacher bids him stop; and this is called a 'horse.'

Il Pentamerone Contents

Publishers' Note

First Day
  1. Story of the Ghul
  2. The Myrtle-Tree
  3. Peruonto
  4. Vardiello
  5. The Flea
  6. The Cat Cinderella
  7. The Merchant
  8. Goat-Face
  9. The Charmed Hind
  10. The Old Woman Discovered
Eclogue--The Crucible

Second Day
  1. Petrosinella
  2. Verde Prato
  3. Viola
  4. Gagliuso
  5. The Serpent
  6. The She-Bear
  7. The Dove
  8. The Young-Slave
  9. The Padlock
  10. The Gossip
Eclogue--The Dye

Third Day
  1. Cannetella
  2. Penta the Handless
  3. The Face
  4. Sapia the Glutton
  5. The Large Crab-louse
  6. The Wood of Garlic
  7. Corvetto
  8. The Ignorant Youth
  9. Rosella
  10. The Three Fairies
Eclogue--The Stove

Fourth Day
  1. The Cock's Stone
  2. The Two Brothers
  3. The Three Anamal Kings
  4. The Seven Pieces of Pork-Skin
  5. The Dragon
  6. The Three Crowns
  7. The Two Cakes
  8. The Seven Pigeons
  9. The Crow
  10. Pride Punished
Eclogue--The Hook

Fifth Day
  1. The Goose
  2. The Months
  3. Pinto-Smauto
  4. The Golden Root
  5. Sun, Moon, and Talia
  6. The Wise Woman
  7. The Five Sons
  8. Nennillo and Nennella
  9. The Three Citrons
  10. End of the Tale of Tales