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Fifth Day, Novel III

[004] 'Tis no long time since at Rome, which, albeit now the tail, was of yore the head, of the world, there dwelt a young man, Pietro Boccamazza by name, a scion of one of the most illustrious of the Roman houses, who became enamoured of a damsel exceeding fair, and amorous withal--her name Agnolella--the daughter of one Gigliuozzo Saullo, a plebeian, but in high repute among the Romans. [005] Nor, loving thus, did Pietro lack the address to inspire in Agnolella a love as ardent as his own. [006] Wherefore, overmastered by his passion, and minded no longer to endure the sore suffering that it caused him, he asked her in marriage. Whereof his kinsfolk were no sooner apprised, than with one accord they came to him and strongly urged him to desist from his purpose: they also gave Gigliuozzo Saullo to understand that he were best to pay no sort of heed to Pietro's words, for that, if he so did, they would never acknowledge him as friend or relative. [007] Thus to see himself debarred of the one way by which he deemed he might attain to his desire, Pietro was ready to die for grief, and, all his kinsfolk notwithstanding, he would have married Gigliuozzo's daughter, had but the father consented. [008] Wherefore at length he made up his mind that, if the girl were willing, nought should stand in the way; and having through a common friend sounded the damsel and found her apt, he brought her to consent to elope with him from Rome. [009] The affair being arranged, Pietro and she took horse betimes one morning, and sallied forth for Anagni, where Pietro had certain friends, in whom he placed much trust; and as they rode, time not serving for full joyance of their love, for they feared pursuit, they held converse thereof, and from time to time exchanged a kiss. [010] Now it so befell, that, the way being none too well known to Pietro, when, perhaps eight miles from Rome, they should have turned to the right, they took instead a leftward road. Whereon when they had ridden but little more than two miles, they found themselves close to a petty castle, whence, so soon as they were observed, there issued some dozen men at arms; [011] and, as they drew near, the damsel, espying them, gave a cry, and said: "We are attacked, Pietro, let us flee;" and guiding her nag as best she knew towards a great forest, she planted the spurs in his sides, and so, holding on by the saddle-bow, was borne by the goaded creature into the forest at a gallop. [012] Pietro, who had been too engrossed with her face to give due heed to the way, and thus had not been ware, as soon as she, of the approach of the men at arms, was still looking about to see whence they were coming, when they came up with him, and took him prisoner, and forced him to dismount. Then they asked who he was, and, when he told them, they conferred among themselves, saying: "This is one of the friends of our enemies: what else can we do but relieve him of his nag and of his clothes, and hang him on one of these oaks in scorn of the Orsini?" [013] To which proposal all agreeing, they bade Pietro strip himself: but while, already divining his fate, he was so doing, an ambuscade of full five-and-twenty men at arms fell suddenly upon them, crying: [014] "Death, death!" Thus surprised, they let Pietro go, and stood on the defensive; but, seeing that the enemy greatly outnumbered them, they took to their heels, the others giving chase. Whereupon Pietro hastily resumed his clothes, mounted his nag, and fled with all speed in the direction which he had seen the damsel take. [015] But finding no road or path through the forest, nor discerning any trace of a horse's hooves, he was--for that he found not the damsel--albeit he deemed himself safe out of the clutches of his captors and their assailants, the most wretched man alive, and fell a weeping and wandering hither and thither about the forest, uttering Agnolella's name. [016] None answered; but turn back he dared not: so on he went, not knowing whither he went; besides which, he was in mortal dread of the wild beasts that infest the forest, as well on account of himself as of the damsel, whom momently he seemed to see throttled by some bear or wolf. [017]Thus did our unfortunate Pietro spend the whole day, wandering about the forest, making it to resound with his cries of Agnolella's name, and harking at times back, when he thought to go forward; until at last, what with his cries and his tears and his fears and his long fasting, he was so spent that he could go no further. [018] 'Twas then nightfall, and, as he knew not what else to do, he dismounted at the foot of an immense oak, and having tethered his nag to the trunk, climbed up into the branches, lest he should be devoured by the wild beasts during the night. [019] Shortly afterwards the moon rose with a very clear sky, and Pietro, who dared not sleep, lest he should fall, and indeed, had he been secure from that risk, his misery and his anxiety on account of the damsel would not have suffered him to sleep, kept watch, sighing and weeping and cursing his evil luck.