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Seventh Day, Novel VIII

[040] Arriguccio was lost, as it were, in a dream, and yet he would fain have spoken; but, seeing that what he had thought to prove was otherwise, he essayed no reply. [041] So the lady turning to her brothers: "I see," quoth she, "what he would have: he will not be satisfied unless I do what I never would otherwise have done, to wit, give you to know what a pitiful caitiff he is; as now I shall not fail to do. I make no manner of doubt that, as he has said, even so it befell, and so he did. How, you shall hear. [042] This worthy man, to whom, worse luck! you gave me to wife, a merchant, as he calls himself, and as such would fain have credit, and who ought to be more temperate than a religious, and more continent than a girl, lets scarce an evening pass but he goes a boozing in the taverns, and consorting with this or the other woman of the town; and 'tis for me to await his return until midnight or sometimes until matins, even as you now find me. [043]I doubt not that, being thoroughly well drunk, he got him to bed with one of these wantons, and, awaking, found the packthread on her foot, and afterwards did actually perform all these brave exploits of which he speaks, and in the end came back to her, and beat her, and cut her hair off, and being not yet quite recovered from his debauch, believed, and, I doubt not, still believes, that 'twas I that he thus treated; and if you will but scan his face closely, you will see that he is still half drunk. [044] But, whatever he may have said about me, I would have you account it as nothing more than the disordered speech of a tipsy man; and forgive him as I do." [045] Whereupon the lady's mother raised no small outcry, saying: "By the Holy Rood, my daughter, this may not be! A daughter, such as thou, to be mated with one so unworthy of thee! The pestilent, insensate cur should be slain on the spot! A pretty state of things, indeed! Why, he might have picked thee up from the gutter! [046] Now foul fall him! but thou shalt no more be vexed with the tedious drivel of a petty dealer in ass's dung, some blackguard, belike, that came hither from the country because he was dismissed the service of some petty squire, clad in romagnole, with belfry-breeches, and a pen in his arse, and, for that he has a few pence, must needs have a gentleman's daughter, and a fine lady to wife, and set up a coat of arms, and say: [047] 'I am of the such and such,' and 'my ancestors did thus and thus.' Ah! had my sons but followed my advice! Thy honour were safe in the house of the Counts Guidi, where they might have bestowed thee, though thou hadst but a morsel of bread to thy dowry: but they must needs give thee to this rare treasure, who, though better daughter and more chaste there is none than thou in Florence, has not blushed this very midnight and in our presence to call thee a strumpet, as if we knew thee not. God's faith! so I were hearkened to, he should shrewdly smart for it." [048] Then, turning to her sons, she said: "My sons, I told you plainly enough that this ought not to be. Now, have you heard how your worthy brother-in-law treats your sister? Petty twopenny trader that he is: were it for me to act, as it is for you, after what he has said of her and done to her, nought would satisfy or appease me, till I had rid the earth of him. And were I a man, who am but a woman, none other but myself should meddle with the affair. God's curse upon him, the woeful, shameless sot!" [049] Whereupon the young men, incensed by what they had seen and heard, turned to Arriguccio, and after giving him the soundest rating that ever was bestowed upon caitiff, concluded as follows: "This once we pardon thee, witting thee to be a drunken knave: but as thou holdest thy life dear, have a care that henceforth we hear no such tales of thee; for rest assured that if aught of the kind do reach our ears, we will requite thee for both turns." Which said, they departed. [050] Arriguccio, standing there like one dazed, not witting whether his late doings were actual fact or but a dream, made no more words about the matter, but left his wife in peace. Thus did she by her address not only escape imminent peril, but open a way whereby in time to come she was able to gratify her passion to the full without any farther fear of her husband.