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Eigth Day, Novel VII

[121] Thus resourceless and hopeless, she passed the long hours, expecting death rather than aught else, until half none was come and gone; when, his siesta ended, the scholar bethought him of his lady, and being minded to see how she fared, hied him back to the tower, and sent his servant away to break his fast. As soon as the lady espied him, she came, spent and crushed by her sore affliction, to the aperture, and thus addressed him: [122] "Rinieri, the cup of thy vengeance is full to overflowing: for if I gave thee a night of freezing in my courtyard, thou hast given me upon this tower a day of scorching, nay, of burning, and therewithal of perishing of hunger and thirst: wherefore, by God I entreat thee to come up hither, and as my heart fails me to take my life, take it thou, for 'tis death I desire of all things, such and so grievous is my suffering. [123] But if this grace thou wilt not grant, at least bring me a cup of water wherewith to lave my mouth, for which my tears do not suffice, so parched and torrid is it within." [124] Well wist the scholar by her voice how spent she was; he also saw a part of her body burned through and through by the sun; whereby, and by reason of the lowliness of her entreaties, he felt some little pity for her; but all the same he made answer: [125] "Nay, wicked woman, 'tis not by my hands thou shalt die; thou canst die by thine own whenever thou art so minded; and to temper thy heat thou shalt have just as much water from me as I had fire from thee to mitigate my cold. [126] I only regret that for the cure of my chill the physicians were fain to use foul-smelling muck, whereas thy burns can be treated with fragrant rose-water; and that, whereas I was like to lose my muscles and the use of my limbs, thou, for all thy excoriation by the heat, wilt yet be fair again, like a snake that has sloughed off the old skin." [127] "Alas! woe's me!" replied the lady, "for charms acquired at such a cost, God grant them to those that hate me. But thou, most fell of all wild beasts, how hast thou borne thus to torture me? What more had I to expect of thee or any other, had I done all thy kith and kin to death with direst torments? [128] Verily, I know not what more cruel suffering thou couldst have inflicted on a traitor that had put a whole city to the slaughter than this which thou hast allotted to me, to be thus roasted, and devoured of the flies, and therewithal to refuse me even a cup of water, though the very murderers condemned to death by the law, as they go to execution, not seldom are allowed wine to drink, so they but ask it. [129] Lo now, I see that thou art inexorable in thy ruthlessness, and on no wise to be moved by my suffering: wherefore with resignation I will compose me to await death, that God may have mercy on my soul. And may this that thou doest escape not the searching glance of His just eyes."[130]Which said, she dragged herself, sore suffering, toward the middle of the floor, despairing of ever escaping from her fiery torment, besides which, not once only, but a thousand times she thought to choke for thirst, and ever she wept bitterly and bewailed her evil fate. [131] But at length the day wore to vespers, and the scholar, being sated with his revenge, caused his servant to take her clothes and wrap them in his cloak, and hied him with the servant to the hapless lady's house, where, finding her maid sitting disconsolate and woebegone and resourceless at the door: "Good woman," quoth he, "what has befallen thy mistress?" [132] Whereto: "Sir, I know not," replied the maid. "I looked to find her this morning abed, for methought she went to bed last night, but neither there nor anywhere else could I find her, nor know I what is become of her; wherefore exceeding great is my distress; but have you, Sir, nought to say of the matter?" [133] "Only this," returned the scholar, "that I would I had had thee with her there where I have had her, that I might have requited thee of thy offence, even as I have requited her of hers. But be assured that thou shalt not escape my hands, until thou hast from me such wage of thy labour that thou shalt never flout man more, but thou shalt mind thee of me." Then, turning to his servant, he said: "Give her these clothes, and tell her that she may go bring her mistress away, if she will." [134] The servant did his bidding; and the maid, what with the message and her recognition of the clothes, was mightily afraid, lest they had slain the lady, and scarce suppressing a shriek, took the clothes, and, bursting into tears, set off, as soon as the scholar was gone, at a run for the tower.