The Ragionamenti, or Dialogues of the Divine Pietro Aretino, Literally translated into English  

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The Ragionamenti, or Dialogues of the Divine Pietro Aretino, Literally translated into English are a series of books edited by Isidore Liseux.

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Full text of volume 2



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THE Ragionamenti OR DIALOGUES OF THE DIVINE PIETRO ARETINO Literally translated into English SECOND DIALOGUE The Life of Married Women SCIENTIA. DUCE MIL PARIS ISIDORE LISEUX 1889 1 PQ 4560 t ?21 IS lid THE RAGIONAMENTI OR DIALOGUES OF PIETRO ARETINO PART FIRST SECOND DAY Wherein Nanna relates to Antonia the Life of Married Women . 1 ANNA and Antonia rose exactly at the time theold cuckold- dotard, Tithonus ( 1),wanted to hide his Lady's shift, for fear that bawd, the Day, might deliver her to her lover , the Sun ; Aurora ( 2 ) perceived this , and snatch ( 1 ) Tithonus, the brother of Priam and spouse of Au rora. ( 2) Aurora, the Morning Star ; in mythology, the goddess of the morning. I 2 RAGIONAMEXTI ing her shift from the hands of the peevish idiot, whom she left there brawling, ran on more Aushed than ever, being fully bent on having love achieved twelve times, under his very nose, and of calling squire Dial , the public notary , to witness. As soon as they were dressed, Antonia set to finish , before the ringing of the Angelus-bell, all those petty jobs that cause Nanna more concern than the church revenues cause at Saint Peter's ; then, with their maws well filled , as a private man living in free quarters, they returned to the vineyard and sat down in the very spot they were seated on the eve, under the same fig - tree. It was the time to temper the heat of the day with the chatting fan ; so Antonia , with her hands upon her knees and her face turned towards Nanna, says to her : ANTONIA . Indeed , I'm now perfectly enlightened about the way of Nuns, and, after my first nap, I could never close an eye, simply thinking over the folly of mammas and the silliness of who fancy that once their daughters are made Nuns of, they will have no longer any teeth to bite , just as the ones they get married . Cursed life is theirs ! they should , however, know that these, too, are flesh and bones, and that nothing goads the desire more than privation : as to what relates to myself, I am well aware I die of thirst when I have no wine in the house ; besides, proverbs are things we should not cry fy upon, and we should indeed believe the one which says that Sisters are the papas II. THE LIFE OF MARRIED WOMEN 3 wives of Friars and the public . I was not thinking of this proverb yesterday : otherwise I might have spared thee the trouble thou hast taken to inform me of their behaviour. NANNA . It's all for the better . ANTONIA . Ever since I awoke, till it was day, I felt as nettlesome as one of those gamblers whom thou knowest, whenever a card , a die chances to fall or the candle to go out , and whose blood curdles until the one is found again or the other lit. I am exceedingly happy I came to thy vineyard , the gate of which has been always open to me ; I thank thee for it, and still more for having plainly asked thee what was the matter with thee ; it is this that induced thce to answer me what thou hast answered ; I am very glad of it now. When those cursed crupper-lashings had caused thee to loathe love and the Convent life, what course did thy mother take with respect to thee ? Nanna. She stated everywhere that she wanted to have me married ; she now invented one tale, now another, to explain why I had denounced my orders; she gave folks to understand that Spirits baunted the Monastery by the hundred ; that there were more of them in it than marchpanes at Siena . The story reached the ears of some private man that was living because he was eating : so he pur 4 RAGIONAMENTI posed to have me for wife, or die . He was well to do ; my mother, who, as I have said , wore my father's breeches the Lord called him to himself), concluded the match . To sum all up for thee in a nut- shell , the night on which I was to keep him company carnally , arrived ; the ninny was await ing that night, as the tiller awaits the crop, and my darling mamma's artifice was up to the occasion ! Knowing that my maidenhead had remained on the way, she twisted the neck off one of the wedding capons, filled an egg -shell with the blood, and while showing me how I was to go to work, in order to act my prude, she, on putting me into bed, besmeared my slit with it through which my Pippa came later on . I lie down ; he lies down ; and stretching to embrace me, he finds me all' gathered up in a lump at the bedstock ; he wants to lay his hand upon my ET CÆTERA, I slip to the ground : I'm blowed but he throws himself out of bed to pick me up. « I'll not do nasty things ; » leave me alone, » said I , in a crying voice . Then, just as I was raising my tone, I hear my mother stepping into the room, with a light in her hand . She caressed me so much that I finished by agreeing with the good shepherd, who, while simply endeavouring to part my thighs, sweated more than a thrasher ; he next set to - tearing my II . S THE LIFE OF MARRIED WOMEN gone out of chemise, and called me a thousand names. Being, at last, more exorcised than a demoniac tied to the Pillar, I opened the fiddle -box, while grumbling, weeping and swearing ; he rushed upon it , all quak ing with the desire he had of my flesh, and want ed to stick the probe in the sore : I gave him so timely and so good a shake that I dismounted him ; he, being enduring, bestrode me again, and , trying the probe once more, he drove it so well this time that it entered . I , on tasting the bread and butter, could not help giving way, as a sow one is scratching, nor did I shout till the beast had my house . But then, ah ! alack ! I did bawl , so that the neighbours ran to place them selves at the windows. My mother, having come into the room , and , at the sight of the chicken's blood which had stained the sheets and my hus band's shirt, made so much ado over it that she got leave for me to sleep with herself that night. In the morning, the whole neighbourhood, having met in conclave, celebrated my virtue ; people talked of nothing else in the vicinity . The wedding being over, I commenced to frequent the churches, go to entertainments, as the others do, and, form ing acquaintance with this one and that one, I became the bosom friend of more than one. ANTONIA . I am puzzled to hear thee ! 6 RAGIONAMENTI Nanna. I grew most friendly with a rich and handsome burgheress, the wife of a large merchant, a fine young fellow , a good companion , and so fond of her that he used to dream at night what she would require next morning. Being alone with her one day in her chamber, I chanced to cast my eyes upon a small cabinet and beheld I know not what pass, as rapid as lightning, before the key hole. ANTONIA . What might it be ? Nanna . I look very attentively at the hole and see somebody or other, but I don't know who. ANTONIA . Good ! Nanna . My friend perceives my glance, and I remark how she has been taking notice of what I was observing ; I look at her, she looks at me, and I put the question to her : « When shall your » husband, who set out yesterday to the country, » return ? He may return whenever God wishes, » she replied ; « if it were when I should wish, that » would never be . And why ? » I asked her. « Why, bad luck attend whoever has mentioned a » word about him ! He is not what everybody » thinks he is ; no by this cross ! » and thereupon she drew one with her fingers and kissed it . « Why not ? » I said to her ; « sure everybody en » vies you him. Whence arises your discontent ? II . THE LIFE OF MARRIED WOMEN 7 » Tell me, it you can . Shall I tell thee why » in plain terms ? He is a fine man for the show of the thing ; but he is fit only for feeding » me on the wind; I want something else ; as the » Gospel says in common language : Bread liveth » not alone on man ( 1 ) . » I , who saw she had some reason , and even to spare ; « You are » wise, » said I to her ; « you are aware there are » more days than one in life. That thou mayest » be the better assured of my wisdom, » she says to me, « I wish to let thee see a bit of his >> wit ( 2) . » So she opened the closet- door, and made me handle a certain individual that I ima gined , at first sight, belonged to those who have more muscles than bread to eat. The truth is she stretched herself upon him, before my eyes, and placing the house over the chimney, made him forge two spikes , put two loaves in the oven with out intermission, while saying : « I much rather » people should know I am a whore and happy, than » a virtuous and forlorn wife. ANTONIA . Words to be set down in gold letters ! ( 1 ) Nanna perverts at pleasure the quotation of the Gospel. (2 ) Il suo ingegno, a quibbling which can not be trans lated . Ingegno, means wit and engine at the same time. 8 RAGIONAMENTI Nanna . She called her maid, the confidant of her happiness, and made the fellow go out by the way he had come in , not without ornamenting him with a chain she had round her neck. I kissed her on the forehead, on the mouth, on both cheeks, and ran speedily home to find out, before my hus band's return , whether the valet had a clean shirt on . The door was open ; I send my housemaid up stairs to see if I am there, and then repair to the lodge where he was staying down stairs . I step quietly, very quietly along, pretending I am going to let fly some water through the close-stool which was thereabouts, and I hear some low, exceedingly low talking ; so I lend an ear, and I perceive that my mother had been thinking before me of her little business . I give her my blessing, as she had given me her curse, when I feigned I did not wish to let myself be done by my husband , and I go back . Having gone upstairs , and as I was fretting myself about what I had witnessed , I behold my good - for-nothing step in : I satisfied my whim with him, though not quite as I should like , yet as best I could . ANTONIA. Why not as thou shouldst like ? NANNA . Because anything at all is better than a nd . Look, for instance , when one dines out. ANTONIA . The fact is that the change of viands II . THE LIFE OF MARRIED WOMEN 9 increases the appetite . I do believe it , and they also say : For a husband, anything is better than his own wife. Nanna. I chanced to go to my country -seat, where I used to frequent a great Lady, I say great , let it suffice, who was causing her husband's despair by always wanting to stay at the village; whenever he set before her eyes the magnificence of the city, the ugliness of the farm, she would reply : « I care » very little for splendours, I will have none sin » from envy : I value neither festivities nor society , » nor do I expect that anyone should make me » break my neck. The mass every Sunday suffices » for me ; I know quite well what we save by » remaining here, and what thou spendest every » time thou goest away to the city. » The gentle man could not do otherwise than return to it , although it were against his will , and he was natu rally forced to leave her behind, and that for whole fortnights at times. ANTONIA. I believe I guess where her idea tended to . NANNA . Her idea tended to a certain priest, the chaplain on the demesne ; had he had as large a revenue as the sprinkler with which he used to spatter the holy-water in the noble lady's garden ( she got it to drench her over as thou shalt see) , 2 10 RAGIONAMENTI he would have been more comfortable than a Lord . Oh ! he had a handle under his paunch ! ay, marry, he had a huge- one ! he had a monstrous one ! Antonia. May the chancres ! ... NANNA . Her Ladyship, being in the country, saw him one day pissing under her window, quite unconcerned ; it's herself told me about it, for she avowed to me the whole story. Seeing in him something long like the shaft of a white cod , the coral head of which was cleft by an artistic hand, with a lovely bar running along its back : a cod- piece which was neither stiff nor hanging, but bent into a bow, and surrounded by a crown of crisped hair, as bright as gold, between two neatly finished , plumpy, living jingly-bobs far nicer than those silver ones which adorn the legs of the Aquilon, at the Ambassador's gate ; seeing, I say, the carbuncle, she laid her hands upon the ground, for fear of making any sign to the Parson. ANTONIA . It would have been a funny story if, having grown big with child for simply seeing it, she had touched her nose, and then gave birth to a daughter with the mark of the little jingly- bobs on her face ! NANNA. Ah ! ah ! ah ! While keeping her hands upon the ground, she fell into such madness, owing II . THE LIFE OF MARRIED WOMEN it to the longing she had for the squire's cod- piece, that she swooned , and was carried off to bed . The husband , being amazed by so strange an accident, got at once a physician brought by post- horse, from the town ; the latter, having felt her pulses , asked her whether she was loose in the bowels . ANTONIA . Faith, they no longer know what to say, the moment they learn that the patient is getting on all-right with the lower alembic . Nanna. Thou art right . She answered no . There upon the quack prescribed a pointed argument which , being directly rejected , brought tears to the silly husband's eyes : he heard his wife calling for the Priest . « I wish to make my confession , » said she ; « and if it's the will of God that I sould die, » I am clearly obliged to come to a resolution over » it . But it grieves me sorely to part with thee, » my darling husband ! » At these words, the un happy man threw his arms round her neck, while greatly sobbing, as a man soundly banged ; she kissed him, saying to him : « Cheer up ! » then she heaved a mighty scream , as if she was just going to give up the ghost, and again called for the Priest whom a valet ran for at once. He came quite dejected ; the Physician, who was holding the Lady's arm in his hand and consulting the pulse , to see how it was getting on, felt it revive exactly 12 RAGIONAMENTI n this moment at the sight of the Priest, and he wondered . « The Lord restore you to health, » said the latter, on drawing nigh . She, with her eyes rivetted on the cod- piece which was outstripping the edge of the short serge frock the Priest wore round his hips , fell into a swoon for a second time. They stuped her temples with rose- vinegar, so she recovered a little ; the husband, a thorough jack, made everyone clear out of the room and pulled the door after him, that nobody might hear the confession , and beginning to reason the matter over with the Physician, he drew out of it a host of stupid conclusions. While the Pig -gelder was discussing with the slug- chatter, the Parson seated himself down quite comfortably at the foot of the bed , made the sign of the cross over the patient with his own hand, that she might not tire herself; and he was about asking her how long it was since her last confession , when she, sticking her claws in his rope that had become stiff in a trice , applied him to her stomach . ANTONIA . A nice game ! NANNA. And what dost thou say of the Parson who, with two slight digs, cured her of her numbness ? ANTONIA. I say he deserves the highest praises, for not having been as one of those shitten arse II . 13 THE LIFE OF MARRIED WOMEN puppies that have not even strenght enough to piss in bed, and then say : We are in quite a lough of sweat ! NANNA. The confession being ended, the Priest went back and sat down . He was laying his hand upon the patient's head when the husband came to thrust a wee bit of the tip of his nose into the chamber, and seeing they had got as far as the absolution, drew up to his wife . He found her mien altogether brightened up and cried : « Indeed, there's » no better doctor than God Almighty ! don't say » no ; there thou art now quite recovered , and less » than an hour ago I thought I would lose thee. » She turned round to him : « I feel better » she says on sighing ; then, mumbling the Confiteor, with clasped hands, she pretended she was saying her penance. On dismissing the Priest, she made her husband slip a ducat and two Julios into his hand, in saying to him : « The Julios are for the con » fession alms ; the ducat, that you may say the » Gregorian mass for my intention . » ANTONIA . Just fancy what a cunning blade ! NANNA. Listen now to the story about another woman ; it deserves to be placed still above that of the Parson . A Matron of about forty years of age, possessed a very valuable domain in the country . She was the daughter ofa highly respectable family , 14 RAGIONAMENTI and the wife of a Doetor who did wonders with his literature, with which he filled big books. This Matron I am telling thee of was wont to go about always dressed in brown, and if she had not heard five or six masses in the morning, she would be fidgety the whole day ; she was an Ave Maria in beads, a Saint- Sharper, a Church- Broom ; she fasted on the Fridays in every month, and not simply those in the month of March , gave the responses at mass , as the Clerk, and chanted Vespers on the Monks' note : it was said that she even wore an iron girdle round her loins . ANTONIA. I'm spilling in my drawers at Saint Verdiana ( 1 ). Nanna. Her abstinences were a hundred times harder ; but let us go on . She never wore but san dals and , on the vigils of Saint Francis of la Vernia (2) and of the one of Assisi, the only bread she ate was about what she could hold in ( 1 ) A Saint that exists only on the Italian calendar ; her legend was popular in the 16th century : La Historia di Santa Verdiana da Castel Fiorentino (in ottava rima) ; 4to of 6 leaves, woodcuts ( Catalogue Libri). ( 2 ) La Verna or l’Avernia, a ridge of Apennine, about twenty leagues from Florence, where Saint Francis of Assisi retired to ; it is in that place he received his stig mas. II . THE LIFE OF MARRIED WOMEN 15 her clinched fist, drank but spring water and re mained until midnight in prayer; the little she slept was on a bundle of nettles . ANTONIA. Without a shift ? Nanna. That I'm unable to state . It occurred to her that an anchorite, a penance mumbler, that was living in a little hermitage about a mile or two from the borough , used to pass almost every day by our place, to procure the means of living ; he never returned empty handed , because the sack with which he was clad, his long thin spared face, his beard falling to his girdle , his dis hevelled hair and some sort or other of a stone he carried in his hand, in imitation of Saint Jerome, excited the compassion of the whole village . This venerable Hermit turned the head of the wife of the Doctor, who was then staying in town, being pleading various cases , which he did out of pure charity. She would often go to the Hermit's garden , a godly and pretty garden, and always bring back out of it some bitter salad : she would have scrupled to take any sweet from it . ANTONIA . How was that hermitage ? NANNA . It stood on the top of a pretty steep hill , and the Hermit had given it the name of Cal vary . There rose in the middle of it a large Cru cifix , with three wooden nails , which used to make 16 RAGIONAMENTI poor silly women afraid . This cross bore at the head of it the crown of thorns ; from the arms there hung two scourges, made of knotted ropes ; at the foot, a dead man's skull ; on one side, the sponge at the end of a stick lay on the ground, and on the other, a quite rusty spear, fastened unto the handle of an old halberd . At the bottom of the hill there stretched the garden, fenced in by a hedge of rose- bushes ; the gate was made of willow rods woven together, with its wooden latch . I dare say if you were looking all day long for a pebble in it, you would not have found one, the Hermit kept it so neatly . The square beds, being separated by little walks, were full of all kinds of pot herbs, such as curled and cabbage lettuce, fresh and tender pimpernel ; others were so closely set with garlic that you could not have torn them up and removed them in a single grasp ; others, with the finest cabbage in the world . Wild thyme, mint, anise, sweet marjoram , parsley had each one its place in the garden, in the middle of which one of those smooth barked almond -trees gave a pleasant shade. A translucent water flowed by rills, rushing from a spring among pure rocks, at the foot of the hill ; it meandered through the green turf. Every mo ment the Hermit snatched from prayer, he devoted it to the cultivation of his kitchen - garden . There II . THE LIFE OF MARRIED WOMEN 17 stood, not far off, the chapel with its spire and two little bells, and the cot wherein he rested , being propped against the chapel wall. Into this cosy Paradise the Doctoress came, as I have said , and, that their bodies might not be jealous of their souls, one day among the rest that they had both retired to the hut, fleeing the inclemency of the sun, I know not how they arrived at bad ends . Precisely at this moment, a peasant ( those fellows' tongues are biting and mischievous) , a peasant in search of his young ass which its mother had lost, chancing to pass near the cot, saw our two saints coupled, just as the dog couples with the bitch ; he ran off to the village and gave the alarm to the parishioners by ringing the bells ; they nearly all of them left their work at the sound, met in church, both men and women, and found the rustic telling the Parson of the sort of miracles the Hermit was performing. The Parson put his surplice on, threw the stole round his neck, and, with book in hand, the Clerk preceding him bear ing the Cross, set out with more than fifty persons behind him . In the space of a CREDO, they were at the cot and discovered therein the handmaid and the servant of the servants of Heaven sleeping as cobblers. The Hermit, while snoring, kept up his flail in the bottom of the Rosary -Votary's loins 3 18 RAGIONAMENTI which , at first sight , put the whole crowd to silence, as a simple woman stands with her mouth open on seeing a stallion climb up a mare ; then , the men, perceiving their spouses turn their heads round, raised such a fit of laughing as would have waked dormice : the couple opened their eyes . There- . upon, the Parson, beholding them so nicely con joined, fell atuning, in his finest Chorus tone : ET INCARNATUS EST ! ANTONIA . And I who thought it was impossible to surpass the whoring of Nuns ! I was wrong. But tell me, were not the Hermit and his Devotee slaughtered ? NANNA . Slaughtered ? Ah ! the lime once plucked out of the notch, the Hermit sprung to his feet, and , after having administered himself two lashes with twisted vinebranches from a fresh vineyard, which he wore in his girdle, ' he said : « Signors, » read the lives of the Holy Fathers, then condemn » me to be burnt, or to whatever you please. It is » the Devil, who, in my place, under my own » shape, has committed the sin , and not my body : » it would be therefore shameful to do it any » harm. » And now, shall I mention it ? The lewd fellow , who had been first a soldier, next an assassin , then a bawdy -house bully and out of de spair had turned hermit, preached so well that every II . 19 THE LIFE OF MARRIED WOMEN body, except I who knew where the Old- Boy has his tail, and the Parson, being apprized of the matter through the blooming Dame's confession, believed him because he swore by the pure vine in his girdle that Tempters of Hermits are styled Succuba ( 1 ) and Incubi ( 2 ) . The half Sister, who during all this Monk’s prattling had had time to think of mischief, began at once to writhe, to swell her bosom by keeping her wind back, to roll her wild eyes, to yell , to struggle with herself so as to be frightful to look at . « There's the evil » Spirit in the poor thing's body, » cried the Hermit; the Syndic of the village approaching to take her away, she set to biting and heaving hor rible yells . Being at last solidly bound by a dozen peasants and conveyed to the church, they touched her with two small bones, which passed for the bones of the Holy Innocents; they were enclosed in a rough wooden Tabernacle which people saluted as a Relic ; at the third time she was touched by them, she recovered her senses . The news reached the ears of the Doctor, who led the jolly saint to town and got a sermon preached about her. ( 1 ) Devils that under the shape of women lie with men. (2 ) Devils that under men's shapes have carnal know ledge of women . 20 RAGIONAMENTI ANTONIA. Never did anyone hear of a more nasty thing. NANNA. Dost thou fancy others do not do as much ? ANTONIA . Truly, eh ? Nanna. Holy Virgin , yes ! I had a neighbour in the country, you would have fancied an owl in the aviary, she had so many lovers loitering about her. You heard nothing all night but serenades, and the whole day long horses prancing , and young gents strolling about. When she was going to mass, you could no longer pass in the street, there were so many fellows forming a cortege for her; and one would say : « Blessed is he that » an angel ! » another : « O God, why am I so » backward ? To kiss that lovely bodice and then ý die ! » Others would gather up the dust her feet scattered and spread it over their caps, as people spread the powder of Cyprus ; some contemplated her on sighing, without saying anything. This so vaunted and beautiful lake into which everyone cast his net, without ever taking anything , fell excessively in love with one of those besmoked pedagogues that go about teaching in the houses : he was the dirtiest , the ugliest, the greasiest fellow that was ever seen . He wore on his back a violet cloak , so glazed round the collar that a louse possesses such II . THE LIFE OF MARRIED WOMEN 21 could not have crawled up it, and all stained with oil as those of the scullions in convents ; there was under it a camlet frock , and so worn that it seemed to be of every kind of stuff, save camlet, nor could anyone imagine of what color it might have been ; his belt was formed of two black silk bands knotted together, and as he had no sleeves to his frock, he used to employ those of the dou blet, in satin of Bruges, all holes, all shrunk in the flank ; it let the lining be seen at the cuff, and there was such a thick border of dandruff about the collar, that one would have mistaken it for a horn . It's true the breeches gave a good appearance to the surtout ; they had been of withered rose color , but they were no longer so at all, and being fastened to the doublet by short points , without tags, they clothed his shanks like the drawers of galley -slaves ; it was very funny to see a quarter of his old brogues continually making away with itself, inspite of all the exertions he was using with one of his fingers to thrust it back in its place at every step ; he had manufactured the soles himself out of an old pair of boots belonging to his great grandfather; the uppers were pretty fine, but manifested a great desire to let the toes be seen , and they would have satisfied this whim had not the calf skin resisted . He wore a single pleated cap, 22 RAGIONAMENTI thrown backwards, with a taffeta coif without hem ming, and torn in three places ; being quite stift with the dandruff from his pate (he never washed himself) , it looked like a scurfy fellow's calotte. What was best about him was the comeliness of his visage, which he shaved twice a week. ANTONIA. Don't weary thyself any further by describing him to me ; I see the boor from where I am . . Nanna. Boor, that's quite true. Yet she got madly in love with him, so she did , that pretty darling : but, to confess the truth, we are all women to choose what is worst. Devising how she could speak to him, she entered one fine night upon a long -winded story with her spouse . « We are rich , » thank God, » she said to him, « and without - » children as without hope of having any. This is » what caused me to think of a charitable deed . » And what hast thou been thinking of, my darling » wife ? » inquired the over kind husband . — « Of » thy sister, » she replied ; « burdened as she is » with boys and little girls, I wish we brought up » her youngest : besides that it will be repaid us » in Paradise, to whom dost thou wish us to do » good, if it be not to our own flesh ? » The hus band approved and thanked his wife, stating : - « It is a long time since I have been anxious to II . THE LIFE OF MARRIED WOMEN 23 » tell thee so, but I was hesitating for fear that » might displease thee. Now that I know thy in » tentions, I am going, as soon as I get up, to » the poor little creature's, to inform her of the good news, and I shall bring the child to thee ; » everything here is thine, since it is thy dowry. As much thine as mine, » replied she . The day dawned ; the husband got up ( he went for horns for himself) ; his sister gave over the little nephew to him, with great pleasure; he conducted him to his wife, who received him most kindly . Two days after, as she was at table talking with her husband, having finished the repast, she began by saying : « I should like very much we were to » get something taught to our Luigetto » (so was the child named ). – « Who could discharge this » office for us ? » he inquired . — « Thou knowest » right enough, » said she, « that Master who, by way I see him going about town, must be » looking for some place . What Master ? He » who wears that surtout which does not fit him » round the shoulders. Ah ! would it be he » that comes to mass ? ... » (he was just going to say in such a church . ) Yes, yes , » said she ; « the very same; I no longer know who pretends » he is as learned as a chronicle. It's all -right, replied the husband . So out he goes to meet him » the 24 RAGIONAMENTI and on the same evening introduces the cock into the hen -house. Next day the Master went for his trunk , enclosing two shirts , four handkerchiefs, three books, with table covers , and came back to the room which the lady of the house had got ready for him. ANTONIA . What intrigue is about to come out of all that ? NANNA. Keep quiet and listen . In the evening, the Mistress took her nephew by the hand, who, under pretext of learning the Psalter, was destined to serve the aunt as intermedium , and called the Pedagogue. I took supper with her that evening, and I heard her say to him : « Master, it is >> myself you will have to instruct here, much » rather than my young lad ; » ( so saying, she gave him two kisses right on the mouth) , « then » leave it to me , as regards your pay. » The Master began to answer at random, alleging his reasons, which he counted on his fingers' ends, and entered into all sorts of the most fantastical considerations. The woman turned about to me, in crying : « He is a genuine Cicherchio ( 1 ) . » They went on thus treating upon the Cujus, then, all (1) Cicero. II . THE LIFE OF MARRIED WOMEN 25 on a sudden changing topics : « Tell me, Master, » said she, « were you ever in love ? » The lecher, who had a tail, if not finer, at least better than the pea -cock's, cried : - « My Lady ! it is Love that » caused me to study, » and showing off all he knew about old rubbish , he enumerated for her the one that had hanged himself from love, the one that poisoned himself, the one that threw himself from off a high tower ; he then came to the women, and named for her those whom Love had led AD PORTAM INFERI, and all this in select and proportioned terms ; while he was croaking, she kept poking me with her elbow in the flanks; and after so much banging and rebanging : – « What » dost thou think of the Squire ? » she asks me. I, who had read him not only to the bottom of his heart, but also to the very depths of his soul : « He appears to me most fit for picking » the peach - tree and for shaking the pear - tree, » I replied. She, with her ah ! hah ! hah ! flung her arms round my neck, sent the Master away to his studies, and dragged me into her room . Somebody came to announce to her that her husband would not be back for supper or bed : it was pretty much his custom. Thy drowsy husband shall have » patience, » she says, over rejoiced : « I want » thee to stay with me to-night. » So I sent word ( c 4 26 RAGIONAMENTI to my mother and got leave to stay. We both took a delicious little supper composed of all kinds of dainties , such as chickens' gizzards and lights, necks and legs , with chevil and cucumber salad; almost a whole cold capon ; olives, red apples ; cheese relishes and quiddany, to balast our sto machs properly; sugar-plums, to give us a sweet breath . The Master's supper was then ordered into his room : nothing but new-laid eggs and hard boiled ones ; of course thou imaginest the reason they sent him hard boiled - eggs. Antonia. I have understood it perfectly. NANNA. Supper being over , the table removed and the household sent to bed, the husband's nephew included : - « Dear little sister, » she says to me, « as our husbands readily relish the whole year » round the nice bits they meet with, why should >> we not taste to - night that good bit of the » Master's ? If I may judge from his nose , he » must have one like an Emperor. Nobody will » be ever the wiser of it ; he is , besides, so ugly » and so dirty that no one would believe him, » though he were to brag about it . » I made a bounce as if I was greatly afraid , and retain my reply. At last : - « That's a very dangerous thing, » said I to her ; « should thy husband return , what » would become of us ? « Thou fool! » she II . THE LIFE OF MARRIED WOMEN 27 answered ; « of what art thou thinking ? dost thou >> fancy I am so dull that , if my cracked -brain » did chance to walk in , I should not discover the » means of making him swallow everything down ? If that's true, act in thy own way, » I answer ed her. In the meanwhile, the Master, who was more artful than two aces, having quickly perceiv ed how his mistress's mouth was watering, when he was speaking to her of love, and now knowing that her husband was sleeping out, was upon the catch and listening to the jolly dame's conversation . She, in order not to have to hang or strangle her self, as those silly creatures whose histories he had cited as examples, had resolved to apply the Peda gogue to her navel : the simple sight of one of those musty leathern bags, being a long time out of use, hanging from him to one side, would in cline you to cast up your very guts. Having over heard everything, and, with that presumption pro per to pedagogues, lifting the door curtain , he marched in without further invitation . His mistress who had dismissed even her maids, the moment she heheld him, shouted : - « Master, keep the » bridle on your mouth, your hands at rest, and, » for this night, use only your holy -water sprinkler. » The dunce, whose nose was not framed for scenting out the pistil of roses, nor his fingers for stopping 28 RAGIONAMENTI the holes of a flute, cared very little about kissing or handling : he unsheathed his fuming headed, all fiery, wart bespangled stool-leg, and filliping it, cried : – « It's wholly at your Ladyship's service. » She took it on the palm of her hand and began to say : - « My cosy ducky, my pigeon, my chaf >> finch , enter into thy aviary , thy palace , thy » estates ! » and introducing it under her belly, being propped against the wall, she lifted one leg up and wanted to eat the sausage standing : the rogue gave her a lusty shaking. During the while, I looked like a monkey that is chewing the sweet bit before it has it in its mouth ; if I had not mor tified myself somewhat with an iron pestle which I found on a box and which had served, as I per ceived by its smell, for pounding cinnamon , indeed and indeed, I would have died with impatience at the pleasure of the others . The horse's head finished its work; the woman , being tired , though not satiated, sat down upon the side of the couch and, . seizing again the dog by the tail , turned him round and round so that he went back over the road ; as she did not much mind looking at the Master's face, she gave him her back, and , taking hold of the SALVUM ME FAC, madly plunged it into her zero ; she plucked it out of it and put it into the square, then again into the round, and thus finished 1 . 29 THE LIFE OF MARRIED WOMEN the second assault, saying to me : « There is still » enough left for thee. » I , who was on the point of fainting, as a poor devil that is starving and can not eat, was preparing to put my finger some place on the old fox , to revive his sentiment (it's a little secret I had learned of the Bachelor, I did not mention it to thee, for want of thinking of it), when all on a sudden we hear a knocking at the door with such assurance, that one might have rightly said to him who was knocking : Thou art a fool, unless thou art of the household . At this noise, our big numb - skull changes color as a reputed honest man who is caught breaking into a sacristy ; we remain firm , as if our faces were of glass. At the second volley, she recognized her husband and burst into louder and louder fits of laughter, so that the husband should hear her. When she was quite sure that she had made herself heard : « Who is there ? » she asked . » I , » replied he. « Oh my husband, I am » coming down ; wait a moment. Let nobody go » away ; » she added ; and she ran to open the door. The door being open : A Ghost had said » to me, » she cried : « Don't go to bed ; thy hus » band will certainly not sleep out to - night . And » for fear of giving way to sleep , I have got our » neighbour to stop with me ; the poor thing has « It's 30 RAGIONAMENTI >> quite overwhelmed me by relating her life in the » Convent ; had I not recollected our Preceptor, a » regular go to sleep, who completely cheered me » up with his nonsense, it would have been a bad » look out for me. » She led up stairs the CREDO IN Deum who, without asking anything further, began to laugh on looking at the Pedagogue : being quite put out of himself by this sudden arrival, he re sembled an interrupted dream . The husband, as soon as he had perceived me, fostered in himself the idea of entering into possession of my little demesne ; in order to have the opportunity of familiarizing himself with me, he took the Master in hand, and pretending he was greatly pleased with his conver sation , made him recite the ABCbackwards; the queer fellow , in reciting it the wrong way, made him laugh so loud, that the other rolled over . Mean-while, I had clearly perceived the wife's sheep's eyes and the signs she was making me by walking on my foot. « Since your servant-maids » are gone to bed, » said I , « I am going to lie » down with them. No, no, » rejoined the husband, and turning to his wife : « Bring her » there into the cabinet, » he said to her, « she » shall sleep there ; » which was done . I was scarcely in bed , when I heard him say to his wife in a very loud voice, that I might have no suspicion : II . 31 THE LIFE OF MARRIED WOMEN « My darling love, I must at once return to where » I come from ; send that sleepy head to bed and » go there thyself likewise, » As a woman who touches the sky with her finger, she set to tossing up all the clothes in the closet, to let him see she wished to wait for him till morning. He went down stairs with great bustle , opened the door, shut it again while remaining inside, as if he had gone out, then stealing up again very softly, entered the chamber I was sleeping in without sleeping, and came secretly to lie beside me. On feeling the hand laid upon my breast, I got into that delirium which one experiencies sometimes, when one sleeps with the head downwards, and when it seems to you that something heavy, exceedingly heavy, weighs upon your heart leaving you free neither to speak nor stir. ANTONIA. That's the nightmare. NANNA. Ay, the nightmare. He said to me : « If thou dost not utter a word, a good thing for » thee, » and while speaking to me thus , he stroked my cheeks tenderly with his hand . - « Who's » there ? » said I. « I am who I am, » replied the invisible Spirit . As he was endeavouring to part my thighs , which I kept squeezed tighter than a miser keeps his hands squeezed, thinking I was saying very low : « Madam, madam , » I said 32 RAGIONAMENTI it loud enough that she might hear me. The hus band, who was engaged with me, jumped out of bed and ran to the lobby at the same time as his wife was arriving with a candle in her fist to see what ailed me. He, on going into the room which she had just left, beheld that sot of a Pedadogue lying on the bed, rubbing his vine-branch, until he should use it to make the lark sing ; and just as the good setter of horns was saying to me : « What is the matter with thee ? » a holla ! more like a donkey's braying than a human voice, inter rupted the reply in my mouth. The husband was beating the Preceptor brutally with the fire - shovel, and if the wife, having run to his help, had not plucked him out of his scratchers, he would have done his goose for him. ANTONIA. He was right in breaking everything on him . Nanna. He had a right without being right. ANTONIA . Why the deuce not ? Nanna. There would be a deal to be said about it . When she saw the poor ninny piss blood through his nose, she encamped her fists upon her hips , and, turning round to her husband whose patience had just escaped on seeing this big booby where he had seen him, she roared out, with hauty shakings of her head : — « And what thinkest thou II . 33 THE LIFE OF MARRIED WOMEN 1 » I am, eh ? Who am I then, eh ? My nurse plainly » told me that thou wouldst not treat me otherwise » than if thou hadst taken me in rags, just as I » have taken thee in them. Her conjectures have » turned out true ; she repeatedly told me : Don't » take him, don't take him, thou wilt be ill-used by him. Is it possible to believe that a woman » like me would stoop so low as to desire that two » eyed bit of meat ? Tell me, why hast thou beaten » him ? Why ? What hast thou seen him do ? Is » our bed a sacred altar, that a sot may not look at » it ? As if thou wast not aware that men of this >> category, being once taken away from their » books, no longer know in what world they are ! » But never mind ; thou wouldst have it, thou » shalt have it . On to - morrow morning I will » have a Notary draw up my will , in order not to » allow a foe, a man who treats his wife as a whore » without knowing why, enjoy my goods any longer. » Then, raising her voice, she continued while sobbing : « Ah ! unhappy woman ! Am I a » woman for that ? » and she tore her hair, one would have imagined that her father had been just assassinated there in her presence . I dressed myself in haste and running to the uproar : - « That's » enough of it, » said I to her ; « hold your tongue, » 5 34 RAGIONAMENTI >> please. Will you set the whole neighbourhood agossiping ? Don't weep, Madam : >> ANTONIA. And what did the bully say for him self ? Nanna. He had lost the use of speech, at that menace of the will : he knew right well that who ever has nothing nowadays is more unfortunate than a Courtier without credit, favor and pension . ANTONIA . It's no sham . NANNA. I could not help laughing on seeing the poor man in his shirt, squatted in a corner, shaking all over. ANTONIA . He must look like a fox caught in the trap , and which sees a shower of cudgel-blows falling upon him. NANNA. Hah ! hah ! hah ! thou hast said it . In short, the husband, who did not wish to thrust the litter away, because the ass had taken a mouthful of it from him, nor lose his pasture, it being green for him all the year round, knelt down at her feet, and he did and said so much for her that she at last forgave him. I fed on my dry bread , in penance , for having wanted to do the « I will not. » The Preceptor marched off to bed with his good dozen of shovel-blows; they also lay down very quietly, and I too . The hour for rising having come, my mother arrived ; she brought me back home, where , II . 35 THE LIFE OF MARRIED WOMEN after having made my toilet, I remained all day long with a heavy head owing to the bad night I had spent. away with ANTONIA. Was the Pedagogue discharged ? NANNA . What ! discharged ? Within eight days I saw him dressed as a prince. ANTONIA. It is certain that when you see such a one, a servant, a steward, a valet de chambre go beyond every limit in his raiments, his outlay, the cream of the joke is that he is feeding on the mistress. NANNA. No doubt about it . Let us now come to another woman that was fretting herself the longing she had of getting the spindle put into her distaff by a farmer who, it was said had a peg worthy of a bull or a mule. She was the wife of an old knight of the Golden Spur created by Pope John , and he was making more ado with his knighthood, than the executioner of Mantua ; always taking the wall, and assuming a proud gait, he walked with such gravity as to make one split laughing, and about every subject would not fail to say : « We Knights !... » Whenever he appeared on solemn festival days in his fine clothes, he would fill a whole church , he went so stately on. He would never speak but of the Grand Turk, of the Sultan, and he knew the news of the whole 36 RAGIONAMENTI » us . world. Now, the wife of this troublesome personage used to grumble at everything that came from their demesne . If chickens : « Have we no others ? » she would say : « we are robbed. » If any one brought her fruit : « What fine ones ! they eat the » ripe ones on us ; they keep the green ones for » Did anybody present her with salads, a bird's nest, a basket of strawberries or other deli cacies ? « It's a nice how do ye do, » she would say ; « I want nothing of all that ; it is on the corn, » on the wine, on the oil that we should pay for » these trifles. » She did so much with her conti nual complaints, that she finished by rousing her husband's suspicion ; he changed farmers, and, on his wife's recommendation , took the one who had the means of sweeping her wide gaping route. The lease was signed between them , and the farmer took possession of the demesne. In a few days afterwards, he came to town, presented himself at the house, being laiden as a mule, tapped at the door with his foot, which was immediately opened for him, and went up stairs . On his shoulder he had a pole from both ends of which there hung three pair of geese, in front, three pair of capons, behind, and in his hand a basket containing about one hundred eggs, besides any amount of cheese : he resembled those water carriers at Venice, who II. THE LIFE OF MARRIED WOMEN 37 with one hand hold the bigolo (as they say ), with a can at each end, and with the other, a third can . While greeting and bowing to her, with the toe of his shoe upon the floor, he presented his offering to his new mistress who, being more taken up with the calendar than All Saints Day, made him a wel come too kind even for her Knight. She ordered luncheon to be served up for him (it was worth a dinner and supper at the same time) on the kitchen table ; she encouraged him to drink a large phial of peculiar white wine which had a quick taste, and, seeing he had a ruddy face as she wished , she said to him : « Every time you chance to bring » nice things from our place, you shall be glad » you are alive . » The Knight was not at home. « Hast thou not heard ? » she resumed, on address ing herself to the servant maid who came at once, and, at her command, began to empty the basket . She gave it back to the farmer, after having put the geese with the other geese, and she was just going to take hold of the capons to lay them with the capons, when her mistress said to her : « Stop » at that , » and made the countryman take them ; she led him away with her to the granary ; there, she untied the legs of the capons which , being quite sore, were more than an hour before they could stir, then , closing the sky - light, she wanted 38 RAGIONAMENTI to see with what kind of spade he knew how to work her ground, and whether the reality did not belie his renown. According to what the servant swore to me, who, from below heard the shakes, one would have fancied the floor was going to sink . When she had got herself grafted twice , while pretending she was busily speaking with him of the damages which the former farmer had caused to the olive- trees and peach - trees, they went down stairs again . The man could not wait till the Knight's return : they went to shut the gates after him ; he took leave of Madam, returned merrily to the farm and did not fail to give a particular account of his lucky adventure to the Parish Priest of the village. As to her, she remained quite stu pefied at that prodigious commodity with which her custom-house had been filled to overflowing, when there sprends a rumor throughout town ; one ran this way, another that way, and you heard people crying : Lock yourself in, lock yourself in ! She shows herself on the balcony and beholds a few of her relations all in emotion with unsheathed swords, their capes rolled round their arms ; others without their hats, armed with old spears , sticks and spits : her face turns the color of ashes and she faints. At the very moment she sees her Knight covered with blood and surrounded by a crowd of people, borne II . 39 THE LIFE OF MARRIED WOMEN along by the force of two men's arms; she drops down half dead, and the poor devil, being carried up-stairs , is stretched on the bed . They ran with all speed to the physician's; at last, there were eggs and pieces of a man's shirt found : she began to recover her senses, rushed violently towards her husband, and, seeing he was looking at her without uttering a word, she put everything upside down in the house . He was going to die, that was visible : she made it manifest by bringing blessed candles, and crying : « Forgive me ; recommend » yourself to God ! » He gave a token of forgiving and of recommending himself, then expired. The Priest and Doctor came when all was over. ANTONIA. On what account had he been assas sinated ? NANNA . Because the wench had paid a villain , who despatched him into the coffin with three wounds in his belly ; the accident raised the whole town in revolution . Madam pretended on two occa sions that she wanted to throw herself out of the window , but let herself be held back ; she ordered the most solemn funeral rites ever witnessed. The Knight's coat of arms were drawn on the church walls ; a shaggy golden brocade pall was spread over his corpse and carried by six citizens, followed by nearly the whole town, and conveyed to the 40 RAGIONAMENTI church . She, being dressed all in black , with two hundred women to wail behind her, moaned so much and in so tender a voice that she caused everyone to sob. The funeral oration was delivered from the pulpit ; the Knight's virtues and lofty exploits were recalled to the memory of the faith ful. To the sound of the REQUIEM ÆTERNAM, sung by over a thousand Priests , Monks and Friars of all shades, he was laid in a magnificent sarcophagus, the epitaph of which all the people went to read ; banners were hung over it , and there were deposed on it the sword in the red velvet scabbard with gilt bronze handle, the buckler and helmet orna mented with red velvet to match with the scab bard . I forgot to mention that his tenants had also come , all wearing the black caps which had been provided for them ; they drew up round the corpse : among them there stood the man that had the geese, the capons, the eggs and the lucky adventure. But what is the use of wasting so many words ? She managed to dry her tears with him , and remained lady and mistress , universal inheritrix ; for, the deceased, after having married her from love, being certain that he would have neither boys nor girls, to the great heart -break of his relations, had made over to her his goods by deed of gift. + II . THE LIFE OF MARRIED WOMEN 41 ANTONIA . A well bestowed deed of gift, NANNA. Now that she could rove about vithout being afraid of anybody, leaving her servants at home, she kept close to her the Knight's succes sor , whose elephant's tusk consoled her so well that, casting all shame aside, she resolved to take him for her husband , before her relatives should trouble her about wanting to give her another. She had it reported that she wished to place herself in a convent, in order to be able to take it more at ease , and all the Religious Orders contended for her ; then, being resolved on giving herself up to the villain , without further thinking of what will » people say of me ? » « what an honor I am doing >> my family ? » nor of this nor of that, being tho roughly persuaded that decency spoils pleasures, that delays smell rusty, that to repent is an antici pated death , she sent for the notary and got rid of her whimsy. ANTONIA . She might , however , remain very well a widow and fill her belly with the bell-clap per, and stop at that. NANNA. Why she did not remain a widow ? I shall tell thee that another time . Such are the lives of widows that they require a whole chapter apart; I shall simply state this : they are archer whores than Nuns, than married Women, than street Girls . 6 42 RAGIONAMENTI ANTONIA. What ? It's true ? NANNA. Nuns, married Women and Whores get themselves furbished by dogs and boars : Widows have for furbishers prayers, disciplines, devotions, sermons, masses, vespers, offices, alms and the seven deeds of mercy ! ANTONIA. And among Nuns, married Women, Widows and Whores, is there not a single good one ? NANNA. It is with those four categories of women as with the common saying about coins : Look close and depend upon them. ANTONIA. We have come to a nice pitch , then . Return, return to the wedding of the Knight's lady. Nanna. She therefore married him. Once the event became known, she went away despised not only by her own family, but also by the whole town. She was so passionately attached to him, that she was wont to carry him his very dinner to the fields, to the vineyards, everywhere. The far mer, who was of good breed, having with his knife stabbed Madam's brother, who was threatening to have him poisoned, nobody from the town further attempted to enter his gate. ANTONIA. A bad thing indeed to have any med dling with thein . NANNA. It's what people say : The villains! Lord II . THE LIFE OF MARRIED WOMEN 43 little the poor preserve me from their hands !. But let us come to better jokes and sweeten over a . knight's death with the life of a rich old man, a sordid miser, a big stupid fellow who wedded a wife of seventeen . She had, besides this tender age, the loveliest little frame I ever saw ; and being of so genteel a grace that whatever she did , whatever she said, was charming. She had certain lady -like gestures, certain haughty moods, certain pretty atti tudes calculated to - ravish one's heart. Put a- lute into her hands : you would have fancied she was a music mistress ; hand her a book : you would have taken her for a poetess ; give her a sword : you would have given your oath she was à captain ; at the dance she was a hind ; at singing, an angel ; at playing, I could not say who ; with her burning looks, full of something or other but I don't know what, she made you lose your wits. In eating, she seemed to gild the dishes over, and in drinking, to impart savour to the wine ; ingenious and civil in her repartees, she could speak about serious things with so much majesty that beside her Duchesses would have been but drivellers. She would dress her head with fineries after her own particular fashions, which she herself devised and which were attentively taken heed of; appearing to-day in a coif, to -morrow with her hair half formed into a 44 RAGIONAMENTI I chignon, half plaited, with a curl falling over her eye and forcing her to wink it , Lord ! so as to cause the men to die of love and the women of jealousy ! The cunning blade knew well, through her natural comeliness, how to convert her lovers into so many slaves, they being all of them lost in the heaving of her two breasts, over which na ture had drained tears of red - roses. She would often times stretch out her hand, as if she wanted to dis cover some stain upon it , and causing the sparkling of her rings to vie with that of her eyes, she would dazzle the view of whoever might be looking at her hand the more attentively, as she would the more artfully fondle it with her eye. She scarcely touched the ground with her feet when she walked ; and when sprinkling her head at the holy- water trough, she bowed a bow that seemed to say : That's how they do it in Paradise. Well, with all her beauties, her virtues, her good qualities , she could not help her father, the big mope! from marrying her to a man of sixty ; this is at least the age he owned, nor would he allow anyone to call him an old man . This husband had himself styled Count, because of some little paltry town or other with embattled walls , to which were added two bake-houses which he possessed ; and whereas in virtue of certain leaden sealed patents on parchment, II . THE LIFE OF MARRIED WOMEN 45 that had, according to his own version , been granted him by the Emperor, he had it in his power to offer tourneys to those fops whose pleasure is to get their hides perforated, almost every month he gave one there. He held it for certain that he was Bailiff of Modena, on beholding the simpletons who used to come and watch one another tilting, take off their hats to him ; on the day of the tourney, he would appear pontifically, clad in a violet jacket strewn from top to bottom with golden spangles , por dit it look in the least bare, because that kind of velvet never does become bald ; on his head he had a cap in the shape of a plate ; his red cloath mantle was furred with vair : his cowl , similar to those that school-boys sometimes wear on their cloaks, was of silver brocade ; his sharp sword, in an old sheath , with a latten knob, was dangling by his side. After having gone twice round the lists on foot , with a score of bare- footed spawlpeens behind bim , being all of them armed with cross-bows and halberds, and composed partly of his lackeys , partly of fellows picked up on his demesne, he mounted an old nag with its belly filled with bran , which a hundred thousand pairs of spurs would have, no more than a single pair, decided to spring one stride , and crippled itself up from fright when it heard its turn for battle sound. On those days, he 46 RAGIONAMENTI kept his wife locked in ; the remainder of the time , that dog of a gardner was smelling about after her tail at church, at entertainments , everywhere. In bed, he would relate to her his exploits of the time he was a soldier ; and telling her of a battle in which he had been made prisoner of, he would imitate with his mouth even the tuffs ! taffs ! of the bombards, on struggling as one possessed. The poor creature, who had a much greater desire of jousting with the nocturnal lance, was mad ; some times, she would from spite make him creep along the ground on his hands and feet, and, putting a sash in his mouth, by way of a bridle, would climb upon his back, spur him with her heels and drive him forwards as he himself would drive a horse. In this gloomy existence, she devised a fine, very fine roguish trick . ANTONIA. What one ? I should like very much to know it . Nanna. She began at night to utter in dream a lot of incoherent sentences, that had no bearing with one another, and at which the old fellow would burst into unruly fits of laughter; but, when she came to ply her hands and gave him a smart blow between the two peepers with her fist, he briskly checked her ; she, while feigning she recollected nothing of what she was doing or saying, II . 47 THE LIFE OF MARRIED WOMEN carried on the same game by jumping out of bed, by opening the windows , the closets . At other times, she would dress herself and the fool would run after her, shaking her, calling her in a loud voice . It happened that, one fine night, in wishing to pursue her outside of the door -threshold, he missed his foot on the top of the stairs, while think ing he was laying it on a flag, and rolled down to the bottom of the stairs : besides bruising his body all over, he broke one of his legs. The whole household ran at the clamour he made, a clamour calculated to set the neighbourhood in a state of restlessness, and they lifted him up ; he would have acted much better by remaining in bed . The wife pretends she is awaking at her husband's moans ; she is informed of the adventure and so she falls a weeping, apuling, on cursing the mania she has of getting up. She speedily sent that night, at the hour it was, for a physician, who put back for him his bones in their place. ANTONIA. Why did she act as though she was raving ? NANNA. Hoping that it would betide him to fall, as he really had , and that once he would have smashed his loins he would be no longer able to be on her tracks. For this time, the old idiot was ex tremely unhappy because of hisjealousy ; but, being so 48 RAGIONAMENTI in proud that, although it were against his will, he kept up about ten rascals of pages sleeping in a room downstairs; the eldest ofthem was not over twenty four years old . Among these, the one that had a good cap lacked breeches ; the one that had a de cent breeches wore a shabby doublet ; he who had a good doublet had a cape all tattered ; he who had a good cape had a rag of a shirt. And oftentimes, ay, alackl oftentimes they fed on bred and scraps ! ANTONIA. Why did the brigands remain there ? Nanna. For the freedom he left them. Well , my dear Antonia , she had cast her eyes on this crew, and the moment she had aid her old ninny up bed with his thigh between two splints, she began again to have a great many dreams ; then, stretching her arms, leaped out of bed, inspite of the jolly husband who was shouting to her : Ho there ! holla ! So she left him there to make his throat sore with bawling, opened the chamber-door and went off to the merry little fellows that were playing, round a lantern ready to go out, for a few farthings stolen from the Squire to buy themselves some dainties . On wishing them good night she upset the lan tern , and applying to her bosom the first one that came into her reach , she set to amuse herself with him. During the three hours she stayed with them, she tried the whole ten , twice each, and, going II . 49 THE LIFE OF MARRIED WOMEN upstairs to her room, being thoroughly purged of the humors which caused her to have the delirium : « Lay the blame, my dear husband , » said she, « upon my nature , which compels me to walk by » night in procession round the house, as witches ! » ANTONIA . Who has now told thee the whole thing so minutely ? NANNA. Herself; when she had trampled her honor under foot, she became everybody's wife ; her charms being once in circulation , she would speak of them even to those that did not care to listen to her . Besides, one of the ten worthies, being vexed with her because she had given herself to another who was better supplied than he was, went about like a desperate fellow through the squares, through the taverns, to the barbers', into shops, relating the story . ANTONIA . She did very well; so much the worse for the old fool, who should have taken a wife of his own age, and not a child whose father he could have been a hundred times . NANNA. Thou has rightly understood me ; that's how it turned out. And not contented with having loaded him with as many horns as a thousand stags could have carried, being smitten one fine day by a certain vender of almanachs, by the help of a cornet of pepper with which she drugged his soup 7 so RAGIONAMENTI for him, she got rid of the jolly old fellow : while he was dying and under his very nose, she married the scoundrel, shegot herself trafficked by him . This is what they said in town, but I should not swear to it ; I have had no hand in it. ANTONIA . It must be too true. NANNA. Listen to this one. One of the best wives in town had a husband more greedy of gambling than a she-monkey of cherries ; his favorite game was the primero, and a set of all sorts of fellows used to come and play matches at his house. As he possessed a demesne in the environs, one of his farmers' wives who was left a widow would come every fortnight to visit his wife, bringing her somelittle things from the farm , such as dried figs, walnuts, olives, eggs cooked in the oven and other provisions ; she would stay a good long while, then return home. Among other days, she came to see her landlady on a sort of a half holiday with a fine chaplet of snails and about twenty -five plums nicely arranged over a bed of grass in her basket. The weather changed and there rose a gale accom panied by such dreadful rain , that she was com pelled to stop in the house for that night. The lewd rake of a husband, who was living in clover and who used to say before his wife whatever came to the top of his tongue, being an illustrious toper, II . SI THE LIFE OF MARRIED WOMEN always full of jokes, got knowledge ofthe thing and wanted to show himself a kind comrade on having her administered a thirty -one ( 1 ) ; he hinted about it to the gang that was playing with him, which caused them all to open their ears, with roars of laughters. Everyone promised to come back after dinner, and our hero said to his wife : « Thou shalt make » our farmer's wife sleep in the room on the >> garret. -Very well , » she replied, then sat down at table with him , and, at the lower end, there dined the country -woman, as fresh as a bunch of roses. Some little while after the meal was over, the gamblers returned. The husband retired with his wife and advised her to go to bed ; he told the widow to do the same. The wife, who knew with what foot the rake was limping, said aside to her self : « I have heard it said that whoever is rejoiced » once for all does not always languish . My hus » band , forwhom honor or dishonoris all one, wishes >> to ransack the ware- house and ward-robe ofour far » mers's widow ; but I have a mind to know what » that thirty -one is of which there are persons so ( 1 ) To give a woman « thirty -one », is to have her enjoyed by a whole gang of men . See the famous Trente - et-un de la Zaffetta, a poem by Lorenzo Veniero ; Paris, Liseux, 1883, 16mo. 52 RAGIONAMENTI » over nice and squeamish ; and of course the » crew of my lazybones ofa husband are preparing » one for the good dame. » Thereupon , she put the farmer's widow in her own bed, and thrusted herself into the one she had got ready for her. The husband came presently very softly, endeavouring to keep back his breath and puffing in a queer way ; the jolly companions, that were to put their hands in the paste after him, unable to smother their grins, let them break out in a hugger mugger way, and there were only heard ouh ! ouhs ! quickly checked by one another's hands . I heard of every thing that occurred through one of the actors of this thirty -one; he used to come and give me a squeeze occasionally, by way of pastime. The head of the file of tilters breathlessly approached her, who had never in her life longed so ardently for anything, and laid hold of her in a way that meant : Thou shalt not get away from me now. She did as if she was waking, and, looking very frighted, wanted to rise ; but the fellow pressed her to his person with all his might, and, opening her thighs with his knees, sealed the letter . He per ceived that he was dealing with his own wife, just as much as we perceive the leaves growing on the fig -tree which is shading us. When she felt him shaking her plum-tree, not as a husband but as a II . THE LIFE OF MARRIED WOMEN 53 wooer, she must have said to herself : How the glutton eagerly devours other people's bread, while he rejects that of his own house ! In a word, he put the leaf back in its place twice, and , with his face all beaming, turned round to his friends ::- « Oh ! » whata lucky windfall! » he cried, « what a dainty » bit ! Her skin is really as soft and as velvet as a » lady's! » Briefly, the dame's arse smelt mint and wild thyme. As soon as he had said that, he made a second fellow advance, who, with the greediness of a Monk running to the mess, fled to feed on the beef, as the Romanesco says ; then a third rushed on her, as the gudgeon on the worm ; what excited their merriment was his discharging three claps of thunder without lightning, on leaving the pike loose in the reservoir; he brought the sweat to her temples. She cried : « There is not the » least discretion in these thirty -one! » Well, not to detain thee till night with each of their gestures, they did it to her in all ways, through all ends, in all fashions, manners, according to their whims, to speak as the Petrarchist Mamma-will -not ( 1 ) ; she began, with the twentieth fellow , to do like cats (1 ) Madrema-non -vuole, the nickname of a celebrated Roman courtesan of the time; allusion is frequently made to her in the Comedies and Dialogues of P. Aretino. 54 RAGIONAMENTI which enjoy and mew at the same time. There upon, one of them , having handled her whistle and bagpipes (1 ) and finding them real lodgings for snails without shells, stood awhile at bay ; at last, he stuck it into her behind, but as he was touching the edges this way or that way : « Ma » donna ! » he cried , « blow your nose and then » smell my caper - tree . » While he was speaking thus, the others stood with their conscience in erection listening to the speech, waiting to get at the jolly lass when their comrade would go away, just as artisans, young brats, villagers watch , on the Thursday, Good - Friday and Saturday in holy week , the penitent stepping off to whom the Monk has given absolution , after the confession ; and while waiting, more than one of them shook his dog from head to tail compelling him to spit out his soul . In fine, four of those that had remained last, being more foolish than wise, not feeling the cou rage to go and swim without calabash in that sea of glandy oil, lit a stump of a torch with which they were wont to light the players who, after having lost, went away cursing, and, despite of the governor ofthe thirty -one, entered the room where ( 1 ) Namely, the behind and before . II . THE LIFE OF MARRIED WOMEN SS his wife was lying, steeped to her knees in tallow . Seeing she was discovered : « It's an idea that has » occurred to me, » she said , while assuming a mien like a Ponte-Sisto girl; « by dint of hearing it » repeated every day : Such a one has got a thirty > one, another has got another, I wished to see » these thirty -one right in the face ; now , let what » may become of it . » The husband made a virtue of necessity and asked her : « Well, what dost thou > think of it, wife ? -Nothing but good, she re plied . But being unable to retain herself any longer after such a feed , she ran to her privy, and, freeing her loins, as an Abbot that has over - filled himself goes off to unload his belly , she restored to the earthly Limbo twenty - seven little unborn souls. The countrywoman, on learning how the barley prepared for her had been eaten by another, returned home, her arse scalding her as if it had been boiled for her with peas; she was a whole year without speaking to her landlady. ANTONIA. Happy are those women that get rid of their whims! NANNA. It's my opinion too. But I do not envy those that get rid of them by those thirty -one ; I · also have had a few of them (thanks to those that gave them to me), nor do I find that they afford all the bliss which people in the world commonly 56 RAGIONAMENTI suppose : they last too long ! I grant thee it they lasted only half the length , they would be perfect, they would be exquisite . Let us come to a Madonna ( I will keep her name secret) who had a funny caprice for a prisoner whose hanging the Podestate indefinitely postponed, lest he should afford the gibbet this pleasure. His father had, on dying, left the merry fellow , who was then about twenty -one, the heir of fourteen thousand ducats, one half of which was in ready cash , the other half in estates, besides the outfit of a mansion or, more properly speaking, of a palace. In three years all the ready money was eaten up, gambled and spermatized ; then, he laid hands on the lands, and in three years more squandered the remainder. And as he could not sell out a certain small cottage, which a special clause in the will disempowered him from doing , he levelled it and sold the stones of it ; it was next the turn of the fur niture to go : borrowing to-day on the sheets, sel ling a table cloth next day, then a bed ; to- day this object, to-morrow that one, he thus ran on to the last penny till he got the scales so evenly poised that, after having first pledged, then sold, so much as to say bestowed the palace, he stood quite bare and undone. He then plunged into all the wickedness a man can not only commit but also imagine : false II . 57 THE LIFE OF MARRIED WOMEN oaths, homicides, thefts, swindlings, card - sharping, dice cogging, felonies, spungings and assassinations. He had been clapped into jail from four to five years at a time; he had received therein more rope chuck ing than mouthfuls of bread ; he was in it this time for having spat in the face of Squire ... needless to mention who he was. ANTONIA . The lecher ! the traitor ! NANNA. He was so downright a lecher, that one might have said sleeping with his own mother was the lightest of his sins . Being reduced to beggary, as to what concerns his property, he was so opulent in point of the French disease , that he alone could have imparted it to thousands of his fellow creatures and still keep a world full of it for himself. While this renegade was in jail , there was a doctor paid out of the Town taxes to look after the poor prison ers ; and while he was occupied in curing the leg of one of them , who was afraid the chancres might waste it away on him : « What ! » cried the doctor, « I have cured the extra -natural nature » of that brigand, and I should not cure thy leg ? This extra -natural nature reached the ears of the aforesaid Madonna, and the huge parcel of the villain who was in jail took such deep root in her heart, that she grew inflamed for him more than >>> 8 58 RAGIONAMENTI that Queen of old ( 1 ) was inflamed , they say, for the bull. As she saw no way or possibility of being able to rid herself of her whim , she resolved to commit some crime, that she might be locked up in this very jail where the Cross - spitter was. Easter having arrived, she communicated without confessing; she was hauled over the coals for it ; she answered that she had done well. The case was divulged ; a complaint was lodged with the Podes tate, who had her arrested and put to the strap pado ; she then acknowledged that the cause of her crime was the unbridled desire she had ofthe leak of the aforesaid man, with the eyes so sunken and so small that he barely saw through them, with the big nose flattened down over his visage, bearing a cross gash and two scars of Job's disease, resembling the two balls of a mule, quite tattered, stink ing, disgusting, covered all over with lice and vermin . The honorable Podestate made her a pre sent of him as companion, saying to her : « This >> shall be the punishment ofthy sin, PER INFINITA » SÆCULA SÆCULORUM . » It afforded her as much pleasure to be immured for life , as another would have to be released from prison . It is stated that ( 1) Pasiphae. II. THE LIFE OF MARRIED WOMEN 59 when she had tasted that huge rasp, she cried : « Let us pitch our tents here ! » ANTONIA. Was that rasp of which thou speakest as big as an ass's ? NANNA. Bigger. ANTONIA . Than a mule's ? NANNA. Bigger again. ANTONIA. Than a bull's ? NANNA. Bigger again . ANTONIA. Than a stallion's ? NANNA. Three times as big , I say. ANTONIA. It was then as big as the posts of a bed of state ? NANNA. Precisely. ANTONIA. What dost thou think about her ? Nanna. While she was swimming to her neck in pleasure, the Podestate was rebuked by the Com mune and obliged, in order to satisfy Justice, to sentence the above named Criminal to be hanged . Having received notification of his ten days' grace ... But I've left something out ; we shall return to the wretch , ay. Greedy - gut was no sooner in jail and had scarcely thrown off the mask, than the news spread about her in town, furnishing simpletons, artisans and especially women with tittle - tattle matter ; people were chatting in the streets, at the windows, upon the steps but of the cunning blade, 60 RAGIONAMENTI and that with mockeries and disgustful looks ! When six merry wives would meet together round the pillar at the holy - water trough they would prate two hours over her. Among other meetings , there was one got up in my neighbourhood, and, one Madam -the-prude, hearing wath it was about and seeing the whole clan at a stand-still , with distaffs in their hands, attentive to what she should say, cried : « We, women are all of us dishonored » by that slut's behaviour; we should instantly march » upon the Palace, tear her out of jail , even were » we to set fire to it , pitch her on a cart and pull » her in pieces with our teeth ; we should stone » her, flay her alive, crucify her ! » Having uttered these words, she went away , puffed like a toad , and got into her house as if the whole honor of all the women in the entire world depended on her. ANTONIA. The blockhead ! Nanna. The ten days’grace were notified to the bandit ; this sly hypocrite I am speaking about, who wanted to run and set fire to the jail , chanced to hear of it . She was greatly moved for him, as she considered the loss the town would sustain in losing its largest piece of Artillery, the one whose mere renown, for want of better proof, attracted ill pro portioned women, as the magnet attracts the needle or a blade of straw. The same madness to enjoy it , II. THE LIFE OF MARRIED WOMEN 61 as had urged the other sacramental- scorner ( saving your presence) seized on herself, and she thought of the sliest, the most diabolical invention that anyone has ever heard of . ANTONIA. Of what did she think ? The Lord pre serve thee from like madness ! NANNA. She had a husband who was continually ill ; he would remain up for two hours, and in bed for two days ; he was sometimes taken by such pal pitations of the heart , that he would smother from them and seem on the point of going. Having learned from one of those bawdy- house girls (the Devil take her !) that they could save the man that is being led to the gibbet, by simply throwing themselves before him on crying : « I do take him for spouse ! ... >> ANTONIA. What do I hear ? NANNA. ... she resolved to throttle her own, then, using the right of bawds, take the scoundrel for husband . While she was musing over it, here with : Oh dear ! oh dear! her poor man closing his eyes, crisping his fists , kicking with his heels, happened to faint. She, who resembled a barrel of salt tunny, being broader than long, clapped a pillow on his mouth, seated herself thereon , and without requiring any servant's help, made him let out the ghost by the way the digested bread comes . ANTONIA . Oh ! oh ! oh ! 62 RAGIONAMENTI NANNA. She then caused a dreadful uproar ; tore her bear; assembled thewhole neighbourhood who, knowing the poor man's indisposition, did not doubt but that he had been smothered in one of those crisis from which he constantly suffered. He was buried very handsomely, for he was handsomely rich ; his widow , a regular bitch in heat, fled direct ly to the bawdy - house, not to curtail the expres sion on thee. As she had not two farthings'worth of relations either on her own side or her husband's, she remained there without any impediment, whilst everyone thought she had become mad from grief after the above named death . The night preceding the morning on which the wretch was to be execut ed arrived ; the town grew desert; all the men and most of the women had assembled round the Po destate's Palace, to witness his torture announced to him who deserved a thousand of them . The man began laughing on hearing it said by the Provost : « The will of God and that of the magnificent Po » destate (I should have named him the first ), is » that thou diest. » He was taken out of prison and led into the midst of the people ; he was fettered and handcuffed , seated on a shabby lock of straw , between two priests who were consoling him ; nor did he make too many grim - faces at the image that was offered him to be kissed . And as if there was II . THE LIFE OF MARRIED WOMEN 63 no question about himself, he related a lot of fibs along the way ; he called all those that presented themselves by their names . The great bell of the town -hall was tolling steadily, steadily since early morning, to announce the execution that was about to take place. The flags were unfolded ; the reading of the condemnation , which lasted until evening, was begun in a ringing voice by a member of the criminal tribunal; he then set out, with a big gilt rope round his neck as well as a gilt paper mitre on his head, to signify thereby that he stood the King of rascals. He was made, at the sound of the trumpet bereft of its gland, step forward in the middle of a squad ofwatchmen ; the mobmarched after and every where he passed, balconies, house-tops, windows were all alive with women and children . As soon near the harlot, who, with heavy throbbing heart, was watching the opportunity to cling to the villain's neck, she desired to do so with that avidity with which a sick man burning by the fever rushes on a can of spring water. She rushed furiously on without being the least troubled, break ing through the crowd, yelling aloud, her hair in disorder, clapping her hands, till by main force she reached him , on saying : « I am thy wife! » The men of justice stopped ; everyone pushed himself forward, a regular bustle ensued and such an as he was 64 RAGIONAMENTI uproar! one would have thought that all the bells in the universe were ringing out at the same time to fire, to arms, to the sermon, to the festival. The news came to the Podestate's ears ; he was forced to let the law take its course, and the wretch was handed over with freed feet and hands to be hanged from the harlot's gibbet. ANTONIA . We are at the end of the world ! NANNA. Ah ! ah ! ah ! ANTONIA . At what art thou laughing ? NANNA. At her who had turned Lutheran to live in prison with him, and who remained there with three stabs of a knife in the heart : the first was to see him go out of it ; the second, to think he was going to be hanged ; the third , to learn how another had taken possession of her castle, her villa and her estates . ANTONIA . Lord be good to God Almighty who punished her for these three knife stabs! NANNA. Listen to another one, little sister. ANTONIA. With pleasure. Nanna. There was a certain scornful lass who was handsome, without any grace, nay, not even handsome but pretty to look at ; she used to fold her lips and frown at every subject . She was an ermine, and the most fastidious plucker and unclean liness -smeller that was ever born . She found fault II . THE LIFE OF MARRIED WOMEN 65 with all the eyes, all the foreheads, all the eye lashes, all the noses, all the mouths, all the faces she saw . She never beheld any teeth but appeared to her black, flawed or too long ; in her opinion, not a single woman knew how to speak ; not a single one knew how to walk, and they were also so badly made that their gowns bagged round their backs . When she would see any man looking at one of them : « She is as God wills, » she would say ; « she gets more and more said about her. Who » would have ever thought it ? I would have » taken her for a confessor! » She would blame those women that put themselves at the windows as well as those that did not ; briefly , she constituted herself the living censure of all women, and they all shunned her as bad luck . Whenever she went to mass, everything stunk in her nose, even the very incense, and she would cry, on lengthening her gob : « What a nice swept church ! what a » fine disposed church ! » She would go round smelling every altar while muttering her Pater nosters , and have her little word to say to each of them : « What altar covers !what candlesticks ! what » 'dirty steps ! » While the priest would be reading the Gospel, she, being unwilling to stand up with the others, would be wagging her head , as if the priest was not uttering a word, and would pretend 9 1 66 RAGIONAMENTI 1 cross at the Elevation that the host was not of pure wheat. When dipping the top of her finger in the holy water trough, to make the sign of the awkwardly on her forehead, she would say : « What » a shame not to change it ! » So many men she met, so many were the wry -faces she made, saying : « What a capon ! what spindle shanks! what huge » feet ! what a shabby swell ! what a skeleton ! what » a beldamite visage! what a doggish muzzle ! » This arch jade, who was enraptured to hear herself praised for what she pretended other women were wanting, having ogled a Lay -Brother that came begging bread at her door, with a wallet all holes slung over his shoulder, and the knocker in his hand, fancied he was of fair size, being a reckless, able backed fellow : so she fell in love with him. Andwhile pretending that alms should be given from the mistress's own hand, and not from the servants, she hastened down-stairs to carry them to the Convent : had her husband said to her : « Send the girl, » she would have wrangled an hour with him concerning the essence of alms, the difference between bestowing them one's self and that of charging others to give them . In short, having grown familiar with the soup -gobbler, who repeatedly brought her Agnus Dei, and names of young II . THE LIFE OF MARRIED WOMEN 67 Jesus embroidered in saffron , they came to an understanding together. ANTONIA . What arrangement did she make ? NANNA. That of running away to the Convent. ANTONIA. How so ? Nanna. Dressed as a Novice. So, to have a pre tence in her husband's eyes for abandoning her home, she undertook one fine day to uphold against him that Good Lady Day of August ( 1 ) fell on the 16th of the month ; she put him into such a passion that he seized her round the neck which he would have twisted off, as a chicken's, had not her mother torn her out of his hands . ANTONIA . Accursed obstinate bitch ! NANNA. She was scarcely on her feet again when she began to shout : « I see what thou art up to ; » all-right I all-right ! but thou art not going to get » out of it like that ; my brothers shall hear of it, » ay, so they shall ! Thou assaultest a poor silly » woman after this manner ? Set upon a man, > then thou wilt return and talk to me. I shall not » put up with it any longer ; no, I shall not . I » shall stick myself in a Convent, I shall get into ( 1 ) The feast of the Assumption, which is celebrated on 15th August 68 RAGIONAMENTI >> 1 » one, were I first to browse grass, rather than let myself be stoned by thee all day long ; take care » I don't throw myself into the jakes ! Provided » I have not thee before me, I shall die happy. » In sobbing and sighing she sat down with her head between her legs, nor would she take supper in any other position ; she would have remained there till morning, if her mother had not dragged her off to bed with her : she had to be torn twice from the husband who wanted to quarter her. Let us now come to this Friar , a strapping blade of about thirty years old, all muscles , all fire, very tall , well shaped, dark skin , always in the best of a good humour and everybody's friend . So he returned next day for alms, on seeing that the husband was not in , and as he was knocking at the door with his : « Give me some bread for the » Friars ! » the compassionate lady ran to him as usual, and they agreed that she was to fly with him at daybreak next morning. Brother Fatio then retired . He was at her door the following morning an hour before dawn, even before the baker had come, with a Novice's tunic across his arm ; he knocked, and, while knocking cried : « Look » sharp ! » The brazen faced strumpet rose at once : People do not soil their hands, » she says, « in » doing their own business ; » so, giving her ser II. 69 THE LIFE OF MARRIED WOMEN vant's door a kick, she cried : « Come, up ; make » haste ; » then running down - stairs, she opened the street-door and let big soup -guts in . She cast off an old dress which she had slipped on in a hurry, laid it with her slippers on the brink of the well , dressed herself in the novice's habit and, pulling the door after her, so as to shut it , betook herself invisibly to the Monastery. The Brother, as soon as he had pulled her into his cell , commenced by giving her oats . He stretched her upon an old cassock, over which there were spread a pair of short, rough and very narrow sheets, with a cowl that smelt bugs as much as ever the cassock smelt stinking. Having drawn his tunic up over his navel, and with his pufting and blowing, he resembled the stormy weather when it is about to settle down to rain at the end of August : as the wind then tosses olive, cherry and laurel-trees, so the Monk with his mad digs set the cell of two paces in length tottering : he sent a three half-penny Madonna rolling, which was fastened over the bed, with a piece of a wax- candle to her feet. And she, while wagging her buttocks, mewed as a puss when one scratches her. Well ! the fellow , being not much in the habit of grinding, let go the water to the mill. ANTONIA. Say rather « the oil » , if thou choosest to speak correctly ; as I was talking one day with 70 RAGIONAMENTI the mother of Mamma-will-not, she corrected me for having said , VERBI GRATIA, « mew, pop out of the water, skip with joy. » NANNA. Why so ? ANTONIA . Because she said that a new language has been discovered, of which her daugther has the key . NANNA. What new language ? Who teaches it ? ANTONIA. This Mamma-will- not, of course ; and she scoffs at whoever does not speak in the fashion ; she pretends we should say « balcony » , and not « crossbar window » ; « door » , and not « gate » ; « as soon as » , and not « lively; « visage » , and not « face » heort » ,and not « heart » ; « he crops » and not « he harvests » ; « he knocks » , and not « he » taps » ; « he mocks » , and not « he jeers » ; the saying which thou hast used I don't know how often , she sticks unto it as to her right eye. And I know that the folks of her school will have the K put behind the book and not before it ; because it is much nobler. Nanna. For those whom that pleases. As to me, I mean to put it where the slit that laid me teaches me to put it . I will say « treccelare, » and not berlingare » ( 1 ) ; a « simpleton » and not a ( C ( 1 ) To decoy . II . 71 THE LIFE OF MARRIED WOMEN « mad - cap, » and that for no other reason but because people speak so in my place . But let us come back to the Friar. He did it twice with Mistress Blame-everybody, without pulling his bill out of the water . ANTONIA . By my whiskers ! NANNA. The business being over, he locked the door on her, having previously made her hide herself under the bed, lest any accidents might befall her. Being obliged to buy flour for the hosts, he strolled awhile about the other streets , then followed his nose to the one in which Madonna Merda lived, merely to spy out what had become of his LEVAMINI. He was hardly there when he heard the house in an uproar : the voice of the servant, the voice of mamma, who were shouting from the window : « Hooks ! hooks ! » and » : « Ropes ! » ropes ! » ANTONIA . Why hooks and ropes ? Nanna. Because they perceived the imp was not there ; so after having first called her quietly, then bawled for her upstairs and downstairs, high and low , this way, that way and every way , they dis covered the slippers and gown on the brink of the well , and felt convinced that she had jumped in . The mother began to cry : « Help ! help ! » and the whole neighbourhood was on foot, to take her out 72 RAGIONAMENTI of the water, that had seized the ball in the hop . It would grieve your heart to see the poor old woman cast down the hook, saying : « Hang thy » self unto it , my darling daughter, my ducky » dear; I am thy kind mamma, thy lovely little » mamma ! Ah ! the scoundrel ! the traitor ! the » Judas Iscariot ! » but she hooked in nothing whatsoever. Antonia. Say nothing at all , if thou wilt speak in the modern fashion . Nanna. She hooked in nothing at all . Leaving the hook there, as a desperate woman , with her two arms crossed over each other and her eyes turned up to heaven, she cried : « Doth it seem » righteous to thee, O Almighty Lord, that a girl » like her, so well- bred, so genteel, without a » single vice in the world, should have such an » end ? My prayers and alms have been of great » use to me ! May I die, if I light another candle to » thee ! » Then beholding the Monk, who, being mixed up with the crowd, seemed to be laughing on hearing her lamentations, without suspecting anything about her daughter and thinking he had come to beg flour, she seized him by his scapulary and dragged him out of doors, as if she would be avenged of God, who had allowed her daughter to throw herself into the well . -- « Plate licker ! soup II . 73 THE LIFE OF MARRIED WOMEN v lapper ! mandrake planter ! greedy- gut! vintage tippler ! fizzle smotherer ! swine scratcher ! potage > absorber ! lent breaker ! » , she flung at him to gether with a host of other names which caused all the women to spill in their drawers . And it was capital fun to hear the gossiping of the whole district ; not a single one but believed the daughter was at the bottom of the well . Some few merry old hakes pretended that they remembered the time the well was dug, that it was full of caverns, the one extending this way, the other that way, and indeed and indeed the poor silly thing must be sunk in one of them. The mother hearing these caverns mentioned, broke out in fresh balderdash : « Oh! » my daughter ! » she whined, « thou wilt die of » hunger. therein, nor shall I behold thee again » delighting the world by thy beauties, thy graces » and thy virtues ! » She promised the universe to whoever would dive into the well for her, but everybody was afraid of these caverns of which the old women spoke, and each one fearing he might be lost in them wheeled about and scudded off with the Lord . ANTONIA . And her husband ? what became of him ? Nánna. He was like a cat that does not belong to the household and whose tail has been burnt. He IO 74 RAGIONAMENTI had not even the courage to let himself be seen, both because people were whispering it about that if his wife had thrown herself into the well, it was owing to his behaviour, and out of terror from the mother - in -law who was going to fly in his face and scratch out his eyes. But he could not keep her from finding him out at last and from crying : « Traitor ! thou art now happy ? thy drunkenness, » thy card playing and thy whoring are the cause » of her drowning, ah, my daughter, my consola » tion ! But carry the crucifix upon thy breast, » carry it, I say ; for I will have thee cut up, into » bits , minced ! Wait ! wait ! Go wherever thou » wilt, thou art in for it , thou shalt be served as » thou deservest, wretch, assassin , sworn enemy » of all that is good ! » The poor fellow resembled one of those faint-hearted women that stuff their ears with their fingers, in order not to hear the report of the musket which is fired off. So he left her there to make herself hoarse from spitting out venom, locked himself in his room and began to think about his wife, whose case appeared very queer to him. Things went no further ; the frantic mother of the unpleasant young wife dressed the well like an altar : she hung all round it whatever ' images she had at home, and burnt there all the blessed candles she had these ten years ; she would II . 75 THE LIFE OF MARRIED WOMEN come to it every morning to say her beads for the repose of her daughter's soul. ANTONIA. What did the Brother do after he had been haled about by the scapulary ? Nanna. He returned to his cell , dragged the polecat from under the bed and told her the whole story. They laughed as much over it as we over our excellent Master Andrea's jests or the funny Strascino's, the Lord be good to his soul ! ANTONIA . Of course death was wrong to deprive Rome of them ; she is bewidowed ever since and knows no more Carnivals, Stations ( 1 ), Vineyards (2 ) or any other pastime . Nanna. What thou sayest would be true were Rome to lose Rosso, who is performing miracles with his merry conceits. But let us turn to our Lay -Brother, who never flagged day or night during a whole month, doing his seven, eight, nine and ten fine miles, on entering the valley of Josaphat, being always fresh , nimble and cheerful. ANTONIA. How did he feed her ? NANNA. As he wished. He used, in his capacity ( 1 ) The Stations of the Cross, which the Pope, with all his clergy, goes through in the various churches in Rome, at certain times of the year. ( 2) Country seats about Rome . 76 RAGIONAMENTI of purveyor to the Convent, penetrate into barns, kitchens and dwellings, and return from them three times a week with his donkey heavy laden . He would bring the Friars bread and fuel, oil for the lamp and all household necessaries; he was the man of the house. As he used, moreover, take pleasure in turnery , he made a fair share of money out of children's tops , pestles, fine spindles for the Viterbo flax ; he had besides a tithe on the wax lights burnt in the graveyard and on the death knells ; the cooks also gave him the heads, livers and lights of chickens. But now hear how the idol of this virtuous woman , who was having her body err about in paradise and caring just as much about her soul as we care about the Guelfs and Gibelines, roused the Gardner's suspicion by gathering certain small salads which the Monks did not partake of. The Gardener carefully observed his actions and movements, and on beholding his leanness, with his eyes all sunken, his legs tottering and fresh eggs always in his hand, said to himself : « There is some » thing at the bottom of this . » So he gave the hint to the bell-man, the Bell -man passed it to the Cook, the Cook to the Sacristan, the Sacristan to the Prior, the Prior to the Provincial and the Pro vincial to the General ; they set some one to watch his door, to seize upon the moment he would be II . THE LIFE OF MARRIED WOMEN 77 going to town ; by the help of a false key, they opened the door and found her whom her mother was weeping as dead . She was greatly frighted on hearing herself told : « Be off ! » and in walking out, shelooked like a gipsy that sees the fire set to the heap of faggots upon which she is tied in order to be burnt alive. The Monks, without troubling themselves the least, called the Lay- Brother, who was just returning from his round and bound him, while reserving for him something else than to go and eat under the table with the cats . They cast him into a dark dungeon , where there was a foot deep of water, allotting him a brown roll in the morning, an other in the evening, a glass of vinegar water and half a clove of garlic . They then asked themselves what they should do with the woman ; one said : « Let us bury her all alive . · Let us make her die » in prison with him, » said another. « Let us » restore her to her family, » said a few charitable souls ; there was an archer one of them , who cried : « Let us amuse ourselves with her a day or » two ; afterwards, the Lord will inspire us . » This proposition caused the young and even those of ripe age to laugh , not without making the old ones wink. They at last resolved to see how many cocks sufficed for one hen ; the sentence being pronounc ed, the parsnep glutton could not repress a slight 78 RAGIONAMENTI laugh, hearing that she was going to be the hen of so many cocks . So the hour for silence having arrived , the General spoke to her with his hands ; after him the Provincial, the Prior next, then they all in their turn , from the Bell-man down to the Gardener, mounted the walnut- tree flailing itin such a manner that she began to grow happy ; the spar rows did nothing else during two days hand run ning but go up to and come down from the hay -loft. The prisoner was released at the end of a certain time ; he came out of hell , forgiving everybody, and left his goods to the community ; he enjoyed them with the Fathers. Wouldst thou believe that she withstood so many grinding stones a whole year ? ANTONIA. Why wilt thou not have me believe it ? NANNA . And she would have stayed there always, were it not that, having become pregnant, she was shortly after brought to bed of a monster with a dog's head, which caused the Friars uneasiness. ANTONIA . Why uneasiness ? Nanna. Because the loop-hole had become so over wide on laying the monster with the dog's head , that it was a frightful sight. They computed by means of Necromancy, and found out that the dog set to guard the garden had some intimacy with her. 1 I 1 1 II . 79 THE LIFE OF MARRIED WOMEN ANTONIA. Is it possible ? NANNA. I am selling it to thee such as I bought it from those that saw the monster's corpse : the Monkish bag had in fact laid it dead . ANTONIA . What became of the dirty slut after her delivery ? NANNA. She returned to her husband, or more properly speaking, to her mother, while making use of the finest stratagem in the world. ANTONIA. Tell me all about it . NANNA. A Monk who used to cast out evil spirits and who had bottlefuls of them, jumped over bad garden fences to the very house-roof of our Convent handkerchief, and set so nicely to work that he got into it one night by the aid of the Old Boy ; he pimpered about until everybody was asleep, and then approached the chamber door where the mamma slept ; she never ceased whining and calling out her blissful daughter. The Friar heard her cry : - « Where art thou , now ? » and imitating her voice : - « In a place of safety, » he replied ; « I am » still alive, thanks to the crowns which you have placed over the well; I triumph there in the » bosom of your prayers, shall behold me » in two days hence fatter than ever. » He with drew leaving the jolly woman amazed, descended as he had come up and went to relate the funny and you >> So RAGIONAMENTI sham to the Monks, who called their common wifc. The Prior thanked her in the name of the Convent for her humanity ; he bestowed two full charges of thanks upon her, asked her pardon for not having been better able to fulfil his duty and offered him self a second time to comfort her. With a white shift upon her back, the olive crown upon her head, a palm in her fist, they sent her home two hours before day, escorted by the Monk who had advised the mother ofher coming ; the latter, whom the sham vision had revived, was anxiously on the look out for her who was so fond of boneless meat and who, when leaving her things after her on the brink of the well, had taken precious good care to carry away the key of a backdoor ; she made use of it to get in , dismissed the Father Necromancer, not without letting him nibble a small slice pre viously, and sat down over the well. Morning dawned ; the servant got up, went to draw water and put the dinner on the fire, beheld her mistress dressed like a Saint Ursula in painting and cried : « Miracle ! miracle ! » The mother, who was aware that her daughter was to perform that miracle, ran downstairs and rushed to her neck so madly, that she was very near hurling her into the well, in good earnest. There was a great ado made over her ; people flocked from all quarters to the miracle, II . 81 THE LIFE OF MARRIED WOMEN the same as when some tonsured pate gets the Crucifix or the Madonna to shed tears . Now do not fancy the husband was backward in coming for ward, although the mamma had powdered his wig well for him ; he cast himself at her feet, and, unable to say the MISERERE, owing to the flood of tears that were flowing from his eyes, he held out his crossed arms and acted as one stigmatized . She kissed him, lifted him up, and relating to him the way she had lived in the well, gave them to under stand that the Sister of the Sibyl of Norcia and the Aunt of the Fairy Morgana dwelt therein ; she made a lot of people's mouths water, that had a good mind to throw themselves into it . But what more wilt thou have me tell thee ? This well began to be held in such veneration, that an iron grating was placed over it ; every woman whose husband used to beat her came to drink of its water, and she fancied it did her a deal of good. In a little while, those that were going to get married began to grow devout to it ; they would come and beg the Fay in the Well to tell them their fortune. In one year alone, they had laid there more candles, clothes , hairsuits and small pictures than at the tomb of the Blessed Santa Lena- da -Olio, in Bologna ( 1 ) . ( 1 ) Santa Lena - da - Olio (Saint Lena of the Oil) , an abbre 11 82 RAGIONAMENTI ANTONIA . That's another downright folly . Nanna. Speak no evil of her, thou wouldst be excommunicated ; some Cardinal or other is just now collecting money to have her canonized. What is certain is she used to form a pair with that Monk who purified the people with the blessed Vastalla . ANTONIA . May she do so a hundred long years ! NANNA. Well, not to detain thee too long, I shall clip the chapter on married women. But I shall just tell thee about another, who, although she had the kindest husband in the world, got smitten by one of those fellows that turn themselves into a shop, with their goods before them, borne up by a strap round their necks, and go about crying : « Fine tags, needles, pins, pretty thimbles, looking » glasses , mirrors , combs , scissors ! » always hustering with some gossiping housewife or other, swopping oils , soaps, sham nutmegs for a piece of bread, rags, old shoes, provided they received a few half -pence to boot. She had such a burning thirst for him, that she made a stepping -stone of her honor and bestowed her whole fortune upon him . The upstart peeled off his tatters, dressed himself viation for Santa -Maddalena, a church in Bologna. Mag dalen, the sinner, is surnamed Magdalen of the Oil, because of the phial of perfume which she spilled over Christ's feet. II . THE LIFE OF MARRIED WOMEN 83 an ill up like a Knigh - errant and set to cut a dash in high - life ; he was styled Monsignor in eight days' time, and indeed he deserved a crown . ANTONIA. Why ? NANNA. Because he treated his lady -treasurer as one treats a strumpet ; and, besides caressing her with the cudgel, he went about the streets pro claiming whatever he did to her. ANTONIA. More power to him ! Nanna. Now these stories I have been telling thee are mere trifles ; but the astounding things take place among the grand ladies and lords ; if I was not afraid of being looked upon as tongue, I would talk to thee about her that gives herself up to the steward, to the footman, to the groom, to the master cook, to the scullion . ANTONIA. Nonsense ! nonsense ! NANNA. All-right ; believe me if thou wilt . ANTONIA. Nonsense, I say ! NANNA. Never mind, it's all-right; thou hast un derstood me, Antonia . ANTONIA . No one can be better understood . NANNA. But look to it : I related to thee only what I had seen of Nuns in a few days in one Convent alone, and, as to married Women, only an insignificant part of what I have seen or learned in so short a time, and within one sole town . Fancy 84 RAGIONAMENTI what it would be were I to relate to thee the doings of all the Sisters in Christianity ; as well as those of the married Women throughout all the towns in the world ! ANTONIA. Is it possible that it is with the good ones as with money : Prudence and Confidence, as thou used to say ? NANNA. Ay. ANTONIA. Even with the Sisters that observe the rule ? NANNA . I am not speaking of those ; nay more, I assure thee the prayers which they say for the bad Nuns are the cause why the Demon does not swallow the latter up with all their clothes on . Their maidenhead is as odoriferous as ever the whoring of the others is of a fetid smell . The Lord Almighty is with them day and night, as the Old Boy is with the others whether awake or asleep . Woe to us were the prayers of those holy daugh ters to cease ! ay, woe to us ! woe to us ! I will repeat it three times. Indeed , those few good Sis ters from among so many cloistered ones are so perfect, that they would deserve of us to burn candles at their feet, as at the blessed Tison's . Antonia . Thou art upright, and speakest without spite . NANNA . Among married women also there arı II . THE LIFE OF MARRIED WOMEN 85 virtuous ones, that would suffer themselves to be flayed, as Saint Bartholomew , rather than allow their finger to be meddled with . ANTONIA. I am still well pleased with that. If thou considerest the want we are born in , we poor women , we are necessarily compelled to submit to whatever the others wish, nor are we so depraved as people think . NANNA. Thou understandest nothing about it . We are born of flesh , and we die of flesh : the cod piece makes us, and the cod -piece makes away with us . I prove to thee that thou art mistaken by the example of grand Ladies, who have spares of pearls, chains and rings , as also by that of the very beggar women who would prefer to meet with Maria on the road to Ravenna ( 1 ) than with a facet - diamond. For the one who likes her husband , there are thou sands that dislike theirs ; it is moreover evident that for the two persons who bake their own bread , there are seven hundred who prefer the baker's, because it is whiter. ANTONIA. I give in . NANNA . And I accept. Let us now wind up . Womanish chastity is like a crystal decanter : thou ( 1) An Italian proverb : To encounter a lucky chance for making love to one's heart content . 86 RAGIONAMENTI mayest take ever so many precautions, it will slip from thy hands some ne day that thou art un aware and be broken in a thousand pieces ; impos sible to conserve it whole, unless thou keepest it always locked up in the cupboard. For the woman that keeps pure, we may cry out miracle at her, as at the glass cup which would fall without being broken . ANTONIA. A judicious comparison. NANNA. Let us come to the conclusion . The life of married women being once clearly seen and known to me, I began by satisfying all my whims, in order not to be below the others; so, from por ters to mighty lords , I wanted to try them all , cassocked folks, especially, the priestly and monkly. My greatest delight was that my spouse should not only know of it, but also see it; andmethought I heard people everywhere say of me : « Such a woman is doing right; she is serving him as he deserves. » Once other occasions as he was up for rebuking me, I fled at him and gave him a sound fleecing ; I was more haughty with him than if I had brought him a dowry like a mountain of gold , and shouting : « To whom dost thou think » thou art speaking, eh ? prattle-box! toper ! » I pursued him making it so warm for him that, de among II . THE LIFE OF MARRIED WOMEN 87 viating from his usual mode , he got into a passion. ANTONIA. Art thou not aware , Nanna, that in order to make a man brave, one has but to re buke him ? Nanna. I then made him brave by the way I am stating ; but when he had seen with his own eyes more than a thousand of my tricks , by dint of swallowing them, as one swallows too hot a mouth ful which seems very unpalatable, he found a poor beggar-man upon my person one fine day, but this would not go down with him ; so he rushed at my face to demolish it with boxes . I slipped from under the press , unsheathed a small dagger I had, and , being mad to see the water I was drinking made muddy, I stabbed him with it under his left breast : his pulse did not beat for a long while. ANTONIA . The Lord forgive him ! Nanna. My mother overheard it all ; she got me to make my escape, and thus brought me here, to Rome. Thou shalt hear to- morrow the result of her having led me here ; I shall say no more about it to - day. Let us rise and go away ; after so much chatting, I feel not only thirsty , but frightfully hungry. ANTONIA. Here I'm up . Oh dear ! the cramp has taken my right foot. 88 RAGIONAMENTI Nanna. Make the sign of the cross over it with thy spittle , and it will go away. ANTONIA. I have done so. Nanna. Is it any better ? ANTONIA. Ay ; it's going away, it's gone.. Nanna. Let us now return slowly, very slowly, home ; thou shalt stay with me this evening and to morrow evening. ANTONIA. It's an obligation which I shall put with the others . These words being uttered , Nanna shut the gate of her country - seat, and made for home without further parley . They arrived just as the Sun was putting on his boots to run on the shortest notice to the Antipodes, which were awaiting him, as little benumbed chicks ; the grasshoppers, silenced by his departure, yielded their role to the crickets, and remained motionless ; the Day resembled a bankrupt trader, who has an eye out for a church, to cast himself in . Already the screech - owls and bats , those parrots of darkness, went to meet the Night ; she , with her eyes swathed, speechless, demure, melan choly, came forth like a widowed matron, who, being hooded all in black , sighs for the husband dead on the preceding month. She ( 1 ) that causes the Astrologers to rave came forward masked over the scene, with a ( 1 ) The Moon. II. THE LIFE OF MARRIED WOMEN 89 stripe of winding-sheet round her face; the Stars, which remain or do not remain in their place, with their good or evil companions, gilt all with fire, by the hand of the gold- smith , Mister Apollo, poked their noses at the window by one, by two , by three , by four, by fifty , by a hundred, by a thousand : one would really have fancied they were roses which blow at dawn one by one, then , when the Poets' Solicitor shoots his beam , show themselves all together. I should have rather com pared them to an army in a campaign taking up its quarters : the soldiers come forth by ten , by twenty, then behold their whole host scattered in an instant throughout all the houses. But perhaps this comparison might not have been pleasing : without roses, violets and herbelets people relish no ragout nowadays. At this hour, be it as it may, Nanna and Antonia, having arrived at where they wanted to arrive, and having done what they had to do, lay down until morning. END OF The MARRIED WOMEN's life 12

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