The story is told of a certain bishop of Cologne, who had a half-wit in his house of whom he was very fond, so that he permitted him to share his bed. One night, it chanced that a nun also occupied the same bed, and the fool, who slept at the foot of the bed, felt that there were more legs than usual.
Being curious over this circumstance, he touched each of the four legs in turn and asked to whom they belonged. And each time the bishop answered that it was his. Upon this, the fool jumped hastily up and, running to the window, cried out in a loud voice: “Come quickly, everybody, if you would see a strange and monstrous thing! Our bishop has become four-legged!”
In this manner he disclosed the scandalous conduct of his master.
A Venetian once journeyed on horseback to Treviso, while his servant followed behind afoot. It chanced that the latter, receiving a blow from the horse on his shins, picked up a stone in his rage and hurled it at the animal. The missile, however, was ill aimed and struck the master instead, in the rear.
Now, when the servant, who was lagging on account of his injury, was commanded by his master to hasten his steps, he made answer: “I cannot go faster; I have been lamed by the horse.”
Upon which the master consoled him, saying: “You are not alone in your misfortune; but a moment ago, the beast kicked me, too, in the seat.
A townsman of mine, named Dante, whose wife was reputed to be lacking in modesty, was often warned by his friends to preserve his house and name from public scandal. Finally he brought her to account and charged her openly with her sins. She, however, with many tears and oaths, denied all the charges and swore that they emanated solely from evil minds who envied her quiet and modest life.
The man permitted himself to be persuaded by his wife’s protests; and when his friends sought again to bring calumny against her, he cried: “Enough! I will hear no more of this! Can you possibly know more of my wife’s sins than she herself?” And when they shook their heads to this, he added: “Very well, then, she claims that you all lie, and I have chosen to believe her rather than you.”
An old bishop, whom I knew, complained that he had already lost a number of his teeth, and that others were shaking so badly that he feared to lose these also.
At this a man of his district said: “Have no fear that you will lose your teeth.”
“Why not?” the bishop asked curiously.
“Well, my testicles have been hanging loose for the last forty years seeming always on the point of falling off, yet I have never lost them.”
A shoemaker in Arezzo had an apprentice who often left the workshop and retired into the house of his master, on the ground that he could work better and more comfortably in the quiet of the house.
This aroused the suspicions of the shoemaker, so that he came to the house one day unexpectedly and found the lad in bed with his wife.
Whereupon he said sternly to his apprentice: “You are wasting your time; for this type of work I shall certainly not pay you.”
Daccono dell’ Ardinghelli, citizen of Florence, was appointed guardian of an estate, and administered his trust over a long period in such a manner that he consumed every penny of it in food and drink.
Summoned finally before a magistrate to give an accounting, and instructed to present his books showing income and expenditures, Daccono pointed to his mouth and rear, saying: “Aside from these, I have no other records of income and outgo.”
Pope Gregory XII had, before his election, made valiant promises to overcome the schism that was then rending the Church; and even went so far as to say that rather than fail in his efforts he would first relinquish his high office. But when he learned to enjoy his power, he forgot his promises and entirely forgot to carry out what he had sworn to do.
In this connection, the Cardinal of Bordeaux, a wise and sincere man, who was enraged by this betrayal, was reminded of a certain mountebank who promised to fly. And he related the following story:
Recently there came into Bologna a mountebank who announced by public proclamation that he would fly from a tower near the church of St. Raphael for a distance of over a mile across the city. On the appointed day, 28 the people of Bologna gathered at the place, and waited like fools in the sun, without food, till evening drew near. All eyes were turned upon the tower, hoping for the man to begin his flight. And when he showed himself upon the tower and flapped his wings as if about to fly, pretending to be on the verge of casting himself into space, a great applause went up from the throng that watched his movements with open mouths.
Finally, at dusk, the mountebank, for want of something better to do, turned his back to the crowd and showed them his behind. And thus these misled people, weary with hunger and disappointment, had to turn back helplessly and go home.
“In the same way,” the cardinal concluded, “the pontiff, after his numerous promises, attempts to satisfy us by turning his rear.”
A peasant of our district, a stupid devil, who was utterly ignorant in matters of sex, got married. Thus it happened one night that his wife turned her back to him in bed, so that her buttocks rested in his lap. He had his weapon ready and landed by chance right in the goal. Marveling at his success, he inquired of his wife if she had two openings. And when she answered in the affirmative, he cried: “Hoho! I am content with but one; the second is entirely superfluous.” Upon which the sly woman, who was secretly consorting with the local priest, replied: “Then we can give the second away to charity. Let us grant it to the church and our priest.” The peasant, thinking to be relieved of an unnecessary burden, agreed.
Accordingly, the priest was invited to the 32 evening meal, and the matter was set before him. Thereafter, the three ate heartily and then proceeded to bed, being careful to have the woman between them. The priest, hungry for this rare tit-bit, made the first advances, which the woman answered with soft whispers and familiar sounds. At this, the peasant, fearing that the priest was attempting to trespass on his side of the fence, called out: “Hey there, old friend, remember the agreement. You stick to your own side, and let mine alone!” But the priest was equal to the occasion. “God forbid!” he replied. “I care nothing for your possessions, so long as the property of the church is at my disposal.”
With these words he reassured the dull peasant, who thereupon urged him to continue to serve himself at his own discretion with the share which had been granted to the church.
Angelotto, Bishop of Anagni, being present at a discussion of curious witcheries, told the following story:
A kinsman of mine, as he wandered nightly through the deserted streets of a city, accosted a woman who appeared to him so lovely, that he hastened to expend his eager desires upon her. No sooner was he done with her than she changed suddenly into the horribly ugly form of a man, who cried: “Ha-ha! You blockhead! I certainly tricked you that time!”
“That may be,” replied my kinsman, unperturbed, “but I have with equal certainty wet your behind.
A Florentine had in his home a young man who instructed his children in the elements of knowledge. After a long stay, the young tutor felt himself so much at home that he had in turn the housemaid, the nurse, and finally the mistress herself.
When the master of the house, who was a jovial fellow discovered this, he summoned the young man to his private chamber and said: “I find it unmannerly of you, sir, that in taking your pleasure of my entire household you have made an exception of me.”
The father of a friend of mine had intimate relations with the wife of a man who was extremely dull-witted and moreover stuttered. One night, believing the stupid fellow to be away from home, he knocked upon her door and, jokingly imitating the stuttering tones of her husband, demanded to be admitted.
It so happened, however, that the fool was home and, as he heard the familiar voice, he said to his wife:
“Open the door, my dear, and let him in; for it seems that it is I who am knocking.”
A married woman from Siena had a lover who, thinking to amuse himself at her expense, told her that he had never enjoyed another woman who had so wide an opening as hers.
The woman, believing herself to be highly complimented, replied: “It is charming of you to say so, but I am sure I do not deserve it. Oh, if it were only true as you say, I would feel much more beautiful and worthy of your love.”
A Florentine, already advanced in years, took a young girl to wife, who had been instructed by older women to resist the embraces of her husband on her bridal night, and to defend herself against his first attack.
In accordance with this advice, the young woman remained obdurate to the utmost efforts of the bridegroom, until he, seeing her firm intent, asked his wife why she did not surrender more willingly. To this the virgin replied that she had a headache. And the older man, being well acquainted in such matters, thereupon turned over and went to sleep.
Now, when dawn came, the young woman, realizing that she had carried matters too far in rejecting her husband’s advances, awoke him, saying: “My head no longer hurts me.” . . . “That may be,” he replied, 38 “but now my tail hurts.”
From which it is clear that it is wiser to accept good things when they are offered.
The wife of a nobleman, having failed after a number of years to bear him a child, was put aside by him. When she returned to the home of her parents, her father charged her heavily with not doing all in her power to have a child.
To this his daughter answered: “My dear father, I am truly not to blame in this matter, for I tried all the servants of the house and even called in the stableboy.”
Hearing this, the good man saw that she had done all in her power to correct her childlessness, and bemoaned her misfortune.
A woman, who, owing to some skin disease, had been compelled to completely shave her head, was hurriedly called by a neighbor from the house, and in her haste forgot to cover up her head.
When the neighbor saw her in this fashion, she assailed her for appearing in public with her ugly scalp uncovered. Whereat the poor woman, in order to hide her head, thoughtlessly lifted her skirt and exposed her behind.
This illustrates the folly of those who, in order to conceal a minor fault, commit a grosser misdeed.
Another preacher, named Paolo, whom I knew, declared, during a sermon which he delivered in Secia, a city of Campania, that some people were so intemperate and lascivious, that in order to increase the pleasure of intercourse with their wives, they would place a pillow under their behind.
As a result, some of those who were not familiar with this practice, were so aroused that at the very next opportunity they tried it out, to see if the report was correct.
A young countryman, who had a goose to sell, journeyed to Florence, and there he chanced to meet a housewife who considered herself something of a wit. Thinking to tease him, she asked him how much his goose was worth. “You may have it for a mere trifle,” he said. “How much, then?” she persisted. “Just for one little coition,” the farmer answered, unabashed. Finding the joke to her relish, she invited him into the house, and when he persisted in his demand, agreed to the bargain.
Now, as soon as they had been together, the woman lying above him, she demanded the goose. But he refused on the ground that being over him, she had possessed him rather than he her, and he therefore owed her nothing. So they reversed positions, this time the young man being in the saddle. And 45 when she demanded the goose a second time, the cunning fellow again refused, claiming that now they were quits, and she still owed him one for the goose.
In the midst of their bickering, her husband entered and sought to know the nature of the dispute. To which the woman replied with ready wit: “I had planned to prepare a choice meal for you, but this beastly peasant has spoiled everything. We had agreed on a price of twenty soldi for the goose, but now he changes his mind completely and demands twenty-two.”
“Eh!” exclaimed the husband lightly. “Shall our fine dinner be ruined for so trifling a sum! Here, fellow, take your money!”
And thus the farmer had both his money and his pleasure.
I once asked how one could avoid getting cold in bed. Whereupon a gentleman who was present answered:
“You can prevent it by a remedy that was discovered by a friend of mine, during the course of his studies.
“Whereas he was formerly accustomed to go to the privy regularly after the evening meal, he found that by postponing this act till morning, the retained food would keep his body warm at night.”
The story is told by Francesco Filelfo of a group of friends who were discussing what punishment should properly be inflicted upon unfaithful wives. Boniface Salutati proposed the method which a Bolognese friend of his had threatened to use upon his wife. And when we inquired the nature of this method, he said:
“A man of Bologna, not too worthy of esteem, had a rather easily approachable wife, whom I had also on occasion had at my disposal. One night, as I came to his house, I heard the pair engaged in a furious quarrel. The husband was complaining of his wife’s infidelities, while she denied everything without scruple, as women are accustomed to do in such matters.
Finally, the exasperated man cried: “Giovanna! Giovanna! I shall not beat you, but 48 I will restrain your freedom by giving you so many children that the house will be full of them. Then I will up and go, and leave you alone with them.”
We all had to laugh at this remarkable kind of punishment by which the fool thought to avenge himself for his wife’s infidelities.
The talk turned one day on the stupidity of some ambassadors who were sent with missions to high rulers. After some instances had been recounted, Antonio Lusco related the story of a certain ambassador who was sent by the people of Florence to Queen Giovanna of Naples.
He was called Francesco and was a doctor of law, although quite uncultured. After he had accomplished his mission, he received a request to return to the court on the following day. Meanwhile he had learned that the queen was not averse to the company of men whose appearance was pleasing to her.
Thus, when he stood before her on the morrow, he spoke vaguely about this and that, and finally let it be known that there were some secret matters he desired to present. 50 The queen, under the impression that he had a message which could not be revealed in public, thereupon gave him an audience in her private chamber.
Here the idiot, having an exalted opinion of his appearance, requested that he be permitted to lie with her. The queen did not move an eyelash; but looking steadily at the fellow, she asked: “Is this request a part of the commission you received from your republic?”
As the poor wretch flushed and was silent, the queen added, without a sign of anger: “Go back, then, and first secure the authority of Florence for your request.”
A young woman of Bologna, who had been recently married, complained to a distinguished lady of her acquaintance that her husband beat her mercilessly, because she lay motionless like a log during their marital intercourse.
“But why, my child, do you not do what your husband desires of you?” the matron asked.
“I do now know how to do it, Signora,” the unhappy wife answered, “for no one ever taught me how to behave in bed. I would gladly satisfy my husband if I knew how, in order to escape his anger.”
What a strangely innocent child who knew nothing of what nature so readily teaches all women!
A married woman went to confess her sins to a friar of the minor orders. During the confession, the friar was strongly moved with desire and importuned her so ardently that he finally won her to his passion, it remaining only to arrange the manner of their meeting. They arrived at the plan that the woman should feign a sickness and summon the monk to her bedside, it being the custom to leave such people alone in order that the soul may be free to express itself.
So the woman took to bed, complaining of grave pains, and called for her confessor. The latter came and soon, finding himself alone in her chamber, removed his breeches and proceeded to hear her confession in the manner agreed upon.
Now, the confession took a remarkably 53 long time, and the husband, though still unsuspicious, wondered at the delay and suddenly entered the room. The startled monk, terrified by his discovery, scampered away, leaving his breeches behind in his haste.
When the husband saw the breeches, he protested loudly that the man was not a friar but an adulterer, and hastening to the prior of the monastery, he complained bitterly and threatened the guilty man with death. The friar, who was an old man, persuaded him, however, that for the sake of his family and honor, it was best to keep the matter quiet. But the husband pointed out that the thing was public enough on account of the breeches, and could not be concealed.
Nevertheless, the old prior found a way out of this, saying that the breeches could pass for those of St. Francis, which the friar had taken as a holy relic to cure the sick woman. And he would come and fetch them with 54 solemn pomp and public ceremony.
Thereupon the prior assembled the monks, and, clothed in their sacred vestments, the latter proceeded to the house of the injured man. There the prior took the breeches devoutly up and bore them away on a silken cushion. and so, accompanied by chants and proper ceremony, they were returned to the monastery and placed together with the other relics.
When the jest was discovered, however, officials of the city held an inquiry into the sacrilege.