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Fifth Day.



Already had the birds related to the ambassadress of the Sun all the tricks and intrigues that had been perpetrated during the night, when the Prince Taddeo and the Princess Lucia repaired early in the morning to the accustomed spot, where nine women out of the ten were already assembled. Then the Prince inquired why Jacova had not come; and on being told that she had taken a cold in her head, he commanded that another woman should be found to supply her place. So they summoned Zoza, who lived opposite to the royal palace; and she was received by Taddeo with great compliments, both on account of the obligations he owed her and the affection he felt for her.

Then the women all gathered flowers, one blossoming mint, another spikenard, another the five-leaved rue, in short one this plant and another that. And one made herself a garland as if she were going to recite a farce, another a nosegay, a third stuck a full-blown rose in her bosom, a fourth put a variegated carnation in her mouth. But as it wanted nearly four hours to midday, the Prince commanded, in order to pass the time pleasantly till dinner, that some game should be played for the amusement of his wife: and giving the hint to Cola Jacovo the carver, a man of great ingenuity, Cola, as if he had a pocketful of inventions, quickly found one, saying, "Those pleasures, my lord, have ever been insipid which are not connected with some object of usefulness; entertainments and evening parties were not invented for useless pleasure, but rather for pleasurable profit; for this kind of amusement not only affords pastime, but the wits are sharpened and rendered quick in determining and answering the questions put; and this is just the case with that game of games which is played in the following manner. I will propose some game to one of these ladies, who, without taking thought, has to tell me instantly that it does not please her, and the reason why; and she who hesitates to reply, or replies in an inappropriate manner, has to pay a forfeit, which the Princess shall appoint. So, to start the game, I should like to play with Signora Zeza a hand at trumps for half a crown." And Zeza instantly replied, "I'll not play at that, for I am no robber."

"Bravo!" said Taddeo; "for he who robs is too often a knave of trumps."

"Well, then," replied Cola Jacovo, "Signora Cecca will play with me a game at Bankrupt."—"You'll not catch me at that," answered Cecca, "for I am no merchant."

"She is right," said Taddeo, "for that game is made for them."

"At all events, Signora Popa," continued Cola Jacovo, "let us play at 'Twenty-figures', and I'll give you the lead."—"By no means," replied Popa, "for that is a game which flatterers play."

"Spoken like Orlando!" said Taddeo; "for they make twenty and even thirty figures, transforming themselves whenever they like, to put a poor prince in a sack."

"The deuce take it!" continued Cola Jacovo, "I see that the time will pass away without my having any sport, unless Signora Ciulla will play with me the game of 'Call' for a pint of beans."—"Do you take me for a constable?" replied Ciulla: and Taddeo quickly rejoined, "In truth she has said wisely, for it is the business of the sheriffs and constables to call folks to the court."

"Come now. Signora Paola," rejoined Cola Jacovo, "let us play at piquet for a penny."—"Wrong again," replied Paola, "for I am no courtier."

"She's a doctor in woman’s clothes!" answered the Prince; for there is no place where people's reputation is more picked at than in our courts."

"Well," said Cola Jacovo, "I cannot believe that Signora Zoza will refuse my invitation like the rest; she will give me the pleasure of playing with her a game of 'Beg of my neighbour'[1]."—"Eh indeed!" replied Zoza; "that's a game for children."

"A forfeit, a forfeit!" exclaimed Taddeo; "for this is a game which all folks play at, down to old people; and therefore, Signora Lucia, it remains for you to name the punishment."

Then Zoza rising from her seat went and knelt before the Princess, who commanded her by way of penance to sing a Neapolitan Villanella. Whereupon Zoza, calling for the tambourine, whilst the Prince's coachman played on the citern, sang a Canzona, which was listened to with the greatest pleasure, and was finished just as the tables were laid out, on which was spread plenty to eat and drink. When all had eaten their fill and the cloth was removed, the command was given to Cecca to open the conclusion of the Stories, and she began as follows.

  1. I have substituted this game, and abridged the whole of this introduction to the Fifth Day.