A Story Of Ravenna





Ravenna being a very ancient city in Romagna, there dwelt sometime a

great number of worthy gentlemen, among whom I am to speak of one more

especially, named Anastasio, descended from the family of Onesti, who by

the death of his father, and an uncle of his, was left extraordinarily

abounding in riches and growing to years fitting for marriage. As young

gallants are easily apt enough to do, he became enamoured of a very

beautiful gentlewoman, who was daughter of Messer Paolo Traversario, one

of the most ancient and noble families in all the country. Nor made he

any doubt, by his means and industrious endeavour, to derive affection

from her again, for he carried himself like a braveminded gentleman,

liberal in his expenses, honest and affable in all his actions, which

commonly are the true notes of a good nature, and highly to be commended

in any man. But, howsoever, fortune became his enemy; these laudable

parts of manhood did not any way friend him, but rather appeared hurtful

to himself, so cruel, unkind, and almost merely savage did she show

herself to him, perhaps in pride of her singular beauty or presuming on

her nobility by birth, both which are rather blemishes than ornaments in

a woman when they be especially abused. The harsh and uncivil usage in

her grew very distasteful to Anastasio, and so insufferable that after a

long time of fruitless service, requited still with nothing but coy

disdain, desperate resolutions entered into his brain, and often he was

minded to kill himself. But better thoughts supplanting those furious

passions, he abstained from such a violent act, and governed by mere

manly consideration, determined that as she hated him, he would requite

her with the like, if he could, wherein he became altogether deceived,

because as his hopes grew to a daily decaying, yet his love enlarged

itself more and more.



Thus Anastasio persevering still in his bootless affection, and his

expenses not limited within any compass, it appeared in the judgment of

his kindred and friends that he was fallen into a mighty consumption,

both of his body and means. In which respects many times they advised

him to leave the city of Ravenna, and live in some other place for such

a while as might set a more moderate stint upon his spendings, and

bridle the indiscreet course of his love, the only fuel which fed his

furious fire.



Anastasio held out thus a long time, without lending an ear to such

friendly counsel; but in the end he was so closely followed by them, as

being no longer able to deny them, he promised to accomplish their

request. Whereupon making such extraordinary preparation as if he were

to set out thence for France or Spain, or else into some further

country, he mounted on horseback, and accompanied with some few of his

familiar friends, departed from Ravenna, and rode to a country

dwelling-house of his own, about three or four miles distant from the

city, at a place called Chiassi; and there upon a very good green

erecting divers tents and pavilions, such as great persons make use of

in the time of progress, he said to his friends which came with him

thither that there he determined to make his abiding, they all returning

back unto Ravenna, and coming to visit him again so often as they

pleased.



Now it came to pass that about the beginning of May, it being then a

very mild and serene season, and he leading there a much more

magnificent life than ever he had done before, inviting divers to dine

with him this day and as many to-morrow, and not to leave him till after

supper, upon a sudden falling into remembrance of his cruel mistress, he

commanded all his servants to forbear his company, and suffer him to

walk alone by himself a while, because he had occasion of private

meditations, wherein he would not by any means be troubled. It was then

about the ninth hour of the day, and he walking on solitary all alone,

having gone some half a mile distance from the tents, entered into a

grove of pine-trees, never minding dinner-time or anything else, but

only the unkind requital of his love.



Suddenly he heard the voice of a woman seeming to make most mournful

complaints, which breaking off his silent considerations, made him to

lift up his head to know the reason of this noise. When he saw himself

so far entered into the grove before he could imagine where he was, he

looked amazedly round about him, and out of a little thicket of bushes

and briars round engirt with spreading trees, he espied a young damsel

come running towards him, naked from the middle upward, her hair lying

on her shoulders, and her fair skin rent and torn with the briars and

brambles, so that the blood ran trickling down mainly, she weeping,

wringing her hands, and crying out for mercy so loud as she could. Two

fierce bloodhounds also followed swiftly after, and where their teeth

took hold did most cruelly bite her. Last of all, mounted on a lusty

black courser, came galloping a knight, with a very stern and angry

countenance, holding a drawn short sword in his hand, giving her very

dreadful speeches, and threatening every minute to kill her.



This strange and uncouth sight bred in him no mean admiration, as also

kind compassion to the unfortunate woman, out of which compassion sprung

an earnest desire to deliver her, if he could, from a death so full of

anguish and horror; but seeing himself to be without arms, he ran and

plucked up the plant of a tree, which handling as if it had been a

staff, he opposed himself against the dogs and the knight, who seeing

him coming, cried out in this manner to him: "Anastasio, put not thyself

in any opposition, but refer to my hounds and me to punish this wicked

woman as she hath justly deserved." And in speaking these words, the

hounds took fast hold on her body, so staying her until the knight was

come nearer to her, and alighted from his horse, when Anastasio, after

some other angry speeches, spake thus to him: "I cannot tell what or who

thou art, albeit thou takest such knowledge of me, yet I must say it is

mere cowardice in a knight, being armed as thou art, to offer to kill a

naked woman, and make thy dogs thus to seize on her, as if she were a

savage beast; therefore, believe me, I will defend her so far as I am

able."



"Anastasio," answered the knight, "I am of the same city as thou art,

and do well remember that thou wast a little lad when I, who was then

named Guido Anastasio, and thine uncle, became as entirely in love with

this woman as now thou art with Paolo Traversario's daughter. But

through her coy disdain and cruelty, such was my heavy fate that

desperately I slew myself with this short sword which thou beholdest in

mine hand; for which rash sinful deed I was and am condemned to eternal

punishment. This wicked woman, rejoicing immeasurably in mine unhappy

death, remained no long time alive after me, and for her merciless sin

of cruelty, and taking pleasure in my oppressing torments, dying

unrepentant, and in pride of her scorn, she had the like sentence of

condemnation pronounced on her, and was sent to the same place where I

was condemned.



"There the three impartial judges imposed this further infliction on us

both--namely, that she should fly in this manner before me, and I, who

loved her so dearly while I lived, must pursue her as my deadly enemy,

not like a woman that had a taste of love in her. And so often as I can

overtake her, I am to kill her with this sword, the same weapon

wherewith I slew myself. Then am I enjoined therewith to open her

accursed body, and tear out her heart, with her other inwards, as now

thou seest me do, which I give to my hounds to feed on. Afterward--such

is the appointment of the supreme powers--that she re-assumeth life

again, even as if she had not been dead at all, and falling to the same

kind of flight, I with my hounds am still to follow her, without any

respite or intermission. Every Friday, and just at this hour, our course

is this way, where she suffereth the just punishment inflicted on her.

Nor do we rest any of the other days, but are appointed unto other

places, where she cruelly executed her malice against me, who am now, of

her dear affectionate friend, ordained to be her endless enemy, and to

pursue her in this manner for so many years as she exercised months of

cruelty towards me. Hinder me not, then, in being the executioner of

Divine justice, for all thy interposition is but in vain in seeking to

cross the appointment of supreme powers."



Anastasio having heard all this discourse, his hair stood upright, like

porcupines' quills, and his soul was so shaken with the terror, that he

stepped back to suffer the knight to do what he was enjoined, looking

yet with mild commiseration on the poor woman, who kneeling most humbly

before the knight, and sternly seized on by the two bloodhounds, he

opened her breast with his weapon, drawing forth her heart and bowels,

which instantly he threw to the dogs, and they devoured them very

greedily. Soon after the damsel, as if none of this punishment had been

inflicted on her, started up suddenly, running amain towards the

seashore, and the hounds swiftly following her, as the knight did the

like, after he had taken his sword and was mounted on horseback, so that

Anastasio had soon lost all sight of them, and could not guess what

could become of them.



After he had heard and observed all these things, he stood a while as

confounded with fear and pity, like a simple silly man, hoodwinked with

his own passions, not knowing the subtle enemy's cunning illusions in

offering false suggestions to the sight, to work his own ends thereby,

and increase the number of his deceived servants. Forthwith he persuaded

himself that he might make good use of this woman's tormenting, so

justly imposed on the knight to prosecute, if thus it should continue

still every Friday. Wherefore setting a good note or mark upon the

place, he returned back to his own people, and at such times as he

thought convenient, sent for divers of his kindred and friends from

Ravenna, who being present with him, thus he spake to them:



"Dear kinsmen and friends, ye have long while importuned me to

discontinue my over-doating love to her whom you all think, and I find

to be my mortal enemy; as also to give over my lavish expenses, wherein

I confess myself too prodigal; both which requests of yours I will

condescend to, provided that you will perform one gracious favour for

me--namely, that on Friday next, Messer Paolo Traversario, his wife,

daughter, with all other women linked in lineage to them, and such

beside only as you shall please to appoint, will vouchsafe to accept a

dinner here with me. As for the reason thereto moving me, you shall then

more at large be acquainted withal." This appeared no difficult matter

for them to accomplish. Wherefore being returned to Ravenna, and as they

found the time answerable to their purpose, they invited such as

Anastasio had appointed them. And although they found it somewhat a hard

matter to gain her company whom he had so dearly affected, yet

notwithstanding, the other women won her along with them.



A most magnificent dinner had Anastasio provided, and the tables were

covered under the pine-trees, where he saw the cruel lady so pursued and

slain; directing the guests so in their seating that the young

gentlewoman, his unkind mistress, sate with her face opposite unto the

place where the dismal spectacle was to be seen. About the closing up of

dinner, they began to hear the noise of the poor persecuted woman, which

drove them all to much admiration, desiring to know what it was, and no

one resolving them they rose from the tables, and looking directly as

the noise came to them, they espied the woful woman, the dogs eagerly

pursuing her; the knight galloping after them with his drawn weapon, and

came very near unto the company, who cried out with loud exclaims

against the dogs, and the knights stepped forth in assistance of the

injured woman.



The knight spake unto them as formerly he had done to Anastasio, which

made them draw back possessed with fear and admiration, while he acted

the same cruelty as he did the Friday before, not differing in the least

degree. Most of the gentlewomen there present, being near allied to the

unfortunate woman, and likewise to the knight, remembering well both his

love and death, did shed tears as plentifully as if it had been to the

very persons themselves in usual performance of the action indeed. Which

tragical scene being passed over, and the woman and knight gone out of

their sight, all that had seen this strange accident fell into diversity

of confused opinions, yet not daring to disclose them, as doubting some

further danger to ensue thereon.



But beyond all the rest, none could compare in fear and astonishment

with the cruel young maid affected by Anastasio, who both saw and

observed all with a more inward apprehension, knowing very well that the

moral of this dismal spectacle carried a much nearer application to her

than any other in the company. For now she could call to mind how unkind

and cruel she had shown herself to Anastasio, even as the other

gentlewoman formerly did to her lover, still flying from him in great

contempt and scorn, for which she thought the bloodhounds also pursued

her at the heels already, and a sword of vengeance to mangle her body.

This fear grew so powerful upon her, that to prevent the like heavy doom

from falling on her, she studied, and therein bestowed all the night

season, how to change her hatred into kind love, which at the length she

fully obtained, and then purposed to procure in this manner: Secretly

she sent a faithful chambermaid of her own to greet Anastasio on her

behalf, humbly entreating him to come see her, because now she was

absolutely determined to give him satisfaction in all which, with

honour, he could request of her. Whereto Anastasio answered that he

accepted her message thankfully, and desired no other favour at her hand

but that which stood with her own offer, namely, to be his wife in

honourable marriage. The maid knowing sufficiently that he could not be

more desirous of the match than her mistress showed herself to be, made

answer in her name that this motion would be most welcome to her.



Hereupon the gentlewoman herself became the solicitor to her father and

mother, telling them plainly that she was willing to be the wife of

Anastasio; which news did so highly content them, that upon the Sunday

next following the marriage was very worthily solemnised, and they lived

and loved together very kindly. Thus the Divine bounty, out of the

malignant enemy's secret machinations, can cause good effects to arise

and succeed. For from this conceit of fearful imagination in her, not

only happened this long-desired conversion of a maid so obstinately

scornful and proud, but likewise all the women of Ravenna, being

admonished by her example, grew afterward more tractable to men's honest

motions than ever they showed themselves before. And let me make some

use hereof, fair ladies, to you not to stand over-nicely conceited of

your beauty and good parts when men solicit you with their best

services. Remember then this disdainful gentlewoman, but more

especially her, who being the death of so kind a lover was therefore

condemned to perpetual punishment, and he made the minister thereof whom

she had cast off with coy disdain, from which I wish your minds to be

free, as mine is ready to do you any acceptable service.





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