Filomena (the Queen for the day) began the ninth story of the day.
Proverb: “the deceiver is at the mercy of the one he deceives” (166).
A number of prosperous Italian merchants were staying at an inn in Paris. One evening over dinner, they all began talking about the ladies they had left at home. The men seemed to all agree that their ladies cheated on them as much as they cheated on their ladies. Only Bernabo Lomellin da Genoa disagreed. His wife, Madoona Zinevra, was far more beautiful, well-mannered, virtuous, and chaste than any other woman; he knew that she would never cheat him. One merchant named Ambruogiuolo da Piacenza started to laugh at Bernabo’s naivety. Ambruogiuolo told him that he obviously didn’t understand human nature, because “man is the most noble animal among all living creatures created by God, and woman comes next; but man, as is generally believed and demonstrated through his actions, is more perfect; and since man possesses more perfection, without a doubt, he must have more strength of will, as he in fact does, for women are commonly held to be more fickle” (168). Therefore, if a man, who has a greater strength of will, cannot resist the temptation to stray than a woman definitely couldn’t. He continued by saying that the only chaste woman is the one who has not been propositioned or has had her advances declined. Bernabo was angry. He challenged Ambruogiuolo to sleep with his wife; if he succeeded then Bernabo would give him 5,000 gold florins, but if he failed Ambruogiuolo would have to give him 1,000 gold florins. Agreeing on the terms, they drew up a contract, and signed it.
Ambruogiuolo set out for Genoa immediately. He quickly learned that Bernabo was right about his wife, but he refused to lose so he came up with a plan. He bribed a poor woman, who regularly visited the lady. The woman agreed to ask the lady to hold a chest for her. Ambruogiuolo hid inside the chest before it was brought into the house and waited for nightfall. Once he was convinced that Madonna was asleep, he got out of the chest. He memorized the room. He then drew back the bed sheets and looked at her naked body; he noticed that she had a mole under her left breast, which had six golden hairs growing out of it. He covered her back up, took a few trinkets, and got back into the chest. The poor woman fetched the chest on the third day, and Ambruogiuolo immediately went back to Paris.
Ambruogiuolo managed to convince Bernabo that his wife had slept with him. He was very angry and went back to Genoa. He stopped about twenty miles out of town at one of his properties. He then ordered one of his most trustworthy servants to bring his wife to where he was, and along the way kill her. The servant did as he was told. She asked what she had done wrong to make her husband want her dead, but the servant didn’t know. She promised to leave the area and never return if he let her go. He gave her his cloak and she left.
She cut her hair like a sailor and wore masculine clothes. She headed for the sea where she came upon a noble Catalan. She managed to get herself hired aboard his ship. She changed her name to Sicuran da Finale. He became very fond of her.
In Alexandria, the Catalan delivered peregrine falcons to the Sultan, and he invited the Catalan to dine with him. The Sultan observed Sicuran, who waited on her master well. The Sultan wanted her for himself, and the Catalan reluctantly left Sicurano with the Sultan. The Sultan valued her very much.
Time passed, and it was now time for the great trade fair. The Sultan protected the merchants and their goods. He put Sicurano in charge of the guards who safeguarded the merchants and their goods.
One day, she was walking through the fair and noticed a few of her belongings. She asked the merchant about them. He told her the story that he had told Bernabo. Sicurano now understood why her husband wanted her dead. She pretended to be amused by the story. She knew what she had to do now. She managed to convince him to come to Alexandria with her and his merchandise, and she would set him up in a shop there and give him money. Later, she managed to get Bernabo, who was now poor, to Alexandria. She convinced Ambruogiuolo to tell the story to the Sultan, who enjoyed it very much. Bernabo arrived. Ambruogiuolo was pressured by both Sicurano and the Sultan to tell the true story. Sicurano revealed herself to everyone there, even bearing her breasts to fully convince them. Bernabo and Ambruogiuolo were both ashamed at what they had done to her. The Sultan gave her beautiful feminine clothes. The Sultan ordered Ambruogiuolo tied to a stake and smeared with honey. All that he had was given to Madonna (10,000 doubloons), and the Sultan gave them another 10,000. They returned to Genoa. She was from then on held in high esteem by all. Ambruogiuolo died on that stake and his bleached bones were left there to remind people of his wickedness.
Boccaccio, Giovanni. The Decameron. Trans. Mark Musa, and Peter Bondanella. New York: Signet Classics, 1982.