Pampinea began the second story of the third day.
The moral of the following story according to Pampinea is: “some people, having discovered or heard something which they are better off not knowing, are so anxious at any cost to reveal what they know that sometimes when reproaching the hidden defects of others with the purpose of lessening their own shame, they in fact increase it out of all proportion” (200-1).
Agilulf, the King of the Lombards, married a woman named Teudelinga, who was the widow of the previous King of the Lombards. She was loved very much by one of the King’s horse grooms, who was both more tall and handsome than was customary of a servant. He did everything he could think of to win her favor, short of telling her his feelings, which he knew would be pointless. He soon became her favorite groom, and the groom considered himself blessed.
His desire for the Queen began to weigh on him, and he contemplated killing himself so that he would be free from his desires. He decided that if he was to kill himself then he must make it happen in a way that would shed light on his feelings for the Queen. He decided that he was going to impersonate the King and sleep with the Queen. He knew that the King did not spend every night with the Queen, so he decided to hide and observe the King when he went to call on his bride. The King wore a large cloak and carried a lighted torch and a small rod. The King knocked on the Queen’s door once or twice with the rod and the door was immediately opened by the chambermaid, and the torch was taken from the King. The King went back to his own bedroom once he was done with his wife.
The groom managed to find a cloak similar to the Kings and decided to go and visit the Queen that night. He took a hot bath, so that the Queen would not smell the horse manure on him. Once the groom was sure that everyone was asleep, he did what he had seen the King done, and gained entrance the Queen’s chamber. He took off his cloak and lay down beside the sleeping Queen. He took her with great passion, and when he was done he left the way the King had. He went back to his bed.
The King decided that he was going to go the Queen’s chamber that night also, but when he got there the Queen remarked that twice in one night was unusual. The King realized what had happened, but kept it to himself because he did not want shame to fall on himself or his wife. He left the Queen, and vowed to find out who had bedded his wife. He knew that it had to be one of the servants, so he angrily went to the large room where the servants slept. He reasoned that the man who had slept with his wife would not have been able to calm his pulse yet, so the King went around feeling everyone’s heart one by one. The groom pretended to be asleep, but when the King felt his heart it was beating rapidly. The King decided to cut a lock of the groom’s hair above the ear, so that he could identify him the following day; in those days hair was worn long. The King went back to bed. The groom realized why he had been marked thusly, so he went from bed to bed and cut the hair of all of the men the way that his hair had been cut.
The next morning, the King had all of his men lined up in front of him. When he had seen that all of the servants hair had been cut, he realized that he had been outsmarted, and instead of making his shame known to everyone he decided to offer a stern warning to all instead. He announced: “Let whoever did it never do it again, and now, with God’s blessing, be off with you” (205). For a while after that everyone wondered what the meaning of the King’s words were. The groom never told anyone, nor did he ever tempt fate again by lying with the Queen.
Boccaccio, Giovanni. The Decameron. Trans. Mark Musa, and Peter Bondanella. New York: Signet Classic, 1982.