'Decamerone,' Second Day, Fourth Tale
( Originally Published 1909 )
"I BELIEVE the coast between Reggio and Gaeta to be the most delightful in Italy. Near Salerno there is a ridge of hills sloping down to the sea, which by. its inhabitants is called the Costa d' Amalfi, inhabited by a healthy people, and abounding in gardens, streams, and small towns. One of these was named Ravello, where dwelt Landolfo Rufolo, a wealthy man, who, not content with the riches he possessed, was desirous of gaining more, and in consequence nearly lost his life and wealth also. He purchased a large vessel, and loaded it with much merchandise, after which he embarked therein for Cyprus. But there he found so many other vessels, laden with similar goods, that he was compelled not only to dispose of his wares at an unprofitable price, but even to give them away for nothing.
" Deeply mortified at this, and not knowing in his impoverished condition what to do, he determined to repair his losses by piracy or to die. He sold his ship, and with the proceeds of the sale, added to what he had received for his goods, bought a vessel suitable for his purpose, provided the necessary arms, and set forth to appropriate to his own use the possessions of other people, more especially those of the Turks.
"Fortune favoured him more as a corsair than as a merchant, and for more than a year he pursued his new calling, seizing so many Turkish vessels that not only did he make good his losses, but doubled his riches.
"Satisfied with his gains, and bearing in mind his previous misfortunes, he resolved to return home ;but, afraid of again risking the investment of his money in merchandise, he directed the course of his pirate ship towards Amalfi.
"He arrived in the archipelago one evening, when -a sirocco hindered his progress and made the sea so rough that he ran the corsair into a creek formed by a small island, fearing that without such shelter she would not weather the gale. Soon afterwards two Genoese vessels bound for Constantinople entered the creek where Landolfo had taken refuge and cut off any possibility of escape. They recognised his ship, and, being aware of his great wealth, determined to attack the pirate. Some armed themselves with bows and arrows, and, landing, took up such a position on the shore that escape from Landolfo's ship was impossible ; others proceeded to attack him in boats, and, without loss on their side, they boarded the corsair and seized the crew, carrying them, together with their possessions, to their own vessels, and sank the pirate.
"The following day, with change of wind, they steered towards the west, when, at the approach of evening, they encountered another storm. The two ships separated, and were driven forwards by the violence of the gale. That on board which Landolfo was kept a prisoner struck violently on a rock off the island of Cephalonia, and was completely wrecked.
"The day previously Landolfo had longed to die, rather than return home impoverished, but now, cast adrift upon the billows, he clung to life, and catching hold of a floating plank, was driven hither and thither, buffeted by the waves, until the dawn broke, when, looking around, he beheld nothing but sea and sky. A new danger threatened him, fora chest floated so near that he was obliged to exert his little remaining strength to avoid being struck by it, and it carne into collision only with the plank to which he clung; but the force of the blow knocked him off, and he sank beneath the waves.
" He rose again to the surface, end, impelled by fear of drowning, exerted all his strength to recover the plank, only to find it had drifted away to a considerable distance, but the floating chest was still near him. He contrived to lay hold of this, and pulling himself on to the top, stretched his weary limbs upon it, and endeavoured to guide its course in one direction.
"Driven onward at the mercy of the sea, he drifted that day, and the following night until morning broke, when he floated up on the coast of Corfu, near to where a poor woman was scouring her kitchen pots with sand and sea-water. Moved with compassion at the sight of the shipwrecked man, she waded out into the sea, and seizing him by his hair, dragged him and his chest to land, with great difficulty unloosing his grasp from the box to which he clung. She entrusted the chest to her daughter, and carried the half-drowned man to her cottage, put him into a hot bath, and chafed his limbs until she saw signs of returning life.
" In a few days he regained his strength, and when the good woman was one day absent broke open the chest, which contained precious stones of immense value, both set and unset. He returned thanks to God for not having abandoned him, and concealing the precious stones in a bag which he procured from the woman, hung this about his neck, and presented her with the chest, assuring her of his gratitude, after which he set out for Brindisi, and pursued the road thence along the coast to Trani. Here he met with fellow-citizens who traded in cloth, and they clothed him, lent him a horse, and despatched him on his way to Ravello, after he had told them all his strange adventures, except what related to the valuable contents of the chest. On arriving safely, he praised God for his return home, opened the bag, and discovered therein so many jewels of the first quality that by selling them at a fair price he found himself twice as rich as before his departure from Ravello. He sent a considerable sum to reward the poor woman at Corfu who had saved his life, and presents to the clothiers at Trani, but, not being inclined for further risk in trade, Landolfo preserved the remainder of his money, and lived in honour to the end of his days."
The Rufoli And Other Noble Families
Plazzo Dei Rufoli And The Legend
'decamerone,' Second Day, Fourth Tale