Dioneo told the tenth story of the fourth day.
In Salerno, there once lived a very famous surgeon by the name Doctor Mazzeo della Montagna. He did not marry until the last years of his life; however, he married a woman much his junior. He gave her everything that she could possibly want as far as material items, but he neglected her physically. He explained to her-as Messer Riccardo di Chinzica had-that it took countless days to recover from a single bout of sex.
Now, Doctor Mazzeo’s wife was very intelligent, so she decided that in order to protect her marriage and material possessions she must find herself a lover. She looked over all the young men that she came across until one day she saw the one that she wanted. His name was Ruggieri d’Aieroli; he was of noble birth, but had fallen from the good graces of his family. He was famous in Salerno for his thievery, but the lady did not care. The lady and Ruggieri made love many times, with the help of the lady’s maidservant. She would chastise him for the way he lived and then she would give him money, so that he wouldn’t have to steal anymore.
One day, Doctor Mazzeo took in a patient that needed a bone in his leg removed. The doctor had to wait until nighttime to perform the surgery, so he had a liquid sedative made and delivered to his home. The doctor put it into his bedroom without telling anyone about what it was. That evening the doctor was called to Amalfi due to a violent brawl that had occurred. When the lady found out that her husband was not coming home she sent for her lover, and when he arrived she locked him in her room until some of the servants had left.
While Ruggieri waited for the lady to come to him, he got thirsty and drank all of the doctor’s liquid sedative by mistake. He fell fast asleep. When the lady came back to her room she found Ruggieri and was convinced that he was dead. She wept over her misfortune. Her sadness soon gave way to fear, so she called for her maidservant and asked her for her advice. The servant came to the same conclusion that the lady had-Ruggieri was dead-and told the lady to get him out of the house. The servant-with the lady’s help-got Ruggieri up onto her shoulders and carried him to a chest outside of the lady’s neighbor’s house and then they put Ruggieri’s body inside.
A few days prior, a couple of men who loaned money to people, moved in down the street. They noticed the chest there in front of the carpenter’s house and decided that if it was still there they would take it. That night they took the chest home with them-not knowing that Ruggieri was inside of it. They put it down by the room where their wives slept and went to bed.
Ruggieri regained consciousness not long after that. He wondered how he had ended up in the chest, but figured that his mistress’ husband must have returned unexpectedly and she had hidden him in there until it was safe. He grew uncomfortable in the chest, so he tried to reposition himself turning the chest over in the process. The wives woke up, but remained silent. Ruggieri realized that the chest had opened, so he decided that it would be safer if he just left. He began groping around the house trying to find a way out, knocking things over in the process. The wives began to scream, but their husbands didn’t hear them, so they yelled out the windows at the top of their lungs “thieves!” Ruggieri was taken into custody by the magistrate’s guard, and was made to confess to trying to rob the moneylenders. He was immediately sentenced to be hanged.
The next day, the news of Ruggieri was all over Salerno. The lady was worried sick when she heard about Ruggieri. The Doctor returned home and found his carafe of sedative was empty, and he began raving about how he couldn’t leave anything unattended; it was then that the lady figured out what had happened.
The lady’s servant had gone into town to find out what people were saying about Ruggieri, and when she returned she told the lady about how the chest and Ruggieri ended up in the moneylender’s home. The lady begged her servant to help her save Ruggieri, and the servant agreed. The servant went to the Doctor and told him that Ruggieri was her secret lover and that she had given him the liquid in the carafe thinking that it was water. She apologized for what she had done and begged the Doctor to let her help Ruggieri. He allowed her to go, but warned her not to bring him into his house again.
The maidservant went to the jail where Ruggieri was and asked to speak to him. She told Ruggieri exactly what to say, and then she went to see the magistrate. She began to tell the magistrate her story, but the judge found her quite appealing and made it clear what he wanted before he would hear her out. She was not appalled by this at all and gladly consented to the judge’s desires. Once they finished, the maidservant told the judge the whole story-leaving out the part about the lady-and after the judge confirmed her story he had Ruggieri released, which made both him and the lady very happy.
Boccaccio, Giovanni. The Decameron. Trans. Mark Musa and Peter Bondanella. New York: Signet Classic, 1982.