The Decameron

Author: Boccaccio Giovanni  | Date: 1350





A yong Scholler, named Felice, enstructed Puccio di Rinieri, how to become rich in a very short time. While Puccio made experience of the instructions taught him; Felice obtained the favour of his Daughter.

After that Philomena had finished her Tale, she sate still; and Dioneus (with faire and pleasing Language) commended the Gentlewomans quaint cunning, but smiling at the Confessors witlesse simplicity. Then the Queene, turning with chearefull looks toward Pamphilus, commaunded him to continue on their delight; who gladly yeelded, and thus began. Madame, many men there are, who while they strive to climbe from a good estate, to a seeming better; doe become in much worse condition then they were before. As happened to a neighbour of ours, and no long time since, as the accident will better acquaint you withall.

According as I have heard it reported, neere to Saint Brancazio, there dwelt an honest man, and some-what rich, who was called Puccio di Rinieri, and who addicted all his paines and endeavours to Alchimy: wherefore, he kept no other family, but onely a widdowed daughter, and a servant; and because he had no other Art or exercise, he used often to frequent the market place. And in regard he was but a weake witted man and a gourmand or grosse feeder; his language was the more harsh and rude; like to our common Porters or sottish men, and his carriage also absurd, boore-like, and clownish. His daughter, being named Monna Isabetta, aged not above eight and twenty, or thirty yeeres; was a fresh indifferent faire, plumpe, round woman, cherry cheekt, like a Queene-Apple; and, to please her Father, fed not so sparingly, as otherwise she would have done, but when she communed or jested with any body, she would talke of nothing, but onely concerning the great vertue in Alchimy, extolling it above all other Arts.

Much about this season of the yeare, there returned a young Scholler from Paris, named Felice, faire of complexion, comely of person, ingeniously witted and skilfully learned, who (soone after) grew into familiarity, with Puccio: now because he could resolve him in many doubts, depending on his profession of Alchimy, (himselfe having onely practise, but no great learning) he used many questions to him, shewed him very especiall matters of secrecy, entertaining him often to dinners and suppers, whensoever he pleased to come and converse with him; and his daughter likewise, perceiving with what favour her Father respected him, became the more familiar with him, allowing him good regard and reverence.

The young man continuing his resort to the House of Puccio, and observing the widdow to be faire, fresh, and prettily formall; he began to consider with himselfe, what those things might be, wherein she was most wanting; and (if he could) to save anothers labour, supply them by his best endeavours. Thus not alwayes carrying his eyes before him, but using many backe and circumspect regards, he proceeded so farre in his wylie apprehensions, that (by a few sparkes close kept together) he kindled part of the same fire in her, which began to flame apparantly in him. And hee very wittily observing the same, as occasion first smiled on him, and allowed him favourable opportunity, so did hee impart his intention to her.

Now albeit he found her plyant enough, to gaine physicke for her owne griefe, as soone as his; yet the meanes and manner were (as yet) quite out of all apprehension. For shee in no other part of the World, would trust her selfe in the young mans company, but onely in her Fathers house; and that was a place out of all possibility, because Puccio (by a long continued custome) used to watch well-neere all the night, as commonly he did, each night after other, never stirring foorth of the roomes, which much abated the edge of the young mans appetite. After infinite intricate revolvings, wheeling about his busied braine, he thought it not altogether an Herculian taske, to enjoy his happinesse in the house, and without any suspition, albeit Puccio kept still within doores, and watched as hee was wont to doe.

Upon a day as he sate in familiar conference with Puccio, he began to speake unto him in this manner; I have many times noted, kinde friend Puccio, that all thy desire and endeavour is, by what meanes thou mayst become very rich, wherein (me thinkes) thou takest too wide a course, when there is a much neerer and shorter way, which Mighell Scotus, and other his associates, very diligently observed and followed, yet were never willing to instruct other men therein; whereby the mysterie might bee drowned in oblivion, and prosecuted by none but onely great Lords, that are able to undergoe it. But because thou art mine especiall friend, and I have received from thee infinite kind favours; whereas I never intended, that any man (by me) should be acquainted with so rare a secret; if thou wilt imitate the course as I shall shew thee, I purpose to teach it thee in full perfection. Puccio being very earnestly desirous to understand the speediest way to so singular a mysterie, first began to entreat him (with no meane instance) to acquaint him with the rules of so rich a Science; and afterward sware unto him, never to disclose it to any person, except hee gave his consent thereto; affirming beside, that it was a rarity, not easie to bee comprehended by very apprehensive judgements. Well (quoth Felice) seeing thou has: made me such a sound and solemne promise, I will make it knowne unto thee.

Know then friend Puccio, the Philosophers do hold, that such as covet to become rich indeed, must understand how to make the Stone: as I will tell thee how, but marke the manner very heedfully. I do not say, that after the Stone is obtained, thou shalt bee even as rich as now thou art; but thou shalt plainly perceive, that the very grosest substances, which hitherto thou hast seene, all of them shalbe made pure golde: and such as afterward thou makest, shall be more certaine, then to go or come with Aqua fortis, as now they do. Most expedient is it therefore, that when a man will go diligently about this businesse, and purposeth to prosecute such a singular labour, which will and must continue for the space of 40 nights, he must give very carefull attendance, wholly abstaining from sleepe, slumbering, or so much as nodding all that while.

Moreover, in some apt and convenient place of thy house, there must be a forge or furnace erected, framed in decent and formall fashion, and neere it a large table placed, ordered in such sort, as standing upright on feete, and leaning the reines of thy backe against it; thou must stande stedfastly in that manner every night, without the least motion or stirring, untill the breake of day appeareth, and thine eyes still uppon the Furnace fixed, to keepe ever in memory, the true order which I have prescribed. So soone as the morning is seene, thou mayest (if thou wilt) walke, or rest a little upon thy bed, and afterward go about thy businesse, if thou have any. Then go to dinner, attending readily till the evenings approch, preparing such things as I will readily set thee downe in writing, without which there is not any thing to bee done; and then returne to the same taske againe, not varying a jot from the course directed. Before the time be fully expired, thou shalt perceive many apparant signes, that the stone is still in absolute forwardnesse, but it will bee utterly lost if thou fayle in the least of all the observances. And when the experience hath crowned thy labour, thou art sure to have the Philosophers stone, and thereby shalt be able to enrich all, and worke wonders beside.

Puccio instantly replyed. Now trust me Sir, there is no great difficultie in this labour, neither doth it require any extraordinary length of time: but it may very easily be followed and performed, and (by your friendly favor, in helping to direct the Furnace and Table, according as you imagine most convenient) on Sunday at night next, I will begin my taske.

The place which Puccio had chosen, for his hopefull attaining to the Philosophers Stone, was close to the Chamber where his daughter lay having no other separation or division, but an old ruinous tottring wall. So that, when the Scholler was playing his prize, Puccio heard an unwonted noise in the house, which he had never observed before, neither knew the wall to have any such motion: wherefore, not daring to stirre from his standing, least all should be marrd in the very beginning, he called to his daughter, demanding, what busle labour she was about? The widdow, being much addicted to frumping according as questions were demanded of her, and (perhaps) forgetting who spake to her, pleasantly replied: Whoop Sir, where are we now? Are the Spirits of Alchimy walking in the house, that we cannot lye quietly in our beds?

Pucclo mervalling at this answere, knowing she never gave him the like before; demanded againe, what she did? The subtle wench, remembring that she had not answered as became her, said: Pardon mee Father, my wits were not mine owne, when you demanded such a sodaine question; and I have heard you say an hundred times, that when folke go supperles to bed, either they walke in their sleepe, or being awake, talke very idely, as (no doubt) you have discern’d by me. Nay daughter (quoth he) it may be, that I was in a waking dreame, and thought I heard the olde wall totter: but I see I was deceived, for no it is quiet and still enough. Talke no more good Father, saide she, least you stirre from your place, and hinder your labour: take no care for mee, I am able enough to have care of my selfe.

To prevent any more of these nightly disturbances, they went to lodge in another part of the house, where they continued out the time of Puccioes paines, with equall contentment to them both, which made her divers times say to Felice: You teach my father the cheefe grounds of Alchimy, while we helpe to waste away his treasure. Thus the Scholler being but poore, yet well forwarded in Learning, made use of Puccioes folly, and found benefit thereby, to keepe him out of wants, which is the bane and overthrow of numberlesse good wits. And Puccio dying, before the date of his limited time, because he failed of the Philosophers Stone, Isabetta joyned in marriage with Felice, to make him amends for instructing her father, by which meanes he came to be her husband.


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Chicago: Boccaccio Giovanni, "The Third Day, the Fourth Novell," The Decameron in Library of the Future ® 4th Edition Ver. 5.0 (Irvine, CA: World Library, Inc., 1996), Original Sources, accessed July 16, 2019,

MLA: Giovanni, Boccaccio. "The Third Day, the Fourth Novell." The Decameron, in Library of the Future ® 4th Edition Ver. 5.0, Irvine, CA, World Library, Inc., 1996, Original Sources. 16 Jul. 2019.

Harvard: Giovanni, B, 'The Third Day, the Fourth Novell' in The Decameron. cited in 1996, Library of the Future ® 4th Edition Ver. 5.0, World Library, Inc., Irvine, CA. Original Sources, retrieved 16 July 2019, from