THE TALES OF
Margaret, Queen of Navarre
Newly Translated into English from the Authentic Text
OF M. LE ROUX DE LINCY WITH
AN ESSAY UPON THE HEPTAMERON
GEORGE SAINTSBURY, M.A.
Also the Original Seventy-three Full Page Engravings
Designed by S. FREUDENBERG
And One Hundred and Fifty Head and Tail Pieces
IN FIVE VOLUMES
VOLUME THE THIRD
LONDON: PRINTED FOR THE SOCIETY OF ENGLISH BIBLIOPHILISTS
[Margaret, Queen of Navarre, from a crayon drawing by Clouet, preserved at the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris]
CONTENTS OF VOLUME III.
Tale XIX. The honourable love of a gentleman, who, when his sweetheart is forbidden to speak with him, in despair becomes a monk of the Observance, while the lady, following in his footsteps, becomes a nun of St. Clara
Tale XX. How the Lord of Riant is cured of his love fora beautiful widow through surprising her in the arms of a groom
Tale XXI. The affecting history of Rolandine, who, debarred from marriage by her father's greed, betrothes herself to a gentleman to whom, despite his faithlessness, she keeps her plighted word, and does not marry until after his death
Tale XXII. How Sister Marie Heroet virtuously escapes the attempts of the Prior of St. Martin in-the-Fields
Tale XXIII. The undeserved confidence which a gentleman of Perigord places in the monks of the Order of St. Francis, causes the death of himself, his wife and their little child
Tale XXIV. Concerning the unavailing love borne to the Queen of Castile by a gentleman named Elisor, who in the end becomes a hermit
Tale XXV. How a young Prince found means to conceal his intrigue with the wife of a lawyer of Paris
Tale XXVI. How the counsels of a discreet lady happily withdrew the young Lord of Avannes from the perils of his foolish love for a lady of Pampeluna
Tale XXVII. How the wife of a man who was valet to a Princess rid herself of the solicitations of one who was among the same Princess's servants, and at the same time her husband's guest
Tale XXVIII. How a Gascon merchant, named Bernard du Ha, while sojourning at Paris, deceived a Secretary to the Queen of Navarre who had thought to obtain a pasty from him
Tale XXIX. How the Priest of Carrelles, in Maine, when surprised with the wife of an old husbandman, gets out of the difficulty by pretending to return him a winnowing fan
Tale XXX. How a gentleman marries his own daughter and sister unawares
Appendix to Vol. III.
PAGE ENGRAVINGS CONTAINED IN VOLUME III.
Tale XIX. The Parting between Pauline and The Gentlemen.
Tale XX. The Lord de Riant finding the Widow with her Groom.
Tale XXI. Rolandine Conversing With Her Husband.
Tale XXII. Sister Marie and the Prior.
Tale XXIII. The Grey Friar deceiving the Gentleman Of Perigord.
Tale XXIV. Elisor showing the Queen her own Image.
Tale XXV. The Advocate's Wife attending on the Prince.
Tale XXVI. The Lord of Avannes paying His Court in Disguise.
Tale XXVII. The Secretary imploring the Lady not To Tell Of His Wickedness.
Tale XXVIII. The Secretary Opening the Pasty.
Tale XXIX. The Husbandman surprised by the Fall of the Winnowing Fan.
Tale XXX. The Young Gentleman embracing his Mother.
[The Parting between Pauline and The Gentlemen]
Pauline, being in love with a gentleman no less than he was with her, and finding that he, because forbidden ever again to speak with her, had entered the monastery of the Observance, gained admittance for her own part into the convent of St. Clara, where she took the veil; thus fulfilling the desire she had conceived to bring the gentleman's love and her own to a like ending in respect of raiment, condition and manner of life. (1)
In the time of the Marquis of Mantua, (2) who had married the sister of the Duke of Ferrara, there lived in the household of the Duchess a damsel named Pauline, who was greatly loved by a gentleman in the Marquis's service, and this to the astonishment of every one; for being poor, albeit handsome and greatly beloved by his master, he ought, in their estimation, to have wooed some wealthy dame, but he believed that all the world's treasure centred in Pauline, and looked to his marriage with her to gain and possess it.
1 The incidents related in this tale appear to have taken place at Mantua and Ferrara. M. de Montaiglon, however, believes that they happened at Lyons, and that Margaret laid the scene of her story in Italy, so that the personages she refers to might not be identified. The subject of the tale is similar to that of the poem called L'Amant rendu Cordelier a l'Observance et Amour, which may perhaps have supplied the Queen of Navarre with the plot of her narrative.—M. and Ed.
2 This was John Francis II. of Gonzaga, who was born in 1466, and succeeded his father, Frederic I., in 1484. He took an active part in the wars of the time, commanding the Venetian troops when Charles VIII. invaded Italy, and afterwards supporting Ludovico Sforza in the defence of Milan. When Sforza abandoned the struggle against France, the Marquis of Mantua joined the French king, for whom he acted as viceroy of Naples. Ultimately, however, he espoused the cause of the Emperor Maximilian, when the latter was at war with Venice in 1509, and being surprised and defeated while camping on the island of La Scala, he fled in his shirt and hid himself in a field, where, by the treachery of a peasant who had promised him secrecy, he was found and taken prisoner. By the advice of Pope Julius II., the Venetians set him at liberty after he had undergone a year's imprisonment. In 1490 John Francis married Isabella d'Este, daughter of Hercules I. Duke of Ferrara, by whom he had several children. He died at Mantua in March 1519, his widow surviving him until 1539. Among the many dignities acquired by the Marquis in the course of his singularly chequered life was that of gonfalonier of the Holy Church, conferred upon him by Julius II.—L. and En.
The Marchioness, who desired that Pauline should through her favour make a more wealthy marriage, discouraged her as much as she could from wedding the gentleman, and often hindered the two lovers from talking together, pointing out to them that, should the marriage take place, they would be the poorest and sorriest couple in all Italy. But such argument as this was by no means convincing to the gentleman, and though Pauline, on her side, dissembled her love as well as she could, she none the less thought about him as often as before.
With the hope that time would bring them better fortune, this love of theirs continued for a long while, during which it chanced that a war broke out (3) and that the gentleman was taken prisoner along with a Frenchman, whose heart was bestowed in France even as was his own in Italy.
3 This would be the expedition which Louis XII. made into Italy in 1503 in view of conquering the Kingdom of Naples, and which was frustrated by the defeats that the French army sustained at Seminara, Cerignoles, and the passage of the Garigliano.—D.
Finding themselves comrades in misfortune, they began to tell their secrets to one another, the Frenchman confessing that his heart was a fast prisoner, though he gave not the name of its prison-house. However, as they were both in the service of the Marquis of Mantua, this French gentleman knew right well that his companion loved Pauline, and in all friendship for him advised him to lay his fancy aside. This the Italian gentleman swore was not in his power, and he declared that if the Marquis of Mantua did not requite him for his captivity and his faithful service by giving him his sweetheart to wife, he would presently turn friar and serve no master but God. This, however, his companion could not believe, perceiving in him no token of devotion, unless it were that which he bore to Pauline.
At the end of nine months the French gentleman obtained his freedom, and by his diligence compassed that of his comrade also, who thereupon used all his efforts with the Marquis and Marchioness to bring about his marriage with Pauline. But all was of no avail; they pointed out to him the poverty wherein they would both be forced to live, as well as the unwillingness of the relatives on either side; and they forbade him ever again to speak with the maiden, to the end that absence and lack of opportunity might quell his passion.
Finding himself compelled to obey, the gentleman begged of the Marchioness that he might have leave to bid Pauline farewell, promising that he would afterwards speak to her no more, and upon his request being granted, as soon as they were together he spoke to her as follows:—
"Heaven and earth are both against us, Pauline, and hinder us not only from marriage but even from having sight and speech of one another. And by laying on us this cruel command, our master and mistress may well boast of having with one word broken two hearts, whose bodies, perforce, must henceforth languish; and by this they show that they have never known love or pity, and although I know that they desire to marry each of us honourably and to worldly advantage,—ignorant as they are that contentment is the only true wealth,—yet have they so afflicted and angered me that never more can I do them loyal service. I feel sure that had I never spoken of marriage they would not have shown themselves so scrupulous as to forbid me from speaking to you; but I would have you know that, having loved you with a pure and honourable love, and wooed you for what I would fain defend against all others, I would rather die than change my purpose now to your dishonour. And since, if I continued to see you, I could not accomplish so harsh a penance as to restrain myself from speech, whilst, if being here I saw you not, my heart, unable to remain void, would fill with such despair as must end in woe, I have resolved, and that long since, to become a monk. I know, indeed, full well that men of all conditions may be saved, but would gladly have more leisure for contemplating the Divine goodness, which will, I trust, forgive me the errors of my youth, and so change my heart that it may love spiritual things as truly as hitherto it has loved temporal things. And if God grant me grace to win His grace, my sole care shall be to pray to Him without ceasing for you; and I entreat you, by the true and loyal love that has been betwixt us both, that you will remember me in your prayers, and beseech Our Lord to grant me as full a measure of steadfastness when I see you no more, as he has given me of joy in beholding you. Finally, I have all my life hoped to have of you in wedlock that which honour and conscience allow, and with this hope have been content; but now that I have lost it and can never have you to wife, I pray you at least, in bidding me farewell, treat me as a brother, and suffer me to kiss you."
When the hapless Pauline, who had always treated him somewhat rigorously, beheld the extremity of his grief and his uprightness, which, amidst all his despair, would suffer him to prefer but this moderate request, her sole answer was to throw her arms around his neck, weeping so bitterly that speech and strength alike failed her, and she swooned away in his embrace. Thereupon, overcome by pity, love and sorrow, he must needs swoon also, and one of Pauline's companions, seeing them fall one on one side and one on the other, called aloud for aid, whereupon remedies were fetched and applied, and brought them to themselves.
Then Pauline, who had desired to conceal her love, was ashamed at having shown such transports; yet were her pity for the unhappy gentleman a just excuse. He, unable to utter the "Farewell for ever!" hastened away with heavy heart and set teeth, and, on entering his apartment, fell like a lifeless corpse upon his bed. There he passed the night in such piteous lamentations that his servants thought he must have lost all his relations and friends, and whatsoever he possessed on earth.
In the morning he commended himself to Our Lord, and having divided among his servants what little worldly goods he had, save a small sum of money which he took, he charged his people not to follow him, and departed all alone to the monastery of the Observance, (4) resolved to take the cloth there and never more to quit it his whole life long.
4 The monastery of the Observance here referred to would appear to be that at Ferrara, founded by Duke Hercules I., father of the Marchioness of Mantua. The name of "Observance" was given to those conventual establishments where the rules of monastic life were scrupulously observed, however rigorous they might be. The monastery of the Observance at Ferrara belonged to the Franciscan order, reformed by the Pope in 1363.—D. and L.
The Warden, who had known him in former days, at first thought he was being laughed at or was dreaming, for there was none in all the land that less resembled a Grey Friar than did this gentleman, seeing that he was endowed with all the good and honourable qualities that one would desire a gentleman to possess. Albeit, after hearing his words and beholding the tears that flowed (from what cause he knew not) down his face, the Warden compassionately took him in, and very soon afterwards, finding him persevere in his desire, granted him the cloth: whereof tidings were brought to the Marquis and Marchioness, who thought it all so strange that they could scarcely believe it.
Pauline, wishing to show herself untrammelled by any passion, strove as best she might to conceal her sorrow, in such wise that all said she had right soon forgotten the deep affection of her faithful lover. And so five or six months passed by without any sign on her part, but in the meanwhile some monk had shown her a song which her lover had made a short time after he had taken the cowl. The air was an Italian one and pretty well known; as for the words, I have put them into our own tongue as nearly as I can, and they are these:—
What word shall be Hers unto me, When I appear in convent guise Before her eyes?
Ah! sweet maiden, Lone, heart-laden, Dumb because of days that were; When the streaming Tears are gleaming 'Mid the streaming of thy hair, Ah! with hopes of earth denied thee, Holiest thoughts will heavenward guide thee To the hallowing cloister's door. What word shall be, &c.
What shall they say, Who wronged us, they Who have slain our heart's desire, Seeing true love Doth flawless prove, Thus tried as gold in fire? When they see my heart is single, Their remorseful tears shall mingle, Each and other weeping sore. What word shall be, &c.
And should they come To will us home, How vain were all endeavour! "Nay, side by side, "We here shall bide "Till soul from soul shall sever. "Though of love your hate bereaves us "Yet the veil and cowl it leaves us, "We shall wear till life be o'er." What word shall be, &c.
And should they move Our flesh to love Once more the mockers, singing Of fruits and flowers In golden hours For mated hearts upspringing; We shall say: "Our lives are given, Flower and fruit, to God in Heaven, Who shall hold them evermore." What word shall be, &c.
O victor Love! Whose might doth move My wearied footsteps hither, Here grant me days Of prayer and praise, Grant faith that ne'er shall wither; Love of each to either given, Hallowed by the grace of Heaven, God shall bless for evermore. What word shall be, &c.
Avaunt Earth's weal! Its bands are steel To souls that yearn for Heaven; Avaunt Earth's pride! Deep Hell shall hide Hearts that for fame have striven. Far be lust of earthly pleasure, Purity, our priceless treasure, Christ shall grant us of His store. What word shall be, &c.
Swift be thy feet, My own, my sweet, Thine own true lover follow; Fear not the veil, The cloister's pall Keeps far Earth's spectres hollow. Sinks the fire with fitful flashes, Soars the Phoenix from his ashes, Love yields Life for evermore. What word shall be, &c.
Love, that no power Of dreariest hour, Could change, no scorn, no rage, Now heavenly free From Earth shall be, In this, our hermitage. Winged of love that upward, onward, Ageless, boundless, bears us sunward, To the heavens our souls shall soar. What word shall be, &c.
On reading these verses through in a chapel where she was alone, Pauline began to weep so bitterly that all the paper was wetted with her tears. Had it not been for her fear of showing a deeper affection than was seemly, she would certainly have withdrawn forthwith to some hermitage, and never have looked upon a living being again; but her native discretion moved her to dissemble for a little while longer. And although she was now resolved to leave the world entirely, she feigned the very opposite, and so altered her countenance, that in company she was altogether unlike her real self. For five or six months did she carry this secret purpose in her heart, making a greater show of mirth than had ever been her wont.
But one day she went with her mistress to the Observance to hear high mass, and when the priest, the deacon and the sub-deacon came out of the vestry to go to the high altar, she saw her hapless lover, who had not yet fulfilled his year of novitiate, acting as acolyte, carrying the two vessels covered with a silken cloth, and walking first with his eyes upon the ground. When Pauline saw him in such raiment as did rather increase than diminish his comeliness, she was so exceedingly moved and disquieted, that to hide the real reason of the colour that came into her face, she began to cough. Thereupon her unhappy lover, who knew this sound better than that of the cloister bells, durst not turn his head; still on passing in front of her he could not prevent his eyes from going the road they had so often gone before; and whilst he thus piteously gazed on Pauline, he was seized in such wise by the fire which he had considered well-nigh quelled, that whilst striving to conceal it more than was in his power, he fell at full length before her. However, for fear lest the cause of his fall should be known, he was led to say that it was by reason of the pavement of the church being broken in that place.
When Pauline perceived that the change in his dress had not wrought any change in his heart, and that so long a time had gone by since he had become a monk, that every one believed her to have forgotten him, she resolved to fulfil the desire she had conceived to bring their love to a like ending in respect of raiment, condition and mode of life, even as these had been akin at the time when they abode together in the same house, under the same master and mistress. More than four months previously she had carried out all needful measures for taking the veil, and now, one morning she asked leave of the Marchioness to go and hear mass at the convent of Saint Clara, (5) which her mistress granted her, not knowing the reason of her request. But in passing by the monastery of the Grey Friars, she begged the Warden to summon her lover, saying that he was her kinsman, and when they met in a chapel by themselves, she said to him:—
5 There does not appear to have been a church of St. Clara at Mantua, but there was one attached to a convent of that name at Ferrara.—M. and D.
"Had my honour suffered me to seek the cloister as soon as you, I should not have waited until now; but having at last by my patience baffled the slander of those who are more ready to think evil than good, I am resolved to take the same condition, raiment and life as you have taken. Nor do I inquire of what manner they are; if you fare well, I shall partake of your welfare, and if you fare ill, I would not be exempt. By whatsoever path you are journeying to Paradise I too would follow; for I feel sure that He who alone is true and perfect, and worthy to be called Love, has drawn us to His service by means of a virtuous and reasonable affection, which He will by His Holy Spirit turn wholly to Himself. Let us both, I pray you, put from us the perishable body of the old Adam, and receive and put on the body of our true Spouse, who is the Lord Jesus Christ."
The monk-lover was so rejoiced to hear of this holy purpose, that he wept for gladness and did all that he could to strengthen her in her resolve, telling her that since the pleasure of hearing her words was the only one that he might now seek, he deemed himself happy to dwell in a place where he should always be able to hear them. He further declared that her condition would be such that they would both be the better for it; for they would live with one love, with one heart and with one mind, guided by the goodness of God, whom he prayed to keep them in His hand, wherein none can perish. So saying, and weeping for love and gladness, he kissed her hands; but she lowered her face upon them, and then, in all Christian love, they gave one another the kiss of hallowed affection.
And so, in this joyful mood Pauline left him, and came to the convent of Saint Clara, where she was received and took the veil, whereof she sent tidings to her mistress, the Marchioness, who was so amazed that she could not believe it, but came on the morrow to the convent to see Pauline and endeavour to turn her from her purpose. But Pauline replied that she, her mistress, had had the power to deprive her of a husband in the flesh, the man whom of all men she had loved the best, and with that she must rest content, and not seek to sever her from One who was immortal and invisible, for this Was neither in her power nor in that of any creature upon earth.
The Marchioness, finding her thus steadfast in her resolve, kissed her and left her, with great sorrow.
And thenceforward Pauline and her lover lived such holy and devout lives, observing all the rules of their order, that we cannot doubt that He whose law is love told them when their lives were ended, as He had told Mary Magdalene: "Your sins are forgiven, for ye have loved much;" and doubtless He removed them in peace to that place where the recompense surpasses all the merits of man.
"You cannot deny, ladies, that in this case the man's love was the greater of the two; nevertheless, it was so well requited that I would gladly have all lovers equally rewarded."
"Then," said Hircan, "there would be more manifest fools among men and women than ever there were."
"Do you call it folly," said Oisille, "to love virtuously in youth and then to turn this love wholly to God?"
"If melancholy and despair be praiseworthy," answered Hircan, laughing, "I will acknowledge that Pauline and her lover are well worthy of praise."
"True it is," said Geburon, "that God has many ways of drawing us to Himself, and though they seem evil in the beginning, yet in the end they are good."
"Moreover," said Parlamente, "I believe that no man can ever love God perfectly that has not perfectly loved one of His creatures in this world."
"What do you mean by loving perfectly?" asked Saffredent. "Do you consider that those frigid beings who worship their mistresses in silence and from afar are perfect lovers?"
"I call perfect lovers," replied Parlamente, "those who seek perfection of some kind in the objects of their love, whether beauty, or goodness, or grace, ever tending to virtue, and who have such noble and upright hearts that they would rather die than do base things, contrary and repugnant to honour and conscience. For the soul, which was created for nothing but to return to its sovereign good, is, whilst enclosed in the body, ever desirous of attaining to it. But since the senses, through which the soul receives knowledge, are become dim and carnal through the sin of our first parent, they can show us only those visible things that approach towards perfection; and these the soul pursues, thinking to find in outward beauty, in a visible grace and in the moral virtues, the supreme, absolute beauty, grace and virtue. But when it has sought and tried these external things and has failed to find among them that which it really loves, the soul passes on to others; wherein it is like a child, which, when very young, will be fond of dolls and other trifles, the prettiest its eyes can see, and will heap pebbles together in the idea that these form wealth; but as the child grows older he becomes fond of living dolls, and gathers together the riches that are needful for earthly life. And when he learns by greater experience that in all these earthly things there is neither perfection nor happiness, he is fain to seek Him who is the Creator and Author of happiness and perfection. Albeit, if God should not give him the eye of Faith, he will be in danger of passing from ignorance to infidel philosophy, since it is Faith alone that can teach and instil that which is right; for this, carnal and fleshly man can never comprehend." (6)
6 The whole of this mystical dissertation appears to have been inspired by some remarks in Castiglione's Libro del Cortegiano—which Margaret was no doubt well acquainted with, as it was translated into French in 1537 by Jacques Colin, her brother's secretary. This work, which indeed seems to have suggested several passages in the Heptameron, was at that time as widely read in France as in Italy and Spain.—B. J. and D.
"Do you not see," said Longarine, "that uncultivated ground which bears plants and trees in abundance, however useless they may be, is valued by men, because it is hoped that it will produce good fruit if this be sown in it? In like manner, if the heart of man has no feeling of love for visible things, it will never arrive at the love of God by the sowing of His Word, for the soul of such a heart is barren, cold and worthless."
"That," said Saffredent, "is the reason why most of the doctors are not spiritual. They never love anything but good wine and dirty, ill-favoured serving-women, without making trial of the love of honourable ladies."
"If I could speak Latin well," said Simontault, "I would quote you St. John's words: 'He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?' (7) From visible things we are led on to love those that are invisible."
"If," said Ennasuite, "there be a man as perfect as you say, quis est ille et laudabimus eum?" (8)
7 I St. John, iv. 20.
8 We have been unable to find this anywhere in the Scriptures.—Ed.
"There are men," said Dagoucin, "whose love is so strong and true that they would rather die than harbour a wish contrary to the honour and conscience of their mistress, and who at the same time are unwilling that she or others should know what is in their hearts."
"Such men," said Saffredent, "must be of the nature of the chameleon, which lives on air. (9) There is not a man in the world but would fain declare his love and know that it is returned; and further, I believe that love's fever is never so great, but it quickly passes off when one knows the contrary. For myself, I have seen manifest miracles of this kind."
9 A popular fallacy. The chameleon undoubtedly feeds upon small insects.—D.
"I pray you then," said Ennasuite, "take my place and tell us about some one that was recalled from death to life by having discovered in his mistress the very opposite of his desire."
"I am," said Saffredent, "so much afraid of displeasing the ladies, whose faithful servant I have always been and shall always be, that without an express command from themselves I should never have dared to speak of their imperfections. However, in obedience to them, I will hide nothing of the truth."
[The Lord de Riant finding the Widow with her Groom]
The Lord of Riant, being greatly in love with a widow lady and finding her the contrary of what he had desired and of what she had often declared herself to be, was so affected thereby that in a moment resentment had power to extinguish the flame which neither length of time nor lack of opportunity had been able to quench. (1)
1 The unpleasant discovery related in this tale is attributed by Margaret to a gentleman of Francis I.'s household, but a similar incident figures in the introduction to the Arabian Nights. Ariosto also tells much the same tale in canto xxviii. of his Rolando Furioso, and another version of it will be found in No. 24 of Morlini's Novella, first issued at Naples in 1520. Subsequent to the Heptameron it supplied No. 29 of the Comptes du Monde Adventureux, figured in a rare imitation of the Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles printed at Rouen early in the seventeenth century, and was introduced by La Fontaine into his well-known tale Joconde. On the other hand, there is certainly a locality called Rians in Provence, just beyond the limits of Dauphine, and moreover among Francis I.'s "equerries of the stable" there was a Monsieur dc Rian who received a salary of 200 livres a year from 1522 to 1529.—See the roll of the officers of the King's Household in the French National Archives, Sect. Histor., K. 98. Some extracts from Brantome bearing on the story will be found in the Appendix to this vol. (A).—L. and En.
In the land of Dauphine there lived a gentleman named the Lord of Riant; he belonged to the household of King Francis the First, and was as handsome and worshipful a gentleman as it was possible to see. He had long been the lover of a widow lady, whom he loved and revered so exceedingly that, for fear of losing her favour, he durst not solicit of her that which he most desired. Now, since he knew himself to be a handsome man and one worthy to be loved, he fully believed what she often swore to him—namely, that she loved him more than any living man, and that if she were led to do aught for any gentleman, it would be for him alone, who was the most perfect she had ever known. She at the same time begged him to rest satisfied with this virtuous love and to seek nothing further, and assured him that if she found him unreasonably aiming at more, he would lose her altogether. The poor gentleman was not only satisfied, but he deemed himself very fortunate in having gained the heart of a lady who appeared to him so full of virtue.
It would take too long to tell you his love-speeches, his lengthened visits to her, and the journeys he took in order to see her; it is enough to say that this poor martyr, consumed by so pleasing a fire that the more one burns the more one wishes to burn, continually sought for the means of increasing his martyrdom.
One day the fancy took him to go post-haste to see the lady whom he loved better than himself, and whom he prized beyond every other woman in the world. On reaching her house, he inquired where she was, and was told that she had just come from vespers, and was gone into the warren to finish her devotions there. He dismounted from his horse and went straight to the warren where she was to be found, and here he met with some of her women, who told him that she had gone to walk alone in a large avenue.
He was more than ever beginning to hope that some good fortune awaited him, and continued searching for her as carefully and as quietly as he could, desiring above all things to find her alone. He came in this way to a summer-house formed of bended boughs, the fairest and pleasantest place imaginable, (2) and impatient to see the object of his love, he went in; and there beheld the lady lying on the grass in the arms of a groom in her service, who was as ill-favoured, foul and disreputable as the Lord of Riant was handsome, virtuous and gentle.
2 For a description of a summer-house of the kind referred to, see Cap's edition of Palissy's Dessein du Jardin Delectable, p. 69. Palissy there describes some summer- houses formed of young elmtrees, with seats, columns, friezes, and a roofing so cunningly contrived of bent boughs that the rain could not penetrate into the interior. It is to some such construction that Queen Margaret refers.—M.
I will not try to depict to you his resentment, but it was so great that in a moment it had power to extinguish the flame which neither length of time nor lack of opportunity had been able to impair.
"Madam," he said to her, being now as full of indignation as once he had been of love, "much good may this do you! (3) The revelation of your wickedness has to-day cured me, and freed me from the continual anguish that was caused by the virtue I believed to be in you." (4)
3 The French words here are "prou face," which in Margaret's time were very generally used in lieu of "Amen" or "So be it."—M.
4 In Joconde La Fontaine gives the end of the adventure as follows:—
"Sans rencontrer personne et sans etre entendu Il monte dans sa chambre et voit pres de la dame Un lourdaud de valet sur son sein etendu. Tous deux dormaient. Dans cet abord Joconde Voulut les envoyer dormir en l'autre monde, Mais cependant il n'en fit rien Et mon avis est qu'il fit bien."
Both in La Fontaine's Conte and in Ariosto's Rolando the lady is the Queen, and the favoured lover the King's dwarf. —Ed.
And with this farewell he went back again more quickly than he had come.
The unhappy woman made him no other reply than to put her hand to her face; for being unable to hide her shame, she covered her eyes that she might not see him who in spite of her deceit now perceived it only too clearly.
"And so, ladies, if you are not minded to love perfectly, do not, I pray you, seek to deceive and annoy an honest man for vanity's sake; for hypocrites are rewarded as they deserve, and God favours those who love with frankness."
"Truly," said Oisille, "you have kept us a proper tale for the end of the day. But that we have all sworn to speak the truth, I could not believe that a woman of that lady's condition could be so wicked both in soul and in body, and leave so gallant a gentleman for so vile a muleteer."
"Ah, madam," said Hircan, "if you knew what a difference there is between a gentleman who has worn armour and been at the wars all his life, and a well-fed knave that has never stirred from home, you would excuse the poor widow."
"I do not believe," said Oisille, "whatever you may say, that you could admit any possible excuse for her."
"I have heard," said Simontault, "that there are women who like to have apostles to preach of their virtue and chastity, and treat them as kindly and familiarly as possible, saying that but for the restraints of honour and conscience they would grant them their desire. And so these poor fools, when speaking in company of their mistresses, swear that they would thrust their fingers into the fire without fear of burning in proof that these ladies are virtuous women, since they have themselves thoroughly tested their love. Thus are praised by honourable men, those who show their true nature to such as are like themselves; and they choose such as would not have courage to speak, or, if they did, would not be believed by reason of their low and degraded position."
"That," said Longarine, "is an opinion which I have before now heard expressed by jealous and suspicious men, but it may indeed be called painting a chimera. And even although it be true of one wretched woman, the same suspicion cannot attach to all."
"Well," said Parlamente, "the longer we talk in this way, the longer will these good gentlemen play the critics over Simontault's tale, and all at our own expense. So in my opinion we had better go to vespers, and not cause so much delay as we did yesterday."
The company agreed to this proposal, and as they were going Oisille said:—
"If any one gives God thanks for having told the truth to-day, Saffredent ought to implore His forgiveness for having raked up so vile a story against the ladies."
"By my word," replied Saffredent, "what I told you was true, albeit I only had it upon hearsay. But were I to tell you all that I have myself seen of women, you would have need to make even more signs of the cross than the priests do in consecrating a church."
"Repentance is a long way off," said Geburon, "when confession only increases the sin."
"Since you have so bad an opinion of women," said Parlamente, "they ought to deprive you of their honourable society and friendship."
"There are some women," he returned, "who have acted towards me so much in accordance with your advice, in keeping me far away from things that are honourable and just, that could I do and say worse to them, I should not neglect doing so, in order that I might stir them up to revenge me on her who does me so much wrong."
Whilst he spoke these words, Parlamente put on her mask (5) and went with the others into the church, where they found that although the bell had rung for vespers, there was not a single monk, present to say them.
5 Little masks hiding only the upper part of the face, and called tourets-de-nez, were then frequently worn by ladies of rank. Some verses by Christine de Pisan show them to have been in vogue already in the fourteenth century. In the MS. copy of Margaret's poem of La Coche presented to the Duchess of Etampes, the ladies in the different miniatures are frequently shown wearing masks of the kind referred to. Some curious particulars concerning these tourets will be found in M. Leon do Laborde's Le Palais Mazarin et les grandes habitations de ville et de campagne au XVIIe Siecle, Paris, 1846, 8vo, p. 314.—L.
The monks, indeed, had heard that the company assembled in the meadow to tell the pleasantest tales imaginable, and being fonder of pleasure than of their prayers, they had gone and hidden themselves in a ditch, where they lay flat on their bellies behind a very thick hedge; and they had there listened so eagerly to the stories that they had not heard the ringing of the monastery bell, as was soon clearly shown, for they returned in such great haste that they almost lacked breath to begin the saying of vespers.
After the service, when they were asked why they had been so late and had chanted so badly, they confessed that they had been to listen to the tales; whereupon, since they were so desirous of hearing them, it was granted that they might sit and listen at their ease every day behind the hedge.
Supper-time was spent joyously in discoursing of such matters as they had not brought to an end in the meadow. And this lasted through the evening, until Oisille begged them to retire so that their minds might be the more alert on the morrow, after a long, sound sleep, one hour of which before midnight was, said she, better than three after it. Accordingly the company parted one from another, betaking themselves to their respective rooms; and in this wise ended the Second Day.
On the Third Day are recounted Tales of the Ladies who have only sought what was honourable in Love, and of the hypocrisy and wickedness of the Monks.
Though it was yet early when the company entered the hall on the morrow, they found Madame Oisille there before them. She had been meditating for more than half-an-hour upon the lesson that she was going to read; and if she had contented them on the first and second days, she assuredly did no less on the third; indeed, but that one of the monks came in search of them they would not have heard high mass, for so intent were they upon listening to her that they did not even hear the bell.
When they had piously heard mass, and had dined with temperance to the end that the meats might in no sort hinder the memory of each from acquitting itself as well as might be when their several turns came, they withdrew to their apartments, there to consult their note-books until the wonted hour for repairing to the meadow was come. When it had arrived they were not slow to make the pleasant excursion, and those who were prepared to tell of some merry circumstance already showed mirthful faces that gave promise of much laughter. When they were seated, they asked Saffredent to whom he would give his vote for the beginning of the Third Day.
"I think," said he, "that since my offence yesterday was as you say very great, and I have knowledge of no story that might atone for it, I ought to give my vote to Parlamente, who, with her sound understanding, will be able to praise the ladies sufficiently to make you forget such truth as you heard from me."
"I will not undertake," said Parlamente, "to atone for your offences, but I will promise not to imitate them. Wherefore, holding to the truth that we have promised and vowed to utter, I propose to show you that there are ladies who in their loves have aimed at nought but virtue. And since she of whom I am going to speak to you came of an honourable line, I will just change the names in my story but nothing more; and I pray you, ladies, believe that love has no power to change a chaste and virtuous heart, as you will see by the tale I will now begin to tell."
[Rolandine Conversing With Her Husband]
Having remained unmarried until she was thirty years of age, Rolandine, recognising her father's neglect and her mistress's disfavour, fell so deeply in love with a bastard gentleman that she promised him marriage; and this being told to her father he treated her with all the harshness imaginable, in order to make her consent to the dissolving of the marriage; but she continued steadfast in her love until she had received certain tidings of the Bastard's death, when she was wedded to a gentleman who bore the same name and arms as did her own family.
There was in France a Queen (1) who brought up in her household several maidens belonging to good and noble houses. Among others there was one called Rolandine, (2) who was near akin to the Queen; but the latter, being for some reason unfriendly with the maiden's father, showed her no great kindness.
Now, although this maiden was not one of the fairest—nor yet indeed was she of the ugliest—she was nevertheless so discreet and virtuous that many persons of great consequence sought her in marriage. They had, however, but a cold reply; for the father (3) was so fond of his money that he gave no thought to his daughter's welfare, while her mistress, as I have said, bore her but little favour, so that she was sought by none who desired to be advanced in the Queen's good graces.
1 This is evidently Anne of Brittany, elder daughter of Duke Francis II. and wife in turn of Charles VIII. and Louis XII. Brantome says: "She was the first to form that great Court of ladies which we have seen since her time until now; she always had a very great suite of ladies and maids, and never refused fresh ones; far from it, indeed, for she would inquire of the noblemen at Court if they had daughters, and would ask that they might be sent to her."—Lalanne's OEuvres de Brantome, vol. vii. p. 314—L.
2 This by the consent of all the commentators is Anne de Rohan, elder daughter of John II. Viscount de Rohan, Count of Porhoet, Leon and La Garnache, by Mary of Brittany, daughter of Duke Francis I. The date of Anne de Rohan's birth is not exactly known, but she is said to have been about thirty years of age at the time of the tale, though the incidents related extend over a somewhat lengthy period. However, we know that Anne was ultimately married to Peter de Rohan in 1517, when, according to her marriage contract, she was over thirty-six years old (Les Preuves de Histoire ecclesiastique et civile de Bretagne, 1756, vol. v. col. 940). From this we may assume that she was thirty in or about 1510. The historical incidents alluded to in the tale would, however, appear to have occurred (as will be shown by subsequent notes) between 1507 and 1509, and we are of opinion that the Queen of Navarre has made her heroine rather older than she really was, and that the story indeed begins in or about 1505, when Rolandine can have been little more than five or six and twenty.—Ed.
3 See notes to Tale XL. (vol. iv).
Thus, owing to her father's neglect and her mistress's disdain, the poor maiden continued unmarried for a long while; and this at last made her sad at heart, not so much because she longed to be married as because she was ashamed at not being so, wherefore she forsook the vanities and pomps of the Court and gave herself up wholly to the worship of God. Her sole delight consisted in prayer or needlework, and thus in retirement she passed her youthful years, living in the most virtuous and holy manner imaginable.
Now, when she was approaching her thirtieth year, there was at Court a gentleman who was a Bastard of a high and noble house; (4) he was one of the pleasantest comrades and most worshipful men of his day, but he was wholly without fortune, and possessed of such scant comeliness that no lady would have chosen him for her lover.
4 One cannot absolutely identify this personage; but judging by what is said of him in the story—that he came of a great house, that he was very brave but poor, neither rich enough to marry Rolandine nor handsome enough to be made a lover of, and that a lady, who was a near relative of his, came to the Court after his intrigue had been going on for a couple of years—he would certainly appear to be John, Bastard of Angoulome, a natural son of Count John the Good, and consequently half-brother to Charles of Angoulome ( who married Louise of Savoy) and uncle to Francis I. and Queen Margaret. In Pere Anselme's Histoire Genealogique de la Maison de France, vol. i. p. 210 B. there is a record of the letters of legitimisation granted to the Bastard of Angouleme at his father's request in June 1458, and M. Paul Lacroix points out that if Rolandine's secret marriage to him took place in or about 1508, he would then have been about fifty years old, hardly the age for a lover. The Bastard is, however, alluded to in the tale as a man of mature years, and as at the outset of the intrigue (1505) he would have been but forty-seven, we incline with M. de Lincy to the belief that he is the hero of it.—Eu.
Thus this poor gentleman had continued unmated, and as one unfortunate often seeks out another, he addressed himself to Rolandine, whose fortune, temper and condition were like his own. And while they were engaged in mutually lamenting their woes, they became very fond of each other, and finding that they were companions in misfortune, sought out one another everywhere, so that they might exchange consolation, in this wise setting on foot a deep and lasting attachment.
Those who had known Rolandine so very retiring that she would speak to none, were now greatly shocked on seeing her unceasingly with the well-born Bastard, and told her governess that she ought not to suffer their long talks together. The governess, therefore, remonstrated with Rolandine, and told her that every one was shocked at her conversing so freely with a man who was neither rich enough to marry her nor handsome enough to be her lover.
To this Rolandine, who had always been rebuked rather for austereness than for worldliness, replied—
"Alas, mother, you know that I cannot have a husband of my own condition, and that I have always shunned such as are handsome and young, fearing to fall into the same difficulties as others. And since this gentleman is discreet and virtuous, as you yourself know, and tells me nothing that is not honourable and right, what harm can I have done to you and to those that have spoken of the matter, by seeking from him some consolation in my grief?"
The poor old woman, who loved her mistress more than she loved herself, replied—
"I can see, my lady, that you speak the truth, and know that you are not treated by your father and mistress as you deserve to be. Nevertheless, since people are speaking about your honour in this way, you ought to converse with him no longer, even were he your own brother."
"Mother," said Rolandine, "if such be your counsel I will observe it; but 'tis a strange thing to be wholly without consolation in the world."
The Bastard came to talk with her according to his wont, but she told him everything that her governess had said to her, and, shedding tears, besought him to have no converse with her for a while, until the rumour should be past and gone; and to this he consented at her request.
Being thus cut off from all consolation, they both began, however, to feel such torment during their separation as neither had ever known before. For her part she did not cease praying to God, journeying and fasting; for love, heretofore unknown to her, caused her such exceeding disquiet as not to leave her an hour's repose. The well-born Bastard was no better off; but, as he had already resolved in his heart to love her and try to wed her, and had thought not only of his love but of the honour that it would bring him if he succeeded in his design, he reflected that he must devise a means of making his love known to her and, above all, of winning the governess to his side. This last he did by protesting to her the wretchedness of her poor mistress, who was being robbed of all consolation. At this the old woman, with many tears, thanked him for the honourable affection that he bore her mistress, and they took counsel together how he might speak with her. They planned that Rolandine should often feign to suffer from headache, to which noise is exceedingly distressful; so that, when her companions went into the Queen's apartment, she and the Bastard might remain alone, and in this way hold converse together.
The Bastard was overjoyed at this, and, guiding himself wholly by the governess's advice, had speech with his sweetheart whensoever he would. However, this contentment lasted no great while, for the Queen, who had but little love for Rolandine, inquired what she did so constantly in her room. Some one replied that it was on account of sickness, but another, who possessed too good a memory for the absent, declared that the pleasure she took in speaking with the Bastard must needs cause her headache to pass away.
The Queen, who deemed the venial sins of others to be mortal ones in Rolandine, sent for her and forbade her ever to speak to the Bastard except it were in the royal chamber or hall. The maiden gave no sign, but replied—
"Had I known, madam, that he or any one beside were displeasing to you, I should never have spoken to him."
Nevertheless she secretly cast about to find some other plan of which the Queen should know nothing, and in this she was successful. On Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays she was wont to fast, and would then stay with her governess in her own room, where, while the others were at supper, she was free to speak with the man whom she was beginning to love so dearly.
The more they were compelled to shorten their discourse, the more lovingly did they talk; for they stole the time even as a robber steals something that is of great worth. But, in spite of all their secrecy, a serving-man saw the Bastard go into the room one fast day, and reported the matter in a quarter where it was not concealed from the Queen. The latter was so wroth that the Bastard durst enter the ladies' room no more. Yet, that he might not lose the delight of converse with his love, he often made a pretence of going on a journey, and returned in the evening to the church or chapel of the castle (5) dressed as a Grey Friar or a Jacobin, or disguised so well in some other way that none could know him; and thither, attended by her governess, Rolandine would go to have speech with him.
5 This would be either the chateau of Amboise or that of Blois, we are inclined to think the latter, as Louis XII. more frequently resided there.—Ed.
Then, seeing how great was the love she bore him, he feared not to say—
"You see, fair lady, what risk I run in your service, and how the Queen has forbidden you to speak with me. You see, further, what manner of man is your father, who has no thought whatsoever of bestowing you in marriage. He has rejected so many excellent suitors, that I know of none, whether near or far, that can win you. I know that I am poor, and that you could not wed a gentleman that were not richer than I; yet, if love and good-will were counted wealth, I should hold myself for the richest man on earth. God has given you great wealth, and you are like to have even more. Were I so fortunate as to be chosen for your husband, I would be your husband, lover and servant all my life long; whereas, if you take one of equal consideration with yourself—and such a one it were hard to find—he will seek to be the master, and will have more regard for your wealth than for your person, and for the beauty of others than for your virtue; and, whilst enjoying the use of your wealth, he will fail to treat you, yourself, as you deserve. And now my longing to have this delight, and my fear that you will have none such with another, impel me to pray that you will make me a happy man, and yourself the most contented and best treated wife that ever lived."
When Rolandine heard the very words that she herself had purposed speaking to him, she replied with a glad countenance—
"I am well pleased that you have been the first to speak such words as I had a long while past resolved to say to you. For the two years that I have known you I have never ceased to turn over in my mind all the arguments for you and against you that I was able to devise; but now that I am at last resolved to enter into the married state, it is time that 1 should make a beginning and choose some one with whom I may look to dwell with tranquil mind. And I have been able to find none, whether handsome, rich, or nobly born, with whom my heart and soul could agree excepting yourself alone. I know that in marrying you I shall not offend God, but rather do what He enjoins, while as to his lordship my father, he has regarded my welfare so little, and has rejected so many offers, that the law suffers me to marry without fear of being disinherited; though, even if I had only that which is now mine, I should, in marrying such a husband as you, account myself the richest woman in the world. As to the Queen, my mistress, I need have no qualms in displeasing her in order to obey God, for never had she any in hindering me from any blessing that I might have had in my youth. But, to show you that the love I bear you is founded upon virtue and honour, you must promise that if I agree to this marriage, you will not seek its consummation until my father be dead, or until I have found a means to win his consent."
To this the Bastard readily agreed, whereupon they exchanged rings in token of marriage, and kissed each other in the church in the presence of God, calling upon Him to witness their promise; and never afterwards was there any other familiarity between them save kissing only.
This slender delight gave great content to the hearts of these two perfect lovers; and, secure in their mutual affection, they lived for some time without seeing each other. There was scarcely any place where honour might be won to which the Bastard did not go, rejoicing that he could not now continue a poor man, seeing that God had bestowed on him a rich wife; and she during his absence steadfastly cherished their perfect love, and made no account of any other living man. And although there were some who asked her in marriage, the only answer they had of her was that, since she had remained unwedded for so long a time, she desired to continue so for ever. (6)
6 The speeches of Rolandine and the Bastard should be compared with some of Clement Marot's elegies, notably with one in which he complains of having been surprised while conversing with his mistress in a church.—B. J.
This reply came to the ears of so many people, that the Queen heard of it and asked her why she spoke in that way. Rolandine replied that it was done in obedience to herself, who had never been pleased to marry her to any man who would have well and comfortably provided for her; accordingly, being taught by years and patience to be content with her present condition, she would always return a like answer whensoever any one spoke to her of marriage.
When the wars were over, (7) and the Bastard had returned to Court, she never spoke to him in presence of others, but always repaired to some church and there had speech with him under pretence of going to confession; for the Queen had forbidden them both, under penalty of death, to speak together except in public. But virtuous love, which recks naught of such a ban, was more ready to find them means of speech than were their enemies to spy them out; the Bastard disguised himself in the habit of every monkish order he could think of, and thus their virtuous intercourse continued, until the King repaired to a pleasure house he had near Tours. (8)
7 The wars here referred to would be one or another of Louis XII.'s Italian expeditions, probably that of 1507, when the battle of Aignadel was fought.—Ed.
8 This would no doubt be the famous chateau of Plessis-lez- Tours, within a mile of Tours, and long the favourite residence of Louis XI. Louis XII. is known to have sojourned at Plessis in 1507, at the time when the States-general conferred upon him the title of "Father of the People." English tourists often visit Plessis now adays in memory of Scott's "Quentin Durward," but only a few shapeless ruins of the old structure are left.—M. and Ed.
This, however, was not near enough for the ladies to go on foot to any other church but that of the castle, which was built in such a fashion that it contained no place of concealment in which the confessor would not have been plainly recognised.
But if one opportunity failed them, love found them another and an easier one, for there came to the Court a lady to whom the Bastard was near akin. This lady was lodged, together with her son, (9) in the King's abode; and the young Prince's room projected from the rest of the King's apartments in such a way that from his window it was possible to see and to speak to Rolandine, for his window and hers were just at the angle made by the two wings of the house.
9 This lady would be Louise of Savoy. She first came to the Court at Amboise in 1499, a circumstance which has led some commentators to place the incidents of this story at that date. But she was at Blois on various occasions between 1507 and 1509, to negotiate and attend the marriage of her daughter Margaret with the Duke of Alencon. Louis XII. having gone from Blois to Plessis in 1507, Louise of Savoy may well have followed him thither. Her son was, of course, the young Duke de Valois, afterwards Francis I.—Ed.
In this room of hers, which was over the King's presence-chamber, all the noble damsels that were Rolandine's companions were lodged with her. She, having many times observed the young Prince at his window, made this known to the Bastard through her governess; and he, having made careful observation of the place, feigned to take great pleasure in reading a book about the Knights of the Round Table (10) which was in the Prince's room.
10 Romances of chivalry were much sought after at this time. Not merely were there MS. copies of these adorned with miniatures, but we find that L'Histoire du Saint Greai, La Vie et les Propheties de Merlin, and Les Merveilleux Faits et Gestes du Noble Chevalier Lancelot du Lac were printed in France in the early years of the sixteenth century.—B.J.
And when every one was going to dinner, he would beg a valet to let him finish his reading, shut up in the room, over which he promised to keep good guard. The servants knew him to be a kinsman of his master and one to be trusted, let him read as much as he would. Rolandine, on her part, would then come to her window; and, so that she might be able to make a long stay at it, she pretended to have an infirmity in the leg, and accordingly dined and supped so early that she no longer frequented the ladies' table. She likewise set herself to work a coverlet of crimson silk, (11) and fastened it at the window, where she desired to be alone; and, when she saw that none was by, she would converse with her husband, who contrived to speak in such a voice as could not be overheard; and whenever any one was coming, she would cough and make a sign, so that the Bastard might withdraw in good time.
11 In the French, "Ung lut de reseul:" reticella—i.e., a kind of open work embroidery very fashionable in those days, and the most famous designers of which were Frederic Vinciolo, Dominic de Sara, and John Cousin the painter. Various sixteenth and seventeenth century books on needlework, still extant, give some curious information concerning this form of embroidery.—M.
Those who kept watch upon them felt sure that their love was past, for she never stirred from the room in which, as they thought, he could assuredly never see her, since it was forbidden him to enter it.
One day, however, the young Prince's mother, (12) being in her son's room, placed herself at the window where this big book lay, and had not long been there when one of Rolandine's companions, who was at the window in the opposite room, greeted her and spoke to her. The lady asked her how Rolandine did; whereon the other replied that she might see her if she would, and brought her to the window in her nightcap. Then, when they had spoken together about her sickness, they withdrew from the window on either side.
12 Louise of Savoy.
The lady, observing the big book about the Round Table, said to the servant who had it in his keeping—
"I am surprised that young folk can waste their time in reading such foolishness."
The servant replied that he marvelled even more that people accounted sensible and of mature age should have a still greater liking for it than the young; and he told her, as matter for wonderment, how her cousin the Bastard would spend four or five hours each day in reading this fine book. Straightway there came into the lady's mind the reason why he acted thus, and she charged the servant to hide himself somewhere, and take account of what the Bastard might do. This the man did, and found that the Bastard's book was the window to which Rolandine came to speak with him, and he, moreover, heard many a love-speech which they had thought to keep wholly secret.
On the morrow he related this to his mistress, who sent for the Bastard, and after chiding him forbade him to return to that place again; and in the evening she spoke of the matter to Rolandine, and threatened, if she persisted in this foolish love, to make all these practices known to the Queen.
Rolandine, whom nothing could dismay, vowed that in spite of all that folks might say she had never spoken to him since her mistress had forbidden her to do so, as might be learned both from her companions and from her servants and attendants. And as for the window, she declared that she had never spoken at it to the Bastard. He, however, fearing that the matter had been discovered, withdrew out of harm's way, and was a long time without returning to Court, though not without writing to Rolandine, and this in so cunning a manner that, in spite of the Queen's vigilance, never a week went by but she twice heard from him.
When he no longer found it possible to employ monks as messengers, as he had done at first, he would send a little page, dressed now in one colour and now in another; and the page used to stand at the doorways through which the ladies were wont to pass, and deliver his letters secretly in the throng. But one day, when the Queen was going out into the country, it chanced that one who was charged to look after this matter recognised the page, and hastened after him; but he, being keen-witted and suspecting that he was being pursued, entered the house of a poor woman who was boiling her pot on the fire, and there forthwith burned his letters. The gentleman who followed him stripped him naked and searched through all his clothes; but he could find nothing, and so let him go. And the boy being gone, the old woman asked the gentleman why he had so searched him.
"To find some letters," he replied, "which I thought he had upon him."
"You could by no means have found them," said the old woman, "they were too well hidden for that."
"I pray you," said the gentleman, in the hope of getting them before long, "tell me where they were."
However, when he heard that they had been thrown into the fire, he perceived that the page had proved more crafty than himself, and forthwith made report of the matter to the Queen.
From that time, however, the Bastard no longer employed the page or any other child, but sent an old servant of his, who, laying aside all fear of the death which, as he well knew, was threatened by the Queen against all such as should interfere in this matter, undertook to carry his master's letters to Rolandine. And having come to the castle where she was, he posted himself on the watch at the foot of a broad staircase, beside a doorway through which all the ladies were wont to pass. But a serving-man, who had aforetime seen him, knew him again immediately and reported the matter to the Queen's Master of the Household, who quickly came to arrest him. However, the discreet and wary servant, seeing that he was being watched from a distance, turned towards the wall as though he desired to make water, and tearing the letter he had into the smallest possible pieces, threw them behind a door. Immediately afterwards he was taken and thoroughly searched, and nothing being found on him, they asked him on his oath whether he had not brought letters, using all manner of threats and persuasions to make him confess the truth; but neither by promises nor threats could they draw anything from him.
Report of this having been made to the Queen, some one in the company bethought him that it would be well to look behind the door near which the man had been taken. This was done, and they found what they sought, namely the pieces of the letter. Then the King's confessor was sent for, and he, having put the pieces together on a table, read the whole of the letter, in which the truth of the marriage, that had been so carefully concealed, was made manifest; for the Bastard called Rolandine nothing but "wife." The Queen, who was in no mind, as she should have been, to hide her neighbour's transgressions, made a great ado about the matter, and commanded that all means should be employed to make the poor man confess the truth of the letter. And indeed, when they showed it to him, he could not deny it; but for all they could say or show, he would say no more than at first. Those who had him in charge thereupon brought him to the brink of the river, and put him into a sack, declaring that he had lied to God and to the Queen, contrary to proven truth. But he was minded to die rather than accuse his master, and asked for a confessor; and when he had eased his conscience as well as might be, he said to them—
"Good sirs, I pray you tell the Bastard, my master, that I commend the lives of my wife and children to him, for right willingly do I yield up my own in his service. You may do with me what you will, for never shall you draw from me a word against my master."
Thereupon, all the more to affright him, they threw him in the sack into the water, calling to him—
"If you will tell the truth, you shall be saved."
Finding, however, that he answered nothing, they drew him out again, and made report of his constancy to the Queen, who on hearing of it declared that neither the King nor herself were so fortunate in their followers as was this gentleman the Bastard, though he lacked even the means to requite them. She then did all that she could to draw the servant into her own service, but he would by no means consent to forsake his master. However, by the latter's leave, he at last entered the Queen's service, in which he lived in happiness and contentment.
The Queen, having learnt the truth of the marriage from the Bastard's letter, sent for Rolandine, whom with a wrathful countenance she several times called "wretch" instead of "cousin," reproaching her with the shame that she had brought both upon her father's house and her mistress by thus marrying without her leave or commandment.
Rolandine, who had long known what little love her mistress bore her, gave her but little in return. Moreover, since there was no love between them, neither was there fear; and as Rolandine perceived that this reprimand, given her in presence of several persons, was prompted less by affection than by a desire to put her to shame, and that the Queen felt more pleasure in chiding her than grief at finding her in fault, she replied with a countenance as glad and tranquil as the Queen's was disturbed and wrathful—
"If, madam, you did not know your own heart, such as it is, I would set forth to you the ill-will that you have long borne my father (13) and myself; but you do, indeed, know this, and will not deem it strange that all the world should have an inkling of it too. For my own part, madam, I have perceived it to my dear cost, for had you been pleased to favour me equally as you favour those who are not so near to you as myself, I were now married to your honour as well as to my own; but you passed me over as one wholly a stranger to your favour, and so all the good matches I might have made passed away before my eyes, through my father's neglect and the slenderness of your regard. By reason of this treatment I fell into such deep despair, that, had my health been strong enough in any sort to endure a nun's condition, I would have willingly entered upon it to escape from the continual griefs your harshness brought me.
13 Of all those with pretensions to the Duchy of Brittany, the Viscount de Rohan had doubtless the best claim, though he met with the least satisfaction. It was, however, this reason that led the Queen [Anne of Brittany] to treat him with such little regard. It was with mingled grief and resentment that this proud princess realised how real were the Viscount's rights; moreover, she never forgave him for having taken up arms against her in favour of France; and seeking an opportunity to avenge herself, she found one in giving the Viscount but little satisfaction in the matter of his pretensions."—Dora Morice's Histoire ecclesiastique et civile de Bretagne, Paris, 1756, vol. ii. p. 231.—L.
"Whilst in this despair I was sought by one whose lineage would be as good as my own if mutual love were rated as high as a marriage ring; for you know that his father would walk before mine. He has long wooed and loved me; but you, madam, who have never forgiven me the smallest fault nor praised me for any good deed, you—although you knew from experience that I was not wont to speak of love or worldly things, and that I led a more retired and religious life than any other of your maids—forthwith deemed it strange that I should speak with a gentleman who is as unfortunate in this life as I am myself, and one, moreover, in whose friendship I thought and looked to have nothing save comfort to my soul. When I found myself wholly baffled in this design, I fell into great despair, and resolved to seek my peace as earnestly as you longed to rob me of it; whereupon we exchanged words of marriage, and confirmed them with promise and ring. Wherefore, madam, methinks you do me a grievous wrong in calling me wicked, seeing that in this great and perfect love, wherein opportunity, had I so desired, would not have been lacking, no greater familiarity has passed between us than a kiss. I have waited in the hope that, before the consummation of the marriage, I might by the grace of God win my father's heart to consent to it. I have given no offence to God or to my conscience, for I have waited till the age of thirty to see what you and my father would do for me, and have kept my youth in such chastity and virtue that no living man can bring up aught against me. But when I found that I was old and without hope of being wedded suitably to my birth and condition, I used the reason that God has given me, and resolved to marry a gentleman after my own heart. And this I did not to gratify the lust of the eye, for you know that he is not handsome; nor the lust of the flesh, for there has been no carnal consummation of our marriage; nor the ambition and pride of life, for he is poor and of small rank; but I took account purely and simply of the worth that is in him, for which every one is constrained to praise him, and also of the great love that he bears me, and that gives me hope of having a life of quietness and kindness with him. Having carefully weighed all the good and the evil that may come of it, I have done what seems to me best, and, after considering the matter in my heart for two years, I am resolved to pass the remainder of my days with him. And so firm is my resolve that no torment that may be inflicted upon me, nor even death itself, shall ever cause me to depart from it. Wherefore, madam, I pray you excuse that which is indeed very excusable, as you yourself must realise, and suffer me to dwell in that peace which I hope to find with him."
The Queen, finding her so steadfast of countenance and so true of speech, could make no reply in reason, but continued wrathfully rebuking and reviling her, bursting into tears and saying—
"Wretch that you are! instead of humbling yourself before me, and repenting of so grievous a fault, you speak hardily with never a tear in your eye, and thus clearly show the obstinacy and hardness of your heart. But if the King and your father give heed to me, they will put you into a place where you will be compelled to speak after a different fashion."
"Madam," replied Rolandine, "since you charge me with speaking too hardily, I will e'en be silent if you give me not permission to reply to you."
Then, being commanded to speak, she went on—
"'Tis not for me, madam, to speak to you, my mistress and the greatest Princess in Christendom, hardily and without the reverence that I owe to you, nor have I purposed doing so; but I have no defender to speak for me except the truth, and as this is known to me alone, I am forced to utter it fearlessly in the hope that, when you know it, you will not hold me for such as you have been pleased to name me. I fear not that any living being should learn how I have comported myself in the matter that is laid to my charge, for I know that I have offended neither against God nor against my honour. And this it is that enables me to speak without fear; for I feel sure that He who sees my heart is on my side, and with such a Judge in my favour, I were wrong to fear such as are subject to His decision. Why should I weep? My conscience and my heart do not at all rebuke me, and so far am I from repenting of this matter, that, were it to be done over again, I should do just the same. But you, madam, have good cause to weep both for the deep wrong that you have done me throughout my youth, and for that which you are now doing me, in rebuking me publicly for a fault that should be laid at your door rather than at mine. Had I offended God, the King, yourself, my kinsfolk or my conscience, I were indeed obstinate and perverse if I did not greatly repent with tears; but I may not weep for that which is excellent, just and holy, and which would have received only commendation had you not made it known before the proper time. In doing this, you have shown that you had a greater desire to compass my dishonour than to preserve the honour of your house and kin. But, since such is your pleasure, madam, I have nothing to say against it; command me what suffering you will, and I, innocent though I am, will be as glad to endure as you to inflict it. Wherefore, madam, you may charge my father to inflict whatsoever torment you would have me undergo, for I well know that he will not fail to obey you. It is pleasant to know that, to work me ill, he will wholly fall in with your desire, and that as he has neglected my welfare in submission to your will, so will he be quick to obey you to my hurt. But I have a Father in Heaven, and He will, I am sure, give me patience equal to all the evils that I foresee you preparing for me, and in Him alone do I put my perfect trust."
The Queen, beside herself with wrath, commanded that Rolandine should be taken from her sight and put into a room alone, where she might have speech with no one. However, her governess was not taken from her, and through her Rolandine acquainted the Bastard with all that had befallen her, and asked him what he would have her do. He, thinking that his services to the King might avail him something, came with all speed to the Court. Finding the King at the chase, he told him the whole truth, entreating him to favour a poor gentleman so far as to appease the Queen and bring about the consummation of the marriage.
The King made no reply except to ask—
"Do you assure me that you have wedded her?"
"Yes, sire," said the Bastard, "but by word of mouth alone; however, if it please you, we'll make an ending of it."
The King bent his head, and, without saying anything more, returned straight towards the castle, and when he was nigh to it summoned the Captain of his Guard, and charged him to take the Bastard prisoner.
However, a friend who knew and could interpret the King's visage, warned the Bastard to withdraw and betake himself to a house of his that was hard by, saying that if the King, as he expected, sought for him, he should know of it forthwith, so that he might fly the kingdom; whilst if, on the other hand, things became smoother, he should have word to return. The Bastard followed this counsel, and made such speed that the Captain of the Guards was not able to find him.
The King and Queen took counsel together as to what they should do with the hapless lady who had the honour of being related to them, and by the Queen's advice it was decided that she should be sent back to her father, and that he should be made acquainted with the whole truth.
But before sending her away they caused many priests and councillors to speak with her and show her that, since her marriage consisted in words only, it might by mutual agreement readily be made void; and this, they urged, the King desired her to do in order to maintain the honour of the house to which she belonged.
She made answer that she was ready to obey the King in all such things as were not contrary to her conscience, but that those whom God had brought together man could not put asunder. She therefore begged them not to tempt her to anything so unreasonable; for if love and goodwill founded on the fear of God were the true and certain marriage ties, she was linked by bonds that neither steel nor flame nor water could sever. Death alone might do this, and to death alone would she resign her ring and her oath. She therefore prayed them to gainsay her no more; for so strong of purpose was she that she would rather keep faith and die than break it and live.
This steadfast reply was repeated to the King by those whom he had appointed to speak with her, and when it was found that she could by no means be brought to renounce her husband, she was sent to her father, and this in so pitiful a plight that all who beheld her pass wept to see her. And although she had done wrong, her punishment was so grievous and her constancy so great, that her wrongdoing was made to appear a virtue.
When her father heard the pitiful tale, he would not see her, but sent her away to a castle in a forest, which he had aforetime built for a reason well worthy to be related. (14) There he kept her in prison for a long time, causing her to be told that if she would give up her husband he would treat her as his daughter and set her free.
14 The famous chateau of Josselin in Morbihan. See notes to Tale XL., vol. lv.—Ed.
Nevertheless she continued firm, for she preferred the bonds of prison together with those of marriage, to all the freedom in the world without her husband. And, judging from her countenance, all her woes seemed but pleasant pastimes to her, since she was enduring them for one she loved.
And now, what shall I say of men? The Bastard, who was so deeply beholden to her, as you have seen, fled to Germany where he had many friends, and there showed by his fickleness that he had sought Rolandine less from true and perfect love than from avarice and ambition; for he fell deeply in love with a German lady, and forgot to write to the woman who for his sake was enduring so much tribulation. However cruel Fortune might be towards them, they were always able to write to each other, until he conceived this foolish and wicked love. And Rolandine's heart gaining an inkling of it, she could no longer rest.
And afterwards, when she found that his letters were colder and different from what they had been before, she suspected that some new love was separating her from her husband, and doing that which all the torments and afflictions laid upon herself had been unable to effect. Nevertheless, her perfect love would not pass judgment on mere suspicion, so she found a means of secretly sending a trusty servant, not to carry letters or messages to him, but to watch him and discover the truth. When this servant had returned from his journey, he told her that the Bastard was indeed deeply in love with a German lady, and that according to common report he was seeking to marry her, for she was very rich.
These tidings brought extreme and unendurable grief to Rolandine's heart, so that she fell grievously sick. Those who knew the cause of her sickness, told her on behalf of her father that, with this great wickedness on the part of the Bastard before her eyes, she might now justly renounce him. They did all they could to persuade her to that intent, but, notwithstanding her exceeding anguish, she could not be brought to change her purpose, and in this last temptation again gave proof of her great love and surpassing virtue. For as love grew less and less on his part, so did it grow greater on hers, and in this way make good that which was lost. And when she knew that the entire and perfect love that once had been shared by both remained but in her heart alone, she resolved to preserve it there until one or the other of them should die. And the Divine Goodness, which is perfect charity and true love, took pity upon her grief and long suffering, in such wise that a few days afterwards the Bastard died while occupied in seeking after another woman. Being advised of this by certain persons who had seen him laid in the ground, she sent to her father and begged that he would be pleased to speak with her.
Her father, who had never spoken to her since her imprisonment, came without delay. He listened to all the pleas that she had to urge, and then, instead of rebuking her or killing her as he had often threatened, he took her in his arms and wept exceedingly.
"My daughter," he said, "you are more in the right than I, for if there has been any wrongdoing in this matter, I have been its principal cause. But now, since God has so ordered it, I would gladly atone for the past."
He took her home and treated her as his eldest daughter. A gentleman who bore the same name and arms as did her own family sought her in marriage; he was very sensible and virtuous, (15) and he thought so much of Rolandine, whom he often visited, that he gave praise to what others blamed in her, perceiving that virtue had been her only aim. The marriage, being acceptable both to Rolandine and to her father, was concluded without delay.
It is true, however, that a brother she had, the sole heir of their house, would not grant her a portion, for he charged her with having disobeyed her father. And after his father's death he treated her so harshly that she and her husband (who was a younger son) had much ado to live. (16)
15 Peter de Rohan-Gie, Lord of Frontenay, third son of Peter de Rohan, Lord of Gie, Marshal of Prance and preceptor to Francis I. As previously stated, the marriage took place in 1517, and eight years later the husband was killed at Pavia.—Ed.
16 Anne de Rohan (Rolandine) had two brothers, James and Claud. Both died without issue. Some particulars concerning them will be found in the notes to Tale XL. The father's death, according to Anselme, took place in 1516, that is, prior to Anne's marriage.—Ed.
However, God provided for them, for the brother that sought to keep everything died suddenly one day, leaving behind him both her wealth, which he was keeping back, and his own.
Thus did she inherit a large and rich estate, whereon she lived piously and virtuously and in her husband's love. And after she had brought up the two sons that God gave to them, (17) she yielded with gladness her soul to Him in whom she had at all times put her perfect trust.
17 Anne's sons were Rene and Claud. Miss Mary Robinson (The Fortunate Lovers, London, 1887) believes Rene to be "Saffredent," and his wife Isabel d'Albret, sister of Queen Margaret's husband Henry of Navarre, to be "Nomerfide."—Ed.
"Now, ladies, let the men who would make us out so fickle come forward and point to an instance of as good a husband as this lady was a good wife, and of one having like faith and steadfastness. I am sure they would find it so difficult to do this, that I will release them from the task rather than put them to such exceeding toil. But as for you, ladies, I would pray you, for the sake of maintaining your own fair fame, either to love not at all, or else to love as perfectly as she did. And let none among you say that this lady offended against her honour, seeing that her constancy has served to heighten our own."
"In good sooth, Parlamente," said Oisille, "you have indeed told us the story of a woman possessed of a noble and honourable heart; but her constancy derives half its lustre from the faithlessness of a husband that could leave her for another."
"I think," said Longarine, "that the grief so caused must have been the hardest to bear. There is none so heavy that the love of two united lovers cannot support it; but when one fails in his duty, and leaves the whole of the burden to the other, the load becomes too heavy to be endured."
"Then you ought to pity us," said Geburon, "for we have to bear the whole burden of love, and you will not put out the tip of a finger to relieve us."
"Ah, Geburon," said Parlamente, "the burdens of men and of women are often different enough. The love of a woman, being founded on godliness and honour, is just and reasonable, and any man that is false to it must be reckoned a coward, and a sinner against God and man. On the other hand, most men love only with reference to pleasure, and women, being ignorant of their ill intent, are sometimes ensnared; but when God shows them how vile is the heart of the man whom they deemed good, they may well draw back to save their honour and reputation, for soonest ended is best mended."
"Nay, that is a whimsical idea of yours," said Hircan, "to hold that an honourable woman may in all honour betray the love of a man; but that a man may not do as much towards a woman. You would make out that the heart of the one differs from that of the other; but for my part, in spite of their differences in countenance and dress, I hold them to be alike in inclination, except indeed that the guilt which is best concealed is the worst."
Thereto Parlamente replied with some heat—
"I am well aware that in your opinion the best women are those whose guilt is known."
"Let us leave this discourse," said Simontault; "for whether we take the heart of man or the heart of woman, the better of the twain is worth nothing. And now let us see to whom Parlamente is going to give her vote, so that we may hear some fine tale."
"I give it," she said, "to Geburon."
"Since I began," (18) he replied, "by talking about the Grey friars, I must not forget those of Saint Benedict, nor an adventure in which they were concerned in my own time. Nevertheless, in telling you the story of a wicked monk, I do not wish to hinder you from having a good opinion of such as are virtuous; but since the Psalmist says 'all men are liars,' and in another place, 'there is none that doeth good, no not one,' (19) I think we are bound to look upon men as they really are. If there be any virtue in them, we must attribute it to Him who is its source, and not to the creature. Most people deceive themselves by giving overmuch praise or glory to the latter, or by thinking that there is something good in themselves. That you may not deem it impossible for exceeding lust to exist under exceeding austerity, listen to what befel in the days of King Francis the First."
18 See the first tale he tells, No. 5, vol. i.—Ed.
19 Psalms cxvi. 11 and xiv. 3.
[Sister Marie and the Prior]
Sister Marie Heroet, being unchastely solicited by a Prior of Saint-Martin-in-the-Fields, was by the grace of God enabled to overcome his great temptations, to the Prior's exceeding confusion and her own glory. (1)
1 This story is historical, and though M. Frank indicates points of similarity between it and No. xxvii. of St. Denis' Comptes du Monde Adventureux, and No. vi. of Masuccio de Solerac's Novellino, these are of little account when one remembers that the works in question were written posterior to the Heptameron. The incidents related in the tale must have occurred between 1530 and 1535. The Abbey of Saint- Martin-in-the-Fields stood on the site of the present Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers, Paris.—Ed.
In the city of Paris there was a Prior of Saint-Martin-in-the-Fields, whose name I will keep secret for the sake of the friendship I bore him. Until he reached the age of fifty years, his life was so austere that the fame of his holiness was spread throughout the entire kingdom, and there was not a prince or princess but showed him high honour when he came to visit them. There was further no monkish reform that was not wrought by his hand, so that people called him the "father of true monasticism." (2)
He was chosen visitor to the illustrious order of the "Ladies of Fontevrault," (3) by whom he was held in such awe that, when he visited any of their convents, the nuns shook with very fear, and to soften his harshness towards them would treat him as though he had been the King himself in person. At first he would not have them do this, but at last, when he was nearly fifty-five years old, he began to find the treatment he had formerly contemned very pleasant; and reckoning himself the mainstay of all monasticism, he gave more care to the preservation of his health than had heretofore been his wont. Although the rules of his order forbade him ever to partake of flesh, he granted himself a dispensation (which was more than he ever did for another), declaring that the whole burden of conventual affairs rested upon him; for which reason he feasted himself so well that, from being a very lean monk he became a very fat one.
2 This prior was Stephen Gentil, who succeeded Philip Bourgoin on December 15, 1508, and died November 6, 1536. The Gallia Christiana states that in 1524 he reformed an abbey of the diocese of Soissons, but makes no mention of his appointment as visitor to the abbey of Fontevrault. Various particulars concerning him will be found in Manor's Monasterii Regalis S. Martini de Campis, &c. Parisiis, 1636, and in Gallia Christiana, vol. vii. col. 539.—L.
3 The abbey of Fontevrault, near Saumur, Maine-et-Loire, was founded in 1100 by Robert d'Arbrissel, and comprised two conventual establishments, one for men and the other for women. Prior to his death, d'Arbrissel abdicated his authority in favour of Petronilla de Chemille, and from her time forward monks and nuns alike were always under the sway of an abbess—this being the only instance of the kind in the history of the Roman Catholic Church. Fourteen of the abbesses were princesses, and several of these were of the blood royal of France. In the abbey church were buried our Henry II., Eleanor of Guienne, Richard Coeur-de-Lion, and Isabella of Angouleme; their tombs are still shown, though the abbey has become a prison, and its church a refectory.— Ed.
Together with this change of life there was wrought also a great change of heart, so that he now began to cast glances upon countenances which aforetime he had looked at only as a duty; and, contemplating charms which were rendered even more desirable by the veil, he began to hanker after them. Then, to satisfy this longing, he sought out such cunning devices that at last from being a shepherd he became a wolf, so that in many a convent, where there chanced to be a simple maiden, he failed not to beguile her. But after he had continued this evil life for a long time, the Divine Goodness took compassion upon the poor, wandering sheep, and would no longer suffer this villain's triumph to endure, as you shall hear.
One day he went to visit the convent of Gif, (4) not far from Paris, and while he was confessing all the nuns, it happened that there was one among them called Marie Heroet, whose speech was so gentle and pleasing that it gave promise of a countenance and heart to match.