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Between Two Stools








By Monseigneur De Waurin.

_Of a noble knight who was in love with a beautiful young married lady,
and thought himself in her good graces, and also in those of another
lady, her neighbour; but lost both as is afterwards recorded._


As all the stories of asses are now finished, I will relate shortly a
true story of a knight whom many of you noble lords have long known. It
is true that this knight was greatly in love--as is often the way with
young men--with a beautiful and noble young lady, who, in that part of
the country where she lived was renowned for her beauty. Nevertheless,
try what means he could to obtain her favours, and become her accepted
lover, he could not succeed--at which he was much displeased, seeing
that never was woman loved more ardently, loyally, and wholly than she
was. Nor should I omit to say that he did as much for her as ever
lover did for his lady, such as jousts, expensive habiliments,
etc.--nevertheless, as has been said, he found her always brusque and
averse, and showing him less love than she reasonably should, for she
knew for a fact that she was loyally and dearly loved by him. And,
to say truth, she was too harsh to him, which, it is to be believed,
proceeded from pride, of which she had too much--it might even be said,
with which she was filled.

Matters were in this condition, when another lady, a friend and
neighbour of the first-named damsel, seeing how enamoured the knight
was, fell in love with him herself, and by various honest ways and means
which would take too long to describe, so subtly managed that in a short
time the knight perceived her love, at which he was much vexed, his
heart being wholly given to his harsh and cruel mistress.

Being not only kind, but possessed of much common sense he managed
adroitly not to compromise himself, so that if his second love affair
had come to the knowledge of his first mistress, she would have no cause
to blame his conduct.

Now listen to the end of his amours. Owing to the distance at which
he lived, he could not so often see his lady-love as his trusting and
loving heart desired. So he determined one day to ask certain knights
and squires, good friends of his, but who knew nothing about his love
affairs, to fly their hawks, and hunt the hare in the district in which
the lady resided, knowing for a fact by his spies, that her husband was
away, having gone to Court, as he often did.

As had been arranged, the love-sick knight and his companions started
the next day, early in the morning, from the town where the Court was,
and passed the time until the late afternoon in hunting the hare, and
without eating or drinking. They snatched a hasty repast in a little
village, and after the dinner, which was short and simple, remounted
their horses and continued to hunt the hare.

The good knight, who had only one object in view, led his companions

from the city, to which they always wished to return and said to him,
"The hour of vespers is near and it is time to return to the town. If we
do not take care we shall be locked out, and have to stay the night in
some miserable village and all die of hunger."

"Don't be alarmed," said the lover; "there is plenty of time, and at
the worst I know a place near here where we shall be very welcome, and I
suppose you will have no objection to meeting ladies."

Being all courtiers, thy were not at all disinclined to meet ladies, and
were satisfied to leave the matter in his hands, and continued to hunt
the hare and the partridge as long as daylight lasted.

When it was time to think of finding lodgings, the knight said to his
companions,

"Come along, come along! I will lead you to the place." About an hour or
two after nightfall, the knight and his comrades arrived at the place
where lived the lady with whom the guide of this little band was so
enamoured that he could not sleep o'nights. They knocked at the door of
the castle, and the varlets quickly came and asked them what they
wanted. And he who was the most deeply concerned, answered and said;
"Gentlemen, are my lord and my lady at home?" "Truly," replied one of
the attendants for all the others, "my lord is not here, but my lady
is."

"Tell her if you please, that such and such knights and squires of the
Court, and I, so-and-so, have been hunting the hare in this part of the
country, and have lost our way, and now it is too late to return to the
town. We beg her therefore to receive us as her guests for this night."

"Willingly will I tell her," said the other.

He went and delivered this message to his mistress, who, instead
of coming to the gentlemen, sent a message, which the servant thus
delivered.

"Monseigneur," said the varlet, "my lady wishes me to inform you that
her husband is not here; at which she is much vexed, for if he had been
he would have given you a hearty welcome; but in his absence she does
not dare to receive visitors, and begs you therefore to pardon her."

The knight, who had led the expedition, was, you may imagine, much
vexed and ashamed to hear this reply, for he expected to have seen his
mistress, and had a pleasant time with her, and emptied his heart to
her, and he was annoyed that he had brought his companions to a place
where he had boasted they would be well received.

Like a wise and noble knight, he did not show what he felt in his heart,
but with a calm countenance said to his comrades,

"Gentlemen, pardon me that I have lured you with false hopes. I did not
believe that the ladies of this part of the country were so wanting in
courtesy as to refuse a lodging to wandering knights. But have a little
patience. I promise you on my word, to take you somewhere--not far from
here--where we shall have quite a different welcome."

"Forward then!" said all the others. "May God give us good luck."

They set off, under the direction of their guide, to take them to the
house of the lady by whom he was esteemed, though he did not return her
affection as he ought to have done; but now he determined to devote to
her the love which had been so roughly refused by his first mistress,
and he determined to love, serve, and obey her who loved him so, and
with whom, please God, he would soon be.

To shorten the story, after riding for a good hour and a half with the
drenching rain on their backs, they came to the house of the lady who
has previously being mentioned, and gaily knocked at the door, for it
was very late,--between nine and ten o'clock at night, and they much
feared that all the household would be in bed. Varlets and servant maids
at once came forth, and asked, "Who is there?" and they were told.

They went at once to their mistress, who was then in her petticoat, and
had put on her nightcap, and said,

"Madame, my lord so-and-so is at the gate and would fain enter; and with
him certain knights and squires of the Court to the number of three."

"They are very welcome," she said. "Up quickly, all of you! Kill some
capons and fowls, and let us have a good supper, and quickly."

In short, she gave her orders like the great lady that she was--and
still is,--and all obeyed her commands. She quickly put on her
night-dress, and thus attired, came forward, as courteously as possible,
to meet the gentlemen, with two torches carried before her, and only
accompanied by one waiting woman, and her beautiful daughter--all the
other women being employed in preparing the chambers.

She met her guests upon the drawbridge of the castle, and the noble
knight who was the guide and spokesman of the others, came forward and
expressed his gratitude for her kindness, and kissed her, and all the
others did the same after him.

Then like a courteous woman of the world, she said to the lords,

"Gentlemen, you are very welcome. Monseigneur So-and-so (that is to say
their guide) I have known a long time. He is very welcome here, and I
should be glad to make the acquaintance of you other gentlemen."

These introductions were made, the supper was soon ready, and each of
the gentlemen lodged in a fair and fine chamber, well appointed and
furnished with hangings and everything necessary.

It should be mentioned also, that whilst supper was preparing, the lady
and the good knight had a long talk together, and arranged that they
would only require one bed between them that night; her husband by good
luck not being in the house, but forty leagues away.

We will leave them enjoying their supper after the adventures of the
day, and return to the lady who refused to receive the little band, even
the man whom she knew loved her better than anyone else in the world,
and had shown herself so discourteous.

She asked her servants, when they returned from delivering her message,
what the knight had said?

One of them replied: "Madame he said very little; only that he would
take his friends to a place where they would have a hearty welcome and
good cheer."

She quickly guessed where they had gone, and said to herself, "Ah, he
has gone to the house of such an one, who, I know, will not be sorry to
see him, and no doubt they are now plotting against me."

Whilst she was thinking thus, the harshness and un-kindness which she
had felt towards her faithful lover, melted away or was transformed into
hearty affection and good-will, and she longed to bestow upon her
lover whatever he might ask or require. So she at once set to work and
suspecting that the lady to whom they had gone was now enjoying the
society of the man she had treated so rudely, she penned a letter to
her lover, most of the lines of which were written in her most precious
blood, to the effect that as soon as he saw this letter, he should set
all other matters aside, and follow the bearer of the missive, and he
would be so kindly received that no lover in the world could expect more
from his mistress. And as a token of her truth, she placed inside the
letter a diamond ring he well knew.

The bearer of this missive, who was a trustworthy man, went to the
castle where the knight was sitting at supper next to the hostess, and
with all the guests seated round the table. As soon as grace had been
said, the messenger drew the knight aside and handed him the letter.

Having perused it, the good knight was much amazed, and still more
joyous, for though he had determined in his own mind no longer to seek
the love or acquaintance of the writer of the letter, he still felt
tempted when the letter promised him that which he most desired in the
world.

He took his hostess aside, and told her that his master had sent an
urgent message, and that he must leave at once--at which he pretended
to feel much vexed,--and she, who had before been so joyful in the
expectation of that she so much desired, became sad and sorrowful.

He quietly mounted his horse, and leaving all his comrades behind,
arrived with the messenger, soon after midnight, at the castle of the
lady, but her husband had just arrived from Court and was then preparing
to go to bed, and she, who had sent specially to fetch her lover, was
disappointed enough, God knows.

The good knight, who had been all day in the saddle, either hunting the
hare or seeking for lodgings, heard at the door that the lady's husband
had arrived, and you may guess how joyful he was at the news.

He asked his guide what was to be done? They consulted together, and it
was decided that he should pretend to have lost his companions, and, by
good chance, met this messenger, who had brought him to the castle. This
being arranged, he was brought before my lord and my lady, and acted his
part as he well knew how. After having quaffed a cup of wine--which did
him very little good--he was led to his bed-chamber, where he scarcely
slept all night, and, early the next morning, returned with his host to
Court, without having tasted any of the delights which were promised him
in the letter.

And I may add that he was never able to return there again, for soon
afterwards the Court left that part of the country, and he went with it,
and soon forgot all about the lady--as often happens.


*****





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