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The Damsel Knight
By Monseigneur De Foquessoles.
_Of the loves of a young gentleman and a damsel, who tested the loyalty
of the gentleman in a marvellous and courteous manner, and slept three
nights with him without his knowing that it was not a man,--as you will
more fully hear hereafter._
In the duchy of Brabant--not so long ago but that the memory of it is
fresh in the present day--happened a strange thing, which is worthy of
being related, and is not unfit to furnish a story. And in order that it
should be publicly known and reported, here is the tale.
In the household of a great baron of the said country there lived and
resided a young, gracious, and kind gentleman, named Gerard, who was
greatly in love with a damsel of the said household, named Katherine.
And when he found opportunity, he ventured to tell her of his piteous
case. Most people will be able to guess the answer he received, and
therefore, to shorten matters, I omit it here.
In due time Gerard and Katherine loved each other so warmly that there
was but one heart and one will between them. This loyal and perfect love
endured no little time--indeed two years passed away. Love, who blinds
the eyes of his disciples, had so blinded these two that they did not
know that this affection, which they thought secret, was perceived by
every one; there was not a man or a woman in the chateau who was not
aware of it--in fact the matter was so noised abroad that all the talk
of the household was of the loves of Gerard and Katherine.
These two poor, deluded fools were so much occupied with their own
affairs that they did not suspect their love affairs were discussed by
others. Envious persons, or those whom it did not concern, brought
this love affair to the knowledge of the master and mistress of the
two lovers, and it also came to the ears of the father and mother of
Katherine was informed by a damsel belonging to the household, who was
one of her friends and companions, that her love for Gerard had been
discovered and revealed both to her father and mother, and also to the
master and mistress of the house.
"Alas, what is to be done, my dear sister and friend?" asked Katherine.
"I am lost, now that so many persons know, or guess at, my condition.
Advise me, or I am ruined, and the most unfortunate woman in the world,"
and at these words her eyes filled with tears, which rolled down her
fair cheeks and even fell to the edge of her robe.
Her friend was very vexed to see her grief, and tried to console her.
"My sister," she said, "it is foolish to show such great grief; for,
thank God, no one can reproach you with anything that touches your
honour or that of your friends. If you have listened to the vows of a
gentleman, that is not a thing forbidden by the Court of Honour, it is
even the path, the true road, to arrive there. You have no cause for
grief, for there is not a soul living who can bring a charge against
you. But, at any rate, I should advise that, to stop chattering tongues
which are discussing your love affairs, your lover, Gerard, should,
without more ado, take leave of our lord and lady, alleging that he is
to set out on a long voyage, or take part in some war now going on, and,
under that excuse, repair to some house and wait there until God and
Cupid have arranged matters. He will keep you informed by messages how
he is, and you will do the same to him; and by that time the rumours
will have ceased, and you can communicate with one another by letter
until better times arrive. And do not imagine that your love will
cease--it will be as great, or greater, than ever, for during a long
time you will only hear from each other occasionally, and that is one of
the surest ways of preserving love."
The kind and good advice of this gentle dame was followed, for as soon
as Katherine found means to speak to her lover, Gerard, she told him
how the secret of their love had been discovered and had come to the
knowledge of her father and mother, and the master and mistress of the
"And you may believe," she said, "that it did not reach that point
without much talk on the part of those of the household and many of the
neighbours. And since Fortune is not so friendly to us as to permit us
to live happily as we began, but menaces us with further troubles, it is
necessary to be fore-armed against them. Therefore, as the matter much
concerns me, and still more you, I will tell you my opinion."
With that she recounted at full length the good advice which had been
given by her friend and companion.
Gerard, who had expected a misfortune of this kind, replied;
"My loyal and dear mistress, I am your humble and obedient servant, and,
except God, I love no one so dearly as you. You may command me to
do anything that seems good to you, and whatever you order shall be
joyfully and willingly obeyed. But, believe me, there is nothing left
for me in the world when once I am removed from your much-wished-for
presence. Alas, if I must leave you, I fear that the first news you will
hear will be that of my sad and pitiful death, caused by your absence,
but, be that as it may, you are the only living person I will obey, and
I prefer rather to obey you and die, than live for ever and disobey you.
My body is yours. Cut it, hack it, do what you like with it!"
You may guess that Katherine was grieved and vexed at seeing her lover,
whom she adored more than anyone in the world, thus troubled. Had it not
been for the virtue with which God had largely endowed her, she would
have proposed to accompany him on his travels, but she hoped for happier
days, and refrained from making such a proposal. After a pause, she
"My friend you must go away, but do not forget her who has given you her
heart. And that you may have courage in the struggle which is imposed
on you, know that I promise you on my word that as long as I live I will
never marry any man but you of my own free-will, provided that you are
equally loyal and true to me, as I hope you will be. And in proof of
this, I give you this ring, which is of gold enamelled with black tears.
If by chance they would marry me to some one else, I will defend myself
so stoutly that you will be pleased with me, and I will prove to you
that I can keep my promise without flinching from it. And, lastly, I beg
of you that wherever you may stop, you will send me news about yourself,
and I will do the same."
"Ah, my dear mistress," said Gerard, "I see plainly that I must leave
you for a time. I pray to God that he will give you more joy and
happiness than I am likely to have. You have kindly given me, though I
am not worthy of it, a noble and honourable promise, for which I cannot
sufficiently thank you. Still less do I deserve it, but I venture in
return to make a similar promise, begging most humbly and with all my
heart, that my vow may have as great a weight as if it came from a much
nobler man than I. Adieu, dearest lady. My eyes demand their turn, and
prevent my tongue from speaking."
With these words he kissed her, and pressed her tightly to his bosom,
and then each went away to think over his or her griefs.
God knows that they wept with their eyes, their hearts, and their heads,
but ere they showed themselves, they concealed all traces of their
grief, and put on a semblance of cheerfulness.
To cut matters short, Gerard did so much in a few days that he obtained
leave of absence from his master--which was not very difficult, not that
he had committed any fault, but owing to his love affair with Katherine,
with which her friends were not best pleased, seeing that Gerard was
not of such a good family or so rich as she was, and could not expect to
So Gerard left, and covered such a distance in one day that he came to
Barrois, where he found shelter in the castle of a great nobleman of
the country; and being safely housed he soon sent news of himself to the
lady, who was very joyful thereat, and by the same messenger wrote to
tell him of her condition, and the goodwill she bore him, and how she
would always be loyal to him.
Now you must know that as soon as Gerard had left Brabant, many
gentlemen, knights and squires, came to Katherine, desiring above all
things to make her acquaintance, which during the time that Gerard
had been there they had been unable to do, knowing that her heart was
Indeed many of them demanded her hand in marriage of her father, and
amongst them was one who seemed to him a very suitable match. So he
called together many of his friends, and summoned his fair daughter, and
told them that he was already growing old, and that one of the greatest
pleasures he could have in the world was to see his daughter well
married before he died. Moreover, he said to them;
"A certain gentleman has asked for my daughter's hand, and he seems to
me a suitable match. If your opinion agrees with mine, and my daughter
will obey me, his honourable request will not be rejected."
All his friends and relations approved of the proposed marriage, on
account of the virtues, riches, and other gifts of the said gentleman.
But when they asked the opinion of the fair Katherine, she sought to
excuse herself, and gave several reasons for refusing, or at least
postponing this marriage, but at last she saw that she would be in the
bad books of her father, her mother, her relatives, friends, and her
master and mistress, if she continued to keep her promise to her lover,
At last she thought of a means by which she could satisfy her parents
without breaking her word to her lover, and said,
"My dearest lord and father, I do not wish to disobey you in anything
you may command, but I have made a vow to God, my creator, which I must
keep. Now I have made a resolution and sworn in my heart to God that
I would never marry unless He would of His mercy show me that that
condition was necessary for the salvation of my poor soul. But as I do
not wish to be a trouble to you, I am content to accept this condition
of matrimony, or any other that you please, if you will first give me
leave to make a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Nicolas at Varengeville
(*) which pilgrimage I vowed and promised to make before I changed my
(*) A town of Lorraine, on the Meurthe, about six miles from
Kancy. Pilgrims flocked thither from all parts to worship
the relics of St. Nicolas.
She said this in order that she might see her lover on the road, and
tell him how she was constrained against her will.
Her father was rather pleased to hear the wise and dutiful reply of
his daughter. He granted her request, and wished to at once order her
retinue, and spoke to his wife about it when his daughter was present.
"We will give her such and such gentlemen, who with Ysabeau, Marguerite
and Jehanneton, will be sufficient for her condition."
"Ah, my lord," said Katherine, "if it so please you we will order it
otherwise. You know that the road from here to St. Nicolas is not very
safe, and that when women are to be escorted great precautions must be
taken. I could not go thus without great expense; moreover, the road is
long, and if it happened that we lost either our goods or honour (which
may God forfend) it would be a great misfortune. Therefore it seems good
to me--subject to your good pleasure--that there should be made for me a
man's dress and that I should be escorted by my uncle, the bastard, each
mounted on a stout horse. We should go much quicker, more safely, and
with less expense, and I should have more confidence than with a large
The good lord, having thought over the matter a little while, spoke
about it to his wife, and it seemed to them that the proposal showed
much common sense and dutiful feeling. So everything was prepared for
They set out on their journey, the fair Katherine and her uncle, the
bastard, without any other companion. Katherine, who was dressed in
the German fashion very elegantly, was the master, and her uncle, the
bastard, was the serving man. They made such haste that their pilgrimage
was soon accomplished, as far as St. Nicolas was concerned, and, as they
were on their return journey-praising God for having preserved them, and
talking over various matters Katherine said to her uncle,
"Uncle, you know that I am sole heiress to my father, and that I could
bestow many benefits upon you, which I will most willingly do if you
will aid me in a small quest I am about to undertake--that is to go to
the castle of a certain lord of Barrois (whom she named) to see Gerard,
whom you know. And, in order that when we return we may have some news
to tell, we will demand hospitality, and if we obtain it we will stop
there for some days and see the country, and you need be under no fear
but that I shall take care of my honour, as a good girl should."
The uncle, who hoped to be rewarded some day, and knew she was virtuous,
vowed to himself that he would keep an eye upon her, and promised to
serve her and accompany her wherever she wished. He was much thanked no
doubt, and it was then decided that he should call his niece, Conrad.
They soon came, as they desired, to the wished-for place, and addressed
themselves to the lord's major-domo, who was an old knight, and who
received them most joyfully and most honourably.
Conrad asked him if the lord, his master, did not wish to have in his
service a young gentleman who was fond of adventures, and desirous of
seeing various countries?
The major-domo asked him whence he came, and he replied, from Brabant.
"Well then," said the major-domo, "you shall dine here, and after dinner
I will speak to my lord."
With that he had them conducted to a fair chamber, and ordered the table
to be laid, and a good fire to be lighted, and sent them soup and a
piece of mutton, and white wine while dinner was preparing.
Then he went to his master and told him of the arrival of a young
gentleman of Brabant, who wished to serve him, and the lord was content
to take the youth if he wished.
To cut matters short, as soon as he had served his master, he returned
to Conrad to dine with him, and brought with him, because he was of
Brabant, the aforesaid Gerard, and said to Conrad;
"Here is a young gentleman who belongs to your country."
"I am glad to meet him," said Conrad.
"And you are very welcome," replied Gerard.
But he did not recognise his lady-love, though she knew him very well.
Whilst they were making each other's acquaintance, the meat was brought
in, and each took his place on either hand of the major-domo.
The dinner seemed long to Conrad, who hoped afterwards to have some
conversation with her lover, and expected also that she would soon be
recognised either by her voice, or by the replies she made to questions
concerning Brabant; but it happened quite otherwise, for during all the
dinner, the worthy Gerard did not ask after either man or woman in all
Brabant; which Conrad could not at all understand.
Dinner passed, and after dinner my lord engaged Conrad in his service;
and the major-domo, who was a thoughtful, experienced man, gave
instructions that as Gerard and Conrad came from the same place, they
should share the same chamber.
After this Gerard and Conrad went off arm in arm to look at their
horses, but as far as Gerard was concerned, if he talked about
anything it was not Brabant. Poor Conrad--that is to say the fair
Katherine--began to suspect that she was like forgotten sins, and had
gone clean out of Gerard's mind; but she could not imagine why, at
least, he did not ask about the lord and lady with whom she lived. The
poor girl was, though she could not show it, in great distress of mind,
and did not know what to do; whether to still conceal her identity, and
test him by some cunning phrases, or to suddenly make herself known.
In the end she decided that she would still remain Conrad, and say
nothing about Katherine unless Gerard should alter his manner.
The evening passed as the dinner had done, and when they came to their
chamber, Gerard and Conrad spoke of many things, but not of the one
subject pleasing to the said Conrad. When he saw that the other only
replied in the words that were put into his mouth, she asked of what
family he was in Brabant, and why he left there, and where he was when
he was there, and he replied as it seemed good to him.
"And do you not know," she said, "such and such a lord, and such
"By St. John, yes!" he replied.
Finally, she named the lord at whose castle she had lived; and he
replied that he knew him well, but not saying that he had lived there,
or ever been there in his life.
"It is rumoured," she said, "there are some pretty girls there. Do you
know of any?"
"I know very little," he replied, "and care less. Leave me alone; for I
am dying to go to sleep!"
"What!" she said. "Can you sleep when pretty girls are being talked
about? That is a sign that you are not in love!"
He did not reply, but slept like a pig, and poor Katherine began to have
serious doubts about him, but she resolved to try him again.
When the morrow came, each dressed himself, talking and chattering
meanwhile of what each liked best--Gerard of dogs and hawks, and Conrad
of the pretty girls of that place and Brabant.
After dinner, Conrad managed to separate Gerard from the others, and
told him that the country of Barrois was very flat and ugly, but Brabant
was quite different, and let him know that he (Conrad) longed to return
"For what purpose?" asked Gerard. "What do you see in Brabant that is
not here? Have you not here fine forests for hunting, good rivers, and
plains as pleasant as could be wished for flying falcons, and plenty of
game of all sorts?"
"Still that is nothing!" said Conrad. "The women of Brabant are very
different, and they please me much more than any amount of hunting or
"By St. John! they are quite another affair," said Gerard. "You are
exceedingly amorous in your Brabant, I dare swear!"
"By my oath!" said Conrad, "it is not a thing that can be hidden, for
I myself am madly in love. In fact my heart is drawn so forcibly that I
fear I shall be forced to quit your Barrois, for it will not be possible
for me to live long without seeing my lady love."
"Then it was a madness," said Gerard, "to have left her, if you felt
yourself so inconstant."
"Inconstant, my friend! Where is the man who can guarantee that he will
be constant in love. No one is so wise or cautious that he knows for
certain how to conduct himself. Love often drives both sense and reason
out of his followers."
The conversation dropped as supper time came, and was not renewed till
they were in bed. Gerard would have desired nothing better than to go to
sleep, but Conrad renewed the discussion, and began a piteous, long, and
sad complaint about his ladylove (which, to shorten matters, I omit) and
at last he said,
"Alas, Gerard, and how can you desire to sleep whilst I am so wide
awake, and my soul is filled with cares, and regrets, and troubles. It
is strange that you are not a little touched yourself, for, believe
me, if it were a contagious disease you could not be so close to me and
escape unscathed. I beg of you, though you do not feel yourself, to have
some pity and compassion on me, for I shall die soon if I do not behold
"I never saw such a love-sick fool!" cried Gerard. "Do you think that I
have never been in love? I know what it is, for I have passed through
it the same as you--certainly I have! But I was never so love-mad as to
lose my sleep or upset myself, as you are doing now. You are an idiot,
and your love is not worth a doit. Besides do you think your lady is the
same as you are? No, no!"
"I am sure she is," replied Conrad; "she is so true-hearted."
"Ah, you speak as you wish," said Gerard, "but I do not believe that
women are so true as to always remain faithful to their vows; and those
who believe in them are blockheads. Like you, I have loved, and still
love. For, to tell you the truth, I left Brabant on account of a love
affair, and when I left I was high in the graces of a very beautiful,
good, and noble damsel, whom I quitted with much regret; and for no
small time I was in great grief at not being able to see her--though I
did not cease to sleep, drink, or eat, as you do. When I found that
I was no longer able to see her, I cured myself by following Ovid's
advice, for I had not been here long before I made the acquaintance of a
pretty girl in the house, and so managed, that--thank God--she now likes
me very much, and I love her. So that now I have forgotten the one I
formerly loved, and only care for the one I now possess, who has turned
my thoughts from my old love!"
"What!" cried Conrad. "Is it possible that, if you really loved the
other, you can so soon forget her and desert her? I cannot understand
nor imagine how that can be!"
"It is so, nevertheless, whether you understand it or not." "That is not
keeping faith loyally," said Conrad. "As for me, I would rather die
a thousand times, if that were possible, than be so false to my lady.
However long God may let me live, I shall never have the will, or even
the lightest thought, of ever loving any but her."
"So much the greater fool you," said Gerard, "and if you persevere in
this folly, you will never be of any good, and will do nothing but dream
and muse; and you will dry up like the green herb that is cast into the
furnace, and kill yourself, and never have known any pleasure, and
even your mistress will laugh at you,--if you are lucky enough to be
remembered by her at all."
"Well!" said Conrad. "You are very experienced in love affairs. I would
beg of you to be my intermediary, here or elsewhere, and introduce me to
some damsel that I may be cured like you."
"I will tell you what I will do," said Gerard. "Tomorrow I will speak to
my mistress and tell her that we are comrades, and ask her to speak to
one of her lady friends, who will undertake your business, and I do not
doubt but that, if you like, you will have a good time, and that the
melancholy which now bears you down will disappear--if you care to get
rid of it."
"If it were not for breaking my vow to my mistress, I should desire
nothing better," said Conrad, "but at any rate I will try it."
With that Gerard turned over and went to sleep, but Katherine was so
stricken with grief at seeing and hearing the falsehood of him whom she
loved more than all the world, that she wished herself dead and more
than dead. Nevertheless, she put aside all feminine feeling, and assumed
manly vigour. She even had the strength of mind to talk for a long time
the next day with the girl who loved the man _she_ had once adored; and
even compelled her heart and eyes to be witnesses of many interviews and
love passages that were most galling to her.
Whilst she was talking to Gerard's mistress, she saw the ring that she
had given her unfaithful lover, but she was not so foolish as to admire
it, but nevertheless found an opportunity to examine it closely on the
girl's finger, but appeared to pay no heed to it, and soon afterwards
As soon as supper was over, she went to her uncle, and said to him;
"We have been long enough in Barrois! It is time to leave. Be ready
to-morrow morning at daybreak, and I will be also. And take care that
all our baggage is prepared. Come for me as early as you like."
"You have but to come down when you will," replied the uncle.
Now you must know that after supper, whilst Gerard was conversing with
his mistress, she who had been his lady-love went to her chamber and
began to write a letter, which narrated at full length the love affairs
of herself and Gerard, also "the promises which they made at parting,
how they had wished to marry her to another and how she had refused, and
the pilgrimage that she had undertaken to keep her word and come to him,
and the disloyalty and falsehood she had found in him, in word, act,
and deed. And that, for the causes mentioned, she held herself free
and disengaged from the promise she had formerly made. And that she was
going to return to her own country and never wished to see him or meet
him again, he being the falsest man who ever made vows to a woman. And
as regards the ring that she had given him, that he had forfeited it by
passing it into the hands of a third person. And if he could boast that
he had lain three nights by her side, there was no harm, and he might
say what he liked, and she was not afraid."
_Letter written by a hand you ought to know_, and underneath _Katherine
etc., otherwise known as Conrad_; and on the back, _To the false Gerard_
She scarcely slept all night, and as soon as she saw the dawn, she rose
gently and dressed herself without awaking Gerard. She took the letter,
which she had folded and sealed, and placed it in the sleeve of Gerard's
jerkin; then in a vow voice prayed to God for him, and wept gently on
account of the grief she endured on account of the falseness she had met
Gerard still slept, and did not reply a word. Then she went to her
uncle, who gave her her horse which she mounted, and they left the
country, and soon came to Brabant, where they were joyfully received,
You may imagine that all sorts of questions were asked about their
adventures and travels, and how they had managed, but whatever they
replied they took care to say nothing about their principal adventure.
But to return to Gerard. He awoke about 10 o'clock on the morning of the
day when Katherine left, and looked to see if his companion Conrad was
already risen. He did not know it was so late, and jumped out of bed
in haste to seek for his jerkin. When he put his arm in the sleeve,
out dropped the letter, at which he was much astonished, for he did not
remember putting it there.
At any rate, he picked it up, and saw that it was sealed, and had
written on the back, _To the false Gerard_. If he had been astonished
before, he was still more so now.
After a little while he opened it and saw the signature, _Katherine
known as Conrad_ etc.
He did not know what to think, nevertheless he read the letter, and in
reading it the blood mounted to his cheeks, and his heart sank within
him, so that he was quite changed both in looks and complexion.
He finished reading the letter the best way he could, and learned that
his falseness had come to the knowledge of her who wished so well to
him, and that she knew him to be what he was, not by the report of
another person, but by her own eyes; and what touched him most to the
heart was that he had lain three nights with her without having thanked
her for the trouble she had taken to come so far to make trial of his
He champed the bit, and was wild with rage, when he saw how he had been
mystified. After much thought, he resolved that the best thing to do was
to follow her, as he thought he might overtake her.
He took leave of his master and set out, and followed the trail of their
horses, but did not catch them up before they came to Brabant, where
he arrived opportunely on the day of the marriage of the woman who had
tested his affection.
He wished to kiss her and salute her, and make some poor excuse for his
fault, but he was not able to do so, for she turned her back on him,
and he could not, all the time that he was there, find an opportunity of
talking with her.
Once he advanced to lead her to the dance, but she flatly refused in the
face of all the company, many of whom took note of the incident. For,
not long after, another gentleman entered, and caused the minstrels to
strike up, and advanced towards her, and she came down and danced with
Thus, as you have heard, did the false lover lose his mistress. If there
are others like him, let them take warning by this example, which is
perfectly true, and is well known, and happened not so very long ago.
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