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The Unfortunate Lovers
By The Editor.
_Of a knight of this kingdom and his wife, who had a fair daughter aged
fifteen or sixteen. Her father would have married her to a rich old
knight, his neighbour, but she ran away with another knight, a young
man who loved her honourably; and, by strange mishap, they both died sad
deaths without having ever co-habited,--as you will hear shortly._
In the frontiers of France, there lived, amongst other nobles, a knight
who was rich and noble, not only by illustrious descent, but by his own
virtuous and honourable deeds, who had, by the wife he had married, an
only daughter, a very beautiful virgin, well-educated as her condition
required, and aged fifteen or sixteen years, or thereabouts.
This good and noble knight, seeing that his daughter was of a fit and
proper age for the holy sacrament of wedlock, much wished to give her
in marriage to a knight, his neighbour, who was powerful, not so much by
noble birth as by great possessions and riches, and was also from 60 to
80 years old, or thereabouts.
This wish so filled the head of the father of whom I spoke, that he
would not rest until formal promises were made between him and his
wife, the mother of the girl, and the aforesaid old knight, touching his
marriage to the girl, who, for her part, knew and suspected nothing of
all these arrangements, promises, and treaties.
Not far from the castle of the knight, the father of this damsel, there
lived another knight, a young man, valiant and brave, and moderately
rich, but not so rich as the old man of whom I spoke, and this youth was
greatly in love with the fair damsel. She also was much attached to him,
on account of his fame and great renown, and they often spoke to each
other, though with much trouble and difficulty, for her father, who
suspected their love, tried by all ways and means to prevent their
seeing each other. Nevertheless, he could not destroy the great and pure
love which united their hearts, and when fortune favoured them with an
opportunity, they discussed nothing but the means whereby they might
accomplish their whole and sole desire and marry each other.
The time approached when the damsel was to be given to the old knight,
and her father told her of the contract he had made, and named the day
on which she was to be married; at which she was greatly angered, but
thought to herself that she might find a way out of the difficulty.
She sent a message to her lover, the young knight, to tell him to come
to her secretly as soon as he could; and when he came she told him how
she was betrothed to the old knight, and asked her lover's advice as to
how this marriage was to be broken off, for that she would never have
any other man but him.
The knight replied,
"My dearest lady, since of your kindness you offer me that which I
should never have dared to ask without great shame, I thank you humbly,
and if it be your will, I will tell you what we will do. We will appoint
a day for me to come to this town accompanied by many of my friends,
and at a given hour you will repair to a certain place, both of which we
will arrange now that I am alone with you. You will mount on my horse,
and I will conduct you to my castle. And then, if we can manage to
pacify your father and mother, we will fulfil our promises of plighted
She replied that the plan was a good one, and she would carry it out
properly. She told him that on such a day, at such an hour, he would
find her at a certain place, and that she would do all that he had
The appointed day arrived, and the young knight appeared at the place
mentioned, and there he found the lady, who mounted on his horse, and
they rode fast until they were far from there.
The good knight, fearing that he should fatigue his dearly beloved
mistress, slackened his speed, and spread his retainers on every road to
see that they were not followed, and he rode across the fields, without
keeping to any path or road, and as gently as he could, and charged his
servants that they should meet at a large village which he named, and
where he intended to stop and eat. This village was remote, and away
from the high road.
They rode until they came to this village, where the local _fete_ was
being held, which had brought together all sorts of people. They entered
the best tavern in the place, and at once demanded food and drink, for
it was late after dinner, and the damsel was much fatigued. A good fire
was made, and food prepared for the servants of the knight who had not
Hardly had the knight and the lady entered the tavern than there came
four big swashbucklers--waggoners or drovers, or perhaps worse--who
noisily entered the tavern, and demanded where was the _bona roba_ that
some ruffian had brought there, riding behind him on his horse, for they
would drink with her, and amuse themselves with her.
The host who knew the knight well, and was aware that the rascals
spake not the truth, told them gently that the girl was not what they
"Morbleu!" they replied; "if you do not bring her at once, we will
batter down the door, and bring her by force in spite of the two of
When the host heard this, and found that his explanation was no use,
he named the knight, who was renowned through all that district, but
unknown to many of the common people, because he had long been out of
the country, acquiring honour and renown in wars in distant countries.
The host told them also that the damsel was a young virgin, a relative
of the knight, and of noble parentage.
"You can, messieurs," he said, "without danger to yourself or others,
quench your lust with many of the women who have come to the village on
the occasion of the _fete_ expressly for you and the like of you, and
for God's sake leave in peace this noble damsel, and think of the great
danger that you run, the evil that you wish to commit and the small hope
that you have of success."
"Drop your sermons," shouted the rascals, inflamed with carnal lust,
"and bring her to us quietly; or if not we will cause a scandal, for we
will bring her down openly, and each of us four will do as he likes with
These speeches being finished, the good host went up to the chamber
where the knight and the damsel were, and called the knight apart, and
told him this news, which when he had heard, without being troubled
in the least, he went down wearing his sword, to talk to the four
swashbucklers, and asked them politely what they wanted?
And they, being foul-mouthed and abusive blackguards, replied that they
wanted the _bona roba_ that he kept shut up in his chamber, and that, if
he did not give her up quietly, they would take her from him by force.
"Fair sirs," said the knight, "if you knew me well you would be aware
that I should not take about women of that sort. I have never done such
a folly, thank God. And even if I ever did--which God forbid--I
should never do it in this district, where I and all my people are well
known--my nobility and reputation would not suffer me to do it. This
damsel is a young virgin, a near relative, related also to a noble
house, and we are travelling for our pleasure, accompanied by my
servants, who although they are not here at present, will come directly,
and I am waiting for them. Moreover, do not flatter yourselves that I
should be such a coward as to let her be insulted, or suffer injury
of any kind; but I would protect and defend her as long as my strength
endured, and until I died."
Before the knight had finished speaking, the villains interrupted him,
and in the first place denied that he was the person he said, because
he was alone, and that knight never travelled without a great number of
servants. Therefore they recommended him, if he were wise, to bring the
girl down, otherwise they would take her by force, whatever consequences
When this brave and valiant knight found that fair words were of no use,
and that force was the only remedy, he summoned up all his courage, and
resolved that the villains should not have the damsel, and that he was
ready to die in her defence.
At last one of the four advanced to knock with his bludgeon at the door
of the chamber, and the others followed him, and were bravely beaten
back by the knight. Then began a fight which lasted long, and although
the two parties were so unequally matched, the good knight vanquished
and repulsed the four villains, and as he pursued them to drive them
away, one of them, who had a sword, turned suddenly and plunged it in
the body of the knight, and pierced him through, so that he fell dead
at once, at which they were very glad. Then they compelled the host to
quietly bury the body in the garden of the inn.
When the good knight was dead, the villains came and knocked at the door
of the chamber where the damsel was impatiently awaiting the return of
her lover, and they pushed open the door.
As soon as she saw the brigands enter, she guessed that the knight was
dead, and said;
"Alas, where is my protector? Where is my sole refuge? What has become
of him? Why does he thus wound my heart and leave me here alone?"
The scoundrels, seeing that she was much troubled, thought to falsely
deceive her by fair words, and told her the knight had gone to another
house, and had commanded them to go to her and protect her; but she
would not believe them, for her heart told her that they had killed him.
She began to lament, and to cry more bitterly than ever.
"What is this?" they said. "Why all these tricks and manners? Do you
think we don't know you? If you imagine your bully is still alive, you
are mistaken--we have rid the country of him. Therefore make your mind
up that we are all four going to enjoy you." At these words one of them
advanced, and seized her roughly, saying that he would have her company.
When the poor damsel saw herself thus forced, and that she could not
soften their hearts, she said;
"Alas! sirs, since you will force me, and my humble prayers cannot
soften you, at least have this decency; that if I abandon myself to
you it shall be privately, that is to say each separately without the
presence of the others."
They agreed to this, though with a bad grace, and then they made her
choose which of the four should first have her company. She chose the
one that she fancied was the mildest and best-tempered, but he was
the worst of all. The door was closed, and then the poor damsel threw
herself at the scoundrel's feet, and with many piteous appeals, begged
that he would have pity on her. But he was obstinate, and declared that
he would have his will of her.
When she saw that he was so cruel, and that her prayers could not melt
him, she said.
"Well then, since so it must be, I am content; but I beg of you to close
the windows that we may be more secret."
He willingly consented, and whilst he was closing them, she drew a
little knife that she wore at her girdle, and uttering one long, piteous
cry, she cut her throat, and gave up the ghost.
When the scoundrel saw her lying on the ground, he fled along with his
companions, and it is to be supposed that they were afterwards punished
according to their deserts.
Thus did these two sweet lovers end their days, one directly after the
other, without ever having tasted of the joys and pleasures in which
they hoped to have lived together all their days.
Next: The Metamorphosis
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