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The Virtuous Lady With Two Husbands








By Monseigneur.

_Of a noble knight of Flanders, who was married to a beautiful and noble
lady. He was for many years a prisoner in Turkey, during which time his
good and loving wife was, by the importunities of her friends, induced
to marry another knight. Soon after she had remarried, she heard that
her husband had returned from Turkey, whereupon she allowed herself to
die of grief, because she had contracted a fresh marriage._


It is not only known to all those of the city of Ghent--where the
incident that I am about to relate happened not long ago--but to all
those of Flanders, and many others, that at the battle fought between
the King of Hungary and Duke Jehan (whom may God absolve) on one side,
and the Grand Turk and all his Turks on the other, (*) that many noble
knights and esquires--French, Flemish, German, and Picardians--were
taken prisoners, of whom some were put to death in the presence of the
said Great Turk, others were imprisoned for life, and others condemned
to slavery, amongst which last was a noble knight of the said country of
Flanders, named Clayz Utenhoven.

(*) The battle of Nicopolis (28th September, 1396) when
Sigismond, King of Hungary, and Jean-sans-Peur, son of the
Duke of Burgundy, who had recruited a large army for the
purpose of raising the siege of Constantinople, were met and
overthrown by the Sultan, Bajazet I.

For many years he endured this slavery, which was no light task but an
intolerable martyrdom to him, considering the luxuries upon which he had
been nourished, and the condition in which he had lived.

Now you must know that he had formerly married at Ghent a beautiful and
virtuous lady, who loved him and held him dear with all her heart, and
who daily prayed to God that shortly she might see him again if he were
still alive; and that if he were dead, He would of His grace pardon his
sins, and include him in the number of those glorious martyrs, who to
repel the infidel, and that the holy Catholic faith might be exalted,
had given up their mortal lives.

This good lady, who was rich, beautiful, virtuous, and possessed of many
noble friends, was continually pressed and assailed by her friends to
remarry; they declaring and affirming that her husband was dead, and
that if he were alive he would have returned like the others; or if he
were a prisoner, she would have received notice to prepare his ransom.
But whatever reasons were adduced, this virtuous lady could not be
persuaded to marry again, but excused herself as well as she was able.

These excuses served her little or nothing, for her relatives and
friends so pressed her that she was obliged to obey. But God knows
that it was with no small regret, and after she had been for nine
years deprived of the presence of her good and loyal husband, whom she
believed to be long since dead, as did most or all who knew him; but
God, who guards and preserves his servants and champions, had otherwise
ordered it, for he still lived and performed his arduous labours as a
slave.

To return to our story. This virtuous lady was married to another
knight, and lived with him for half a year, without hearing anything
further about her first husband.

By the will of God, however, this good and true knight, Messire Clays,
who was still in Turkey, when his wife married again, and there working
as a slave, was, by means of some Christian gentlemen and merchants,
delivered, and returned in their galley.

As he was on his return, he met and found in passing through various
places, many of his acquaintance, who were overjoyed at his delivery,
for in truth he was a most valiant man, of great renown and many
virtues; and so the most joyful rumour of his much wished-for
deliverance spread into France, Artois, and Picardy, where his virtues
were not less known than they were in Flanders, of which country he was
a native. And from these countries it soon reached Flanders, and came
to the ears of his beauteous and virtuous lady and spouse, who was
astounded thereat, and her feelings so overcame her as to deprive her of
her senses.

"Ah," she said, as soon as she could speak, "my heart was never willing
to do that which my relations and friends forced me to do. Alas! what
will my most loving lord and husband say? I have not kept faith with him
as I should, but--like a frail, frivolous, and weak-minded woman,--have
given to another part and portion of that of which he alone should
be lord and master! I cannot, and dare not await his coming. I am
not worthy that he should look at me, or that I should be seen in his
company," and with these words her most chaste, virtuous, and loving
heart failed her, and she fell fainting.

She was carried and laid upon a bed, and her senses returned to her, but
from that time it was not in the power of man or woman to make her eat
or sleep, and thus she continued three days, weeping continually, and
in the greatest grief of mind that ever woman was. During which time she
confessed and did all that a good Christian should, and implored pardon
of all, and most especially of her husband.

Soon afterwards she died, which was a great misfortune; and it need not
be told what grief fell upon the said lord, her husband, when he heard
the news. His sorrow was such that he was in great danger of dying as
his most loving wife had done; but God, who had saved him from many
other great perils, preserved him also from this.


*****





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