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

marry her.

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

already occupied.

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

present condition."

(*) 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

their departure.

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

my lady-love."

"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,

God knows.

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.