Old French Romances, by William Morris

The Tale of King Florus and the Fair Jehane

Here telleth the tale of a king who had to name King Florus of Ausay. A full good knight was he and a gentleman of high lineage. The said King Florus of Ausay took to wife the daughter of the Prince of Brabant, who was a woman very gentle, and of great line: and a right fair maid was she when he wedded her and dainty of body and fashion; and saith the tale that she was but of fifteen years when the King Florus took her, and he but of seventeen. A full good life they lived, as for young folk who loved together dearly: but King Florus might have no child of her, whereof he was sore grieving, and she also was exceeding heavy-hearted thereat. Much fair was this lady, and much she loved God and Holy Church, and therewith was so good almsgiver and so charitable that she fed and clad poor people and kissed their feet. And to mesel folk both carles and queans was she so kind and careful, that the Ho]y Ghost dwelt in her. Her Lord King Florus went often to tournays in Alemain and France, and in many other lands whereas he wotted of them, when he was without war: much good he expended thereon and much honour he gained thereby.

But now leaveth the tale to tell of him and taketh up the word of a knight who dwelt in the marches of Flanders and Hainault. This said knight was full valiant and hardy, and right trusty, and had to wife a full fair dame of whom he had a much fair daughter, who had to name Jehane and was then of the age of twelve years. Much word there was of this fair maiden; for in all the land was none so fair. Her mother spake often to her lord that he should give her in marriage; but he was so given up to the following of tournays, that he was nowise hot on the wedding of his daughter, and his wife ever admonished him thereof when he came home from his tournays.

Now this knight had a squire who had to name Robin, and was the valiantest squire to be found in any land, and by his prowess and his good fame oft he bore away the prize for his lord from the tournay whereas he wended. Whereon it befel that his lady thus bespake him: “Robin, my lord is so given up to these tournays that I know not how to speak with him, whereof I am sore at heart, for I would well that he should lay pain and care to the wedding of my daughter; wherefore I pray thee, for the love of me, that whenas thou seest the point thou say to him that he doth very ill and is sore blamed that he weddeth not his fair daughter, for there is no knight in the land how rich soever he be who would not take her with a good will.” “Lady,” said Robin, “ye have said well; I will say it right well; since forsooth he troweth me of many things, and so will he hereof meseemeth.” “Robin,” said the lady, “I pray thee of this business for all guerdon.” “Dame,” said Robin, “I am well prayed hereof; and wot ye that I will do to my power herein.” “It is enough,” said the lady.

No long while after the knight betook him to wending to a tournay afar from his land, and when he came there he was retained straightway of the fellowship, he and the knight of whose mesney he was, and his banner was borne into the hostel of his lord. The tournay began, and the knight did so well by means of the good deeds of Robin, his squire, that he bore off the praise and prize of the tournay from one party and the other. On the second day the knight betook him to wending to his own land, and Robin put him to reason many times and blamed him much in that he gave not his fair daughter in marriage, and many times he said it to him, till at the last his lord said to him: “Robin, thou and thy lady give me no peace about the marrying of my daughter; but as yet I know and see no man in my land unto whom I would give her.” “Ah, sir,” said Robin, “there is not a knight in thy land who would not take her with a good will.” “Fair friend Robin, they are of no avail, all of them; and to none of them shall I give her; and forsooth to no one would I give her as now, save to one man only, and he forsooth is no knight.” “Sir, tell me of him,” said Robin, “and I shall speak or let speak to him so subtilly that the marriage shall be made.” “Certes, Robin,” said the knight, “from the semblance that I see of thee thou willest well that my daughter should be wedded.” “Sir,” said Robin, “thou sayest sooth, for it is well time.” “Robin,” said the knight, “whereas thou art so eager that my daughter should be wedded, she shall be wedded right soon if thou accord to the said wedding.” “Certes, sir,” said Robin, “of a good will shall I accord thereto.” “Wilt thou give me thy word herein?” “Yea, sir,” said Robin. “Robin, thou hast served me exceeding well, and I have found thee a valiant man, and a loyal, and such as I be thou hast made me, and great gain have I gotten by thee, to wit, five hundred pounds of land; for it was but a little while that I had but five hundred, and now have I a thousand, and I tell thee that I owe much to thee: wherefore will I give my fair daughter unto thee, if thou wilt take her.” “Ha, sir,” said Robin, “God’s mercy, what is this thou sayest? I am too poor a person to have so high a maiden, nor one so fair and so rich as my damsel is; I am not meet thereto. For there is no knight in this land, be he never so gentle a man, but would take her with a good will.” “Robin, know that no knight of this land shall have her, but I shall give her to thee, if thou will it; and thereto will I give thee four hundred pounds of my land.” “Ha, sir,” said Robin, “I deem that thou mockest me.” “Robin,” said the knight, “wot thou surely that I mock thee not.” “Ha, sir, neither my lady nor her great lineage will accord hereto.” “Robin,” said the knight, “nought shall be done herein at the will of any of them. Hold! here is my glove, I invest thee with four hundred pounds of my land, and I will be thy warrant for all.” “Sir,” said Robin “I will nought naysay it; fair is the gift since I know that is soothfast.” “Robin,” said the knight, “now hast thou the rights thereof.”

Then the knight delivered to him his glove, and invested him with the land and his fair daughter.

Then rode the knight so far by his journeys, that he came into his land, and when he was come thither, his wife, who was a much fair lady, made him right great joy, and said to him: “Sir, for God’s sake think of thy fair daughter, that she be wedded.” “Dame,” said the lord, “so much hast thou spoken hereof that I have wedded her.” “Sir,” said the lady, “unto whom?” “Forsooth, dame, I have given her to such a man as shall never lack of valiancy: I have given her to Robin my squire.” “Robin! Alas!” quoth the lady; “Robin hath nought, and there is no knight so mighty in all the land, but will take her with a good will; of a surety Robin shall never have her.” “Yea, but have her he shall, dame,” said the knight, “and I have invested him with four hundred pounds of my land; and all that I ought to warrant him, warrant him I will.” When the dame heard that, she was much sorry, and said to her lord that Robin should have her never. “Nay, dame,” said the lord, “have her he shall, wilt thou or wilt thou not; for even so have I made covenant and I will hold to the same.

When the lady heard her lord, she entered into her chamber and fell a-weeping and making great dole; after the dole which she made she sent to seek her brothers and her nephews and her cousins germain, and showed them that which her lord would do; and they said to her: “Dame, what will ye that we do? We have no will to go against thy lord, for he is a knight valiant and hardy and weighty withal: and on the other hand he may do with his daughter according to his will, and with his land which he hath gotten withal. So wot thou well that we will not hang shield on neck herein.” “Nay? alas, then!” said the dame, “so shall my heart never have joy if I lose my fair daughter. At least, fair lords, I pray you that ye show him that if he does thus he will neither do well nor according to his honour.” “Dame,” say they, “this setting forth will we do with a good will.”

So they came unto the knight, and when they had showed him their business he answered them right courteously: “Fair lords, I will tell you what I will do for the love of you; if it please you I will put off the wedding in this wise as I shall tell you; to wit: Amongst you ye be rich and of great lands; ye are nigh friends of my fair daughter, whom I love much. If ye will give her four hundred pounds of land I will set aside the wedding, and she shall be wedded elsewhere according to your counsel.” “A-God’s name,” quoth they, “we be nought fain to lay down so much.” “Well, then,” said the knight, “since ye will not do this, then suffer me to do with my daughter as I list.” “Sir, with a good will,” said they.

So the knight sent for his chaplain, and brought thither his fair daughter, and let affiance her to Robin, and set a day for the wedding. But the third day thereafter, Robin spake to his lord, and prayed him make him a knight, whereas it was nought meet that he should take to him so high a wife and so fair before he was a knight. His lord had great joy thereof, and the next day he was made knight, and the third day wedded the fair maiden with great feast and joyance.

But when master Robin was made knight he spake thus to his lord: “Sir, ye have made me knight; and true it is that against the peril of death I vowed me to the road unto Saint Jamesward on the morrow of my knighting; wherefore I pray thee take it not in dudgeon if to- morrow morn I must needs go my ways so soon as I shall have wedded thy fair daughter; whereas in nowise will I break mine oath.” “Forsooth, master Robin, if thou leave thus my fair daughter and thus wise go your ways, ye shall be much to blame.” “Sir,” said he, “I shall come back right soon if God will; but this wayfaring I needs must perforce.” Whenas a certain knight of the court of the lord heard these words he blamed Sir Robin much, whereas he was leaving his fair wife at such a point, and Sir Robin said that he needs must do it. “Certes,” said the knight, who had to name Raoul, “if thou goest thus to Saint James without touching thy fair wife, I will make thee cuckold before thine home-coming, and when thou comest home I will give thee good tokens that I have had share of her. Now I will lay my land thereto against thine, which our lord hath given thee, for I have well four hundred pounds of land even as thou hast.” “Forsooth,” said Sir Robin, “my wife is not come of such blood as that she shall misdo against me, and I may not believe in it nowise: I will make the wager with thee, if it please thee.” “Yea,” said Sir Raoul, “wilt thou pledge thee thereto?” “Yea, verily,” said Sir Robin, “and thou?” “Yea, and I also. Now go we to my lord and make record of our covenant.” “That will I well,” said Sir Robin. Therewith they go unto the lord, and the wager was recorded, and they pledged them to hold thereto. On the morrow betimes Sir Robin wedded the fair maiden, and straightway after mass was said, he departed from the house and left the wedding, and took the road for St. Jakem.”

But now leaveth the tale to tell of him and telleth of Sir Raoul, who was in great imagination how he might win his wager and lie by the fair lady. And saith the tale that the lady held her much simply while her lord was on pilgrimage, and was going to the minster with a good will, and prayed God that he would bring back her lord. But Sir Raoul pained him on the other hand how he might win his wager, for great doubt he had to lose his land. He spake with the carline who dwelt with the fair lady, and said to her, that if she could so bring it about that she might set him in place and at point that he might speak privily with my lady Jehane, and have his will of her, he would give her much good, so that there would be no hour when she should not be rich. “Sir, forsooth,” said the carline, “thou art so fair a knight, and so wise and courteous that my lady should well ought to love thee par amours, and I will put myself to the pain herein to the utmost of my might.” Then the knight drew out straightway a forty sols, and gave it to her to buy a gown. The carline took them with a goodwill, and set them away surely, and said that she would speak with the lady. The knight departed from the carline, and the carline abode and took her lady to task when she came back from the minster, and said to her: “In God’s name, lady, tell me true! My lord, when he went to Saint Jakem, had he ever lain by thee?” “Wherefore dost thou say this, dame Hersent?” “Lady, because I trow that thou be yet a clean maid.” “Certes, dame Hersent, so am I verily; for of no woman wot I who would do such a deed.” “Lady,” said dame Hersent, “great damage it is; for if ye wotted how great is the joy that women have when they be with a man who loveth them, ye would say that there is no joy so great; and for this cause I marvel much that ye love not par amours even as these other ladies who all love. But if it pleaseth thee the matter is ready to hand; whereas I wot of a knight, fair and valiant and wise, who will love thee with a good will; a much rich man is he, and fairer by far than the coward recreant who hath left thee. And if ye dare love ye may have whatso ye dare ask; and so much joy shall ye have as never lady had more.” So much spake the carline by her words that the needle of nature stirred somewhat. The lady asked who the knight might be. “Who is it, lady? A-God’s name! I may well name him. It is the lovely, the valiant, the hardy Sir Raoul, who is one of the mesney of thy father; the kindest heart men wot of.” “Dame Hersent,” said the lady, “thou wert best let such words be; for I have no desire to misdo of my body, of no such blood am I come.” “Dame,” said the carline, “I wot well. But never shalt thou know the worthy joy when a man wendeth with a woman.”

Thuswise abode the matter. Sir Raoul came back to the carline, and she told him how she had talked with the lady, and what she had answered. “Dame Hersent,” said the knight, “thus wise should a good lady answer; but ye shall speak with her again, for one doeth not the business at the first stroke: and hold, here be twenty sols to buy thee a cloth to thy surcoat.” The carline took the silver, and spake with the lady often, but nought it availed.

Wore the time till at last they heard news that Sir Robin was wending back from Saint Jakem, and that he was already hard on Paris. Soon was known the tidings, and Sir Raoul, who had fear of the losing of his lands, returned to the carline, and spake with her; and she said that she might not bring the business to an end: but that she would do so much for the love of him, if she should earn her service, that she would so bring it about as that there should be none in the house save he and this lady: and then he might do his will on her, will she nill she: and he said that he asked for nought else. “Then,” said the carline, “ye, my lord, shall come within eight days, and I will do my lady to bathe her in her chamber, and I will send all the mesney out of the house and out of the castle; then can ye come to her bathing in the chamber, and may have your desire of her, either with her good will or maugre.” “Ye have well said,” quoth he.

Abode matters thus till Sir Robin sent word that he was coming to hand, and would be at the house on the Sunday. Then the carline let bathe the lady the Thursday before, and the bath was in her chamber, and the fair lady entered therein. But the carline sent after Sir Raoul, and he came. Thereafter she sent all the folk of the household out of the house. Sir Raoul came his ways to the chamber and entered therein, and greeted the lady, but she greeted him not again, but said thus:

“Sir Raoul, thou art nowise courteous. Whether wottest thou forsooth that it is well with me of thy coming? accursed be thou, villain knight!” But Sir Raoul said: “My lady, mercy, a-God’s name! I am but dying for grief of thee. For God’s sake have pity of me!” “Sir Raoul,” said she, “I will have no mercy in such wise that I will ever be thy darling. And wot thou well that if thou leave me not in peace I will tell my lord, my father, the honour thou requirest of me: for I am none such as that.” “Nay, lady, is it so, then?” “Yea, verily,” said she.

Therewith Sir Raoul drew nigh to her, and embraced her in his arms, which were strong enow, and drew her all naked out of the bath and bore her toward her bed; and so soon as he drew her forth of the bath he saw a black spot which she had on her right groin hard by her natural part; and he thought therewithal that that were a good token that he had lain by her. Thus as he bore her off to her bed, his spurs hooked them into the serge at the bed’s edge toward the foot thereof, and down fell the knight, he and the lady together, he below and she above; but she rose up straightway and caught up a billet of wood, and smote Sir Raoul therewith amidst the face, and made him a wound both deep and wide, so that the blood fell to earth. So when Sir Raoul felt himself hurt he had no great desire to play, wherefore he arose and got him gone out of the chamber straightway: he did so much that he came to his hostel, where he dwelt a good league thence, and there he had his wound dealt with. But the good dame entered into her bath again, and called dame Hersent, and told the adventure of the knight.

Much great array made the father of the fair lady against the coming of Sir Robin, and he summoned much folk, and sent and bade Sir Raoul to come; but he sent word that he might not come, for that he was sick. On the Sunday camel Sir Robin, and was received right fairly; and the father of the fair lady went to seek Sir Raoul and found him wounded, and said that now for nought might he abide behind from the feast. So he dight his face and his hurt the best wise he might, and went to the feast, which was great and grand day long of drinking and of eating, and of dancing and carolling.

When night was come Sir Robin went to bed with his wife, who received him much joyously as a good dame ought to her lord; so abode they in joy and in feast the more part of the night. On the morrow great was the feast, and the victual was dight and they ate. But when it was after dinner, Sir Raoul bore on hand Sir Robin, and said that he had won his land, whereas he had known his wife carnally, by the token, to wit, that she had a black spot on her right thigh and a pearlet hard by her jewel. “Thereof I wot not,” said Sir Robin, “for I have not looked on her so close.” “Well, then, I tell thee,” said Sir Raoul, “by the oath that thou hast given me that thou take heed thereof, and do me right.” “So will I, verily,” said Sir Robin.

When night was, Sir Robin played with his wife, and found and saw on her right thigh the black spot, and a pearlet hard by her fair jewel: and when he knew it he was sore grieving. On the morrow he went to Sir Raoul, and said before his lord that he had lost his wager. Heavy of heart was he day long, and when it was night he went to the stable, and set the saddle on his palfrey, and went forth from the house, bearing with him what he might get him of silver. So came to Paris, and when he was at Paris he abode there three days. But now leaveth the tale to tell of him, and taketh up the word concerning his wife.

Here saith the tale that much sorrowful was the fair lady and heavy of heart, when she called to mind how she had cast her lord out of his house. Much she thought of the wherefore thereof and wept and made great dole; till her father came to her, and said that he were fainer if she were yet to wed, whereas she had done him shame and all them of his lineage; and he told her how and wherefore. When she heard that, she was sore grieved and denied the deed downright; but nought availed. For it is well known that shame so sore is contrary to all women, that if a woman were to burn all, she would not be trowed of such a misdoing, once it were laid on her.

On the first hour of the night the lady arose, and took all pennies that she had in her coffer, and took a nag and a harness thereto, and gat her to the road; and she had let shear her fair tresses, and was otherwise arrayed like to an esquire. So much she went by her journeys that she came to Paris, and went after her lord; and she said and declared that she would never make an end before she had found him. Thus she rode like to a squire. And on a morning she went forth out of Paris, and wended the way toward Orleans until she came to the Tomb Isory, and there she fell in with her lord Sir Robin. Full fain she was when she saw him, and she drew up to him and greeted him, and he gave her greeting back and said: “Fair friend, God give thee joy!” “Sir,” said she, “whence art thou?” “Forsooth, fair friend, I am of old Hainault.” “Sir, whither wendeth thou?” “Forsooth, fair friend, I wot not right well whither I go, nor where I shall dwell. Forsooth, needs must I where fortune shall lead me; and she is contrary enough; for I have lost the thing in the world that most I ever loved: and she also hath lost me. Withal I have lost my land, which was great and fair enough. But what hast thou to name, and whither doth God lead thee?” “Certes, sir,” said Jehane, “I am minded for Marseilles on the sea, where is war as I hope. There would I serve some valiant man, about whom I shall learn me arms if God will. For I am so undone in mine own country that therein for a while of time I may not have peace. But, sir, meseemeth that thou be a knight, and I would serve thee with a right good will if it please thee. And of my company wilt thou be nought worsened.” “Fair friend,” said Sir Robin, “a knight am I verily. And where I may look to find war, thitherward would I draw full willingly. But tell me what thou hast to name?” “Sir,” said she, “I have to name John.” “In a good hour,” quoth the knight. “And thou, sir, how hight thou?” “John,” said he, “I have to name Robin.” “Sir Robin, retain me as thine esquire, and I will serve thee to my power.” “John, so would I with a good will. But so little of money have I that I must needs sell my horse before three days are worn. Wherefore I wot not how to do to retain thee.” “Sir,” said John, “be not dismayed thereof, for God will aid thee if it please him. But tell me where thou wilt eat thy dinner?” “John, my dinner will soon be made; for not another penny have I than three sols of Paris.” “Sir,” said John, “be nought dismayed thereof, for I have hard on ten pounds Tournais, whereof thou shalt not lack, if thou hast not to spend at thy will.” “Fair friend John, have thou mickle thanks.”

Then made they good speed to Montlhery: there John dight meat for his lord and they ate. When they had eaten, the knight slept in a bed and John at his feet. When they had slept, John did on the bridles, and they mounted and gat to the road. They went so far by their journeys that they came to Marseilles-on-sea; but of war they heard no word there, whereof were they much sorry. But now leaveth the tale to tell of them two, and returneth to tell of Sir Raoul, who had by falsehood gained the land of Sir Robin.

Here telleth the tale that so long did Sir Raoul hold the land of Sir Robin without righteous cause, for seven years’ wearing. Then he took a great sickness and of that sickness was sore beaten down, insomuch that he was on the point of death. Now he doubted much the transgression which he had done against the fair lady the daughter of his lord, and against her husband also, whereby they were undone, both of them by occasion of his malice. Exceeding ill at ease was he of his wrongdoing, which was so great that he durst not confess it.

Came a day when he was sore undone by his sickness, so he sent for his chaplain whom he loved much, for he had found him a man valiant and loyal; and he said to him: “Sir, thou who art my father before God, know that I look to die of this sickness, wherefore I pray thee for God’s sake that ye aid me with your counsel, for great is my need thereof, for I have done an ill deed so hideous and dark that scarce shall I have mercy therefor.” The chaplain bade him tell it out hardily, and that he would aid him with counsel to his power; till at last Sir Raoul told him all as ye have heard afore. And he prayed him for God’s sake give him counsel, so great as was his misdoing. “Sir,” said he, “be nought dismayed, for if thou wilt do the penance which I enjoin thee, I will take thy transgression on me and on my soul, so that thou shalt be quit.” “Yea, tell me then,” said the knight. “Sir,” said he, “thou shalt take the cross far over sea, and thou shalt get thee thereto within the year wherein thou art whole, and shalt give pledges to God that thou shalt so do: and in every place where men ask thee the occasion of thy journey, thou shalt tell it to all who shall ask it of thee.” “All this will I well do,” said the knight. “Then, sir, give thou good pledge.” “With a good will,” said the knight; “thou thyself shalt abide surety for me, and I swear to thee on my knighthood that I shall quit thee well.” “A-God’s name, sir!” quoth the chaplain, “I will be thy surety.” Now turned the knight to amendment, and was all whole; and a year wore wherein he went not over sea. The chaplain spake to him often thereof, but he held the covenant as but a jest; till at last the chaplain said that but if he acquitted him before God of his pledge, he would tell the tale to the father of the fair damsel, who had been thus undone by him. When the knight heard that, he said to the chaplain that within half a year he would set about the crossing of the sea, and so swore to him. But now leaveth the tale to tell of the knight, and returneth to telling of King Florus of Ausaye, of whom for a great while it hath been silent.

Now saith the tale that a much good life led King Florus of Ausay and his wife, as of young folk who loved each other; but much sorry and heavy-hearted were they that they might have no child. The lady made great prayers to God, and let sing masses; but whereas it was not well pleasing to God, it might not be. But on a day came thither into the house of King Florus a good man who had his dwelling in the great forest of Ausaye in a place right wild; and when the queen knew that he was come she came unto him and made him right great joy. And because he was a good man she confessed to him and told him all her ailing, and how that she was exceeding heavy of heart, because she had had no child by her lord. “Ah, lady,” said the good man, “since it pleaseth not our Lord, needs must thou abide it; and when it pleaseth him thou shalt have one, or two.” “Certes, sir,” said the lady, “I were fain thereof; for my lord holdeth me the less dear, and the high barons of this land also. Withal it hath been told to me that they have spoken to my lord to leave me and take another.” “Verily, dame,” said the good man, “he would do ill; it would be done against God and against Holy Church.” “Ah, sir, I pray thee to pray to God for me that I may have a child of my lord, for great fear I have lest he leave me.” “Dame,” said the good man, “my prayer shall avail but little, but if it please God; nevertheless I will pray heartily.”

The good man departed from the lady, and the barons of the land and of the country came to the King Florus, and bade him send away his wife and take another, since by this he might have no child. And if he did not after their counsel, they would go and dwell otherwhere; for in no case would they that the realm should be without an heir. King Florus feared his barons and trowed their word, and he said that he would send away his wife, and that they should seek him another, and they trusted him therein. When the lady knew it she was exeeeding heavy of heart; but nought durst she do, for she knew that her lord would leave her. So she sent for the hermit who had been her confessor, and he came to her. Then the lady told him all the tale of the matter of the barons, who would seek for their lord another woman. “And I pray thee, good father, that thou wouldst aid me, and counsel me what I should do.” “Dame,” said the good man, “if it be so as thou sayest, ye must needs suffer it; for against thy lord and against his barons ye may do nought perforce.” “Sir,” said the good lady, “thou sayest sooth: but if it please God, I were fain to be a recluse nigh unto thee; whereby I may be at the service of God all the days of my life, and that I may have comfort of thee.” “Dame,” said the good man, “that would be over strange a thing, whereas thou art too young a lady and too fair. But I will tell thee what thou shalt do. Hard by my hermitage there is an abbey of White Nuns, who are right good ladies, and I counsel you go thither; and they will have great joy of thee for thy goodness and thy high dignity.” “Sir,” said she, “thou hast well said; I will do all that thou counsellest me.”

On the morrow King Florus spake to his wife, and said thus: “Needs must thou and I sunder, for that thou mayst have no child by me. Now I say thee soothly that the sundering lies heavy on me, for never shall I love woman as I have loved thee.” Therewith fell King Florus to weep sorely, and the lady also. “Sir,” said she, “a-God’s mercy! And whither shall I go, and what shall I do?” “Dame, thou shalt do well, if it please God, for I will send thee back well and richly into thy country to thy kindred.” “Sir,” said the lady, “it shall not be so: I have purveyed me an abbey of nuns, where I will be, if it please thee; and there I will serve God all my life; for since I lose thy company I am she that no man shall go with any more. Thereat King Florus wept and the lady also. But on the third day the queen went to the abbey; and the other queen was come, and had great feast made her, and great joy of her friends. King Florus held her for three years, but never might have child of her. But here the tale holdeth peace of King Florus, and betaketh it again to Sir Robin, and to John who were at Marseilles.

Here telleth the tale that much sorry was Sir Robin when he came to Marseilles, whereas he heard tell of nought toward in the country; so he said to John: “What do we? Thou hast lent me of thy moneys, whereof I thank thee: I will give them back to thee, for I will sell my palfrey, and quit me toward thee.” “Sir,” said John, “if it please thee, believe me, and I shall tell thee what we shall do. I have yet well an hundred sols of Tournay, and if it please thee, I will sell our two horses, and make money thereby: for I am the best of bakers that ye may wot of; and I will make French bread, and I doubt me not but I shall earn my spending well and bountifully.” “John,” said Sir Robin, “I grant it thee to do all as thou wilt.”

So on the morrow John sold the two horses for ten pounds Tournays, and bought corn and let grind it, and bought baskets, and fell to making French bread, so good and so well made that he sold it for more than the best baker of the town might do; and he did so much within two years that he had well an hundred pounds of chattels. Then said John to his lord: “I rede thee well that we buy us a very great house, and that we buy us wine and take to harbouring good folk.” “John,” said Sir Robin, “do according to thy will, for I grant it thee, and moreover I praise thee much.” So John bought a house, great and fair, and harboured good folk, and earned enough plenteously; and he arrayed his lord well and richly; and Sir Robin had his palfrey, and went to eat and drink with the most worthy of the town, and John sent him wine and victual, so that all they that haunted his company marvelled thereat. So much he gained that in three years’ time he had gotten him more than three hundred pounds of garnishment, out-taken his plenishing, which was well worth fifty pounds. But here leaveth the tale to tell of Sir Robin and of John, and goeth back to tell of Sir Raoul.

For, saith the tale, that the chaplain held Sir Raoul right short that he should go over sea, and quit him of the pledge he had laid down; for great fear he had lest he yet should leave it; and so much he did that Sir Raoul saw well that he needs must go. So he dight his journey, and arrayed him right richly, as he that hath well enough thereto; and so he betook him to the road with three squires: and went so much by his journeys that he came into Marseilles-on-sea and took lodging in the French hostel, whereas dwelt Sir Robin and John. So soon as John saw him she knew him by the scar of the wound she had made him, and because she had seen him many times. The knight sojourned in the town fifteen days, and hired him passage. But the while he sojourned, John drew him in to privy talk, and asked of him the occasion of his going over sea, and Sir Raoul told him all the occasion, as one who had little heed thereof, even as the tale hath told afore. When John heard that, he held his peace. Sir Raoul set his goods aboard ship, and went upon the sea; but tarried so much the ship wherein he was that he abode in the town for eight days; but on the ninth day he betook him to go his ways to the holy sepulchre, and did his pilgrimage, and confessed him the best he might: and his confessor charged him in penance that he should give back the land which he held wrongfully to the knight and his wife. Whereon he said to his confessor, that when he came into his own country he would do what his heart bade him. So he departed from Jerusalem and came to Acre, and dight his passage as one who had great longing to repair to his own country. He went up on to the sea, and wended so diligently, as well by night as by day, till in less than three months he came to the port of Aigues-mort. Then he departed from the port and came straight to Marseilles, wherein he sojourned eight days in the hostel of Sir Robin and John, which hight the French house. Never did Sir Robin know him, for on that matter he thought nothing. At the end of eight days he departed from Marseilles, he and his squires, and went so long by his journeys that he came into his own country, where he was received with great joy, as one who was a knight rich in land and chattels. Thereon his chaplain took him to task, and asked of him if any had demanded the occasion of his journey; and he said: “Yea, in three places, to wit: Marseilles, Acre, and Jerusalem: and he of whom I took counsel bade me to give back the land to Sir Robin, if I hear tidings of him, or to his wife else, or to his heir.” “Certes,” said the chaplain; “he bade thee good counsel.” Thus was Sir Raoul in his own country a great while in rest and good ease. But here leaveth the tale to tell of him, and returneth to Sir Robin and John.

Here saith the tale that when Sir Robin and John had been at Marseilles for six years that John had gotten to the value of six hundred pounds, and they were come into the seventh year, and John might gain eke what he would, and so sweet he was, and so debonaire that he made himself loved of all the neighbours, and therewithal he was of good hap as he might not be of more, and maintained his lord so nobly and so richly that it was wonder to behold. When the end of the seven years drew nigh, John fell to talk with his lord Sir Robin, and spake thus: “Sir, we have now been a great while in this country, and so much have we gained, that we have hard on six hundred pounds of chattels, what of money, what of vessel of silver.” “Forsooth, John,” said Sir Robin, “they be not mine, but thine; for it is thou hast earned them.” “Sir,” said John, “saving thy grace, it is not so, but they are thine: for thou art my rightful lord, and never, if it please God, will I change.” “Gramercy, John, I hold thee not for servant, but for companion and friend.” “Sir,” said John, “all days I have kept thee loyal company, and shall do from henceforth.” “By my faith,” said Sir Robin, “I will do what so pleaseth thee: but to go into my country, I wot not to say thereof: for I have lost so much there that hardly shall my scathe be righted to me.” “Sir,” said John, “be thou never dismayed of that matter; for when thou art come into thine own country thou shalt hear good tidings, please God. And doubt thou nothing, for in all places whereas we shall be, if it please God, I shall earn enough for thee and for me.” “Certes, John,” said Sir Robin, “I will do as it pleaseth thee, and where thou wilt that I go, thither will I.” “Sir,” said John, “I shall sell our chattels, and dight our journey, and we will go within fifteen days.” “A-God’s name, John,” said Sir Robin.

John sold all his plenishing, whereof he had good store and goodly, and bought three horses, a palfrey for his lord, another for himself, and a sumpter horse. Then they took leave of the neighbours, and the most worthy of the town, who were sore grieved of their departure.

Wore the way Sir Robin and John, insomuch that in three weeks’ space they came into their country. And Robin made known to his lord, whose daughter he had had, that he was at hand. The lord was much joyful thereof, for he was deeming well that his daughter would be with him. And she indeed it was, but in the guise of an esquire. Sir Robin was well received of his lord, whose daughter he had erewhile wedded. When the lord could have no tidings of his daughter, he was right sorrowful; nevertheless he made good feast to Sir Robin, and bade thereto his knights and his neighbours; and thither came Sir Raoul, who held the land of Sir Robin wrongfully. Great was the joy that day and the morrow, and that while Sir Robin told to John the occasion of the wager, and how Sir Raoul held his land wrongfully. “Sir,” said John, “do thou appeal him of treason, and I will do the battle for thee.” “Nay, John,” said Sir Robin, “thou shalt not do it.”

So they left it till the morrow, when John came to Sir Robin and did him to wit that he would speak to the father of his wife; and thus he said to him: “Sir, thou art lord to my lord Sir Robin after God, and he wedded thy daughter time was. But there was a wager betwixt him and Sir Raoul, who said that he would make him cuckold by then he returned from St. Jakeme; whereof Sir Raoul hath made false report, whereas he hath had nor part nor lot in thy fair daughter. And he hath done disloyal treason. All which things I am ready to prove on his body.” Then leapt forth Sir Robin and said: “John, fair friend, none shall do the battle save I; nowise shalt thou hang shield on neck herein.” Therewith Sir Robin reached his pledge to his lord; and Sir Raoul was sore grieving of the pledging, but needs must he defend him, or cry craven; so he reached for this pledge right cowardly. So were the pledges given, and day of battle appointed on that day fifteen days without naysay.

Now hear ye marvels of John what he did. John who had to name my Lady Jehane, had in the house of her father a cousin germain of hers, who was a fair damsel, and of some five and twenty years. Jehane came to her, and laid all the whole truth bare to her, and told her the whole business from point to point, and showed her all openly; and prayed her much that she would hide all the matter until the time and hour came when she should make herself known to her father. Wherefore her cousin, who knew her well, said to her that she would keep all well hidden, so that by her it should never be discovered. Then was the chamber of her cousin dight for the Lady Jehane; and the said lady, the while of the fortnight before the battle should be, let bathe her and stove her; and she took her ease the best she might, as one who well had therewithal. And she let cut and shape for her duly four pair of gowns, of Scarlet, of Vair, of Perse, and of cloth of silk; and she took so well her ease that she came back to her most beauty, and was so fair and dainty as no lady might be more.

But when it came to the end of the fifteen days, then was Sir Robin sore grieving of John his esquire, because he had lost him, and knew not where he was become. But none the more did he leave to apparel him for the fight as one who had heart enough and hardihood.

On the morn of the day whenas the battle was appointed, came both the knights armed. They drew apart one from the other, and then they fell on each other with the irons of their glaives, and smote on each other with so great heat that they bore down each other’s horses to the earth beneath their bodies. Sir Raoul was hurt a little on the left side. Sir Robin rose up the first, and came a great pace on Sir Raoul, and smote him a great stroke on the helm in such wise that he beat down the head-piece and drave in the sword on to the mail-coif, and sheared all thereto; but the coif was of steel so strong that he wounded him not, howbeit he made him to stagger, so that he caught hold of the arson of the saddle; and if he had not, he had fallen to earth. Then Sir Raoul, who was a good knight, smote Sir Robin so great a stroke upon the helm that he all to astonied him; and the stroke fell down to the shoulder, and sheared the mails of the hawberk, but hurt him not. Then Sir Robin smote him with all his might, but he threw his shield betwixt, and Sir Robin smote off a quarter thereof. When Sir Raoul felt his strong strokes, he misdoubted him much, and wished well that he were over sea, if he were but quit of the battle, and Sir Robin back on the land which he held. Nevertheless he put forth all his might and drew nigh, and fell on Sir Robin much hardly, and gave him a great stroke upon his shield so that he sheared it to the boss thereof. But Sir Robin laid a great stroke upon his helm, but he threw his shield betwixt and Sir Robin sheared it amidst, and the sword fell upon the neck of the horse, and sheared it amidst, and beat down straightway both horse and man. Then Sir Raoul leapt to his feet, as one who was in a stour exceeding heavy. Then Sir Robin lighted down, whereas he would not betake him to his horse while the other was afoot.

Now were both knights come unto the skirmish and they hewed in pieces each other’s shields and helms and haw — berks, and drew the blood from each other’s bodies with their trenchant swords; and had they smitten as great strokes as at first, soon had they slain each other, for they had so little of their shields that scarce might they cover their fists therewith. Yet had neither of them fear of death or shame: nevertheless the nighness of them to each other called on them to bring the battle to an end. Sir Robin took his sword in both hands, and smote Sir Raoul with all his might on the helm, and sheared it amidst, so that one half thereof fell upon the shoulders, and he sheared the steel coif, and made him a great wound on the head; and Sir Raoul was so astonied of the stroke that he bent him to the earth on one knee; but he rose up straightway and was in great misease when he thus saw his head naked, and great fear of death he had. But he came up to Sir Robin and fetched a stroke with all his might on what he had of shield and he sheared it asunder and the stroke came on the helm and cut into it well three fingers, so that the sword came on the iron coif, which was right good, so that the sword brake a-twain. When Sir Raoul saw his sword broken and his head naked, he doubted much the death. Nevertheless he stooped down to the earth, and took up a great stone in his two hands, and cast it after Sir Robin with all his might; but Sir Robin turned aside when he saw the stone coming, and ran on Sir Raoul, who took to flight all over the field; and Sir Robin said to him that he would slay him but if he cried craven. Whereon Sir Raoul thus bespake him: mercy on me, gentle knight, and ere my sword, so much as I have thereof, and I render it to thee, and all of me therewith unto thy mercy; and I pray thee have pity of me, and beg of thy lord and mine to have mercy on me and that thou and he save my life, and I render and give both thy land and mine. For I have held it against right and against reason. And I have wrongfully defamed the fair lady and good.

When Sir Robin heard this, he said that he had done enough, and he prayed his lord so much that he pardoned Sir Raoul of his misdeed, in such wise that he was quit thereof on the condition that he should go over seas and abide there lifelong.

Thuswise conquered Sir Robin his land and the land of Sir Raoul to boot for all his days. But he was so sore grieving and sad at heart of his good dame and fair, whom he had thus lost, that he could have no solace; and on the other hand, he was so sore grieving for John his esquire whom he had so lost, that marvel it was. And his lord was no less sad at heart for his fair daughter whom he had thus lost, and of whom he might have no tidings.

But dame Jehane, who was in the chamber of her cousin germain for fifteen days in good ease, when she wotted that her lord had vanquished the battle, was exceeding much at ease. Now she had done make four pair of gowns, as is aforesaid, and she clad her with the richest of them which was of silk bended of fine gold of Araby. Moreover she was so fair of body and of visage, and so dainty withal, that nought in the world might be found fairer, so that her cousin germain all marvelled at her great beauty. And she had been bathed, and attired and had ease at all points for the fifteen days, so that she was come into so great beauty as wonder was. Much fair was the Lady Jehane in her gown of silk bended of gold. So she called her cousin to her and said: “How deemest thou of me?” “What, dame!” said her cousin, “thou art the fairest lady of the world.” “I shall tell thee, then, fair cousin, what thou shalt do: go thou tell so much before my father as that he shall make dole no more, but be glad and joyful, and that thou bearest him good news of his daughter who is whole and well; and that he come with thee and thou wilt show him. Then bring him hither, and meseemeth he will see me with a good will.” The damsel said that she would well do that errand and she came to the father of the Lady Jehane, and said him what his daughter had said. When her sire heard thereof great wonder he wist it, and went with the damsel, and found his daughter in her chamber, and knew her straightway, and put his arms about her neck, and wept over her for joy and pity, and had so great joy that scarce might he speak to her. Then he asked her where she had been so long a while. “Fair father,” said she, “thou shalt know it well anon. But a-God’s sake do my lady mother to come to me, for I have great longing to see her.” The lord sent for his wife, and when she came into the chamber where was her daughter, and saw her and knew her, she swooned for joy, and might not speak a great while, and when she came out of her swooning none might believe the great joy that she made of her daughter.

But whiles they were in this joy, the father of the fair lady went to seek Sir Robin and bespake him thus: “Sir Robin, fair sweet son, tidings can I say thee exceeding joyous us between.” “Certes,” said Sir Robin, “of joy have I great need, for none save God can set rede to it whereby I may have joy. For I have lost thy fair daughter, whereof have I sore grief at heart. And thereto have I lost the swain and the squire, who of all in the world hath done me most good; to wit, John the good, my squire.” “Sir Robin,” said the lord, “be ye nought dismayed thereof, for of squires thou shalt find enough. But of my fair daughter I could tell thee good tidings; for I have seen her e’en now; and, wot ye well, she is the fairest lady that may be in the world.” When Sir Robin heard that, he trembled all with joy and said to his lord: “Ah, sir, for God’s sake bring me where I may see if this be true!” “With a good will,” said the lord; “come along now.”

The lord went before and he after, till I they were come to the chamber, where the mother was yet making great feast of her daughter, and they were weeping with joy one over the other. But when they saw their rightful lords a-coming, they rose up; and so soon as Sir Robin knew his wife, he ran to her with his arms spread abroad, and they clipped and kissed together dearly, and wept of joy and pity; and they were thus embracing together for the space of the running of ten acres, or ever they might sunder. Then the lord commanded the tables to be laid for supper, and they supped and made great joy.

After supper, when the feast had been right great, they went to bed, and Sir Robin lay that night with the Lady Jehane his wife, who made him great joy, and he her in likewise; and they spake together of many things, and so much that Sir Robin asked of her where she had been; and she said: “Sir, long were it to tell, but thou shalt know it well in time. Now tell to me what thou couldest to do, and where thou hast been so long a while.” “Lady,” said Sir Robin, “that will I well tell thee.”

So he fell to telling her all that she well knew, and of John his esquire, who had done him so much good, and said that he was so troubled whereas he had thus lost him, that he would make never an end of wandering till he had found him, and that he would bestir himself thereto the morrow’s morn. “Sir,” said the lady, “that were folly; and how should it be then; wouldst thou leave me, then?” “Forsooth, dame,” said he, “e’en so it behoveth me. For none did ever so much for another as he did for me.” “Sir,” said the dame, “wherein he did for thee, he did but duly. Even so he was bound to do.” “Dame,” said Sir Robin, “by what thou sayest thou shouldst know him.” “Forsooth,” said the lady, “I should ought to know him well, for never did he anything whereof I wotted not.” “Lady,” said Sir Robin, “thou makest me to marvel at thy words.” “Sir,” said the lady, “never marvel thou hereof! If I tell thee a word for sooth and for certain, wilt thou not believe me?” “Dame,” said he, “yea, verily.”

“Well, then, believe me in this,” said she; “for wot of a verity that I am the very same John whom thou wouldest go seek, and I will tell thee how. For I knew that thou wert gone for the great sorrow thou hadst for my misdoing against thee, and for thy land which thou deemedst thou hadst lost for ever. Whereas I had heard tell of the occasion of the wager, and of the treason Sir Raoul had done, whereof I was so wroth as never woman was more wroth. Straightway I let shear my hair, and took the money in my coffer, about ten pounds of Tournais, and arrayed me like an esquire, and followed thee away to Paris, and found thee at the tomb of Ysore; and there I fell into company with thee, and we went together into Marseilles, and were there together seven years long, where I served thee unto my power as my rightful lord, and I hold for well spent all the service that I did thee. And know of a truth that I am innocent and just of that which the evil knight laid upon me; as well appeareth whereas he hath been shamed in the field, and hath acknowledged the treason.”

Therewith my lady Jehane embraced Sir Robin, her lord, and kissed him on the mouth right sweetly; for Sir Robin understood well that it was she that had so well served him; and so great joy he had, that none could say it or think it; and much he wondered in his heart how she could think to do that which so turned to her great goodness. Wherefore he loved her the more all the days of his life.

Thus were these two good persons together; and they went to dwell upon their land, which they had both wide and fair. Good life they led as for young folk who loved dearly together. Sir Robin went often to tournays with his lord, of whose mesney he was, and much worship he won, and great prize he conquered and great wealth, and did so much that he gat him as much land again as he had had. And when the lord and his lady were dead, then had he all the land. And he did so well by his prowess that he was made a double banneret, and he had well four thousand pounds of land. But never might he have child by his wife, whereof he was much grieved. Thus was he with his wife for ten years after he had conquered the battle with Sir Raoul.

After the term of ten years, by the will of God, to whom we be all subject, the pain of death took hold of him, and he died like a valiant man, and had all his rights, and was laid in earth with great worship. His wife the fair lady made so great sorrow over him, that all they that saw her had pity of her; but in the end needs must she forget her mourning and take comfort, for as little as it were. Much abode the lady in her widowhood as a good dame and a holy, for she loved much God and Holy Church. She held her much humbly and much she loved the poor, and did them much good, and was so good a lady that none knew how to blame her or to say of her aught save great good. Therewithal was she so fair, that each one said who saw her, that she was the mirror of all ladies in the world for beauty and goodness. But here leaveth the tale a little to speak of her, and returneth to tell of the King Florus, of whom it hath been silent a great while.

For saith the tale, that King Florus of Ausay was in his own country sore grieving, and ill at ease for the departure of his first wife. Notwithstanding the other was brought unto him, and was both fair and dainty, but he could not hold her in his heart like as he did the first one. Four years was he with her, but never child might he have of her; and when the said time was ended the pains of death took the a lady, and she was buried, whereof her friends were sore grieving. But service was done unto her, as was meet to a queen.

Then abode King Florus in widowhood more than two years, and he was still a young man, whereas he was not of more than five-and-forty winters, wherefore the barons said to him that he behoved to marry again. “Forsooth,” said King Florus, “so to do have I no great longing, for two wives have I had, and never child might I have by either. And on the other hand, the first that I had was so good and so fair, and so much I loved her in my heart for the great beauty that was in her, that I may not forget her. And I tell you well that never woman will I wed but may have her as fair and as good as was she. Now may God have mercy on her soul, for she hath passed away in the abbey where she was, as folk have done me to wit.” “Ha, sir,” said a knight, who was of his privy counsel, “there be many good dames up and down the country side, of whom ye know not all; and I know one who hath not for goodness and beauty her peer in the world. And if thou knew her goodness, and saw but her beauty, thou wouldst say well that happy were the king who held the danger of such a lady. And wot well that she is a gentle lady, and valiant, and rich, and of great lands. And I will tell thee a part of her goodness so please thee.”

So the king said that he would well he should tell him. Wherefore the knight fell to telling how she had bestirred her to go seek her lord, and how she found him and brought him to Marseilles, and the great goodness and great services which she did him, even as the tale hath told afore, so that King Florus wondered much thereat; and he said to the knight privily that such a woman he would take with a good will.

“Sir,” said the knight, who was of the country of the lady, “I will go to her, if it please thee, and I will so speak to her, if I may, that the marriage of you two shall be made.” “Yea,” said King Florus, “I will well that thou go, and I pray thee to give good heed to the business.”

So the knight bestirred him, and went so much by his journeys that he came to the country where dwelt the fair dame, whom the tale calleth my Lady Jehane, and found her abiding at a castle of hers, and she made him great joy, as one whom she knew. The knight drew her to privy talk, and told her of King Florus of Ausay, how he bade her come unto him that he might take her to wife. When the lady heard the knight so speak, she began to smile, which beseemed her right well, and she said to the knight: “Thy king is neither so well learned, nor so courteous as I had deemed, whereas he biddeth me come to him and he will take me to wife: forsooth, I am no wageling of him to go at his command. But say to thy king, that, so please him, he come to me, if he prize me so much and loveth me, and it seem good to him that I take him to husband and spouse, for the lords ought to beseech the ladies, and not ladies the lords.” “Lady,” said the knight, “all that thou hast said to me, I will tell him straight; but I doubt that he hold not with pride.” “Sir knight,” said the lady, “he shall take what heed thereof may please him but in the matter whereof I have spoken to thee, he hath neither courtesy nor reason.” “Lady,” said the knight, “so be it, a-God’s name! And I will get me gone, with thy leave, to my lord the king, and will tell him what thou hast told me. And if thou wilt give me any word more, now tell it me.” “Yea,” said the lady, “tell him that I send him greeting, and that I can him much good will for the honour he biddeth me.”

So the knight departed therewith from the lady, and came the fourth day thereafter to King Florus of Ausay, and found him in his chamber, whereas he was speaking with his privy counsel. The knight greeted the king, who returned the greeting, and made him sit by his side, and asked tidings of the fair lady, and he told all her message how she would not come to him, whereas she was not his wageling to come at his command: for that lords are bound to beseech ladies how she had given him word that she sent him greeting, and could him goodwill for the honour he bade her. When the King Florus had heard these words, he fell a-pondering, and spake no word for a great while.

“Sir,” said a knight who was of his most privity, “what ponderest thou so much? Forsooth, all these words well befit a good lady and wise to say; and so, may help me God, she is both wise and valiant. Wherefore I counsel thee in good faith that thou look to a day when thou canst be there; that thou send greeting to her that thou wilt be there on such day to do her honour, and take her to wife.” “Forsooth,” said King Florus, “I will send word that I will be there in the month of Paske, and that she apparel her to receive such a man as I be.” Then said King Florus to the knight who had been to the lady, that within three days he should go his ways to tell the lady these tidings. So on the third day the knight departed, and went so much that he came to the lady, and said that the king sent word that he would be with her in the month of Paske; and she answered that it was so by God’s will, and that she would speak with her friends, and that she would be arrayed to do his will as the honour of a good lady called on her. After these words departed the knight, and came to his lord King Florus, and told him the answer of the fair lady, as ye have heard it. So King Florus of Ausay dight his departure, and went his ways with a right great folk to come to the country of the fair lady; and when he was come thither, he took her and wedded her, and had great joy and great feast thereof. Then he led her into his country where folk made exceeding great joy of her. But King Florus loved her much for her great beauty, and for the great wit and great valiancy that was in her.

And within the year that he had taken her to wife, she was big with child, and she bore the fruit of her belly so long as right was, and was delivered of a daughter first, and of a son thereafter, who had to name Florence and the daughter had to name Floria. And the child Florence was exceeding fair, and when he was a knight he was the best that knew arms in his time, so that he was chosen to be Emperor of Constantinople. A much valiant man was he, and wrought much wrack and dole on the Saracens. But the daughter became queen of the land of her father, and the son of the King of Hungary took her to wife, and lady she was of two realms.

This great honour gave God to the fair lady for the goodness of her and her loyalty. A great while abode King Florus with that fair lady; and when it pleased God that his time came, he had such goodly knowledge that God had in him a fair soul. Thereafter the lady lived but a half year, and passed away from the world as one good and loyal, and had fair end and good knowledge.

Here endeth the tale of King Florus and the Fair Jehane.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/m/morris/william/m87of/chapter3.html

Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 22:07