NOW at this time, while Archambaut was thus jealous and, in all Auvergne, songs, sirventes, couplets, and sonnets, were made upon him, there dwelt in Burgundy a knight whom Nature had delighted to fashion and instruct. Nor had she failed in this task, for never has been seen a youth so fair of person or of goodlier mien.
He had light curling hair, broad white forehead, dark arching brows, black laughing eyes, and nose as straight as the stock of an arbalest. His shoulders were broad, his muscles strong. When he jousted, none could sustain the shock of his assault. Lifting 24 his foe from the saddle, he passed on bearing him at the end of his lance.
He had studied at Paris and learned there so much of the seven arts that he could have taught school anywhere. He could both read and write, and spoke English better than any clerk. His name was Guillem de Nevers.
Guillem was at all points a good knight. He led a fair following to the tourney, took captives and made prizes. What he thus won he spent and gave away freely in presents. He loved gaming, dogs, falcons — all pleasant things, in short, and suited to his estate. One only he lacked, and that was any experience of love.
He had read all the poets who treat thereof and instruct lovers. From them he had learned that, without love, one could not lead the life ordained for noble youth, and often he dreamed of engaging in some high adventure that would bring him both pleasure and honour.25
Thus it happened that, when Guillem heard how Flamenca was held prisoner by her jealous husband, his heart spoke, and said to him that, were he but able to speak with her, he might, perchance, enjoy her love.
Long he pondered upon this. Then, one night, Love appearing in a dream, urged him to the adventure and made him fair promises. Next day Guillem set forth, with his companions, for Bourbon.
Now there were baths at Bourbon in those days, where all could come and bathe at their ease. A tablet in each bath made known the properties of the water both hot and cold, that sprang from two spouts, and over it was built a house, with quiet rooms wherein to take one’s ease.
Of these baths the best were those belonging to Pierre Gui, a right honest man who was on terms of amity with lord Archambaut; and when Guillem, arriving at Bourbon, demanded where he might lodge, he was directed thither.26
The goodman, seated at the door of his hostel, seeing the youth approach, arose and greeted him graciously, while his wife, Dame Bellapila, invited him within and gave him his dinner. When he had eaten, Pierre Gui showed him his rooms and gave him free choice among them.
Guillem wanted one thing only, which was to be so lodged that he could see Flamenca’s tower from his window. When he had found this, he said, dissembling:
“This room pleases me, because it is larger than the others, and of a more agreeable aspect.”
“As you like,” replied the host. “Here you will be undisturbed, and master of all you do. Count Raoul often makes this room his abode when he comes to Bourbon; but it is a long time since he has shown himself here. For our master, who was so good a knight, is sadly changed. Since he took him a wife, he has not laced helm or donned hauberk, and he holds the world as naught. 27 I doubt not, however, you have heard those things reported of him.”
“I have, indeed, heard them spoken of,” replied Guillem, “but I have far other concerns. I suffer from a sore ailment, and if the waters here heal me not, I know not what I shall do to be cured.”
“Rest assured as to that, fair sir,” answered Pierre Gui. “Know that no one, however sick, comes to our baths without going away cured, if only he stay long enough.”
The room was large and clean and well furnished. There wanted neither bed nor hearth nor aught else for comfort. Guillem caused all his belongings to be brought and placed therein. Then, when his host had retired, he dismissed his squires, instructing them to let none know his name, saying simply that he was from Besançon.
It was the night after Easter, the season when the nightingale accuses with his songs those who have no care of love. One sang 28 in the grove near Guillem’s window, and the young man could not close his eyes, though his couch was white and soft and wide.
“Ah Love,” he sighed, “what will become of me? At your behest, leaving my own people, I have come into this country a pilgrim, a stranger. Sighing without cease, I suffer from a desire that has taken fast hold of my heat. I feign sickness now, it is true; but I shall need to feign it no longer, if I am not soon cured of this ill.”
Then, as day was beginning to break, and his bed brought him no repose, he arose, crossed himself, and prayed to Saint Blaise, Saint Martin, Saint George, Saint Genies, and five or six other saints who were gentle knights, that they might make intercession for him. Before beginning to dress, he opened his window and looked upon the tower where his lady languished.
“O lady tower,” he cried, “you are beautiful without and pure and white within. Would to God I were inside your walls, so 29 as not to be seen of Archambaut, of Margarida, or of Alis!”
So saying, his arms fell, his feet no longer sustained him, his color fled, and he fainted. One of his squires, seeing him about to fall, seized him, held him close, and bore him to the bed. The squire was greatly frightened, for he could not feel the beat of his master’s heart. This was because Love had transported his spirit to Flamenca’s tower, where Guillem held her in his arms, and caressed her so gently she was not aware of it. Then his soul, having had its will, returned to his body, which was not long in reviving.
It was clear he had come back from a place full of delight, for he was more blithe and beautiful than before. The young squire had wept so much that his master’s face was wet with his tears.
“Sir,” he said, drying his eyes, “I have been sore troubled.”
“Ah, my friend,” sighed Guillem, “your concern was occasioned by my happiness.”30
Clad in breeches and shirt, he took his place once more in the window, throwing over his shoulders a mantle of vair trimmed with gris. The tower stood to the right, and naught could turn Guillem from it, while putting on his shoes — elegant buskins fashioned at Douai.
He called for his ewer. Then, when he had washed, he laced up his sleeves with a silver bodkin. Over all he passed a cape of black silk, and studied carefully the figure he made.
As he was thus occupied, his host entered to lead him to the church. There Guillem, kneeling at the altar of Saint Clement, prayed devoutly to God, as also to Mary, to Michael, and to all the saints, to aid him. Then, taking a psalter, he opened it. Straight way he came upon a verse which filled him with delight: “Dilexi quoniam.”
“God knows well what I desire,” he exclaimed, closing the book. He made careful note of the place where his lady would sit, 31 and prayed that naught might keep her from coming.
When it was time for mass, Guillem took his place, with his host, in the choir, where he could look out through a little opening, without being seen. His heart beat loudly as he awaited the arrival of Flamenca; and, at each shadow that fell across the doorway, he thought Archambaut was about to enter.
Everyone else had arrived, and the third bell had rung, when the jealous husband, uncouth and unkempt, entered the church. Beside him, but keeping well her distance, for it was clear he filled her with disgust, came Flamenca.
She paused an instant on the threshold, to make her reverence, and then it was, for the first time, that Guillem saw his lady. He ceased to gaze upon her only when she passed behind her screen. Then he knelt with the others.
“Asperges me,” proclaimed the priest. Guillem took up the response at the 32 “Domine,” and sang it clear through. Never before had it been so well sung in that church.
The priest left the choir, followed by a clerk bearing the holy water. When he came to Flamenca, he did his best to spray her across the screen, and she uncovered a little her hair, where it was parted in the middle, the better to receive the water on her forehead. Her skin showed white and fine, and the golden crown of her hair, where the sun chanced to strike it with one of his rays, at that instant, shone resplendent. At the sight of this splendid sample of what love held in store for him, Guillem trembled with joy, and intoned the “Signum salutis.”
The priest then returned to that altar and said the “Confiteor,” with his little clerk. At the Evangel, Flamenca arose. At first a burgher, to Guillem’s disgust, stood in front of her; but God willed him to move to one side, that she might be seen unobscured. To cross herself, she lowered a little 33 the band which covered her mouth and chin, and with one finger loosened the latchets of her mantle. Guillem gazed at her bare hand which seemed to steal his heart from his breast and bear it away. The emotion which seized him was so strong that he was like to faint with it.
By good fortune, he found at his feet a stool on which to kneel, as if in prayer. He stayed thus, quite still, till the little clerk gave him the pax. When, in her turn, Flamenca kissed the breviary, Guillem saw, for a moment, her red mouth, and the sight filled him with sweet joy.
When the clerk had finished giving the pax, Guillem considered how he might gain possession of the book.
“My friend,” he whispered to the clerk, “have you a calendar? I wish to learn on what days falls Pentecost.”
The youth handed him the book, but Guillem gave small heed to the day of the month or the year. He turned the leaves from end 34 to end, and would fain have kissed them all for the sake of one, could he have done so without being remarked.
“Clerk,” he asked, “where is it that you give the pax? Is it not in the psalter?”
“Here is the place, sir,” the clerk answered, and showed it to Guillem who, kneeling again as if in prayer, kissed the page more than a thousand times, and did not cease from his devotions till the priest had said: “Ite missa.”
Archambaut left the church without delay, forcing Flamenca to follow with her damsels. Guillem waited for the priest to finish none, then addressed him courteously:
“Sir,”he said, “I demand a boon. Dine with me today at my hostel, and hereafter, as long as I stay, be my guest at table.”
The priest consented gladly, and all three repaired at once to the hostel, where dinner awaited them.
When they had finished and the table was cleared, Guillsem sent one of his squires to 35 fetch the gifts he had designed for his host and hostess. To the former he gave a long belt with a buckle of French make, worth more than a silver mark; to the latter, a piece of stuff to fashion a summer mantle. So grateful were they for these gifts that they promised to do all in their power to serve Guillem. They even offered to move out of their house and leave it all to him, should he so desire.
He accepted gladly. Then, turning to the priest, Dom Justin, he said: “I ask you now to cut the hair from the top of my head, and make me a tonsure such as I had before. I am a canon of Péronne, and would return now to that estate.”
The priest could scarce answer at first, so surprised was he at Guillem’s request; but, while the others wept to see the young man thus despoiled of his golden crown, the little clerk, whose name was Nicholas, held the basin, and Dom Justin shore off the locks with sharp shears, clipping the hair close about the neck, and making a large tonsure.36
Guillem gave the priest a gilded goblet, worth four marks, as his reward.
“The barber,” said he, “must be well paid.”
“My lord, it is too much!” protested the priest. “Tell me what I can do to merit more fully so rich a gift.”
“Take me for your clerk,” said Guillem. “As for Nicholas, here, send him to Paris to study. He is not yet too old, and he will learn more in two years there than here in three. I will give him four golden marks a year, and furnish him with raiment.”
“My lord, blessed be the day we first met,” cried the priest. “Nothing has so pained me as to see my nephew losing time precious for his studies. Already he can write and make verses, and when he has studied two years he will know twice as much. As for your request, you shall be master, and I will do all you desire.”
“Nay,” exclaimed Guillem hastily, “you must give me your promise to treat me in all ways as your little clerk. Else I shall 37 fail of my purpose, which is to serve humbly both you and God at the same time.”
Then he instructed the priest to have fashioned for him a large round cape of brown silk or gabardine, which should cover him from head to foot.
“I no longer wish to follow the fêtes of the court, he said, “for all that is but derision and vain smoke; and he who thinks to have gained most from it, finds himself poorest when night falls.”
Thus preached Isengrin. Had the priest been wilier he might have said, with Renard: “You are hiding your real game.” But he suspected nothing, and went out with the squires to order the cape.
Next morning, after mass, Guillem went to the baths. There he examined carefully the soil, and found it was of tufa so soft he could cut it with a knife. That very afternoon, when his hosts had moved out, he sent to Chatillon secretly for some laborers.
Saturday Nicholas left, and Guillem assisted 38 at vespers. At first he held his cape a little high, for he was forever placing his hand upon his hip, as had been his habit; but he played his part well, and Dom Justin was overjoyed at having such a clerk sent him by heaven.
After vespers Guillem went over with the priest the lessons and responses for the next morning.
That night he did not sleep. At the first stroke of the bell for matins, he arose and ran to the church, where, seizing the rope from the hands of the priest, he finished ringing lustily.
After matins Dom Justin told Guillem he might rest a little, and let him to a room, next the belfry, which had belonged to Nicholas; but, though the floor was strewn with reeds and rushed, he could not close his eyes, for now a new care assailed him. What should he say to his lady, when he gave her the pax?
Long he lay and pondered, calling on Love 39 to aid him at this pass. At last, finding naught, he arose and went out, closing the door and putting the key on the shelf, whence Dom Justin had taken it. Then he requested a beadle, one Vidal, to bring him the salt for the holy water. While mixing this, the priest awoke, and Guillem gave him some of the water to wash. Then they began prime.
When they had sung tierce and rung again, the people began to come for mass. After the main body, as usual, arrived Archambaut, followed by Flamenca, who passed behind her screen.
Seeing her, Guillem had eyes for naught else. He did not, however, neglect his duties. As he had the offices by heart, these were easy for him. His voice was fresh and clear, and rang out as he sang the “Agnus Dei.” Then he took the book and offered it to his host, who sat in the choir. Pierre Gui passed it to those without, and the pax proceeded thus through the church.40
Guillem followed the book as it went from hand to hand; but he moved so slowly through the press that Archambaut had already received the pax, by the time he reached the little cell that held his treasure. Trembling, without daring to look up, he drew near, fully resolved to say at least a word, yet not knowing, even now, what it would be. With a prayer to Love to aid him, he approached, and as Flamenca kissed the psalter, he murmured: “Alas!” then withdrew, his head humbly bowed. Had he disarmed a hundred knights in a tourney, he would have been less happy.
His joy was great, but of brief duration. It lasted while he folded up the altar cloths and put away safely the chalice and the paten; but, when he was alone in his room once more, he was all despair.
“Alas,” he cried, “I deserve to die. Love, thou hast been of slight aid to me. I thought to throw a six, and I have come off with an ace. Never in this world could my lady have 41 heard me. Else she would at least have lifted her eyes, nor so soon drawn back behind her screen. It was her wimple betrayed me, that covered her ears so closely. Curses on the father of such a fashion!”
Flamenca, however, had not failed to hear Guillem’s “alas,” and suffered some despite from it. She showed no sign while Archambaut was with her; but, when he went out after dinner, she gave way to her grief.
“It would have been for me, rather, to cry ‘alas!’ ” she made moan. “He suffers not, being neither sick nor in prison. Why then insult my sufferings? Dear God, what harm have I done him, that he should assail me in such a place?”
“Come hither, sweet children,” she cried to Alis and Margarida, “and give heed to what is troubling me. A young man I know not, whose face I have never seen before, has basely insulted me.”
“What young man, my lady?” demanded Margarida.42
“He who gave me the pax.”
“What did he say, madam?” asked Alis.
“I will tell you, though it pains me even to recall it. To mock and torment me, in handing me the psalter, he murmured ‘alas!’ as if it were he who suffered, not I.”
“What was his bearing, my lady, as he said this?”
“He kept his eyes cast down.”
“Why, then, madam, I am not so sure he meant to insult you. It appears to me as if he felt some fear in your presence, rather than overweening pride.”
“It is true,” reflected Flamenca, that “he blushed and sighed.”
“Certainly,” then broke in Alis, “this young man did not seem so ill-bred as to wish to harm you. Besides, he is not the one who always gives us the pax. He is taller and handsomer. He is more skilled at reading, also, and sings more clearly. In short, he had all the seeming of a gentleman.”
“My lady,” spoke up Margarida, once 43 more, “I do not know this young man, or what he wants of you, but I think you would do well to discover his meaning.”
“You speak as if that were an easy matter,” replied Flamenca, petulantly. “How can I?”
“Christ, my lady,” exclaimed Alis, “if it were left to me, I should manage easily enough. Ask him! He said ‘alas’. Do you say to him now: ‘Why do you complain?’ ”
“I can try,” said Flamenca, still doubtful.
So the following Sunday, when Guillem gave her the pax, she took the psalter and, tilting it a trifle towards Archambaut, she whispered: ‘Why do you complain?”
It was Flamenca’s turn now to be troubled and to ask if Guillem had heard her.
“Did you hear me, Alis?” she demanded when they had returned from church.
“Not, I, madam.”
“And you, Margarida?”
“No, my lady, I heard nothing. How did 44 you speak? Show us, and we shall be able to tell you if he heard.”
“Stand up, Alis,” commanded Flamenca, “and pretend you are giving me the pax. Take that copy of Blanchefleur for the breviary.”
Alis jumped up, ran to the table where the book lay, and came back to her mistress, who, for all her sadness, could scarce keep from laughing at the sight of the young girl counterfeiting the clerk. Then Flamenca, tilting the book a trifle, as in the church, and pretending to kiss it, said: “Why do you complain?”
“There, did you hear me?” she asked eagerly.
“Yes, indeed,” they both cried. “If you spoke like that, there can be no doubt.”
Next week, Guillem, this time having prepared his answer, came straight towards his lady, who loosened her wimple that she might hear more clearly. As she took the pax, he said: “I die.”45
“Nay, he must not die, my lady!” cried Margarida, when Flamenca had repeated this response. “I swear I have never seen so handsome a young clerk.”
“What can I do?” asked her mistress, weakly.
“Ask him: ‘Of what?’ since that is what we wish to know.”
This same Sunday the workmen came from Chatillon. They marvelled greatly at the oath Guillem required of them before making known the task they were to accomplish. This was to dig a passage under the ground between the baths and his own room. They were skilful and worked rapidly, in such wise that in short space the passage was completed and so cunningly contrived at both ends that not a sign of it showed.
When, on the eighth day, Guillem gave the pax, Flamenca whispered: “Of what?” then drew back quickly.
“My little Margarida, I said it,” she exclaimed 46 when they were back in the tower.
“Thank God for that, my lady! I only hope he heard you this time, too.”
“You may sent your mind at rest, my dear. He moved away so slowly that he could not have helped hearing me. Now we shall know the answer on Thursday, for that is the feast of the Ascension.”
“Madam, methinks these feasts come far less often now than at any other season,” pouted Alis. “The rest of the year, when we have no need of them, there is one nearly every day. While here, this summer, we have had five full weeks with nothing but Sundays!”
On his side, Guillem repeated Flamenca’s question and pondered it.
“ ‘Of what?’ she asked me. Well, it will not be hard to tell her that, for I know only too well whereof I suffer.”
Thursday, therefore, at tierce, he said: “Of love.”47
That night Flamenca lay on her bed, more pensive than ever, and with something resembling distress at her heart.
“Well, what did he say, my lady?” asked Alis at last.
“Ah, my friend, you could never guess. It is quite different from anything we might have imagined. He says it is love of which he suffers. Did anyone every hear of a stranger coming thus to complain of love?”
“Faith, madam,” laughed Alis, with a sly look at Margarida, “of what evil did you think he came here to complain? Surely, had he been beaten or robbed, he would not have sought to lay his complaint before you.”
“But for whom is this love?” pursued Flamenca, still puzzled.
“Why my lady, I can guess readily enough,” replied Margarida, also laughing; “but since you would have sure knowledge, ask him that, too.”
“Good God! Is it a jest?” cried Guillem on Sunday, when she had asked him: “‘For 48 whom?’ Is it possible she does not suspect my love? How can she help knowing that I love her with all my heart? But, since she asks me, I will gladly tell her.”
So on the day of Pentecost, Guillem, trembling, answered: “For you.”
Then was Flamenca sore troubled.
“What!” she exclaimed. “Can it be for me he cherishes an amorous desire? Then he must needs seek another mistress, for my love is no love at all, but sorrow and anguish. Sobs and sighs, troubles and tears, bitterness and sadness of heart — these are my near neighbors, my privy companions. What shall I do, what shall I say?”
“My lady,” exclaimed Margarida, “whatever you do or say, you will surely not let that gallant young man love you and entreat you in vain! Who knows but God Himself has sent him to deliver you from prison?”
“Even were I to return his love, I do not 49 see how that would advantage him in aught,” said Flamenca.
“Ask him, my lady. He has done so well already, he will surely know.”
So, the following Sunday Flamenca said: “What can I do?” and the eighth day after Pentecost, on the feast of Saint Barnaby — a little feast for which Flamenca would not more have set foot out of doors than for that of a simple martyr not in the calendar — Guillem answered “Cure.”
“How can I cure his ills, who am without remedy for my own?” pondered Flamenca, and her damsels counselled her to ask: “How?”
“Trust him. He will easily find a way to compass your happiness at the same time as his own.”
“May God in His mercy will it so,” sighed Flamenca, “for at present I do not see how we shall ever be able to do more for each other than we do now.”
“In little space God works,” replied Alis 50 devoutly, “and brave effort overcomes all obstacles.”
The following Sunday was the feast of Saint John. It was not a day lost for Guillem, whose lady, in taking the psalter, and whispering: “How?” brushed his finger with her hand. When he was alone again, he sang for joy.
“O God,” he cried, “I swear by the apostles and the prophets, I will give all my rents from France for the building of churches and bridges, if you will but let me see my lady face to face!”
The next time, drawing near with a high heart, he said: “I have found a way!”
“He has already found a way!” exclaimed Alis, gleefully. “Were this the olden time, lady dear, and there came such a friend to me, I should think ’twas Jupiter or some other God, who was in love with me. Answer him boldly, then: ‘Take it.’”
Flamenca sighed, her colour came and 51 went, she still hesitated. Suddenly Alis sneezed.
“Bless you!” the damsel exclaimed. “Now everything is bound to come out right. We could not have a better omen.”
“God bless you both,” cried Flamenca, deeply touched, “for all the hope and courage you have given me. I will do as you say, though I know not if, in thus accepting his live so readily, I shall not be dishonoured.”
“My Lady,” Alis assured her, “there can be no dishonour, since Love wills it so.”
Thursday was the feast of the passion of the two glorious apostles, who hold the first place after Saint Michael, in Paradise. That day, then, by her answer, Flamenca confirmed Guillem’s every hope. How shall I tell his delight? Now he was sure that Love wished to exalt him above all other lovers, and the next time he said to his lady: “I have taken it.” At the same moment their eyes met and their hearts embraced.
“Can it be possible, wondered Flamenca, 52 “that in three days’ time, he has found a way whereby I may heal him? How wanting in faith was I! It was a sin even to doubt him. I promise now, before God, that if he can bring us together, I shall be his, and his alone, forever more.”
“Small love do I owe the knights of my country! Two whole years have I dwelt in bitter grief, and not one has given a thought to me. And the knights of this country! Scarcely do they merit the renown of true knighthood, who permit a poor stranger lady to perish thus miserably! But this knight has a right to all my love, who, for my sake, has placed his own life in jeopardy.”
So Flamenca hesitated no longer but next time asked him boldly: “What shall I do?” and eight days later Guillem, in his turn, answered: “You will go,” but did not say where. So, on the feast of the Magdalen, Flamenca inquired: “Where?” and the day following Guillem said: “To the baths,” 53 whereat Flamenca divined he had found some way of coming to her in the baths, and prayed God and His saints that there might not thereby come to her any dishonour.
On Tuesday, which was the feast of Saint James of Compostella, she demanded resolutely: “When?”
Great was Guillem’s joy, and it would not have been hard for him to answer at once; but he would rather have let himself be tonsured with a cross like a thief, or branded with a red-hot iron, than speak a word which might have betrayed him.
The fifth day thereafter he replied; “Soon.”
Then again was Flamenca sorely distressed.
“Fear, shame, and love, draw me in different directions,” she cried. “Fear chides me and warn that, if he caught me, my husband would burn me alive. Shame bids me beware of the world’s dispraise. Love says, on the other hand, that Fear and Shame have never made a brave heart, and that 54 she can never be called a true lover who, through them, lets herself be turned aside.
“Yet, O Love, how grievous are thy darts! Never could I have guessed that to love meant to suffer so sorely! But, since I am at thy mercy, naught remains for me but to receive thee. Enter then into this dwelling which is thine own. My heart shall be thy chamber. Naught shall avail to oppose thy will, for I belong to thee only.
“And to him who comes to claim that which I hold from thee, as thy vassal, I shall answer, without longer delaying, ‘With all my heart!’”
At these words she fell into a swoon and remained without consciousness till Archambaut’s return.
“Madam, here is our master,” cried Alis, fearful lest her mistress, awaking, might let fall some word to arouse his suspicions. She cried so loudly that Flamenca recovered her senses; but, before opening her eyes, she 55 lay still a moment, to prepare what she should say to her husband.
Archambaut was all disturbed. Bringing water, he dashed it in her face. Then at last, opening her eyes, and looking up, she drew a deep sigh.
“My lady,” he inquired anxiously, “what ails you?”
“My lord, a pain at my heart is killing me.”
“I believe if you took a little nutmeg every day it would cure you.”
“No, sire, the baths alone can bring me any relief. Lead me there on Wednesday, I beseech you.”
It did not please lord Archambaut to have his wife go to the baths. He took her there as seldom as possible, and always examined each corner carefully before leaving her, for fear some man might be lurking in the corner; but he could not refuse her now.
“Very well, I am willing,” he grumbled, 56 going out in a bad humour to find Pierre Gui and to tell him to make ready the baths.
Tuesday Flamenca, who found herself well enough to go to the church, said: “With all my heart,” and, with her left hand, lightly brushed Guillem’s right. He returned home in a state of rapture, and that evening heard his host say to two servants:
“Cleanse the baths and empty them so that they will fill up afresh for our lady, who will come tomorrow at an early hour.”
Wednesday, at daybreak, Flamenca, feigning a return of her malady, made great dole, as well she might, for she had not slept a wink. She called feebly to her husband:
“Never in all my life have I suffered as I do now. Hasten, I beseech you, and be not too vexed, for you will soon be rid of me. Indeed, rather would I die than endure my present pain; and, if the baths restore me not, already I hold myself to be no better than one dead.”57
The damsels were already up and dressed. They went first, taking with them their basins and unguents, while Archambaut followed reluctantly, leading his wife to her lover.
When he had looked well in all the corners, as was his wont, he went out, locking the door. Quickly the damsels sprang to bar it on the inside. Then, looking at each other, they said:
“What shall we do? We know not where or how he will enter, who has given us this tryst.”
“I am no wiser than you,” replied Flamenca. “I see nothing changed in the appearance of the place. Yet I have not thought to undress, since I did not come here to bathe.”
Scarcely had she spoken, when they heard a little noise. The next instant Guillem lifted a stone in the floor, and entered.
In his hand he held a candle. His shirt and his breeches were of fine linen from 58 Rheims. His shoes were of silk embroidered with flowers. His well-cut doublet was fashioned of some costly stuff, and he wore, on his head, a little cloth cap, sewn with silk. Love had lent him somewhat of his pallor, but he was only the handsomer for that. Kneeling before Flamenca, he said:
“My lady, may He Who created you, and Whose will it is that you should be without peer for beauty and graciousness, save you — you and yours!”
And he bowed low at her feet.
“Fair sir,” replied Flamenca, “may He Who never lies and Who willed you to come hither, protect you, and permit you to accomplish all your desire.”
“All my desire, sweet lady, all my thought, all my trouble and my pain, are for you, to whom I have given myself. And, if you, in turn, will give yourself to me, all my wishes will be fulfilled.”
“Fear not. Since God has granted us to come together, you will have naught to 59 complain of in me. Besides, since long time, my heart has been yours.”
He took her in his arms, and kissed her tenderly and embraced her, then said:
“If it be your pleasure, we can seek, by the safe way I have made, the room where I have so often gazed upon your tower.”
“As you will, sweet friend. I shall go whithersoever you lead me, sure that you will bring me back again in all security.”
The passage was not dark, for it was lighted with candles, and, before they knew it, they were in the chamber, which was richly furnished with tapestries, with benches, with precious stuffs of all sorts, and strewn with green rushes.
Guillem and Flamenca seated themselves upon a couch raised a little above the level of the floor, while Alis and Margarida took cushions at their feet.
Flamenca looked at them fondly.
“Dear friend,” she said, “Never have these damsels grown weary in pleading your 60 suit. And, had it not been for their wise counsels, and good sense, never would you have had your desire.”
Guillem thanked them warmly, begging them to accept of him girdles, diadems, ribbons, bracelets, brooches, rings, little bags of musk, and still other trinkets. Then, turning to Flamenca, he said:
“Sweet love, a boon, I beseech you.”
“Name it, dear friend. I think no wish of yours could prove displeasing to me.”
“I have two cousins,” he answered, “Otho and Clari, who follow me that they, too, one day, may be made knights. It would please me were they to have some share in our happiness.”
“How mean you?”
“My squires are young and debonair, like your two damsels, in whose company they would not want whereof to speak. And, if they found it in their hearts to love one another, they would but love us the more.”
“It shall be even as you say,” assented Flamenca gladly, and Guillem, opening the door, told his squires to enter.
They marvelled greatly at seeing Flamenca, and when their eyes fell upon the two damsels, they believed they were under some spell. Quickly they fell to their knees.
“Here am I, lady, to do your bidding,” said each of them in turn.
Flamenca was well pleased, and welcomed the young men graciously. Then, turning to her young women:
“Come hither, both of you,” she addressed them. “Here are two young me, and you are two, also. It is my wish that each should have her friend. Wait not to be entreated. ’Tis I, your mistress, who entreat, who tell, who command you, to do all their desire. Go to the baths. Pleasure awaits you there.”
Then Alis chose Otho, and Margarida had Clari. Together all four went to the baths, where there were pleasant chambers, 64 from which Alis and Margarida had no need to come forth as they went in, unless they so desired.
When they were alone, Guillem, turning to Flamenca said:
“Long have I suffered for your sweet sake a martyr’s pains. Now that we have come together at last, I thank you for these; but you know not yet who I am, unless it be that Love has told you I am your man.”
“My friend,” said Flamenca, “I doubt not you are of some high estate. This I know by he knightly soul you have shown in wishing to be my lover.”
Then Guillem recounted to her, word by word, who he was, how he had come, and all he had done since he had been at Bourbon.
When Flamenca knew what manner of man her Guillem was, she was so full of joy she gave herself to him without stint. She threw her arms about his neck and kissed him with all her heart.
Many times did they kiss each other on 65 the eyes and on the mouth and on the hands and on the neck, and many times did they do for each other all those things without which joy in love is incomplete. Each sought to appease the heavy burden and the long desire that each for the other has suffered.
They took pleasure too, in rehearsing the words they had spoken, and so lovely was their delight, that man would not know how to record, or mouth to speak, or mind to conceive it.
When it came time to part, Guillem called his squires and the damsels. These, their eyes wet with tears, thanked him for the happiness that had been theirs in the company of the young men.
Guillem, too, wept when he took leave of his lady, for it seemed to him he would never see her more. He was, however, to see her again, and that many times; for, henceforth, Flamenca would return to the baths as often as she pleased.66
The season of sorrow and sadness was over at last for this lady and her two damsels. No longer did they remember their prison, or the jealous husband who kept them there in vain; for, from this sad trial, had sprung, for them, joy and happiness.