From French Mediaeval Romances, which is also available as an eBook
XVII: THE CHATELAINE OF VERGI by Marie de France
There are divers men who make a great show of loyalty, and pretend to such discretion in the hidden things they hear, that at the end folk come to put faith in them. When by their false seeming they have persuaded the simple to open out to them their love and their deeds, then they noise the matter about the country, and make it their song and their mirth. Thus it chances that the lesser joy is his who has bared to them his heart. For the sweeter the love, the more bitter is the pang that lovers know, when each deems the other to have bruited abroad the secret he should conceal. Oftentimes these blabbers do such mischief with their tongue, that the love they spoil comes to its close in sorrow and in care. This indeed happened in Burgundy to a brave and worthy knight, and to the Lady of Vergi. This knight loved his lady so dearly that she granted him her tenderness, on such covenant as this—that the day he showed her favour to any, that very hour he would lose the love and the grace she bestowed on him. To seal this bond they devised together that the knight should come a days to an orchard, at such hour as seemed good to his friend. He must remain coy in his nook within the wall till he might see the lady’s lapdog run across the orchard. Then without further tarrying he should enter her chamber, knowing full well she was alone, whom so fondly he desired to greet. This he did, and in this fashion they met together for a great while, none being privy to their sweet and stolen love, save themselves alone.
The knight was courteous and fair, and by reason of his courage was right welcome to that Duke who was lord of Burgundy. He came and went about the Court, and that so often that the Duchess set her mind upon him. She cared so little to hide her thought, that had his heart not been in another’s keeping, he must surely have perceived in her eyes that she loved him. But however tender her semblance the knight showed no kindness in return, for he marked nothing of her inclination. Passing troubled was the dame that he should treat her thus; so that on a day she took him apart, and sought to make him of her counsel.
“Sir, as men report, you are a brave and worthy knight, for the which give God thanks. It would not be more than your deserts, if you had for friend a lady in so high a place that her love would bring to you both honour and profit. How richly could such a lady serve you!”
“Lady,” said he, “I have never yet had this in my thought.”
“By my faith,” she answered, “it seems to me that the longer you wait, the less is your hope. Perchance the lady will stoop very readily from her throne, if you but kneel at her knee.”
The knight replied, “Lady, by my faith, I know little why you speak such words, and I understand their meaning not at all. I am neither duke nor count to dare to set my love in so high a seat. There is nought in me to gain the love of so sovereign a dame, pain me how I may.”
“Such things have been,” said she, “and so may chance again. Many more marvellous works have been wrought than this, and the day of miracles is not yet past. Tell me, know you not yet that you have gained the love of some high princess, even mine?”
The knight made answer forthwith, “Lady, I know it not. I would desire to have your love in a fair and honourable fashion; but may God keep me from such love between us, as would put shame upon my lord. In no manner, nor for any reason, will I enter on such a business as would lead me to deal my true and lawful lord so shrewd and foul a wrong.”
Bitter at heart was the dame to see her love so scorned.
“Fie upon you,” she cried, “and who required of you any such thing?”
“Ah, lady, to God be the praise; you have said enough to make your meaning passing plain.”
The lady strove no more to show herself kind to him. Great was the wrath and sharp the malice that she hid within her heart, and well she purposed that, if she might, she would avenge herself speedily. All the day she considered her anger. That night as she lay beside the Duke she began to sigh, and afterwards to weep. Presently the Duke inquired of her grief, bidding her show it him forthwith.
“Certes,” said the dame, “I make this great sorrow because no prince can tell who is his faithful servant, and who is not. Often he gives the more honour and wealth to those who are traitors rather than friends, and sees nothing of their wrong.”
“In faith, wife,” answered the Duke, “I know not why you speak these words. At least I am free of such blame as this, for in nowise would I nourish a traitor, if only a traitor I knew him to be.”
“Hate then this traitor,” cried she,—and she named a name—”who gives me no peace, praying and requiring me the livelong day that I should grant him my love. For a great while he had been in this mind—as he says—but did not dare to speak his thoughts. I considered the whole matter, fair lord, and resolved to show it you at once. It is likely enough to be true that he cherished this hope, for we have never heard that he loves elsewhere. I entreat you in guerdon, to look well to your own honour, since this, as you know, is your duty and right.”
Passing grievous was this business to the Duke. He answered to the lady,
“I will bring it to a head, and very quickly, as I deem.”
That night the Duke lay upon a bed of little ease. He could neither sleep nor rest, by reason of that lord, his friend, who, he was persuaded, had done him such bitter wrong as justly to have forfeited his love. Because of this he kept vigil the whole night through. He rose very early on the morrow, and bade him come whom his wife had put to blame, although he had done nothing blameworthy. Then he took him to task, man to man, when there were but these two together.
“Certes,” he said, “it is a heavy grief that you who are so comely and brave, should yet have no honour in you. You have deceived me the more, for I have long believed you to be a man of good faith, giving loyalty, at least, to me, in return for the love I have given to you. I know not how you can have harboured such a felon’s wish, as to pray and require the Duchess to grant you her grace. You are guilty of such treachery that conduct more vile it would be far to seek. Get you hence from my realm. You have my leave to part, and it is denied to you for ever. If you return here it will be at your utmost peril, for I warn you beforehand that if I lay hands upon you, you will die a shameful death.”
When the knight heard this judgment, such wrath and mortification were his that his members trembled beneath him. He called to mind his friend, of whom he would have no joy, if he might not come and go and sojourn in that realm from which the Duke had banished him. Moreover he was sick at heart that his lord should deem him a disloyal traitor, without just cause. He knew such sore discomfort that he held himself as dead and betrayed.
“Sire,” said he, “for the love of God believe this never, neither think that I have been so bold. To do that of which you wrongfully charge me, has never entered my mind, not one day, nor for one single hour. Who has told you this lie has wrought a great ill.”
“You gain nothing by such denials,” answered the Duke, “for of a surety the thing is true. I have heard from her own lips the very guise and fashion in which you prayed and required her love, like the envious traitor that you are. Many another word it may well be that you spoke, as to which the lady of her courtesy keeps silence.”
“My lady says what it pleases her to say,” replied the dolorous knight, “and my denials are lighter than her word. Naught is there for me to say; nothing is left for me to do, so that I may be believed that this adventure never happened.”
“Happen it did, by my soul,” said the Duke, remembering certain words of his wife. Well he deemed that he might be assured of the truth, if but the lady’s testimony were true that this lord had never loved otherwhere. Therefore the Duke said to the knight, “If you will pledge your faith to answer truly what I may ask, I shall be certified by your words whether or not you have done this deed of which I misdoubt you.”
The knight had but one desire—to turn aside his lord’s wrath, which had so wrongfully fallen upon him. He feared only lest he should be driven from the land where lodged the dame who was the closest to his mind. Knowing nothing of what was in the Duke’s thought, he considered that his question could only concern the one matter; so he replied that without fraud or concealment he would do as his lord had said. Thus he pledged his faith, and the Duke accepted his affiance.
When this was done the Duke made question,
“I have loved you so dearly that at the bottom of my heart I cannot believe you guilty of such shameless misdoing as the Duchess tells me. I would not credit it a moment, if you yourself were not the cause of my doubtfulness. From your face, the care you bestow upon your person, and a score of trifles, any who would know, can readily see that you are in love with some lady. Since none about the Court perceives damsel or dame on whom you have set your heart, I ask myself whether indeed it may not be my wife, who tells me that you have entreated her for love. Nothing that any one may do can take this suspicion from my mind, except you tell me yourself that you love elsewhere, making it so plain that I am left without doubt that I know the naked truth. If you refuse her name you will have broken your oath, and forth from my realm you go as an outlawed man.”
The knight had none to give him counsel. To himself he seemed to stand at the parting of two ways, both one and the other leading to death. If he spoke the simple truth (and tell he must if he would not be a perjurer) then was he as good as dead; for if he did such wrong as to sin against the covenant with his lady and his friend, certainly he would lose her love, so it came to her knowledge. But if he concealed the truth from the Duke, then he was false to his oath, and had lost both country and friend. But little he recked of country, so only he might keep his Love, since of all his riches she was the most dear. The knight called to heart and remembrance the fair joy and the solace that were his when he had this lady between his arms. He considered within himself that if by reason of his misdoing she came to harm, or were lost to him, since he might not take her where he went, how could he live without her. It would be with him also, as erst with the Castellan of Couci, who having his Love fast only in his heart, told over in his song,
Ah, God, strong Love, I sit and weep alone,
Remembering the solace that was given;
The tender guise, the semblance that was shown
By her, my friend, my comrade, and my Heaven.
When grief brings back the joy that was mine own,
I would the heart from out my breast were riven.
Ah, Lord, the sweet words hushed, the beauty flown;
Would God that I were dead, and low, and shriven.
The knight was in anguish such as this, for he knew not whether to make clear the truth, or to lie and be banished from the country.
Whilst he was deep in thought, turning over in his mind what it were best to do, tears rose in his heart and flowed from his eyes, so that his face was wet, by reason of the sorrow that he suffered. The Duke had no more mirth than the knight, deeming that his secret was so heavy that he dared not make it plain. The Duke spoke swiftly to his friend,
“I see clearly that you fear to trust me wholly, as a knight should trust his lord. If you confess your counsel privily to me, you cannot think that I shall show the matter to any man. I would rather have my teeth drawn one by one, than speak a word.”
“Ah,” cried the knight, “for God’s love, have pity, Sire. I know not what I ought to say, nor what will become of me; but I would rather die than lose what lose I shall if she only hears that you have the truth, and that you heard it from my lips, whilst I am a living man.”
The Duke made answer,
“I swear to you by my body and my soul, and on the faith and love I owe you again by reason of your homage, that never in my life will I tell the tale to any creature born, or even breathe a word or make a sign about the business.”
With the tears yet running down his face the knight said to him,
“Sire, right or wrong, now will I show my secret. I love your niece of Vergi, and she loves me, so that no friends can love more fondly.”
“If you wish to be believed,” replied the Duke, “tell me now, if any, save you two alone, knows anything of this joy?”
And the knight made answer to him,
“Nay, not a creature in the world.”
Then said the Duke,
“No love is so privy as that. If none has heard thereof, how do you meet together, and how devise time and place?”
“By my faith, Sire, I will tell you all, and keep back nothing, since you know so much of our counsel.”
So he related the whole story of his goings to and fro within the pleasaunce; of that first covenant with his friend, and of the office of the little dog.
Then said the Duke,
“I require of you that I may be your comrade at such fair meeting. When you go again to the orchard, I too, would enter therein, and mark for myself the success of your device. As for my niece she shall perceive naught.”
“Sire, if it be your will it is my pleasure also; save, only, that you find it not heavy or burdensome. Know well that I go this very night.”
The Duke said that he would go with him, for the vigil would in no wise be burdensome, but rather a frolic and a game. They accorded between them a place of meeting, where they would draw together on foot, and alone. When nightfall was come they fared to the hostel of the Duke’s niece, for her dwelling was near at hand. They had not tarried long in the garden, when the Duke saw his niece’s lapdog run straight to that end of the orchard where the knight was hidden. Wondrous kindness showed the knight to his lady’s dog. Immediately he took his way to her lodging, and left his master in his nook by the wall. The Duke followed after till he drew near the chamber, and held himself coy, concealing him as best he might. It was easy enough to do this, for a great tree stood there, high and leafy, so that he was covered close as by a shield. From this place he marked the little dog enter the chamber, and presently saw his niece issue therefrom, and hurry forth to meet her lover in the pleasaunce. He was so close that he could see and hear the solace of that greeting, the salutation of her mouth and of her hands. She embraced him closely in her fair white arms, kissing him more than a hundred times, whilst she spoke many comforting words. The knight for his part kissed her again, and held her fast, praising her with many tender names.
“My lady, my friend, my love,” said he, “heart and mistress and hope, and the sum of all that I hold dear, know well that I have yearned to be with you as we are now, every day and all day long since we met.”
“Sweet lord, sweet friend, sweet love,” replied the lady, “never has a day nor an hour gone by but I was awearied of its length. But I grieve no longer over the past, for I have my heart’s desire when you are with me, joyous and well. Right welcome are you to your friend.”
And the knight made answer,
“Love, you are welcome and wellmet.”
From his place of hiding, near the entrance to the chamber, the Duke hearkened to every word. His niece’s voice and face were so familiar to him, that he could not doubt that the Duchess had lied. Greatly was he content, for he was now assured that his friend had not done amiss in that of which he had misdoubted him. All through the night he kept watch and ward. But during his vigil the dame and the knight, close and sleepless in the chamber, knew such joy and tenderness as it is not seemly should be told or heard, save of those who hope themselves to attain such solace, when Love grants them recompense for all their pains. For he who desires nothing of this joy and quittance, even if it were told him, would but listen to a tongue he could not understand, since his heart is not turned to Love, and none can know the wealth of such riches, except Love whisper it in his ear. Of such kingdom not all are worthy: for there joy goes without anger, and solace is crowned with fruition. But so fleet are things sweet, that to the lover his joy seems to find but a brief content. So pleasant is the life he passes that he wishes his night a week, his week to stretch to a month, the month become a year, and one year three, and three years twenty, and the twenty attain to a hundred. Yea, when the term and end were reached, he would that the dusk were closing, rather than the dawn had come.
This was the case with the lover whom the Duke awaited in the orchard. When day was breaking, and he durst remain no longer, he came with his lady to the door. The Duke marked the fashion of their leave-taking, the kisses given and granted, the sighs and the weeping as they bade farewell. When they had wept many tears, and devised an hour for their next meeting, the knight departed in this fashion, and the lady shut the door. But so long as she might see him, she followed his going with her pretty eyes, since there was nothing better she could do.
When the Duke knew the postern was made fast, he hastened on his road until he overtook the knight, who to himself was making his complaint of the season, that all too short was his hour. The same thought and the self same words were hers from whom he had parted, for the briefness of the time had betrayed her delight, and she had no praises for the dawn. The knight was deep in his thought and speech, when he was overtaken by the Duke. The Duke embraced his friend, greeting him very tenderly. Then he said to him,
“I pledge my faith that I will love you all the days of my life, never on any day seeking to do you a mischief, for you have told me the very truth, and have not lied to me by a single word.”
“Sire,” he made answer, “thanks and gramercy. But for the love of God I require and pray of you that it be your pleasure to hide this counsel; for I should lose my love, and the peace and comfort of my life—yea, and should die without sin of my own, if I deemed that any other in this realm than yourself knew aught of the business.”
“Now speak of it never,” replied the Duke. “Know that the counsel shall be kept so hidden, that by me shall not a syllable be spoken.”
On this covenant they came again whence they had set forth together. That day, when men sat at meat, the Duke showed to his knight a friendlier semblance and a fairer courtesy than ever he had done before. The Duchess felt such wrath and despitefulness at this, that—without any leasing—she rose from the table, and making pretence of sudden sickness, went to lie upon her bed, where she found little softness. When the Duke had eaten and washed and made merry, he afterwards sought his wife’s chamber, and causing her to be seated on her bed, commanded that none should remain, save himself. So all men went forth at his word, even as he had bidden. Thereupon the Duke inquired of the lady how this evil had come to her, and of what she was sick. She made answer,
“As God hears me, never till I ate at table did I deem that you had so little sense or decency, as when I saw you making much of him, who, I have told you already, strove to bring shame and disgrace on me. When I watched you entreat him with more favour than even was your wont, such great sorrow and such great anger took hold on me, that I could not contain myself in the hall.”
“Sweet friend,” replied the Duke, “know that I shall never believe—either from your lips or from those of any creature in the world—that the story ever happened as you rehearsed it. I am so deep in his counsel that he has my quittance, for I have full assurance that he never dreamed of such a deed. But as to this you must ask of me no more.”
The Duke went straightway from the chamber, leaving the lady sunk in thought. However long she had to live, never might she know an hour’s comfort, till she had learnt something of that secret of which the Duke forbade her to seek further. No denial could now stand in her way, for in her heart swiftly she devised a means to unriddle this counsel, so only she might endure until the evening, and the Duke was in her arms. She was persuaded that, beyond doubt, such solace would win her wish more surely than wrath or tears. For this purpose she held herself coy, and when the Duke came to lie at her side she betook herself to the further side of the bed, making semblance that his company gave her no pleasure. Well she knew that such show of anger was the device to put her lord beneath her feet. Therefore she turned her back upon him, that the Duke might the more easily be drawn by the cords of her wrath. For this same reason when he had no more than kissed her, she burst out,
“Right false and treacherous and disloyal are you to make such a pretence of affection, who yet have never loved me truly one single day. All these years of our wedded life I have been foolish enough to believe, what you took such pains in the telling, that you loved me with a loyal heart. To-day I see plainly that I was the more deceived.”
“In what are you deceived?” inquired the Duke.
“By my faith,” cried she, who was sick of her desire, “you warn me that I be not so bold as to ask aught of that of which you know the secret.”
“In God’s name, sweet wife, of what would you know?”
“Of all that he has told you, the lies and the follies he has put in your mind, and led you to believe. But it matters little now whether I hear it or not, for I remember how small is my gain in being your true and loving wife. For good or for ill I have shown you all my counsel. There was nothing that was known and seen of my heart that you were not told at once; and of your courtesy you repay me by concealing your mind. Know, now, without doubt, that never again shall I have in you such affiance, nor grant you my love with such sweetness, as I have bestowed them in the past.”
Thereat the Duchess began to weep and sigh, making the most tender sorrow that she was able. The Duke felt such pity for her grief that he said to her,
“Fairest and dearest, your wrath and anger are more heavy than I can bear; but learn that I cannot tell what you wish me to say without sinning against my honour too grievously.”
Then she replied forthwith,
“Husband, if you do not tell me, the reason can only be that you do not trust me to keep silence in the business. I wonder the more sorely at this, because there is no matter, either great or small, that you have told me, which has been published by me. I tell you honestly that never in my life could I be so indiscreet.”
When she had said this, she betook her again to her tears. The Duke kissed and embraced her, and was so sick of heart that strength failed him to keep his purpose.
“Fair wife,” he said to her, “by my soul I am at my wits’ end. I have such trust and faith in you that I deem I should hide nothing, but show you all that I know. Yet I dread that you will let fall some word. Know, wife—and I tell it you again—that if ever you betray this counsel you will get death for your payment.”
The Duchess made answer,
“I agree to the bargain, for it is not possible that I should deal you so shrewd a wrong.”
Then he who loved her, because of his faith and his credence in her word, told all this story of his niece, even as he had learned it from the knight. He told how those two were alone together in the shadow of the wall, when the little dog ran to them. He showed plainly of that coming forth from the chamber, and of the entering in; nothing was hid, he concealed naught of that he had heard and seen. When the Duchess understood that the love of a mighty dame was despised for the sake of a lowly gentlewoman, her humiliation was bitter in her mouth as death. She showed no semblance of despitefulness, but made covenant and promise with the Duke to keep the matter close, saying that should she repeat his tale he might hang her from a tree.
Time went very heavily with the lady, till she could get speech with her, whom she hated from the hour she knew her to be the friend of him who had caused her such shame and grief. She was persuaded that for this reason he would not give her love, in return for that she set on him. She confirmed herself in her purpose, that at such time and place she saw the Duke speaking with his niece, she would go swiftly to the lady, and tell out all her mind, hiding nothing because it was evil. Neither time nor place was met, till Pentecost was come, and the Duke held high Court, commanding to the feast all the ladies of his realm, amongst the first that lady, his niece, who was the Chatelaine of Vergi. When the Duchess looked on her, the blood pricked in her veins, for reason that she hated her more than aught else in the world. She had the courage to hide her malice, and greeted the lady more gladly than ever she had done before. But she yearned to show openly the anger that burned in her heart, and the delay was much against her mind. On Pentecost, whilst the tables were removed, the Duchess brought the ladies to her chamber with her, that, apart from the throng, they might the more graciously attire them for the dance. She deemed her hour had come, and having no longer the power to refrain her lips, she said gaily, as if in jest,
“Chatelaine, array yourself very sweetly, since there is a fair and worthy lord you have to please.”
The lady answered right simply,
“In truth, madam, I know not what you are thinking of; but for my part I wish for no such friendship as may not be altogether according to my honour and to that of my lord.”
“I grant that readily,” replied the Duchess, “you are a good mistress, and have an apt pupil in your little dog.”
The ladies returned with the Duchess to the hall, where the dances were already set. They had listened to the tale, but could not mark the jest. The chatelaine remained in the chamber. Her colour came and went, and because of her wrath and trouble the heart throbbed thickly in her breast. She passed within a tiring chamber, where a little maiden was lying at the foot of the bed; but for grief she might not perceive her. The chatelaine flung herself upon the bed, bewailing her evil plight, for she was exceedingly sorrowful. She said,
“Ah, Lord God, take pity on me! What may this mean, that I have listened to my lady’s reproaches because of the training of my little dog! This she can have learned from none—as well I know—save from him whom I have loved, and who has betrayed me. He would never have shown her this thing, except that he was her familiar friend, and doubtless loves her more dearly than me, whom he has betrayed. I see now the value of his oaths, since he finds it so easy to fail in his covenant. Sweet God, and I loved him so fondly, more fondly than any woman has loved before; who never had him from my thoughts one single hour, whether it were night or day. For he was my mirth and my carol; in him were my joy and my pleasure; he alone was my solace and comfort. Ah, my friend, how can this have come; you who were always with me, even when I might not see you with my eyes! What ill has befallen you, that you durst prove false to me? I deemed you more faithful—God take me in His keeping—than ever was Tristan to Isoude. May God pity a poor fool, I loved you half as much again than I had love for myself. From the first to the last of our friendship, never by thought, or by word, or by deed, have I done amiss; there is no wrong doing, trifling or great, to make plain your hatred, or to excuse so vile a betrayal as this scorning of our love for a fresher face, this desertion of me, this proclaiming of our secret. Alas, my friend, I marvel greatly; for as God is my witness my heart was not thus towards you. If God had offered me all the kingdoms of the world, yea, and His Heaven and its Paradise besides, I would have refused them gladly, had my gain meant the losing of you. For you were my wealth and my song and my health, and nothing can hurt me any more, since my heart has learnt that yours no longer loves me. Ah, lasting, precious love! Who could have guessed that he would deal this blow, to whom I gave the grace of my tenderness—who said that I was his lady both in body and in soul, and he the slave at my bidding. Yea, he told it over so sweetly, that I believed him faithfully, nor thought in any wise that his heart would bear wrath and malice against me, whether for Duchess or for Queen. How good was this love, since the heart in my breast must always cleave to his! I counted him to be my friend, in age as in youth, our lives together; for well I knew that if he died first I should not dare to endure long without him, because of the greatness of my love. The grave, with him, would be fairer, than life in a world where I might never see him with my eyes. Ah, lasting, precious love! Is it then seemly that he should publish our counsel, and destroy her who had done him no wrong? When I gave him my love without grudging, I warned him plainly, and made covenant with him, that he would lose me the self same hour that he made our tenderness a song. Since part we must, I may not live after so bitter a sorrow; nor would I choose to live, even if I were able. Fie upon life, it has no savour in it. Since it pleases me naught, I pray to God to grant me death, and—so truly as I have loved him who requites me thus—to have mercy on my soul. I forgive him his wrong, and may God give honour and life to him who has betrayed and delivered me to death. Since it comes from his hand, death, meseems, is no bitter potion; and when I remember his love, to die for his sake is no grievous thing.”
When the chatelaine had thus spoken she kept silence, save only that she said in sighing,
“Sweet friend, I commend you to God.”
With these words she strained her arms tightly across her breast, the heart failed her, and her face lost its fair colour. She swooned in her anguish, and lay back, pale and discoloured in the middle of the bed, without life or breath.
Of this her friend knew nothing, for he sought his delight in the hall, at carol and dance and play. But amongst all those ladies he had no pleasure in any that he saw, since he might not perceive her to whom his heart was given, and much he marvelled thereat. He took the Duke apart, and said in his ear,
“Sire, whence is this that your niece tarries so long, and comes not to the dancing? Have you put her in prison?”
The Duke looked upon the dancers, for he had not concerned himself with the revels. He took his friend by the hand, and led him directly to his wife’s chamber. When he might not find her there he bade the knight seek her boldly in the tiring chamber; and this he did of his courtesy that these two lovers might solace themselves with clasp and kiss. The knight thanked his lord sweetly, and entered softly in the chamber, where his friend lay dark and discoloured upon the bed. Time and place being met together, he took her in his arms and touched her lips. But when he found how cold was her mouth, how pale and rigid her person, he knew by the semblance of all her body that she was quite dead. In his amazement he cried out swiftly,
“What is this? Alas, is my dear one dead?”
The maiden started from the foot of the bed where she still lay, making answer,
“Sir, I deem truly that she be dead. Since she came to this room she has done nothing but call upon death, by reason of her friend’s falsehood, whereof my lady assured her, and because of a little dog, whereof my lady made her jest. This sorrow brought her to her death.”
When the knight understood from this that the words he had spoken to the Duke had slain his friend, he was discomforted beyond measure.
“Alas,” said he, “sweet love, the most gracious and the best that ever knight had, loyal and true, how have I slain you, like the faithless traitor that I am! It were only just that I should receive the wages for my deed, so that you could have gone free of blame. But you were so faithful of heart that you took it on yourself to pay the price. Then I will do justice on myself for the treason I have wrought.”
The knight drew from its sheath a sword that was hanging from the wall, and thrust it throught his heart. He pained himself to fall upon his lady’s body; and because of the mightiness of his hurt, bled swiftly to death. The maiden fled forth from the chamber, when she marked these lifeless lovers, for she was all adread at what she saw. She lighted on the Duke, and told him all that she had heard and seen, keeping back nothing. She showed him the beginning of the matter, and also of the little dog, whereof the Duchess had spoken.
Hearken all to what befell. The Duke went straightway to the tiring chamber, and drew from out the wound that sword by which the knight lay slain. He said no word, but hastened forthwith to the hall where the guests were yet at their dancing. Entering there he acquitted himself of his promise, for he smote the Duchess on the head with the naked sword he carried in his hand. He struck the blow without one word, since his wrath was too deep for speech. The Duchess fell at his feet, in the sight of the barons of his realm, whereat the feast was sorely troubled, for in place of mirth and carol, now were blood and death. Then the Duke told loudly and swiftly, before all who cared to hear, this pitiful story, in the midst of his Court. There was not one but wept, and his tears were the more piteous when he beheld those two lovers who lay dead in the chamber, and the Duchess in her hall. So the Court broke up in dole and anger, for of this deed came mighty mischief. On the morrow the Duke caused the lovers to be laid in one tomb, and the Duchess in a place apart. But of this adventure the Duke had such bitterness that never was he known to laugh again. He took the Cross, and went beyond the sea, where joining himself to the Knights Templar, he never returned to his own realm.
Ah, God! all this mischief and encumbrance chanced to the knight by reason of his making plain that he should have hid, and of publishing what his friend forbade him to speak, if he would keep her love. From this ensample we may learn that it is not seemly to love, and tell. He who blabs and blazons his friendship gets not one kiss the more; but he who goes discreetly preserves life and love and fame. For the friendship of the discreet lover falls not before the mine of such false and felon pryers as burrow privily into their neighbour’s secret love.