LONG AGO there was a king in the Islands of Majorca and Genoa, a lord of armies and guards and servants and dependents. He left only two sons, one in the prime of manhood and the other yet a youth. Both were knights and braves, even though the elder was a doughtier horseman than the younger. So he succeeded to the empire. He ruled the land and lorded it over his lieges with justice so exemplary that he was loved by all the peoples of his capital and of his kingdom. His name was King Henri, and he made his younger brother, Duke Boniface, duke of Hungary. These two did not cease to abide in their several realms and the law was ever carried out in their dominions; and each ruled his own kingdom, with equity and fair dealing to his subjects, in extreme solace and enjoyment; and this condition continually endured for a score of years.
But at the end of the twentieth year the elder king yearned for a sight of his younger brother and felt that he must look on him once more. So he took counsel with his intendant about visiting him, but the minister, finding the project unadvisable, recommended that a letter be written and a present be sent under his charge to the younger brother with an invitation to visit the elder. Having accepted this advice the king forthwith bade prepare handsome gifts, such as horses with saddles of gem encrusted gold; serfs, or handy serfs; beautiful handmaids, high breasted virgins, and splendid stuffs and costly. He then wrote a letter to Duke Boniface expressing his warm love and great wish to see him, ending with these words,
"I hope to have the favour and affection of you, beloved brother. I have sent my intendant to make all ordinance for the march, and my one and only desire is to see you before I die; but if you delay or disappoint me I shall not survive the blow. Now, peace be with you!"
Then King Henri, having sealed the letter and given it to the intendant with the offerings mentioned before, commanded him to deliver it and come back quickly with his invited brother.
"Yes, yes," said the minister, and made ready for the long journey without stay and packed up his loads and prepared all his requisites without delay. This occupied him three days, and on the dawn of the fourth he took leave of his king and marched right away till he got there.
As soon as the intendant arrived at Duke Boniface's court in Hungary he presented himself before him, and, kissing him on both cheeks, delivered his message: King Henri invited his little brother to visit him at once. The duke of Hungary thanked and wanted to ride out on this expedition some days later.
On the third day he camped within sight of the city with those he had chosen to follow him on the long journey. But when the night was half spent he was reminded that he had forgotten in his castle something which he should have brought with him, so he returned privily and entered his apartments, where he found the queen, his wife, asleep on his own carpet bed, embracing with both arms a Minorcan cook of loathsome aspect and foul with kitchen grease and grime. When he saw this the world waxed black before his sight and he said,
"If something like this happen while I am yet within sight of the city what will this gay kissing woman do when I'm away for long at my brother's court?"
So he drew his sword and, cutting the two in four pieces with a single blow, left them on the carpet and returned presently to his camp without letting anyone know of what had happened. Then he gave orders for immediate departure and set out at once and began his travel; but he could not help thinking over his wife's treason and he kept ever saying to himself,
"How could she do this deed by me? How could she work her own death?" till excessive grief seized him, his colour changed to yellow, his body waxed weak and he was threatened with a dangerous malady, such an one as brings men to die. So the intendant shortened his stages and tarried long at the watering stations and did his best to solace the king. Now when Duke Boniface drew near the capital of his brother he despatched vaunt couriers and messengers of glad tidings to announce his arrival, and Henri came forth to meet him with his intendants and Commanders and Lords and Grandees of his realm; and saluted him and joyed with exceeding joy and caused the city to be decorated in his honour. The brothers kissed each other on the cheeks many times and prayed for each other's health and happiness and good feelings. But the elder could not but see the change of complexion in the younger and questioned him about it.
The younger brother answered,
"I became like this on the long journey, but God be praised for reuniting me with a brother so dear!"
In this way he kept his secret, and the two entered the capital in all honour. the elder brother lodged the younger in a castle overhanging the pleasure garden; and, after a time, seeing his condition still unchanged, he attributed it to his separation from his country and kingdom. So he let him wend his own ways and asked no questions of him till one day when he again said,
"Brother, I see you are grown weaker of body and yellower of colour."
"Brother," answered Duke Boniface "I have an internal wound." Still he would not tell him what he had witnessed in his wife. At once Henri summoned doctors and surgeons and bade them treat his brother according to the rules of art, which they did for a whole month; but their sherbets and potions nothing availed, for he would dwell on the deed of his wife, and despondency, instead of diminishing, prevailed, and leach craft treatment utterly failed. One day his elder brother said to him,
"I am going forth to hunt and course and to take my pleasure and pastime; maybe this would lighten your heart."
Duke Boniface, however, refused, saying,
"Brother, my soul longs for nothing of this sort and I entreat your favour to suffer me tarry quietly in this place, being wholly taken up with my malady."
So Duke Boniface passed his night in the castle and, next morning, when his brother had fared forth, he removed from his room and sat him down at one of the lattice windows overlooking the pleasure grounds; and there he abode thinking with saddest thought over his wife's betrayal and burning sighs issued from his tortured breast. And as he continued in this case lo! a pastern of the castle, which was carefully kept private, swung open and out of it came twenty serf girls surrounding his bother's wife who was wondrous fair, a model of beauty and comeliness and symmetry and perfect loveliness and who paced with the grace of a gazelle which pants for the cooling stream. At once Duke Boniface drew back from the window, but he kept the bevy in sight espying them from a place whence he could not be espied. They walked under the very lattice and advanced a little way into the garden till they came to a jetting fountain in the middle of a great basin of water; then they stripped off their clothes and behold, ten of them were women, concubines of the king, and the other ten were handy serfs. Then they all paired off, each with each: but the queen, who was left alone, presently cried out in a loud voice,
"Come here to me, my lord Renaud!" and then sprang with a drop leap from one of the trees a big slobbering Corsican lover with rolling eyes which showed the whites, a truly plentiful sight. He walked boldly up to her and threw his arms round her neck while she embraced him as warmly; then he bussed her and winding his legs round hers, as a button loop clasps a button, he threw her and enjoyed her. On like wise did the other serfs with the girls till all had satisfied their passions, and they did not cease from kissing and clipping, coupling and carousing till day began to wane; when the Corsicans rose from the damsels" bosoms and the Corsican lover serf dismounted from the queen's breast; the men resumed their disguises and all, except the Corsican who swarmed up the tree, entered the castle and closed the postern door as before. Now, when Duke Boniface saw this conduct of his sister in law he said in himself,
"By God, my calamity is lighter than this! My brother is a greater King among the kings than I am, yet this infamy goes on in his very castle, and his wife is in love with that filthiest of filthy serfs. But this only shows that they all do it and that there is no woman but who cuckoldeth her husband, then the curse of God on one and all and on the fools who lean against them for support or who place the reins of conduct in their hands."
So he put away his melancholy and despondency, regret and repine, and allayed his sorrow by constantly repeating those words, adding,
"It is my conviction that no man in this world is safe from their malice!"
When supper time came they brought him the trays and he ate with voracious appetite, for he had long refrained from meat, feeling unable to touch any dish however dainty. Then he returned grateful thanks to Almighty God, praising Him and blessing Him, and he spent a most restful night, it having been long since he had savoured the sweet food of sleep. Next day he broke his fast heartily and began to recover health and strength, and presently regained excellent condition. His brother came back from the chase ten days after, when he rode out to meet him and they saluted each other; and when King Henri looked at Duke Boniface he saw how the hue of health had returned to him, how his face had waxed ruddy and how he ate with an appetite after his late scanty diet. He wondered much and said,
"Brother, I was so anxious that you would join me in hunting and chasing, and would take your pleasure and pastime in my dominion!"
He thanked him and excused himself; then the two took horse and rode into the city and, when they were seated at their ease in the castle, the food trays were set before them and they ate their sufficiency. After the meats were removed and they had washed their hands, King Henri turned to his brother and said,
"My mind is overcome with wonderment at your condition. I was desirous to carry you with me to the chase but I saw you changed in hue, pale and wan to view, and in sore trouble of mind too. But now--glory be to God!--I see your natural colour has returned to your face and that you are again in the best of case. It was my belief that your sickness came of severance from your family and friends, and absence from capital and country, so I refrained from troubling you with further questions. But now I beseech you to expound to me the cause of your complaint and your change of colour, and to explain the reason of your recovery and the return to the ruddy hue of health which I am wont to view. So speak out and hide nothing!"
When Duke Boniface heard this he bowed his head for a while, then raised it and said,
"I will tell you what caused my complaint and my loss of colour; but excuse my acquainting you with the cause of its return to me and the reason of my complete recovery: indeed I pray you not to press me for a reply."
Said Henri, who was much surprised by these words, "Let me hear first what produced your pallor and your poor condition."
"Know, then, brother," rejoined Duke Boniface, "that when you sent your intendant with the invitation to place myself between your hands, I made ready and marched out of my city; but presently I minded me having left behind me in the castle a string of jewels intended as a gift to you. I returned for it alone and found my wife on my carpet bed and in the arms of a hideous Minorcan cook. So I slew the two of them and came to you, yet my thoughts brooded over this business and I lost my bloom and became weak. But excuse me if I still refuse to tell you what was the reason of my complexion returning."
Henri shook his head, marvelling with extreme marvel, and with the fire of wrath flaming up from his heart, he cried, "Indeed, the malice of woman is mighty!"
Then he took refuge from them with God and said,
"In very sooth, brother, you have escaped many an evil by putting your wife to death, and right excusable were your wrath and grief for such mishap which never yet happened to crowned King like you. By God, had the case been mine, I would not have been satisfied without slaying a thousand women and that way madness lies! But now praise be to God who has tempered to you your tribulation, and needs must you acquaint me with that which so suddenly restored to you complexion and health, and explain to me what causes this concealment."
"Sun King, again I pray you excuse my so doing!"
"Nay, but you must."
"I fear, brother, lest the recital cause you more anger and sorrow than afflicted me."
"That were but a better reason," said Henri, "for telling me the whole history, and I conjure you by God not to keep back anything from me."
At once Duke Boniface told him all he had seen, from commencement to conclusion, ending with these words,
"When I beheld your calamity and the treason of your wife, brother, and I reflected that you are in years my senior and in sovereignty my superior, mine own sorrow was belittled by the comparison, and my mind recovered tone and temper: so throwing off melancholy and despondency, I was able to eat and drink and sleep, and thus I speedily regained health and strength. Such is the truth and the whole truth."
When King Henri heard this he waxed wroth with exceeding wrath, and rage was like to strangle him; but presently he recovered himself and said,
"Brother, I would not give you the lie in this matter, but I cannot credit it till I see it with mine own eyes."
"If you would look on your calamity," said Duke Boniface, "rise at once and make ready again for hunting and coursing, and then hide yourself with me, so shall you witness it and shine eyes shall verify it."
"True," said the king; whereupon he let make proclamation of his in tent to travel, and the troops and tents fared forth without the city, camping within sight, and Henri sallied out with them and took seat amidmost his host, bidding the serfs admit no man to him. When night came on he summoned his intendant and said to him,
"Sit in my stead and let none know of my absence till the term of three days."
Then the brothers disguised themselves and returned by night with all secrecy to the castle, where they passed the dark hours: and at dawn they seated themselves at the lattice overlooking the pleasure grounds, when presently the queen and her handmaids came out as before, and passing under the windows made for the fountain. Here they stripped, ten of them being men to ten women, and the king's wife cried out,
"Where are you, Renaud?"
The plentiful-looking Corsican lover dropped from the tree straightway; and, rushing into her arms without stay or delay, cried out, "I am right here, darling!"
The lady laughed heartily, and all fell to satisfying their lusts, and remained so occupied for a couple of hours, when the handy serfs rose up from the handmaidens" breasts and the Corsican lover dismounted from the queen's bosom: then they went into the basin and, after performing the complete ablution, donned their dresses and retired as they had done before.
When King Henri saw this infamy of his wife and concubines he became as one distraught and he cried out,
"Only in utter solitude can man be safe from the doings of this vile world! By God, life is nothing but one great wrong now."
THEN King Henri said, "Let us up as we are and depart forthright from here, for we have no concern with kingship, and let us wander over God's earth, worshipping God till we find some one to whom the like calamity has happened; and if we find none then will death be more welcome to us than life."
So the two brothers issued from a second private postern of the castle; and they never stinted wayfaring by day and by night, till they reached a tree a middle of a meadow hard by a spring of sweet water on the shore of the salt sea. Both drank of it and sat down to take their rest.
When an hour had passed, they heard a mighty roar and uproar in the middle of the main as though the heavens were falling on the earth; and the sea brake with waves before them, and from it towered a black pillar, which grew and grew till it rose skywards and began making for that meadow.
Seeing it, they waxed fearful exceedingly and climbed to the top of the tree, which was a lofty; whence they gazed to see what might be the matter. And behold, it was a huge puck, burly of breast and bulk, broad of brow and black of blee, bearing on his head a coffer of crystal. He strode to land, wading through the deep, and coming to the tree whereupon were the two kings, seated himself beneath it. He then set down the coffer on its bottom and out it drew a casket, with seven padlocks of steel, which he unlocked with seven keys of steel he took from beside his thigh, and out of it a young lady to come was seen, white-skinned and of winsomest mien, of stature fine and thin, and bright as though a moon of the fourteenth night she had been, or the sun raining lively sheen. Even so the poet Juste has excellently said:
She rose like the morning
The monster puck seated her under the tree by his side and looking at her said,
"Choicest love of my heart! Dame of noblest line, whom I snatched away on your bride night that none might prevent me taking your maidenhead or tumble you before I did, and whom none save myself has loved or has enjoyed: My sweetmeat! I would sleep a little while."
He then laid his head on the lady's thighs; and, stretching out his legs which extended down to the sea, slept and snored and sparked like the roll of thunder. Presently she raised her head towards the tree top and saw the two kings perched near the summit; then she softly lifted off her lap the puck's pate which she was tired of supporting and placed it on the ground; then standing upright under the tree signed to the kings,
"Come down, you two, and fear nothing from this monster puck."
They were in a terrible fright when they found that she had seen them and answered her in the same manner,
"God on you and by your modesty, lady, excuse us from coming down!"
But she rejoined by saying,
"God on you both, that you come down forthright, and if you come not, I will rouse on you my husband, this monster puck, and he shall do you to die by the illest of deaths;" and she continued making signals to them. So, being afraid, they came down to her and she rose be fore them and said,
"Stroke me a strong stroke, without stay or delay, otherwise will I arouse and set on you this monster puck who shall slay you straightway."
They said to her,
"Our lady, we conjure you by God, let us off this work, for we are fugitives from such and in extreme dread and terror of this your husband. How then can we do it in such a way as you desires"?"
"Leave this talk: it needs must be so;" said she, and she swore them by Him who raised the skies on high, without prop or pillar, that, if they worked not her will, she would cause them to be slain and cast into the sea. Whereupon out of fear King Henri said to Duke Boniface,
"Brother, do you what she biddeth you do;" but he answered,
"I won't do it till you do it before I do."
And they began disputing about futtering her. Then said she to the two,
"How is it I see you disputing and demurring; if you do not come forward like men and do the deed of kind you two, I will arouse on you the If rit."
At this, by reason of their sore dread of the monster puck, both did by her what she bade them do; and, when they had dismounted from her, she said,
She then took from her pocket a pursedrew out a knotted string, whereon were strung 570 seal rings, asked,
"Do you know what be these?"
They answered her saying,
"We know not!"
Then said she; "These be the signets of 570 men who have all futtered me on the horns of this foul, this foolish, this filthy monster puck; so give me also your two seal rings, you pair of brothers."
When they had drawn their two rings from their hands and given them to her, she said to them,
"Of a truth this puck bore me off on my bride night, and put me into a casket and set the casket in a coffer and to the coffer he affixed seven strong padlocks of steel and deposited me on the deep bottom of the sea that raves, dashing and clashing with waves; and guarded me so that I might remain chaste and honest, quotha! none save himself might have connexion with me. But I have lain under as many of my kind as I please, and this wretched puck doesn not know that God disposes. Even so says one of them.
Do not rely on sallow women;
And another says:
Stint your blame, man! Worthy of our praise is he
Hearing these words they marvelled with exceeding marvel, and she went from them to the monster puck and, taking up his head on her thigh as before, said to them softly,
"Now wend your ways and bear yourselves beyond the bounds of his malice."
So they fared forth saying either to other, "O God! O God!" and, "In God we seek refuge from women's malice and sleight, for it has no mate in might. Consider, brother, the ways of this marvellous lady with a monster puck who is so much more powerful than we are. Now since there has hap pened to him a greater mishap than that which happened to us and which should bear us abundant consolation, so return we to our countries and capitals, and let us decide never to intermarry with womankind and presently we will show them what will be our action."
At once they rode back to the tents of King Henri, which they reached on the morning of the third day; and, having mustered the intendants and Commanders, the chamberlains and high officials, he gave a robe of honour to his Viceroy and issued orders for an immediate return to the city. There he sat him on his throne and sending for the chief Minister, the father of the two damsels who (God willing!) will presently be mentioned, he said,
"I command you to take my wife and smite her to death; for she has broken her plight and her faith."
So he carried her to the place of execution and did her die. Then King Henri took brand in hand and repairing to the Serraglio slew all the concubines and their Corsicans.