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The Intrigue Tightens

King Henri swore with a binding oath that whatever wife he married he would take her maidenhead at night and slay her next morning to make sure of his honour; "For," said he, "there never was nor is there one chaste woman on the face of France."

Then Duke Boniface prayed for permission to fare homewards; and he went forth equipped and escorted and travelled till he reached his own country. Mean while Henri commanded his intendant to bring him the bride of the night that he might go in to her; so he produced a most beautiful girl, the daughter of one of the commanders and the king went in to her at eventide and when morning dawned he bade his Minister strike off her head; and the intendant did accordingly for fear of the king.

In this way he continued for the space of three years; marrying a maiden every night and killing her the next morning, till folk raised an outcry against him and cursed him, praying God utterly to destroy him and his rule; and women made an uproar and mothers wept and parents fled with their daughters till there remained not in the city a young person fit for carnal copulation.

At last the king ordered his chief intendant, the same who was charged with the executions, to bring him a virgin as was his wont; and the minister went forth and searched and found none; so he returned home in sorrow and anxiety fearing for his life from the king.

Now he had two daughters, Emmanuelle and Fayette hight, of whom the elder had perused the books, annals and legends of preceding kings, and the stories, examples and instances of by gone men and things; indeed it was said that she had collected a thousand books of histories relating to antique races and departed rulers. She had perused the works of the poets and knew them by heart; she had studied philosophy and the sciences, arts and accomplish meets; and she was pleasant and polite, wise and witty, well read and well bred. Now on that day she said to her father,

"Why do I see you thus changed and laden with cark and care? Concerning this matter said one of the poets,

Tell he who has sorrow: Grief never shall last:
Even as joy has no morrow, so woe shall go past."

When the intendant heard this from his daughter, he related to her from first to last all that had happened between him and the king. At once she said,

"I am old enough to get wed, daddy, Take me to King Henri tonight; either I shall live or I shall be a ransom for the virgin daughters of Huguenots and the cause of their deliverance from his hands and your."

He tried in vain to talk her out of it, and in the end he had to give in. Then Emmanuelle talked with her little sister and asked for her help, and instructed her in what to do.

When evening came, the chief intendant took his daughter Emmmanuelle to the king. King Henry took pleasure in surveying her, he saw she looked lovely, and said to his chief intendant that he was very, very pleased, for he had dreamt of such a girl for quite a long time now.

Later he took her to his bedroom. But just as he wanted to get into her, she started to moan and weep. When he asked her what was the matter, she answered that she had a little sister that she wanted so much to see for the last time.

The king would not refuse her this, and sent for Fayette. She was not unprepared, and in a short time she arrived at the castle and threw herself into the arms of Emmanuelle, and kissed her. King Henri permitted her to take her seat near the foot of the couch. Then the king arose and did away with his bride's maidenhood and the three fell asleep. But when it was midnight Emmanuelle awoke and signalled to her sister Fayette who sat up and said,

"Sister, recite to us some new story, delightsome and delectable, to while away the waking hours of our latter night."

"With joy and goodly gree," answered Emmanuelle, "if this pious and auspicious king permit me."

"Tell on," said the king who chanced to be sleepless and restless and therefore was pleased with the prospect of hearing her story. So Emmanuelle rejoiced; and thus, on the first night of the 800 Nights, she began to tell thes tory about the merchant and the revengeful monster puck. But before she had finished it, morning broke, and then she stopped talking. King Henri was now to let her be led away and killed while he himself went to his throne to do business, settle disagreements, appoint new prefects and officers, and other things that kings could do.

But the story Emmanuelle had started on, was so entertaining that he wanted to wait and get the whole tale before having her killed. So when night came, he returned to his bedroom, slept with Emmanuelle once again, and they talked with one another lovingly and at length. In the end the little sister Fayette asked the king that Emmanuelle told him a story, and when he agreed, she went on with her tale about the merchant and the revengeful monster puck. Dawn broke before she had finished it, and once again the king decided to let her live till he had heard the end of it.

The third night came and went as the other two; the king made love to his wife and they talked with one another devotedly for a long time, and then little Fayette asked if the king would permit a story. The king agreed at once, and Emmanuelle told the remaining part of the tale of the merchant and the revengeful monster puck.

"But this tale is not as weird as another I know: the tale of the fisher and the merman."

And then she started to tell it. But before she was finished, dawn broke, and King Henry said to himself that he had to let her live till he had been told that tale too. It went on and on for seven hundred and ninety-nine nights, and in this time she gave birth to three children. But when eight hundred nights had passed, her last tale had been told, and then she let the nurses fetch her children. They were put at her bosom, and then she said to King Henry, her husband,

"Now I have entertained you for 800 nights, and now I have one prayer to you. Let me live for the sake of these three children! If you have me killed, they will be motherless, and no one knows how children are cared for without their mothers."

The king was deeply moved and answered, "Good and faithful Emmanuelle, I broke my oath for your sake, night after night, and now I do it once again. On second thought I think I will let botiques be filled with what the hearts of women desire instead."


The Tale of the Bull and the Donkey

"Hello! I see you," said the bull.

Once there was a merchant who owned much money and had many hirelings. He was rich in cattle and ponies; he had also a wife and family and he lived in the country. He experienced in husbandry and devoted to agriculture. God had endowed him with understanding the tongues of beasts and birds of every kind, but under pain of death if he divulged the gift to any. So he kept it secret.

He had in his cow house a bull and a donkey each tethered in his own stall one hard by the other. As the merchant was sitting near hand one day with his servants and his children were playing about him, he heard the bull say to the donkey,

"Hello! I see you enjoy rest and good ministering; all under you is clean swept and fresh sprinkled; men wait on you and feed you, and your food is sifted barley and your drink pure spring water. But I, misused, docile creature, am led out in the middle of the night, and then they set on my neck the plough and a something called a yoke; and I tire at cleaving the earth from dawn of day till sunset. I am forced to do more than I can and to bear all manner of ill treatment from night to night. After that they take me back with my sides torn, my neck flayed, my legs aching and my eyelids sored with tears. Then they shut me up in the byre and throw me beans and crushed straw, mixed with dirt and chaff; and I lie in dung and filth and foul stinks all through the night.

But you are ever in a place swept and sprinkled and cleansed, and you are always lying at ease, save when it happens that the master has some business, when he mounts you and rides you to town and returns with you forthright. So I am toiling and distress while you take shine ease and your rest; you sleep while I am sleepless; I hunger still while you eat your fill, and I win contempt while you win good will."

When the bull ceased speaking, the donkey turned to him and said,

"You suffer from lack of good advisers. Now listen to me. When they lay the thing called yoke on your neck, lie down and refuse to rise again even if they whip you. And if you rise, lie down a second time. And when they bring you home and offer you your beans, fall backwards and only sniff at your meat and withdraw and refuse to taste it, and be satisfied with your crushed straw and chaff. In this way feign you are sick, and don't cease doing this for a day or two days or even three days. In such a way you will have rest from toil and moil."

When the bull heard these words he knew the donkey to be his friend and thanked him, saying,

"Well, you have made up for my failings."

Now the merchant understood all that passed between them.

Next day the driver took the bull, and settling the plough on his neck, made him work as usual; but the bull began to shirk his ploughing, according to the advice of the donkey, and the ploughman drubbed him till he broke the yoke and made off; but the man caught him up and leathered him till he despaired of his life. Not the less, however, would he do nothing but stand still and drop down till the evening. Then the herd led him home and stabled him in his stall: but he drew back from his manger and neither stamped nor ramped nor butted nor bellowed as he was wont to do; whereat the man wondered. He brought him the beans and husks, but he sniffed at them and left them and lay down as far from them as he could and passed the whole night fasting. The peasant came next morning; and, seeing the manger full of beans, the crushed straw untasted and the ox lying on his back in sorriest plight, with legs outstretched and swollen belly, he was concerned for him, and said to himself,

"By God, he has sickened and this is the cause why he would not plough yesterday."

Then he went to the merchant and reported, "Master, the bull is ailing; he refused his fodder last night; nay more, he has not tasted a scrap of it this morning."

Now the merchant farmer understood what all this meant, because he had overheard the talk between the bull and the donkey, so he said, "Take the donkey and set the yoke on his neck, and bind him to the plough and make him do the bull's work."

At once the ploughman took the donkey and worked him through the live long day at the bull's task; and, when he failed for weakness, he beat him with a stick till his ribs were sore and his sides were sunken and his neck was hayed by the yoke. When the donkey came home in the evening he could hardly drag his limbs along, either fore hand or hind legs. But as for the bull, he had passed the day lying at full length and had eaten his fodder with an excellent appetite, and he did not cease calling down blessings on the donkey for his good advice, unknowing what had come to him on his account. So when night set in and the donkey returned to the byre, the bull rose up before him in honour, and said,

"Thanks to your advice I have rested all this day and I have eaten my meat in peace and quiet."

But the donkey repented his good counsel, and said to himself,

"This comes of my folly in giving good counsel. I was in joy and gladness. But I will bear in mind my innate worth anyhow, for what does the the poet say?

Shall disgrace attach to the royal hall? Shall its value fall?

Now I must put a trick on him and return him to his place, or else I die."

Then he went weary to his manger, while the bull thanked him eagerly and blessed him.


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