Gesta Romanorum Vol. II (1871)/Of Unconversion
The emperor Frederic decreed that if any female were violated, whosoever freed her from the hand of the oppressor, should be compelled to marry her, if such were the lady's inclination. Now it happened, that a certain vile wretch caught up a young girl, and dragging her into a forest, there abused her. She shrieked violently; and a noble knight, riding by some chance in the same forest, heard her exclamations, and spurred on his horse to her assistance. He inquired the occasion of the clamour, "Oh, my lord," said the damsel, "for the love of God, succour me. This villain has abused, and threatened me with destruction." "My lord," answered the fellow; "she is my wife, whom I have taken in adultery, and I therefore menaced her with death." "Do not believe it, my lord," said the girl, "I never was his wife, nor ever guilty of any impropriety, until treacherously mal-treated by this ruffian. Help me, then, I implore you." "I perceive plainly," said the knight, "that this wretch has oppressed you, and I will therefore free you from his hands." "You will do this at your peril," answered the other; "I will defend my right to the last." Saying which, he prepared himself for a contest. After a desperate struggle, the knight obtained the victory, but was dangerously wounded. He then said to the lady, "Are you pleased to espouse me?" "Willingly," returned she, "I wish it from my heart, and here pledge my faith." This done, the knight said, "You shall reside in my castle for a few days; and in the mean time, I will go to my parents, and provide every thing requisite for our union. After that, I will return, and espouse you with great splendour." "I am ready to obey you in all things," answered the lady; and the knight having placed her as he had said, bade her farewell. But while he was absent, an oppressive lord of that country went to the castle, where the girl was placed, and knocked at the gate. She denied him admission; and he had then recourse to magnificent promises. He declared himself ready to espouse her honorably; and she, lending too credulous an ear to what was said, at last opened the gate. He went in, and remained with her, during the night. In about a month's space, the knight returned to his castle. He knocked, but no one replied to him. Filled with the greatest bitterness of heart, he said, "Oh, dear girl, recall how I saved thy life, and the faith which you solemnly pledged me. Speak, dear girl, and let me behold thy face." The lady, hearing this, opened the window, and said, "Look you ass! what does it please ye to want?" "I marvel," replied he, "at thy ingratitude. I received several dangerous wounds in defending thee; and if thou art incredulous, I will shew them." Saying this, he loosed his robe, and discovered the scars. "Do not," added he, "be ungrateful; open the gate, and I will receive you yet, as my beloved wife." But she made no answer, and turned away. The knight complained to the judge, and alleged the services he had rendered her. He displayed the wounds taken in her behalf, and claimed her in recompence as his wife. The judge, therefore, sent for the seducer, and said, "Hast thou withheld the woman whom the knight's bravery freed from uncourteous usage?"
"I have, my lord."
"And, according to law, she voluntarily became his wife? How then darest thou affect the wife of another? First, you entered his castle during his absence; next, you violated his bed: what have you to answer?"
He was silent; and the judge, turning to the woman, said, "Girl! by the law of the land, you are doubly the wife of this knight. First, because he freed you from a violator; and secondly, because you contracted yourself to him. Why hast thou denied thy husband admittance into his own castle?" She, also, was unable to answer, and the judge condemned both to be crucified. This was done accordingly, and much praise was given to the judge for the sentence he had pronounced.
My beloved, the emperor is God; the woman is the soul, and the violator, the devil. The knight is Christ; the castle, the human body.