The Canterbury Tales of Geoffrey Chaucer/Franklin’s Tale


The Franklin's Tale

Here beginneth the Franklin's Tale.

IN Armorik, that is called Brittany, there was a knight that loved a lady, and did his best diligence to serve her; and many a labour and great emprise he wrought for her, ere she was won. For she was one of the fairest under the heaven, and thereto come of such high kin, that scarce durst this knight, for dread, tell her his woe, his pain and his dolor. But at last, for his worthiness, and especially for his meek obedience, she hath caught such a pity of his suffering, that privily she agreed to take him for her husband and lord, of such lordship, that is, as men have over their wives; and the better to pass their days in bliss, he swore unto her of his free will, as a knight, that never in all his life would he take upon him the mastership against her will, nor cause her jealousy, but obey her, and follow her will in all things, as every lover should do unto his lady; save that he would keep the name of sovereignty, for the sake of his title of husband and knight.

She thanked him and full humbly she said, "Sir, sith of your gentleness ye proffer me so free a rein, I pray to God that there be never, by fault of mine, either war or dissension betwixt us. Sir, I will be your humble, true wife, have here my troth, till my heart cease to beat." Thus be they both in quiet and rest.

For one thing, sirs, I dare safely aver, that friends must obey each other if they will hold company long. Love will not be constrained by mastery. When mastery cometh, the god of love beateth straightway his wings, and farewell! he is gone. Love is a thing free as any spirit. Women by nature desire freedom, and not to be constrained as thralls; and so do men, if I shall say sooth. Lo! he that is most patient in love hath advantage over all. Certainly patience is a high virtue, for, as these clerks say, it compasseth things that rigour shall never compass. Folk should not chide or complain at every mere word. Learn to suffer or else, by my faith, ye shall learn it whether ye will or no. For in this world, sooth, there is no wight that doth not or saith not sometime amiss. A man's ire, sickness, constellation, wine, woe, or changing of humours, causeth him full oft to do, or speak, amiss. A man may not avenge every wrong. According to the occasion, temperance must be shown by every wight, that knoweth to govern himself. And therefore hath this wise worthy knight, in order to live in ease, promised forbearance unto his wife, and full wisely she swore to him that never should there be blame in her.

Here may men witness an humble, wise harmony; thus hath she taken at once her servant and her lord: servant in love, and lord in marriage; therefore he was both in lordship and service. Service? nay, but such service as is higher than lordship, sith he hath both his lady and his love ; his lady, certes, and eke his wife, with whom the law of love accordeth. And when he was thus prosperous, he goeth home with his wife to his own country, not far from Penmarch, where was his dwelling, and there he liveth in bliss and in joy.

Who can tell, save him that hath been wedded, the joy, ease and prosperity that is betwixt husband and wife? A year and more this blissful time lasted till the knight, of whom I speak, who was called Arveragus of Kayrrud, made him ready to go and dwell a year or two in England, that was called eke Britain, to seek glory and honour in arms; for he set all his joy in such achievements; and there, the book saith, he dwelled two years.

Now I will stint of this Arveragus and speak of his wife Dorigen, that loveth her husband as her soul. For his absence she sigheth and weepeth, as these noble wives do, when it liketh them. She mourneth, complaineth, waketh, waileth, fasteth; desire for his presence so distresseth her, that all this wide world she setteth at naught. Her friends, that knew her heavy heart, comfort her in all that they can; they preach unto her, night and day they tell her that without cause, alas! she slayeth herself, and with all their diligence they show unto her every kind attention possible in such a case, to make her leave her heaviness.

By degrees, as ye all know, men may engrave in a stone so long that some figure will be imprinted therein. So long have they comforted her that, by hope and argument, she hath received the imprint of her consolation, through which her great sorrow gan assuage; she could not alway endure in such frenzy. And eke, in all this grief, Arveragus hath sent letters home unto her of his welfare, and that he would return hastily; else had this sorrow slain her heart. Her friends saw that her sorrow gan lessen, and prayed her, upon their knees, for God's sake to come and roam in company, to drive her dark fantasy away; and finally she consented, for she saw well that it was for the best.

Now her castle stood fast by the sea, and often she walked with her friends to disport her upon the lofty bank, whence she saw many a ship and barge sailing their course whither they list to sail; but then was that parcel of her woe. For full oft to herself she saith, "Alas! is there no ship, of so many as I see, will bring home my lord? Then were my heart all cured of its bitter stinging pain."

At another time she would sit there pensive, and cast her eyes downward from the brink. But when she saw the grisly, dark rocks, her heart would so quake for very fear, that she might not support herself upon her feet. Then would she sit down upon the green, and piteously gaze out on the sea, and with forlorn and sorrowful sighs, say thus: "Eternal God, that leadest the world through thy providence by a sure control, nothing dost thou perform, as men say, in vain ; but, Lord, these grisly, fiendly, black rocks, that seem rather a foul confusion of work than the fair creation of such a perfectly wise and steadfast God, why have ye wrought this unreasonable work? For to my wit, neither east, west, north, nor south, is there man, beast or bird to whom it doth good, but rather harm. See ye not, Lord, how it destroyeth mankind? Although they be not in remembrance, rocks have slain an hundred thousand of mankind, which is so fair a part of thy work, that thou madest it like to thine own image. Then seemed it ye had a great fondness for mankind ; but how then may it be that to destroy it ye make such means as do no good, but ever harm? I wot well that by arguments, as it pleaseth them, clerks will say all is for the best, though I cannot discern the causes. But may that God which made the wind to blow preserve my lord! this is mine only prayer. I leave to clerks all disputation; but would to God that all these dark rocks were sunk into hell for his sake! These rocks slay mine heart for fear." This would she say, full piteously weeping.

Her friends saw that it was no alleviation, but grief for her, to roam by the sea, and planned to disport themselves somewhere else. They led her by rivers and springs and eke in other delectable places; they danced and they played at tables and chess.

So on a day, in the morning, they go unto a garden nearby in which they had made their preparation of victuals and of other diversions, and took their pleasure all day long. And this was on the sixth morn of May, that, with his soft showers, had painted this garden full of blossoms and of leaves ; and the craft of man's hand had arrayed it so curiously that never, in sooth, was there garden of such glory, unless it were paradise itself. The odour and the fresh sight of flowers would have made any heart for to leap that ever was born, unless too great sickness, or sorrow, held it in pain; so full of beauty and delight was the place. And after dinner, they gan to dance, and eke sing, save only Dorigen, who made alway her complaint and her moan ; for she saw not going on the dance him that was her husband and eke her love. But natheless she must tarry yet a time, and with good hope she let slide her sorrow.

Upon this dance amongst others, there danced before Dorigen a squire, that was fresher, I deem, and gaylier clad than the month of May. He singeth and danceth, surpassing any man that is, or was sith the beginning of the world. Therewith, if one should describe him, he was one of the best-looking men alive; young, strong, virtuous, rich, and wise, well-beloved, and held in great esteem. And briefly, to tell the truth, this lusty squire, Venus' servant, who was called Aurelius, unbeknown at all to this Dorigen, had loved her best of any creature, two years and more, as was his fate, and never durst he tell her his grief; but drank in full measure all his pain. He was in despair; nothing durst he say, save that in his songs he would reveal somewhat his woe, in a general complaining ; he said he loved but was beloved not. Of such matter he made many lays, songs, complaints, rondeaux and ballads, of how he durst not speak his sorrow but must needs suffer torments, as doth a fury in hell ; and he said he must die, as for Narcissus did Echo, that durst not tell her pain. In no other manner than ye hear me describe durst he betray his woe to her ; save that, peradventure, at dances, where young folk observe their ceremonies, it may well be that he looked on her countenance, in such wise as a man that asketh grace; but nothing she wist of his thoughts. Natheless, ere they went thence, because he was her neighbour, and a man of rank and esteem, and she had known him for a long time, it happed that they fell in speech; and more and more Aurelius drew forth unto his purpose, and when he saw his time, he spake.

"Madame," quoth he, "by God that created this world, I would, the day that your Arveragus went over the sea, that I had gone whence never I should have come back; for I wot well my service is in vain. My only guerdon is the breaking of my heart. Madame, take pity upon my woe; for with a word ye may slay or save me. Would to God that I were buried here at your feet. I have no opportunity now to speak more; have mercy, sweet, or ye will slay me!"

She gan look upon Aurelius: "Is this your desire," quoth she, "and say ye so? Never before I wist what ye meant. But now that I know your purpose, Aurelie, never by that God that gave me soul and breath shall I be untrue wife, in word or work, so far as I know thereof; I will be his, to whom I am knit; take this of me as final answer." But after that she said thus in play: "Aurelie," quoth she, "by heaven's king, I would yet grant you to be your love, sith I see you lament so piteously. Lo! on that day that, from end to end of Brittany, ye remove all the rocks, stone by stone, so that they hinder no ship nor boat from passing—I say, when ye have made the coast so clean of rocks that there is not a stone visible, then will I love you best of all men; have here my utmost pledge."

"Is there no other grace in you," quoth Aurelius. "No, by that Lord that made me!" quoth she, "for I wot well it shall never betide. Let such follies pass out of your heart. What delight in living should a man have to go love the wife of another man that hath control over her body?"

Sore sigheth Aurelius full oft. Woe was him, when he heard this, and with a sorrowful heart he replied thus: "Madame," quoth he, "this were an impossible thing! Then must I die of horrid, sudden death." And with that word straightway he turned him away. Then came many of her other friends, and roamed up and down in the garden-walks, and wist nothing of this event, but began on a sudden new revelry till the bright sun lost his colour, for the horizon had bereft the sun of his beams; this is as much as to say it was night. And home they go in joy and in gladness, save only—alas!—wretched Aurelius. He is gone to his house with sorrowful heart; he seeth he may not escape his death. He seemed to feel his heart grow cold; up to the heaven he gan raise his hands, and down he set him on his bare knees, and said his orison in his raving. For very woe he went out of his wits. He wist not what he spake, but with piteous heart thus maketh he his plaint to the gods, and first unto the sun: "Apollo," he said, "god and governor of every plant, herb, blossom, tree, that givest, according to thy declination, to each of them its time and season, even as thy dwelling changeth low or high, lord Phœbus, cast thy merciful gaze on me, wretched Aurelie, that am quite forsaken. Lo, lord! my lady hath sworn my death without guilt, but let thy goodness have some pity upon my dying heart. For I wot well, if it liketh you, lord Phœbus, that, save my lady, ye may help me the best. Now vouchsafe that I may describe unto you in what I may be helped and in what manner.

"Your blissful sister, Lucina the bright, that is chief goddess and queen of the sea, although Neptunus be king in that realm, yet she is empress above him. Lord, ye know well that as her desire is to be quickened and illumined by your flame, for which she followeth you diligently, even so the sea by nature desireth to follow her, that is goddess in the sea and in rivers great and small. Wherefore, lord Phœbus, perform this miracle, or let mine heart burst; this is my petition: Pray her now, at the next opposition that shall take place when thou art in the sign of the Lion, pray her to bring so great a flood that it shall overtop by five fathoms at the least the highest rock in Armorik Brittany ; and let this flood endure two years. Then certes I may cry unto my lady: 'Keep your troth, the rocks be away!' Lord Phœbus, perform for me this miracle; pray her that she go no faster course than ye; I say, pray your sister that she go no faster course than ye during these two years. Then shall she ever be just at full, and spring-flood last both night and day. And unless she vouchsafe in such wise to grant me my sovereign lady dear, pray her to sink every rock into her own dark region under ground, wherein Pluto dwelleth; else nevermore shall I win my lady. Unto thy temple in Delphos will I go barefoot; lord Phœbus, see the tears on my cheek, and have some compassion of my pain." And with that word he fell down swooning, and long time he lay in a trance. His brother, that knew of his suffering, caught him up and brought him to bed. Thus desperate in grief and torment, I leave this woful creature lying. Let him choose, for all I reck, whether he will live or perish.

Arveragus, with prosperity and great glory, as he that is the flower of chivalry, is come home with other worthy folk. Blissful art thou now, O thou Dorigen! that hast in thine arms thy lusty husband, the fresh knight, the worthy man of battle, that loveth thee as his own heart's life. He list not to fancy whether any wight, while he was away, had spoken to her of love; he had no suspicion of it. He thinketh naught of such a thing, but danceth, jousteth and maketh her good cheer; and thus I leave them living in joy and bliss, and of sick Aurelius will I tell.

In languor and frenzied torment lay wretched Aurelius two years and more, ere he might set foot on the earth. Comfort in this time had he none, save of his brother, that was a clerk; he knew of all this woe and trouble; for in sooth to none other creature durst he say a word of this matter. Under his breast he bare it more secret than ever did Pamphilus for Galatea. His breast was whole, to look on without, but aye in his heart was the keen arrow; and well ye know that in surgery the cure of a wound healed only on the surface is perilous, unless men may touch the arrow, or come thereat. His brother wept and wailed privily, till at last he remembered him, that while he was at Orleans, in France—as young clerks, that be eager to read curious arts, seek in every nook and corner to learn particular sciences—he remembered him that on a day at Orleans, he saw a book of natural magic, which his fellow, who was at that time a candidate in law, although he was there to learn another art, had privily left upon his desk; which book spake much of operations, touching the eight and twenty houses that belong to the moon, and such foolishness, as is not worth a fly in our days; for the faith of the holy church, in our belief, suffereth no illusion to distress us. And when he remembered him of this book, his heart gan dance anon for joy, and he said privily to himself: "My brother shall be cured in haste; for I am sure that there be arts, by which men make such diverse appearances as these subtle jugglers contrive in play. For oft I have heard tell that jugglers at feasts have caused water to come into a great hall and a barge to row up and down therein. Sometimes there hath seemed to come a grim lion, and sometimes flowers to spring as in a meadow; sometimes a vine, with red and white grapes; sometimes a castle, built all of stone and lime; and when it hath pleased them, straightway they voided it. Thus it seemed to the sight of every man.

"Now then I conclude thus, that if I could find some old comrade at Orleans, that hath these mansions of the moon in remembrance, or other natural magic of the heavens, he should certainly cause my brother to have his love. For with an appearance a clerk may make it seem to a man's sight that the black rocks of Brittany be voided, each and all, and that ships come and go by the brink, and cause this to endure in such form a day or two; thus were my brother cured of his woe. Then Dorigen must needs keep her pledge, or at least he shall put her to shame."

Why should I make longer tale of this? He came unto his brother's bed, and such comforting reasons he gave him for going to Orleans, that straightway up he started and forth then on his way he is gone, in hope to be relieved of his care.

When they were come almost to that city, within two or three furlongs, they met a young clerk roaming by himself, who greeted them discreetly in Latin, and after that he spake what was wondrous. "I know," quoth he, "the cause of your coming;" and ere they went a foot further, he told them all that was in their thoughts. This clerk of Brittany asked him of the fellows whom he had known in the old days; and he answered him that they were dead, for which he wept full many a tear. Aurelius lighted down from his horse, and went home with this magician to his house, and made him full content. He lacked no meat or drink that might please him; so well equipped a house Aurelius saw never in his life before. Ere they went to supper he showed him forests and parks full of wild deer; there he saw harts with their high horns, the greatest that ever were seen. He saw an hundred of them slain with hounds, and some bleeding bitterly with arrows. When these wild deer were voided, upon a fair river he saw falconers that had killed a heron with their hawks. Then he saw knights jousting in a plain; and after this, he did him such pleasure as to show him his lady in a dance, on which, as it seemed, he himself danced. And when this master, that wrought this magic, saw it was time, he clapped his two hands, and farewell! our revelry was all gone. And yet they had never removed from the house while they saw all these wonderful sights, but they sat still all three in his study, where his books were, none other wight with them. This master called his squire to him and said thus : "Is our supper ready? It is almost an hour, I warrant, since I bade you to prepare it, and these worthy men went with me into my study, where my books be kept."

"Sir, when it liketh you," quoth this squire, "it is all ready, though ye wish it right now."

"It is best, then, that we go sup," quoth he, "these amorous folk sometimes must have refreshment." After supper, they fell into discussion what should be this master's guerdon for removing all the rocks of Brittany from the Gironde to the mouth of the Seine. He drove a hard bargain and swore he would not—so God save him!—take less than a thousand pound, nor would he go gladly for that sum.

With blissful heart, Aurelius answered anon thus: "Fie on a thousand pound! I would give this wide world if I were lord of it. This bargain is fully driven, for we be accorded. Ye shall be paid truly, by my faith! but look well now that, by no negligence or sloth, ye delay us here longer than tomorrow."

"Nay, have here my faith as pledge," quoth this clerk.

Aurelius, when he list, went to bed, and rested well nigh all that night. What with his labour and hope of bliss, his woful heart had a lull of its pain. Upon the morrow, when it was light, Aurelius and this magician took the straight way to Brittany, and went down where they would abide; and this, as the books put me in mind, was the cold, frosty season of December.

Phœbus, that in his hot declination had shone as the burnished gold with glittering beams, waxed now old, of a hue like latten; for now he lighted adown in Capricorn, where, I must needs say, he shone full pale. The bitter frosts, with the sleet and rain, had destroyed the green in every close. Janus sitteth by the fire, with double beard, and drinketh the wine from his bugle-horn; before him standeth brawn of the tusked boar, and every lusty man "Nowel" crieth.

Aurelius, in all that ever he is able, maketh cheer and reverence unto his master, and prayeth him either to do his best to bring him out of his wretched pain, or to pierce his heart with a sword. This subtle clerk hath such ruth of him, that night and day he speedeth him to watch for a time for his result ; that is to say, to make an illusion, by such an appearance or juggler's trick (I know not terms of astrology), that Dorigen and every wight should ween and confess that the rocks of Brittany were away, or else that they were sunk under ground. So at last he hath hit upon his time to make his wretched mummery of superstitious cursedness. He brought forth his Toletan tables, full well corrected, so that there lacked nothing, neither his round periods nor his separate years, nor his roots, nor his other data, such as be his centres and his arguments, and his fitting proportionals for his exact quantities in every thing; and by the working of his eighth sphere, he knew full well how far Alnath was removed from the head of that fixed Aries which is in the ninth sphere above it; full subtly he calculated all this. When he had found his first mansion, he knew the rest by proportion and knew well the arising of his moon, both in whose face, and in what term of the zodiac, and in every respect; and knew full well the moon's house according to its operation; and knew also his other observances for the causing of such illusions and misfortunes as heathen folk wont to deal with in those days. Wherefore he tarried no longer, but contrived by his magic that, for a week or two, it seemed that all the rocks were away.

Aurelius, who is still despairing whether he shall have his love or fare amiss, awaiteth this miracle night and day, and when he knew that there was no hindrance, and that these rocks were all voided, down he fell anon at his master's feet, and said, "I, woful wretch, thank you, lord, and lady mine Venus, that have helped me out of my desolate cares." And forth he hath held his way to the temple, where he knew he should see his lady, and straightway, when he saw his time, with heart adread and full humble countenance, he hath saluted his dear, sovereign lady: "My true lady," quoth this woful man, "whom I love best and most fear, and whom of all this world I were most loath to displease, were it not that I have for you such a malady, that straightway I must die here at your feet, I would not tell how woe-begone I have been, save that certes I must either die or lament ; guiltless, with very pain, ye slay me. But though of my death ye have no pity, yet take counsel, ere ye break your troth. Repent, for high God's sake, ere ye slay me because I love you. For, madame, ye wot well what ye promised; not that I claim of you anything by right, my sovereign lady, but of your grace. At a certain spot in yonder garden, ye wot well what ye promised me; and ye plighted me your troth in mine hand to love me best, God wot ye said so, although I be unworthy thereof. Madame, I speak it more for your honour than to save even now my heart's life; I have done as ye commanded me; and if ye vouchsafe, ye may go and behold. Do as ye list, have in remembrance your promise, for quick, or dead, right there ye shall find me. In you it lieth wholly to let me die or live; for well I wot the rocks be away!"

He taketh his leave, and she standeth astounded; in all her face there was not a drop of blood. She weened never to have fallen into such a trap. "Alas," quoth she, "that this ever should betide! For I weened never, by any possibility, that such a prodigy or marvel might happen. It is against the process of nature." And home she goeth, a sorrowful wight. Scarce, for very fear, could she walk ; all of a day or two she weepeth, waileth and swooneth, that it was ruth to see; but to no wight told she why; for Arveragus was gone out of town. But with face pale and with full sorrowful cheer, she spake to herself, and in her complaint said as ye shall be told.

"Alas!" quoth she, "I cry out against thee, Fortune, that hast bound me unaware in thy chain, to escape which I wot of no release save only death, or else dishonour; one of these two it behooveth me to choose. Natheless I had liefer die, than suffer a shame of my body, or know myself false, or lose my good repute; and in sooth I may be quit of these by my death. Hath there not ere this many a noble wife—hath not many a maid slain herself, rather than do trespass with her body? Yea, certes; lo! these stories bear witness.

"When thirty cursed tyrants had slain Phidon, at a feast in Athens, they commanded his daughters to be seized and brought before them in scorn, naked, to sate their foul desire; and they made them dance in their father's blood on the pavement—may God punish them! For which these woful maidens, in fear, rather than lose their maidenhood, leapt privily into a well, and drowned themselves, as the books say.

"They of Messena eke caused men to seek out fifty maidens of Lacedæmonia, whom they would dishonour; but there was none of that company that was not slain, and chose rather, with a glad will, to die, than consent to be robbed of her maidenhood. Why then should I be in fear to die?

"Lo, eke, Aristoclides, the tyrant, loved a maid named Stymphalides, that on a night, when her father was slain, went straight unto Dian's temple, and seized the image in her two hands, from which she would never depart. No wight could tear away her hands from it, till right in the self-same place she was slain. Now sith those maidens so scorned to be disgraced by man's desire, surely a wife methinketh ought rather to slay herself than be disgraced.

"What shall I say of Hasdrubal's wife, that slew herself at Carthage? For when she saw that the Romans had won the town, she took all her children and leapt into the fire, and chose rather to die than that any Roman should do her dishonour.

"Hath not Lucrece, alas! slain herself at Rome, when she was oppressed of Tarquin, for it seemed to her a shame to live when she had lost her fair repute.

"The seven maidens of Miletus eke have slain themselves, for mere dread and woe, rather than suffer the folk of Gaul to oppress them. More, I ween, than a thousand stories could I tell now touching this matter. When Abradates was slain, his fond wife slew herself, and let her blood flow into her husband's wounds, deep and wide, and said, 'At least there shall no wight disgrace my body, if I may prevent.'

"Why should I tell more ensamples hereof, sith so many have slain themselves far rather than they would be disgraced? I will conclude that it is better for me to slay myself, than be disgraced so. I will be true unto Arveragus, or else slay myself in some way, as did Demotio's daughter dear, because she would not be disgraced.

"O Scedasus! it is full great pity, alas! to read how thy daughters died, that slew themselves for the same reason. As great a pity, or greater, how the Theban maiden slew herself for Nicanor, even for the same woful cause. Another Theban maiden did even so, for one of Macedonia had oppressed her, and she atoned for her shame by her death. What shall I say of Niceratus' wife, that slew herself in such a case? How true, eke, to Alcibiades was his love, that chose rather to die than suffer his body to be unburied; lo, what a wife was Alcestis! What saith Homer of good Penelope? All Greece knoweth how she was chaste. Of Laodomia, pardee, it is written that when Protesilaus was slain at Troy, she would live no longer after his day. The same can I tell of noble Portia; without Brutus, to whom she had yielded her heart all whole, she could not live. The perfect wifehood of Artemisia is honoured throughout all heathendom. O Queen Teuta! thy wifely chastity may be a mirror unto all wives. The same thing I say of Bilia, Valeria and Rhodogune."

Thus lamented Dorigen for a day or two, purposing ever that she would die. Natheless, upon the third night, home came this worthy man Arveragus, and asked her why she so grievously wept. And she gan weep ever the more. "Alas!" quoth she, "that I was born! Thus have I said, thus have I promised—" and told him as ye have heard before; it needeth not rehearse it to you.

This husband, in friendly wise, answered with glad cheer and said as I shall tell you: "Is there naught else but this, Dorigen?" "Nay, nay," quoth she, "may God help me, verily this is too much, and it were God's will." "Yea, wife," quoth he, "let sleeping dogs lie ; peradventure, all may be well yet to-day. Ye shall keep your troth, by my faith! For as God may have mercy on me, I had far liefer be slain, for the true love which I have for you, than ye should not keep and preserve your troth. A man's troth is the highest thing that he can preserve;" and anon with that word he burst out weeping and said, "I forbid you, on pain of death, while life lasteth to you, ever to tell of this mischance to any wight. As best I may, I will endure my woe, nor wear a heavy countenance, lest folk deem, or guess, evil of you." And he called forth a squire and a maid. "Go forth now with Dorigen," quoth he, "and bring her anon to such a place." They take their leave and go on their way; but they wist not why she went thither. He would not tell his purpose to any wight.

Peradventure an heap of you will deem him an ignorant man in this, that he would put his wife in jeopardy; hearken the story ere ye lament for her. She may have better fortune than ye suppose; judge, when ye have heard the tale.

This squire Aurelius, that was so enamoured of Dorigen, happed by chance to encounter her, amid the town, in the busiest street, as she was prepared to go the straight way toward the garden, where she had made her promise. And he also was going to the garden, for well he espied, when she would go out of her house to any place. Thus, by providence or chance, they met, and he saluted her with glad heart, and asked of her whither she went. And she answered half as she were mad, "Unto the garden as my husband hath bidden me, for to keep my troth, alas! alas!"

Aurelius gan wonder at this, and had in his heart great compassion of her, and of her lamentation, and of Arveragus, the worthy knight that bade her hold unto all she had promised, so loath was he that his wife should break her troth; and in his heart he was seized with great pity of this, so considering the best on every side, that liefer would he abstain from his desire than do so high-churlish and wretched a deed against nobility and all gentleness. Wherefore in few words he said:

"Madame, say to your lord Arveragus that sith I see his great gentleness to you, and eke your grief, that he would liefer have shame (and that were pity), than that ye should break now your troth with me, I would far liefer suffer pain evermore than part the love betwixt you two. I release you, madame, here in your hand, of every bond and security that ye have made to me heretofore, sith the day ye were born. I pledge my troth I shall never reproach you of any promise, and here I take my leave of the truest and the best wife that ever I knew yet in all my days. But let every woman beware of her promise, and take remembrance at last on Dorigen. Thus, without doubt, can a squire do a gentle deed as well as a knight."

She thanketh him, all on her bare knees, and home she is gone unto her husband, and telleth him all, even as ye have heard me say ; and be sure, he was so well pleased that it were impossible for me to tell thereof; why should I endite longer of this matter?

Arveragus and Dorigen led forth their life in sovereign bliss. Nevermore was there anger betwixt them; he cherisheth her like a queen; and she was ever true to him. Of these two ye get no more of me.

Aurelius, that hath lost all his pains, curseth the time that he was born. "Alas," quoth he, "alas! that I promised a thousand pound in weight of pure gold unto this philosopher! What shall I do? I see naught but that I am undone. Mine heritage I must needs sell and be a beggar; I may not live here; I should shame all my kindred in this town, unless I might get better grace of this magician. But natheless I will endeavour year by year at certain days to pay him, and thank him for his great courtesy; I will keep my troth; I will not deceive him."

With sad heart he goeth unto his chest and bringeth gold unto this philosopher, to the value, I ween, of five hundred pound, and beseecheth him, of his gentleness, to grant him time to pay the remnant, and said, "Master, I dare make boast that I never failed yet of my troth; for my debt to you shall surely be paid, though it be my lot to go abegging in my bare kirtle. But would ye vouchsafe, upon security, to give me respite of two or three years, then were I fortunate, for else I must sell mine heritage; there is no more to say."

When he had heard these words, this philosopher soberly answered and said, "Have I not kept covenant with thee?" "Yea, certes," quoth he, "well and truly." "Hast thou not had thy lady as pleaseth thee?" "No, no," quoth he, and sorrowfully sigheth. "What was the cause? tell me, if thou canst." Aurelius began anon his tale, and told him as ye have heard before; it needeth not rehearse it unto you.

He said, "Arveragus, of his gentleness, had liefer die in sorrow and woe, than that his wife were false of her troth." He told him also of Dorigen's sorrow, how loath she was to be a wicked wife, and that she had liefer die that day, and that she had sworn her troth, through innocence: "She never before heard tell of illusions; that made me have so great pity of her; and even as freely as he sent her to me, as freely I sent her to him again. This is the sum and substance ; there is no more to say."

This philosopher answered, "Dear brother, each of you acted gently. Thou art a squire and he is a knight, but God, in his blessed power, forbid that a clerk may not do a gentle deed as well, surely, as any of you. Sir, I release thee of thy thousand pound as if right now thou hadst crept out of the earth, and never ere now hadst known me. For, sir, I will not take a penny of thee for all my craft, nor aught for my labour; thou hast paid well for my victualing; it is enough, have good day, and farewell!" And he took his horse and went forth.

Lordings, this question now would I ask: Which, as seemeth to you, was the most liberal? Now tell me, ere ye go farther. I can say no more; my tale is at an end.


Here is ended the Franklins Tale.