From "The Italian Novelists" translated from the originals with Critical and Biographical Notices by Thomas Roscoe; Frederick Warne and Co.; London; [undated edition, c. 1900; first published, c. 1824]; pp. 143-157.
Marino was overjoyed when he discovered that she began to reward his passion. Resolved to avail himself of every occasion to promote his suit, among other means he announced a grand ball to be given in honour of his distinguished chief. Nearly all the ladies of the place were invited, and among these he had the delight of beholding the fascinating maiden, in honour of whose attractions the entertainment was really given. Nor was the Duke himself less struck with her; and, quite unconscious of his friend’s attachment, he soon became so far enslaved by the surpassing beauty of her person and her manners, as to resolve upon obtaining her love at any price. The young lady, who had never before beheld him, though she had more than once heard him highly commended for all the best and noblest qualities befitting a prince, was surprised to find that in magnanimity, courtesy, and heroic beauty, the reality so far outstripped the good report. She gazed upon him as the model of grace and noble manners; and mingled with the highest admiration, she offered up vows in her secret heart for his happiness and good fortune. Nor was it long before the prince perceived the impression he had made, and employed the evening so well, that before he took leave of her they became perfectly aware of the feelings which they mutually entertained. After particular inquiries into her rank and character, these feelings soon ripened on both sides into the warmest passion, and being introduced into her society by means of the richest bribes and presents, the prince proceeded in his designs, scarcely doubting of ultimate success. In the meanwhile, the lady not only discountenanced Marino’s visits, but everywhere treated him with the utmost indifference and scorn, which, contrasted with her previous kindness, threw the unfortunate lover into such a fit of jealousy and despair, that, giving loose to his passion, he abandoned his military duties and refused the society of his friends. Struck with this sudden change, the Duke frequently questioned him as to its cause, but could obtain no satisfactory answer, until imagining that he had now the object of his pursuit in his power, he, as usual on such occasions, ordered his friend Marino into his presence, observing, “Though I find you are still unwilling to acquaint 145 me with the real cause of your unhappiness, I shall nevertheless continue, as before, to confide to you every secret of my breast; as a proof of which, learn that I am at this time engaged, with a few hours, to a beautiful young lady whom I trust I may then call my own. I entreat you, therefore, no less from affection than from duty, to wear a less lugubrious face, and either inform me what is the matter with you, or show a little more of your former cheerfulness. I shall not half enjoy my triumph if you do not accompany me; so come, my friend, and protect me in this perilous enterprise, on which I should be unwilling to enter without your assistance.”
Quite overpowered with these words, Marino, regretting that he had so long and so ungratefully concealed his passion from his best friend and master, related the whole affair, not without great emotion pronouncing the lady’s name. The Duke listened to him with equal surprise and pain, considering within himself the strength of his friend’s attachment, who stood before him overpowered with remorse and grief. Then, consulting his own duties and his dignity, and conceiving that his more exalted station demanded the exertion of a superior degree of generosity, he determined without the least hesitation to prefer a lover’s happiness to his own unbridled will.
“I doubt not you will do the justice to believe, my dear Marino,” said the Duke, “that I never took so much real pleasure in anything as in sharing my fortune with my friends. At last you shall now be convinced of it; for though I declare to you that I am passionately attached to this very lady, whom this evening I had prevailed upon to receive me to her arms, I shall not swerve from the line of conduct I have hitherto observed. I withdraw my claim, however much I may feel, for I cannot behold your affliction; of cheer up, by dear friend, and prepare to come along with me. Nay, no resistance; for I am resolved that before long you shall call our beloved girl your own. I have been much to blame, but you must forgive me, Marino, since I did not know that you loved her first. She is virtuous; we have only to get a priest, and she shall make you happy.” On hearing this generous offer, Marino expressed the utmost gratitude, declaring at the same time that he had rather die than think of interfering with any engagements which his Highness had thought it advisable to make. “No apologies are necessary,” replied the Duke, smiling; “and as I have said it, so it shall be” and taking his friends’ arm, the Duke led him to the lady’s house. Leaving a few of their followers, for further security, near, they were introduced into the presence of the woman they loved, who received the Duke, advancing first, with unfeigned delight. Although she recognised her former suitor, she bestowed no further notice upon him that if he had been a stranger accompanying his master to receive his orders. But the noble Duke introducing him to her with a smile, and taking her hand in the most affectionate manner, thus addressed her: “I entreat you, my dear lady, by the true love I bear you, not to be offended with what I am about to say, because I would only have you so far listen to my request as it is honest and of good report. Nor can you give me a stronger proof of you high regard for me than by acceding to it. In 146 my last interview with my royal father, before setting out on the present campaign, among other wise precepts, he most particularly insisted on the necessity of prudence in regard to my allowing myself to be surprised or taken captive in the ambush of a lady’s eyes, citing many famous examples, besides that of the bold King Lancilao, of the bad effects of worshipping so tyrannical a deity as Love. And though I am inexpressibly grateful, and passionately attached to you, yet when I consider the late advice and injunctions of the king, the sorrow my love would entail upon you, and the sufferings of this my faithful friend and servant, whom nearest of all my followers I regard, it becomes my duty to inform you that he is deeply and desperately in love with you, and every way most deserving of your hand. But we are both yours: it is for you to decide; deal with us as you please;” and drawing his breath after this painful effort, the prince remained silent.
Great indeed was the surprise and shock to the feelings of the lady, but being discreet and virtuous, although in this instance she had been somewhat carried away, she resolved to emulate the generosity of the noble Duke, and making a virtue of necessity, and stifling her feelings, with a serene and cheerful countenance she thus replied: “I shall not venture, my lord, to insist, as my excuse, upon the many noble and amiable qualities, which, I confess with tears of shame, have brought me into this condition; yet indeed you may believe me when I say that ambition was not my motive. I knew the distinction, the impassable barrier between us; but I saw you loved me; you addressed me, you followed me; and I could not help loving you again. But as it is you wish — and I cannot but the more admire you for it, who, being the son of a powerful monarch, and graced with beauty, power, and glory, resign voluntarily your wishes to another — I am ready to yield to your entreaties, my lord (I had rather you would call them commands), in behalf of the friend whom you so much love. And if he can forgive me, if studying his will and happiness can at all atone for my past weakness” (her sweet face was covered with tears and blushes), “here, my lord, is my hand;” and he placed it in that of his friend Marino.
The next day, as he was proceeding from his inn to amuse himself with observing the place, he chanced to behold, looking from a balcony, a very beautiful lady, whose equal he imagined he had never before seen; and he passed along her attractions were still present to his view. Such, indeed, was the impression, that abandoning all his laudable pursuits, he determined to remain in that place until he obtained some portion of her regard. By frequently passing her house and throwing himself on all occasions in he way, he so far betrayed his attachment, that, being a very artful creature, she quickly perceived that she had him in her power. Aware of his youth and inexperience, as well of his wealth and quality, she began to consider how she might best impose upon him for her own interested purposes. And in order to engage more speedily in a conference, like some piratical vessel sending out its boats to seize provisions for its voyage, she fixed upon a wicked old creature, well trained in the business, and seating herself in the window, prepared to observe the result. This it was that the poor youth most ardently desired. Before the old hag broke off the interview, she had learned everything from him she wished; and after various presents and messages had passed on both sides, it was agreed that he should be permitted to wait upon the lady the following evening, on the condition of bringing with him a thousand gold florins as the price of the lady’s conquest. When the hour arrived, this imprudent and unfortunate young man was conducted to her dwelling, and received with apparent pleasure by its inmate, whose name was Laura, and there, unhappily for them both, he remained with her until the following day. And having arranged how they should in future meet without fear of exciting the suspicions of her relations, the wretched youth reluctantly took her leave, and returned to his own abode.
The lady seized upon her spoils with triumph, and before her lover left her, so imposed upon his credulity with her arts, having dismissed all idea of Bologna and its studies from his mind, he expected to have frequent access to her society. So the following evening, not in the least doubting of the same favourable reception, he hastened at the same hour to the lady’s residence, and having repeated the signal of his arrival without effect, he was at length compelled, however unwillingly, to retire with the loss, no less of his wealth and honour, than of his beloved object, and, stung with rage and grief, slumber refused to visit his eyes during the whole of that unhappy night. Resolved the next morning to ascertain this cruel treachery, he again visited the fatal house, where he found both doors and windows closed, in confirmation of all his worst fears that he had been vilely abandoned and betrayed by the artful woman to whom he was so passionately attached. He returned to his friends and followers full of desperate thoughts against himself, which stifling with the utmost difficulty, he prepared to leave the place. And being quite destitute of means to discharge his expenses, he was compelled to dispose of one of his finest mules. 148 Having thus satisfied his host, with the trifling resources which yet remained he proceeded on his way through Provence towards Italy, plunged in the deepest grief at the thoughts of having to travel to Bologna, and to reside there as a poor student, instead of making the noble figure he had expected. As he when thus full of grievous thoughts along his weary way, being arrived at Trayques, he had the singular fortune to take up his residence at the same inn where the husband of the artful Laura has just entered for the night. He was a handsome and accomplished cavalier, of distinguished eloquence and great authority in the state, and was then returning from an embassy sent by the king of France to the Pope. Having begged the host to inform him should any noble traveller alight, in order to enjoy his society at table, a custom always observed by travellers from France, he was told that there was a Spanish scholar going to Bologna, who, according to the account of his domestics, appeared buried in the profoundest sorrow, having scarcely broken fast for the last two days. On hearing this, the cavalier very good-naturedly determined to invite the poor youth to sup with him, and, becoming his own messenger, he introduced himself into his room, where he found him seated in a disconsolate attitude, and taking him affectionately by the hand, entreated he would favour him with his company to supper. The youth perceiving from his appearance that he was a person of some importance, could not refuse, thus invited, to accompany him; and sitting down together, when they had concluded their meal, they dismissed their domestics from the room. the ambassador then ventured to inquired into the object of the young man’s travels, and next, as far as delicacy allowed, into the cause of his apparent affliction. Messer Alfonso, in great emotion, replied with difficulty to his first question, entreating him to be excused from touching upon the latter. But his new friend, having learned the reason of his leaving home, and the high respectability of his family, became still more solicitous to discover the origin of the excessive melancholy which seemed to overpower him. After frequently evading his questions, the youth was at length persuaded by the deep interest he evinced in his welfare to confide to him the whole of the unhappy adventure, with the lady’s name, and the manner in which he had been entertained by her; adding that the disappointment he felt at being thus betrayed, and the loss of all his resources, had driven him to the verge of despair. The cavalier, who had thus unconsciously insisted upon the knowledge of his own dishonour, at these words soon presented a more distressing picture of wretchedness than even the author of his disgrace; and it is for high-minded men alone, who may have survived the loss of honour to appreciate the real nature of his feelings. But with his usual prudence and self-command, he checked the impulse of his feelings, adopting with singular promptness the line of conduct which he conceived such an emergency required. Then turning towards the youth, the thus addressed him: “You have indeed, young man, given loose to your passions in a very reprehensible manner, and fallen into the snares of a vile wretch, whom from your own statements, you should have avoided with the utmost care. 149 Could my severest reproaches now avail you, I should never cease to condemn your folly; but as you are in far greater want of assistance than of blame, it will be enough to leave you to the remorse such conduct cannot fail to produce. Cease, however, to entertain the desperate thoughts you have already too much indulged, and you shall find that in the end I will become your real friend, and treat you no otherwise than if you were my own son. And, as you may perceive, I am a foreigner, bound to pursue my route, excuse me if I cannot be at your disposal, and do not object to accompany me back the way you came. Come to my house for a few days, and I then promise you that you shall pursue your first intentions with farm more pleasure than you at present believe. For the reputation of your family and your father’s noble character will not permit me to behold his son proceeding thus unhappily to commence his studies, unable to support the respectability of his name and the virtues to which it has ever been allied.” Surprised at these proofs of kindness, the youth expressed his gratitude, as far as mingled grief and shame permitted him to give utterance to his feelings. They then separated for the night, and the next day set out on their way towards France, travelling so speedily under the direction of the cavalier, that they arrived, ere nightfall, in the city of Avignon. The cavalier then taking the young man’s arm, immediately conducted him to his own house, the fatal house whither he had before resorted; and recognising the spot, he beheld the same lady advancing with lights in her hands to welcome her husband home. Aware of the whole truth, he immediately gave himself up for lost; and being scarcely able to alight from his horse, the cavalier assisted him, and led him trembling into the same apartment, the scene of his guilty pleasures, and now of his bitter and inexpressible remorse. The wife, starting back at the sight of the student, stood as if conscious of her impending fate; and it would be impossible to describe the grief and terror at that moment depicted on her countenance. The supper made its appearance, when they sat down, together with the lady, all in their secret thoughts indulging varied feelings of pain. The supper-table being withdrawn, the cavalier turning towards his wife, thus addressed her: “Laura, give me the thousand gold florins which this young person gave you ,and for which you bartered, together with your person, your own honour, and mine, and that of all our family.”
On hearing these words, the lady appeared as if she were sinking into the earth, and was unable to utter the least answer. Her husband then fixing his eye upon her with a stern expression, and seizing his dagger, exclaimed, “Thou vilest of women, as you value, your life, this moment do as I have commanded you!” Marking his rising passion, his wife, overpowered with fear and weeping bitterly, dared not even deny the fact, and going out, immediately returned with the money, which she laid with a trembling hand upon the table. Having examined it, her husband took one of the pieces, and presented it to the young man, who stood speechless with fear, momentarily expecting, together with the lady, to feel the fatal dagger at his heart. AS he presented the coin, the cavalier thus continued: “Every one ought 150 to be rewarded for his pains; and as this lady was at the trouble of entertaining you both with love and scorn, and may deservedly be ranked with the vilest of her sex, who do not deserve to receive more than one ducat at once, I beg that you, sir, how hired her, will please to pay her what I have given you.” And compelling his wife to receive it, it was so done. Then perceiving the young man to be quite oppressed with fear and shame, his eyes fixed upon the earth and his voice convulsed with sobs, he continued: “Take your ill-guarded and ill-spent gold, poor youth, and remember for the future to employ it better than in purchasing your shame, instead of acquiring the reputation and honour which your family has a right to expect. Aim at nobler pursuits, signor! But I would not willingly distress you; you require rest, and you may sleep under my roof secure, I give you my hand, as a man of honour: leave us; good night!”
The unhappy youth was then shown into a richly furnished apartment, with every attendance and convenience; but his thoughts were of too wild a nature to admit of repose. Often did they wander back to the last looks of the associate of his guilty pleasure; often did he start up in terror as if he had heard her voice: he was indeed safe; but the light of morning never again broke upon that lady’s eyes.
The following day, the cavalier, having prepared for their departure, accompanied the youth about ten miles beyond the city, and on taking leave, presented him with various rich presents, saying, “Although I have granted you your life, no less than the fortune you had lost, I cannot feel easy in parting with you unless you consent to receive from my hands these trifling gifts, together with this horse, as a recompense for the sale of your mule. In token of my pity for you, and in consideration of the sufferings you have incurred, deign to accept them, and henceforward consider me in the light of a father, as I shall continue to feel the same interest in you as if you were really my son.” And then tenderly embracing the poor youth, whose continued sobs and tears choked his utterance, he took a sorrowful leave of him, imposing only perpetual silence as to the events which had just taken place. Unable to thank him, the youth pursued his way to Bologna, while the cavalier returned to the city of Avignon. But never having been made acquainted with the after fortunes of either party, I refrain from adding anything further on the subject.
* Some of the incidents of this story appear to have been suggested by those contained in the second of the first day of the “Pecorone” of Ser Giovanni, ante, p. 115.
On obtaining this final reply, the mother of the Moorish chief, though she despaired of beholding, much less of rescuing, her only and dear-loved son, nevertheless resolved to omit no means which wealth or ingenuity could supply to restore him to freedom and to his friends. After long deliberation, relying on her own resources, she determined to summon her train of ladies and other followers; and having made every preparation, she set out for the Christian camp. The cavalcade arriving at the royal tent, the courtiers, not a little surprised, proceeded to inform the king, who gave orders to receive the princess with all due honour and respect. When, after some discussion, she was admitted to an audience with the king, she addressed him at once in a noble and gentle strain, and to the following effect: “I doubt not, most noble prince, you are surprised that I should venture in this sudden and confident manner to appear before you; but if your majesty will deign to hear the reasons which have moved me to this strange step, I trust I shall rather awaken your compassion than your surprise. A prince, upon whom Heaven has bestowed your majesty’s reputed wisdom, cannot fail to have observed the extent of a mother’s wretchedness, of her unutterable woe, when suddenly deprived of her offspring; but, alas! how much more when 152 she loses the only child she possessed in the world. Such an afflicted and unhappy mother am I, with no hope of comfort, save in the fame of your majesty’s generosity and clemency, which have inspired me with confidence, and thus brought me a suppliant at your feet. And, as I doubt not such fame has justly informed me that faith and honour are the objects for which you combat, and virtue the law which you observe, by these I conjure you, most noble prince, to listen to a mother’s woes, and restore to her, in your mercy, her only and darling son. I feel too well that no ransom can be offered equal to a mother’s delight in clasping her lost one to her bosom: wherefore, my dear lord, I have only brought you, with a woman’s feeble power and heart, the whole of my slight possessions, if you will deign to receive them, and bestow them in the entertainment of your chivalric followers. You will thus no less restore my son than myself to life and freedom, and we shall ever hold ourselves, as far as our sacred laws permit, at the service and disposal of our liberator.”
Struck with the singular prudence and sagacity displayed in the conduct of the Moorish princess, although his followers advised him to seize her as his prisoner, the king, consulting the honour and dignity of his station, resolved to sacrifice them to no views of interest, and with cheerful looks replied as follows; “The noble confidence you have reposed in my, gentle lady, in thus appearing before me, together with the sorrowful motives of your arrival, have so far conquered my reluctance to listen to your proposals for the liberation of your noble son, that I now freely restore him to your arms, on the condition of his aiding me in my present enterprise; or, if he should be unable to accept these terms, that he will no longer advance to combat against my banners.”
The princess expressed her gratitude in the most eloquent terms; at the same time adding that she would not deceive so kind and generous a prince by pretending to engage for the performance of actions which rested in the power of another; but that this majesty might be assured that both she herself and everything she called her own would henceforth be wholly at his command, and that she trusted, moreover, so to influence her beloved son that the conditions should be inviolably preserved, even unto death. This high-minded reply was extremely pleasing to the liberal feelings of the king. Esteeming her more highly than before, he commanded the Moorish chief to be introduced, and after witnessing the mutual and abounded raptures of the mother and the son, turning towards the latter, he explained the conditions on which, as his friend and ally, he might become free. Unmoved at these words, Mole Fez immediately replied, “It would be idle to give thanks, most excellent prince, for offers which no gratitude, no services, can yield adequate return. But as I hold myself more bound to the laws of my country than to any existing circumstances, or to any terms that can be imposed, so I might be again called upon the fight the battles of that country, a call which I could not resist, whatever new obligations stood in my way. Heaven forbid it, then, that I should accept terms it might not be in my power to observe. I should still esteem myself a prisoner, 153 a captive in soul though free; and were I to serve you, both present and future times would say I had been your slave. In the name, then, of that nobility which you may justly boast, I entreat you either to let me go free as the airs of heaven, or to plunge me again into captivity to terminate my days in solitude.”
Recognising in the chieftain’s words the same loftiness and truth of character which distinguished his parent, and fired by their noble example, the victorious monarch exerted his generosity to the utmost, and advancing from his seat, exclaimed, “No, neither of you are my prisoners — you are free: with the whole of your treasures, without a single promise, you are free. Return with your excellent son; for you are deserving of it, lady: you know how to appreciate the liberality of kings. You threw yourself and your fortunes at my feet, and you shall never find such confidence in my virtue misplaced; to abuse it would be to fix a stain upon my crown and upon my memory. It remains with yourselves to be at peace or war with me; for I trust in my own good sword, without the aid of Mole Fez, to achieve the enterprise I have in view.” The monarch then dismissed the, full of gratitude, with many valuable proofs of his kindness, and they hastened joyfully to meet their friends, who expressed the utmost astonishment on beholding them. The courts and the public places were everywhere thronged to catch a sight of the mother and the son as they passed along; and the Moorish king, the princess, and the whole people, never ceased to extol the magnanimous virtues and chivalry of the Christian prince, Don Alfonso. But Mole Fez and the lady did not stop here; for, in the ensuing season, raising a powerful army, they passed over to assist the Portuguese monarch in his approaching campaigns. Great was his surprise and pleasure at their arrival, and receiving his noble allies with marks of the highest respect and favour, he ever afterwards esteemed Mole Fez in the light of his own brother. Seldom, indeed, were they seen apart; in battle they fought at each other’s side, and in peace they were friends and companions; and such was the gratitude and loyalty of Mole Fez, that he devoted himself to the interests of the Christian monarch serving him with fidelity as long as he lived.
In order to celebrate his successes in the most popular way, the king sent an invitation to all his chief lords and barons to be present with their ladies at an appointed festival, along with their followers and companions-at-arms. First in the train of favourite nobles, magnificently arrayed in the honours he had won, appeared the Count d’Armagnac, accompanied by his lovely and only daughter, whose charms attracted every eye. The joyous and splendid feast began, and was celebrated throughout many happy days with all the pleasures which love, and mirth, and music could afford; and still the star whose brightness eclipsed the beauties of the rest was the eye of the Count’s fair daughter. And as if to show that her taste was in no way inferior to her beauty and accomplishments, having glanced her eye through the ranks of youth and chivalry marshalled around her, it ever returned and rested on the fine features of the Spanish cavalier, the music of whose fame and virtues had already sounded sweet in her ears. Too incautiously dwelling on these, the loved idea took her fancy captive, until she at last became so deeply interested in him, that whenever she passed the day without seeing or conversing with him, she felt her existence a burden to her. Possessing no one in whom she could confide, in spite of all her struggles, her feelings, when in his presence, half betrayed the secret which preyed upon her heart: her eyes, her voice, and her very motions, when in his presence, or addressing him, all expressed far deeper and softer emotions than language dared to reveal. Nor was the object of them either so cold or so inexperienced as not to be sensible of the impression he had 155 made. But although he though her the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, the numerous favours he had received from the Count, her father, were so great as to banish every idea of his own gratification in attaching her affections to himself. With this virtuous resolve, he affected to misunderstand the nature of her impassioned feelings, assuming an apparent calmness in his manners, and a coldness, which struck a pang to the unhappy lady’s heart. Unable longer to contend with the variety of emotions which shook her bosom and hourly preyed upon her life, she resolved, with the impulse of despair, to upbraid him for his cruelty, to unfold her love, and to die. And, half effaced with blinding tears, she committed her unhappy secret to paper, filled with the very soul of wretched passion, an appeal which no heart of marble, much less that of a fond lover, could have withstood. The conclusion was, that she had resolved to die rather than to survive the weakness of betraying her unhappy love. The young page to whom she confided the letter, conceiving from her manner that it contained something of high importance, and fearful of the result, bore it immediately to the Count, his master. It is impossible to express her father’s surprise, and grief on learning the extravagance and folly of which this, his only daughter, had been guilty; but every noble spirit, shunning infamy and disgrace beyond death itself, may form some idea of his sensations. In this afflicting circumstance he adopted and rejected a thousand various plans of punishing his unworthy child; but as he felt that it ought to be something proportionate to the intolerable pain which she had thus inflicted upon him, he first determined to try the worth and firmness of the young Castilian, and took his measures accordingly. Having carefully wrapped and sealed the letter, he returned it to the boy with orders to deliver it to Messer Aries, and having waited for a reply, to bring it immediately back to him. These orders being promptly complied with, the young cavalier received it with a throb of ecstasy as he caught the name of his beloved; yet having already prepared his mind by strict discipline and self-control, he persevered in braving the fascinating danger. Armed strong in rectitude, he replied with all the delicacy and honour of a true knight to the lady’s letter, beseeching her in conclusion rather to inflict any kind of punishment upon him, even unto death, than tempt him either in thought or word to presume on what might offend the honour and dignity of the Count, her father. Dreading, nevertheless, to hurt the feelings of her he loved, and aware of the fatal consequences of scorned or disappointed affections in a woman’s soul, he implied the high honour and gratification he should have experienced in indulging such lofty hopes. “Would you venture,” he continued, “to throw yourself upon your father’s confidence, revealing to him every feeling of your breast (fully sensible as I am of the inequality of our lot), and were it possible that he should smile upon our loves, then, only then, might we pronounce ourselves blest; but otherwise forget me — hate me; for when I dwell on the obligations I owe to your father, neither beauty nor ambition, nor any charms or treasures upon earth, shall lead me to sully, in any manner or degree, the brightness of his name.”156
Having despatched his answer by the same discreet little messenger, he awaited in much fear and anxiety the result of the strange circumstances in which he was so deeply engaged. The page instantly ran to his master with the above reply, whose previous sorrow and indignation were much diminished on perusing the noble sentiments entertained by the cavalier, and such was his admiration and regard, that he even became gentle and loving as before to his beautiful but weak and unhappy girl. Under these feelings, without saying a word to his daughter, he hastened into the presence of his sovereign, to whom in no slight agitation he recounted the whole of the affair; an dafter unfolding his own feelings and sentiments on the subject, he entreated that the king would graciously deign to offer his advice. Gifted with great natural sagacity and prudence, the monarch expressed himself by no means surprised at the weak conduct shown by the young lady, being nothing, he declared, very strange or unusual; but he could scarcely prevail upon himself to believe the extraordinary resolution and constancy displayed by the cavalier. However high he had estimated his worth, he had never imagined him capable of such greatness of soul, in thus sacrificing both ambition and love at the shrine of duty and fidelity.
The king then advised, or rather commanded, him to adopt the most generous resolution in his power; and sending forthwith for the noble Castilian, he closed the door on his attendants, and seizing him affectionately by the hand, he exclaimed, “I have long been sensible, Aries, of your high worth, evinced in all your actions, since you first joined my armies under the patronage of the Count. There has been nothing wanting to complete the excellence of your character, save an occasion to display the hidden force and rectitude of your principles, in the trial of which you have acquitted yourself so nobly, so honourably, and respect the persons whom you loved. I am rejoiced to think that your virtues in peace are equal to the courage and skill you so well displayed in war. We are truly indebted to you, and must endeavour to find such a reward as you may like; such as may evince our gratitude for your good deeds, and hand down your virtue to other times. I have heard the whole of your generous conduct from the lips of the Count, and if nobility of mind and the best qualities of the heart may entitle you to the lady’s love, you not only deserve her, but the very highest and richest princess in the state. But she is beautiful, and loves you, and you are at liberty, when you so please, to take her for your wife.” The Count then likewise came forward, and confirming everything the king had said, tenderly embraced the cavalier, considering himself honoured in possessing such a son-in-law.
Equally surprised and rejoiced at the unexpected turn of affairs in his favour, the Castilian, with singular modesty, replied, “Although I am aware that the high authority of your majesty and the noble qualities of the Count are sufficient to exalt me to any degree of rank, I am, at the same time, too sensible of the inequality of my own birth and fortunes to venture upon such as step as you have generously proposed. Permit me to be near you r majesty, and to serve you to the utmost of my ability, as I have hitherto done; but let your majesty 157 and the Count both take it again into consideration how far the subject of your favour may be worthy of so high an honour.” But the generous monarch persisted in his intentions, and in order to bring the affair to a speedy and happy termination, he commanded that a sumptuous festival should be held the ensuing day in his palace, which took place in the most gay and magnificent style. Proud trains of lords and cavaliers and gay bevies of ladies, with music, dance, and song, gave life and spirit to the scene. In the midst of these proceedings, the fair daughter of the Count, who had remained ignorant of all the previous explanations, was led forward, arrayed in her bridal ornaments; at the same moment, Messer Aries, the Castilian cavalier, was proclaimed by the heralds without to the applauding people captain-general of the king’s armies, and immediately afterwards the monarch presented the young bride at the altar, where the noble cavalier received her hand.
The most rapturous surprise and joy beamed in the eyes of the lovers and the guests as this novel and happy ceremony was announced through the assembly. The feast and the dance revived with double spirit. Congratulations, commendations, and inquiries poured in on all sides upon the happy parties, until their union became the favourite topic no less of the court than of the people. Murmurs of applause ran through the rooms as the cavalier led forth his beautiful and happy bride to reap, at her father’s castles, the fruits of his virtue and his valour.