Gesta Romanorum Vol. I (1871)/Of Constancy
There once lived a king who had a beautiful and beloved daughter. After his death, she succeeded to the throne, but being young and unprotected, a certain tyrannical duke came to her, and, by means of large promises, won her to dishonor. When his iniquitous purpose was accomplished, the girl wept bitterly; and soon after the tyrant expelled her from the inheritance. Thus reduced from the splendours of royalty, to the lowest state of wretchedness, she solicited alms of the passengers. It happened that as she sat weeping by the way side, a certain knight passed by, and observing her great beauty, became enamoured of her. "Fair lady," said he, "what are you?" "I am," replied the weeping girl, "the only daughter of a king, after whose death, a tyrant seduced and abused me, and then deprived me of my inheritance." "Well," returned the knight, "are you willing to marry me?" "Oh! my lord," exclaimed she, "I desire it beyond any thing that could happen." "Then plight me your faith," said the knight; "promise to receive no one for your husband but me, and I will make war upon the tyrant, and reinstate you in your possessions. But if I fall in the conflict, I entreat you to retain my bloody arms under your care, in testimony of affection; that in case any one hereafter shall desire your love, you may remember the proof I have given of my attachment and devotion to your service." "I promise faithfully," returned she, "to comply with your wishes: but, oh! may your life be safe as my affection!" The knight therefore armed himself, and proceeded to engage the tyrant, who had heard of his intention, and prepared for the attack. The soldier, however, overcame him, and cut off his head: but, receiving a mortal wound, he died on the third day. The lady bewailed his death, and hung up his bloody armour in her hall. She visited it frequently, and washed it with bitter tears. Many noblemen sought to espouse her, and made magnificent promises; but invariably before returning an answer, she entered the hall of the bloody armour, and surveying it stedfastly, exclaimed, amid abundance of tears, "Oh! thou, who devotedst thyself to death for one so unworthy, and restoredst me my kingdom! far be it from me to abjure my plighted faith."—Then returning to those who sought her love, she declared her resolution, never to unite herself with another, but to remain single to the end of her life. And so it was done.
My beloved, the king is our heavenly Father: and the daughter is the soul seduced by the devil. The wayside is the world. The soldier who rode past, is the Son of God; the bloody armour is his death and passion.
- See Tale XXV., which differs but little.