Gesta Romanorum Vol. I (1871)/Of just Recompence
OF JUST RECOMPENCE.
A very rich and powerful emperor had an only daughter of uncommon beauty. She was consigned to the care of five soldiers, who were commanded to be constantly in arms; and every day a stated sum was paid them out of the king's treasury. This emperor had a seneschal whom he greatly favoured; and a valuable but ferocious dog, which it was necessary to confine with triple chains. It happened, that as the emperor lay in bed, he formed a resolution to proceed to the Holy Land; and in the morning, when he arose, sent for the seneschal, and said, "I am about to undertake an expedition to Palestine; to your vigilance I commit my only daughter with the soldiers of her guard. The dog, likewise, which I specially value, I entrust to your care; and, on pain of instant death, let there be no deficiency in attendance upon my daughter. You shall supply the soldiers with all that they require; but observe that the dog is securely chained, and fed sparingly, so that his ferocity may abate." The seneschal approved of all the emperor's injunctions, and promised faithfully to comply with them; instead of which he acted in direct opposition. The dog was fed with the most unsuitable food, and not guarded as he ought to have been. He diminished the comforts, and even denied the necessaries of life to the lady. He robbed the soldiers of their pay, who being needy and unemployed, roamed over the country in great distress. As for the poor girl, forsaken and destitute, she passed from her chamber into the court-yard of the hall which she occupied, and seating herself upon the pavement, gave free course to her sorrows. Now the dog, whose savage nature improper ailment had augmented, burst, by a sudden and violent movement from the bonds that enchained him, and tore her limb from limb. When this afflicting circumstance was known in the kingdom, it excited universal regret. Messengers were immediately despatched to the emperor, who hastened his return with all possible expedition. The seneschal was summoned before him, and asked categorically why the lady was unprovided for, the soldiers unpaid, and the dog improperly fed, contrary to his express command. But the man was unable to answer, and offered not the least excuse. The torturers, therefore, were called in; he was bound hand and foot, and thrown into a red-hot furnace. The emperor's decree gave satisfaction to the whole empire. (25)
My beloved, the emperor is our Lord Jesus Christ; the fair daughter is the human soul; the five soldiers are the five senses, and the dog is carnal affections, which disturb and slay the spirit. The triple chain is love to God—the fear of offending him, and shame when we have done so. The seneschal is any man to whom the care of the senses, and the guardianship of the soul is committed.
Note 25.Page 119.
This is the twenty-sixth chapter in Warton's Analysis.