The Fifth Book/Chapter XXIV

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How there was a ball in the manner of a tournament, at which Queen Whims was present

After supper there was a ball in the form of a tilt or a tournament, not only worth seeing, but also never to be forgotten. First, the floor of the hall was covered with a large piece of velveted white and yellow chequered tapestry, each chequer exactly square, and three full spans in breadth.

Then thirty-two young persons came into the hall; sixteen of them arrayed in cloth of gold, and of these eight were young nymphs such as the ancients described Diana's attendants; the other eight were a king, a queen, two wardens of the castle, two knights, and two archers. Those of the other band were clad in cloth of silver.

They posted themselves on the tapestry in the following manner: the kings on the last line on the fourth square; so that the golden king was on a white square, and the silvered king on a yellow square, and each queen by her king; the golden queen on a yellow square, and the silvered queen on a white one: and on each side stood the archers to guide their kings and queens; by the archers the knights, and the wardens by them. In the next row before 'em stood the eight nymphs; and between the two bands of nymphs four rows of squares stood empty.

Each band had its musicians, eight on each side, dressed in its livery; the one with orange-coloured damask, the other with white; and all played on different instruments most melodiously and harmoniously, still varying in time and measure as the figure of the dance required. This seemed to me an admirable thing, considering the numerous diversity of steps, back-steps, bounds, rebounds, jerks, paces, leaps, skips, turns, coupes, hops, leadings, risings, meetings, flights, ambuscadoes, moves, and removes.

I was also at a loss when I strove to comprehend how the dancers could so suddenly know what every different note meant; for they no sooner heard this or that sound but they placed themselves in the place which was denoted by the music, though their motions were all different. For the nymphs that stood in the first file, as if they designed to begin the fight, marched straight forwards to their enemies from square to square, unless it were the first step, at which they were free to move over two steps at once. They alone never fall back (which is not very natural to other nymphs), and if any of them is so lucky as to advance to the opposite king's row, she is immediately crowned queen of her king, and after that moves with the same state and in the same manner as the queen; but till that happens they never strike their enemies but forwards, and obliquely in a diagonal line. However, they make it not their chief business to take their foes; for, if they did, they would leave their queen exposed to the adverse parties, who then might take her.

The kings move and take their enemies on all sides square-ways, and only step from a white square into a yellow one, and vice versa, except at their first step the rank should want other officers than the wardens; for then they can set 'em in their place, and retire by him.

The queens take a greater liberty than any of the rest; for they move backwards and forwards all manner of ways, in a straight line as far as they please, provided the place be not filled with one of her own party, and diagonally also, keeping to the colour on which she stands.

The archers move backwards or forwards, far and near, never changing the colour on which they stand. The knights move and take in a lineal manner, stepping over one square, though a friend or foe stand upon it, posting themselves on the second square to the right or left, from one colour to another, which is very unwelcome to the adverse party, and ought to be carefully observed, for they take at unawares.

The wardens move and take to the right or left, before or behind them, like the kings, and can advance as far as they find places empty; which liberty the kings take not.

The law which both sides observe is, at the end of the fight, to besiege and enclose the king of either party, so that he may not be able to move; and being reduced to that extremity, the battle is over, and he loses the day.

Now, to avoid this, there is none of either sex of each party but is willing to sacrifice his or her life, and they begin to take one another on all sides in time, as soon as the music strikes up. When anyone takes a prisoner, he makes his honours, and striking him gently in the hand, puts him out of the field and combat, and encamps where he stood.

If one of the kings chance to stand where he might be taken, it is not lawful for any of his adversaries that had discovered him to lay hold on him; far from it, they are strictly enjoined humbly to pay him their respects, and give him notice, saying, God preserve you, sir! that his officers may relieve and cover him, or he may remove, if unhappily he could not be relieved. However, he is not to be taken, but greeted with a Good-morrow, the others bending the knee; and thus the tournament uses to end.