Canterbury Tales: The Promise of Dorigen (end)

This story is part of the Canterbury Tales unit. Story source: The Chaucer Story Book by Eva March Tappan (1908).

The Promise of Dorigen (end)

Then Dorigen went forth from her husband's house almost mad with grief. Aurelius in the hope of seeing her had hardly taken his eyes from her door, and now he walked by a way where they could not help meeting. As soon as he saw her, he saluted her with a most eager curtsy, but she only moaned, "Alas, alas!" and he entreated her to tell him what her grief might be. When the story came to his ears, then, anxious as he was to win her, yet he could not help pitying her and honoring that noble man, her husband, who loved his wife so dearly and so unselfishly that he would rather lose her than have her break her word.

Then said Aurelius, "Madam, farewell. You are the best and truest wife that I have ever seen in all this land. Perchance a squire can do a courtesy as well as a knight. So, go you back to your dear lord Arviragus, and say to him that, as he would rather have you keep your promise and leave him to suffer, so should I rather suffer all my life with longing for you than come between you and your love, and so I bid you my farewell."

She knelt before him, and thanked him, and then she went home to her sorrowing husband and told him all. And from that day their lives passed on in happiness and peace, for never was there shadow of disagreement between them, and day by day they loved each other more dearly.

There is but one more word to say, and that concerns the thousand pounds. "Alas," groaned Aurelius, "that I have promised a thousand pounds of gold to this magician. What shall I do? I could pay him a portion every year and thank him for his great courtesy, if he will permit, but if I have to pay him all at once, I must sell my lands and live a beggar; there is no other way. Whatever comes, I will not lie; I will keep my promised word."

With a sad heart he went to his treasury and took out five hundred pounds. Then he went to the magician and said, "Master, I have never yet broken my word, and my debt to you shall be paid if I have to go forth from my home as a beggar, but if I give you surety, would you grant me a delay of two or three years? If not, I must sell my lands."

The magician demanded sternly, "Did I not keep my agreement with you?"

"Surely you did, and to the letter," the squire replied.

"Did you not win your lady?" the magician asked.

"Oh no," said the squire, and sighed sorrowfully.

"How was that? I pray you tell me if you can."

Aurelius told the whole story and ended with the words, "Arviragus would rather die in sorrow than that his wife should be false to her word, so he bade her come to me. Dorigen had never heard of magical appearances when she gave her promise, and she sorrowed so sadly that I sent her back to him. That is all; there is no more to the story."

The magician answered, "Dear brother, he is a knight and you are a squire, but you were equally noble. Now surely a clerk can do as honest a deed as any of you and, therefore, sir, I release you from the thousand pounds as freely as if I had never seen you. You paid well for my food and lodging, and not a penny will I take for either skill or work. It is enough. Farewell, and good-day."

Now of these three generous men, which one was the most generous?

(600 words)

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