Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Canterbury Tales: The Promise of Dorigen (cont. again)

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

The Promise of Dorigen (cont. again)

The master called his squire and said, "It is now nearly an hour since I and my two guests came into my library. Is the supper ready?"

"Sir," replied the squire, "the table stands waiting, for all things are prepared."

"Then we will go and sup," said the master. "Even these eager lovers have to eat and rest."

There was no question that this was a magician of amazing power. After what the brothers had seen, they did not doubt that he could do so small a thing as conceal a few rocks from view for a while, and so, when their supper had been eaten, they fell to business. There was no need of explanations or long stories to a man so wise that he knew them all beforehand, so they asked him directly what guerdon he would demand for removing every rock on the coast of Brittany from the Gironde to the mouth of the Seine.

"That is not so easy a task," the magician declared. "It is quite a different matter from sitting quietly in a library and showing you a few deer and a little jousting. I would not attempt it for any trifling reward. I could not think of undertaking it for less than a thousand pounds, and verily, I am not eager to do it at any price."

"A thousand pounds!" Aurelius cried joyfully, "that is nothing. Folk say the world is round, and I would gladly give the whole round world if I were lord of it. I take your offer, master; the bargain is made. You shall have your payment on the instant, but do not delay us here one moment beyond tomorrow morning."

"I pledge my faith to you," responded the magician.

As soon as the morrow had come, they went to Brittany by the nearest way. The master set to work at once with his spells and magic circles and incantations, but, work as fast as ever he could, he could not satisfy the restless Aurelius, who would one moment bow in reverence to his knowledge and the next moment threaten to run him through with his sword because he worked so slowly. At length, however, the marvel was accomplished: not a rock was to be seen. Aurelius fell down at the master's feet and thanked him, and begged his pardon most humbly if in his eagerness he had done aught amiss.

He went straight to Dorigen, fell on his knees before her, and said, "Madam, do you remember that of your great kindness you promised that when every rock on the coast should have disappeared, you would leave Arviragus and come to me as my wife? Behold, Madam, not one remains in sight," and then he took his leave.

Dorigen stood like a statue, her face as white as marble, for it had never entered her mind that such a miracle could come to pass. She gazed out upon the water, where not one rock was visible; she gazed shudderingly down the path taken by Aurelius; and then she went to her own house, but not to rest, for there she wept and wailed and groaned and swooned. She had no comfort in her woe and no one to whom she might venture to tell her trouble, for Arviragus was from home.

When her husband returned, he asked her why she wept, and at this she only wept the more. "Oh, that I had never been born!" she groaned. Arviragus did his best to soothe and comfort her, and at length she told him the sad story, how fearful she had been lest the boat which bore her love might come to grief on the sharp-pointed rocks, and how, wearied and indignant at the persistency of Aurelius, she had declared, half in grave anger and half in scorn, "Yes, when those black, threatening rocks on Brittany's coast have disappeared, then will I leave my dear Arviragus and come to you."

Her husband comforted her as well as he could, for his own heart was breaking. When she was somewhat soothed, he said quietly, but in the deepest sorrow, "My Dorigen, truth is the noblest thing in the world. I love you so that I would rather lose you and have you true than keep you with a broken promise." The strong man burst into a flood of tears, but as soon as he could speak, he bade her leave him and go to find Aurelius, "and I will bear my woe as best I can," he said.


(700 words)










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