Brother and Brother-in-Law
(Day 4, Story 10)
"Since I am to finish the day," said Parlamente, "and promised yesterday to tell you why Rolandine's father had the castle built in which he kept her so long a prisoner, I will now fulfil my word."
THE Count de Jossebelin, father of Rolandine, had several sisters. Some made wealthy marriages, others became nuns, and one, who was incomparably handsomer than the rest, remained in his house unmarried. The brother was so fond of this sister that he preferred neither his wife nor his children to her, and, though she had many eligible offers of marriage, they were all rejected from his fear of losing her and being obliged to pay down money. Consequently she remained a great part of her life unmarried, living with strict propriety in her brother's house.
There was a young and handsome gentleman who had been reared in the house and who, as he grew in age, grew also in personal and mental endowments to that degree that he completely governed his master. When the latter had any message to send his sister, he always made this young gentleman the bearer of it, and as this took place morning and evening, it led to such a familiarity as presently ripened into love.
The young gentleman durst not for his life offend his master; the demoiselle was not without scruples of honor — and so they had no other fruition of their love than in conversing together, until the brother had said again and again to the lover that he wished he was of as good family as his sister, for he had never seen a man he would rather have for a brother-in-law. This was repeated so often that, after consulting together, the lovers came to the conclusion that if they married secretly they should easily be forgiven. Love, which makes people readily believe what they desire, persuaded them that no bad consequences would ensue for them, and with that hope they married, unknown to any one except a priest and some women.
After having for some years enjoyed the pleasure which two handsome persons who passionately love each other can reciprocally bestow, fortune, jealous of their happiness, roused up an enemy against them who, observing the demoiselle, became aware of her secret delights, being yet ignorant of her marriage. This person went and told the brother that the gentleman in whom he had such confidence visited his sister too often and at hours when a man ought never to enter her chamber. At first he could not believe this, such was his trust in his sister and the gentleman. But, as he loved his house's honor, he caused them to be observed so closely and set so many people on the watch that the poor innocent couple were at last surprised.
One evening, word being brought the brother that the gentleman was with his sister, he went straightway to her chamber and found them in bed together. Choking with rage and unable to speak, he drew his sword and ran after the gentleman to kill him, but the latter, being very nimble, evaded him, and, as he could not escape by the door, he jumped out of a window that looked upon the garden. The poor lady threw herself in her shift on her knees before her brother, crying, "Spare my husband's life, monsieur, for I have married him, and if he has offended you, let me alone suffer the punishment for he has done nothing but at my solicitation."
"Were he a thousand times your husband," replied the incensed brother, "I will punish him as a domestic who has deceived me." So saying, he went to the window and called out to his people to kill him, which was forthwith done before his eye and those of his sister.
At this sad spectacle, which her prayers and supplications had been unable to prevent, the poor wife was like one distracted.