Joceliande by A.E.W. Mason
The truth concerning the downfall of the Princess Joceliande
has never as yet been honestly inscribed. Doubtless there be few alive except
myself that know it; for from the beginning many strange and insidious
rumours were set about to account for her mishap, whereby great damage was
done to the memory of the Sieur Rudel le Malaise and Solita his wife; and
afterwards these rumours were so embroidered and painted by rhymesters that
the truth has become, as you might say, doubly lost. For minstrels take more
thought of tickling the fancies of those to whom they sing with joyous and
gallant histories than of their high craft and office, and hence it is that
though many and various accounts are told to this day throughout the
country-side by grandsires at their winter hearths, not one of them has so
much as a grain of verity. They are but rude and homely versions of the
chaunts of Troubadours.
And yet the truth is sweet and pitiful enough to furnish forth a song,
were our bards so minded. Howbeit, I will set it down here in simple prose;
for so my duty to the Sieur Rudel bids me, and, moreover, 'twas from this
event his wanderings began wherein for twenty years I bare him company.
And let none gainsay my story, for that I was not my master's servant at
the time, and saw not the truth with mine own eyes. I had it from the Sieur
Rudel's lips, and more than once when he was vexed at the aspersions thrown
upon his name. But he was ever proud, as befitted so knightly a gentleman,
and deigned not to argue or plead his honour to the world, but only with his
sword. Thus, then, it falls to me to right him as skilfully as I may. Though,
alas! I fear my skill is little worth, and calumnies are ever fresh to the
palate, while truth needs the sauce of a bright fancy to command it.
These columnies have assuredly gained some credit, because with ladies my
lord was ever blithe and débonnaire. That he loved many I do not deny;
but while he loved, he loved right loyally, and, indeed, it is no small
honour to be loved by a man of so much worship, even for a little — the
which many women thought also, and those amongst the fairest. And I doubt not
that as long as she lived, he loved his wife Solita no less ardently than
those with whom he fell in after she had most unfortunately died.
The Sieur Rudel was born within the castle of Princess Joceliande, and
there grew to childhood and from childhood to youth, being ever entreated
with great amity and love for his own no less than for his father's sake.
Though of a slight and delicate figure, he excelled in all manly exercises
and sports and in venery and hawking. There was not one about the court that
could equal him. Books too he read, and in many languages, labouring at
philosophies and logics, so that had you but heard him speak, and not marked
the hardihood of his limbs and his open face, you might have believed you
were listening to some doxical monk.
In the tenth year of his age came Solita to the castle, whence no man
knew, nor could they ever learn more than this, that she sailed out of the
grey mists of a November morning to our bleak Brittany coast in a
white-painted boat. A fisherman drew the boat to land, perceiving it when he
was casting his nets, and found a woman-child therein, cushioned upon white
satin; and marvelling much at the richness of her purveyance, for even the
sail of the boat was of white silk, he bore her straightway to the castle.
And the abbot took her and baptised her and gave her Sola for a name. "For,"
said he, "she hath come alone and none knoweth her parentage or place." In
time she grew to exceeding beauty, with fair hair clustering like finest silk
above her temples and curling waywardly about her throat; wondrous fair she
was and white, shaming the snowdrops, so that all men stopped and gazed at
her as she passed.
And the Princess Joceliande, perceiving her, joined her to the company of
her hand-maidens and took great delight in her for her modesty and beauty, so
that at last she changed her name. "Sola have you been called till now," she
said, "but henceforth shall your name be Solita, as who shall say 'you have
become my wont.'"
Meanwhile the Sieur Rudel was advanced from honour to honour, until he
stood ever at the right hand of the Princess, and ruled over her kingdom as
her chancellor and vicegerent. Her enemies he conquered and added their lands
and sovereignties to hers, until of all the kings in those parts, none had
such power and dominions as the Princess Joceliande. Many ladies, you may
believe, cast fond eyes on him, and dropped their gauntlet that he might bend
to them upon his knee and pick it up, but his heart they could not bend,
strive how they might, and to each and all he showed the same courtesy and
gentleness. For he had seen the maiden Solita, and of an evening when the
Court was feasting in the hall and the music of harps rippled sweetly in the
ears, he would slip from the table as one that was busied in statecraft, and
in company with Solita pace the terrace in the dark, beneath the lighted
windows. Yet neither spoke of love, though loving was their intercourse.
Solita for that her modesty withheld her, and she feared even to hope that so
great a lord should give his heart to her keeping; Rudel because he had not
achieved enough to merit she should love him. "In a little," he would mutter,
"in a little! One more thing must I do, and then will I claim my guerdon of
the Princess Joceliande."
Now this one more thing was the highest and most dangerous emprise of all
that he had undertaken. Beyond the confines of the kingdom there dwelt a
great horde of men that had come to Brittany from the East in many deep ships
and had settled upon the coast, whence they would embark and, travelling hard
by the land, burn and ravage the sea-borders for many days.
Against these did the Sieur Rudel make war, and gathering the nobles and
yeomen he mustered them in boats and prepared to sail forth to what he
believed was the last of his adventures, knowing not that it was indeed but
the beginning. And to the princess he said: "Lady, I have served you
faithfully, as a gentleman should serve his queen. From nothing have I drawn
back that could establish or increase you. Therefore when I get me home
again, one boon will I ask of you, and I pray you of your mercy grant it
"I will well," replied the princess. "For such loyal service hath no queen
known before — nay, not even Dame Helen among the Trojans."
So right gladly did the Sieur Rudel depart from her, and down he walked
among the sandhills, where he found Solita standing in a hollow in the midst
of a cloud of sand which the sharp wind whirled about her. Nothing she said
to him, but she stood with downcast head and eyes that stung with tears.
"Solita," said he, "the Princess hath granted me such boon as I may ask on
my return. What say you?"
And she answered in a low voice. "Who am I, my lord, that I should oppose
the will of the princess? A nameless maiden, meet only to yoke with a
At that the Sieur Rudel laughed and said, "Look you into a mirror, sweet!
and your face will gainsay your words."
She lifted her eyes to his and the light came into them again, so that
they danced behind the tears, and Rudel clipped her about the waist for all
that he had not as yet merited her, and kissed her upon the lips and the
forehead and upon her white hands and wrists.
But she, gazing past his head, saw the blowing sands beyond and the armed
men in the boats upon the sea, and "O, Rudel, my sweet lord!" she cried,
"never till this moment did I know how barren and lonely was the coast. Come
back, and that soon — for of a truth I dread to be left alone!"
"In God's good time and if so He will, I will come back, and from the
moment of my coming I will never again depart from you."
"Promise me that!" she said, clinging to him with her arms twined about
his neck, and he promised her, and so, comforting her a little more, he got
him into his boat and sailed away upon his errand.
But of all this, the Princess Joceliande knew nothing. From her balcony in
the castle she saw the Sieur Rudel sail forth. He stood upon the poop, the
wind blowing the hair back from his face, and as she watched his straight
figure, she said, "A boon he shall ask, but a greater will I grant. Surely no
man ever did such loyal service but for love, and for love's sake, he shall
share my throne with me." With that she wept a little for fear he might be
slain or ever he should return; but she remembered from how many noble
exploits he had come scatheless, and so taking heart once more she fell to
thinking of his black locks and clear olive face and darkly shining eyes.
For, in truth, these outward qualities did more enthral and delight her than
his most loyal services.
But for the maiden Solita, she got her back to her chamber and,
remembering her lord's advice, spied about for a mirror. No mirror, however,
did she possess, having never used aught else but a basin of clear water, and
till now found it all-sufficient, so little curious had she been concerning
the whiteness of her beauty. Thereupon she thought for a little, and
unbinding her hair so that it fell to her feet in a golden cloud, hied her to
Joceliande, who bade her take a book of chivalry and read aloud. But Solita
so bent her head that her hair fell ever across the pages and hindered her
from reading, and each time she put it roughly back from her forehead with
some small word of anger as though she was vexed.
"What ails you, child?" asked the princess.
"It is my hair," replied Solita. But the princess paid no heed. She heard
little, indeed, even of what was read, but sat by the window gazing out
across the grey hungry sea, and bethinking her of the Sieur Rudel and his
gallant men. And again Solita let her hair fall upon the scroll, and again
she tossed it back, saying, "Fie! Fie!"
"What ails you, child?" the princess asked.
"It is my hair," she replied, and Joceliande, smiling heedlessly, bade her
read on. So she read until Joceliande bade her stop and called to her, and
Solita came over to the window and knelt by the side of the princess, so that
her hair fell across the wrist of Joceliande and fettered it. "It is
ever in the way," said Solita, and she loosed it from the wrist of the
princess. But the princess caught the silky coils within her hand and
smoothed them tenderly. "That were easily remedied," she replied with a
smile, and she sought for the scissors which hung at her girdle.
But Solita bethought her that many men had praised the colour and softness
of her hair — why, she could not tell, for dark locks alone were
beautiful in her eyes. Howbeit men praised hers, and for Sieur Rudel's sake
she would fain be as praiseworthy as might be. Therefore she stayed
Joceliande's hand and cried aloud in fear, "Nay, nay, sweet lady, 'tis all
the gold I have, and I pray you leave it me who am so poor."
And the Princess Joceliande laughed, and replaced the scissors in her
girdle. "I did but make pretence, to try you," she said, "for, in truth, I
had begun to think you were some holy angel and no woman, so little share had
you in a woman's vanities. But 'tis all unbound, and I wonder not that it
hinders you. Let me bind it up!"
And while the princess bound the hair cunningly in a coronal upon her
head, Solita spake again hesitatingly, seeking to conceal her craft.
"Madame, it is easy for you to bind my hair, but for myself, I have no
mirror and so dress it awkwardly."
Joceliande laughed again merrily at the words. "Dear heart!" she cried.
"What man is it? Hast discovered thou art a woman after all? First thou
fearest for thy hair, and now thou askest a mirror. But in truth I like thee
the better for thy discovery." And she kissed Solita very heartily, who
blushed that her secret was so readily found out, and felt no small shame at
her lack of subtlety. For many ladies, she knew, had secrets — ay, even
from their bosom lords and masters — — and kept them without
effort in the subterfuge, whereas she, poor fool, betrayed hers at the first
"And what man is it?" laughed the princess. "For there is not one that
deserves thee, as thou shalt judge for thyself." Whereupon she summoned one
of her servants and bade him place a mirror in the bed-chamber of Solita,
wherein she might see herself from top to toe.
"Art content?" she asked. "Thus shalt thou see thyself, without blemish or
fault even for this crown of hair to the heel of thy foot. But I fear me the
sight will change all thy thoughts and incline thee to scorn of thy
Then she stood for a little watching the sunlight play upon the golden
head and pry into the soft shadows of the curls, and her face saddened and
her voice faltered.
"But what of me, Solita?" she said. "All men give me reverence, not one
knows me for a woman. I crave the bread of love, all day long I hunger for
it, but they offer me the polished stones of courtesy and respect, and so I
starve slowly to my death. What of me, Solita? What of me?"
But Solita made reply, soothing her:
"Madame," she said, "all your servants love you, but it beseems them not
to flaunt it before your face, so high are you placed above them. You order
their fortunes and their lives, and surely 'tis nobler work than meddling
with this idle love-prattle."
"Nay," replied the princess, laughing in despite of her heaviness, for she
noted how the blush on Solita's cheek belied the scorn of her tongue. "There
spoke the saint, and I will hear no more from her now that I have found the
woman. Tell me, did he kiss you?"
And Solita blushed yet more deeply, so that even her neck down to her
shoulders grew rosy, and once or twice she nodded her head, for her lips
would not speak the word.
Then Joceliande sighed to herself and said —
"And yet, perchance, he would not die for you, whereas men die for me
daily, and from mere obedience. How is he called?"
"Madame," she replied, "I may not tell you, for all my pride in him.
'Twill be for my lord to answer you in his good time. But that he would die
for me, if need there were, I have no doubt. For I have looked into his eyes
and read his soul."
So she spake with much spirit, upholding Sieur Rudel; but Joceliande was
sorely grieved for that Solita would not trust her with her lover's name, and
"And his soul which you did see was doubtless your own image. And thus it
will be with the next maiden who looks into his eyes. Her own image will she
see, and she will go away calling it his soul, and not knowing, poor fool,
that it has already faded from his eyes."
At this Solita kept silence, deeming it unnecessary to make reply. It
might be as the princess said with other men and other women, but the Sieur
Rudel had no likeness to other men, and in possessing the Sieur Rudel's love
she was far removed from other women. Therefore did she keep silence, but
Joceliande fancied that she was troubled by the words which she had spoken,
and straightway repented her of them.
"Nay, child," she said, and she laid her hand again upon Solita's head.
"Take not the speech to heart. 'Tis but the plaint of a woman whose hair is
withered from its brightness and who grows peevish in her loneliness. But
open your mind to me, for you have twined about my heart even as your curls
did but now twine and coil about my wrist, and the more for this pretty
vanity of yours. Therefore tell me his name, that I may advance him."
But once more Solita did fob her off, and the princess would no longer
question her, but turned her wearily to the window.
"All day long," she said, "I listen to soft speeches and honeyed tongues,
and all night long I listen to the breakers booming upon the sands, and in
truth I wot not which sound is the more hollow."
Such was the melancholy and sadness of her voice that the tears sprang
into Solita's eyes and ran down her cheeks for very pity of Joceliande.
"Think not I fail in love to you, sweet princess," she cried. "But I may
not tell you, though I would be blithe and proud to name him. But 'tis for
him to claim me of you, and I must needs wait his time."
But Joceliande would not be comforted, and chiding her roughly, sent her
to her chamber. So Solita departed out of her sight, her heart heavy with a
great pity, though little she understood of Joceliande's distress. For this
she could not know: that at the sight of her white beauty the Princess
Joceliande was ashamed.
And coming into her chamber, Solita beheld the mirror ranged against the
wall, and long she stood before it, being much comforted by the image which
she saw. From that day ever she watched the ladies of the court, noting
jealously if any might be more fair than she whom Sieur Rudel had chosen; and
often of a night when she was troubled by the aspect of some fair and
delicate new-comer, she would rise from her couch and light a taper, and so
gaze at herself until the fear of her unworthiness diminished. For there were
none that could compare with her in daintiness and fair looks ever came to
the castle of the Princess Joceliande.
But of the Sieur Rudel, though oft she thought, she never spake, biding
his good time, and the princess questioned her in vain. For she, whose heart
hitherto had lain plain to see, like a pebble in a clear brook of water, had
now learnt all the sweet cunning of love's duplicity.
Thus the time drew on towards the Sieur Rudel's home-coming, and ever the
twain looked out across the sea for the black boats to round the bluff and
take the beach — Joceliande from her balcony, Solita from the window of
her little chamber in the tower; and each night the princess gave orders to
light a beacon on the highest headland that the wayfarers might steer safely
down that red path across the tumbling waters.
So it fell that one night both ladies beheld two ships swim to the shore,
and each made dolorous moan, seeing how few of the goodly company that sailed
forth had got them home again, and wondering in sore distress whether Rudel
had returned with them or no.
But in a little there came a servant to the princess and told of one Sir
Broyance de Mille-Faits, a messenger from the neighbouring kingdom of Broye,
that implored instant speech with her. And being admitted before all the
Court assembled in the great hall, he fell upon his knees at the foot of the
princess, and, making his obeisance, said —
"Fair Lady Joceliande, I crave a boon, and I pray you of your gentleness
to grant it me."
"But what boon, good Sir Broyance?" replied the princess. "I know you for
a true and loyal gentleman who has ever been welcome at my castle. Speak,
then, your need, and if so be I may, you shall find me complaisant to your
Thereupon, Sir Broyance took heart and said:
"Since our king died, God rest his soul, there has been no peace or quiet
in our kingdom of Broye. 'Tis rent with strife and factions, so that no man
may dwell in it but he must fight from morn to night, and withal win no rest
for the morrow. The king's three sons contend for the throne, and meanwhile
is the country eaten up. Therefore am I sent by many, and those our chiefest
gentlemen, to ask you to send us Sieur Rudel, that he may quell these
conflicts and rule over us as our king."
So Sir Broyance spake and was silent, and a great murmur and acclamation
rose about the hall for that the Sieur Rudel was held in such honour and
worship even beyond his own country. But for the Princess Joceliande, she sat
with downcast head, and for a while vouchsafed no reply. For her heart was
sore at the thought that Sieur Rudel should go from her.
"There is much danger in the adventure," she said at length,
"Were there no danger, madame," he replied, "we should not ask Sieur Rudel
of you to be our leader, and great though the danger be, greater far is the
honour. For we offer him a kingdom."
Then the princess spake again to Sir Broyance:
"It may not be," she said. "Whatever else you crave, that shall you have,
and gladly will I grant it you. But the Sieur Rudel is the flower of our
Court, he stands ever at my right hand, and woe is me if I let him go, for I
am only a woman."
"But, madame, for his knighthood's sake, I pray you assent to our prayer,"
said Sir Broyance. "Few enemies have you, but many friends, whereas we are
sore pressed on every side."
But the princess repeated: "I am only a woman," and for a long while he
made his prayer in vain.
At last, however, the princess said:
"For his knighthood's sake thus far will I yield to you: Bide here within
my castle until Sieur Rudel gets him home, and then shall you make your
prayer to him, and by his answer will I be bound."
"That I will well," replied Sir Broyance, bethinking him of the Sieur
Rudel's valour, and how that he had a kingdom to proffer to him.
But the Princess Joceliande said to herself:
"I, too, will offer him a kingdom. My throne shall he share with me;" and
so she entertained Sir Broyance right pleasantly until the Sieur Rudel should
get him back from the foray. Meanwhile she would say to Solita, "He shall not
go to Broye, for in truth I need him;" and Solita would laugh happily,
replying, "It is truth: he will not go to Broye," and thinking thereto
silently, "but it is not the princess who will keep him, but even I, her poor
handmaiden. For I have his promise never to depart from me." So much
confidence had her mirror taught her, as it ever is with women.
But despite them both did the Sieur Rudel voyage to Broye and rule over
the kingdom as its king, and how that came about ye shall hear.
Now on the fourth day after the coming of Sir Broyance, the Princess
Joceliande was leaning over the baluster of her balcony and gazing seawards
as was her wont. The hours had drawn towards evening, and the sun stood like
a glowing wheel upon the farthest edge of the sea's grey floor, when she
beheld a black speck crawl across its globe, and then another and another, to
the number of thirty. Thereupon, she knew that the Sieur Rudel had returned,
and joyfully she summoned her tirewomen and bade them coif and robe her as
befitted a princess. A coronet of gold and rubies they set upon her head, and
a robe of purple they hung about her shoulders. With pearls they laced her
neck and her arms, and with pearls they shod her feet, and when she saw the
ships riding at their anchorage, and the Sieur Rudel step forth amid the
shouts of the sailors, then she hied her to the council-chamber and prepared
to give him instant audience. Yet for all her jewels and rich attire, she
trembled like a common wench at the approach of her lover, and feared that
the loud beating of her heart would drown the sound of his footsteps in the
But the Sieur Rudel came not, and she sent a messenger to inquire why he
tarried, and the messenger brought word and said:
"He is with the maiden Solita in the tower."
Then the princess stumbled as though she were about to fall, and her women
came about her. But she waved them back with her hand, and so stood shivering
for a little. "The night blows cold," she said; "I would the lamps were lit."
And when her servants had lighted the council-chamber, she sent yet another
messenger to Sieur Rudel, bidding him instantly come to her, and waited in
great bitterness of spirit. For she remembered how that she had promised to
grant him the boon that he should ask, and much she feared that she knew what
that boon was.
Now leave we the Princess Joceliande, and hie before her messenger to the
chamber of Solita. No pearls or purple robes had she to clad her beauty in,
but a simple gown of white wool fastened with a silver girdle about the
waist, and her hair she loosed so that it rippled down her shoulders and
nestled round her ears and face.
Thither the Sieur Rudel came straight from the sea, and —
"Love," he said, kissing her, "it has been a weary waste of days and
nights, and yet more weary for thee than for me. For stern work was there
ever to my hand — ay, and well-nigh more than I could do; but for thee
nought but to wait."
"Yet, my dear lord," she replied, "the princess did give me this mirror,
wherein I could see myself from top to toe, and a great comfort has it been
So she spake, and the messenger from the princess brake in upon them,
bidding the Sieur Rudel hasten to the council-chamber, for that the Princess
Joceliande waited this long while for his coming.
"Now will I ask for the fulfilment of her promise," said Rudel to Solita,
"and to-night, sweet, I will claim thee before the whole Court." With that he
got him from the chamber and, following the messenger, came to where the
princess awaited him.
"Madame," he said, "good tidings! By God's grace we have won the victory
over your enemies. Never again will they buzz like wasps about your coasts,
but from this day forth they will pay you yearly truage."
"Sir," she replied, rebuking him shrewdly, "indeed you bring me good
tidings, but you bring them over-late. For here have I tarried for you this
long while, and it beseems neither you nor me."
"Madame," he answered, "I pray you acquit me of the fault and lay the
blame on Love. For when sweet Cupid thrones a second queen in one's heart
beside the first, what wonder that a man forgets his duty? And now I would
that of your gentleness you would grant me your maiden Solita for wife."
"That I may not," returned Joceliande, stricken to the soul at that image
of a second queen. "A nameless child, and my handmaiden! Sieur Rudel, it
befits a man to look above him for a wife."
"And that, madame," he answered, "in very truth I do. Moreover, though no
man knows Solita's parentage and place, yet must she be of gentle nurture,
else had there been no silk sail to float her hitherwards; and so much it
liketh you to grant my boon, for God's love, I pray you, hold your
Thereupon was the princess sore distressed for that she had given her
promise. Howbeit she said: "Since it is so, and since my maiden Solita is the
boon you crave, I give her to you;" and so dismissed the Sieur Rudel from her
presence, and getting her back to her chamber, made moan out of all
"Lord Jesu," she cried, "of all my kingdom and barony, but one thing did I
hunger for and covet, and that one thing this child, whom of my kindness I
loved and fostered, hath traitorously robbed me of! Why did I take her from
So she wept for a great while, until she bethought her of a remedy. Then
she wiped her tears and gave order that Sir Broyance should come to her. To
him she said: "To-night at the high feast you shall make your prayer to the
Lord Rudel, and I myself will join with you, so that he shall become your
leader and rule over you as king."
So she spake, thinking that when the Sieur Rudel had departed, she would
privily put Solita to death — openly she dared not do it, for the great
love the nobles bore towards Rudel — and when Solita was dead, then
would she send again for Rudel and share her siege with him. Sir Broyance, as
ye may believe, was right glad at her words, and made him ready for the
feast. Hither, when the company was assembled, came the Sieur Rudel, clad in
a green tunic edged with fur of a white fox, and a chain set with stones of
great virtue about his neck. His hose were green and of the finest silk, and
on his feet he wore shoes of white doeskin, and the latchets were of gold. So
he came into the hall, and seeing him thus gaily attired with all his harness
off, much did all marvel at his knightly prowess. For in truth he looked more
like some tender minstrel than a gallant warrior. Then up rose Sir Broyance
"From the kingdom of Broye the nobles send greeting to the Sieur Rudel,
and a message."
And with that he set forth his errand and request; but the Sieur Rudel
laughed and answered:
"Sir Broyance, great honour you do me, and so, I pray, tell your
countrymen of Broye. But never more will I draw sword or feuter spear, for
this day hath the Princess Joceliande granted me her maiden Solita for wife,
and by her side I will bide till death."
Thereupon rose a great murmur of astonishment within the hall, the men
lamenting that the Sieur Rudel would lead them no more to battle, and the
women marvelling to each other that he should choose so mean a thing as
Solita for wife. But Sir Broyance said never a word, but got him from the
table and out of the hall, so that the company marvelled yet more for that he
had not sought to persuade the Sieur Rudel. Then said the Princess
Joceliande, and greatly was she angered both against Solita and Rudel:
"Fie, my lord! shame on you; you forget your knighthood!"
And he replied, "My knighthood, your highness, had but one use, and that
to win my sweet Solita."
Wherefore was Joceliande's heart yet hotter against the twain, and she
"Nay, but it is on us that the shame of your cowardice will fall. Even now
Sir Broyance left our hall in anger and scorn. It may not be that our
chiefest noble shall so disgrace us."
But Sieur Rudel laughed lightly, and answered her:
"Madame, full oft have I jeopardised my life in your good cause, and I
fear no charge of cowardice more than I fear thistle-down."
His words did but increase the fury of the princess, and she brake out in
most bitter speech:
"Nay, but it is a kitchen knave we have been honouring unawares, and
bidding sit with us at table!"
And straightway she called to her servants and bade them fetch the warden
of the castle with the fetters. But the Sieur Rudel laughed again, and
"Thus it will be impossible that I leave my dear Solita and voyage
perilously to Broye."
Nor any effort or resistance did he make, but lightly suffered them to
fetter him, the while the princess most foully mis-said him. With fetters
they prisoned his feet, and manacles they straitly fastened about his wrists,
and they bound him to a pillar in the hall by a chain about his middle.
"There shall you bide," she said, "in shameful bonds until you make
promise to voyage forth to Broye. For surely there is nothing so vile in all
this world as a craven gentleman."
With that she turned her again to the feast, though little heart she had
thereto. But the Sieur Rudel was well content; for not for all the honour in
Christendom would he break his word to his dear Solita. Howbeit, the nobles
were ever urgent that the princess should set him free, pleading the
worshipful deeds he had accomplished in her cause. But to none of them would
she hearken, and the fair gentle ladies of the Court greatly applauded her
for her persistence — and especially those who had erstwhile dropped
their gauntlets that Rudel might bend and pick them up. And many pleasant
jests they passed upon the Sieur Rudel, bidding him dance with them, since he
was loth to fight. But he paid no heed to them, nor could they provoke him by
any number of taunts. Whereupon, being angered at his silence, they were fain
to send to Solita and make their sport with her.
But that Joceliande would not suffer, and, rising, she went to Solita's
chamber and entreated her most kindly, telling her that for love of her the
Sieur Rudel would not adventure himself at Broye. Not a word did she say of
how she had mistreated him, and Solita answered her jocundly for that her
lord had held his pledge with her. But when the castle was still, the
princess took Solita by the hand and led her down the steps to where Rudel
stood against the pillar in the dark hall.
"For thy sake, sweet Solita," she said, "is he bound. For thy sake!" and
she made her feel the manacles upon his hands. And when Solita had so felt
his bonds, she wept, and made the greatest sorrow that ever man heard.
"Alas!" she cried, "that my dear lord should suffer in such straits. In
God's mercy, madame, I pray you let him go! Loyal service hath he done for
you, such as no other in the kingdom."
"Loyal service, I trow," replied the princess. "He hath brought such shame
upon my Court that for ever am I dishonoured. It may not be that I let him
go, without you give him back his word and bid him forth to Broye."
"And that will I never do," replied Solita, "for all your cruelty."
So the princess turned her away and gat her from the hall, but Solita
remained with her lord, making moan and easing his fetters with her hands as
best she might. Hence it fell out that she who should have comforted must
needs be comforted herself, and that the Sieur Rudel did right willingly.
The like, he would say to me, hath often happened to him since, and when
he was harassed with sore distress he must needs turn him about to stop a
woman's tears; for which he thanked God most heartily, and prayed that so it
might ever be, since thus he clean forgot his own sad plight. Whence,
meseems, may men understand how noble a gentleman was my good lord the Sieur
Now when the night was well spent and drawing on to dawn, Solita, for very
weariness, fell asleep at the pillar's foot, and Rudel began to take counsel
with himself if, by any manner of means, he might outwit the Princess
Joceliande. For this he saw, that she would not have him wed her handmaiden,
and for that cause, and for no cowardice of his, had so cruelly entreated
him. And when he had pondered a little with himself, he bent and touched
Solita with his hands, and called to her in a low voice.
"Solita," he said, "it is in Joceliande's heart to keep us twain each from
other. Rise, therefore, and get thee to the good abbot who baptised thee.
Ever hath he stood my friend, and for friendship's sake this thing he will
do. Bring him hither into the hall, that he may marry us even this night, and
when the morning comes I will tell the princess of our marriage; and so will
she know that her cruelty is of small avail, and release me unto thee."
Thereupon Solita rose right joyously.
"Surely, my dear lord," said she, "no man can match thee, neither in craft
nor prowess," and she hurried through the dark passages towards the lodging
of the abbot. Hard by this lodging was the chapel of the castle, and when she
came thereto the windows were ablaze with light, and Solita clapped her ear
to the door. But no sound did she hear, no, not so much as the stirring of a
mouse, and bethinking her that the good abbot might be holding silent vigil,
she gently pressed upon the door, so that it opened for the space of an inch;
and when she looked into the chapel, she beheld the Princess Joceliande
stretched upon the steps before the altar. Her coronet had fallen from her
head and rolled across the stones, and she lay like one that had fallen
asleep in the counting of her beads. Greatly did Solita marvel at the sight,
but no word she said lest she should wake the princess; and in a little,
becoming afeard of the silence and of the shadows which the flickering
candles set racing on the wall, she shut the door quickly and stole on tiptoe
to the abbot. Long she entreated him or ever she prevailed, for the holy man
was timorous, and feared the wrath of the princess. But at the last, for the
Sieur Rudel's sake, he consented, and married them privily in the hall as the
grey dawn was breaking across the sea.
Now, in the morning, the princess bid Solita be brought to her, and when
they were alone, gently and cunningly she spake:
"Child," she said, "I doubt not thy heart is hot against me for that I
will not enlarge the Sieur Rudel. Alas! fain were I to do this thing, but for
the honour of my Court I may not. Bound are we not by our wills but by our
necessities — and thus it is with all women. Men may ride forth and
shape their lives with their good swords; but for us, we must needs bide
where we were born, and order such things as fall to us, as best we can.
Therefore, child, take my word to heart: the Sieur Rudel loves thee, and thou
wouldst keep his love. Let my age point to thee the way! What if I release
him? No longer can he stay with us, holding high honour and dignity, since he
hath turned him from his knightlihood and avoided this great adventure, but
forth with you must he fare. And all day long will he sit with you in your
chamber, idle as a woman, and ever his thoughts will go back to the times of
his nobility. The clash of steel will grow louder in his ears; he will list
again to the praises of minstrels in the banquet-hall, and when men speak to
him of great achievements wrought by other hands, then thou wilt see the life
die out of his eyes, and his heart will become cold as stone, and thou wilt
lose his love. A great thing will it be for thee if he come not to hate thee
in the end. But if, of thy own free will, thou send him from thee, then shalt
thou ever keep his love. Thy image will ride before his eyes in the van of
battles; for very lack of thee he will move from endeavour to endeavour; and
so thy life will be enshrined in his most noble deeds."
At these words, with such cunning gentleness were they spoken, Solita was
"I cannot send him from me," she cried, "for never did woman so love her
lord — no, not ever in the world!"
"Then prove thy love," said Joceliande again. "A kingdom is given into his
hand, and he will not take it because of thee. It is a hard thing, I trow
right well. But the cross becomes a crown when a woman lifts it. Think! A
kingdom! And never yet was kingdom established but the stones of its walls
were mortised with the blood of women's hearts."
So she pleaded, hiding her own thoughts, until Solita answered her, and
"God help me, but he shall go to Broye!"
Much ado had the Princess Joceliande to hide her joy for the success of
her device; but Solita, poor lass! had neither eyes nor thoughts for her.
Forthwith she rose to her feet, and quickly gat her to the hall, lest her
courage should fail, before that she had accomplished her resolve. But when
she came near to the Sieur Rudel, blithely he smiled at her and called
"Solita, my wife." It seemed to her that words so sweet had never as yet been
spoken since the world began, and all her strength ebbed from her, and she
stood like one that is dumb, gazing piteously at her husband. Again Rudel
called to her, but no answer could she make, and she turned and fled sobbing
to the chamber of the princess.
"I could not speak," she said; "my lips were locked, and Rudel holds the
But the princess spoke gently and craftily, bidding her take heart, for
that she herself would go with her and second her words; and taking Solita by
the hand, she led her again to the hall.
This time Solita made haste to speak first. "Rudel," she said, "no honour
can I bring to you, but only foul disgrace, and that is no fit gift from one
who loves you. Therefore, from this hour I hold you quit of your promise and
pray you to undertake this mission and set forth for Broye."
But the Sieur Rudel would hearken to nothing of what she said.
"No foul disgrace can come to me," he cried, "but only if I prove false to
you and lose your love. My promise I will keep, and all the more for that I
see the Princess Joceliande hath set you on to this."
But Solita protested that it was not so, and that of her own will and
desire she released him, for the longing to sacrifice herself for her dear
lord's sake grew upon her as she thought upon it. Yet he would not
"My word I passed to you when you were a maid, and shall I not keep it now
that you are a wife?" he cried.
"Wife?" cried the princess, "you are his wife?" And she roughly gripped
Solita's wrist so that the girl could not withhold a cry.
"In truth, madame," replied the Sieur Rudel, "even last night, in this
hall, Solita and I were married by the good abbot, and therefore I will not
leave her while she lives."
Still Joceliande would not believe it, bethinking her that the Sieur Rudel
had hit upon the pretence as a device for his enlargement; but Solita showed
to her the ring which the abbot had taken from the finger of her lord and
placed upon hers, and then the princess knew that of a surety they were
married, and her hatred for Solita burned in her blood like fire.
But no sign she gave of what she felt, but rather spoke with greater
softness to them both, bidding them look forward beyond the first delights of
love, and behold how all their years to come were the price they needs must
Now, while they were yet debating each with other, came Sir Broyance into
the hall, and straightway the princess called to him and begged him to add
his prayers to Solita's. But he answered:
"That, madame, I will not do, for, indeed, the esteem I have for the Sieur
Rudel is much increased, and I hold it no cowardice that he should refuse a
kingdom for his wife's sake, but the sweetest bravery. And therefore it was
that I broke off my plea last night and sought not to persuade him."
At that Rudel was greatly rejoiced, and said:
"Dost hear him, Solita? Even he who most has need of me acquits me of
disgrace. Truly I will never leave thee while I live."
But the princess turned sharply to Sir Broyance. "Sir, have you changed
your tune?" she said; "for never was a man so urgent as you with me for the
Sieur Rudel's help."
"Alas! madame," he replied, "I knew not then that he was plighted to the
maiden Solita, or never would I have borne this message. For this I surely
know, that all my days are waste and barren because I suffered my mistress to
send me from her after a will-of-the-wisp honour, even as Solita would send
Thereupon Solita brake in upon him:
"But, my lord, you have won great renown, and far and wide is your prowess
known and sung."
"That avails me nothing," he replied, "my life rings hollow like an empty
cup, and so are two lives wasted."
"Nay, my lord, neither life is wasted. For much have you done for others,
though maybe little for yourself, while for her you loved the noise of your
achievements must have been enough."
"Of that I cannot tell," he answered. "But this I know: she drags a pale
life out behind convent walls. Often have I passed the gate with my warriors,
but never could I hold speech with her."
"She will have seen your banners glancing in the sun," said Solita, "and
so will she know her sacrifice was good." Thereupon she turned her again to
her husband. "For my sake, dear Rudel, I pray you go to Broye."
But still he persisted, saying he would not depart from her till death,
until at last she ceased from her importunities, and went sadly to her
chamber. Then she unbound her hair and stood gazing at her likeness in the
"O cursed beauty," she cried, "wherein I took vain pride for my sweet
lord's sake — truly art thou my ruin and snare!" And while she thus
made moan, the princess came softly into her chamber.
"He will not leave me, madame," she sobbed. Joceliande came over to her
and gently laid her hand upon her head and whispered in her ear, "Not while
For awhile Solita sat silent.
"Ay, madame," she said at length, "even as I came alone to these coasts,
so will I go from them;" and slowly she drew from its sheath a little knife
which she carried at her girdle. She tried the point upon her finger, so that
the blood sprang from the prick and dropped on her white gown. At the sight
she gave a cry and dropped the knife, and "I cannot do it" she said, "I have
not the courage. But you, madame! Ever have you been kind to me, and
therefore show me this last kindness."
"I will well," said the princess; and she made Solita to sit upon a couch,
and with two bands of her golden hair she tied her hands fast behind her, and
so laid her upon her back on the couch. And when she had so laid her she
"But for all that you die, he shall not go to Broye, but here shall he
bide, and share my throne with me."
Thereupon did Solita perceive all the treachery of Princess Joceliande,
and vainly she struggled to free her hands and to cry out for help. But
Joceliande clapped her palm upon Solita's mouth, and drawing a gold pin from
her own hair, she drove it straight into her heart, until nothing but the
little knob could be seen. So Solita died, and quickly the princess wiped the
blood from her breast, and unbound her hands and arranged her limbs as though
she slept. Then she returned to the hall, and, summoning the warden, bade him
loose the Sieur Rudel.
"It shall be even as you wish," she said to him. Wise and prudent had she
been, had she ended with that; but her malice was not yet sated, and so she
suffered it to lead her to her ruin. For she stretched out her hand to him
and said, "I myself will take you to your wife." And greatly marvelling, the
Sieur Rudel took her hand and followed.
Now when they were come to Solita's chamber, the princess entered first,
and turned her again to my Lord Rudel and laid her finger to her lips,
saying, "Hush!" Therefore he came in after her on tiptoe and stood a little
way from the foot of the couch, fearing lest he might wake his wife.
"Is she not still?" asked Joceliande in a whisper. "Is she not still and
"Still and white as a folded lily," he replied, "and like a folded lily,
too, in her white flesh there sleeps a heart of gold." Therewith he crept
softly to the couch and bent above her, and in an instant he perceived that
her bosom did not rise and fall. He gazed swiftly at the princess; she was
watching him, and their glances met. He dropped upon his knees by the couch
and felt about Solita's heart that he might know whether it beat or not, and
his fingers touched the knob of Joceliande's bodkin. Gently he drew the gown
from Solita's bosom, and beheld how that she had been slain. Then did he
weep, believing that in truth she had killed herself, but the princess must
needs touch him upon the shoulder.
"My lord," she said, "why weep for the handmaid when the princess
Then the Sieur Rudel rose straightway to his feet and said:
"This is thy doing!" For a little Joceliande denied it, saying that of her
own will and desire Solita had perished. But Rudel looked her ever sternly in
the face, and again he said, "This is thy doing!" and at that Joceliande
could gainsay him no more. But she dropped upon the floor, and kissed his
feet, and cried:
"It was for love of thee, Rudel. Look, my kingdom is large and of much
wealth, yet of no worth is it to me, but only if it bring thee service and
great honour. A princess am I, yet no joy do I have of my degree, but only if
thou share my siege with me."
Then Rudel broke out upon her, thrusting her from him with his hand and
spurning her with his foot as she crouched upon the floor.
"No princess art thou, but a changeling. For surely princess never did
such foul wrong and crime;" and even as he spake, many of the nobles burst
into the chamber, for they had heard the outcry below and marvelled what it
might mean. And when Rudel beheld them crowding the doorway, "Come in, my
lords," said he, "so that ye may know what manner of woman ye serve and
worship. There lies my dear wife, Solita, murdered by this vile princess, and
for love of me she saith, for love of me!" And again he turned him to
Joceliande. "Now all the reverence I held thee in is turned to hatred, God be
thanked; such is the guerdon of thy love for me."
Joceliande, when she heard his injuries, knew indeed that her love was
unavailing, and that by no means might she win him to share her siege with
her. Therefore her love changed to a bitter fury, and standing up forthwith
she bade the nobles take their swords and smite off the Sieur Rudel's head.
But no one so much as moved a hand towards his hilt. Then spake Rudel
"O vile and treacherous," he cried, "who will obey thee?" and his eyes
fell upon Solita where she lay in her white beauty upon the golden pillow of
her hair. Thereupon he dropped again upon his knees by the couch, and took
her within his arms, kissing her lips and her eyes, and bidding her wake;
this with many tears. But seeing she would not, but was dead in very truth,
he got him to his feet and turned to where the princess stood like stone in
the middle of the chamber. "Now for thy sin," he cried, "a shameful death
shalt thou die and a painful, and may the devil have thy soul!"
He bade the nobles depart from the chamber, and following them the last,
firmly barred the door upon the outside. Thus was the Princess Joceliande
left alone with dead Solita, and ever she heard the closing and barring of
doors and the sound of feet growing fainter and fainter. But no one came to
her, loud though she cried, and sorely was she afeard, gazing now at the dead
body, now wondering what manner of death the Sieur Rudel planned for her.
Then she walked to the window if by any chance she might win help that way,
and saw the ships riding at their anchorage with sails loose, and heard the
songs of the sailors as they made ready to cast free; and between the coast
and the castle were many men hurrying backwards and forwards with all the
purveyance of a voyage. Then did she think that she was to be left alone in
the tower, to starve to death in company of the girl she had murdered, and
great moan she made; but other device was in the mind of my ingenious master
Lord Rudel. For all about the castle he piled stacks of wood and drenched
them with oil, bethinking him that Solita his wife, if little joy she had had
of her life, should have undeniable honour in her obsequies. And so having
set fire to the stacks, he got him into the ships with all the company that
had dwelled within the castle, and drew out a little way from shore. Then the
ships lay to and watched the flames mounting the castle walls. The tower
wherein the Princess Joceliande was prisoned was the topmost turret of the
building, so that many a roof crashed in, and many a rampart bowed out and
crumbled to the ground, or ever the fire touched it. But just as night was
drawing on, lo! a great tongue of flame burst through the window from within,
and the Sieur Rudel beheld in the midst of it as it were the figure of a
Thereupon he signed to his sailors to hoist the sail again, and the other
ships obeying his example, he led the way gallantly to Broye.