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  • Il Novellino

    XX
    Of the great liberality and courtesy of the King of England

    The young King of England squandered and gave away all his possessions.

    Once a poor knight beheld the cover of a silver dish, and said to himself : if I could but hide that upon me, my household could thrive thereon for many a day. He hid the cover on his person. The seneschal, when the dinner was ended, examined the silver, and found that the dish was missing. So they began to spread the news and to search the knights at the door.

    The young King had observed him who had taken it,and came to him silently, and said to him very softly : give it to me, for I shall not be searched. And the knight all shamefaced, obeyed his behest.

    Outside the door, the young King gave it back to him and hid it on him, and then he sent for him, and gave him the other half of the dish.

    And his courtesy even went further ; for one night some impoverished gentlemen entered his room in the belief that he was asleep. They collected his arms and clothes in order to steal them. One of them was reluctant to leave behind a rich counterpane which was covering the King, and he seized it and began to pull. The King, for fear he should remain uncovered, took hold of the end of it and held it fast, while the other tugged, and the knights present, in order to save time, lent him a hand.

    And then the king spoke : this is not theft but robbery–to writ, taking by force. The knights fled when they heard him speak, for they had believed him to be sleeping.

    One day, the old King, the father of this young King, took him harshly to task, saying, where is your treasure?

    And he answered : Sire, I have more than you have. There was much discussion. Both sides bound themselves to a wager.

    The day was fixed when each was to show his treasure.

    The young King invited all the barons of the country who were in the neighbourhood. His father set up that day a sumptuous pavilion and sent for gold and silver in dishes and plates and much armour and a great quantity of precious stones, and laid all on his carpets and said to his son : where is your treasure? Thereupon the son drew his sword from its scabbard.

    The assembled knights crowded in from the streets and the squares. The entire city seemed to be full of knights.

    The King was unable to defend himself against them. The gold remained in the power of the young King, who said to his knights : take your treasure. Some took gold, some plate, some one thing and some another, so that in a little while everything was distributed. The father gathered all his forces to take the treasure.

    The son shut himself up in a castle, and Bertrand de Born was with him. The father came to besiege him.

    One day through being oversure, he was struck in the head by an arrow (for he was pursued by misfortune) and killed.

    But before his death he was visited by all his creditors, and they asked him for the treasure which they had lent him. Whereat the young King answered : sirs, you come at a bad season, for my treasure has been distributed. My possessions are all given away. My body is infirm, and it would be a poor pledge for you.

    But he sent for a notary, and when the notary had come, that courteous king said to him: write that I bind my soul to perpetual bondage until such time as my creditors are paid. Then he died. After his death they went to his father and asked for the money. The father answered them roughly, saying: you are the men who lent to my son wherefore he waged war upon me, and therefore under the penalty of your life and goods take yourselves out of my dominions.

    Then one of them spoke and said : Sire, we shall not be the losers, for we have his soul in our keeping.

    And the king asked in what way, and they showed him the document.

    Then the king humbled himself and said: God forfend that the soul of so valiant a man should be in bondage for money, and he ordered them to be paid, and so it befell.

    Then Bertran de Born came into his hands, and he asked for him and said : you declared you had more sense than any man in the world ; now where is your sense? Bertran replied : Sire, I have lost it. And when did you lose it? I lost it when your son died.

    Then the King knew that he had lost his wit for love of his son1, so he pardoned him and loaded him with rich gifts.

    1 The passage is not clear and is probably corrupt. I have added the word "lost". For Bertran see Dante, Inf. XXVIII, 134, 22.

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    Il Novellino : The Hundred Old Tales
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    Storer, Edward, trans. Il Novellino: The Hundred Old Tales. London: G. Routledge & Sons Ltd.; New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., [1925]. 72-76

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