Mediæval Tales [Gesta Romanorum Selections] | Annotated Tale

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Vengeance Deferred

A LAW was made at Rome, that no man should marry for beauty, but for riches only; and that no woman should be united to a poor man, unless he should by some means acquire wealth equal to her own. A certain poor knight solicited the hand of a rich lady, but she reminded him of the law, and desired him to use the best means of complying with it, in order to effect their union. He departed in great sorrow; and after much inquiry, was informed of a rich duke, who had been blind from the day of his birth. Him he resolved to murder, and obtain his wealth; but found that he was protected in the daytime by several armed domestics, and at night by the vigilance of a faithful dog. He contrived, however, to kill the dog with an arrow, and immediately afterwards the master; with whose money he returned to the lady. He informed her that he had accomplished his purpose; and being asked how this had been done in so short a space of time, he told all that had happened.

               The lady desired, before the marriage should take place, that he would go to the spot where the duke was buried, lay himself on his tomb, listen to what he might hear, and then report it to her. The knight armed himself, and went accordingly. In the middle of the night he heard a voice saying, "O duke, that liest here, what askest thou that I can do for thee?" The answer was, "O Jesus, thou upright judge, all that I require is vengeance for my blood unjustly spilt." The voice rejoined, "Thirty years from this time thy wish shall be fulfilled." The knight, extremely terrified, returned with the news to the lady. She reflected that thirty years were a long time, and resolved on the marriage. During the whole thirty years the parties remained in perfect happiness.

               When the thirty years were nearly passed, the knight built a strong castle, and over one of the gates, in a conspicuous place, caused the following verses to be written--

"In my distress, religious aid I sought:  
But my distress relieved, I held it nought.  
The wolf was sick, a lamb he seemed to be;  
But health restored, a wolf again was he."

               Interrogated as to the meaning of these enigmatical lines, the knight at once explained them, by relating his own story, and added, that in eight days time the thirty years would expire.

               He invited all his friends to a feast at that date, and when the day was arrived, the guests placed at table, and the minstrels attuning their instruments of music, a beautiful bird flew in at the window, and began to sing with uncommon sweetness. The knight listened attentively and said, "I fear this bird prognosticates misfortune." He then took his bow, and shot an arrow into it, in presence of all the company. Instantly the castle divided into two parts, and, with the knight, his wife, and all who were in it, was precipitated to the lowest depth of the infernal regions. The story adds, that on the spot where the castle stood, there is now a spacious lake, on which no substance whatever floats, but is immediately plunged to the bottom.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Vengeance Deferred
Tale Author/Editor: Morley, Henry
Book Title: Mediæval Tales [Gesta Romanorum Selections]
Book Author/Editor: Morley, Henry
Publisher: George Routledge & Sons
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1884
Country of Origin: Europe
Classification: unclassified

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