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The Tenson
by [?]

Plagues a Dieu ja la nueitz non falhis,
Ni ‘l mieus amicx lonc de mi no s partis,
Ni la gayta jorn ni alba ne vis.
Oy Dieus! oy Dieus! de l’ alba tan tost ve!”


In the year of grace 1265 (Nicolas begins), about the festival of Saint Peter ad Vincula, the Prince de Gatinais came to Burgos. Before this he had lodged for three months in the district of Ponthieu; and the object of his southern journey was to assure the tenth Alphonso, then ruling in Castile, that the latter’s sister Ellinor, now resident at Entrechat, was beyond any reasonable doubt the transcendent lady whose existence old romancers had anticipated, however cloudily, when they fabled in remote time concerning Queen Heleine of Sparta.

There was a postscript to his news, and a pregnant one. The world knew that the King of Leon and Castile desired to be King of Germany as well, and that at present a single vote in the Diet would decide between his claims and those of his competitor, Earl Richard of Cornwall. De Gatinais chaffered fairly; he had a vote, Alphonso had a sister. So that, in effect–ohe, in effect, he made no question that his Majesty understood!

The Astronomer twitched his beard and demanded if the fact that Ellinor had been a married woman these ten years past was not an obstacle to the plan which his fair cousin had proposed?

Here the Prince was accoutred cap-a-pie, and in consequence hauled out a paper. Dating from Viterbo, Clement, Bishop of Rome, servant to the servants of God, desirous of all health and apostolical blessing for his well-beloved son in Christ, stated that a compact between a boy of fifteen and a girl of ten was an affair of no particular moment; and that in consideration of the covenanters never having clapped eyes upon each other since the wedding-day–even had not the precontract of marriage between the groom’s father and the bride’s mother rendered a consummation of the childish oath an obvious and a most heinous enormity–why, that, in a sentence, and for all his coy verbosity, the new pontiff was perfectly amenable to reason.

So in a month it was settled. Alphonso would give his sister to de Gatinais, and in exchange get the latter’s vote; and Gui Foulques of Sabionetta–now Clement, fourth Pope to assume that name–would annul the previous marriage, they planned, and in exchange get an armament to serve him against Manfred, the late and troublesome tyrant of Sicily and Apulia. The scheme promised to each one of them that which he in particular desired, and messengers were presently sent into Ponthieu.

It is now time we put aside these Castilian matters and speak of other things. In England, Prince Edward had fought, and won, a shrewd battle at Evesham; the barons’ power was demolished, there would be no more internecine war; and spurred by the unaccustomed idleness, he began to think of the foreign girl he had not seen since the day he wedded her. She would be a woman by this, and it was befitting that he claim his wife. He rode with Hawise d’Ebernoe to Ambresbury, and at the gate of the nunnery they parted, with what agonies are immaterial to this history’s progression; the tale merely tells that latterly the Prince went into Lower Picardy alone, riding at adventure as he loved to do, and thus came to Entrechat, where his wife resided with her mother, the Countess Johane.

In a wood near the castle he approached a company of Spaniards, four in number, their horses tethered while these men (Oviedans, as they told him) drank about a great stone which served them for a table. Being thirsty, he asked and was readily accorded hospitality, so that within the instant these five fell into an amicable discourse. One fellow asked his name and business in those parts, and the Prince gave each without hesitancy as he reached for the bottle, and afterward dropped it just in time to catch, cannily, with his naked left hand, the knife-blade with which the rascal had dug at the unguarded ribs. The Prince was astounded, but he was never a subtle man: here were four knaves who, for reasons unexplained–but to them of undoubted cogency–desired the death of Sire Edward, the King of England’s son: and manifestly there was here an actionable difference of opinion; so he had his sword out and presently killed the four of them.