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ALTER, Marquis of SALUZZO, in Lombardy, was young, handsome, and well made; he was kind to everybody, granted all the requests of his subjects, and was always upon the watch to relieve their distress. No prince was more beloved than he was. Yet he had one fault: somebody had put into his head, when he was a boy, that he should take care to preserve his freedom, and that if he was not upon his guard he would lose it before he was aware, and not be able to rise and go to bed, to ride or to walk, to eat or to fast, to be in company, or alone, just when and how he liked. Walter was very fond of hunting and hawking. Of all things in the world he was most afraid of a wife, who, if she had a mind to talk, would not let him sleep; and if .she frowned, would be grieved at his being happy. The subjects of Walter were very sorry that he had got such a strange whim into his head. They loved him, for they and their fathers had lived contentedly under him and his family; but every now and then they said to each other: ‘If any thing should happen to our dear Marquis, what would become of us? we shall become slaves to a foreign lord, and people will no longer read of a Marquis of Saluzzo among the great princes of Europe.’ They thought so much about this, that at last they could not keep it to themselves; so they sent one among them, whom the Marquis liked, to tell him their grievance. ‘We love you, sir,’ said he, ‘no subjects love a prince so much; but why will you not make us happy by giving us a Marchioness, to bring you children who may reign after you? if you please, sir, we have fixed upon a lady, who we dare say will just suit you: she is of a very rich and noble family, and will make both you and us as happy as the day is long.’ Lord Walter looked very grave at this speech; he took a moment to think, and at last he spoke thus: ‘My friends, I did never think to wed; I have always thought that a rich and noble wife would have too many humours, to leave her husband free to act as he pleased. I have been used to have my own way, and I must have it; yet I see that your desire rises out of your love for me, and I will grant it,’ At these words they all set up a loud shout, and cried with one voice, ‘Long live Walter, Marquis of Saluzzo!’ — ‘Yet one thing,’ said the marquis, ‘I must add: I excuse you from your kind offer of choosing a wife for me; for if I must marry, I will choose with my own eyes. And besides, I desire you all to make a solemn promise, that whoever I make choice of, whether she be young or old, handsome or ugly, rich or poor, you shall obey her as your lady and mistress, and behave as lovingly to her as you have always done to me.’ They all said that they would, for they thought in their hearts, ‘to be sure, our lord Marquis, who is so young and hand. some himself, will never choose a wife that is ugly and old; and if she is poor, or of a noble family in decay, Yet he has fortune enough for them both.’
They begged now that they might make one more request, and the same person spoke for them that had spoken at first. ‘Ah! dear Lord Walter,’ said he, ‘the news you tell us is so joyful that we know not how to believe it. You have often said to our friends that you never would marry, and we are afraid you are not in earnest now: will you be so good as to fix the day of your marriage? and we shall then be easy and light of heart, and no one will doubt your goodness.’ Lord Walter replied, ‘I will be married this day month, the fourteenth of July.’ Not far from the palace of the marquis, there was a very poor village, where nobody lived but shepherds and herdsmen. Of the people who lived here, there was one poorer than all the rest, and his name was Janicola. He had been a herdsman, but was now past his labour; for he was lame and almost blind. This poor old man had one daughter named Griselda. She was vastly beautiful, but the goodness of her mind was a thousand times greater than the beauty of her face. She was simple in her diet, constant in her labour, and never wanted to be idle or to be indulged. Her drink was water from the spring, and her bed was the hardest of any maiden in the village. But all her care was to attend upon her father: she got money to support him by her spinning; she used to gather and prepare the fruits and herbs that made his dinner; and many times when the old man would have died of weakness and age, Griselda by her kindness and care, still kept him alive. Lord Walter had often seen this poor girl as he went hunting, and had admired her; for he was pleased with her simple looks, her industry, and her love of her father; and he had no desire to disturb her in these honest pursuits.
In the meantime the fourteenth of July was near at hand; and as no man could see that the marquis had kept company more than usual with his rich neighbours, or had asked any one of their daughters in marriage, they began to fear that he would deceive them. Yet every thing was got ready for the marriage; the palace was new-painted and new-furnished, plenty of dainties were brought for the wedding dinner; and robes, and gold, and jewels, for the bride. At last the day for the marriage came. The marquis dressed himself in clothes all covered with gold and silver, and his lords and ladies did the same: they then mounted on fine horses with shining trappings, and horns, and trumpets, and fifes and drums, went before them. But where was Lord Walter’s bride? They were to go by the village in which poor Janicola lived. Griselda heard that this was the day when Lord Walter was to be married; and she did her work very early, that she might see the court pass her father’s house. As Lord Walter rode along, all the doors and windows were crowded with the poor people; and among the rest, Griselda stood at her door, and pushed forward her head that she might see the marquis.
Lord Walter stopped just at Janicola’s door; he called to Griselda, and said, ‘Griselda, where is your father?’ She replied, ‘My lord, I will go and fetch him.’ — ‘No,’ said the marquis, ‘I will come in and speak to him.’ Lord Walter got off his horse, and went in and spoke to Janicola alone; he told him that if he would consent, he would make Griselda his wife; and then the marquis called for Griselda. ‘Poor maiden,’ said he, ‘you have heard that I am to be married to-day; I and your father have agreed that you shall be my bride, and marchioness of Saluzzo; do you consent to it? Do not deceive yourself, Griselda. Why do you think I am willing to marry you a poor herdsman’s daughter, and not one of the daughters of the lords, marquises and dukes, who are my neighbours? It is because I will have a wife that will obey me. When I say Yes, you must not say No; you must neither provoke me by words, nor cross me by frowning looks; and all that I shall think proper to do, you must be cheerful, and content with. Do you consent to this?’ Griselda said, ‘I will be anything that you, the lord and master of my native country, shall command; and rather than disobey you in word or thought, I will consent to die.’ ‘This is enough, Griselda,’ said the marquis. He then ordered that a chest which had been brought along with him, full of dresses and other things fit for a bride, should be taken into Janicola’s house; and further, that the ladies of the palace should go in to dress Griselda, while he and his other people waited in the street. Griselda soon came out to them, but so changed by her fine clothes and jewels, that instead of a herdsman’s daughter, she seemed as if she had been born a queen. Lord Walter then placed her on a snow-white horse, with a saddle-cloth of crimson velvet edged with a broad gold fringe. In this state she and the marquis rode to the palace; where the priest waited in a chapel made ready for that purpose, and they were married.
Nobody can think how well the new marchioness behaved in her high station. She took care of every thing that went on in the kitchen, the cellar, the storeroom, and all parts of the palace: she always obeyed her husband, and was always good-humoured; and sometimes when the marquis went abroad for a few days or a week, she managed all the affairs of the state with the greatest skill, settled each grievance, made no quarrels, and relieved the wants of the poor; so that every body that had loved Lord Walter very much before, now cried out, ‘What a wise man our lord is! How was it that he could find out this rare woman in an ox’s stall, and choose her before all the princesses of other countries?’ A short time after their marriage, Griselda brought the marquis a daughter. The marquis and all his people were very much pleased at this; for though they would rather it had been a son, they said, Perhaps the next child the marchioness has may be a son-’Nobody was so happy as Lord Walter, Marquis of Saluzzo. He had a child, he had a very good wife, he had subjects that loved him, and that praised his choice of a marchioness. Yet Lord Walter could not forget the thoughts that had run in his head before he was married; and how he used to think that a single life was freedom, and marriage was nothing but a state of slavery. So, though he had indeed seen enough of Griselda’s goodness, he thought he must put her to a further trial; and this was the way he set about it.
He came into Griselda’s room one summer evening, just when the sun was setting; and looked with a sad face, as if he had something very heavy on his mind. He then said, ‘Griselda, I hope the pomp you now live in has not made you forget the russet gown and poor way of living out of which I have taken you; it is no long time ago, and it would he a sad disgrace if you were to forget what you so lately were. Griselda, there is no living creature that hears me but ourselves, and I must speak my mind to you freely. I love you very much; I have no fault to find with you; you have always been a good wife to me: but there are some people in Saluzzo who do not think so kindly of you as I do. The lords of my court think it a great shame that they should be subject to a poor herdsman’s daughter, and the ladies are still more vexed to be forced to attend upon a woman of such low birth: and now, since your daughter was born, they think of these things more than ever. Griselda, what shall I do? I do not wish to give you pain; but I must mind the speeches of my subjects, and please them. Can you submit to the consequences?’ Griselda meekly replied: ‘My lord, I and my child are yours; do with us as you please; there is nothing that you can command that I will think hard.’ — ‘Very well,’ said the marquis, and went away.
A few minutes after, one of Lord Walter’s servants came into Griselda’s chamber. He was a serjeant-at-arms; a very tall man, with a fierce look and rough voice. As soon as he saw her, he said: ‘Madam, I am very sorry for the errand that I come upon; but lords must be obeyed, and wives and subjects must not say nay: I am come to take your child from you.’ Saying this, he snatched the little girl out of the cradle, and made a gesture as if he was going to kill it in a moment. Griselda looked on, but uttered no sigh, and shed no tear; she said: ‘Do all that my lord orders you to do; but let me kiss my child before it is killed.’ He then gave it to her, and she put it to her bosom, almost stifled it with kisses, and said, ‘God bless you, my child! for you must die to-night.’ Griselda said, besides: ‘One thing I would beg of you; unless my lord has given orders against it, bury this child in a coffin and a grave, and do not let the birds and beasts tear it to pieces.’ The serjeant did not make any answer, but went away. Lord Walter told the serjeant to carry the child to his sister, the Countess of Pavia, and wrote a letter with it, begging her to bring it up, and be very tender to it; but not to tell any one whose child it was. Lord Walter went soon after into his wife’s room, and watched her then, and for many days after, to find whether she would show any revenge or anger for the loss of her child. But Griselda was always the same; she met him with smiles and love, was eager to do him service, and prepare everything for him that might give him pleasure; and never, either in jest or earnest, did her daughter’s name drop from her lips, or did she say a word about her sad fate.
Lord Walter and Griselda lived in this manner four years longer, and at the end of that time she brought him a son. This gave both him and his subjects the greatest pleasure; and the child was very handsome, and was every where gladly owned to be heir to the marquis. It thrived well, till it was two years old; and then it was able to walk and speak, and do fifty things that little children amuse their friends with. Lord Walter might now have been content; but still the same thoughts ran in his mind, and he would make another trial of Griselda. He said to her: ‘I am sorry to inform you, my dear, that since the birth of my son, the people murmur more than ever. They say that this is worst of all; and that they could bear anything, rather than that the grandson of Janicola, a poor herdsman, should, after my death, become their master and Marquis of Saluzzo. Griselda, you must submit; and must part with your son, this pretty little boy of two years old, as you parted with your daughter.’ What Lord Walter spoke, was no sooner said than done; and the child was taken away. Griselda thought it was to be killed; but it was sent to the Countess of Pavia, as the little girl had been. After this, Lord Walter and Griselda lived together for eight years more, very happy, till a certain time, when the marquis was keeping his birthday with all the lords of his court. After dinner, and when the tables were taken away, he said to his wife, before all the company: ‘Griselda, I have bad news to tell you; you must leave my house, and not be my wife any longer, for I am going to marry a young lady of noble birth, and of very great beauty. My people, you know, have long been vexed at my having married so much below my rank. They wish for an heir to my dignity; and they will not admit the grandson of a poor herdsman to that state. I am very sorry for this: I could have been content with you for my wife to my life’s end; but I may not do as common men may in this respect; in short, I have yielded to the prayers of my people; the Pope has granted me a divorce, and I expect my new wife to-morrow. Go you back to your father’s house; he is still living, and will still love you; and that you may have no reason to complain of my want of bounty, I allow you to carry back with you all the fortune you brought me in marriage.’ This was a cruel insult to Griselda, because she was nothing but a very poor girl when the marquis took her for his wife, so she had no fortune to bring him. Griselda, without changing colour, meekly replied, ‘My lord, I do not wonder at what you now say. I never thought myself worthy to be your wife, or even your maid-servant. I thank God and you for all the comfort I have enjoyed for fourteen years, and now am willing to submit to your pleasure, and will return to the cottage in which I was born. As for the fortune, my lord, that I brought, it was only the russet gown and coarse clothes that I had then on my back, and which now it would be hard to find. This one thing then I beg of you; I restore to you my robes and my jewels; I restore here on the spot my wedding ring; but do not send me naked out of your house. Let me keep the shift I have on; and pray give me the mantle in which I sometimes used to see you when you returned home late from a day’s sport; in that will I wrap myself, and then go bareheaded and barefooted, as you first saw me, to my father’s house.’
The day after Griselda went away, Lord Walter sent to desire to speak with her. ‘Griselda,’ said he, ‘tomorrow is my wedding-day; I expect the Count of Pavia, with my sister, his Countess, and the lovely maiden whom I have chosen for my wife. I wish to give her a costly welcome, and make my wedding the grandest feast that ever was seen in Lombardy; but I have no person, excepting yourself, to whom I can entrust the preparations necessary for this most happy day.’ — ‘My lord,’ said Griselda, ‘there is nothing that can give me greater pleasure than to find that I can still do some small service to a nobleman to whom I owe more than I can ever repay.’ When she had said this, Griselda bustled about the house, and told the maids to make haste, and sweep, and shake, and put all things in order. She herself set out the tables, and put the beauffets and the sideboards into order, and placed all the dishes, and the jellies, and custards, and sweetmeats, for the feast. This took up all that evening and the next morning. About noon the new bride, with the Count of Pavia, and a royal train, came to Saluzzo. The young lady was only fourteen, and as fair as the day; and her little brother, who was only ten years old, rode by the side of her. As they passed along the streets that led to the palace, the people clapped their hands and shouted; saying, that Lord Walter was in the right to put away Griselda for the sake of this young lady, who was younger and more handsome, as well as of higher birth. When Griselda heard the shouting, she knew that the lady was arrived; so she went down into the hall, with the other servants, to receive her. Before the dinner was ready, Lord Walter showed his brother-in-law, the Count of Pavia, and all his company, the rooms of the palace; and he told Griselda to attend the rest. When they had seen all the grand things that were in such plenty, the marquis led his guests into the drawing. room, when they could not think who this Griselda was. She had on a russet gown, and was meanly dressed; yet there was a grace and ease in her manner, that were fitter for a princess than for a servant. The dinner was now almost ready, and Lord Walter was told that in half-an-hour the guests would be called to take their seats at the table; so he sent once more for Griselda. ‘Griselda,’ said he, ‘you are a woman of great judgment, and I want you to tell me your thoughts in this matter; what do you think of my new chosen bride, and of her beauty?’
‘My lord,’ replied Griselda, ‘a fairer creature, in my mind, never trod the face of the earth; she seems worthy of a throne. I hope you will be happy together; I hope you will consider her tender years, and seeming gentle temper; and God give you many years of peace, success, and comfort!’ Lord Walter had now seen the patience and constant sweetness of Griselda. She was at all times mild and cheerful, and obedient and kind; innocence was seen in her whole manner, and duty in every action of her life. ‘Griselda,’ said he, ‘it is enough: I have seen your faith and your love; I have tried you with royal grandeur, and with the meanest clothing: no woman was ever brought to such severe proofs as you have been. Griselda, you are my wife; I never had, and I never will have, any other. This young lady, whom you have looked upon as my new bride, though she looks so tall, and so much like a full-grown woman, is your daughter and mine. This young boy, ten years of age, is her brother, our son, and my heir: I sent them away to my sister, the Countess of Pavia, and charged her to bring them up in a tender and royal manner.’ When he had said this, Lord Walter kissed her again and again, and brought her children to her. She took them in her arms, and wept as if her heart would burst. ‘My lord,’ said she, may God reward you for your kindness! You have done me a thousand favours, but this is the greatest of all. I have always loved you above all the world; all my care has been, how I could please you; and now I possess your love again, I shall die content.’ She then turned to her children: ‘Oh, dear! oh, tender! oh, young children of mine!’ said she, your woful mother thought that dogs had eaten you, or that the birds had torn you to pieces: what a good father yours is, who has brought you up so carefully, and now given you back to your mother!’
While she talked in this way, the whole company wept: there was not a dry eye in the place. The ladies then led her to her room, where they stripped her of her russet gown, and put on her a very fine robe of cloth of gold. They then went into the saloon, where the dinner was set, and this feast was a more grand and happier one than that of her marriage had been. Lord Walter never wanted to put her to any further proof, for he knew now that she was above every trial. She was happy in her son and daughter, who were always dutiful to her; and thus her patience, her meekness, and her good-temper met with their full reward.