II. Agrippina

Now when he was at Court, it so happened that the King of England marched out against the King of Scotland. Andolosia joined his army at the head of a great host assembled at his own cost, and performed so many knightly deeds that he was extolled above all others. Although it cannot be denied that there is no race on Earth prouder, haughtier and less willing to acknowledge the merit of others or concede them honour than the English, yet they spoke great praise of Andolosia for the extreme valour he had displayed in battle. Nevertheless, they maintained that it was still a shame that he was not an Englishman, for they believe that there is no greater race on Earth than their own.

The war having been brought to a successful conclusion, everyone returned home. Andolosia came to London once more and was received with honour by the King. After several days had passed, and the mercenaries had dispersed in part, the King invited Andolosia to guest and placed him at a table alone with the King, the Queen and their only daughter, called Agrippina, who was one of the most beautiful women to be found in the world, and so white and delicate that she had been likened to a former Princess of England, the fair Amelia.1 She was seated opposite Andolosia at table, and when he saw her he thought that an angel sent to Earth by God could not be more perfectly formed, and he was inflamed with a passionate love; his heart was seized with so deep a lust that he could neither eat nor drink. He flushed, then blanched, in the manner of the truly ardent lover; and the Queen clearly descried that he had received the Angel of Love. When the King addressed him, he could form no answer; and then Agrippina threw him a look that fanned the flames of his desire and led him to believe that she returned his love, which was however far from the truth. During the meal there was much lute-music and recitation of pleasant verses, as is the custom at the tables of lords, but Andolosia had paid scarcely any attention to this, all of his thoughts being fixed on Agrippina. When the meal was done, he found his way home loaded with love, his burden tied on more tightly than a package of pepper to a sorely-laden camel plodding from India to Cairo.

And when he was alone at home, he thought: ‘I would to God I were of royal descent! Then I’d serve the King so loyally, and stand so in his confidence, that he’d have to marry the fair Agrippina to me. What more could I ask for than so beautiful a wife? But though my birth is not high enough, yet I cannot help but strive for her favour and court her love – may I be served as God wills!’ Then he began to joust intensely, and to fling himself into other knightly pursuits, for he knew that the Queen and her daughter were watching. So he hunted after honour with all his might, and on one occasion invited the Queen, the Princess and all the noble ladies at Court to a marvellous meal. The King was told about this repast, how Andolosia had presented the Queen and Princess with precious gifts, and how their maids and chambermaids had also felt the full force of his generosity. This had been done to procure Andolosia a warmer reception at Court, and it worked; when he visited next, he was admitted to the Queen and the lovely Agrippina, to his no small delight. On one such visit, the King said to him: “I have heard from the Queen and the other ladies that you invited them to a feast fit for a King. Why did you not invite me?”

“My most gracious King,” said Andolosia, “if Your Majesty would not scorn my hospitality, I should be delighted.”

“Then invite me; I shall come tomorrow and bring ten people with me.”

Highly contented, Andolosia hurried home and gave his servants great sums of money to buy the best provisions they could find. He also ordered the cook to concoct the most mouth-watering meal his hands had ever prepared, and not to omit anything for the sake of saving money.

All was made ready, and the King came, with counts and lords, at the arranged time. The whole company were astounded at the manifold courses of the choicest foods and at the rare wines that were provided. The King thought: ‘This Andolosia can spend without regret – yet he owns no land nor vassals. I must do something to teach him that he is not as powerful as he thinks’. So one morning soon after, the King sent a message to Andolosia, saying that he would dine with him that day. Pleased to receive this news, Andolosia sent his servants out to buy all that was needful. Now the King had forbidden, on pain of loss of body and goods, the sale of wood, and wooden items such as ships, to Andolosia. So when the servants had bought all the victuals, and the cooks were ready to boil and roast, there was no wood. Andolosia sent men out to buy houses, ships or fences, whatever they could get hold of, so that the food could be cooked. But no matter where the servants went, they could not find anyone willing to sell. On learning this, Andolosia realised that it was the King’s commandment; so he sent in haste to the Venetians, who have warehouses in London, and bought cloves, nutmeg, sandal and cinnamon off them. These were then emptied onto the floor and set alight, and the food was cooked over this fire.

When meal-time came round, the King thought that the food could not possibly have been prepared. Nonetheless, he rose, assembled the lords who had accompanied him to the previous feast, and rode towards Andolosia’s lodgings. And as they approached the house, they were met by such an excellent and savoury aroma that they were struck with astonishment; and the nearer they came, the stronger this aroma grew. The King asked if the meal was ready, and he was told yes, the cooks were boiling and roasting with pure spices; which surprised him somewhat. And if Andolosia had served the King sumptuously at the previous feast, he now supplied him and his men with yet more magnificent provision; and once all the food had found a home, the King’s servants and his companions’ serving-lads came with five hundred horses to escort him home. When they arrived, Andolosia said: “Gracious Majesty, if you have no objections, I should like to give ten crowns to every one of your men.”

“If you want to hand out money, that’s fine by me,” replied the King.

So the servants were all summoned to a room where Andolosia was standing by the door, and he gave every man ten crowns; the servants were delighted, and they all began to praise Andolosia. Once this was over, the King rode home; and when he arrived back in his palace, he began to wonder where Andolosia’s great wealth came from, for a King with land and lieges were unable to maintain so lavish a lifestyle. And while he was wondering, in walked the Queen; so he told her about the splendid meal Andolosia had given him, cooked with pure spices in the stead of wood, and the ten crowns he had handed to each one of his servants. He could not imagine whence Andolosia had so much money; there was no stinting, yet time seemed only to increase his extravagance. The Queen said:

“I know no one who could discover the truth as soon as Agrippina. He has taken such a shine to her that, rest assured, whatever she asks him, he will tell her.”

“If I could learn the truth… I’d dearly like to know! I think he must scoop it from a fountain. If I knew where this was, I’d be there myself,” mused the King.

“I’ll do my utmost to get to the bottom of this,” said the Queen; and returning to her chambers, she summoned Agrippina for a talk in private. After telling her about Andolosia’s lavish mode of living, she continued: “The King and I cannot understand where all his money comes from, for he has neither land nor lieges. Now everything about him tells me that he is obsessed with you, and the next time he visits, I’ll allow you more time to converse with him, to see if you can get him to reveal the source of his wealth.”

“I shall certainly try,” promised Agrippina.

Princess Agrippina

So when Andolosia made his next appearance at Court, he was received most handsomely, and admitted to the ladies’ quarters, to his great delight; and it was arranged that he should talk in private with Agrippina. When they were alone, she began: “Andolosia, everyone is saying that it was most honourable of you to regale the King in such grand style and reward all his servants so bountifully. But tell me: aren’t you afraid that, one day, your money will run out?”

“Dear lady,” he said, “while I breathe, I cannot want for money.”

“Then it is meet and proper that you say prayers for your father, who has left you such a store.”

Andolosia replied, “I am as rich as my father, and he was never richer than I am now. But his cast of mind was such that he could take delight only in visiting foreign lands; whereas my pleasure lies with beautiful ladies, in earning their love and favour.”

“Now you have been at Kings’ Courts, where there is always a host of beautiful women. Have you perhaps seen anything that takes your fancy?” asked Agrippina.

“I have served at the Courts of six Kings, and I’ve seen many beautiful ladies and maidens; but none of those women can begin to compare with you for beauty, elegant deportment and exemplary conduct. Your virtues have set my heart burning so fiercely with love that I cannot help myself, I must reveal to you the great and unspeakable love I bear for you. I’m fully aware that I can’t reasonably expect you to return my ardour, for I was not born into the high nobility. And yet love, which conquers everything – love presses me so hard that I cannot stop myself, I must ask for your love; and if you do not refuse me, then whatever you ask of me will be granted.”

He had not long to wait before Agrippina replied: “Andolosia, be honest with me. Show me where all your wealth originates. If you do this in good faith, and do not deceive me, then I shall comply with your desire.”

When Andolosia heard these words, his heart skipped a beat, and with a careless mind and joyful heart he cried out: “Dear Agrippina, I’ll trust you with the truth you wish to know! But give me your word and your faith.”

“Oh Andolosia my dearest, do not doubt my love or my word; what I promise with my lips, you shall experience in deed.”

At these kind words, Andolosia said to the beautiful maiden, “Now hold out the lap of your skirt,” and pulling out Fortune’s Purse, he showed it to the Princess, and said: “While I have this Purse, I have no end of money.” And he counted out a thousand Crowns into her lap, saying: “These are a gift for you. And if you want more, I’ll tell you more. Do you believe that I’ve told you the truth?”

“I see and acknowledge the truth,” she replied, “and now your expenditure amazes me no longer.”

“Now fulfil your faith to me, as I fulfilled mine.”

“I shall do that, my darling Andolosia. Tonight the Queen will lie with the King, and I shall arrange with my lady’s-maid for you to lie with me. I cannot bring this to pass without her; you will have to seal her lips with gold.”

Andolosia promised to do this and to come that night. As soon as he had gone, Agrippina ran to the Queen with the thousand Crowns in her skirts and told her with great delight how she had discovered Andolosia’s secret, and the promise she had made him, and the prospect she had given him for that night. The Queen was highly pleased, for she was a cunning woman, and she asked her daughter:

“Can you remember the shape of the Purse, and its colour and size?”

“Yes,” said Agrippina.

Then the Queen sent for a bag-maker and had him make a purse which exactly resembled Andolosia’s. It was also softened, to give it the appearance of age. After this she ordered her physician to prepare a sleeping-draught – a drink strong enough to sink a man into a sleep as deep as death for seven or eight hours. When the potion was ready, it was borne to Agrippina’s chamber, and the lady’s-maid received instructions to give Andolosia a good reception when he came that night and then to conduct him to Agrippina’s chamber. The Queen would send her daughter to him, and once they were together, the lady’s-maid was to present them with sugared sweets with golden icing, then give him the draught; and she was to take care to pour it into Andolosia’s goblet.

And as all things were arranged, so they came to pass. Andolosia came quite surreptitiously and was led into Agrippina’s chamber; soon the lady herself appeared and sat down with him, and they spoke to one another very cordially. Then no shortage of confections were brought in, and drinks were poured. Agrippina said to Andolosia: “I bring you a drink of friendship” (that is the custom in those lands), and he drank to do her will; and she brought him one cordial after another until he had drunk the whole draught. As soon as he had finished, he sat down heavily, sank to the ground, and fell so fast asleep that he was insensible to what followed. Agrippina was on him in a flash, tearing his jerkin open and severing the Fortunate Purse from his body, before sewing the other purse in its place. Oh Andolosia! What an unequal exchange!

Early in the morning Agrippina brought the Purse to the Queen, who tested its power and, finding no end of gold coins, took her gold-filled skirts to the King. She told him how they had dealt by Andolosia; he asked her to induce Agrippina to give him the Purse, for she might lose it. The Queen tried, but Agrippina refused; so she asked her daughter to give it to her, but Agrippina refused this request as well, remarking that she had risked her life to obtain it, for if Andolosia had woken up while she was busy about him, then “he would have beaten me to death, and with justice.”

When Andolosia had slept off the draught, he woke up and looked around him, and he saw no one save the old lady’s-maid. He asked her what had become of Agrippina.

“She has just arisen; my good lady the Queen has sent for her. Oh sir, you were out like a light! I tried for long to wake you, but I couldn’t rouse you to pleasure and sport with Agrippina. In fact, your sleep was so sound that if I hadn’t been able to sense your breath, I’d have counted you among the dead.”

When he heard that he had overslept Agrippina’s love, Andolosia began to swear and to curse himself with the most terrible oaths his mind could devise. The old lady’s-maid attempted to pacify him, saying, “Sir, don’t take on so. What didn’t happen last night will come to pass hereafter.”

“May God light a plague on you, you old procuress! Why didn’t you wake me up? In all my life, I’ve never slept so deeply that I wouldn’t have woken had anyone so much as prodded me.”

She said and swore that she had tried, and gave him good words, for he had handed her two hundred Crowns on the previous night; and with these good words, she ushered him out of Agrippina’s bedchamber, and out of the King’s palace. So Andolosia came home to his men, not as merry of mood as he was want to be, and fretting at the thought of having overslept Matins. He did not yet know that he had also overslept fortune and felicity.

CHAPTER 3, Hatless in Hibernia

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