VIII. A Wife for Fortunatus

Now Fortunatus rented a mansion, where he transferred his movables; and taking more servants and maids into his employ, he began to keep house in sumptuous style. Everywhere he met with a dignified and flattering reception, although many people wondered where he had gained such great wealth – for it was generally known that he had left the island in deep indigence. Then he bought his father’s house, and many others adjoining, and had them demolished to make room for a magnificent palace. He had this exquisitely ornamented, using the knowledge of decorated edifices he had acquired on his travels. Beside it he founded a beautiful minster, around which he had thirteen houses built, and he endowed it with a provost and twelve canons, who were to sing and chant at service; and he settled annual revenues of 300 ducats on the provost and 100 ducats on each canon. When a canon died, the remainder were to elect another; and when the provost left this life, his successor would be chosen by the Pope. Fortunatus had the minster embellished with every kind of ornamentation, and he provided tithes and annuities for its perpetual increase. Then he ordered the construction of two monumental tombs inside; his mother and father he had exhumed from their resting-place and interred in one, while the other was to await him and his heirs.

Founding a Palace

Now when the palace and the minster were finished and furnished according to his instructions, Fortunatus surveyed them with deep satisfaction, and he thought: ‘Such a palace requires respectable inhabitants.’ Thus did he resolve to find a wife; and when his will became known, there was great excitement. Everyone, rich or poor, noble or burgher, who had a pretty daughter, had her arrayed and bejewelled as well as his means would allow; and everyone thought, ‘You never know, God could lay the luck on my daughter as soon as on anyone else’s.’ It was seen that there was immense wealth to be had, and every father wished to lead his daughter to its source; as a result, many daughters were attired in gorgeous apparel which they would otherwise have had to long do without.

And while all these people were busy with their preparations, there was a Count Nimian, not far from Famagusta, who had three daughters of surpassing beauty. The King advised the Count to propose his daughters to Fortunatus; if it pleased him, he would speak on their behalf. The Count was not very powerful, yet he replied: “Sire, if he desires one of my daughters, and you are advising me to accept him, remember that he owns neither land nor lieges. He may have had a great store of ready money, but as you can see he has built a great deal away, to no purpose; just so could he lose possession of what he has now, and spend his way to poverty, as his father did before him. It takes no time at all to fritter away heaps of ready money.”

The King told the Count: “I have heard from eye-witnesses that he owns a store of magnificent jewels sufficient to buy a Comity, and yet he has placed none for sale. I have also heard much about his travels through many lands and kingdoms. And I shall tell you this about him: had he not known how to bring his affairs to a successful conclusion, he would not have constructed so tremendous a palace or such an awe-inspiring minster, which he has honourably endowed with perpetual tithes and annuities. So my advice would be that, if the idea pleases him, you give him one of your daughters. If this meets with your approval, then I shall do my diligence to forward this marriage; Fortunatus pleases me greatly, and I would rather see him with a wife of noble birth than with some peasant’s daughter. I would be annoyed if a low-born woman were to possess and have her home in his palace.”

On hearing the King express such approval of Fortunatus, the Count said: “Gracious Majesty, it is plain from your words that you would draw pleasure from my giving one of my daughters to Fortunatus. Please exercise absolute dominion over all that I have, my person and my possessions.”

When the King heard the Count’s mind, he said; “Send your daughters to the Queen my wife, and I shall prepare them in the hope that one will attract his liking. I shall allow him the choice of any one of the three; and I shall bear the charges of the wedding for you, and if there are further expenses, they will be met by me, for you have entrusted me with absolute power over your person and possessions.”

Count Nimian thanked the King and, declaring his obedience to His Royal Majesty’s will, took his leave. He rode home to his wife, where he recounted his conversation with the King. She was highly pleased, but her pleasure was tempered by her conviction that Fortunatus was not noble enough, and by his having the choice of the three daughters; for one of them was especially dear to her. The Count asked her which one she meant, but she absolutely refused to tell him. However, she followed his will and prepared their daughters, giving them a duenna, serving-boys and maids, as was meet for their noble estate. And so the maidens arrived at the King of Cyprus’s court, where they and their retinue were received with honour by the King and Queen. There they were instructed in Court etiquette and aristocratic affairs, in which they had previously received a grounding. The maidens were extremely beautiful, and their beauty increased with each passing day. When the King thought it time, he sent Fortunatus a stately embassy requiring his presence at Court, with no reason being given for the summons. But Fortunatus knew that he had a gracious master for King, so he hurriedly arrayed himself and rode in high spirits to his Lord, who received him with every mark of honour.

“Fortunatus, you are my liegeman, and I think that you should follow my advice, for I have your best interests at heart. I have heard about the magnificent residence and minster you have had constructed; and now, you have a mind to take a wife. Being concerned that you would choose someone not to my liking, I intend to confer on you a noble spouse, so that you may father a noble line.”

“Gracious Majesty,” said Fortunatus, “it is true that I am of the will to take a soul-mate. And now that I understand that Your Majesty will show me the grace, kindness and favour to provide me with one, I shall make no further inquiries, and worry my mind no more, but shall place my unswerving faith and trust entirely in Your Majesty.”

Having heard the answers of Fortunatus and Count Nimian, and having the governance of the daughters, the King thought: ‘I can make a good marriage here.’ So he told Fortunatus: “I have three beautiful young ladies, all Countesses through both father and mother. The eldest is eighteen years old and is called Gemiana; the second one is seventeen, and Marsepia is her name; and the third daughter is thirteen, and she is called Cassandra. I shall grant you the choice of any one of these three; I shall also allow you the choice of seeing them one after the other, or all three at one time.”

Fortunatus did not need long deliberation, but replied: “Gracious Majesty, as you have given me such a choice, I request that I may see all three standing together and hear each one speak.”

“It shall be as you wish,” said the King. And he ordered the Queen to prepare the women and her maids, for he was coming to their apartments, and he would be bringing a guest. The Queen did as commanded with no little zeal, for she understood the import of the message; and when the time seemed right to the King, he motioned to Fortunatus and made to leave.

“Kind Majesty, if you have no objections, permit this old servant of mine to accompany us.”

The King gave his consent, and so, with old Lupoldus, they arrived in the women’s chamber, where the Queen and her Maids-of-Honour rose to receive them with due ceremony. Then the King sat down, and Fortunatus stood at his side.

The Choice of Wife

“Let the maidens Gemiana, Marsepia and Cassandra come before me,” said the King. And the three daughters stood up and walked across the room. Before they reached the King, they curtsied thrice, then knelt down before him, with becoming ease and grace. His Majesty bid them rise, and they duly obeyed; then he turned to the eldest maiden, Gemiana:

“Tell me – would you rather be with the Queen, or with Count Nimian, your father, and the Countess, your mother?”

“Gracious Majesty,” she replied, “it does not become me to answer the question. If I had to choose, I would not use my will, but would be obedient to the behest of Your Majesty and my father.”

Then the King asked the second daughter, “Marsepia, tell me truly: who is closer to your heart – the Count, your lord and father, or the Countess, your lady and mother?”

“Oh Your Majesty, it does not become me to answer this question. I love them both with all my heart. If one were more dear to me than the other, it would pain my heart to know this; and were my mouth to announce it, I would be deeply ashamed. For they both could not be truer parents.”

And the King looked at the third and youngest. “Cassandra, answer me this. If a glittering ball were held at our Palace, full of Princes and Lords, and noble ladies and maidens, and your parents were present, and the one said, ‘Daughter, join the dance,’ but the other said, ‘Do not’ – whose command would you obey?”

“Most Gracious Majesty, your eyes tell you how young I am, and wisdom does not come before years; Your Majesty, in his great wisdom, can recognise and gauge the desires of youth. It does not befit me to make a choice, for giving preference to one parent would annoy the other, and this I would be most reluctant to do.”

“But if you had to choose?” the King asked.

“Then I request a year and a day for reflection and the advice of the wise, before I answer the question.”

The King left it at that and probed Cassandra no further. After taking his leave of the ladies, he returned to his quarters, followed by Fortunatus and Lupoldus, and when they were in his chamber, he told Fortunatus: “You wished to see and hear the three daughters, and I have given you more than you desired. You have seen their carriage and gait and heard them speak at sufficient length. Now which one would you like to take to wife?”

Fortunatus replied, “Gracious Majesty, all three please me so well that I do not know which one to choose. I request that Your Majesty grant me a short time to consult with my old servant Lupoldus.”

“Feel free to do so,” said the King.

So the two retreated to a quiet place. “You have seen and heard the three daughters as well as I have,” said Fortunatus. “Now you know that no man is so wise in his affairs as never to have to ask advice. So I am asking you to give me your counsel, as truly as if your soul were at stake.”

Lupoldus started with shock at the weight of this admonition and said: “Sir, it is not for me to advise in this matter. We often find that what delights one man will not at all please his brother; one man likes to eat meat, another man fish. So no one can advise you but you yourself; you are the one who will have to bear the burden.”

“I know that, and I am aware that it is I, and no other, who is taking a wife,” said Fortunatus, “but I would like you to open your secret heart to me, for you have had so much trade with mankind that you can judge the true self from the external appearance.”

Lupoldus was still reluctant, for he feared that his choice might not concur with his master’s, thus causing him to lose his favour. So he said: “Sir, all three pleased me greatly. I diligently scrutinised each one in turn, and judging from appearances, I believe them to be sisters or cousins. I could find no mark of faithlessness in them.”

“But which one would you advise me to take?”

“I do not wish to be the first to choose, and nor should you; it would be unbearable if our judgements did not agree. So take this chalk and write on the table in your corner, and I shall write in the other corner.”

Fortunatus was pleased with this suggestion, and they wrote their opinions down. And when each had read what the other had written, they both found the name, ‘Cassandra.’ Fortunatus was glad that they had lighted on the same daughter; and Lupoldus was more pleased, that God had put it in his mind to think of the maiden whom his master liked the most. Now that they were of one accord, Fortunatus returned to the King and declared:

“Gracious Majesty, your Royal Self having vouchsafed me a choice, which shall induce me to deep gratitude and unwavering servitude to Your Grace, for I consider myself unworthy of such a choice, which I have done nothing to earn – an omission I have every intention of remedying – it is my wish that you give me Cassandra.”

“As you wish, so shall it be,” said the King. And he sent for the Queen, enjoining her to bring Cassandra along; which was done. Then he summoned his chaplain and had them joined in wedlock. Cassandra was disgruntled at being married without her parents’ presence or knowledge; but the King wished it so. And when the ceremony was over, the other court ladies and the bride’s sisters came to wish her luck. The sisters were weeping sorely, so that Fortunatus asked what was the cause of their tears; being informed that they were the bride’s full sisters, he went over to comfort them, saying: “Do not grieve; your displeasure will soon turn to delight.” And he sent to Famagusta for the jewels he had brought from Venice. The two best ones he presented to the King and Queen, then he gave others to the bride and her sisters, and bestowed lavish gifts on all the ladies of the Queen’s apartments; which they received with profuse thanks.

Then the King sent for Count Nimian and the Countess. When Fortunatus heard this, he prepared Lupoldus, giving him a thousand ducats to pour into the Countess’s lap with the message that this was a gift from her son-in-law to raise her spirits for the wedding festivities. Now the Countess was vexed at Fortunatus having chosen her youngest daughter, for she was her favourite; but when Lupoldus poured the gold into her lap, she allowed her ill-humour to depart. And she and the Count thenceforth equipped themselves with liveried servants, carriages and all the other paraphernalia of nobility. On arriving at the Court, they were received with honour by the King, before being wined and dined in such royal style that Count Nimian observed to the Countess: “Wife, we have been here often before, but never have we been offered such honour. We should exalt and revere God for the grace He has conferred on us in giving us so benevolent a King and, through our daughter Cassandra, such a mighty son-in-law.”

Now that they had arrived, the King declared to Fortunatus: “I want to make the arrangements for your nuptials, and I wish them to be celebrated here.”

“Your Majesty, allow me to celebrate them in my new house in Famagusta,” pleaded Fortunatus. “It has not yet been blessed, or borne witness to joy.”

“My intention was to save you and Count Nimian the expense,” said the King.

“No amount of expense can drive me to regret or repentance,” replied Fortunatus, “and I request that Your Majesty come in person to Famagusta with the Queen and your whole Court. Although I cannot offer you and your retinue honour to match your worth, I can assure Your Grace that you shall not want for anything, any more than you do here.”

When the King heard Fortunatus striking such an opulent strain, he thought: ‘I would like to see this establishment’. “As you wish,” he proclaimed. “Ride home and set everything in order, then I shall arrive with the Queen, and bring you your wife, father- and mother-in-law, and a numerous train.”

Fortunatus happily thanked the King and said: “You will not have long to wait. All will be ready in three days.” Galloping home to Famagusta, he bought everything that was lacking. Now it was not strange for the King to come to Famagusta, for he often held Court there; so he rode in with a great entourage to a warm reception from his people – as is only right and fitting.

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The town now played host to great merriment, with dancing, singing, and the strains of melodious strings. The second that one dance came to an end, another was struck up; and so the entertainment continued throughout the night. Then the beautiful maiden Cassandra lay with Fortunatus in the ornate new palace built to delight the fancy; all who walked through its doors marvelled at the exquisite decoration they found.

Now although the bride’s mother saw the stamp of luxury all around, she was still discontented at Fortunatus owning neither land nor liegemen, and she mentioned this to her husband. Count Nimian replied, “Do not worry; I believe that our daughter will be honourably maintained.” And early the next morning the King and the bride’s parents came to discuss the Morning Gift1. “I have neither land nor lieges,” began Fortunatus, “so I shall give you five thousand ducats. With this, you can buy a castle and estate, so that your daughter is well provided for.”

“I know what to do in this matter,” said the King. “The Count of Ligorno is here; he has fallen on hard times and needs ready money. He owns a castle and bourg, called L’arcobaleno (that means ‘The Rainbow’s End’) three miles hence, and we shall buy this off him, land, vassals, and chattels.” Then the Count was summoned, and they bought the castle and bourg off him for seven thousand ducats. Fortunatus gave Lupoldus the key to a chest in his bedroom, and when he came back down, the money was counted out and the title deeds handed over. Then the Count of Ligorno yielded his jurisdiction to Cassandra before the King, and he renounced for ever his claim to the said castle and bourg. The sale was a popular topic of discussion. One man said, “It’s worth ten thousand ducats,” while another remarked, “If I had so much money, I wouldn’t spend it on that.”

But when the deal was done, the bride’s mother finally found content. She dressed for church – the minster Fortunatus had had erected and exquisitely decorated, at no distance from his palace – and when the service was over, the King, the bride and bridegroom, then the descending gradations of rank, proceeded to the palace for a banquet. The sumptuousness of the feast could be described at length – for everyone knows that money makes money, and the man of means can live in the lap of luxury and enjoy a sweet and dreamless sleep. The festivities epitomised joyful extravagance; no half-measures were taken.

Amid the merriment, Fortunatus was thinking how to prevent the time from seeming long to the King and Queen. He decided to award three jewels, each of which would be won after three days’ jousting: the first was worth 600 ducats, and was for the knights and nobles; the next jewel, 400 ducats in value, was for the burghers; and the final one, priced at 200 ducats, was for all the mounted servants, whether they belonged to the lords or the town. It can be taken as read that everyone did his utmost and strained every sinew to be the best, to earn fame in the eyes of the beautiful ladies and maidens present, and to win the valuable jewel. Two or three jousts would be followed by a dance here, and a meal there. Fourteen days passed in a whirl of merrymaking, then the King would stay no longer; and as he rode away, many guests accompanied him. Fortunatus would have liked them to have stayed longer, especially his father- and mother-in-law; but they were eager to be away, for they saw the huge expenses he was incurring, and they feared that he would end up buying poverty. When the King departed, Fortunatus rode out with him some distance from the town; and he thanked his lord for doing him the honour of attending his wedding revels. Then he took a humble leave of the King and the Queen, of Count Nimian and the Countess his father- and mother-in-law, and of all the company; and after thanking many in the entourage for having attended his nuptials, he rode home to his fair Cassandra.

Now that all the strangers had departed, Fortunatus invited all the burghers to a new festival, which lasted eight days; and it earned him the favour and goodwill of the whole town of Famagusta. And when this entertainment and high living had run its course, Fortunatus wished to settle down to a restful life. He said to Lupoldus: “My good friend, let me know your desire. I shall give you three options; choose whichever you will, it will be granted. If you want home, I shall provide you with four servants to escort you there with honour, and give you spending money for the rest of your days. If you want to stay here in Famagusta, I shall buy you a house, supply you with three servants and two maids to attend to you, and see that you want for nothing. Or if you wish to remain with me in my palace and have all your needs met as well as I myself – whichever you choose, it will be yours, and the deed shall honour the word.”

Lupoldus thanked him for the great deference shown, and for the choice he had been offered; he had never deserved of God or of his master that he should meet with such honour and benevolence in his old age. “There is no riding home for me,” he said, “I am old and weak, and could perish on the way. Even if I did make it home, Hibernia is a rough, hard land which does not give growth to grapes or any of the other fine fruits I have grown accustomed to here; I would die. And there is no question of my living in your palace; I am old and ill-shaped, while you have a beautiful wife, with many pretty maids and handsome servants to entertain you. I would be a nuisance to everyone, for the presence of youth is not always pleasing to the aged – although I do not doubt your virtue or benevolence. So I shall choose, by your leave, to be established in my own house, where I can end my days. But I earnestly request that this will not entail my exclusion from your love or your counsel, the while that God grants us life.” Fortunatus assured him of this, and he sought his counsel as long as Lupoldus lived. And so he bought him a house, engaged servants and maids, and allocated him a monthly allowance of a hundred ducats. Lupoldus was delighted that his days of waiting service2 were over. He went to bed and rose at any time he wanted; he ate and drank as early or as late as he listed – and good luck to him! Yet he still went to church every morning, where Fortunatus could witness the depth of his devotion. Now when Lupoldus had lived this honourable life for half a year, he fell into a fatal illness. Many doctors were sent for, but none could help him; and the good Lupoldus died. Fortunatus was deeply grieved, and he had his friend ceremonially interred in his minster grounds.

CHAPTER 9, Two Sons, and a Hat, for Fortunatus

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