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THE MERCHANT KNIGHT.

A Romance translated from the Portuguese of Gonsalo
Fernandez Trancoso. (1585).

    Scarcely anything appears to be known of the life of Gonsalo
Fernandez Trancoso, the author of the following story, except that he was
a native of the little town in Beira from which he derived his name, that
he professed mathematics, and published a small book on the ascertainment
of moveable feasts, and died between 1585 and 1596. Two parts of his
“Profitable Tales” were published by himself in the former year, and a
third was added after his death by his son.

    The collective title of Trancoso’s stories shows that they were written
with a moral purpose, and some are merely anecdotes. A few are of greater
compass, including a version of the tale of Griselda, and the story now
translated. The great superiority of this to the others renders it probable
that it is founded upon, and closely follows, some old romance now lost.
This may well have originated in the time of Edward the Third, when the
connection between England and Portugal was especially intimate, and the
English frequently came to the assistance of the Portuguese in their wars
with Castile. If written after the Spanish conquest of Portugal in 1580, it
may even have been intended to remind the Portuguese of this ancient
alliance, and suggest that help might be had from England.

    This story is not, like most of Trancoso’s, spoiled by tedious morali-
sing. It does not attempt any delineation of character or vivid individual
portraiture, nor has it anything of the poetical charm of “Aucassin
and Nicolette.” But it is inspired by a thoroughly romantic spirit, and in its
transparent simplicity of style affords a refreshing contrast to the exagger-
ated conceits of so much of the prose fiction of its day. It was written in the
most flourishing age of Portuguese literature, and its diction is worthy
of the period.

    Trancoso’s stories were popular in their own country in their day,
but have not, so far as we are aware, been hitherto translated or noticed
out of Portugal. The last edition was in 1722. All are rare: one of the
two in the British Museum is not mentioned by any bibliographer.

    Once upon a time there dwelt in a city of Portugal a rich
merchant who had a discreet and clever son, well seen in all
the accomplishments that would befit a youth of birth, versed
in Latin and Greek, a graceful dancer, a skilful player on the
guitar and all other instruments, a perfect horseman and
expert in every warlike exercise; insomuch that if his merit
were regarded rather than his birth, he might adorn the court
of the greatest monarch in the world. Being thus accomplished,
his father could not train him to traffic as he would fain have
done, for this the youth disdained, and would rather mate with
the nobles and show forth his skill in their exercises than earn
all the treasure his father promised him. Insomuch that at
four and twenty he was putting no hand to his father’s business,
not by reason of ill habits or disobedience, but following his
own way, by which he deemed some time to attain to honour.
One day his father bade him go and market at Medina fair;
but he made some seemly excuse, and said that if his father so
willed he would go as a merchant to Fez, with which we were
then at peace. And this he said not as having a mind to buy
and sell, for his thoughts were set on higher things, but he
longed to behold the pastimes and exercises of the African
horsemen, and the Moorish jennets, so renowned throughout
the world. And his father gave him three thousand crusadoes,
and he departed in a ship with other merchants, some going
to prove what the Moors might have to sell, and others what
the Moors might desire to buy. And thus having come to that
city, everyone went whither his inclination led him, some to
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the weavers of carpets to buy of their stock, or have others
wrought according to their own pattern; others to purchase
table-linen, Moorish haiks, and the like; and thus each one
bought what he would of what he found in the land. But our
youth inquired of nought respecting merchandise, but learned
where the place of exercises was, and on the first holiday,
which was the day after his coming, went thither to see how
the people of that country rode, and what was the gear of their
horses. And noting some particular things he saw a Moor
of about fifty years well mounted, and with him two young
sons of graceful bearing, and observing that by the negligence
of their servants their saddle-girths were fastened amiss,
he gave them warning, whereat they were glad, and gazed upon
him, and he upon every one. And of all he saw no one seemed
to him better seated than the old Moor, and so pleased was he
that he uttered this in the hearing of many, who came around
him and said that since he knew the seat of a cavalier so well
it was right that he himself should be seen on horseback, and
each offered him his own steed to mount, which he declined,
thinking it discourteous to make the lender go on foot. But
the Moor, hearing this, straightway sent to his own house
for a horse and offered it to him, saying; “Take this, for I
ween that these gentlemen who thought to humble us by
their politeness, and that you had no such seat in the saddle as
they, will be humbled themselves when your good seat is seen
of them; and I and those whom you commended will remain
content with the lesson you will have given them.” The youth
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thanked him much for these good words, mounted the horse
with great agility, and gave two courses and a volt in the
field of exercise, showing that he understood what he was
speaking of, for he did it with such grace and dash that all
deemed him worthy of their company and conversation, though
before they had despised him as but a merchant. And the old
man and his sons rode with him to his hostelry, where all
alighted, and at the old man’s importunity be removed to his
house, where he gained the love of the sons until death, as
though they had been brothers, and the old man treated him as
a son, and gave him to eat of our dishes that are not made in
Barbary, and showed him as much honour as if he had been
a prince. And in truth the young man was of noble nature,
and well trained and fit for any company, and well seen of all,
and thus he spent in the Moor’s house all the time that his
companions were buying their merchandise and preparing for
their voyage home. But it now being time for them to return
to the ship lying in the harbour ready to sail, they came to tell
him: “Sir, despatch your goods and victuals, for we depart in
three days.” Hearing this he spoke to his host, and said: “Sir,
I know not how I can repay the favours and great honours
which you have done me, and pray you to hold me at your
service and command me at your discretion, for, saving in
what concerns the Faith, there is nothing you could require of
me that I would not do. I say this, inasmuch as my com-
panions are departing, and I would return with them, and I
have provided nothing; wherefore it behoves me to quit
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the much that is made of me in this house, and set myself to
work to lay out certain monies which my father gave me
wherewith to traffic here, which as yet I have not done,” The
Moor hearing this answered: “Sir, so long as I live, whenever
you are in this country, you shall always receive in my house
this little service which I render you now, and I will not suffer
that you should go elsewhere until the hour of your departure;
and should you have anything to buy, and need my aid for
this, I will do all your pleasure, and whatsoever you may send
to your country shall be stored in my house. And take heed
to send no provision for your voyage on shipboard, for my
wife will provide it.” The youth thanked him for his favour
and said: “Sir, I am not a merchant, and never was, and
know nothing of the business; may it please you therefore of
your goodness, since you promise me aid and favour, to lay
out by the advice of merchants or by your own judgment the
three thousand crusadoes which I have here, in any manner
which seems good and profitable.” The Moor looked on him
and said: “If you would take to your own land what will bring
honour and profit for you and your father, I counsel you to
buy the bones of a holy Christian martyred here, whom the
Christians hold in great veneration. These have come down
by descent from father to son from him who first had them,
and are rated at three thousand crusadoes, and are proved to
be relics of the greatest worth; and learned Moors affirm that
the Christian who shall ransom them shall have great honour
and advantage, and that the Moor who shall cause them to be
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translated to a Christian land shall have great wealth and
worship among Christians, and shall save his body and soul
from every ill. And although it is long that these bones have
been here, no Christian has been willing to ransom them at so
high a rate; but do you take them upon my counsel, and trust
to what I say.” The Christian deeming him a man of truth,
consented, and went with him to the house where the relics
were to be found, and paid him that owned them, and when
they were brought to the Moor’s dwelling his wife, children,
and household received them with great veneration, and made
a coffer in which to put them, lined within and without with
crimson velvet, with nails and embroidery of gold. And thus
he was despatched to his ship, with much provision and con-
serves, wine, and water enough for a long voyage, and horses’
trappings and caparison, and other rich work of the country;
some for himself and others for his father. And the Moor’s
wife sent coifs and jackets of Moorish work for the youth’s
mother; for so great was the love which they bore to this
Christian for his good and virtuous carriage, that they loved
him as a son, and if they could have helped it would never
have let him go. But he must needs return in the ship, to
which the Moor and his sons bore him company.

    Embarking immediately, he departed with good weather,
which by the virtue of the relics as would appear, God so con-
tinued to him, that he soon came to port in his own country,
where he was received with open arms, and gave the presents
he had brought from his host to his father and mother, who
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prized them much and took great delight in them, minded to
repay them with even better. But when they would know
how he had laid out the three thousand crusadoes, and learned
what he had done, his father was ready to kill him for wrath,
and said: “Look at this you bring, supposing that they are
true relics, think you that I can sell them to get back my
money with profit? It cannot be, on the contrary I must spend
more money to do them honour and put them where they will
be esteemed, and thus, you having squandered the three thou-
sand crusadoes you took with you, my honour will compel me
to spend as much again for the honour of these bones.” The
youth would have excused himself, affirming that he had been
promised much honour and profit, but his father would not
hearken unto him, and in his passion drove him from the
house. But, having by his virtuous walk and deportment
gained the friendship of many noble persons in the city, he
repaired to their houses, and they took him in. And the Bishop
having knowledge of those relics, and that they had been long
in the city of Fez, and of the Saint to whom they had belonged,
and knowing his life and miracles, brought them out of the
ship with a great procession to the Cathedral. And, by the
way, marvels were not wanting which showed the sanctity of
the relics, and they were greatly esteemed, and gained the repute
they deserved in the bishopric, and the youth’s father became
better known than before, and his house was so frequented
that this year he did more business than in the three years
before it. And as he still would not take his son back some
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nobles who heard this interposed, and reconciled them and
restored the son to his father’s favour; and his mother, who took
his part in everything, had him brought back to the house.
At length she said to her husband that to see whether this
was a miracle or not he should reckon up his substance,
and he would find that for the three thousand crusadoes he
had spent upon the Saint, God had given him six thousand and
more, so that his capital was doubled. The merchant finding
this to be so, determined to send his son next year, as he did,
giving him four thousand crusadoes and presents for the Moor
and his sons, and his mother gave him other very rich pre-
sents for the Moor’s wife. And the youth went and was
received as a son, and related all that had happened, and con-
cluded that when the time came for his ship to return, he
would give the Moor the four thousand crusadoes he had
brought to lay out for him, for he loved him as a father, and
determined to follow his advice, and go back to live with him
if he were ill treated by his own father. And such was the
Moor that, though he loved him as a son, neither he nor his
sons ever strove to persuade him to change his faith, but
rather besought him to continue as he was, for the Moor
himself hoped to become a Christian when he should have
performed certain necessary things. And so when the youth
would depart, he charged him to take to the ship another
coffer with other bones of another Saint, priced at four thous-
and crusadoes, which coffer he had at his own cost lined
within and without with rich brocade, with silver nails, and
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gave him carpets and other things of price to take to his father
and mother, and for himself, and sent provisions to the ship
as at the former time, and with his sons accompanied him to
the place of embarkation, and gave him a horse with full
caparison, and money, saying, “If your father is offended as at
the first time, let it not trouble you, for if he knew my purpose
he would not mislike it; and since he doth not know it, let him
give course to his anger and free vent to his passion, and what-
ever he may say or do bear with him, for I know what I have
given you, and believe that you will win honour and profit
for yourself and your father and mother, and also for me and
my wife and children. Go therefore content, and trust in me,”
and thus dismissed the young man from the port.

    Speeding with a fair wind he arrived in his country,
where he was at first well received, but when his father knew
what he brought, if he had been angry the first time he was
much more angry the second, deeming that to err once was
more pardonable than to err twice. But the youth endured
all his fury with patience, and withdrew from the house not
to give him more annoy, as he could well do, having honour-
able entertainment elsewhere. At length the Bishop spoke to
the father, saying it was by his means that God per-
mitted him to bring these relics to his church, and that he
thanked him and took it well of him. Also his wife, seeing
that the substance in the house was greatly increased, made
him take a reckoning of it for every six months, and said,
“Take note that for four thousand which your son spends
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on one side, God gives you ten thousand on the other; own,
therefore, that all that is laid out thus is laid out well.” And
on this she spoke with her husband many days, until he
yielded, and the chest with the relics was carried to the church
with as great procession and solemnity as the other, and
greater if it were possible, and put in a fitting place to be
venerated as it deserved, so that the land had profit of both,
and miracles were not wanting, which the Lord ever works
for his Saints. Insomuch that all the diocese took note, and
people flocked from all the country, who, having seen the
Saints, wished to see the house and person of him at whose
cost the relics had come. And as he was a rich merchant,
and had all manner of goods in his house, they asked for
them and bought freely, deeming that all stuff in that house
was blessed, and that somewhat of its holiness accrued to
themselves. By reason whereof this man gained so greatly,
that if the first year he had had ten thousand crusadoes, this
year he had twenty thousand, by which he came to perceive
that this happened not by his own industry, but by the grace
of God, and, holding this for certain, he forgave his son, and
received him again into his house. Then he equipped his son
to go yet again to Fez, with great gifts for the Moor, and
letters recommending him, with injunctions to him if any
more relics were to be found to bring the same over, perceiv-
ing that though he could not sell them our Lord rewarded
him with more than he had spent. He also gave him presents
for the Moor’s wife, and the son, taking gifts from himself for
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the Moor’s sons, and five thousand crusadoes which his father
gave him to lay out, departed as soon as the vessel was ready.
Arriving at Fez, he was well received and caressed by the
Moor, his wife and sons, and treated as a son; and he gave
each the gifts he had for them, and passed his time agreeably
until it seemed that he ought to depart, when he gave the
Moor, the five thousand crusadoes he had to lay out, praying
him to spend them as he thought good, for he would be
entirely at his disposal. Then said the Moor, “Here is a
Christian damsel whose price is these very five thousand
crusadoes; her you must take with you, and you will not
return to this land, for I know that you will have much
trouble and great occupations which will prevent you, but
with God’s help all will end well. And you will remain at the
last rich and honoured to your great content. And I entreat
you, that when you shall have found my words come true,
you will think upon me, and do me to wit as you would your
own father, for I love you as a son.” The youth therefore
gave the Moor the five thousand crusadoes to buy the maiden,
who was some thirteen years old; and when he would have
spoken with her she could not understand his speech, nor he
hers, which displeasured him. Yet they took her to the
Moor’s house, and he at his own cost had the richest gar-
ments made for her, of no stuff less than silk, and many
garnished with tassels of silk and gold, and sent her away
with like circumstance as if the youth had been a Prince;
and he and his wife and sons went with them to the ship, and
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he said to the youth, “My son, I deliver this lady to you to
keep and guard in all honesty, and touch her no more than if
she were you own sister. Regard the precepts of the law of
God, which you Christians have, and keep them as you know
how; “all which the youth promised and fulfilled.

    He embarked, leaving great yearning for him with the
Moor and his wife and sons; these returned to Fez, and he
putting to sea with favourable weather speedily arrived in his
own country, where his father received him with great
caresses, being ready to have patience with him even though
he should have brought the bones of another Saint, as indeed
he desired, nor did he at first put him any questions. But
when the presents had been seen, his son gave him the Moor’s
letter, by which he learned that the son had brought a
Christian maiden appraised at five thousand crusadoes. At
this he grieved mightily, and said, “That the Lord should
send Saints is well, but what want we with sinners, especially
female ones? Thou hast surely brought her here to satisfy
thy carnal appetites, and hast never laid out thy money so ill
in thy life.” And he was more ireful and anguished than the
other two times, weening that nothing good could come of
mortal sin. Notwithstanding at the entreaty of his wife, he
suffered that the damsel should be brought to his house, as she
longed to see her; and this he did not to pleasure the girl, but
to remove her from the company of his son. He therefore
brought her to the house, and when his wife saw her she
kissed her on the face, and thanked God who had made her so
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beautiful, and said to her husband, “Mark, Sir, this is the
crown of the reward which thou hast merited for ransoming
those relics and this damsel; for the Lord who would give us
but one son, now gives us a daughter, and I love her as my
own.” And thus she received her into her house; and seeing
by her speech that she did not know our language, she
instructed her, and kept her as her own daughter, and taught
her all civility, which she learned as though she were to the
manner born. She learned to work embroidery which none
could match; she embroidered any stuff in gold and silk, and
it was a marvel to see the perfection of her handiwork; she
knew right well how to draw, and was the best needlewoman
in the land, and took pleasure in embroidering linen with
letters, and would join two pieces together, so that the same
letters might be read on each side, and they were so elegant
that it was a delight to see them. But they were in the lan-
guage of her own country, and she would never tell whence
she came, or who she was, or how she had fallen into
captivity. And thus she continued in this dwelling for three
years, in which she never saw or was seen by any but the
people of the house, and she learned our language as well as if
she had been born here by hearing the discourse of others. And
by reason of her obligation to him who had brought her out
of captivity, she was as kindly affectioned to the youth as
though they had been brother and sister. But the father
could not suffer this, and if he saw them together even though
they were saying nothing, he took it amiss, so jealous was her
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of her, as though she had been his true daughter, and his son
a servant; so fond of her were he and his wife for her good
disposition, conversation and talent. Then the mother casting
about her to do her some good, and do herself a pleasure at the
same time, determined to marry her to her son, that she might
share his goods after his father and mother should be dead,
and the father agreed thereto. But when they spoke thereof
to the damsel, she said that she thanked them indeed for all
the care they had taken of her, but that she could not marry
until she had accomplished a vow which she had made to
God in her captivity, and if the son would make a journey for
love of her, she promised and vowed to wed no other than
him. To this the youth consented, and she told him what he
had to do, and gave him whatsoever was needful for him.
And he sailed from his country on a ship bound for Flanders;
but having arrived at a port in England departed out of the
vessel, and taking a coffer which he had brought with him,
went to the city of London, where the King then was.
Coming to the courtyard of the palace he saw that the King
had finished dinner, and was coming forth by a corridor which
opened on the side of the court where the youth was. Per-
ceiving this, he spread out some of those linens embroidered
with letters whereof we have spoken, and when any came to
look at them he warned them not to touch, for none might
handle them save the King, nor would he suffer any person
to read the letters, for so the damsel had enjoined him. This
being told to the King, he, desiring to see the broideries, called
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for the youth and commanded him to bring the coffer; and
so it was done.

    As soon as the King took one of the pieces of linen into
his hand and read, the colour of his countenance changed,
and he cried aloud, “God save us!” and coming again to
himself inquired, “Where is the damsel who wrought this?”
to which the youth answered, “Let your Majesty pay me for
what I shall say by buying these cloths;” and the King did
so, for otherwise the youth would not answer his questions.
But on his giving him five thousand crusadoes, which was the
price the damsel had cost him, the youth said: “Sir, this
damsel is in Portugal, the country where I was born, and I
will show her to whomsoever your Majesty will send to see
her.” The King took the linen, and calling to him an old
man, who was his steward, he said: “Rememberest thou that
five or six years ago thou wentest to Ireland, and did’st agree to
send my daughter, the Princess, whom you and your wife had
brought up, to the Court of my cousin, the Queen of Ireland,
and how I sent her accompanied with cavaliers, nobles, ladies
and damsels of great worship, and how you and your wife
might not go by reason of your sickness; and how it was
told us that the ship was lost upon a shoal, and that some
escaped; and how the Queen, my beloved wife, died of grief
thereat. Now I know that when the ship was lost, the
captain, to save my daughter and himself, entered a boat
with some few others and strove to make land, but the
winds were so adverse that this might not be; and driven by
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the fury of the gales, the boat sped on without being stayed in
Brittany, or Biscay, or Spain, until after twelve days they
landed in Barbary, so worn out by the terrors of the sea, and
tormented with hunger and thirst, that they rejoiced to find
themselves on land, even though it were the land of the
infidels, where they could look for nothing but mournful
captivity. They came forth from the boat to save their lives,
and no sooner were they on land than they were taken and
made captive, and my daughter, Princess of this kingdom,
became the slave of a Moor, who having learned from those
with her who she was, immediately put a price upon her of
five thousand crusadoes, which this youth has paid, and
brought her with honour to the land of the Christians. All
this is set forth in the letters on this linen cloth, which are
embroidered in our language, and I pray you to read them.”
The steward read them, and both wept for joy and grief, he
and the King, and when their transport was over they agreed
that the steward should go in a King’s ship with the youth
wheresoever the youth should guide him, and should see
the damsel that should be shown him whom the youth should
affirm to be she who wrought the linen, and if she were the
Princess he should give him in whose house she had been kept,
all he should say he had spent upon her, and two thousand
crusadoes to boot, and promise him that if he would come
with her the King would show him great favour, and to the
youth also. And that the youth might be sure of his reward,
the King gave him a writing, which the youth kept; and a
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galley being prepared the steward and his wife embarked, with
her many ladies and with him many nobles and knights, and
the youth who had brought the broideries; and they
came to his country with a fair voyage. But on the way
the youth had discoursed with the steward of his father’s
jealousy, and how he feared that he would deny the maiden,
and not suffer them to have sight of her. They therefore
agreed what to do, and when they took port the steward and
the youth left the ship unknown to the others, and went
to the father’s house by covert ways, and as the youth was
familiar with the house he was able to find the lady in a
retired part. She, not knowing he was there, chanced to look
that way and saw him, and with him the guardian who had
brought her up, and whom she knew well; and approaching
nearer she allowed herself to be seen of them, who knowing
her came up to speak to her, and the old man would have
knelt to kiss her hand, but she would not suffer him. While
they were thus engaged the father entered, marvelling to find
people in his house, and when he knew his son he cried,
Camest thou not in by the door? There is treachery, and seized
him by his head, not seeing who was speaking with the damsel,
thus the twain had time and occasion to escape from the house
without being seen or hindered. And as soon as they were
clear of it she covered herself with a man’s cloak which the
steward had brought with him, and they hastened down to the
strand, and taking a boat embarked upon the ship without
contradiction from any, and set sail in the same hour as they
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had come, without eating or drinking in that land. The youth,
who remained with his father said: “Sir, this damsel is
daughter of a mighty king, suffer him to take her, and I will
go with her, and I doubt not thus to become a great lord, and
your part will come to you.” The father answered: “I know
well that this is some treason which thou would’st practise on
her and me, taking her out of my house to dishonour her,
that thou mayest not have to take her to wife, and she shall
never go with thee, which would be great scathe, but God has
ordered better.” And he cast his son forth by the door, not-
withstanding his mother who took his part. But when he
went in quest of the damsel and found her not, there was no
bound to his sorrow, and when inquiring of the neighbours he
came to know that the old steward had carried her off, and they
had been seen to enter the galley and set sail, he was so over
-come that there was no stay for his affliction. When the youth
heard that they had departed he was ready to die with passion
for the damsel, whom he loved more than his life, and more
-over was consumed with remorse for not having brought the
five thousand crusadoes from the galley, by aid of which he
might have gone to seek her, but he had forgotten them for
thinking of his lady, whom he prized above all the gold in the
world. And thus he roved about distracted, and would have
lost his wits but for friends and virtuous persons who com-
forted him, saying, you know who has taken her and whither
she is bound; follow after her by land, and you will overtake
her in good time. And receiving from them some money for
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his journey, he took a horse and travelled through Spain and
France to arrive where he would be. But as he had little
money, and was free with what he had, ere he had performed
two thirds of the journey he was obliged to sell his horse that
that he might have wherewith to eat, and to go on foot. As
he was little accustomed to this he proceeded but slowly, and
his money came to an end before his travel. And so it came
to pass that being one day at the door of an inn, he forbore to
enter, having no money to pay for his meal, but looking
within he saw two men sitting eating at a table who seemed
to be noble and well mannered persons, and had with them in
a case a viol and a psaltery, upon which the youth looked
earnestly, being well seen in the art and mystery of music
The men seeing him gazing on the instruments called him in
and bade him eat; but he thanking them said he had not
wherewith to pay. They offered to pay, and made him eat,
and talking at table asked him if he could dance or play, and
he told them that he knew somewhat of all such things.
“We,” they said, “are performers on these instruments, and
having heard that the King of England’s daughter has been
brought to him from abroad, and that she has fallen into such
melancholy that nothing can make her glad we have determined
to go before her to play, dance and sing, and with the help of
God and our skill cure her of her melancholy, for which the
King, her father, has promised a great reward. If you know
ought of this art, and will come with us, you shall have your
share in what we may gain.” He, who desired nothing better,
                                                                                            95

and surmised that the Princess’s melancholy was caused by
his absence and the love she bore him, and the promise of
marriage which she had given him in requital for his having
delivered her from captivity, straightway determined to go
with them, and told them that he would serve them all he
could, and that he would not go as their companion but as
their servant, to aid all he might in so excellent a work. And
they replied with no less courtesy that they could not treat
him as their servant, but that they would go as brothers, and
he, having made them the acknowledgements that were due,
took one of their instruments, and touching it gave them proof
of his skill, which was indeed exquisite, at which they showed
great content. When they came forth from the inn three
youths issued from the stables, and brought six horses, and
all mounting took their way until they came to the capital city
of England, and made the King to wit that they had heard of
the melancholy of his daughter, and begged leave to play and
sing before her. The King thanked them for the trouble of
their journey, and promised to repay them, and bade them to
the palace, where if they could cure the daughter he had
mourned for as dead, and the sight of whom now filled him with
sadness, reminding him of his wife who had died of grief for
her sake, they should be welcome all their lives. And so the three
comrades went to play and sing before the King and the princess,
she sitting inside in another room where she could see and
hear without being seen; thus for a long time they played and
sang with such melody and charm that none could but com-
    96

mend them, hearing the sweetness of their well blended instru-
ments, to which the youth sang this song in our language:—

            Land of Lusia was my home,
            Weary now the world I roam,
            Since I set from bondage free
            Who hath bondsman made of me.

            Woe is me and well away!
            Bearing to wild Barbary
            Ransom for the royal may
            Foe to my felicity!
            I the cup of youth have spilled,
            I the joy of life have killed,
            Freeing from captivity
            Who hath captive made of me.
            Now in lowlihead I lie,
            Fallen as doth well befit
            Him who taught his heart to fly
            Toward a hope too high for it.
            All my worth is clean forgot,
            Care is none of knightly lot,
            Since from bonds I set her free
            Who hath captive made of me.

    And this he sang with such sweetness and tenderness
that although those knew not what he said who understood
not his language, all knew him for most skilful in music, and
were content with him, especially the princess who heard him,
                                                                                            99

and knowing by his lay who he was and of what he sang,
rejoiced greatly to perceive that he was in the country. And
when the musicians took their leave she sent to tell her father
to make them come again and often, and so it was done. And
the musicians and singers continuing their performance, which
was the more lauded every time they came, the Princess
manifested the greatest pleasure, and the King twice as much.
And she, desiring to fulfil the promise of marriage which she
had made to the Portuguese, and knowing what manner of
man she had in him, spoke to her father; and he and the nobles
of his realm decreed that a great royal tournament should be
held, and that whoso won most honour should have
the Princess to wife, and become heir to the kingdom; and the
Princess accepted this upon condition that she should be pre-
sent among the judges when the prize should be awarded.
Whereat all the nobles of the court rejoiced greatly, and the
jousts were proclaimed throughout the kingdom, and great and
small had much contentment, having lately been in so great
affliction. And the nobles and knights seeing how great a
prize was to be given to the best champion desired exceedingly
to enter the lists and show forth their strength, valour and
wealth; so that all the chief gentry in the land came, and some
foreigners who chanced to be in the kingdom, but none came
from a distance, for the tournament was appointed for the
Assumption of Our Lady, which was only twenty days
distant. Nor were they missed, for so many flocked together
that there could not have been more at the Court of the greatest
    100

Emperor in the world, and there not being room for them in
London they encamped upon the fields in tents, which were so
many and rich and splendid that all rejoiced to see them who
could see them with a light heart. But our Portuguese, seeing
all this magnificence and himself so poor and in want of every-
thing that belonged to such an occasion, and despairing of being
able to enter the jousts, went about so sad and dismal that it
seemed as though his last hour was come. And had he had any
means of discovering his necessities to the Princess, doubtless
he would have done so, but not having any he remained await-
ing his perdition and death, which must soon have come to
pass if God had not put it into the hearts of the two musicians,
perceiving his melancholy, to thus discourse with him: “Com-
rade,” they said “we pray you much to disclose to us the
cause of your discontent, which we trust in Christ to be able
to remedy if remedy be in the power of man; our wills, powers,
and persons being wholly yours. Tell us therefore, whence is
your grief? “He, seeing their goodwill and offers, said:
“Were I but apparelled for this tourney I would be bold to
enter it, and would so bear myself that with the aid of God I
should win the prize; and since I see myself deprived of all
that is necessary, and so placed that I cannot obtain it I die of
passion, for I am losing all that I might have gained.” To
which they replied that it still wanted five days to the tourney,
and that he must hasten to equip himself, for they had and
would provide all that was needful, as in truth they did. And
he rejoiced and became so gay and knew so well how to fit
                                                                                            101

himself and prefer requests, that he came forth as well equipped
for what he needed as you will see on the day of the tourna-
ment. Not to make too long a story, when the appointed day
came the King and the Princess, with many ladies and damsels,
seated themselves in a balcony of the palace overlooking the
great court where the lists were opened. And the Princess was
so beautiful and richly attired that the sight of her gave strength
and courage to numbers who adventured themselves for her
sake, and endeavoured more than they were able to compass;
and with her were the judges, being four old men who were
great nobles in the kingdom. Then the knights began to enter
the square on all sides, which was beautiful to see, as the
flower of all the chivalry of the world seemed to be there, all
men regarding in silence the suits, colours, and devices which
they bore.

    Our Portuguese entered the lists fully armed with rich
white armour gilded in places, which gave it great lustre, and
covered with a short surcoat made in the fashion of the
country, quartered in green and white damask, slashed with
embroidery of large round Oriental pearls of greatest price.
His visage was uncovered, which if of itself it was comely
and of gentle semblance, seemed so much the more lovely with
the martial mien of armour, insomuch that all viewed it with
delight. In his company were the two master musicians,
whom some knew for what they were, vested in silk raiment
of the same colour as the surcoat, made in the fashion of that
court, and bearing the jouster’s arms. One carried his helmet,
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which with great white and green plumes, and gilded in places,
gave forth great brightness, and the other his lance painted
with the like colours, and three pages followed wearing the
same livery, insomuch that all eyes were turned upon him and
his retinue. The Princess recognised him immediately with
great content, knowing him of old for one of the best cavaliers
in the world, and all who saw him enter the square said with
one voice “He is the most spirited, the best equipped, and the
comeliest knight that hath come hither, God make him such
in the fray as he promiseth by his countenance.” And he
riding round the lists that all might view him, came before the
King and Princess, made his due reverence with all grace and
courtesy, and well marked by the signs which the Princess
gave him, how content she was to behold him. And so when
all were ranged in quietness in the square, the signal was given
with trumpets and other martial instruments, as customary on
the like occasions, and the jousting began. And there were
many and fine encounters; sometimes with shocks so fierce
that the armour of the knights was wrested from their bodies
and sent flying through the air, and some who could not
recover themselves came to the ground, and some fell, horse
and man. But it so befell our Portuguese that while all the
rest received some check, great or small, he received none, but
did great displeasure to others, for in his three first courses he
overthrew three famous knights who little deemed to have
fallen so soon, and this without breaking his first lance.
When this was broken his pages gave him another, and with
                                                                                            103

this and many more he performed such feats that when it was
time to cease and the King gave the signal, all praised him and
pronounced him worthy of the prize. And if the tourney had
been but for one day he would then have gained it, but it had
been ordained for three. The jousting being over for this day
he rode to the balcony where the King was, about to leave the
square, and attended upon him on horseback to the palace,
and having made meet reverence to the Princess and being
dismissed by the King, went to his companions who awaited
him, and quitting the courtyard with the same dignity as he
had entered it, repaired to his inn.

    The Princess withdrew from the balcony to her apart-
ment, content with what she had beheld and with what
she had heard all say in praise of the stranger knight,
nor was she amazed to see his arms and trappings of
such exceeding richness, supposing that he had brought
them from his father, whom she knew for a man of great
possessions. This night there was a festival in the palace,
with concerts of music and dances of nobles, courtiers, and
ladies; and some who had been unlucky in the jousts
took courage to return and again make trial of their fortune;
and those who were proud of having done well took pleasure
in hearing themselves commended by the ladies. And yet the
stranger knight being absent, upon whom all eyes had been
turned, the King asked concerning him, but could hear no
other account save that he had retired to his hostel with his
people. After the evening had been spent in gaiety all went
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to rest, for the tourney was to be held again next day, and it
was needful to repair the arms of many who had suffered from
the violence of their encounters, in which many spent the most
of the night, and chiefly they who had made trial of the
dexterity and strength of the Portuguese cavalier. But it was
not so with him, for when he had disarmed himself he found
his arms as complete as if they had never been proved, and
this by their goodness, and not because they had not been
smitten hard and often, at which he greatly rejoiced. And
after the supper which his companions had caused to be pre-
pared for him he went to sleep and repose, as was needful after
the much he had done on that day. Yet was not his sleep so
sound but that by day break he was already vesting himself
for the new tourney, not knowing how well equipped were his
companions, who rejoiced to have care of him, and assuring
him that they had all that was needful entreated him to rest
till it was time to partake of food. After breakfast he armed
himself as you shall hear. And the King went to hear mass
in the Princess’s Chapel, where it was said with great solem-
nity, and when it was over went to his meal in the banqueting
hall in great state, and heard many instruments of music,
and thence repaired to the balcony as the day before, bringing
the Princess with him; and the judges came, and took their
seats as they had done on the first day, and the knights thronged
in so many and so richly armed, with such liveries and devices,
that it was glorious and beautiful to see them. And our
Portuguese wore that day a suit of green armour with a
                                                                                            105

dalmatic of white damask powdered with gold, and with spurs
richly gilded and exquisitely wrought. Entering the square
accompanied by his companions and the pages whom he had
brought the day before, he rode below the balcony, and made
his accustomed obeisance to the King and Princess, and took
up his place until all were assembled and it was time to begin,
and to relate all he did would be to make a large volume. To
conclude, the youth performed such feats on that and the
following day that all affirmed with one voice that there was
no better cavalier in the world, and even they who strove with
him, pretending to the hand of the Princess, could not deny it,
but laid it to his charge that he was a foreigner, and peradven-
ture not of blood to deserve such greatness.

    The three days’ joustings being now over, the King com-
manded that all grandees, nobles, and knights should come to
the great hall, for he would that judgment should be made as
to who had deserved the prize. Many came not, for knowing
that their desert was small, they would not be present at the
award, and so departed. Yet notwithstanding there were so
many that it seemed the hall could hold no more, to whom a
king at arms made a discourse in the King’s name, saying:
” Sirs, the King our lord has well marked the great deeds
which all of you have done for the honour of this court, and
the great valour and vigour of you all, and certes this is so
much that he will remember it for all the length of life which
it shall please God to give him; and he would be glad to have
so many kingdoms and daughters that he could give one to
    106

each of you, for he deems that each of you hath well deserved
them, but he hath only this one daughter and this one
kingdom which may not be divided. He asks you all
together, and each one severally, to abide by the judges’
sentence, and to accept him whom they shall determine to
have gained as their Prince and Lord, since it needs must
be one and not all, and so doing you shall find him so
propitious that he trusts in God that none of you shall ever
at any time forfeit his friendship and favour.” It seemed to
all that the king at arms said well, and the chiefs who were
charged to reply said that the King showed them great favour in
making them this compliment, seeing that he might well have
commanded, and now let the judges pronounce as they deemed
fit. Then the king at arms spoke in the name of the judges,
and declared that though all had done well the stranger knight
had done better, wherefore they adjudged him the prize, and
called upon him to come forward to receive due reward of his
labours. He, who had placed himself amid the throng in the
background, now came forward wearing a suit of crimson
satin trimmed with gold and embroidered with devices of quaint
invention, and cap and shoes of the same, which declared the
joy of his heart. And as this was seen by some who grieved
that he should have the honour which they coveted for them-
selves, they came and stood before him ere he could speak,
saying: “Sir, let him show who he is and whether he deserves
such honour as your Majesty accords him, otherwise it will
be grievous to us to obey him.” These were commanded to sit                                                                                            107

down, as the knight of Portugal desired to speak; and he, not
knowing enough of English to discourse in it, spoke thus in
Latin, for he was a good scholar:
    Sir, these lords, nobles, and cavaliers are of such estima-
tion and worship that they would be right in yielding obedience
to none of lesser worth than your Majesty now present, could
your Majesty’s equal be found in the world, but since such
hath not been found, nor, as I deem can ever be, it seems to
me that they will do what is just for the service of your
Majesty, being well affectioned to you as reason would.
Wherefore before them all I beg your Majesty to hear me, and
in his wisdom determine the issue of what I am to declare.
Which is to let your Majesty know that I passed into Barbary,
and it was God’s pleasure that by great cost and labour of
my person I should deliver the Princess, my Lady here present,
who if I deceive not myself will remember how the matter
came to pass, and of my poor service, which although it was
not such as her great desert merited, was the best that my
ability could render. Thus I brought her to Portugal, treating
her with great honour, and though I knew nothing of her
greatness, continually serving her as if I had known, and under-
going great dispeace with my father for her sake. Then I
came to this kingdom, bearing to your Majesty the work she
had wrought, and tidings of herself, and your Majesty was
pleased to bestow on me the five thousand crusadoes I asked,
which have been left in the galley which has brought her High-
ness here. And besides this money your Majesty, without my
    108

asking it, gave me this scroll for a testimony that he in the
presence of the Princess would confer upon me any favour
I might ask that should be agreeable to righteousness, provided
that I should produce my Lady the Princess to his steward as
I have done; here he is to confirm it. Now for the first time
do I produce this scroll, and being in the presence of her High-
ness, I pray your Majesty, having respect to the service
rendered by me to you and to my Lady the Princess, to grant
me the favour of becoming a gentleman of his house, and his
subject like these other gentlemen; and if they deem that my
services do not deserve so much, I am ready to serve all my
life without resting until they do.” And when his discourse
was ended, replying to some who asked him, he told where
and how the Princess had been captive and he had obtained
her freedom, whereat those who knew it not already had great
marvel. And when he had finished they all, greatly com-
mending him, asked the King to grant him the favour he
sought, seeing that it was just, and that moreover he might
have the honour he had well earned. The King rejoiced much
to hear and see that all were well agreed, and rising from his
throne and advancing two paces towards where the Portuguese
was standing, he said: “I am content to grant you what you
desire, and moreover from this day forth hold you as Prince
of this kingdom as though you were my own son, and I will
that you should forthwith espouse my daughter, and hereby
ask her consent.” And all the hall was full of voices crying,
“This is reason and right.” And straightway he was wedded
                                                                                            109

to her by the Archbishop of the City, and festivals, jousts, and
tournaments were held in honour of the marriage, which
endured much time.

    The Prince immediately sent tidings of his good fortune
to his father and mother; and his father, yearning to see the
Princess, departed without delay, bringing his family, kindred,
friends and servants in three galleys, and brought with him a
great treasure of jewels, gold, and silver, which he gave to the
Prince and Princess, so that he had much to bestow upon
those to whom it seemed to him right. Also he sent to the
Moor of Fez, who had counselled him so well in his traffic,
who came at once with his wife, sons, and household, bring-
ing with him all the substance he had. As soon as he found
himself in England he would have kissed the hands of the
Prince and Princess, but they would not suffer him, and with
many demonstrations of affection made him rise; and the
Moor kissed the hands of the King, who gave them a noble
apartment, and ere long they became Christians, the King and
Princess being their God-parents, and bestowing great favours
on the day of the baptism. And while these festivities were
being held the two musicians who had accompanied the Prince
took him aside and spoke thus; “Our company is no longer
needful for you, wherefore we are minded to depart, and before
we go we are fain to tell you who we are, that you may know
that what you laid out upon us was well employed, and that
you have been abundantly repaid for it. Have you memory
of those bones which you ransomed in the land of the Moors?
    110

Know that these were aforetime our bodies, and that the
bodies you now behold are but phantoms, assumed by us to
accompany you in your enterprise in requital for what you
have done for us; and this God hath permitted, for he leaves
not without recompense those who, like you, have served and
honoured his saints. Now you dwell in quietness with your
father and mother, kindred and friends, and wife, and have
honour and royalty which you have well deserved, but do not
for this forget the service of God and his saints. If you have
need of us at any time we are with you, and now farewell with
God’s blessing.” And thus they departed, leaving the Prince
in amaze, for he had been devising how to repay them for
what they had done for him, and thus he remained with great
devotion and love to our Lord God who had given such
prosperity to his undertakings. And after no great space of
time the King died, and the Prince and Princess were pro-
claimed King and Queen, and governed the land with great
quietness and all men? love, and from them descend the great
kings of England.

                                                          RICHARD GARNETT.

MLA citation:

Garnett, Richard. “The Merchant Knight.” The Venture: an Annual of Art and Literature, vol. 1, 1903, pp.77-111. Venture Digital Edition, edited by Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, 2018-2020. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2019. https://beta.1890s.ca/venturev1-garnett-merchant-knight/.