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tongue could tell the depth of the grief of the king. He caused his mother to be put to death for her crime, and sorrowed for years as one without hope, for no tidings of Constance ever came; and in the end his misery, and the remorse he felt at having killed his mother, became so great, that he resolved to go to Rome, and suffer whatever penance the Holy Father might impose. Meantime, while Constance and her child had been tossing on the Sea for long weary years, many events had happened at home. Her father, the Emperor, had taken ample revenge for the cruel injury done to his daughter; an army had been sent against Syria to wage war with fire and sword; and though the strife was long and stubborn, the object of the expedition had been at last accomplished, and the ships were royally returning to Rome, when they fell in with the vessel which contained Constance and her child. The Senator in command took charge of her; he showed great kindness to her; and when he reached home, committed her to the care of his wife, who, as it happened, was nearly related to herself; but the lapse of years and sorrow had changed her so much that no one knew her, and she kept all her story in her heart, and would tell no one who she was. Still, she was deeply loved, and was living with them, and fairly happy, when the news spread that Alla her husband had come to Rome. Her friend the senator was high in honour with the Emperor, and to him the charge was given to entertain the King Alla with royal magnificence. He did so, taking the son of Constance along with him to the feast. While there, the boy could not keep his eyes off Alla's face, and as soon as the King saw him, he was strangely agitated, and said to the senator, “Whose is that fairé child that stondeth yonder 7" For, as the boy was the very image of his mother, the dear ever-remembered face appeared clear before him, and he sped him from the table that he might be alone. He insisted on the Senator taking him at once to his house, that he might see the mother of the child; but he could hardly believe that such joy as he hoped for could be in store for him. As for Constance, when she was told to come to meet him, she stood still as a stone, she could hardly stand upon her feet, but still she went. At the first glance “he knew wel verraily that it was she,” and he held forth his arms to embrace her in his joy. But she could not for the moment respond:— “For sorrow's sake she stood dumb as a tree,
But it was only for a moment. He assured her that he was as innocent of all blame “as is Maurice our son, so lyk your face”; and then the happiness of these two was perfect, and so sacred that all withdrew and left them to themselves.
Another joyful reunion took place when Constance made herself known to her father; after which she returned with her husband to Northumberland, where a glad welcome was given to both her and him. They continued to live in each other's love for a time; but earthly joy is fleeting, and within one short year after they came home, Alla died, and then Constance returned to Rome to her father's Court. In course of time her son succeeded as Emperor. He ruled wisely, and did many brave and noble deeds, as all the world knows, and his mother continued to find her highest worldly happiness in his success, until she, too, passed away."
1 This, perhaps the most beautiful of all the ‘Canterbury Tales,' was a great favourite in Chaucer's day, and was to be found in the folk-lore of all the civilised nations, both in the East and in the West. He obtained the outline of it from the same sources, as did also Gower (who includes it in his ‘Confessio Amantis’), and other French and Italian raconteurs. But the greater part of it, as told by Chaucer, is his own. He took over the bare matter-of-fact elements of the story, and expressed them in words which will ever give delight. It is a tale which all young people should read for themselves, and in the poet's own beautiful words.
When the worthy Man of Law had finished his tale, he said—
“And fare now wel, my tale is at an end.
The next tale given in the Harleian manuscript is the “Wife of Bath's Tale.” There is nothing stated to link it with the tale just told, although it has the longest prologue of any of the tales. In that prologue the Wife gives an account of her ample and varied experience of married life. It was stated in the general Prologue that she had been married five times in succession at the church door, and she now states that she is not without hopes of being a principal in a sixth similar ceremony. She then proceeds to give her opinion of each of the five husbands, and to describe the high enjoyment she feels when she thinks of the lives she led them. And, certainly, she is altogether impartial in exposing the weaknesses of both sexes alike. Her prologue is expressed in lively vigorous language, it is full of the wise saws which must have been current amongst her class at the time, and it is specially outspoken and free. Like most
of her kind, however, she cannot keep to her sub
ject; she continually digresses, and it is amusing to see how she every now and then pulls herself up, as it were, and again goes off into gossip once more. Her object is to show that a married woman's aim ought to be to get as much of her own way as she can, and that if the husband is wise, and wishes to lead a quiet life, he had better do his best to fall in with that desire. The prologue meanders on over upwards of eight hundred lines, and it is very amusing in Some parts and very coarse in others. At its close she said she would now make a beginning with her tale, whereupon the Frere, rash man! ventured to say that what they had already heard was an uncommonly long preamble. This gave an opportunity to the Sompnour, between whom and the Frere, as usual, no love was lost, to ask what business it was of his, and to call out angrily that he was spoiling their sport by his interference; but that it was always the way, for Freres would continually meddle, without rhyme or reason, with matters that did not in any way concern them. The Frere swore that he would have his revenge ere long, when he would disclose some secrets regarding Sompnours in his tale; and the Sompnour assured him that if he did, he should get it as hot as he gave. The Host had to interfere, and to order both of them to hold