F ALL THE nobles of Britain none was so strong as Rohand, Earl of Warwick, Rockingham, and Oxford. He made just laws, and made them to be obeyed; nor king nor baron in the land could buy his favour with fine words or gold, or shield the wrong-doer from his punishment. Passing fair was Felice, his daughter, like some stately marble shaft of perfect mould; haughty was she as the great gerfalcon which spurns the earth and towers up into the noon to look the burning sun in the face. Wise masters, hoar with learning, came out from Toulouse to teach her the seven arts and sciences, until there was not her like for wisdom anywhere.
Earl Rohand had a favourite page, named Guy, son of his just and upright steward, Segard of Wallingford; a brave and fearless youth, of strong and well-knit frame, whom Heraud of Ardenne, his tutor, taught betimes to just with lance and sword, and how to hunt with hawk and hound by wood and river side.
It was the feast of Pentecost, when by old custom every maiden chose her love and every knight his leman. Guy, clad in a new silken dress, being made cup-bearer at the banquet table, saw for the first time the beautiful Felice, as, kneeling, he offered the golden ewer and basin and demask napkin to wash her finger-tips before the banquet. Thenceforward he became so love-stricken with her beauty that he heard not the music of the glee-men, saw neither games nor tourneys, but dured in a dream, like one crazed, all through the fourteen days festival. Knights and fair dames praised his handsome figure and well grown sinewy limbs; he heeded not--but once Felice gave him a courteous word as he offered her the wine-cup; he blushed and stammered and spilled the wine, and was rebuked for awkwardness.
The feast being over, Guy went away to his chamber, and there fell into a great love-sickness. Hopeless it seemed for a vassal to love one so far above him as his sovereign's daughter; so he gave himself up to despair, and his disease grew so sore that the most skilful leeches of Earl Rohand's court were unable to cure his complaint. In vain they let him of blood or gave him salve or potion. "There is no medicine of any avail," the leeches said. Guy murmured, "Felice: if one might find and bring Felice to me, I yet might live." "Felice?" the leeches said among themselves, and shook their heads, "It is not in the herbal. Felice? Felix? No, there is no plant of that name."
"No herb is Felice," sighing answered Guy, "but a flower--the fairest flower that grows."
"He is light-headed," they said. "The flower Felice? He seeks perchance the flower of happiness, growing in the garden of the blessed, away in Paradise. He is surely near his end."
"It is truly Paradise where Felice is," Guy answered,
"You hear? You see," the leeches whispered one to another. "Come, let us go; for we can be of no more good."
Night came, and being left alone Guy thought to rise up from his bed and drag himself into the presence of his mistress, there to die at her feet. So weak was he become, he scarce could stand, but fainted many times upon the way.
Now Felice had heard many whisperings how Guy was dying for love of her, since her handmaidens had compassion on the youth, and sought to turn her heart toward him; but Felice was in no mind to have a page for a lover. Howbeit on this very night she had a dream, wherein being straitly enjoined to entreat the youth with kindness as the only way to save a life which would hereafter be of great service to the world, she arose and came to a bower in the garden where Guy lay swooning on the floor. Felice would not stoop to help him, but her maids having restored him to his senses, Guy fell at her feet and poured out all his love before her. Never a word answered Felice, but stood calmly regarding him with haughty coldness. Then said one of her maids, "O lady! were I the richest king's daughter in the land, I could not turn away from love so strong and true." Felice rebuked her, saying, "Could not? Silly child, see that your soft heart do not prove your shame." So with a tingling cheek the maid withdrew abashed. Then said Felice to Guy, "Why kneel there weeping like a girl? Get up, and show if there is the making of a man in you. Hear what I have to say. The swan mates not with the swallow, and I will never wed beneath me. Prove that your love is not presumption. Show yourself my peer. For I could love a brave and valiant knight before whose spear men bowed as to a king, nor would I ask his parentage, prouder far to know that my children took their nobleness from a self-made nobleman. But a weeping, love-sick page! No! Go, fight and battle--show me something that you do that I can love. Meantime I look for such a lover, and I care not if his name be Guy the page."
Then Guy took heart and said, "Lady, I ask no better boon than to have you for witness of what love for you can do."
Felice answered, "Deeds, not words. Be strong and valiant. I will watch and I will wait."
Then Guy took leave of his mistress and in the course of a few days regained his health, to the surprise of all the court, but more especially of the leeches who had given him over for dead, and coming to Earl Rohand, entreated him to make him a knight. To this Earl Rohand having agreed, Guy was knighted at the next feast of Holy Trinity with a dubbing worthy a king's son; and they brought him rich armour, and a good sword and spear and shield, and a noble steed with costly trappings, together with rich silken cloaks and mantles fur-trimmed, and of great price. Then bidding farewell to Segard his father, Sir Guy left Warwick with Heraud his tutor, and Sir Thorold and Sir Urry for company, and having reached the nearest seaport, set sail for Normandy in search of adventures wherein to prove his valour.
They came to Rouen, and whilst they tarried at an inn a tournament was proclaimed in honour of the fair Blancheflor, daughter to Regnier, Emperor of Germany, and the prize was the hand of the Princess, a white horse, two white hounds, and a white falcon. So Sir Guy and his companions rode into the lists, where was a great company of proven knights and champions. Three days they tourneyed, but none could withstand Sir Guy's strong arm. He overthrew Otho Duke of Pavia, Sir Garie the Emperor's son, Regnier Duke of Sessoyne, the Duke of Lowayne, and many more, till not a man was left who dared encounter him; and being master of the field, he was adjudged the prize. The horse and hounds and falcon he sent by two messengers to Felice in England as trophies of his valour. Then he knelt before the beautiful Princess Blancheflor and said, "Lady, I battle in honour of my mistress, the peerless Felice, and am her servant," whereat the Emperor and his daughter, admiring his constancy, loaded him with rich presents and allowed him to depart.
Sir Guy then travelled through Spain, Lombardy, and Almayne, into far lands; and wheresoever a tournament was held, there he went and justed, coming out victor from them all; till the fame of his exploits spread over Christendom. So a year passed, and he returned to England unconquered, and renowned as the most valiant knight of his time. A while he sojourned in London with King Athelstan, who rejoiced to do him honour; then he came to Warwick, where he received from Earl Rohand a princely welcome. Then Sir Guy hastened to Felice.
"Fair mistress," said he, "have I now won your love? You have heard my deeds, how I have travelled all through Christendom, and have yet found no man stand against my spear. I have been faithful in my love, Felice, as well as strong in fight. I might have wedded with the best. King's daughters and princesses were prizes in the tournaments; but I had no mind for any prize but thee. Say, is it mine, sweet mistress?"
Then Felice kissed her knight and answered, "Right nobly have you won my love and worship, brave Sir Guy. You are more than my peer; you are become my sovereign; and my love pays willing homage to its lord. But for this same cause I will not wed you yet. I will not have men point at me and say, 'There is a woman who for selfish love's sake, wedded the knight of most renown in Christendom ere yet he did his bravest deeds-drew him from his level to her own-made him lay by his sword and spear for the slothful pleasures of a wedded life, and dwarfed a brave man down to a soft gentleman.' Nay, dear one, I can wait, and very proudly, knowing myself your chiefest prize. But seek not to possess the prize too soon, lest your strivings for renown, being aimless, should wax feeble. It is because I love you that I hold your fame far dearer than my love. Go rather forth again, travel through heathen lands, defend the weak against the strong; go, battle for the right, show yourself the matchless knight you are; and God and my love go with thee."
Then Sir Guy got him ready for his new quest. Earl Rohand tried to persuade him to remain at home, as likewise did his father Segard; and his mother, weeping, prayed him stay. She said, "Another year it may not fare so well with thee, my son. Leave well alone. Felice is cold and proud and cares not for thee, else she would not risk thy life again. What is it to her? If thou wert slain she would get another lover; we have no more sons."