The False Champion by Anonymous

There was in Provence, not many years ago, a certain Signor Carsivallo, a nobleman who possessed several manors; a man of great merit and judgment, much beloved and respected by the barons and nobles of the place, the more so on account of the antiquity of his family, who were descendants of the Balzos. This gentleman had a daughter, named Lisetta, who was one of the greatest beauties in Provence. Many barons and lords, who were young, and of elegant appearance, had solicited her hand. But the said Carsivallo refused them all, nor would he marry her to any of them.

There was at that time a Count Aldobrandini, who was lord of all Venisi, containing many cities and castles, and who was above seventy years old, and had neither wife or children. He was possessed of so much riches that they exceeded all belief. This Count Aldobrandini hearing of this beautiful daughter of Carsivallo, fell in love with her, and would willingly have married her, but was ashamed to solicit her hand on account of his age, knowing that so many young and noble knights had sought to obtain her, and had been refused. However, he felt his love increasing, and could find no way to obtain her. It happened that giving a grand treat, Carsivallo, as his friend and humble servant, called to see him; the count received him with open arms, and honoured him much, gave him hunters, hawks, hounds, and various other presents; after which the count bethought himself he would in a friendly manner ask him for his daughter.

Being one day by themselves the count began, half in jest and half in earnest, "my good friend, Carsivallo, I will open my mind to thee without any further preface, as I know I may venture to speak freely to thee, although, perhaps, I may be a little ashamed on account of one thing, and that alone—that I am not quite so stout as I was; but be that as it may, I would willingly, if it met thy pleasure, marry thy daughter." Carsivallo answered, "my good lord, I would most willingly give her unto you, but that I should feel very awkward in so doing, considering that those who have solicited her hand are all young men, from eighteen to twenty, who would become my enemies; besides, her mother, brothers, and relations, would not be pleased, nor do I know the girl would be at all gratified, when others so young and blooming might have had her." The count replied, "thou sayest right, but thou mightest tell her, she shall be mistress of all I possess in the world; meanwhile we will contrive to find some way of succeeding, therefore, let us think upon this to-night."

"Yes," said Carsivallo, "I am most willing, and to-morrow morning we will communicate the result to each other." The count could not close his eyes all night, but planned an excellent scheme, and the next morning he called Carsivallo, and said, "I have found an excellent plan that will afford you a good excuse, and do you great honour."

"How is that, my lord?" said Carsivallo. "Do thou," said the count, "order a tournament to be publicly cried, and let it be known that he who wishes to marry your daughter must come on such a day, and whoever shall be the conqueror, shall have the lady, and leave the rest to me. I will find means to become the victor, and by this contrivance thou wilt be excused by all." Carsivallo said, "well, I am agreeable to it." He left the count, thus saying, and went home; and, when he thought it was time, he called his wife, and other relations and friends, and said to them, "methinks it is high time to marry Lisetta; what mean you to do, considering how many there are who offer themselves; if we bestow her on one, the others will be affronted, and become enemies, saying, 'am I not as good as he and so will they all, and we shall only create foes where we try to gain friends; what think you of proclaiming a tournament in the spring, and of bestowing her on him who shall win her?" The mother, and the rest of the friends, said they were of the same opinion, and approved of the plan. Carsivallo ordered the tournament to be proclaimed, stating, that whoever wished to marry his daughter, should come on the first of May, in the city of Marseilles, to the tournament, and that he who should prove the victor, should have the lady. In consequence of which, Aldobrandini sent to France, praying the king that he might be pleased to send one of his best squires, who was most valiant and expert at the tournaments. The king, considering the count had always been a faithful servant to the crown, and, over and above, a relation, sent him one of his knights, whom he had himself brought up from his infancy; his name was Ricardo, a descendant of the ancient and famous family of Mont Albano, and ordered him to obey the count in every thing he should desire. This youth came to the count, who received him with great kindness, then told him the reason why he had sent for him. "Milord," said Ricardo, "I am commanded by his majesty strictly to obey you, therefore, command me, and I will boldly undertake it."

"We have ordered a tournament at Marseilles, where I mean you to be the conqueror; then will I come in the field of battle to fight with thee; thou must manage so that I be the victor in the contest." Ricardo answered, he would do so. The count concealed him within the palace till it was time, then said, "take such arms as thou listest, and go to Marseilles, and give thyself out for a traveller; provide thyself with money, horses, &c., and take care to be true."

"Let me alone, Milord," said Ricardo, and away he went to the stable; there he saw a fine horse that had not been rode for some months; he had it saddled, mounted it, and, taking such retinue as he thought proper, set off for Marseilles, where great preparations had been made for the intended tournament. Many gentlemen had already arrived on the occasion, all mounted as superbly as they could possibly be, with numbers of trumpets, fifes, &c. that stunned the hearers. A great spot of ground was palisadoed for the tournament, adorned with numbers of elegant booths for the ladies and gentlemen spectators. On the first of May, the noble lady, Lisetta, made her appearance, and, like another sun, eclipsed all the other ladies, as much by her noble manners as her superior beauty. All those that were anxious to obtain her, came forth with different devices, and began to thump at one another most gloriously. Ricardo advanced in the ring, mounted on the above-mentioned horse, forcing his way through all the combatants. The tournament lasted the best part of the day, and Ricardo was always victor, being more expert, and used to the sport; he boldly attacked, defended himself, and wheeled round with the agility of one well trained to the game. Every one inquiring who he was, they were told he was a foreign nobleman, just arrived. He, however, remained victor, and all the others were defeated; one went one way, the other another, but all much dispirited; and, shortly after, Count Aldobrandini entered the list, covered with his armour, and ran up to Ricardo and challenged him, and Ricardo counter-challenged; and, after a seeming hard contest, as had been first agreed, the said Ricardo suffered himself to be dismounted, but never had he done any thing with more regret, for he had fallen in love himself with the lady; but he was bound to obey the king, and, of course, the commands of Aldobrandini. The count, remaining the conqueror, rode round the ring, sword in hand, his suit and barons coming into the ring to attend him, and greeting him. When he pulled off his vizor, every one was struck with amazement, and more particularly the lady. Thus did the count gain the lovely Lisetta, and took her home, where great rejoicings were continued for some time. Ricardo, returning to the king, was asked what had occurred; "Please your majesty," said Ricardo, "I am just come from a tournament, in which the count mischievously introduced me."

"How!" said the king, "I have been pimp to the count;" and Ricardo related the story, which very much surprised the king. "Be not astonished, my liege, at what has happened, but rather be surprised that I should have done such a thing, for I never in my life did any thing I regret so much, and felt so much grief for, so extremely beautiful is she whom the count has so slily gained." The king thought awhile, then said, "Ricardo, do not be down-hearted, this will prove a fortunate event to thee."

It happened a little while after, that the said Count Aldobrandini died without heir; the lady Lisetta, being left a widow, was taken home to her father, but he scarcely ever spoke or looked at her; the lady began to wonder very much at this, and being unable to bear it any longer, she said to her father—-"Father, I wonder much at your behaviour to me, recollecting that I was your darling child, that you loved me better than all your other children, and leaped with joy whenever you beheld me—that is, while I was a maiden; now, I know not what can be the cause, you scarcely seem able to look at me." Her father answered, "thou canst not wonder so much at me as I wonder at thee, for I thought thee more wise, considering why, and by what contrivances, I married thee to the count merely that thou mightest have children, and remain possessed of his riches."

It so happened that all Aldobrandini's possessions fell to the king of France, who, remembering the generous conduct of Ricardo, sent to Provence to signify unto Carsivallo, that he wished to give his daughter to a squire of his, who, by right, ought to be her husband. Carsivallo, who understood the matter, answered the king, that he was master to do as his majesty pleased. The king mounted his horse, and with a large retinue went to Provence, and conducted Ricardo with him, and formed this match, that is, that Lisetta should be his wife, after which he created him count, and bestowed on him the county which Aldobrandini had been lord of. This match gave great satisfaction to all, but especially to the lady, and so they lived together in happiness and comfort.