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XVI

Spoken: Story and Dialogue

"Ah!" said Nicolette, "would that the souls of your father and mother rest in the peace of the Lord, since you just warned me with such gentleness and courtesy. If it pleases God, I will be very wary of these enemies, and I entreat God himself to keep me safe from them!"

She curled up inside her coat, in the shadow of the pillar, just as they walked past her; then she took leave of Aucassin. She walked over to the castle wall. As it had been demolished, scaffolding had been constructed, which she climbed. After some strong efforts, there she was between the wall and the ditch. When she looked toward the bottom, the sight of the deep, steep ditch filled her with fear.

"Ah, my God!" she said, "Sweet Being! If I fall I'll break my neck, but if I stay here, tomorrow they will catch me and burn me at the stake. I would rather die here then be exposed to the curious looks of the people tomorrow."

She made the sign of the cross and slid down to the bottom of the ditch. When she reached the bottom, her pretty feet and beautiful hands, which weren't accustomed to roughness, were bruised and scratched, blood flowed in more than a dozen places, and she felt no harm nor pain, such was the strength of her fear.

If it was difficult to go down, it was even harder to go up. She thought it would do no good to stay there. Having found one of several pointed stakes in the ditch that had been thrown there in defending the castle, she advanced, slowly, bit by bit, and with huge efforts got to the top of the other side.

Now, the forest was the distance of two crossbow ranges. Stretching over more than thirty leagues in length and width, it harbored wild beasts and a whole population of snakes: Nicolette was afraid of being devoured if she went in, but on the other hand she thought that, if they found her in this place, they would bring her back to the town and burn her.

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