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XXIV

Spoken: Story and Dialogue

Aucassin went into the forest, going one way and another, and his charger took him along at a lively pace. Do not think that brambles or thorns spared him. Not at all! Much to the contrary, they tore his clothes into pieces to such a point that it would be quite difficult to even tie a knot with the least-affected piece and blood flowed over his arms, his sides, his legs, if not in forty places, then in thirty, so much that, behind the young man, one could follow the trail of blood that fell on the underbrush. But he was so absorbed by the thought of Nicolette that he felt neither sadness nor pain. He made his way through the forest the entire day without seeing any sign of his friend. Then, as he saw night falling, he began to cry because he hadn't found her.

As he was riding the entire length of an old grassy path, he looked ahead of him in the middle of the road and saw a young man who looked thus: large, monstrously ugly and horrible, an enormous head that was blacker than coal, more than a hand's span between his eyes, immense cheeks, a gigantic flat nose, enormous nostrils, fat lips that were redder than a steak, and frightening long yellow teeth. He wore leather leggings and shoes that were held up by winding strings of lime tree bark on his legs up to the knee. He was dressed in a cloak that wasn't either inside out or right side out, and he was leaning against a long club.

Aucassin went towards him: how fearful he became when he saw him up close!

"Dear brother, may God aid you!"

"May God bless you!" responded the other.

"By the grace of God, what are you doing in this place?"

"What could you be doing?" said the other.

"Nothing at all," said Aucassin, "By asking, I had nothing but good intentions."

"But you, why are you crying," responded the other, "and showing such despair? In truth, if I were as rich as you are, nothing in the entire world could make me cry."

"Well! So you recognize me, then?" said Aucassin.

"Yes, I well know that you are Aucassin, the count's son: if you tell me why you're crying, I'll tell you what I'm doing here."

"In truth," replied Aucassin, "I will tell you freely. This morning, I came to hunt in this forest, I had a white greyhound, the most handsome in the world, and I lost it: that's why I'm crying."

"Oh please!" said the other, "By the Sacred Heart, what? You cried for a dirty mutt? No devilry will plague you, since nowhere in this country is a man so powerful that, if your father asked for ten, fifteen, twenty dogs, would not be happy to give them up freely. But me, I have very good reasons to cry and to feel tormented."

"Why, my brother?"

"Lord, I'll tell you. I was employed by a rich farmer and I drove a team of four of his cattle. But look what happened to me, three days ago, such bad luck, because I lost the best of the bulls, Rouget, the best of my herd. So, I'm looking for him everywhere, and I haven't eaten or drunk in three days. I don't dare go back to the town, since they'll put me in prison, seeing that I can't pay him: of all the riches in the world I have nothing except what's on my back. I had a poor mother that had nothing but a miserable mattress: they took it right out from under her back, and now she sleeps on straw. Her troubles bother me much more than my own; because money comes and goes: if I lose now, another time I'll win, and I'll pay for the bull when I can. It doesn't make me cry. But you, you're crying for a dirty mutt? To the devil with any who would esteem you!"

"You are surely comforting, my dear brother. Blessings on you! How much was the bull worth?"

"Lord, they asked me for twenty shillings: they wouldn't budge on even a farthing."

"Take this then," said Aucassin, "here's twenty that I had in my purse, and pay for your bull."

"Lord," said the peasant, "thank you very much, and may God permit you to find what you are seeking!"

He left him, and Aucassin started down the path again. The night was beautiful and peaceful. Making his way through the forest, he came close to the crossroads with seven paths and he saw in front of him the hut Nicolette, you remember, made and lined with flowers outside and in, front as well as back: it had an unsurpassable beauty.

When Aucassin saw it, he stopped short: a beam of moonlight was shining into it.

"Ah! My God!" said Aucassin, "Nicolette my sweet friend passed by here, and she made this hut with her beautiful hands. Because she is sweet and I love her, I'll get off my horse and spend the night resting here."

He took his foot out of the stirrup to get off, but his horse was large and tall, and Aucassin was so preoccupied with thoughts of Nicolette that he fell heavily on a rock and dislocated his shoulder. He knew he was seriously wounded, but, straining, he tied his horse to a thorny shrub and turned sideways and inched his way into the hut. He looked through a crack in the hut and saw stars in the sky: one of them was shining more brightly than the others. He began to say:

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