Amys And Amyle
Some time in the Middle Ages there lived in the Duchy of Lombardy,
which, as everybody knows, is part of Italy, two knights, who loved each
other like brothers. And, what is more to be wondered at, their wives
were the best friends in the world. To complete the happiness of the two
couples, two little boys were born to them on the same day, and they
were given the names of Amys and Amyle.
* * *
Now it generally happens that when parents are very anxious for their
children to be friends, because they are the same age, or neighbours, or
for some equally good reason, the young people make up their minds to
hate each other. However, Amys and Amyle did not disappoint their
fathers and mothers in this way. From the moment they could walk they
were never seen apart; if they ever _did_ quarrel no one ever heard of
it; and by the time they were twelve years old they had grown so like
each other that even their parents could hardly tell the difference
between them. Indeed, the likeness between them is supposed to have
given rise to the proverb, 'A miss is as good as a mile.'
It was in that year that the duke, their liege lord, bade all his
vassals to a great festival to be held in his castle, and many of them
took their sons with them, to show them some of the customs of chivalry.
Amys and Amyle went with the rest, and endless were the mistakes made
about them. The boys themselves, who were merry little fellows,
delighted in increasing the confusion, and played so many pranks that
the duke declared that they must remain at the court with him, as his
life would be too dull without them.
Perhaps the knights thought that their homes would be dull too, but, if
so, they did not dare say so; only their wives noticed, as they entered
the castle gates, that their heads were bowed, as if some ill had
At first the boys felt unhappy and lonely in this strange new world, and
clung to each other more closely than ever, but, after a little, they
got used to the change, and learned eagerly how to shoot at a mark and
tilt at a ring, or to sing sweet love-songs to the sound of a lute.
So the years passed away till Amys and Amyle were eighteen years old,
and thought themselves men, and were ready to cross lances with the
bravest. The first step they took towards proving to the world that no
tie of blood could bind them closer than the love they bore one to
another, was to swear the oaths which made them brothers in arms, and
obliged them to fight in each other's quarrels, avenge each other's
wrongs--even to sacrifice what the other held most dear in the service
of his friend. Marriage itself was not more sacred.
All this time the duke had been too busy with his own affairs to have
the youths much in his company, though he took care that they had the
best chances of learning everything that they ought to know. When,
however, he heard that Amys and Amyle had sworn the solemn oaths that
made them brothers in arms, he ordered a tournament to be held in their
honour, and, when it was over, knighted them on the field. He further
declared that henceforth Sir Amys should be his chief butler and Sir
Amyle his head steward over his household, thus the steward whom Amyle
displaced became their deadly enemy.
Although the young men knew a great deal about hunting, and wrestling,
and other such sports, they had no idea what the duties of a butler and
a steward might be. But what they _did_ know was that they would have to
be very careful, for the eyes of the old steward were watching eagerly
to report any mistakes to the duke their master. Luckily for them, they
were favourites with everyone, and if now and then they forgot their
work, or slipped away for a day's hunting, well! the task was done by
somebody, and not even the old steward could find out by whom.
Everything seemed going smoothly, and the new-made knights were in
danger of being spoilt by the favour of the ladies of the court, when a
sudden stop was put to all their pleasures. One day a man-at-arms riding
a jaded horse appeared at the palace gateway, and demanded to be led
into the presence of the good knight Sir Amyle.
'Oh, my lord,' said he, and knew not that it was Amys before whom he was
kneeling, 'it is grievous news that I bear unto you. Your father and
mother, that noble knight and his lady, died of a pestilence but seven
days agone, and none save you can take their place. Therefore am I sent
'_My_ father and mother?' cried Amys, staggering back.
'Yes, my lord, yours,' answered the man. 'At least----' he stammered, as
Sir Amyle came and stood by his friend, 'I know not if indeed it may be
yours. It is long years since I have seen you, and this knight and you
have but one face. But it is Sir Amyle with whom I would speak.'
Then Amys laid his hand on his brother's shoulder.
'Be comforted,' he said softly. 'Am I not with thee? and, though I
cannot go with thee now, I will follow thee shortly unless thou quickly
return to me.'
Early next morning Amyle started with a heavy heart for the home which
he had left six years before; but before his departure he had caused to
be made two cups of gold, delicately wrought with figures of birds and
beasts, such as he and Amys had often chased in the forests and lakes of
Lombardy. The cups were no more to be told from each other than were
Amys and Amyle themselves, and Amyle placed them in the pockets of his
saddle till the moment came for him to part from Sir Amys, who had
ridden with him as far as he might. Then, drawing out one of the cups,
Amyle placed it in his friend's hands.
'Farewell, my brother,' he said. 'Be true to me as I will be true to
you, according to the oath which we sware, that as long as we both shall
live nothing and nobody shall stand between me and thee.'
And Sir Amys repeated the words of his oath, then slowly turned his
horse's head towards the castle.
Seven days' hard riding brought Sir Amyle back to his native place, and
for many months he had much to do in setting aside the pretenders who
had sprung up to claim his father's lands. When at last peace was
restored and the false traitors had been thrown into prison, a petition
on the part of his vassals to take a wife and settle down amongst them,
turned his thoughts in other directions.
It was the custom of the country that the ruler of those lands should
choose his wife from the most beautiful maidens in the Duchy of
Lombardy, no matter what might be their degree. So a herald was sent
forth to proclaim that any damsel who wished to fill this high place was
to present herself in the courtyard of the palace on the morning
following the next new moon, where the chamberlain would receive her.
Oh, what a fluttering of hearts there was in the towns and villages, as
the herald, with his silver trumpet and his satin coat of red and
yellow, covered with figures of strange beasts, passed up and down the
streets! How the girls all ran to their mirrors, and turned themselves
this way and that to see if there could possibly be a chance for them!
Perhaps it was the fault of the headdress they wore that their faces
seemed so long and their noses so big, or surely something was wrong
with the glass that their cheeks looked so yellow! But even when it was
proved beyond a doubt that neither headdress nor mirror was to blame in
the matter, there were enough lovely maidens and to spare in the
courtyard of the castle on the day following the new moon.
'He is certain to choose _you_,' said one, who in her secret heart
thought it was impossible that _she_ should be passed over.
'Oh no; fair men's eyes alway rest upon dark women,' answered the girl,
whose locks were brighter than the sun, though while she spoke she was
really thinking that no one could bear comparison with her. And then all
grew silent, for there was heard a blast of trumpets announcing that Sir
Amyle was at hand.
The young knight had donned for this occasion a close-fitting coat of
silver cloth, while a short blue velvet mantle hung from his shoulders.
He walked slowly down the ranks of the maidens, watching each carefully,
and noting the way in which she received his gaze. Some looked down and
blushed; some looked up and smiled, but one there was who did neither,
only stood calm and pale as the young man drew near.
She was a tall girl with dark hair and soft grey eyes, and the
chamberlain had doubted long, before he told her father that she might
take her stand with the rest. None would have chosen her as Queen of a
Tourney, or bidden her preside over a Court of Love, yet there was that
in her face which had caused Amyle to pause before her and to hold out
So they were married, and by the side of his wife Sir Amyle for a while
forgot his brother.
Meanwhile Sir Amys dwelt sorrowfully at the court, defending himself as
best he might against the wiles of the black-hearted steward, who now
received him with smiles and fair words. Nay, he even desired that they
should become brothers at arms, but to this Sir Amys replied that,
having made oath to one brother at arms, the rules of chivalry did not
allow him to take another.
At these words the steward threw off the mask with which he had sought
to beguile Sir Amys.
'You will have cause to rue this day,' roared he, nearly choking in his
wrath; 'you dog, you white-livered cur!' but Amys only smiled, and bade
him do his worst.
By this time the duke's only daughter, Belisante, had reached the age of
fifteen, and on her birthday her father proclaimed a great tournament,
which was to last for fourteen days. Knights from far and near flocked
to break a lance in honour of the fair damsel, but, though many doughty
deeds were done, the prize fell to Sir Amys. When he came up to receive
the golden circlet from the hands of the duchess--for the duke held his
daughter to be of too tender years to be queen of the tourney--Belisante
looked earnestly at the knight whose praises had rung in her ears ever
since her childhood. It was almost the first time her eyes had beheld
him, for she had lived in one of her father's distant castles, and had
seldom visited the court.
Now we all know full well that whenever we form to ourselves the picture
of a man or woman of whom great things are said, woeful is in general
the disappointment. But even in that assembly Sir Amys was taller and
stronger and fairer to look upon than the rest.
'He shall be my knight,' said Belisante to herself, never dreaming that
any man alive could pass her by. But Sir Amys' thoughts dwelt not upon
women, and he hardly so much as marked her where she sat.
This slight was more than the spoiled damsel could bear. She fell sick
with love and anger, and for many days lay in bed, pondering how she
should win the love of Sir Amys.
A full week went by, and still she had never had speech of him--nor had
even so much as caught sight of him as he followed her father to the
chase. But one morning her lady brought her word--for indeed she had
guessed something of her mistress's heart--that Sir Amys had so wearied
himself in pursuit of a boar the previous evening that he had let his
lord ride forth alone. So Belisante bade her maiden bring her kirtle of
green silk, and clasp it with her golden belt set with precious
stones, and place a veil of shining white upon her hair; then seeking
her mother they went down into the garden together.
It was not long before her quick-glancing eyes beheld Sir Amys lying
under a tree by the side of a stream, but in her guile she took no heed
of him, but turned away and entered a little wood.
'I can sleep now,' she said, stretching herself on a bank of soft moss.
'Listen to the birds, how sweetly they sing! Methinks I hear the voice
of the nightingale, for the trees make such darkness that he knows not
night from day.'
'Let us leave her,' answered her mother, and signing to her ladies they
all returned to the castle.
For a moment Belisante lay still, feigning to sleep; then she raised
herself on her arm and looked about her. Nothing was to be seen save the
green darkness about her, nothing was to be heard save the songs of the
birds. Softly she rose to her feet, and stole out of the wood to the
orchard where Sir Amys was resting, thinking, though she guessed it not,
of his brother in arms Amyle.
He sprang to his feet in surprise as Belisante the Fair drew near him;
but she begged him to sit beside her, and told him how that she had been
sick of love, and besought him of his grace not to withhold this good
gift from her. Sir Amys hearkened to her words, not knowing if he had
heard aright, but, calling his wits to his aid, he answered that she was
the daughter of a great prince while he was only the son of a poor
knight, and that marriage between them might never be. This speech so
wrought upon Belisante that she broke out in such tears and entreaties
that Sir Amys, to gain time to ponder what best to do, replied that if
in eight days her mind was still set on him, he would ask her hand in
By ill-luck for both the knight and the maiden, the steward, who had
been seeking a chance of doing Sir Amys an ill turn, had seen Belisante
leave the wood and go in search of Sir Amys. Creeping stealthily up to
them, he hid himself behind a clump of bushes and heard all that was
said. Cunningly he made his plan, and on the eighth day he waylaid the
duke and told him that Sir Amys was about to repay all the kindness
shown him by a secret marriage with the duke's daughter.
Sir Amys was keeping guard that day in the hall of the palace, when,
sword in hand, his liege lord stood before him charging him with
beguiling his daughter. In another moment Amys would have fallen dead,
but behind him was a little room, and into this he stepped, shutting the
door, so that the sword stuck in the hard wood as it came against it.
This mischance somewhat cooled the duke's anger, and, bidding Sir Amys
come out and speak with him, he again accused him of having sought to
steal away his daughter, whom he wished to betrothe to the emperor's
Sir Amys was in sore straits. If he could have borne the penalty alone,
he would have suffered gladly whatever sentence the duke might have
passed on him; but this could not be. So, to save Belisante from her
father's wrath, he swore a great oath that there was no truth in that
tale, and, flinging down his glove, offered to fight any man whom the
duke should appoint, and prove his innocence on his body. Then the king
bade his steward pick up Sir Amys' glove, and fixed a morning, fourteen
days hence, when the two should meet in single combat.
Still it was not enough that Sir Amys and the steward should agree to
fight; it was needful also that sureties should be found, and such was
the steward's power at court that all men feared to come forward on
behalf of Sir Amys. The young man would have fared badly, and indeed
would at once have been thrown into prison, had not both Belisante and
her mother offered themselves as sureties for his presence when the day
But not all the wiles of the fair Belisante could chase the gloom from
the face of Sir Amys. He never forgot that he had sworn a false oath,
and it was to no purpose that Belisante reminded him of all the ill
deeds done by the steward to him and others. 'This time,' he said sadly,
'_I_ have the wrong and _he_ the right, therefore I am afraid to fight,'
and no other answer could she wring from him.
Way out of the tangle there seemed none. Fight Sir Amys could not, with
the weight of a false oath on his soul, yet to run away were to confess
all, and leave Belisante to bear her father's anger alone. Turn his
thoughts which side he would, escape seemed barred, till the image of
Sir Amyle flashed across him. 'Fool, why had he not remembered him
earlier? Luckily there was yet time, and he could ride with full speed
to his brother's castle, and bid him return to take the battle on
himself.' With a gladder face than he had known for long, he sought out
the duchess and her daughter, and told them his plan.
Before the sun rose Sir Amys was in the saddle, and so busy was he with
all that had befallen him that he pushed on and never drew rein till his
horse dropped dead under him from sheer weariness. As there was no town
or house where he might find another, he was forced to proceed on foot.
But by-and-by he too fell from lack of sleep, and when Sir Amyle was
returning home through the forest after a day's hunting, he discovered
his brother stretched across the path in the shade of a tree.
Joy at meeting gave new life to Sir Amys, and, sitting up, he told his
friend all his woes, and how he dare not fight with a false oath on his
'Oh! that is easily to be managed,' cried Sir Amyle, with a great laugh.
'Go home to my castle,' said he, 'and tell my wife that you have sent
the horse to Sir Amys, at court, as you heard he had sore need of one.
None will know you from me, no more than they did of old, and, as to my
wife, it was but now I told her that business called me to the most
distant parts of my lands, so this very night you can bid her farewell.'
Sir Amys did as his brother bade him, and Sir Amyle hastened with all
speed to the duke's palace.
He was only just in time. The hour for the fight had come, and the
steward had entered the lists, and, looking round in triumph, proclaimed
to all whom it might concern that his adversary knew himself to be a
traitor to his lord, and had fled. Therefore, according to all the rules
of chivalry, a fire should be made, and his sureties burned before all
At these dreadful words, the hearts of the king and his wife and
daughter trembled within them. For the steward had spoken truly, and the
order for the execution must be given. It was in vain that the men
worked right slowly; linger as they might, the pile was ready at last,
and with one despairing glance round, the duchess and her daughter were
bravely walking up to it, when Sir Amyle hastily pushed his way to the
duke and demanded that the captives should be instantly set free. Then,
followed by the duchess and Belisante, he entered the palace to gird
himself with the armour of Sir Amys.
When his helmet and sword were buckled on him, he prayed them to leave
him, as he would fain be alone for a short space before he mounted his
horse. So the two ladies embraced him and left him, wishing him
God-speed. As the door closed upon them, Sir Amyle held up his sword and
muttered a prayer before it.
'Come weal or woe, I will help my brother,' he said softly; then
mounting his horse he rode into the lists, and, kneeling, took the oath
that he was guiltless of wrong and would prove his innocence on the body
of his foe.
The fight lasted but a short time; the steward's sword was keen, and he
knew how to use it, and it was not long before he had given Sir Amyle a
sharp thrust through the shoulder, and the young knight reeled in his
saddle. The steward uttered a cry of fierce joy, and raised his arm to
deal a second blow, when Sir Amyle suddenly spurred his horse to one
side and pierced his enemy to the heart. Then, all bleeding as he was,
the false Amys cut off the head of the traitor, and gave it to the
duke, proving to him and to all the court that the right had conquered.
But hardly had he done so when, faint from loss of blood, he fell
senseless on the ground, and was carried into the palace, where the
duke's best leeches were called in to attend him. In a few days the
fever left him, and he was able to receive a visit from the duke
'O Amys, my friend, how I have misjudged you!' cried the duke, falling
on his knees weeping; 'but I will let my people know that you were
always true, and you shall marry my daughter as soon as you can stand
upon your feet, and I will hold a feast, and proclaim you heir to my
And the wounded man gave him thanks and grace, but sent off a messenger
in all haste to Sir Amys, bidding him be by a spring in the forest, nine
days hence, which message Sir Amys obeyed, wondering what had passed.
Then the two knights changed their clothes once more, and Sir Amyle
returned to his wife and Sir Amys to his bride, and they lived happily
to the end of their lives.