“So may we all be kept from wicked deeds, and Heaven shield us from the power of wicked men! Amen.”
* * * * *
This story naturally made the Summoner furious. He glared at the Friar, and trembled with anger. “Let me have my say,” he cried. “I’ll show what sort of stories are told concerning friars. They naturally know all about the fiend. Just look at their names! What is the difference between ‘friar’ and ‘fiend’? Why, there was once a friar that was taken by an angel to look at Hell, and at first as they went down he saw never a friar, though many thousands of other people. ‘How comes this?’ asked the friar of the angel. ’Are all friars so holy that not one of them is in Hell?’ ‘Wait,’ said the angel, and he led the friar down to the lowest pit where are chained all the dreadful monsters. ‘Look you now!’ said the angel, and there, sure enough, were thousands and thousands of friars all suffering the vilest torments. That’s the kind of men friars are!” Here the Host interrupted. “Is this the kind of tale you mean to tell?” he asked. “Yes,” said the Summoner, “and worse. The friar is an extortioner and a dupe and a hypocrite.” “If that is so,” said the Host, “we will not hear it. You ecclesiastics can wrangle somewhere else. We want good temper in this party.” The rest of us agreed with his sentence and the Summoner had to swallow his rage as best he could.
Harry Bailey turned to the Clerk of Oxford. “Sir Clerk,” he said, “you ride and look as coyly as a newly-married bride at her marriage-feast. Let be your studies, sir. Don’t think your philosophies here—a time for everything, say I! Tell us your tale, sir, for you must play your part in the game; and make it amusing. None of your high-falutin style! Keep that for your state letters;—and, I tell you, don’t preach as the friars do, we want to be amused, and we want to understand what you say.” Gently answered the Clerk, “Host, I am in your hands, for you are the governor of this party. Indeed, sir, I will tell you my tale. It is one I heard in Padua. Petrarch told it me—Francesco Petrarch, now dead, alas! whose verse is dear to Italy, who in learning and sweet speech surpassed all his fellows. I would I could tell it as he did; but my wit is not great enough. He would describe in full to you the country where my story took place, Salucia, and Mt. Vesulus. I can tell but the bare story. This is it.”
The country of Salucia is a pleasant land; it is a valley sheltered by Mt. Vesulus, and open to the west. A duke ruled it once, named Walter. He was beloved of his liegemen, for he was brave and young, courteous, and delighted in the hunt. All his thought, however, was for his present pleasure, and little care he took for the morrow. Only in one thing did he displease his people: he would not wed. At this they were so grieved that one