Aurelius was full of wonder when he heard this. He began to be sorry for Dorigen, and for Arviragus the worthy knight, who would rather lose his wife than have her break her word. He could be cruel no longer.
“Madam,” he said, “say to thy lord Arviragus that since I see his great honor and thy sad distress, I had rather bear my own sorrow than drive thee away from him and all thy friends. I give thee back thy promise. I shall never trouble thee more. Farewell, farewell! thou truest woman and best that I have ever seen.”
Down on her knees, on the roadway, fell Dorigen to thank Aurelius. Her blessing followed him as he turned and left her.
But how can I tell of Dorigen’s return? She seemed to be treading on air. When she reached the room where her husband sat with his head sunk on his arms, she paused. She had not known the greatness of his love till then. He looked old and forlorn after the night of sorrow.
She spoke, and he raised his eyes to gaze on her, as if she had been a lady in a dream. But when she told him all, when he knew that she was there herself, and for always, he could not speak for joy.
Aurelius wished he had never been born when he thought of the thousand pounds of pure gold that he owed to the Magician.
He said to himself, “What shall I do? I am undone! I must sell my house and be a beggar. I will not stay here and make my friends ashamed of me, unless I can get the Magician to give me time. I will ask him to let me pay him part of my debt year by year till all is paid. If he will, my gratitude will know no bounds, and I will pay him every penny I owe.”
With a sore heart he went to his coffer and took out five hundred pounds of gold. These he took to the Wise Man, and begged him to grant him time to pay the rest.
“Master,” said he, “I can say truly, I never yet failed to keep a promise. My debt shall be paid to thee, even if I go begging in rags. But if thou wilt be so gracious as to allow me two years, or three, in which to pay the, rest, I will rejoice. If not, I must sell my house; there is no other way.”
When the Magician heard this he said, “Have not I kept my promise to thee?”
“Yes, certainly, well and truly!”
“Hast thou not thy jewel?”
“No, no,” said Aurelius, and sighed deeply.
“Tell me, if thou mayest, what is the cause of this?”
“Arviragus in his honor had rather die in sorrow and distress than that his wife should break her word. Dorigen would rather die than lose her husband and wander alone on the earth. She did not mean to give me her promise. She thought the rocks would never move. I pitied them so much that I gave her back her promise as freely as she brought her jewel to me. That is the whole story!”
The Magician answered, “Dear brother, you have each behaved nobly. Thou art a squire, he is a knight, but by God’s grace I can do a noble deed as well as another. Sir, thou art free from thy debt to me, as free as if thou hadst this moment crept out of the ground, and hadst never known me till now. For, sir, I will not take a penny from thee for all my skill, nor for all my work. It is enough! Farewell! Good day to thee!”