The Grey Palfrey (A French Folk Tale)
by: Wheeler, Les
Lang, lang ago, in the days fan the honey wis thick an clear, there wis a knight caad Jacques bade in Champagne. He wis a fine, strappin lad an as brave as ony chiel: he wis aathing a knight should be except that he’d nae siller, hardly ony grun o his ain an a castle deep in the wids that wis
as sma as it could be an still be caad a castle.
Noo, he wis a great lad for the tournaments an wis affen awa fae hame echtin at them, nae only for the honour he’d get for the skeely wye that he’d focht, but for the prizes an ransoms he micht get fae them that he’d beaten. Ransom money wis aa he hid an he jist managed tae mak eneuch for himsel an his twa-three servin-chiels. His claes an armour wir gweed eneuch, but there wis nae funcy frills an fantoosherie an he wis nivver een for funcy maet, he ait jist like the fowk fa wirkit for him.
The only thing he hid that wid hae graced even the michtiest laird or even the king himsel wis his dapple-grey horse. It wis his favourite among the fyow horse he hid an nae wunner. It wis weel lookit efter an its hide shone like a loch on a simmer’s day file its mane an tail ran like the siller waaters o the Spey. Aabody that seen it stoppit tae admire the grey paifrey. A lot o rich lairds hid tried tae buy the horse, but, peer as he wis, he wid nivver sellt for he thocht on his fine horse as his freen an companion.
Aboot twa mile fae Jacques’ castle, aside the road that wint throu the wids wis the castle o a Duke. He wis aul an rich, but an aul skinflint as weel an aye seekin tae add mair siller an gowd tae the loads o’t he hid already. The only young an fine thing in his castle wis his dother fa wis as bonny a lassie as iver ye’d see. The knight winted tae mairry the lassie an she winted tae mairry him, but seein as the lad hid nae siller the aul man wadna consider him at aa. The only wye the young eens could spik thegither wis throu a crack in the castle wa an they’d tae be gey sure that naebody saa or heard fat wis gyan on.
Ilka day fan he wisna awa at a tournament Jacques wint ower on his grey horse tae the castle an he used a secret road throu the wids that only he kent. An ilka day Beatrice, for that’s fit the lassie wis caad, wid wait at the castle waa an for a fyow meenits the pair wad be happy thegither. But the quine couldna aye get awa an affen the knight wad hing on for a lang time, but the lassie widna get tae the tryst. It wis tae be a gey sorrafu knight that wint hame by the secret roadie. But yet, this made the times fan they did meet aa the better for baith o them.
Ae day Jacques could thole it nae langer an, kennin that Beatrice didna worry aboot siller an wad hae bin happy wi him in a but an ben, he gaed tae the castle tae spik wi the lassie’s faither. The Duke welcomed him in, for gweed mainners cost naething, an the laddie said, “Laird, there’s a thing I’d like tae spier at ye.”
“An fit micht that be?” spiert the Duke.
“I’ve nae siller,” said Jacques, “but I’m fae a gweed an godly femlie. My honour his nivver bin questioned an nae man’Il spik ill o me. I love yir dother an I ken she loves me. I’m here tae ask ye tae let us twa get mairriet.”
The aul laird wint as fite as his beard in his rage. “There’s nae a Laird in aa France, nae even a prince, fa I couIdna buy for my dother, if I winted her tae mairry. She’s nae gyan tae a peer knight like ye. Noo, get oot o this an nivver daur spik o sic things tae me again or I’ll mak ye suffer for it!”
It wis a gey dowie knight that rade hame an his only glimmer o hope wis that the lassie aye loved him. Twa-three days efter, he wint aff tae a tournment hopin he micht win some o the siller that the aul Duke winted him tae hae. Maybe, if he wis tae win eneuch siller, the aul carle wad let him mairry Beatrice.
At aboot the same time a laird near haun as rich as the Duke cam tae visit him. They blethered awa for a file, syne the laird said, “Wir baith gey weel aff, but pit thegither we’d hae a gey fortune. If ye wir tae gie me yir dother as a wife, I’d ask nae tocher, but we twa linkit by mairriage, we maun share oor siller till the en o wir days. Fat think ye o that, freen?”
The aul Duke wis fair teen wi the notion. “Yiv spoken weel an it’ll be jist like ye say. In aa France there’ll be naebody better aff nor us twa.”
Sae the aul Duke set aboot gettin aathing ready for the mairriage an didna care a docken for the lassie’s greetin. He invited a lot o fowk but, seen he wisna een tae spenn siller verra easily, he spiert at aa his neebors for the lane o horses tae cairry the guests an thir servants throu the wids tae the kirk. An he hid sic a bress neck on him that he even sent tae Jacques tae borra his grey palfrey sae that Beatrice micht gae tae her waddin on the finest horse in aa Champagne.
Jacques hid jist come hame fae a tournament an he’d deen rael weel an made a fair bit o silier. He wis feelin weel deen till an thocht he wis a bittie nearer haun haein the siller tae please the aul Duke an mairry Beatrice. Fan the servant arrived wi the Duke’s message, he spiert at the chiel fu the Duke winted tae borra his best horse.
An the servin-chiel said, “Sae his dother kin ride on it the morn on the wye tae her waddin in the kirk in the wids!”
The peer knight wis hert-brukken fan he heard fit the servant hid said an at first he wadna lend oot his horse, but he thocht mair aboot it an then thocht, “Nae for her faither, but for the lassie I love, I’ll lend oot my palfrey. It’s me she loves an she’ll get nae joy fae her mairniage sae maybe it’ll be a comfort tae her if I let her ride tae the kirk on my gweed grey horse.”
Sae he yokit the paifrey an gaed it tae the servant, syne wint an lay doon on his bed wi his een fu o tears. An eence there, he wadna ait nor drink onything.
At the Duke’s castle the guests wir haein a gran time, aitin an drinkin, for the Duke’s estate hid plenty o beasts an plenty o wine wis made on them. But the guests, like the Duke himsel, wir aul an wir gey wearie fan the watchie roused them bricht an early in the mornin sae they’d aa get tae the kirk on time. Girnin, an nae half waakint, the guests gaithert in the yaird far the horse waited for them. Still yawnin they got intae the saddles an set oot for the kirk wi the Duke an the aul bridegroom at thir heid. An efter aabody else cam Beatrice on the grey palfrey, wi her faither’s aul servant tae look efter her. She hid on as bonny a goun as ivver yiv seen an a reid cloak trimmed wi fur, but her face wis as fite as sna an the tears ran doon fae her sad een. She wis that brukken-herted that she hadna slept aa nicht
In the last o the meenlicht they left the castle an took the forest road that led tae the kirk. It wis a gie narra roadie - nae mair nor a path if truth be tellt - an they wint in single-file followin een anither wi the aul servant followin the greetin lassie.
They hadna gaen far alang the the road fan the paifrey did fit it wis eesed tae deein an turnt on tae the secret pathie the knight aye teen fan he wis gyan hame. The aul servant wis as tired as aabody else an wis dozin awa an nivver noticed the lassie wis nae langer there. The lassie wis gey feart fan she fun hersel in bits o the wid she nivver kent existed, but she nivver cried oot for she thocht, “I’d raither be lost in the forest an aiten by wild beasts than spend the rest o my life withoot the laddie I love.” An she jist let the horse tak her far it likit.
Efter twa miles, in the eerie licht o dawn, the horse stoppit afore a wee castle set back among the trees an waited for the yett tae open. The watchie lookit oot an cried, “Fa’s there?” Shakkin wi fear, the lassie said, “I’m aa my lane an lost in the wids. Hae pity on me an gie me shelter till the day gets warmer.”
The watchie taen a better leuk an saa that it wis his maister’s horse an wint rinnin aff tae tell his maister fat he’d seen. “Maister! Maister!” he shouted. “Yir grey horse is at the yett an on its back is as bonnie a lass as iver I or onybody else his seen. She’s that bonny I doot she’s nae mortal! Should I lat her in?”
Jacques loupit aff his bed, flung open the yett an taen the lassie intae his airms. Thin wis a gey lot o kissin an a lot o greetin, but they wir tears o joy for they win that gled tae be wi een anither again.
Syne he said, “Fu did ye get here?” An she answered, “It wis yir ain fine grey horse that brocht me here, for I didna ken the wye.
“Weel, noo that yir here yir bidin,” said the knight. “That’s if ye wint till yersel.”
“That’s aa I’ve iver winted, tae bide wi ye for the rest o my days,” said the lassie.
Sae Jacques sent for his meenister, an wi little delay he an the lassie wir mairriet an aa his servin fowk win fair delighted.
Fan the Duke an the aul laird an thin freens got tae the kirk they seen saa that the lassie wisna wi them. They aa set oot tae leuk for her an leukit aa throu the wids. But by the time the Duke cam upon the wee castle set among the trees, his dother wis anither chiel’s wife an there wis naething he could dee aboot it save gie the mairriage his blessin. That he did, an it wis gey ill-meant, but little Jacques an Beatrice cared for they’d got fit baith o them winted maist o aa an that wis tae spend the rest o thir lives wi een anither.