The Two Brothers
Bellisant, the sister of King Pepin of France, sat in her round room, broidering. She had hair that was bright as the sun that stained her window, and eyes that were clear as pools of dew. She had a peaked chin and an air of wonderment. She held her needle with a grace that was fair to see.
Bellisant was fairest of all fair maidens, and there was that about her that won men's hearts, so that they loved her, not counting the cost of loving. But her heart was not less pure than her smile was tender; and when the peasant women chid their daughters, they would say, "Child, child, be careful – you will never be as good as the Princess Bellisant".
As Bellisant sat broidering she heard a step upon the stair, and she knew it was that of King Pepin, her brother, who held her dearest of all he loved. Yet would she not look upon him as he entered, for she knew that he came to speak of a suitor, who should take her from him; and Bellisant had had suitors beyond her reckoning, and liked them ill.
"What sewest thou, my sister?" asked the King, with gentleness.
Bellisant replied, "It is a robe for a child who hath lost her mother, and I have sewn into every stitch a sweet thought for her. But tell me, brother, what tidings are these I read upon thy face?"
King Pepin replied, "I bring tidings of Alexander, Emperor of Greece; for thy fair fame hath reached him. He seeks thy hand in marriage, and even now he waits below to look upon thy face."
Bellisant blushed rose-red. Then she said, "I will see no more suitors."
But the King made answer, coaxing her, yet with something of sternness mingling the sadness of his tone, "He is a mighty monarch, and it is well that thou shouldest see him."
Therefore Bellisant left her broideries, that the Emperor of Greece should look upon her face. And she tripped down the long stair and met him. Now she would have given him but a glance and then have withdrawn herself – such was the intention that moved her – but as she gave the glance her heart leapt up and went with it; and she knew that she loved Alexander and would wed none other. As for him, he loved her with a love as fond.
Thus it came about that fair Bellisant was wedded to Alexander, Emperor of Greece, and went away with him; and all France was in tears.
But Bellisant was happy, so that her fairness increased day by day; and many folk travelled from far countries just to look upon her face. And her heart was full of love for all people, and of thoughtfulness for the poor; so that she feared no evil from any.
But Alexander had a friend and minister, a priest whom he loved, but one who was of little credit to his order, being full of evil thoughts and crafts. This man would have had the Empress Bellisant love him with a greater love than she bore her husband; and since she would not, he made himself her enemy. So he set himself to think upon her helplessness, and in what fashion he could work her undoing, and afterwards made a plot against her