This morning was a busy one for Tescelin De Brisay, the Count of Castelmirail.
Some drunken robbers were stealing in the market stalls, some women were scared by their cries.
The young Count and some knights caught the larceners and sent them to the dungeon.
He went to the countryside to inquire about the inhabitants' requests and to help them. Some peasants had been plundered during the night. The lord of Castelmirail offered them a few crowns and food. He ordered his men to find the robbers and arrest them.
The young man was loved and respected by all of his people, he had to honor the motto of his family:
"Chivalry, justice, wisdom"
This was the motto of his great-grandfather, Foulques De Brisay, the first Count of Castelmirail. In 1085, Raymond De Saint Gilles, Duke of Narbonne offered him this lordship for an act of bravery.
Tescelin was reading quietly when he heard an unpleasant voice that he knew too much was shooting at someone. He closed his book and went to see what the problem was.
In the banquet hall, his wife Hodierne was shooting at a young scared maid.
"What's going on here? Your screams are echoing throughout the castle.”
Hodierne looked at him; her mouth had those bitter folds that showed her anger and contempt. She had this hate on her face almost all the time.
"That maid is just a stupid thing, there's dust on the mantelpiece, she left crumbs on the floor, and she was humming while working.”
The Count authorized the servant to leave the room.
Tescelin shrugged and gave his wife a disapproving look.
“I don’t see any dust or crumbs and why wouldn’t she sing while working, it’s not disturbing.”
“You know very well that I hate noise, it gives me headaches,” she screamed.
“Is there only something you don’t hate; you don’t like parties, nor music, nor poetry, you don’t appreciate the walks in the city or in the countryside,” the young exasperated man snapped.
“This is a lot too noisy for my delicate ears, moreover these ballads and poets have no talent, and only the stupid ones can like those shows. As for the walks, they are unbearable to me, it’s out of the question that I mingle with those people, these inferior persons.”
“Who do you think you are? You patronize everyone!” Tescelin replied angrily.
“I think I'm a woman of the nobility. Your kindness with these beggars who are at our service makes me sick.”
"I'm fair with them, they do not deserve to be treated like that, we're not superior to these people, and it's our duty as nobles to protect them," he snapped.
“This is your opinion, this is not mine in any way, but you’re still a kid and you’re acting like one of them, I hope you’ll change your mind,” she concluded.
She left the room while mumbling unintelligible words.
The young man never got along with his wife. This marriage was arranged by their fathers.
He knew that most of the unions were not based on love, but he would have hoped for a modicum of respect and friendship from his wife. Hodierne belittled him all the time; everything was an opportunity for her to criticize him and try to make him look like an idiot. "You are such a boil-brainedÂ» she often said.
Hodierne always found someone to criticize for no reason. She was happy only, when with her friends, a few women as mean as her, she had a vicious tongue.
She also refused to fulfill her marital duty, she hated it, and for her it was a bestial and vulgar practice that disgusted her. For the wedding night she told Tescelin she was too tired. It was only after five months of marriage that she agreed to make love with her husband. They both hated this moment. This was the only time he touched her, she refused have sex anymore. She didn’t want to get pregnant. Hodierne hated children with passion.
At the end of the year 1175 after eight months of an unhappy marriage, the Count of Castelmirail made the decision to cancel this marriage for refusal to fulfill marital duty. After many protests Hodierne accepted and went back to her family.
Tescelin hoped to find a wife he would love. This time no one could force him to marry with a woman he didn’t like.
His seneschal Gaston Desclets introduced some noble women to him, but the young Count wasn’t attracted by them.
Tescelin De Brisay went to a feast at the market square for the first time in his life; his father never wanted him to go there. It wasn’t a place for noble people.
He was watching all these people having fun when he saw this young lady with mahogany hair. He had only seen her back but he was sure it was her, ElÃ©onore Thomassin.
Four years ago, Tescelin and his father were in Sarlat at Pierre Thomassin’ shop, a rich and talented tailor. The Count of Peyrelail, one of Lothaire De Brisay's best friend had praised the merits of this rich tailor, who had his accesses to the most influential members of the nobility and royalty.
In the shop, Tescelin was attracted by a girl with mahogany hair. She was the tailor’s youngest child, her name was ElÃ©onore.
The young Count talked a lot with the fifteen-year-old girl.
Several days passed, soon they had mutual feelings, ElÃ©onore would be a perfect wife.
He told to his father, the very authoritarian Lothaire of Brisay he was in love with ElÃ©onore Thomassin and he wanted to marry her. The old Count didn’t agree, this young girl was from a weathly family, but she did not belong to the nobility. Tescelin wasn’t allowed to marry her.
Two years later, the marriage of Tescelin and Hodierne D'Abliac was arranged. The young Count was disappointed when he met his future wife, she was thirty-seven year old, ten years older than him, and she wasn’t very attractive; her haughty air, the bitter folds of her mouth revealed her cantankerous personality. The young man had no choice; he had to marry her, thus respecting his father’s last wish. Lothaire died from Saint Anthony's fire* a week before the wedding.
Tescelin followed the mysterious young woman without being spotted. She lived at the inn, "La bougie et le luth ". The innkeeper confirmed to Tescelin that ElÃ©onore was here.
ElÃ©onore was about to sit down when Tescelin approached her, she was surprised.
"My Lord! But what are you doing here?"
"I followed you from the city square."
"Would I have done something wrong?" She asked worriedly.
"No, I wanted to see you again, you were in my thoughts so often."
"Let's go to the yard," she suggested.
They went there, Tescelin noticed ElÃ©onore was sad.
"You seem tormented and what are you doing in this small town?"
"It's because of my father."
"Your father ? What is going on? Does he have problem with his business?" Tescelin Asked
"No, his business is doing well. The problem is that he wants me to marry a shoemaker’son from a neighboring city, and, I do not want to marry that man I don’t even know. My first marriage was a disaster."
"You were married!"
"Yes, a few months after your departure from Sarlat, my father arranged my marriage with the tailor’ son from a neighbouring city."
"What has happened?"
She sighed and explained that her marriage wasn’t happy. Her husband didn’t show her much love and attention, he preferred to spend his days at his shop and sometimes a part of the night. After six months of marriage she discovered that his business wasn’t going well and he wasn’t spending his evenings at work as he claimed, he was playing for real money. ElÃ©onore accused her husband of having manipulated her.
A week later, the young man was found dead in an alley, he had been murdered, most likely because of a gambling debt. ElÃ©onore was four months pregnant.
Three months later, brigands broke into the young lady’s house and pushed her on the floor, fortunately, her father-in-law and a few servants made them run away. ElÃ©onore had violent contractions and her water broke, she was about to give birth two months before the due date. She gave birth to a little boy, but the baby was weak and he died at the age of one day.
After little Jules’ funeral, her parents in-laws chased her away.
She burst into tears, the young Count took her in his arms. They stayed like that for a long time.
Little by little she calmed herself and stepped away from him.
"I'm sorry, I didn’t want to bother you with my ridiculous stories."
Tescelin gently stroked her face.
"You do not bother me, I'm delighted to hear from you, of course, I would have preferred to know you happy."
"It's nothing, you couldn’t know, but I hope you won’t be mad at me for my behavior, I am not sure that Madam the Countess would be pleased to hear that I was in your arms."
"She can think what she wants, it’s not important, and I don’t think it has ever been important," he replied while laughing.
Eleanor looked at him astonished.
“Why are you laughing like this? It seems you don’t have any consideration for your wife."
“I'm not married anymore. Last year my late father arranged this marriage with Hodierne, who was ten years older than I. She was a scornful woman who refused to fulfill marital duty. After eight months this horrible marriage has been cancelled."
“I'm sorry, I didn’t want to be sassy, â€‹â€‹I hope you'll forgive me this misstep,” she said ashamed.
"There is nothing to forgive," he added, kissing her hand.
They talked a little more, and the young Count came back to the castle.
That evening the Count couldn’t sleep, he kept remembering his reunion with ElÃ©onore, He was so happy to see her again. When he had her in his arms the young man had felt an immense joy, he would have liked that moment to last longer. He had never felt that by holding Hodierne in his arms. The only time he had held it that way was when they got married, it was like holding an old and dry pile of wood and it wasn’t pleasant at all.
He hoped to see the mahogany haired and pure hearted young girl very soon.
Maybe this reunion wasn’t a coincidence, perhaps it was his fate to meet her again and if it has a meaning?
To be continued...
Saint Anthony's fire*: Ergotism