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‘Plighte me thy trouthe, heer in myn hand,’ quod she,
‘The nexte thing that I requere thee,
Thou shalt it do, if it lye in thy might;
And I wol telle it yow er it be night.’
‘Have heer my trouthe,’ quod the knight, ‘I grante.’
“Take my hand and promise me,” the old woman replied, “that if I tell you the answer tonight, you’ll do whatever I ask of you when I need it if it’s in your power.” “Yes, I swear,” promised the knight.
‘Thanne,’ quod she, ‘I dar me wel avante,
Thy lyf is sauf, for I wol stonde therby,
160Upon my lyf, the queen wol seye as I.
Lat see which is the proudeste of hem alle,
That wereth on a coverchief or a calle,
That dar seye nay, of that I shal thee teche;
Lat us go forth with-outen lenger speche.’
Tho rouned she a pistel in his ere,
And bad him to be glad, and have no fere.
“Then don’t worry any more about being executed,” she said, “Because I swear on my own life that the queen will agree with my answer! In fact, let’s just see if even the proudest woman wearing scarves and headdresses will disagree with what I’m about to tell you.” And with that, she whispered a few words in his ear and told him everything was going to be okay.
Whan they be comen to the court, this knight
Seyde, ‘he had holde his day, as he hadde hight,
And redy was his answere,’ as he sayde.
170Ful many a noble wyf, and many a mayde,
And many a widwe, for that they ben wyse,
The quene hir-self sittinge as a Iustyse,
Assembled been, his answere for to here;
And afterward this knight was bode appere.
When the knight returned to court a year and a day later as promised, he told the queen that he was ready to give his answer. Many noblewomen, maidens, and old widows had assembled with the queen, who would judge the knight, to hear what he had to say. When everyone settled down, they called him in.
To every wight comanded was silence,
And that the knight sholde telle in audience,
What thing that worldly wommen loven best.
This knight ne stood nat stille as doth a best,
But to his questioun anon answerde
180With manly voys, that al the court it herde:
The queen ordered the crowd to be quiet, then turned to the knight and ordered him to tell everyone what women want most. The knight spoke up immediately in a clear voice so that everyone could hear him and said: