Many years ago, there lived in France two girls who were the very best of friends. They were cousins, and both were beautiful. The taller and stronger of them was called Rosalind, and the name of the other was Celia. Rosalind’s father was a great duke, but his brother, Celia’s father, had driven him out of his own dukedom. Many noblemen, who hated the cruel brother, but loved Rosalind’s father, went with him, to live in the Forest of Arden.
When Rosalind’s father was driven from the cas- tle, her uncle kept the girl there. She grew up together with his own little girl Celia. They grew up together, and Celia was so sweet and so kind to Rosalind that Rosalind sometimes forgot to be sad because her father had been driven away.
One of the truest friends of the former duke had been a brave knight called Sir Rowland. He was dead but he had left two sons. Oliver, the elder, was not a good brother. Instead of doing as his father had wished, and being kind to his younger brother whose name was Orlando, he gave him neither money nor any chance of learning anything, and made him take all his meals with the servants. He hated Orlando because he was so brave and strong and handsome, and he was kinder to his horses than he was to Orlando. Sir Rowland had had an old servant named Adam. Adam loved Orlando, and was very sorry that Oliver was so cruel to his younger brother.
One day, when Orlando felt that he could not bear Oliver’s cruelty any longer, he asked him to give him the money that his father had left him and let him go and seek his fortune. He said he couldn’t go on doing nothing and learning nothing. But Oliver only laughed at him, and so the brothers had a quarrel. Oliver hated Orlando more than ever after that quarrel. He thought of the best way to kill him and to keep for himself the money that their father had left for Orlando.
About this time Celia’s father gave a great wrestling match. He had a very strong paid wrestler of his own. This man wrestled so well that only the bravest had the courage to wrestle with him, for he often killed those with whom he wrestled. Orlando was a very good wrestler and was afraid of no one, so he made up his mind to go to the match and wrestle with this man.
When Oliver learned that Orlando intended to do this, he ordered the Duke’s wrestler to come to his castle. He told the wrestler all sorts of lies about Orlando. He said that Orlando was one of the worst men in France, that the wrestle would be doing a good deed if he broke his neck. The wrestler promised to do his best to kill Orlando.
The following day the wrestling match took place on the grass in front of the Duke’s castle. The Duke and all his noblemen came to see the sport, and Celia and Rosalind also came. For in those days it was the custom for ladies to look at things that now seem to us very cruel.
When Orlando came forward, he looked so young and brave and handsome that even the cruel duke who did not know who he was, was sorry to think that the wrestler would kill him.
«Try to persuade the lad not to wrestle,» said the duke to Celia and Rosalind. «He has no chance at all. My man is sure to kill him.»
Very kindly but urgently Celia and Rosalind begged Orlando not to wrestle.
But Orlando answered, «Do not think badly of me because I refuse to do what you wish. It is not easy to say ‘no’ to ladies who are so kind and so fair. Let your beautiful eyes and good wishes go with me.»
Then the wrestling began, and everyone expected the duke’s wrestler to kill Orlando. But Orlando lifted the strong man up in his arms and threw him on to the ground. All the people shouted in admiration, and the duke called out, «No more! No more!»
He turned to his wrestler and asked him how he felt. But the man lay quite still and quiet, he could neither speak nor move.
«He cannot speak, my lord,» said one of the noblemen. So the duke ordered his men to carry his wrestler away.
«What is your name, young man?» he asked of Orlando.
«Orlando, my lord, the younger son of Sir Rowland.»
«Your father was my enemy,» said the duke. «I would have been better pleased with your brave deed if you had told me of another father.»
Then the duke and his lords and his servants went away, and Orlando was left alone with Rosalind and Celia. The girls went up to Orlando and praised him for his bravery. Celia was sad that her father had spoken so unkindly to Orlando. And Rosalind, taking a gold chain off her own neck, gave it to him. She would have given him a richer gift, she said, if she had not been only a poor girl. Orlando loved them both for their goodness, but he loved Rosalind so much that he made up his mind to marry her one day, if she would agree to marry him.
Meanwhile the duke was angry with Orlando, the son of his enemy, for having defeated his wrestler, and he was angry with Rosalind for having given Orlando her gold chain.
The more the duke thought of these things, the angrier he grew. At last he told Rosalind to leave his castle.
«If you are found even twenty miles from here within the next ten days, you shall die,» he said.
Celia was very sad at her father’s cruelty to Rosalind, who was so dear to her. She begged the duke not to be so unkind, but he refused to listen to her. Then she told him that if he sent Rosalind away, he must send her away, too, because she could not live without Rosalind.
«You are a fool!» her father shouted. He told Rosalind that she would be killed if she did not go at once.
But Celia would not let Rosalind go alone. So they made up their minds to travel together to the forest of Arden, where Rosalind’s father and his friends were hiding. They knew they might meet robbers on their way, so Celia stained her face to make it look sunburned, and dressed herself like a poor country girl. Rosalind put on boy’s clothes, and took a little axe and spear with her.
Now the duke, Celia’s father, had a jester called Touchstone. This jester was a very funny fellow who was always talking nonsense and joking. He was very fond of his young mistress Celia.
«What if we took Touchstone with us?» said Rosalind when they were ready to start on their way. «Will he not be a comfort to us?»
«He will go all over the wide world with us,» said Celia. «Let me ask him to come.»
So when Rosalind and Celia went off to the forest, kind Touchstone led the way. In his red clothes, with the bells on his cap jingling, he cheerfully stepped out in front of them, carrying their bundle of food and clothes. And when night fell and the forest was dark, and Rosalind and Celia grew tired and sad, Touchstone’s merry face and the jokes he made, soon cheered the two girls up again.
While these things were happening, Oliver was planning how to kill Orlando. He hated him all the more when he heard people praising him. He made up his mind to have him murdered in some way or other.
Adam, the old servant, warned Orlando of the danger. Orlando decided to go to the Forest of Arden, and Adam said he would go with him as well.
Orlando had no money, but Adam gave him all his savings, and so they too went off to the Forest. Far away, in the woods Rosalind’s father and his friends led a happy life together. They hunted wild animals, and had plenty of good food. They often feasted under the thick green trees. As they feasted together one day, a young man rushed out from among the trees, his drawn sword in his hand.
«Stop, and eat no more!» he cried.
The duke and his friends asked him what he wanted.
«Food,» he said. «I am almost dying for want of food.»
They asked him to sit down and eat, but he refused because an old man who had followed him out of deep love was in the wood, dying of hunger. He said he would eat nothing until he had first fed him.
The young man was Orlando, and when the duke and his followers had helped him to bring Adam to where they were, and fed them both, the old man and his young master grew quite strong again. When the duke learned that Orlando was the son of his friend Sir Rowland, he welcomed him and the faithful old servant more warmly still.
So Orlando lived happily with the duke and his friends in the forest, but all the time he was thinking of Rosalind. Every day he wrote poems about her, and pinned them on trees in the wood or carved them deep in the bark of the trees.
Now Rosalind and Celia and Touchstone had also come safely to the forest, and were living in a little. cottage that belonged to a shepherd there.
Rosalind loved Orlando as much as he loved her, and when she read the verses that Orlando had left on the trees, she was happy, for she knew that he had not forgotten her.
At last one day she and Celia met Orlando. He did not recognise them in the clothes they were wearing. And with their faces stained brown, he took them for the shepherd boy and his sister that they pretended to be.
He became great friends with them, and often came to see them in their. little cottage, and talked to them of Rosalind, the beautiful lady that he loved.
Meanwhile Orlando’s brother was punished severely for his cruelty. When Orlando went away, Celia’s father thought that Oliver had killed his brother. He took Oliver’s land away from him, and told him never to come back to his court until he had found Orlando.
So Oliver went away alone, to look for his brother. He looked for him week after week in vain, until his clothes were worn and his hair so long and dirty that he looked like a beggar. On his way from Rosalind’s cottage, Orlando came on him one day. Oliver was lying fast asleep under an old oak. Round his neck there was a big snake that was just going to bite him and kill him when it saw Orlando and escaped Even as it went away, Orlando saw another awful danger near his unkind brother. A hungry lion was hiding under some bushes, ready to kill the sleeping men.
For a moment Orlando thought only of his brother’s cruelties. He knew that he well deserved death. Twice he turned away to leave him, but he had too kind a heart to do so cruel a thing, even to his worst enemy.
He fought the lion and killed it, but not before it had torn his arm with its sharp teeth.
The noise of the fight awoke Oliver, who saw that Orlando was risking his own life to save him. Ashamed of what he had done to Orlando, Oliver told his brother how sorry he was, and begged his pardon, and they became friends. Orlando took his brother to the duke, and he was fed and clothed there.
When Rosalind saw a handkerchief stained with Orlando’s blood, and realised that he had been wounded, she fainted. Thinking that she was a boy, those who were near her, laughed at her for being so womanish.
But soon Rosalind told them her secret.
When the duke learned that Rosalind was his own daughter, and Orlando learned that the shepherd boy was his own fair Rosalind, there were no other men in all France as happy as the duke and Orlando.
Rosalind and Orlando were married at once, and on the same day Oliver, who was truly sorry for the bad deeds he had done, was married to Celia. Just then a messenger came to the duke and said that his brother, Celia’s father had been sorry for his cruelty and had returned his brother’s dukedom to him.
So they were all happy there under the green trees.
duke – герцог;
jester – шут;
shepherd – пастух.