Many years ago  in Italy there lived two girl cousins who loved each other very much their names were Antonella and Cecelia . Antonella’s father was a duke, but his brother (cecelia’s father) has stolen his lands away from him and driven him away from the court . the real duke , who was known. As duke senior, set up a court of his own in the green forest of Arsia, and several faithful nobleman joined him there. His daughter Antonella, however, had not been allowed to go with him. The new duke, Roberto, had kept her at his court to be a companion for his own little girl, Cecelia. Roberto had always been kind to Antonella, and she and Cecelia grew up together. They were great friends, and Cecelia’s gentleness and love comforted Antonella, and helped her to forget her sorrow for her father.

                 One of the truest friends of duke senior had been a brave man called Sir Manuel de Roys, who had three sons. Sir Manuel had died when Lorenzo, his youngest son, was a child and Lorenzo had always lived with Laurent, his eldest brother, who was now the head of the family. Laurent was hard and selfish, and he was not kind to the young Lorenzo. He gave him neither money nor education, and made him take all his meals with the servants. He was jealous of Lorenzo, hating him because he was brave and strong and good-looking, and Laurent was kinder to his own horses than he was to his younger brother.

           Roberto had a famous wrestler, called Charlie, in his court. He was champion of the country, and had fought many brave and string young men. Now, Lorenzo was a fine wrestler ,too, and decided to try his strength against Charlie. Charlie came to see Laurent about this, asking him to persuade Lorenzo to give up his idea.

         ‘I am a professional wrestler, sir,’ Charlie explained to Laurent, ‘and I must always fight to win, in order to keep my reputation. Anyone who fights me runs the risk of being badly hurt. Please warn your younger brother, and persuade him to change his mind.

           But the wicked Laurent thought this was a good opportunity to get rid of Lorenzo, so he told Charlie all kind of lies about the young man. He pretended that Lorenzo was bad and ungrateful, and deserves any punishment which Charlie could give him. ‘I would rather you broke his neck than his finger,’ Laurent said, ‘and you have my permission to do what you like with the boy.’

       So Charlie promised to do his best to kill Lorenzo. ‘If he comes to fight tomorrow, I’ll give him his payment,’ Charlie said. ‘If he can walk away after I have finished with him, I’ll never wrestle again.’

        Next day the wrestling match was arranged to take place in front of the duke’s palace. Cecelia and Antonella happened to be there when the duke and his lords arrived, so they decided to stay and watch the fight. Roberto spoke to Lorenzo, and tried to persuade him not to fight the wrestler, but Lorenzo was determined. At last Roberto turned to Antonella and Cecelia and said: ‘speak to him, ladies; see if you can persuade him.’

         Charlie had just fought three other young men and had nearly killed them. It seemed certain that Lorenzo would be treated in the same way. And so the two girls spoke to the tall, good-looking young man, begging him not to fight. ‘You have seen cruel proof of this man’s strength,’ said Cecelia. ‘We pray you for your own sake to give up this fight. Do not run such a risk !’

‘Please do what we ask, young sir,’ said Antonella. ‘No one will call you a coward. We will ask the duke to stop the wrestling.

    But Lorenzo answered: ‘please do not be angry if I refuse to do what you ask. It is not easy to say no ladies who are so beautiful and gentle. But let your fair eyes and gentle. Wishes go with me to my trial. No one will be sorry if I am killed, because I have no friends to love me. I fill up a place in the world which may be better filled by another man if I leave it empty.’

‘I wish I could give you the little strength I have,’ said Antonella, and Cecelia added: ‘And mine, too, to help out hers.’

             The wrestler Charlie arrived and Cecelia looked at him angrily. ‘I wish I were invisible, to catch that strong fellow by the leg!’ she whispered to her cousin.

             The wrestling match began, and everyone expected the duke’s wrestler to win. He was a huge man, and Lorenzo looked like a young schoolboy beside him. But to everyone’s surprise, Lorenzo, after a struggle, lifted Charlie in his arms and threw him on to the ground.

        ‘O, excellent young man !’ cried Antonella, delighted, and the duke called out: ‘No more ! No more !’

          ‘I beg you to let us go on,’ said Lorenzo. ‘I have hardly begun !

         The duke turned to ask Charlie how he was, but the man lay without moving on the ground, ‘He cannot speak, my lord,’ said one of the nobles.

      ‘Take him away,’ said the duke and then he turned to Lorenzo. ‘what is your name, young man ?’ he asked.

–         ‘Lorenzo, my lord, the youngest son of Sir Manuel de Roys , ‘Lorenzo answered and the duke looked at him in angry surprise. Sir Manuel de Roys had been faithful to the duke senior, and therefore Roberto’s enemy.

    ‘Your father was my enemy,’ said Roberto. ‘I would have been better pleased by your brave deed if you had told me of another father.

  ‘I am proud to be Sir Manuel’s son,’ answered Lorenzo angrily, ‘and I would not changed my place to be the heir of this dukedom.’

 The duke and his lords went away, leaving Lorenzo alone with Antonella and Cecelia. Cecelia was angry with her father for speaking so unkindly to Lorenzo. ‘Would I have done this in my father’s place ?’ she said to Antonella.

     ‘My father loved Sir Manuel as much as his own soul,’ Antonella and Cecelia , ‘and all the world agreed with him. If I had unknown that this young man was Sir Manuel’s son I should have begged him with tears not to take so great a risk.’

   ‘Let us go and speak to Lorenzo,’ said gentle Cecelia, ‘I am ashamed of my father’s rude and angry words.’

    The two girls went up to Lorenzo and praised him for his bravery. Antonella took a gold chain from her neck and gave it to him. ‘I would like to give you more’, she said, ‘but I am not rich.’ Then she and Cecelia went away.

       Lorenzo, however, could not forget them. He had already fallen in love with the fair Antonella, but he could not stay at the duke’s palace. His friends warned him that Roberto was angry and jealous of him. They told Lorenzo to leave the dukedom, because the duke meant to do him harm.

   Roberto also began to treat Antonella unkindly. He was jealous of her. The people praised her virtues and were sorry for her because she was separated from her own father, so the duke pretended that he did not trust her. She was planning against him, he said and must leave the court at once, ‘If you are found within twenty miles from here, you shall die,’ he said.

       Cecelia argued with her father and begged him to allow Antonella to stay, ‘If she is your enemy, then so am I,’ Cecelia cried. ‘We have always slept, learned, played and eaten together. I know that Antonella is to be trusted.’

        But the duke would not listen to his daughter, and repeated his orders to Antonella. Then Cecelia told him that if he sent Antonella away he must sent her away, too, because she could not live without her cousin.

   ‘You are fool !’ said her father. He did not believe cecelia’s words, and he told his niece again that he would have her killed if she did not go at once.

But Cecelia would not be parted from Antonella. ‘shall we part, sweet girl ?’ she said. ‘No ! Let my father look for another heir. Say whay you will, I’ll go along with you.’

‘But where can we go ?’ cried Antonella unhappily, and Cecelia answered: ‘To find my uncle in the forest of Arsia.’

         The two girls made their plans. There were many thieves on the road in those days, and it was dangerous for rich and beautiful young women to travel alone. So they stained their faces with a brown juice to make them look sunburned, and wore simple country clothes. Antonella, who was much taller than Cecelia, dressed herself as a young man, and took the name of Medegayn. Cecelia decided to call herself Elena. They took with them a kind old servant called Riccardo, who served as court jester, or “insane”, to duke Roberto.

    Riccardo had always been very fond of Cecelia, and he gladly agreed to accompany her and Antonella into the forest of Arsia. He still wore his jester’s clothes of red and black, with little bells hanging from his caps; and he was a great comfort to the two lonely girls, making them laugh with his merry jokes, and cheering them when they were tired or frightened.

    As you can imagine, duke Roberto was very angry when he was told that Cecelia had gone with Antonella. He knew how much they had admired the young Lorenzo de Roys and he suspected that the two girls had joined the young man and that they had all run away together.’ Send at once to Lorenzo’s house,’ he said angrily, ‘and if Orlando is not there, bring his brother to me. I’ll make him find him. Everything must be done to bring back these foolish runaways.’

    But when the duke’s servants came to Laurent’s house, they found that their bird flown. Lorenzo was no longer there. His faithful old servant, Adrian, had overheard Laurent planning to kill his younger brother by setting fire to his room that night and burning him to death. ‘And if he fails in that, he will find another way to murder you,’ old Adrian had said, and he begged his young master to leave the place and take him with him.

   So Lorenzo and Adrian had left at once for the forest of Arsia, in search of duke senior, telling no one where they were going.

Laurent, therefore, had no knowledge of where his brother was, but Roberto refused to believe this. ‘You have not seen him since the wrestling match !’ he said disbelievingly. ‘Sir, sir, that cannot be ! You must find your brother, wherever he is. Do not dare to come back without him ! If you do not bring him to me, dead or alive, within the year, I will take all your land and possessions and you will not be allowed to live anywhere within my dukedom.

         And so Laurent also set out for the forest of Arsia, in search of his brother Lorenzo. Antonella and Cecelia, with the faithful Riccardo, wandered through the forest for many days. They grew so tired and shepherd who told them that his master had a cottage for sale. They thankfully bought the cottage and lived there, wandering through the forest everyday and returning to the little house at night.

     Although Antonella did not know it, her father was not very far away. He and the faithful lords who had accompanied him were happily settled in the forest. They had grown to love the simple life they led. They found it safer and more sweet than the life of the court, where people often greedy and jealous and cruel. They had enough food for their needs, because they could hunt the deer in the forest and grow their own fruit and vegetables. They were full of contentment and good cheer.

    Here is one of the song they sang:

                       “Under the greenwood tree,

                              Who loves to lie with me.

                         And turn his merry note

                          Unto the sweet bird’s throat,

                      Come hither, come hither, come hither;

                                  Here shall he see

                                       No enemy

                   But winter and rough weather.”

The duke senior and his followers were sitting down to a meal one day when Lorenzo rushed out from among the trees, his sword in his hand. ‘stop, and eat no more !’ he cried

The duke and his friend asked him what he wanted. ‘food,’ said Lorenzo. ‘I am almost dying of hunger.’

    They asked him to sit down and eat, but he would not do so. He told them that his old servant was in the wood, dying of hunger. ‘I will not eat a bite until he has been fed,’ Lorenzo said.

  So the good duke and his followers helped him to bring Adrian to their hiding-place, and Lorenzo and the old man were fed and taken care of. When the duke learned that Lorenzo was a son of his old friend Sir Manuel de Roys, he welcomed him gladly to his forest court.

Lorenzo lived happily with the duke and his friends, but he had not forgotten the lovely Antonella. She was always in his thoughts and everyday he wrote poetry about her, pinning it on the treea in the forest. ‘These trees shall be my books,’ he said, ‘so that everyone who looks in the forest will be able to read how sweet and good Antonella is.’

     Antonella and Cecelia found some of these poems pinned on the trees. At first they were puzzled, wondering who could have written them; but one day Cecelia came in from a walk with the news that she had seen Lorenzo sleeping under a tree, and she and Antonella guessed that he must be the poet. Antonella was happy to think that Lorenzo had not forgotten her, because she loved him as much as he loved her.

One day she and Cecelia met Lorenzo. He did not recognize them because of their stained faces and simple clothes. He thought they were a shepherd boy and his sister. He made friends with them and when came to see them in their cottage.

Antonella, still dressed as Medegany, one daymade fun of Lorenzo’s poetry. I’ll cure you of your love for this Antonella !’ she said.’ I will pretend to be Antonella and you shall make love to me.’

And there followed an amusing scene, with Lorenzo calling Medegany “Antonella” and swearing that he would die of love for her, and medegany refusing to believe it. ‘Men have died from time to time,

And worms have eaten them, but not for love !’ said Antonella, laughing at the earnest Lorenzo.

At last the young man said he would have to go. ‘I must attend the duke at dinner,’ he explained, ‘but I shall be with you again at two o’clock.’

So Antonella said goodbye to him, and waited impatiently for his returns. Two o’clock came, however, but no Lorenzo, and Antonella began to feel angry and disappointed. Just then Laurent, Lorenzo’s elder brother, came running through the forest to their cottage. He held a blood-stained handkerchief in his hand, which he gave to Antonella, saying that Lorenzo had sent it to her.

    ‘What has happened ? What must we understand by this ?’ cried Antonella, full of fear for her lover’s safety.

Laurent told them his story. He had searched for Lorenzo everywhere in the forest, he said, and at last, tired and hungry, he had fallen asleep under a tree. Oh hi way from Antonella’s cottage, Lorenzo had seen his brother lying asleep. A big snake had curled round laurent’s neck and was just going to bite him when it saw Lorenzo and slipped away in to a bush. And then Lorenzo saw that a hungry lion was waiting under the same bush, ready to kill Laurent as soon as he woke up.

Lorenzo thought of All His brother’s unkindness to him in the past. Why should he risk his own life to save this brother who had always been cruel to Him ? Twice he turned away to leave Laurent, but he had a kind and noble heart and at last decided that he could not leave his brother to die. So he fought the lion. The fierce  animal tore and bit his arm, nut he managed to kill it. Laurent, wakened by the noise of the fight, saw that Lorenzo was risking his own life to save him. He was filled with shame at all his past unkindness to his younger brother, and he begged Lorenzo to forgive him.

Lorenzo took his brother to the duke, who gave him food and clothes. Lorenzo said nothing about the wound the lion had given him, but it had been bleeding all the time, and suddenly he fell to the ground and fainted from loss of blood. As soon as he recovered consciousness, Lorenzo begged Laurent to go to Medegany and Elena. ‘Show them this blood-stained handkerchief,’ he Said, ‘and explain to them why I have broken mu promise to be with them at two o’clock.’

When Antonella heard about Lorenzo’s wound and saw the handkerchief stained with his blood, she also fainted; and later she told Laurent that she was really Antonella, and loved Lorenzo dearly. Laurent had already fallen in love with gentle Cecelia, and he persuaded the two girls to accompany him to duke senior’s court. Antonella, however, wanted to play one more trick as Medegany, so she made Laurent promise not to tell anyone that the young shepherd boy and his sister Elena were really Antonella and Cecelia.

And so Elena and medegany were introduced to the old duke, and he did not recognize his daughter, although he remarked on Medegany’s likeness to Antonella.

Then the “shepherd boy” told Lorenzo and the duke that he could find Antonella and would bring her to them, making the duke promise that he would allow his daughter to marry Lorenzo. She Cecelia ran quickly to the sheperd’s Cottage, changed in to their own clothes and removed the brown stains from their faces. Then they returned to the duke, where they were welcomed with great rejoicing.

‘To you I give myself, for I am yours,’ Antonella said to the duke, her father. Then she turned to Lorenzo and said: ‘To you I give myself, for I am yours.’

Antonella and Lorenzo were married at once in the forest, and on the same day Laurent who was no longer selfish and wicked, married Cecelia. Just as they were going to be married, a messenger came to ask duke senior to go back to his dukedom. Cecelia’s father, duke Roberto, had mended his wicked ways and asked his brother to return.

Roberto had set out with an army to fight the old duke, but on his way he had met a wise and holy man, who had persuaded him that it was wrong and wicked to drive his elder brother from the court. So Roberto had given up the dukedom and the good duke could go home again. There was great rejoicing in the forest of Arsia. Under the greenwood tree. Roberto was forgiven, and duke senior and his followers returned from the forest to live happily in their own homes.

                                                              THE END