Part 1 out of 4
JAMES BRANCH CABELL
ANNE BRANCH CABELL
"AINSI A VOUS, MADAME, A MA TRES HAULTE ET
TRES NOBLE DAME, A QUI J'AYME A DEVOIR
ATTACHEMENT ET OBEISSANCE,
J'ENVOYE CE LIVRET."
Few of the more astute critics who have appraised the work of James
Branch Cabell have failed to call attention to that extraordinary
cohesion which makes his very latest novel a further flowering of the
seed of his very earliest literary work. Especially among his later
books does the scheme of each seem to dovetail into the scheme of the
other and the whole of his writing take on the character of an
uninterrupted discourse. To this phenomenon, which is at once a fact and
an illusion of continuity, Mr. Cabell himself has consciously
contributed, not only by a subtly elaborate use of conjunctions, by
repetition, and by reintroducing characters from his other books, but by
actually setting his expertness in genealogy to the genial task of
devising a family tree for his figures of fiction.
If this were an actual continuity, more tangible than that fluid
abstraction we call the life force; if it were merely a tireless
reiteration and recasting of characters, Mr. Cabell's work would have an
unbearable monotony. But at bottom this apparent continuity has no more
material existence than has the thread of lineal descent. To insist
upon its importance is to obscure, as has been obscured, the epic range
of Mr. Cabell's creative genius. It is to fail to observe that he has
treated in his many books every mainspring of human action and that his
themes have been the cardinal dreams and impulses which have in them
heroic qualities. Each separate volume has a unity and harmony of a
complete and separate life, for the excellent reason that with the
consummate skill of an artist he is concerned exclusively in each book
with one definite heroic impulse and its frustrations.
It is true, of course, that like the fruit of the tree of life, Mr.
Cabell's artistic progeny sprang from a first conceptual germ--"In the
beginning was the Word." That animating idea is the assumption that if
life may be said to have an aim it must be an aim to terminate in
success and splendor. It postulates the high, fine importance of excess,
the choice or discovery of an overwhelming impulse in life and a
conscientious dedication to its fullest realization. It is the quality
and intensity of the dream only which raises men above the biological
norm; and it is fidelity to the dream which differentiates the
exceptional figure, the man of heroic stature, from the muddling,
aimless mediocrities about him. What the dream is, matters not at
all--it may be a dream of sainthood, kingship, love, art, asceticism or
sensual pleasure--so long as it is fully expressed with all the
resources of self. It is this sort of completion which Mr. Cabell has
elected to depict in all his work: the complete sensualist in
Demetrios, the complete phrase-maker in Felix Kennaston, the complete
poet in Marlowe, the complete lover in Perion. In each he has shown that
this complete self-expression is achieved at the expense of all other
possible selves, and that herein lies the tragedy of the ideal.
Perfection is a costly flower and is cultured only by an uncompromising,
All this is, we see, the ideational gonfalon under which surge the
romanticists; but from the evidence at hand it is the banner to which
life also bears allegiance. It is in humanity's records that it has
reserved its honors for its romantic figures. It remembers its Caesars,
its saints, its sinners. It applauds, with a complete suspension of
moral judgment, its heroines and its heroes who achieve the greatest
self-realization. And from the splendid triumphs and tragic defeats of
humanity's individual strivings have come our heritage of wisdom and of
Once we understand the fundamentals of Mr. Cabell's artistic aims, it is
not easy to escape the fact that in _Figures of Earth_ he undertook the
staggering and almost unsuspected task of rewriting humanity's sacred
books, just as in _Jurgen_ he gave us a stupendous analogue of the
ceaseless quest for beauty. For we must accept the truth that Mr. Cabell
is not a novelist at all in the common acceptance of the term, but a
historian of the human soul. His books are neither documentary nor
representational; his characters are symbols of human desires and
motives. By the not at all simple process of recording faithfully the
projections of his rich and varied imagination, he has written thirteen
books, which he accurately terms biography, wherein is the bitter-sweet
truth about human life.
Among the scant certainties vouchsafed us is that every age lives by its
special catchwords. Whether from rebellion against the irking monotony
of its inherited creeds or from compulsions generated by its own
complexities, each age develops its code of convenient illusions which
minimize cerebration in dilemmas of conduct by postulating an
unequivocal cleavage between the current right and the current wrong. It
works until men tire of it or challenge the cleavage, or until
conditions render the code obsolete. It has in it, happily, a certain
poetic merit always; it presents an ideal to be lived up to; it gives
direction to the uncertain, stray impulses of life.
The Chivalric code is no worse than most and certainly it is prettier
than some. It is a code peculiar to an age, or at least it flourishes
best in an age wherein sentiment and the stuff of dreams are easily
translatable into action. Its requirements are less of the intellect
than of the heart. It puts God, honor, and mistress above all else, and
stipulates that a knight shall serve these three without any
reservation. It requires of its secular practitioners the holy virtues
of an active piety, a modified chastity, and an unqualified obedience,
at all events, to the categorical imperative. The obligation of poverty
it omits, for the code arose at a time when the spiritual snobbery of
the meek and lowly was not pressing the simile about the camel and the
eye of the needle. It leads to charming manners and to delicate
amenities. It is the opposite of the code of Gallantry, for while the
code of Chivalry takes everything with a becoming seriousness, the code
of Gallantry takes everything with a wink. If one should stoop to pick
flaws with the Chivalric ideal, it would be to point out a certain
priggishness and intolerance. For, while it is all very well for one to
cherish the delusion that he is God's vicar on earth and to go about his
Father's business armed with a shining rectitude, yet the unhallowed may
be moved to deprecate the enterprise when they recall, with discomfort,
the zealous vicarship of, say, the late Anthony J. Comstock.
But here I blunder into Mr. Cabell's province. For he has joined many
graceful words in delectable and poignant proof of just that lamentable
tendency of man to make a mess of even his most immaculate conceivings.
When he wrote _Chivalry_, Mr. Cabell was yet young enough to view the
code less with the appraising eye of a pawnbroker than with the ardent
eye of an amateur. He knew its value, but he did not know its price. So
he made of it the thesis for a dizain of beautiful happenings that are
almost flawless in their verbal beauty.
It is perhaps of historical interest here to record the esteem in which
Mark Twain held the genius of Mr. Cabell as it was manifested as early
as a dozen years ago. Mr. Cabell wrote _The Soul of Melicent_, or, as it
was rechristened on revision, _Domnei_, at the great humorist's request,
and during the long days and nights of his last illness it was Mr.
Cabell's books which gave Mark Twain his greatest joy. This knowledge
mitigates the pleasure, no doubt, of those who still, after his fifteen
years of writing, encounter him intermittently with a feeling of having
made a great literary discovery. The truth is that Mr. Cabell has been
discovered over and over with each succeeding book from that first fine
enthusiasm with which Percival Pollard reviewed _The Eagle's Shadow_ to
that generous acknowledgment by Hugh Walpole that no one in England,
save perhaps Conrad and Hardy, was so sure of literary permanence as
James Branch Cabell.
With _The Cream of the Jest, Beyond Life_, and _Figures of Earth_ before
him, it is not easy for the perceptive critic to doubt this permanence.
One might as sensibly deny a future to Ecclesiastes, _The Golden Ass,
Gulliver's Travels_, and the works of Rabelais as to predict oblivion
for such a thesaurus of ironic wit and fine fantasy, mellow wisdom and
strange beauty as _Jurgen_. But to appreciate the tales of _Chivalry_
is, it seems, a gift more frequently reserved for the general reader
than for the professional literary evaluator. Certainly years before
discussion of Cabell was artificially augmented by the suppression of
_Jurgen_ there were many genuine lovers of romance who had read these
tales with pure enjoyment. That they did not analyse and articulate
their enjoyment for the edification of others does not lessen the
quality of their appreciation. Even in those years they found in
Cabell's early tales what we find who have since been directed to them
by the curiosity engendered by his later work, namely, a superb
craftsmanship in recreating a vanished age, an atmosphere in keeping
with the themes, a fluid, graceful, personal style, a poetic ecstasy, a
fine sense of drama, and a unity and symmetry which are the hall-marks
of literary genius.
BURTON RASCOE. New York City, September, 1921.
I THE STORY OF THE SESTINA
II THE STORY OF THE TENSON
III THE STORY OF THE RAT-TRAP
IV THE STORY OF THE CHOICES
V THE STORY OF THE HOUSEWIFE
VI THE STORY OF THE SATRAPS
VII THE STORY OF THE HERITAGE
VIII THE STORY OF THE SCABBARD
IX THE STORY OF THE NAVARRESE
X THE STORY OF THE FOX-BRUSH
Imprimis, as concerns the authenticity of these tales perhaps the less
debate may be the higher wisdom, if only because this Nicolas de Caen,
by common report, was never a Gradgrindian. And in this volume in
particular, writing it (as Nicolas is supposed to have done) in 1470, as
a dependant on the Duke of Burgundy, it were but human nature should he,
in dealing with the putative descendants of Dom Manuel and Alianora of
Provence, be niggardly in his ascription of praiseworthy traits to any
member of the house of Lancaster or of Valois. Rather must one in common
reason accept old Nicolas as confessedly a partisan writer, who upon
occasion will recolor an event with such nuances as will be least
inconvenient to a Yorkist and Burgundian bias.
The reteller of these stories needs in addition to plead guilty of
having abridged the tales with a free hand. Item, these tales have been
a trifle pulled about, most notably in "The Story of the Satraps," where
it seemed advantageous, on reflection, to put into Gloucester's mouth a
history which in the original version was related _ab ovo_, and as a
sort of bungling prologue to the story proper.
Item, the re-teller of these stories desires hereby to tender
appropriate acknowledgment to Mr. R.E. Townsend for his assistance in
making an English version of the lyrics included hereinafter; and to
avoid discussion as to how freely, in these lyrics, Nicolas has
plagiarized from Raimbaut de Vaqueiras and other elder poets.
And--"sixth and lastly"--should confession be made that in the present
rendering a purely arbitrary title has been assigned this little book;
chiefly for commercial reasons, since the word "dizain" has been
adjudged both untranslatable and, in its pristine form, repellantly
You are to give my titular makeshift, then, a wide interpretation; and
are always to remember that in the bleak, florid age these tales
commemorate this Chivalry was much the rarelier significant of any
personal trait than of a world-wide code in consonance with which all
estimable people lived and died. Its root was the assumption
(uncontested then) that a gentleman will always serve his God, his honor
and his lady without any reservation; nor did the many emanating by-laws
ever deal with special cases as concerns this triple, fixed, and
Such is the trinity served hereinafter. Now about lady-service, or
_domnei_, I have written elsewhere. Elsewhere also I find it recorded
that "the cornerstone of Chivalry is the idea of vicarship: for the
chivalrous person is, in his own eyes at least, the child of God, and
goes about this world as his Father's representative in an alien
I believe the definition holds: it certainly tends to explain the
otherwise puzzling pertinacity with which the characters in these tales
talk about God and act upon an assured knowledge as to Heaven's private
intentions and preferences. These people are the members of one family
engrossed, as all of us are apt to be when in the society of our kin, by
family matters and traditions and by-words. It is not merely that they
are all large children consciously dependent in all things upon a not
foolishly indulgent Father, Who keeps an interested eye upon the least
of their doings, and punishes at need,--not merely that they know
themselves to act under surveillance and to speak within ear-shot of a
divine eavesdropper. The point is, rather, that they know this
observation to be as tender, the punishment to be as unwilling, as that
which they themselves extend to their own children's pranks and
misdemeanors. The point is that to them Heaven is a place as actual and
tangible as we consider Alaska or Algiers to be, and that their living
is a conscious journeying toward this actual place. The point is that
the Father is a real father, and not a word spelt with capital letters
in the Church Service; not an abstraction, not a sort of a something
vaguely describable as "the Life Force," but a very famous kinsman, of
whom one is naively proud, and whom one is on the way to visit.... The
point, in brief, is that His honor and yours are inextricably blended,
and are both implicated in your behavior on the journey.
We nowadays can just cloudily imagine this viewing of life as a sort of
boarding-school from which one eventually goes home, with an official
report as to progress and deportment: and in retaliation for being
debarred from the comforts of this view, the psychoanalysts have no
doubt invented for it some opprobrious explanation. At all events, this
Chivalry was a pragmatic hypothesis: it "worked," and served society for
a long while, not faultlessly of course, but by creating, like all the
other codes of human conduct which men have yet tried, a tragi-comic
melee wherein contended "courtesy and humanity, friendliness, hardihood,
love and friendship, and murder, hate, and virtue, and sin."
For the rest, since good wine needs no bush, and an inferior beverage is
not likely to be bettered by arboreal adornment, I elect to piece out
my exordium (however lamely) with "The Printer's Preface." And it runs
in this fashion:
"Here begins the volume called and entitled the Dizain of Queens,
composed and extracted from divers chronicles and other sources of
information, by that extremely venerable person and worshipful man,
Messire Nicolas de Caen, priest and chaplain to the right noble,
glorious and mighty prince in his time, Philippe, Duke of Burgundy, of
Brabant, etc., in the year of the Incarnation of our Lord God a thousand
four hundred and seventy: and imprinted by me, Colard Mansion, at
Bruges, in the year of our said Lord God a thousand four hundred and
seventy-one; at the commandment of the right high, mighty and virtuous
Princess, my redoubted Lady, Isabella of Portugal, by the grace of God
Duchess of Burgundy and Lotharingia, of Brabant and Limbourg, of
Luxembourg and of Gueldres, Countess of Flanders, of Artois, and of
Burgundy, Palatine of Hainault, of Holland, of Zealand and of Namur,
Marquesse of the Holy Empire, and Lady of Frisia, of Salins and of
Mechlin; whom I beseech Almighty God less to increase than to continue
in her virtuous disposition in this world, and after our poor fleet
existence to receive eternally. Amen."
"_Afin que les entreprises honorables et les nobles aventures et
faicts d'armes soyent noblement enregistres et conserves, je vais
traiter et raconter et inventer ung galimatias_."
THE DIZAIN OF QUEENS OF THAT NOBLE MAKER IN THE FRENCH TONGUE, MESSIRE
NICOLAS DE CAEN, DEDICATED TO THE MOST ILLUSTRIOUS ISABELLA OF PORTUGAL,
OF THE HOUSE OF THE INDOMITABLE ALFONSO HENRIQUES, AND DUCHESS DOWAGER
OF BURGUNDY. HERE BEGINS IN AUSPICIOUS WISE THE PROLOGUE.
A Sa Dame
Inasmuch as it was by your command, illustrious and exalted lady, that I
have gathered together these stories to form the present little book,
you should the less readily suppose I have presumed to dedicate to your
Serenity this trivial offering because of my esteeming it to be not
undeserving of your acceptance. The truth is otherwise: your postulant
approaches not spurred toward you by vainglory, but rather by equity,
and equity's plain need to acknowledge that he who seeks to write of
noble ladies must necessarily implore at outset the patronage of her who
is the light and mainstay of our age. I humbly bring my book to you as
Phidyle approached another and less sacred shrine, _farre pio et
saliente mica_, and lay before you this my valueless mean tribute not as
appropriate to you but as the best I have to offer.
It is a little book wherein I treat of divers queens and of their
love-business; and with necessitated candor I concede my chosen field to
have been harvested, and scrupulously gleaned, by many writers of
innumerable conditions. Since Dares Phrygius wrote of Queen Heleine, and
Virgil (that shrewd necromancer) of Queen Dido, a preponderating mass of
clerks, in casting about for high and serious matter, have chosen, as
though it were by common instinct, to dilate upon the amours of royal
women. Even in romance we scribblers must contrive it so that the fair
Nicolete shall be discovered in the end to be no less than the King's
daughter of Carthage, and that Sir Dooen of Mayence shall never sink in
his love affairs beneath the degree of a Saracen princess; and we are
backed in this old procedure not only by the authority of Aristotle but,
oddly enough, by that of reason.
Kings have their policies and wars wherewith to drug each human
appetite. But their consorts are denied these makeshifts; and love may
rationally be defined as the pivot of each normal woman's life, and in
consequence as the arbiter of that ensuing life which is eternal.
Because--as anciently Propertius demanded, though not, to speak the
truth, of any woman--
Quo fugis? ah demens! nulla est fuga, tu licet usque
Ad Tanaim fugias, usque sequetur amor.
And a dairymaid, let us say, may love whom she will, and nobody else be
a penny the worse for her mistaking of the preferable nail whereon to
hang her affections; whereas with a queen this choice is more
portentous. She plays the game of life upon a loftier table, ruthlessly
illuminated, she stakes by her least movement a tall pile of counters,
some of which are, of necessity, the lives and happiness of persons whom
she knows not, unless it be by vague report. Grandeur sells itself at
this hard price, and at no other. A queen must always play, in fine, as
the vicar of destiny, free to choose but very certainly compelled in the
ensuing action to justify that choice: as is strikingly manifested by
the authentic histories of Brunhalt, and of Guenevere, and of swart
Cleopatra, and of many others that were born to the barbaric queenhoods
of extinct and dusty times.
All royal persons are (I take it) the immediate and the responsible
stewards of Heaven; and since the nature of each man is like a troubled
stream, now muddied and now clear, their prayer must ever be, _Defenda
me, Dios, de me_! Yes, of exalted people, and even of their near
associates, life, because it aims more high than the aforementioned
Aristotle, demands upon occasion a more great catharsis, which would
purge any audience of unmanliness, through pity and through terror,
because, by a quaint paradox, the players have been purged of humanity.
For a moment Destiny has thrust her scepter into the hands of a human
being and Chance has exalted a human being to decide the issue of many
human lives. These two--with what immortal chucklings one may facilely
imagine--have left the weakling thus enthroned, free to direct the heavy
outcome, free to choose, and free to evoke much happiness or age-long
weeping, but with no intermediate course unbarred. _Now prove thyself_!
saith Destiny; and Chance appends: _Now prove thyself to be at bottom a
god or else a beast, and now eternally abide that choice. And now_ (O
crowning irony!) _we may not tell thee clearly by which choice thou
mayst prove either_.
In this little book about the women who intermarried, not very enviably,
with an unhuman race (a race predestinate to the red ending which I have
chronicled elsewhere, in _The Red Cuckold_), it is of ten such moments
that I treat.
You alone, I think, of all persons living, have learned, as you have
settled by so many instances, to rise above mortality in such a testing,
and unfailingly to merit by your conduct the plaudits and the adoration
of our otherwise dissentient world. You have often spoken in the stead
of Destiny, with nations to abide your verdict; and in so doing have
both graced and hallowed your high vicarship. If I forbear to speak of
this at greater length, it is because I dare not couple your well-known
perfection with any imperfect encomium. Upon no plea, however, can any
one forbear to acknowledge that he who seeks to write of noble ladies
must necessarily implore at outset the patronage of her who is the light
and mainstay of our age.
_Therefore to you, madame--most excellent and noble lady, to whom I love
to owe both loyalty and love--I dedicate this little book._
_THE STORY OF THE SESTINA_
"Armatz de fust e de fer e d'acier, Mos ostal seran bosc, fregz,
e semdier, E mas cansos sestinas e descortz, E mantenrai los frevols
contra 'ls fortz."
THE FIRST NOVEL.--ALIANORA OF PROVENCE, COMING IN DISGUISE AND IN
ADVERSITY TO A CERTAIN CLERK, IS BY HIM CONDUCTED ACROSS A HOSTILE
COUNTRY; AND IN THAT TROUBLED JOURNEY ARE MADE MANIFEST TO EACH THE
SNARES WHICH HAD BEGUILED THEM AFORETIME.
The Story of the Sestina
In this place we have to do with the opening tale of the Dizain of
Queens. I abridge, as afterward, at discretion; and an initial account
of the Barons' War, among other superfluities, I amputate as more
remarkable for veracity than interest. The result, we will agree at
outset, is that to the Norman cleric appertains whatever these tales may
have of merit, whereas what you find distasteful in them you must impute
to my delinquencies in skill rather than in volition.
Within the half hour after de Giars' death (here one overtakes Nicolas
mid-course in narrative) Dame Alianora thus stood alone in the corridor
of a strange house. Beyond the arras the steward and his lord were at
First, "If the woman be hungry," spoke a high and peevish voice, "feed
her. If she need money, give it to her. But do not annoy me."
"This woman demands to see the master of the house," the steward then
"O incredible Boeotian, inform her that the master of the house has no
time to waste upon vagabonds who select the middle of the night as an
eligible time to pop out of nowhere. Why did you not do so in the
beginning, you dolt?" The speaker got for answer only a deferential
cough, and very shortly continued: "This is remarkably vexatious. _Vox
et proterea nihil_--which signifies, Yeck, that to converse with women
is always delightful. Admit her." This was done, and Dame Alianora came
into an apartment littered with papers, where a neat and shriveled
gentleman of fifty-odd sat at a desk and scowled.
He presently said, "You may go, Yeck." He had risen, the magisterial
attitude with which he had awaited her entrance cast aside. "Oh, God!"
he said; "you, madame!" His thin hands, scholarly hands, were plucking
at the air.
Dame Alianora had paused, greatly astonished, and there was an interval
before she said, "I do not recognize you, messire."
"And yet, madame, I recall very clearly that some thirty years ago the
King-Count Raymond Berenger, then reigning in Provence, had about his
court four daughters, each one of whom was afterward wedded to a king.
First, Meregrett, the eldest, now regnant in France; then Alianora, the
second and most beautiful of these daughters, whom troubadours hymned as
the Unattainable Princess. She was married a long while ago, madame, to
the King of England, Lord Henry, third of that name to reign in these
Dame Alianora's eyes were narrowing. "There is something in your voice,"
she said, "which I recall."
He answered: "Madame and Queen, that is very likely, for it is a voice
which sang a deal in Provence when both of us were younger. I concede
with the Roman that I have somewhat deteriorated since the reign of
Cynara. Yet have you quite forgotten the Englishman who made so many
songs of you? They called him Osmund Heleigh."
"He made the Sestina of Spring which won the violet crown at my
betrothal," the Queen said; and then, with eagerness: "Messire, can it
be that you are Osmund Heleigh?" He shrugged assent. She looked at him
for a long time, rather sadly, and demanded if he were the King's man or
of the barons' party.
The nervous hands were raised in deprecation. "I have no politics,"
Messire Heleigh began, and altered it, gallantly enough, to, "I am the
Queen's man, madame."
"Then aid me, Osmund," she said.
He answered with a gravity which singularly became him, "You have reason
to understand that to my fullest power I will aid you."
"You know that at Lewes these swine overcame us." He nodded assent. "Now
they hold the King, my husband, captive at Kenilworth. I am content
that he remain there, for he is of all the King's enemies the most
dangerous. But, at Wallingford, Leicester has imprisoned my son, Prince
Edward. The Prince must be freed, my Osmund. Warren de Basingbourne
commands what is left of the royal army, now entrenched at Bristol, and
it is he who must liberate my son. Get me to Bristol, then. Afterward we
will take Wallingford." The Queen issued these orders in cheery,
practical fashion, and did not admit opposition into the account, for
she was a capable woman.
"But you, madame?" he stammered. "You came alone?"
"I come from France, where I have been entreating--and vainly
entreating--succor from yet another monkish king, the holy Lewis of that
realm. Eh, what is God about when He enthrones these whining pieties!
Were I a king, were I even a man, I would drive these smug English out
of their foggy isle in three days' space! I would leave alive not one of
these curs that dare yelp at me! I would--" She paused, anger veering
into amusement. "See how I enrage myself when I think of what your
people have made me suffer," the Queen said, and shrugged her shoulders.
"In effect, I skulked back in disguise to this detestable island,
accompanied by Avenel de Giars and Hubert Fitz-Herveis. To-night some
half-dozen fellows--robbers, thorough knaves, like all you
English,--attacked us on the common yonder and slew the men of our
party. While they were cutting de Giars' throat I slipped away in the
dark and tumbled through many ditches till I spied your light. There you
have my story. Now get me an escort to Bristol."
It was a long while before Messire Heleigh spoke. Then, "These men," he
said--"this de Giars and this Fitz-Herveis--they gave their lives for
yours, as I understand it,--_pro caris amicis_. And yet you do not
grieve for them."
"I shall regret de Giars," the Queen acknowledged, "for he made
excellent songs. But Fitz-Herveis?--foh! the man had a face like a
horse." Again her mood changed. "Many persons have died for me, my
friend. At first I wept for them, but now I am dry of tears."
He shook his head. "Cato very wisely says, 'If thou hast need of help,
ask it of thy friends.' But the sweet friend that I remember was a clean
eyed girl, joyous and exceedingly beautiful. Now you appear to me one of
those ladies of remoter times--Faustina, or Jael, or Artemis, the King's
wife of Tauris,--they that slew men, laughing. I am somewhat afraid of
She was angry at first; then her face softened. "You English!" she said,
only half mirthful. "Eh, my God! you remember me when I was a high
hearted young sorceress. Now the powers of the Apsarasas have departed
from me, and time has thrust that Alianora, who was once the
Unattainable Princess, chin deep in misery. Yet even now I am your
Queen, messire, and it is not yours to pass judgment upon me." "I do
not judge you," he returned. "Rather I cry with him of old, _Omnia
incerta ratione!_ and I cry with Salomon that he who meddles with the
strife of another man is like to him that takes a hound by the ears. Yet
listen, madame and Queen. I cannot afford you an escort to Bristol. This
house, of which I am in temporary charge, is Longaville, my brother's
manor. Lord Brudenel, as you doubtless know, is of the barons' party
and--scant cause for grief!--is with Leicester at this moment. I can
trust none of my brother's people, for I believe them to be of much the
same opinion as those Londoners who not long ago stoned you and would
have sunk your barge in Thames River. Oh, let us not blink the fact that
you are not overbeloved in England. So an escort is out of the question.
Yet I, madame, if you so elect, will see you safe to Bristol."
"You? Singly?" the Queen demanded.
"My plan is this: Singing folk alone travel whither they will. We will
go as jongleurs, then. I can yet manage a song to the viol, I dare
affirm. And you must pass as my wife."
He said this with simplicity. The plan seemed unreasonable, and at first
Dame Alianora waved it aside. Out of the question! But reflection
suggested nothing better; it was impossible to remain at Longaville, and
the man spoke sober truth when he declared any escort other than himself
to be unprocurable. Besides, the lunar madness of the scheme was its
strength; that the Queen would venture to cross half England
unprotected--and Messire Heleigh on the face of him was a paste-board
buckler--was an event which Leicester would neither anticipate nor on
report credit. There you were! these English had no imagination. The
Queen snapped her fingers and said: "Very willingly will I be your wife,
my Osmund. But how do I know that I can trust you? Leicester would give
a deal for me; he would pay any price for the pious joy of burning the
Sorceress of Provence. And you are not wealthy, I suspect."
"You may trust me, mon bel esper,"--his eyes here were those of a beaten
child--"because my memory is better than yours." Messire Osmund Heleigh
gathered his papers into a neat pile. "This room is mine. To-night I
keep guard in the corridor, madame. We will start at dawn."
When he had gone, Dame Alianora laughed contentedly. "Mon bel esper! my
fairest hope! The man called me that in his verses--thirty years ago!
Yes, I may trust you, my poor Osmund."
So they set out at cockcrow. He had procured for himself a viol and a
long falchion, and had somewhere got suitable clothes for the Queen; and
in their aging but decent garb the two approached near enough to the
appearance of what they desired to be thought. In the courtyard a knot
of servants gaped, nudged one another, but openly said nothing. Messire
Heleigh, as they interpreted it, was brazening out an affair of
gallantry before the countryside; and they esteemed his casual
observation that they would find a couple of dead men on the common
When the Queen asked him the same morning, "And what will you sing, my
Osmund? Shall we begin the practise of our new profession with the
Sestina of Spring?"--old Osmund Heleigh grunted out: "I have forgotten
that rubbish long ago. _Omnis amans, amens_, saith the satirist of Rome
town, and with reason."
One sees them thus trudging the brown, naked plains under a sky of
steel. In a pageant the woman, full-veined and comely, her russet gown
girded up like a harvester's might not inaptly have prefigured October;
and for less comfortable November you could nowhere have found a symbol
more precise than her lank companion, humorously peevish under his white
thatch of hair, and constantly fretted by the sword tapping at his
They made Hurlburt prosperously and found it vacant, for the news of
Falmouth's advance had driven the villagers hillward. There was in this
place a child, a naked boy of some two years, lying on a doorstep,
overlooked in his elders' gross terror. As the Queen with a sob lifted
this boy the child died.
"Starved!" said Osmund Heleigh; "and within a stone's throw of my snug
The Queen laid down the tiny corpse, and, stooping, lightly caressed
its sparse flaxen hair. She answered nothing, though her lips moved.
Past Vachel, scene of a recent skirmish, with many dead in the gutters,
they were overtaken by Falmouth himself, and stood at the roadside to
afford his troop passage. The Marquess, as he went by, flung the Queen a
coin, with a jest sufficiently high flavored. She knew the man her
inveterate enemy, knew that on recognition he would have killed her as
he would a wolf; she smiled at him and dropped a curtsey.
"This is remarkable," Messire Heleigh observed. "I was hideously afraid,
and am yet shaking. But you, madame, laughed."
The Queen replied: "I laughed because I know that some day I shall have
Lord Falmouth's head. It will be very sweet to see it roll in the dust,
Messire Heleigh somewhat dryly observed that tastes differed.
At Jessop Minor befell a more threatening adventure. Seeking food at the
_Cat and Hautbois_ in that village, they blundered upon the same troop
at dinner in the square about the inn. Falmouth and his lieutenants were
somewhere inside the house. The men greeted the supposed purveyors of
amusement with a shout; and one of these soldiers--a swarthy rascal with
his head tied in a napkin--demanded that the jongleurs grace their meal
with a song.
Osmund tried to put him off with a tale of a broken viol.
But, "Haro!" the fellow blustered; "by blood and by nails! you will sing
more sweetly with a broken viol than with a broken head. I would have
you understand, you hedge thief, that we gentlemen of the sword are not
partial to wordy argument." Messire Heleigh fluttered inefficient hands
as the men-at-arms gathered about them, scenting some genial piece of
cruelty. "Oh, you rabbit!" the trooper jeered, and caught at Osmund's
throat, shaking him. In the act this rascal tore open Messire Heleigh's
tunic, disclosing a thin chain about his neck and a handsome locket,
which the fellow wrested from its fastening. "Ahoi!" he continued.
"Ahoi, my comrades, what sort of minstrel is this, who goes about
England all hung with gold like a Cathedral Virgin! He and his
sweetheart"--the actual word was grosser--"will be none the worse for an
interview with the Marquess."
The situation smacked of awkwardness, because Lord Falmouth was familiar
with the Queen, and to be brought specifically to his attention meant
death for two detected masqueraders. Hastily Osmund Heleigh said:
"Messire, the locket contains the portrait of a lady whom in my youth I
loved very greatly. Save to me, it is valueless. I pray you, do not rob
me of it."
But the trooper shook his head with drunken solemnity. "I do not like
the looks of this. Yet I will sell it to you, as the saying is, for a
"It shall be the king of songs," said Osmund,--"the song that Arnaut
Daniel first made. I will sing for you a Sestina, messieurs,--a Sestina
in salutation of Spring."
The men disposed themselves about the dying grass, and presently he
Sang Messire Heleigh:
"Awaken! for the servitors of Spring
Proclaim his triumph! ah, make haste to see
With what tempestuous pageantry they bring
The victor homeward! haste, for this is he
That cast out Winter and all woes that cling
To Winter's garments, and bade April be!
"And now that Spring is master, let us be
Content, and laugh, as anciently in spring
The battle-wearied Tristan laughed, when he
Was come again Tintagel-ward, to bring
Glad news of Arthur's victory--and see
Ysoude, with parted lips, that waver and cling.
"Not yet in Brittany must Tristan cling
To this or that sad memory, and be
Alone, as she in Cornwall; for in spring
Love sows against far harvestings,--and he
Is blind, and scatters baleful seed that bring
Such fruitage as blind Love lacks eyes to see!"
Osmund paused here for an appreciable interval, staring at the Queen.
You saw his flabby throat a-quiver, his eyes melting, saw his cheeks
kindle, and youth seeping into the lean man like water over a crumbling
dam. His voice was now big and desirous.
Sang Messire Heleigh:
"Love sows, but lovers reap; and ye will see
The loved eyes lighten, feel the loved lips cling,
Never again when in the grave ye be
Incurious of your happiness in spring,
And get no grace of Love there, whither he
That bartered life for love no love may bring.
"No braggart Heracles avails to bring
Alcestis hence; nor here may Roland see
The eyes of Aude; nor here the wakening spring
Vex any man with memories: for there be
No memories that cling as cerements cling,
No force that baffles Death, more strong than he.
"Us hath he noted, and for us hath he
An hour appointed; and that hour will bring
Oblivion.--Then, laugh! Laugh, dear, and see
The tyrant mocked, while yet our bosoms cling,
While yet our lips obey us, and we be
Untrammeled in our little hour of spring!
"Thus in the spring we jeer at Death, though he
Will see our children perish and will briny
Asunder all that cling while love may be."
Then Osmund put the viol aside and sat quite silent. The soldiery
judged, and with cordial frankness stated, that the difficulty of his
rhyming scheme did not atone for his lack of indecency, but when the
Queen of England went among them with Messire Heleigh's faded green hat
she found them liberal. Even the fellow with the broken head admitted
that a bargain was proverbially a bargain, and returned the locket with
the addition of a coin. So for the present these two went safe, and
quitted the _Cat and Hautbois_ fed and unmolested.
"My Osmund," Dame Alianora said, presently, "your memory is better than
I had thought."
"I remembered a boy and a girl," he returned. "And I grieved that they
Afterward they plodded on toward Bowater, and the ensuing night rested
in Chantrell Wood. They had the good fortune there to encounter dry and
windless weather and a sufficiency of brushwood, with which Osmund
constructed an agreeable fire. In its glow these two sat, eating bread
But talk languished at the outset. The Queen had complained of an ague,
and Messire Heleigh was sedately suggesting three spiders hung about the
neck as an infallible corrective for this ailment, when Dame Alianora
rose to her feet. "Eh, my God!" she said; "I am wearied of such
ungracious aid! Not an inch of the way but you have been thinking of
your filthy books and longing to be back at them! No; I except the
moments when you were frightened into forgetfulness--first by Falmouth,
then by the trooper. O Eternal Father! afraid of a single dirty
"Indeed, I was very much afraid," said Messire Heleigh, with perfect
simplicity; "_timidus perire, madame._"
"You have not even the grace to be ashamed! Yet I am shamed, messire,
that Osmund Heleigh should have become the book-muddled pedant you are.
For I loved young Osmund Heleigh."
He also had risen in the firelight, and now its convulsive shadows
marred two dogged faces. "I think it best not to recall that boy and
girl who are so long dead. And, frankly, madame and Queen, the merit of
the business I have in hand is questionable. It is you who have set all
England by the ears, and I am guiding you toward opportunities for
further mischief. I must serve you. Understand, madame, that ancient
folly in Provence yonder has nothing to do with the affair. Count Manuel
left you: and between his evasion and your marriage you were pleased to
amuse yourself with me--"
"You were more civil then, my Osmund--"
"I am not uncivil, I merely point out that this old folly constitutes
no overwhelming obligation, either way. I cry _nihil ad Andromachen!_
For the rest, I must serve you because you are a woman and helpless; yet
I cannot forget that he who spares the wolf is the sheep's murderer. It
would be better for all England if you were dead. Hey, your gorgeous
follies, madame! Silver peacocks set with sapphires! Cloth of fine
"Would you have me go unclothed?" Dame Alianora demanded, pettishly.
"Not so," Osmund retorted; "again I say to you with Tertullian, 'Let
women paint their eyes with the tints of chastity, insert into their
ears the Word of God, tie the yoke of Christ about their necks, and
adorn their whole person with the silk of sanctity and the damask of
devotion.' I say to you that the boy you wish to rescue from
Wallingford, and make King of England, is freely rumored to be not
verily the son of Sire Henry but the child of tall Manuel of Poictesme.
I say to you that from the first you have made mischief in England. And
I say to you--"
But Dame Alianora was yawning quite frankly. "You will say to me that I
brought foreigners into England, that I misguided the King, that I
stirred up strife between the King and his barons. Eh, my God! I am
sufficiently familiar with the harangue. Yet listen, my Osmund: They
sold me like a bullock to a man I had never seen. I found him a man of
wax, and I remoulded him. They asked of me an heir for England: I
provided that heir. They gave me England as a toy; I played with it. I
was the Queen, the source of honor, the source of wealth--the trough, in
effect, about which swine gathered. Never since I came into England,
Osmund, has any man or woman loved me; never in all my English life have
I loved man or woman. Do you understand, my Osmund?--the Queen has many
flatterers, but no friends. Not a friend in the world, my Osmund! And so
the Queen made the best of it and amused herself."
Somewhat he seemed to understand, for he answered without asperity:
"Mon bel esper, I do not find it anywhere in Holy Writ that God requires
it of us to amuse ourselves; but upon many occasions we have been
commanded to live righteously. We are tempted in divers and insidious
ways. And we cry with the Psalmist, 'My strength is dried up like a
potsherd.' But God intends this, since, until we have here demonstrated
our valor upon Satan, we are manifestly unworthy to be enregistered in
God's army. The great Captain must be served by proven soldiers. We may
be tempted, but we may not yield. O daughter of the South! we must not
"Again you preach," Dame Alianora said. "That is a venerable truism."
"Ho, madame," he returned, "is it on that account the less true?"
Pensively the Queen considered this. "You are a good man, my Osmund,"
she said, at last, "though you are very droll. Ohime! it is a pity that
I was born a princess! Had it been possible for me to be your wife, I
would have been a better woman. I shall sleep now and dream of that good
and stupid and contented woman I might have been." So presently these
two slept in Chantrell Wood.
Followed four days of journeying. As Messer Dante had not yet surveyed
Malebolge, Osmund Heleigh and Dame Alianora lacked a parallel for that
which they encountered; their traverse discovered England razed,
charred, and depopulate--picked bones of an island, a vast and absolute
ruin about which passion-wasted men skulked like rats. Messire Heleigh
and the Queen traveled without molestation; malice and death had
journeyed before them on this road, and had swept it clear.
At every trace of these hideous precessors Osmund Heleigh would say, "By
a day's ride I might have prevented this." Or, "By a day's ride I might
have saved this woman." Or, "By two days' riding I might have fed this
The Queen kept Spartan silence, but daily you saw the fine woman age. In
their slow advance every inch of misery was thrust before her for
inspection; meticulously she observed and evaluated her handiwork.
Enthroned, she had appraised from a distance the righteous wars she set
afoot; trudging thus among the debris of these wars, she found they had
unsuspected aspects. Bastling the royal army had recently sacked.
There remained of this village the skeletons of two houses, and for the
rest a jumble of bricks, rafters half-burned, many calcined fragments of
humanity, and ashes. At Bastling, Messire Heleigh turned to the Queen
"Oh, madame!" he said, in a dry whisper, "this was the home of so many
"I burned it," Dame Alianora replied. "That man we passed just now I
killed. Those other men and women--my folly slew them all. And little
children, my Osmund! The hair like flax, blood-dabbled!"
"Oh, madame!" he wailed, in the extremity of his pity.
For she stood with eyes shut, all gray. The Queen demanded: "Why have
they not slain me? Was there no man in England to strangle the proud
wanton? Are you all cowards here?"
He said: "I detect only one coward in the affair. Your men and
Leicester's men also ride about the world, and draw sword and slay and
die for the right as they see it. And you and Leicester contend for the
right as ye see it. But I, madame! I! I, who sat snug at home spilling
ink and trimming rose-bushes! God's world, madame, and I in it afraid to
speak a word for Him! God's world, and a curmudgeon in it grudging God
the life He gave!" The man flung out his soft hands and snarled: _"We
are tempted in divers and insidious ways._ But I, who rebuked you!
behold, now, with how gross a snare was I entrapped!" "I do not
understand, my Osmund."
"I was afraid, madame," he returned, dully. "Everywhere men fight, and I
am afraid to die."
So they stood silent in the ruins of Bastling.
"Of a piece with our lives," Dame Alianora said at last. "All ruin, my
But Messire Heleigh threw back his head and laughed, new color in his
face. "Presently men will build here, my Queen. Presently, as in legend
was re-born the Arabian bird, arises from these ashes a lordlier and
more spacious town."
They went forward. The next day chance loosed upon them Gui Camoys, lord
of Bozon, Foliot, and Thwenge, who, riding alone through Poges Copse,
found there a man and a woman over their limited supper. The woman had
thrown back her hood, and Camoys drew rein to stare at her. Lispingly he
spoke the true court dialect.
"Ma belle," said this Camoys, in friendly condescension, "n'estez vous
Dame Alianora smiled up at him. "Ouais, messire; mon mary faict les
chancons--" She paused, with dilatory caution, for Camoys had leaped
from his horse, giving a great laugh.
"A prize! ho, an imperial prize!" Camoys shouted. "A peasant woman with
the Queen's face, who speaks French! And who, madame, is this? Have you
by any chance brought pious Lewis from oversea? Have I bagged a brace
Here was imminent danger, for Camoys had known the Queen some fifteen
years. Messire Heleigh rose, his five days' beard glinting like
hoar-frost as his mouth twitched.
"I am Osmund Heleigh, messire, younger brother to the Earl of Brudenel."
"I have heard of you, I believe--the fellow who spoils parchment. This
is odd company, however, Messire Osmund, for Brudenel's brother."
"A gentleman must serve his Queen, messire. As Cicero very justly
"I am inclined to think that his political opinions are scarcely to our
immediate purpose. This is a high matter, Messire Heleigh. To let the
sorceress pass is, of course, out of the question; upon the other hand,
I observe that you lack weapons of defence. Yet if you will have the
kindness to assist me in unarming, your courtesy will place our commerce
on more equal footing."
Osmund had turned very white. "I am no swordsman, messire--"
"Now, this is not handsome of you," Camoys began. "I warn you that
people will speak harshly of us if we lose this opportunity of gaining
honor. And besides, the woman will be burned at the stake. Plainly, you
owe it to all three of us to fight."
"--But I refer my cause to God. I am quite at your service." "No, my
Osmund!" Dame Alianora then cried. "It means your death."
He spread out his hands. "That is God's affair, madame."
"Are you not afraid?" she breathed.
"Of course I am afraid," said Messire Heleigh, irritably.
After that he unarmed Camoys, and presently they faced each other in
their tunics. So for the first time in the journey Osmund's long
falchion saw daylight. He had thrown away his dagger, as Camoys had
The combat was sufficiently curious. Camoys raised his left hand. "So
help me God and His saints, I have upon me neither bone, stone, nor
witchcraft wherethrough the power and the word of God might be
diminished or the devil's power increased."
Osmund made similar oath. "Judge Thou this woman's cause!" he cried,
Then Gui Camoys shouted, as a herald might have done, "Laissez les
aller, laissez les aller, laissez les aller, les bons combatants!" and
warily each moved toward the other.
On a sudden Osmund attacked, desperately apprehensive of his own
cowardice. Camoys lightly eluded him and slashed at Osmund's undefended
thigh, drawing much blood. Osmund gasped. He flung away his sword, and
in the instant catching Camoys under the arms, threw him to the ground.
Messire Heleigh fell with his opponent, who in stumbling had lost his
sword, and thus the two struggled unarmed, Osmund atop. But Camoys was
the younger man, and Osmund's strength was ebbing rapidly by reason of
his wound. Now Camoys' tethered horse, rearing with nervousness, tumbled
his master's flat-topped helmet into the road. Osmund caught up this
helmet and with it battered Camoys in the face, dealing severe blows.
"God!" Camoys cried, his face all blood.
"Do you acknowledge my quarrel just?" said Osmund, between horrid sobs.
"What choice have I?" said Gui Camoys, very sensibly.
So Osmund rose, blind with tears and shivering. The Queen bound up their
wounds as best she might, but Camoys was much dissatisfied.
"For private purposes of His own, madame," he observed, "and doubtless
for sufficient reasons, God has singularly favored your cause. I am
neither a fool nor a pagan to question His decision, and you two may go
your way unhampered. But I have had my head broken with my own helmet,
and this I consider to be a proceeding very little conducive toward
enhancing my reputation. Of your courtesy, messire, I must entreat
Osmund shrank as if from a blow. Then, with a short laugh, he conceded
that this was Camoys' right, and they fixed upon the following Saturday,
with Poges Copse as the rendezvous.
"I would suggest that the combat be to the death," Gui Camoys said, "in
consideration of the fact it was my own helmet. You must undoubtedly be
aware, Messire Osmund, that such an affront is practically without any
This, too, was agreed upon.
Then, after asking if they needed money, which was courteously declined,
Gui Camoys rode away, and sang as he went. Osmund Heleigh remained
motionless. He raised quivering hands to the sky.
"Thou hast judged!" he cried. "Thou hast judged, O puissant Emperor of
Heaven! Now pardon! Pardon us twain! Pardon for unjust stewards of Thy
gifts! Thou hast loaned this woman dominion over England, with all
instruments to aid Thy cause, and this trust she has abused. Thou hast
loaned me life and manhood, agility and wit and strength, all
instruments to aid Thy cause. Talents in a napkin, O God! Repentant we
cry to Thee. Pardon for unjust stewards! Pardon for the ungirt loin, for
the service shirked, for all good deeds undone! Pardon and grace, O King
Thus he prayed, while Gui Camoys sang, riding deeper into the tattered,
yellowing forest. By an odd chance Camoys had lighted on that song made
by Thibaut of Champagne, beginning _Signor, saciez, ki or ne s'en ira_,
which denounces all half-hearted servitors of Heaven; and this he sang
with a lilt gayer than his matter countenanced. Faintly there now came
to Osmund and the Queen the sound of Camoys' singing, and they found it,
in the circumstances, ominously apt.
"Et vos, par qui je n'ci onques aie,
Descendez luit en infer le parfont."
Dame Alianora shivered. But she was a capable woman, and so she said: "I
may have made mistakes. But I am sure I never meant any harm, and I am
sure, too, that God will be more sensible about it than are you poets."
They slept that night in Ousley Meadow, and the next afternoon came
safely to Bristol. You may learn elsewhere with what rejoicing the royal
army welcomed the Queen's arrival, how courage quickened at sight of the
generous virago. In the ebullition Messire Heleigh was submerged, and
Dame Alianora saw nothing more of him that day. Friday there were
counsels, requisitions, orders signed, a memorial despatched to Pope
Urban, chief of all a letter (this in the Queen's hand throughout)
privily conveyed to the Lady Maude de Mortemer, who shortly afterward
contrived Prince Edward's escape from her husband's gaolership. There
was much sowing of a seed, in fine, that eventually flowered victory.
There was, however, no sign of Osmund Heleigh, though by Dame Alianora's
order he was sought.
On Saturday at seven in the morning he came to her lodging, in complete
armor. From the open helmet his wrinkled face, showing like a wizened
nut in a shell, smiled upon her questionings.
"I go to fight Gui Camoys, madame and Queen."
Dame Alianora wrung her hands. "You go to your death."
He answered: "That is true. Therefore I am come to bid you farewell."
The Queen stared at him for a while; on a sudden she broke into a
curious fit of deep but tearless sobbing, which bordered upon laughter,
"Mon bel esper," said Osmund Heleigh, gently, "what is there in all this
worthy of your sorrow? The man will kill me; granted, for he is my
junior by some fifteen years, and is in addition a skilled swordsman. I
fail to see that this is lamentable. Back to Longaville I cannot go
after recent happenings; there a rope's end awaits me. Here I must in
any event shortly take to the sword, since a beleaguered army has very
little need of ink-pots; and shortly I must be slain in some skirmish,
dug under the ribs perhaps by a greasy fellow I have never seen. I
prefer a clean death at a gentleman's hands."
"It is I who bring about your death!" she said. "You gave me gallant
service, and I have requited you with death, and it is a great pity."
"Indeed the debt is on the other side. The trivial services I rendered
you were such as any gentleman must render a woman in distress. Naught
else have I afforded you, madame, save very anciently a Sestina. Ho, a
Sestina! And in return you have given me a Sestina of fairer make,--a
Sestina of days, six days of manly common living." His eyes were
She kissed him on either cheek. "Farewell, my champion!"
"Ay, your champion. In the twilight of life old Osmund Heleigh rides
forth to defend the quarrel of Alianora of Provence. Reign wisely, my
Queen, so that hereafter men may not say I was slain in an evil cause.
Do not, I pray you, shame my maiden venture at a man's work."
"I will not shame you," the Queen proudly said; and then, with a change
of voice: "O my Osmund! My Osmund, you have a folly that is divine, and
I lack it."
He caught her by each wrist, and stood crushing both her hands to his
lips, with fierce staring. "Wife of my King! wife of my King!" he
babbled; and then put her from him, crying, "I have not failed you!
Praise God, I have not failed you!"
From her window she saw him ride away, a rich flush of glitter and
color. In new armor with a smart emblazoned surcoat the lean pedant sat
conspicuously erect; and as he went he sang defiantly, taunting the
weakness of his flesh.
Sang Osmund Heleigh:
"Love sows, but lovers reap; and ye will see
The loved eyes lighten, feel the loved lips cling
Never again when in the grave ye be
Incurious of your happiness in spring,
And get no grace of Love, there, whither he
That bartered life for love no love may bring."
So he rode away and thus out of our history. But in the evening Gui
Camoys came into Bristol under a flag of truce, and behind him heaved a
litter wherein lay Osmund Heleigh's body.
"For this man was frank and courteous," Camoys said to the Queen, "and
in the matter of the reparation he owed me acted very handsomely. It is
fitting that he should have honorable interment."
"That he shall not lack," the Queen said, and gently unclasped from
Osmund's wrinkled neck the thin gold chain, now locketless. "There was a
portrait here," she said; "the portrait of a woman whom he loved in his
youth, Messire Camoys. And all his life it lay above his heart."
Camoys answered stiffly: "I imagine this same locket to have been the
object which Messire Heleigh flung into the river, shortly before we
began our combat. I do not rob the dead, madame."
"Well," the Queen said, "he always did queer things, and so, I shall
always wonder what sort of lady he picked out to love, but it is none of
Afterward she set to work on requisitions in the King's name. But Osmund
Heleigh she had interred at Ambresbury, commanding it to be written on
his tomb that he died in the Queen's cause.
How the same cause prospered (Nicolas concludes), how presently Dame
Alianora reigned again in England and with what wisdom, and how in the
end this great Queen died a nun at Ambresbury and all England wept
therefor--this you may learn elsewhere. I have chosen to record six days
of a long and eventful life; and (as Messire Heleigh might have done) I
say modestly with him of old, _Majores majora sonent._ Nevertheless, I
assert that many a forest was once a pocketful of acorns.
THE END OF THE FIRST NOVEL
THE STORY OF THE TENSON
"Plagues a Dieu ja la nueitz non falhis,
Ni'l mieus amicx lone de mi nos partis,
Ni la gayta jorn ni alba ne vis.
Oy Dieus! oy Dieus! de l'alba tan tost we!"
THE SECOND NOVEL.--ELLINOR OF CASTILE, BEING ENAMORED OF A HANDSOME
PERSON, IS IN HER FLIGHT FROM MARITAL OBLIGATIONS ASSISTED BY HER
HUSBAND, AND IS IN THE END BY HIM CONVINCED OF THE RATIONALITY OF ALL
_The Story of the Tenson_
In the year of grace 1265 (Nicolas begins), about the festival of Saint
Peter _ad Vincula_, the Prince de Gatinais came to Burgos. Before this
he had lodged for three months in the district of Ponthieu; and the
object of his southern journey was to assure the tenth Alphonso, then
ruling in Castile, that the latter's sister Ellinor, now resident at
Entrechat, was beyond any reasonable doubt the transcendent lady whose
existence old romancers had anticipated, however cloudily, when they
fabled in remote time concerning Queen Heleine of Sparta.
There was a postscript to this news. The world knew that the King of
Leon and Castile desired to be King of Germany as well, and that at
present a single vote in the Diet would decide between his claims and
those of his competitor, Earl Richard of Cornwall. De Gatinais chaffered
fairly; he had a vote, Alphonso had a sister. So that, in effect--ohe,
in effect, he made no question that his Majesty understood!
The Astronomer twitched his beard and demanded if the fact that Ellinor
had been a married woman these ten years past was not an obstacle to the
plan which his fair cousin had proposed?
Here the Prince was accoutred cap-a-pie, and hauled out a paper. Dating
from Viterbo, Clement, Bishop of Rome, servant to the servants of God,
desirous of all health and apostolical blessing for his well-beloved son
in Christ, stated that a compact between a boy of fifteen and a girl of
ten was an affair of no particular moment; and that in consideration of
the covenantors never having clapped eyes upon each other since the
wedding-day,--even had not the precontract of marriage between the
groom's father and the bride's mother rendered a consummation of the
childish oath an obvious and a most heinous enormity,--why, that, in a
sentence, and for all his coy verbosity, the new pontiff was perfectly
amenable to reason.
So in a month it was settled. Alphonso would give his sister to de
Gatinais, and in exchange get the latter's vote to make Alphonso King of
Germany; and Gui Foulques of Sabionetta--now Clement, fourth Pope to
assume that name--would annul the previous marriage, and in exchange get
an armament to serve him against Manfred, the late and troublesome
tyrant of Sicily and Apulia. The scheme promised to each one of them
that which he in particular desired, and messengers were presently sent
It is now time we put aside these Castilian matters and speak of other
things. In England, Prince Edward had fought, and won, a shrewd battle
at Evesham. People said, of course, that such behavior was less in the
manner of his nominal father, King Henry, than reminiscent of Count
Manuel of Poictesme, whose portraits certainly the Prince resembled to
an embarrassing extent. Either way, the barons' power was demolished,
there would be no more internecine war; and spurred by the unaccustomed
idleness, Prince Edward began to think of the foreign girl he had not
seen since the day he wedded her. She would be a woman by this, and it
was befitting that he claim his wife. He rode with Hawise Bulmer and her
baby to Ambresbury, and at the gate of the nunnery they parted, with
what agonies are immaterial to this history's progression; the tale
merely tells that, having thus decorously rid himself of his mistress,
the Prince went into Lower Picardy alone, riding at adventure as he
loved to do, and thus came to Entrechat, where his wife resided with her
mother, the Countess Johane.
In a wood near the castle he approached a company of Spaniards, four in
number, their horses tethered while these men (Oviedans, as they told
him) drank about a great stone which served them for a table. Being
thirsty, he asked and was readily accorded hospitality, and these five
fell into amicable discourse. One fellow asked his name and business in
those parts, and the Prince gave each without hesitancy as he reached
for the bottle, and afterward dropped it just in time to catch, cannily,
with his naked left hand, the knife-blade with which the rascal had dug
at the unguarded ribs. The Prince was astounded, but he was never a
subtle man: here were four knaves who, for reasons unexplained--but to
them of undoubted cogency--desired his death: manifestly there was here
an actionable difference of opinion; so he had his sword out and killed
the four of them.
Presently came to him an apple-cheeked boy, habited as a page, who,
riding jauntily through the forest, lighted upon the Prince, now in
bottomless vexation. The lad drew rein, and his lips outlined a whistle.
At his feet were several dead men in various conditions of
dismemberment. And seated among them, as if throned upon this boulder,
was a gigantic and florid person, so tall that the heads of few men
reached to his shoulder; a person of handsome exterior, high-featured
and blond, having a narrow, small head, and vivid light blue eyes, and
the chest of a stallion; a person whose left eyebrow had an odd oblique
droop, so that the stupendous man appeared to be winking the information
that he was in jest.
"Fair friend," said the page. "God give you joy! and why have you
converted this forest into a shambles?"
The Prince told him as much of the half-hour's action as has been
narrated. "I have perhaps been rather hasty," he considered, by way of
peroration, "and it vexes me that I did not spare, say, one of these
lank Spaniards, if only long enough to ascertain why, in the name of
Termagaunt, they should have desired my destruction."
But midway in his tale the boy had dismounted with a gasp, and he was
now inspecting the features of one carcass. "Felons, my Prince! You have
slain some eight yards of felony which might have cheated the gallows
had they got the Princess Ellinor safe to Burgos. Only two days ago this
chalk-eyed fellow conveyed to her a letter."
Prince Edward said, "You appear, lad, to be somewhat overheels in the
confidence of my wife."
Now the boy arose and defiantly flung back his head in shrill laughter.
"Your wife! Oh, God have mercy! Your wife, and for ten years left to her
own devices! Why, look you, to-day you and your wife would not know each
other were you two brought face to face."
Prince Edward said, "That is very near the truth." But, indeed, it was
the absolute truth, and as it concerned him was already attested.
"Sire Edward," the boy then said, "your wife has wearied of this long
waiting till you chose to whistle for her. Last summer the young Prince
de Gatinais came a-wooing--and he is a handsome man." The page made
known all which de Gatinais and King Alphonso planned, the words
jostling as they came in torrents, but so that one might understand. "I
am her page, my lord. I was to follow her. These fellows were to be my
escort, were to ward off possible pursuit. Cry haro, beau sire! Cry
haro, and shout it lustily, for your wife in company with six other
knaves is at large between here and Burgos,--that unreasonable wife who
grew dissatisfied after a mere ten years of neglect."
"I have been remiss," the Prince said, and one huge hand strained at his
chin; "yes, perhaps I have been remiss. Yet it had appeared to me--But
as it is, I bid you mount, my lad!"
The boy demanded, "And to what end?"
"Oy Dieus, messire! have I not slain your escort? Why, in common reason,
equity demands that I afford you my protection so far as Burgos,
messire, just as plainly as equity demands I slay de Gatinais and fetch
back my wife to England."
The page wrung exquisite hands with a gesture which was but partially
tinged with anguish, and presently began to laugh. Afterward these two
rode southerly, in the direction of Castile.
For it appeared to the intriguing little woman a diverting jest that in
this fashion her husband should be the promoter of her evasion. It
appeared to her more diverting when in two days' space she had become
fond of him. She found him rather slow of comprehension, and she was
humiliated by the discovery that not an eyelash of the man was irritated
by his wife's decampment; he considered, to all appearances, that some
property of his had been stolen, and he intended, quite without passion,
to repossess himself of it, after, of course, punishing the thief.
This troubled the Princess somewhat; and often, riding by her stolid
husband's side, the girl's heart raged at memory of the decade so newly
overpast which had kept her always dependent on the charity of this or
that ungracious patron--on any one who would take charge of her while
the truant husband fought out his endless squabbles in England. Slights
enough she had borne during the period, and squalor, and physical hunger
also she had known, who was the child of a king and a saint. But now
she rode toward the dear southland; and presently she would be rid of
this big man, when he had served her purpose; and afterward she meant to
wheedle Alphonso, just as she had always wheedled him, and later still,
she and Etienne would be very happy: in fine, to-morrow was to be a new
So these two rode southward, and always Prince Edward found this new
page of his--this Miguel de Rueda,--a jolly lad, who whistled and sang
inapposite snatches of balladry, without any formal ending or beginning,
descanting always with the delicate irrelevancy of a bird-trill.
Sang Miguel de Rueda:
"Man's Love, that leads me day by day
Through many a screened and scented way,
Finds to assuage my thirst.
"No love that may the old love slay,
None sweeter than the first.
"Fond heart of mine, that beats so fast
As this or that fair maid trips past,
Once, and with lesser stir
We viewed the grace of love, at last,
And turned idolater.
"Lad's Love it was, that in the spring
When all things woke to blossoming
Was as a child that came
Laughing, and filled with wondering,
Nor knowing his own name--"
"And still I would prefer to think," the big man interrupted, heavily,
"that Sicily is not the only allure. I would prefer to think my wife so
beautiful.--And yet, as I remember her, she was nothing extraordinary."
The page a little tartly said that people might forget a deal within a
The Prince continued his unriddling of the scheme hatched in Castile.
"When Manfred is driven out of Sicily they will give the throne to de
Gatinais. He intends to get both a kingdom and a handsome wife by this
neat affair. And in reason, England must support my Uncle Richard's
claim to the German crown, against El Sabio--Why, my lad, I ride
southward to prevent a war that would devastate half Europe."
"You ride southward in the attempt to rob a miserable woman of her sole
chance of happiness," Miguel de Rueda estimated.
"That is undeniable, if she loves this thrifty Prince, as indeed I do
not question my wife does. Yet our happiness here is a trivial matter,
whereas war is a great disaster. You have not seen--as I, my little
Miguel, have often seen--a man viewing his death-wound with a face of
stupid wonder, a bewildered wretch in point to die in his lord's quarrel
and understanding never a word of it. Or a woman, say--a woman's twisted
and naked body, the breasts yet horribly heaving, in the red ashes of
some village, or the already dripping hoofs which will presently crush
this body. Well, it is to prevent many such ugly spectacles hereabout
that I ride southward."
Miguel de Rueda shuddered. But, "She has her right to happiness," the
page stubbornly said.
"She has only one right," the Prince retorted; "because it has pleased
the Emperor of Heaven to appoint us twain to lofty stations, to entrust
to us the five talents of the parable; whence is our debt to Him, being
fivefold, so much the greater than that of common persons. Therefore
the more is it our sole right, being fivefold, to serve God without
faltering, and therefore is our happiness, or our unhappiness, the more
an inconsiderable matter. For, as I have read in the Annals of the
Romans--" He launched upon the story of King Pompey and his daughter,
whom a certain duke regarded with impure and improper emotions. "My
little Miguel, that ancient king is our Heavenly Father, that only
daughter is the rational soul of us, which is here delivered for
protection to five soldiers--that is, to the five senses,--to preserve
it from the devil, the world, and the flesh. But, alas! the
too-credulous soul, desirous of gazing upon the gaudy vapors of this
"You whine like a canting friar," the page complained; "and I can assure
you that the Lady Ellinor was prompted rather than hindered by her
God-given faculties of sight and hearing and so on when she fell in love
with de Gatinais. Of you two, he is, beyond any question, the handsomer
and the more intelligent man, and it was God who bestowed on her
sufficient wit to perceive the superiority of de Gatinais. And what am I
to deduce from this?"
The Prince reflected. At last he said: "I have also read in these same
Gestes how Seneca mentions that in poisoned bodies, on account of the
malignancy and the coldness of the poison, no worm will engender; but if
the body be smitten by lightning, in a few days the carcass will abound
with vermin. My little Miguel, both men and women are at birth
empoisoned by sin, and then they produce no worm--that is, no virtue.
But once they are struck with lightning--that is, by the grace of
God,--they are astonishingly fruitful in good works."
The page began to laugh. "You are hopelessly absurd, my Prince, though
you will never know it,--and I hate you a little,--and I envy you a
"Ah, but," Prince Edward said, in misapprehension, for the man was never
quick-witted,--"but it is not for my own happiness that I ride
The page then said, "What is her name?"
Prince Edward answered, very fondly, "Hawise."
"I hate her, too," said Miguel de Rueda; "and I think that the holy
angels alone know how profoundly I envy her."
In the afternoon of the same day they neared Ruffec, and at the ford
found three brigands ready, two of whom the Prince slew, and the other
Next night they supped at Manneville, and sat afterward in the little
square, tree-chequered, that lay before their inn. Miguel had procured a
lute from the innkeeper, and he strummed idly as these two debated
together of great matters; about them was an immeasurable twilight,
moonless, but tempered by many stars, and everywhere they could hear an
agreeable whispering of leaves.
"Listen, my Prince," the boy said: "here is one view of the affair."
And he began to chant, without rhyming, without raising his voice above
the pitch of talk, while the lute monotonously accompanied his chanting.
"Passeth a little while, and Irus the beggar and
Menephtah the high king are at sorry unison, and
Guenevere is a skull. Multitudinously we tread
toward oblivion, as ants hasten toward sugar, and
presently Time cometh with his broom. Multitudinously
we tread a dusty road toward oblivion; but
yonder the sun shines upon a grass-plot, converting it
into an emerald; and I am aweary of the trodden path.
"Vine-crowned is the fair peril that guards the
grasses yonder, and her breasts are naked. 'Vanity
of Vanities!' saith the beloved. But she whom I love
seems very far away to-night, though I might be with
her if I would. And she may not aid me now, for not
even love is all-powerful. She is most dear of created
women, and very wise, but she may never understand
that at any time one grows aweary of the trodden path.
"At sight of my beloved, love closes over my heart
like a flood. For the sake of my beloved I have striven,
with a good endeavor, to my tiny uttermost. Pardie, I
am not Priam at the head of his army! A little while
and I will repent; to-night I cannot but remember that
there are women whose lips are of a livelier tint, that
life is short at best, that wine evokes in me some admiration
for myself, and that I am aweary of the trodden
"She is very far from me to-night. Yonder in the
Hoerselberg they exult and make sweet songs, songs
which are sweeter, immeasurably sweeter, than this
song of mine, but in the trodden path I falter, for I am
tired, tired in every fibre of me, and I am aweary of
the trodden path"
Followed a silence. "Ignorance spoke there," the Prince said. "It is the
song of a woman, or else of a boy who is very young. Give me the lute,
my little Miguel." And presently the Prince, too, sang.
Sang the Prince:
"I was in a path, and I trod toward the citadel of the
land's Seigneur, and on either side were pleasant and
forbidden meadows, having various names. And one
trod with me who babbled of the brooding mountains
and of the low-lying and adjacent clouds; of the west
wind and of the budding fruit-trees. He debated the
significance of these things, and he went astray to
gather violets, while I walked in the trodden path."
"He babbled of genial wine and of the alert lips of
women, of swinging censers and of the serene countenances
of priests, and of the clear, lovely colors of
bread and butter, and his heart was troubled by a
world profuse in beauty. And he leaped a stile to share
his allotted provision with a dying dog, and afterward,
being hungry, a wall to pilfer apples, while I walked
in the trodden path.
"He babbled of Autumn's bankruptcy and of the age-long
lying promises of Spring; and of his own desire
to be at rest; and of running waters and of decaying
leaves. He babbled of the far-off stars; and he debated
whether they were the eyes of God or gases which
burned, and he demonstrated, with logic, that neither
existed. At times he stumbled as he stared about him
and munched his apples, so that he was all bemired, but
I walked in the trodden path.
"And the path led to the gateway of a citadel, and
through the gateway. 'Let us not enter,' he said, 'for
the citadel is vacant, and, moreover, I am in profound
terror, and, besides, I have not as yet eaten all my
apples.' And he wept aloud, but I was not afraid, for
I had walked in the trodden path."
Again there was a silence. "You paint a dreary world, my Prince."
"My little Miguel, I paint the world as the Eternal Father made it. The
laws of the place are written large, so that all may read them; and we
know that every road, whether it be my trodden path or some byway through
your gayer meadows, yet leads in the end to God. We have our choice,--or
to come to Him as a laborer comes at evening for the day's wages fairly
earned, or to come as a roisterer haled before the magistrate."
"I consider you to be in the right," the boy said, after a lengthy
interval, "although I decline--and decline emphatically--to believe you."
The Prince laughed. "There spoke Youth," he said, and he sighed as
though he were a patriarch. "But we have sung, we two, the Eternal
Tenson of God's will and of man's desires. And I claim the prize, my
Suddenly the page kissed one huge hand. "You have conquered, my very
dull and very glorious Prince. Concerning that Hawise--" But Miguel de
Rueda choked. "Oh, I do not understand! and yet in part I understand!"
the boy wailed in the darkness.
And the Prince laid one hand upon his page's hair, and smiled in the
darkness to note how soft was this hair, since the man was less a fool
than at first view you might have taken him to be; and he said:
"One must play the game out fairly, my lad. We are no little people,
she and I, the children of many kings, of God's regents here on earth;
and it was never reasonable, my Miguel, that gentlefolk should cheat at
The same night Miguel de Rueda repeated the prayer which Saint Theophilus
made long ago to the Mother of God:
"Dame, je n'ose,
Flors d'aiglentier et lis et rose,
En qui li filz Diex se repose,"
and so on. Or, in other wording: "Hearken, O gracious Lady! thou that
art more fair than any flower of the eglantine, more comely than the
blossoming of the rose or of the lily! thou to whom was confided the
very Son of God! Harken, for I am afraid! afford counsel to me that am
ensnared by Satan and know not what to do! Never will I make an end of
praying. O Virgin debonnaire! O honored Lady! Thou that wast once a
So he prayed, and upon the next day as these two rode southward, he sang
half as if in defiance.
"And still,--whatever years impend
To witness Time a fickle friend,
And Youth a dwindling fire,--
I must adore till all years end
My first love, Heart's Desire.
"I may not hear men speak of her
Unmoved, and vagrant pulses stir
To greet her passing-by,
And I, in all her worshipper
Must serve her till I die.
"For I remember: this is she
That reigns in one man's memory
Immune to age and fret,
And stays the maid I may not see
Nor win to, nor forget."
It was on the following day, near Bazas, that these two encountered Adam
de Gourdon, a Provencal knight, with whom the Prince fought for a long
while, without either contestant giving way; in consequence a rendezvous
was fixed for the November of that year, and afterward the Prince and de
Gourdon parted, highly pleased with each other.
Thus the Prince and his attendant came, in late September, to Mauleon,
on the Castilian frontier, and dined there at the _Fir Cone._ Three or
four lackeys were about--some exalted person's retinue? Prince Edward
hazarded to the swart little landlord, as the Prince and Miguel lingered
over the remnants of their meal.
Yes, the fellow informed them: the Prince de Gatinais had lodged there
for a whole week, watching the north road, as circumspect of all passage
as a cat over a mouse-hole. Eh, monseigneur expected some one,
doubtless--a lady, it might be,--the gentlefolk had their escapades like
every one else. The innkeeper babbled vaguely, for on a sudden he was
very much afraid of his gigantic patron.
"You will show me to his room," Prince Edward said, with a politeness
that was ingratiating.
The host shuddered and obeyed.
Miguel de Rueda, left alone, sat quite silent, his finger-tips drumming
upon the table. He rose suddenly and flung back his shoulders, all
resolution. On the stairway he passed the black little landlord, who was
now in a sad twitter, foreseeing bloodshed. But Miguel de Rueda went on
to the room above. The door was ajar. He paused there.
De Gatinais had risen from his dinner and stood facing the door. He,
too, was a blond man and the comeliest of his day. And at sight of him
awoke in the woman's heart all the old tenderness; handsome and brave
and witty she knew him to be, as indeed the whole world knew him to be
distinguished by every namable grace; and the innate weakness of de
Gatinais, which she alone suspected, made him now seem doubly dear.
Fiercely she wanted to shield him, less from bodily hurt than from that
self-degradation which she cloudily apprehended to be at hand; the test
was come, and Etienne would fail. Thus much she knew with a sick,
illimitable surety, and she loved de Gatinais with a passion which
"O Madame the Virgin!" prayed Miguel de Rueda, "thou that wast once a
woman, even as I am now a woman! grant that the man may slay him
quickly! grant that he may slay Etienne very quickly, honored Lady, so
that my Etienne may die unshamed!"
"I must question, messire," de Gatinais was saying, "whether you have
been well inspired. Yes, quite frankly, I do await the arrival of her
who is your nominal wife; and your intervention at this late stage, I
take it, can have no outcome save to render you absurd. So, come now!
be advised by me, messire--"
Prince Edward said, "I am not here to talk."
"--For, messire, I grant you that in ordinary disputation the cutting of
one gentleman's throat by another gentleman is well enough, since the
argument is unanswerable. Yet in this case we have each of us too much
to live for; you to govern your reconquered England, and I--you perceive
that I am candid--to achieve in turn the kingship of another realm. Now
to secure this realm, possession of the Lady Ellinor is to me essential;
to you she is nothing."
"She is a woman whom I have deeply wronged," Prince Edward said, "and to
whom, God willing, I mean to make atonement. Ten years ago they wedded
us, willy-nilly, to avert the impending war between Spain and England;
to-day El Sabio intends to purchase Germany with her body as the price;
you to get Sicily as her husband. Mort de Dieu! is a woman thus to be
bought and sold like hog's flesh! We have other and cleaner customs, we
"Eh, and who purchased the woman first?" de Gatinais spat at him,
viciously, for the Frenchman now saw his air-castle shaken to the
"They wedded me to the child in order that a great war might be averted.
I acquiesced, since it appeared preferable that two people suffer
inconvenience rather than many thousands be slain. And still this is my
view of the matter. Yet afterward I failed her. Love had no clause in
our agreement; but I owed her more protection than I have afforded.
England has long been no place for women. I thought she would comprehend
that much. But I know very little of women. Battle and death are more
wholesome companions, I now perceive, than such folk as you and
Alphonso. Woman is the weaker vessel--the negligence was mine--I may not
blame her." The big and simple man was in an agony of repentance.
On a sudden he strode forward, his sword now shifted to his left hand
and his right hand outstretched. "One and all, we are weaklings in the
net of circumstance. Shall one herring, then, blame his fellow if his
fellow jostle him? We walk as in a mist of error, and Belial is fertile
in allurements; yet always it is granted us to behold that sin is sin. I
have perhaps sinned through anger, Messire de Gatinais, more deeply than
you have planned to sin through luxury and through ambition. Let us then
cry quits, Messire de Gatinais, and afterward part in peace, and in
"And yield you Ellinor?" de Gatinais said. "Oh no, messire, I reply to
you with Arnaud de Marveil, that marvellous singer of eld, 'They may
bear her from my presence, but they can never untie the knot which
unites my heart to her; for that heart, so tender and so constant, God
alone divides with my lady, and the portion which God possesses He holds
but as a part of her domain, and as her vassal.'" "This is blasphemy,"
Prince Edward now retorted, "and for such observations alone you merit
death. Will you always talk and talk and talk? I perceive that the devil
is far more subtle than you, messire, and leads you, like a pig with a
ring in his nose, toward gross iniquity. Messire, I tell you that for
your soul's health I doubly mean to kill you now. So let us make an end
De Gatinais turned and took up his sword. "Since you will have it," he
rather regretfully said; "yet I reiterate that you play an absurd part.
Your wife has deserted you, has fled in abhorrence of you. For three
weeks she has been tramping God knows whither or in what company--"
He was here interrupted. "What the Lady Ellinor has done," Prince Edward
crisply said, "was at my request. We were wedded at Burgos; it was
natural that we should desire our reunion to take place at Burgos; and
she came to Burgos with an escort which I provided."
De Gatinais sneered. "So that is the tale you will deliver to the
"After I have slain you," the Prince said, "yes."
"The reservation is wise. For if I were dead, Messire Edward, there
would be none to know that you risk all for a drained goblet, for an
orange already squeezed--quite dry, messire."
"Face of God!" the Prince said.
But de Gatinais flung back both arms in a great gesture, so that he
knocked a flask of claret from the table at his rear. "I am candid, my
Prince. I would not see any brave gentleman slain in a cause so foolish.
In consequence I kiss and tell. In effect, I was eloquent, I was
magnificent, so that in the end her reserve was shattered like the
wooden flask yonder at our feet. Is it worth while, think you, that our
blood flow like this flagon's contents?"
"Liar!" Prince Edward said, very softly. "O hideous liar! Already your
eyes shift!" He drew near and struck the Frenchman. "Talk and talk and
talk! and lying talk! I am ashamed while I share the world with a thing
as base as you."
De Gatinais hurled upon him, cursing, sobbing in an abandoned fury. In
an instant the place resounded like a smithy, for there were no better
swordsmen living than these two. The eavesdropper could see nothing
clearly. Round and round they veered in a whirl of turmoil. Presently
Prince Edward trod upon the broken flask, smashing it. His foot slipped
in the spilth of wine, and the huge body went down like an oak, his head
striking one leg of the table.
"A candle!" de Gatinais cried, and he panted now--"a hundred candles to
the Virgin of Beaujolais!" He shortened his sword to stab the Prince of
The eavesdropper came through the doorway, and flung herself between
Prince Edward and the descending sword. The sword dug deep into her
shoulder, so that she shrieked once with the cold pain of this wound.
Then she rose, ashen. "Liar!" she said. "Oh, I am shamed while I share
the world with a thing as base as you!"
In silence de Gatinais regarded her. There was a long interval before he
said, "Ellinor!" and then again, "Ellinor!" like a man bewildered.
"_I was eloquent, I was magnificent_" she said, "_so that in the end her
reserve was shattered!_ Certainly, messire, it is not your death which I
desire, since a man dies so very, very quickly. I desire for you--I know
not what I desire for you!" the girl wailed.
"You desire that I should endure this present moment," de Gatinais
replied; "for as God reigns, I love you, of whom I have spoken infamy,
and my shame is very bitter."
She said: "And I, too, loved you. It is strange to think of that."
"I was afraid. Never in my life have I been afraid before to-day. But I
was afraid of this terrible and fair and righteous man. I saw all hope
of you vanish, all hope of Sicily--in effect, I lied as a cornered beast
spits out his venom."
"I know," she answered. "Give me water, Etienne." She washed and bound
the Prince's head with a vinegar-soaked napkin. Ellinor sat upon the
floor, the big man's head upon her knee. "He will not die of this, for
he is of strong person. Look you, Messire de Gatinais, you and I are not
strong. We are so fashioned that we can enjoy only the pleasant things
of life. But this man can enjoy--enjoy, mark you--the commission of any
act, however distasteful, if he think it to be his duty. There is the
difference. I cannot fathom him. But it is now necessary that I become
all which he loves--since he loves it,--and that I be in thought and
deed all which he desires. For I have heard the Tenson through."
"You love him!" said de Gatinais.
She glanced upward with a pitiable smile. "No, it is you whom I love, my
Etienne. You cannot understand how at this very moment every fibre of
me--heart, soul, and body--may be longing just to comfort you, and to
give you all which you desire, my Etienne, and to make you happy, my
handsome Etienne, at however dear a cost. No; you will never understand
that. And since you may not understand, I merely bid you go and leave me
with my husband."
And then there fell between these two an infinite silence.
"Listen," de Gatinais said; "grant me some little credit for what I do.
You are alone; the man is powerless. My fellows are within call. A word
secures the Prince's death; a word gets me you and Sicily. And I do not
speak that word, for you are my lady as well as his, and your will is my
But there was no mercy in the girl, no more for him than for herself.
The big head lay upon her breast; she caressed the gross hair of it ever
so lightly. "These are tinsel oaths," she crooned, as if rapt with
incurious content; "these are the old empty protestations of all you
strutting poets. A word gets you what you desire! Then why do you not
speak that word? Why do you not speak many words, and become again as
eloquent and as magnificent as you were when you contrived that adultery
about which you were just now telling my husband?"
De Gatinais raised clenched hands. "I am shamed," he said; and then he
said, "It is just."
He left the room and presently rode away with his men. I say that, here
at last, he had done a knightly deed, but she thought little of it,
never raised her head as the troop clattered from Mauleon, with a
lessening beat which lapsed now into the blunders of an aging fly who
doddered about the window yonder.
She stayed thus, motionless, her meditations adrift in the future; and
that which she foreread left her not all sorry nor profoundly glad, for
living seemed by this, though scarcely the merry and colorful business
which she had esteemed it, yet immeasurably the more worth while.
THE END OF THE SECOND NOVEL
THE STORY OF THE RAT-TRAP
"Leixant a part le stil dels trobados,
Dos grans dezigs ban combatut ma pensa,
Mas lo voler vers un seguir dispensa:
Yo l'vos publich, amar dretament vos."
THE THIRD NOVEL.--MEREGRETT OF FRANCE, THINKING TO PRESERVE A HOODWINKED
GENTLEMAN, ANNOYS A SPIDER; AND BY THE GRACE OF DESTINY THE WEB OF THAT
CUNNING INSECT ENTRAPS A BUTTERFLY, A WASP, AND THEN A GOD; WHO SHATTERS
_The Story of the Rat-Trap_
In the year of grace 1298, a little before Candlemas (thus Nicolas
begins), came letters to the first King Edward of England from his
kinsman and ambassador to France, Earl Edmund of Lancaster. It was
perfectly apparent, the Earl wrote, that the French King meant to
surrender to the Earl's lord and brother neither the duchy of Guienne
nor the Lady Blanch. This lady, I must tell you, was now affianced to
King Edward, whose first wife, Dame Ellinor, had died eight years before
The courier found Sire Edward at Ipswich, midway in celebration of his
daughter's marriage to the Count of Holland. The King read the letters
through and began to laugh; and presently broke into a rage such as was
possible (men whispered) only to the demon-tainted blood of Oriander's
descendants. Next day the keeper of the privy purse entered upon the
house-hold-books a considerable sum "to make good a large ruby and an
emerald lost out of his coronet when the King's Grace was pleased to
throw it into the fire"; and upon the same day the King recalled
Lancaster. The King then despatched yet another embassy into France to
treat about Sire Edward's marriage. This last embassy was headed by the
Earl of Aquitaine: his lieutenant was Lord Pevensey, the King's natural
son by Hawise Bulmer.
The Earl got audience of the French King at Mezelais. Walking alone came
this Earl of Aquitaine, with a large retinue, into the hall where the
barons of France stood according to their rank; in unadorned russet were
the big Earl and his attendants, but upon the scarlets and purples of
the French lords many jewels shone: it was as though through a corridor
of gayly painted sunlit glass that the grave Earl came to the dais where
sat King Philippe.
The King had risen at close sight of the new envoy, and had gulped once
or twice, and without speaking, had hurriedly waved his lords out of
ear-shot. The King's perturbation was very extraordinary.
"Fair cousin," the Earl now said, without any prelude, "four years ago I
was affianced to your sister, Dame Blanch. You stipulated that Gascony
be given up to you in guaranty, as a settlement on any children I might
have by that incomparable lady. I assented, and yielded you the
province, upon the understanding, sworn to according to the faith of
loyal kings, that within forty days you assign to me its seignory as
your vassal. And I have had of you since then neither my province nor
my betrothed wife, but only excuses, Sire Philippe."
With eloquence the Frenchman touched upon the emergencies to which the
public weal so often drives men of high station, and upon his private
grief over the necessity--unavoidable, alas!--of returning a hard answer
before the council; and became so voluble that Sire Edward merely
laughed in that big-lunged and disconcerting way of his, and afterward
lodged for a week at Mezelais, nominally passing by his minor title of
Earl of Aquitaine, and as his own ambassador.
Negotiations became more swift of foot, since a man serves himself with
zeal. In addition, the French lords could make nothing of a politician
so thick-witted that he replied to every consideration of expediency
with a parrot-like reiteration of the circumstance that already the
bargain was signed and sworn to: in consequence, while daily they fumed
over his stupidity, daily he gained his point. During this period he
was, upon one pretext or another, very often in the company of his
affianced wife, Dame Blanch.
This lady, I must tell you, was the handsomest of her day; there could
nowhere be found a creature more agreeable to every sense; and she
compelled the adoring regard of men, it is recorded, not gently but in
an imperious fashion. Sire Edward, who, till this, had loved her merely
by report, and, in accordance with the high custom of old, through many
perusals of her portrait, now appeared besotted. He was an aging man,
near sixty, huge and fair, with a crisp beard, and the bright unequal
eyes of Manuel of Poictesme. The better-read at Mezelais began to liken
this so candidly enamored monarch and his Princess to Sieur Hercules at
the feet of Queen Omphale.
The court hunted and slew a stag of ten in the woods of Ermenoueil,
which stand thick about the chateau; and at the hunt's end, these two
had dined at Rigon the forester's hut, in company with Dame Meregrett,
the French King's younger sister. She sat a little apart from the
betrothed, and stared through the hut's one window. We know, nowadays,
it was not merely the trees she was considering.
Dame Blanch seemed undisposed to mirth. "We have slain the stag, beau
sire," she said, "and have made of his death a brave diversion. To-day
we have had our sport of death,--and presently the gay years wind past
us, as our cavalcade came toward the stag, and God's incurious angel