Part 2 out of 4
slays us, much as we slew the stag. And we shall not understand, and we
shall wonder, as the stag did, in helpless wonder. And Death will have
his sport of us, as if in atonement." Her big eyes shone, as when the
sun glints upon a sand-bottomed pool. "Ohe, I have known such happiness
of late, beau sire, that I am hideously afraid to die."
The King answered, "I too have been very happy of late."
"But it is profitless to talk about death thus drearily. Let us flout
him, instead, with some gay song." And thereupon she handed Sire Edward
The King accepted it. "Death is not reasonably mocked by any person,"
Sire Edward said, "since in the end he conquers, and of the lips that
gibed at him remains but a little dust. Rather should I, who already
stand beneath a lifted sword, make for my destined and inescapable
conqueror a Sirvente, which is the Song of Service."
Sang Sire Edward:
"I sing of Death, that comes unto the king,
And lightly plucks him from the cushioned throne;
And drowns his glory and his warfaring
In unrecorded dim oblivion;
And girds another with the sword thereof;
And sets another in his stead to reign;
And ousts the remnant, nakedly to gain
Styx' formless shore and nakedly complain
Midst twittering ghosts lamenting life and love.
"For Death is merciless: a crack-brained king
He raises in the place of Prester John,
Smites Priam, and mid-course in conquering
Bids Caesar pause; the wit of Salomon,
The wealth of Nero and the pride thereof,
And battle-prowess--or of Tamburlaine
Darius, Jeshua, or Charlemaigne,--
Wheedle and bribe and surfeit Death in vain,
And get no grace of him nor any love.
"Incuriously he smites the armored king
And tricks his counsellors--"
"True, O God!" murmured the tiny woman, who sat beside the window
yonder. With that, Dame Meregrett rose, and passed from the room.
The two lovers started, and laughed, and afterward paid little heed to
her outgoing. Sire Edward had put aside the lute and sat now regarding
the Princess. His big left hand propped the bearded chin; his grave
countenance was flushed, and his intent eyes shone under their shaggy
brows, very steadily, although the left eye was now so nearly shut as to
reveal the merest spark.
Irresolutely, Dame Blanch plucked at her gown; then rearranged a fold of
it, and with composure awaited the ensuing action, afraid at bottom, but
not at all ill-pleased; and she looked downward.
The King said: "Never before were we two alone, madame. Fate is very
gracious to me this morning."
"Fate," the lady considered, "has never denied much to the Hammer of the
"She has denied me nothing," he sadly said, "save the one thing that
makes this business of living seem a rational proceeding. Fame and power
and wealth fate has accorded me, no doubt, but never the common joys of
life. And, look you, my Princess, I am of aging person now. During some
thirty years I have ruled England according to my interpretation of
God's will as it was anciently made manifest by the holy Evangelists;
and during that period I have ruled England not without odd by-ends of
commendation: yet behold, to-day I forget the world-applauded, excellent
King Edward, and remember only Edward Plantagenet--hot-blooded and
desirous man!--of whom that much-commended king has made a prisoner all
"It is the duty of exalted persons," Blanch unsteadily said, "to put
aside such private inclinations as their breasts may harbor--"
He said, "I have done what I might for the happiness of every Englishman
within my realm saving only Edward Plantagenet; and now I think his turn
to be at hand." Then the man kept silence; and his hot appraisal daunted
"Lord," she presently faltered, "lord, you know that we are already
betrothed, and, in sober verity, Love cannot extend his laws between
husband and wife, since the gifts of love are voluntary, and husband and
wife are but the slaves of duty--"
"Troubadourish nonsense!" Sire Edward said; "yet it is true that the
gifts of love are voluntary. And therefore--Ha, most beautiful, what
have you and I to do with all this chaffering over Guienne?" The two
stood very close to each other now. Blanch said, "It is a high
matter--" Then on a sudden the full-veined girl was aglow. "It is a
trivial matter." He took her in his arms, since already her cheeks
flared in scarlet anticipation of the event.
Thus holding her, he wooed the girl tempestuously. Here, indeed, was
Sieur Hercules enslaved, burned by a fiercer fire than that of Nessus,
and the huge bulk of the unconquerable visibly shaken by his adoration.
In a disordered tapestry of verbiage, aflap in winds of passion, she
presently beheld herself prefigured by Balkis, the Judean's lure, and by
that Princess of Cyprus who reigned in Aristotle's time, and by
Nicolete, the King's daughter of Carthage,--since the first flush of
morning was as a rush-light before her resplendency, the man swore; and
in conclusion, he likened her to a modern Countess of Tripolis, for love
of whom he, like Rudel, had cleft the seas, and losing whom he must
inevitably die as did Rudel. Sire Edward snapped his fingers now over
any consideration of Guienne. He would conquer for her all Muscovy and
all Cataia, too, if she desired mere acreage. Meanwhile he wanted her,
and his hard and savage passion beat down opposition as if with a
"Heart's emperor," the trembling girl replied, "I think that you were
cast in some larger mould than we of France. Oh, none of us may dare
resist you! and I know that nothing matters, nothing in all the world,
save that you love me. Then take me, since you will it,--and take me
not as King, since you will otherwise, but as Edward Plantagenet. For
listen! by good luck you have this afternoon despatched Rigon for
Chevrieul, where to-morrow we were to hunt the great boar. So to-night
this hut will be unoccupied."
The man was silent. He had a gift that way when occasion served.
"Here, then, beau sire! here, then, at nine, you are to meet me with my
chaplain. Behold, he marries us, as glibly as though we two were
peasants. Poor king and princess!" cried Dame Blanch, and in a voice
which thrilled him, "shall ye not, then, dare to be but man and woman?"
"Ha!" the King said. "So the chaplain makes a third! Well, the King is
pleased to loose his prisoner, that long-imprisoned Edward Plantagenet:
and I will do it."
So he came that night, without any retinue, and habited as a forester,
with a horn swung about his neck, into the unlighted hut of Rigon the
forester, and he found a woman there, though not the woman whom he had
"Treachery, beau sire! Horrible treachery!" she wailed.
"I have encountered it before this," the big man said.
"Presently will come to you not Blanch but Philippe, with many men to
back him. And presently they will slay you. You have been trapped, beau
sire. Ah, for the love of God, go! Go, while there is yet time!" Sire
Edward reflected. Undoubtedly, to light on Edward Longshanks alone in a
forest would appear to King Philippe, if properly attended, a tempting
chance to settle divers difficulties, once for all; and Sire Edward knew
the conscience of his old opponent to be invulnerable. The act would
violate the core of hospitality and knighthood, no doubt, but its
outcome would be a very definite gain to France, and for the rest,
merely a dead body in a ditch. Not a monarch in Christendom, Sire Edward
reflected, but feared and in consequence hated the Hammer of the Scots,
and in further consequence would not lift a finger to avenge him; and
not a being in the universe would rejoice more heartily at the success
of Philippe's treachery than would Sire Edward's son and immediate
successor, the young Prince Edward of Caernarvon. Taking matters by and
large, Philippe had all the powers of common-sense to back him in
contriving an assassination.
What Sire Edward said was, "Dame Blanch, then, knew of this?" But
Meregrett's pitiful eyes had already answered him, and he laughed a
"In that event, I have to-night enregistered my name among the goodly
company of Love's Lunatics,--as yokefellow with Dan Merlin in his
thornbush, and with wise Salomon when he capered upon the high places of
Chemosh, and with Duke Ares sheepishly agrin in the net of Mulciber.
Rogues all, madame! fools all! yet always the flesh trammels us, and
allures the soul to such sensual delights as bar its passage toward the
eternal life wherein alone lies the empire and the heritage of the soul.
And why does this carnal prison so impede the soul? Because Satan once
ranked among the sons of God, and the Eternal Father, as I take it, has
not yet forgotten the antique relationship,--and hence it is permitted
even in our late time that always the flesh rebel against the spirit,
and that always these so tiny and so thin-voiced tricksters, these
highly tinted miracles of iniquity, so gracious in demeanor and so
Then he turned and pointed, no longer the orotund zealot but the
expectant captain now. "Look, my Princess!" In the pathway from which he
had recently emerged stood a man in full armor like a sentinel. "Mort de
Dieu, we can but try to get out of this," Sire Edward said.
"You should have tried without talking so much," replied Meregrett. She
followed him. And presently, in a big splash of moonlight, the armed
man's falchion glittered across their way. "Back," he bade them, "for by
the King's orders, I can let no man pass."
"It would be very easy now to strangle this herring," Sire Edward
"But it is not easy to strangle a whole school of herring," the fellow
retorted. "Hoh, Messire d'Aquitaine, the bushes of Ermenoueil are alive
with my associates. The hut yonder, in effect, is girdled by them,--and
we have our orders to let no man pass."
"Have you any orders concerning women?" the King said.
The man deliberated. Sire Edward handed him three gold pieces. "There
was assuredly no specific mention of petticoats," the soldier now
recollected, "and in consequence I dare to pass the Princess, against
whom certainly nothing can be planned."
"Why, in that event," Sire Edward said, "we two had as well bid each
But Meregrett only said, "You bid me go?"
He waved his hand. "Since there is no choice. For that which you have
done--however tardily--I thank you. Meantime I return to Rigon's hut to
rearrange my toga as King Caesar did when the assassins fell upon him,
and to encounter with due decorum whatever Dame Luck may prefer."
She said, "You go to your death."
He shrugged his broad shoulders. "In the end we necessarily die."
Dame Meregrett turned, and without faltering passed back into the hut.
When he had lighted the inefficient lamp which he found there, Sire
Edward wheeled upon her in half-humorous vexation. "Presently come your
brother and his tattling lords. To be discovered here with me at night,
alone, means trouble for you. If Philippe chances to fall into one of
his Capetian rages it means death."
She answered, as though she were thinking about other matters, "Yes."
Now, for the first time, Sire Edward regarded her with profound
consideration. To the finger-tips this so-little lady showed a
descendant of the holy Lewis whom he had known and loved in old years.
Small and thinnish she was, with soft and profuse hair that, for all its
blackness, gleamed in the lamplight with stray ripples of brilliancy, as
you may see sparks shudder to extinction over burning charcoal. She had
the Valois nose, long and delicate in form, and overhanging a short
upper-lip; yet the lips were glorious in tint, and the whiteness of her
skin would have matched the Hyperborean snows tidily enough. As for her
eyes, the customary similes of the court poets were gigantic onyxes or
ebony highly polished and wet with May dew. These eyes were too big for
her little face: they made of her a tiny and desirous wraith which
nervously endured each incident of life, like a foreigner uneasily
acquiescent to the custom of the country.
Sire Edward moved one step toward this tiny lady and paused. "Madame, I
do not understand."
Dame Meregrett looked up into his face unflinchingly. "It means that I
love you, sire. I may speak without shame now, for presently you die.
Die bravely, sire! Die in such fashion as may hearten me to live."
The little Princess spoke the truth, for always since his coming to
Mezelais she had viewed the great conqueror as through an aweful haze of
forerunning rumor, twin to that golden vapor which enswathes a god and
transmutes whatever in corporeal man would have been a defect into some
divine and hitherto unguessed-at excellence. I must tell you in this
place, since no other occasion offers, that even until the end of her
life it was so. For to her what in other persons would have seemed
flagrant dulness showed somehow, in Sire Edward, as the majestic
deliberation of one that knows his verdict to be decisive, and therefore
appraises cautiously; and if sometimes his big, irregular calm eyes
betrayed no apprehension of the jest at which her lips were laughing,
and of which her brain approved, always within the instant her heart
convinced her that a god is not lightly moved to mirth.
And now it was a god--_O deus certe!_--who had taken a woman's paltry
face between his hands, half roughly. "And the maid is a Capet!" Sire
"Blanch has never desired you any ill, beau sire. But she loves the
Archduke of Austria. And once you were dead, she might marry him. One
cannot blame her," Meregrett considered, "since he wishes to marry her,
and she, of course, wishes to make him happy."
"And not herself, save in some secondary way!" the big King said. "In
part I comprehend, madame. Now I too hanker after this same happiness,
and my admiration for the cantankerous despoiler whom I praised this
morning is somewhat abated. There was a Tenson once--Lord, Lord, how
long ago! I learn too late that truth may possibly have been upon the
losing side--" Thus talking incoherencies, he took up Rigon's lute.
Sang Sire Edward:
"Incuriously he smites the armored king
And tricks his counsellors--
"yes, the jingle ran thus. Now listen, madame--listen, the while that I
have my singing out, whatever any little cut-throats may be planning in
Sang Sire Edward:
"As, later on,
Death will, half-idly, still our pleasuring,
And change for fevered laughter in the sun
Sleep such as Merlin's,--and excess thereof,--
Whence we, divorceless Death our Viviaine
Implacable, may never more regain
The unforgotten rapture, and the pain
And grief and ecstasy of life and love.
"For, presently, as quiet as the king
Sleeps now that planned the keeps of Ilion,
We, too, will sleep, whilst overhead the spring
Rules, and young lovers laugh--as we have done,--
And kiss--as we, that take no heed thereof,
But slumber very soundly, and disdain
The world-wide heralding of winter's wane
And swift sweet ripple of the April rain
Running about the world to waken love.
"We shall have done with Love, and Death be king
And turn our nimble bodies carrion,
Our red lips dusty;--yet our live lips cling
Despite that age-long severance and are one
Despite the grave and the vain grief thereof,--
Which we will baffle, if in Death's domain
Fond memories may enter, and we twain
May dream a little, and rehearse again
In that unending sleep our present love.
"Speed forth to her in halting unison,
My rhymes: and say no hindrance may restrain
Love from his aim when Love is bent thereon;
And that were love at my disposal lain--
All mine to take!--and Death had said, 'Refrain,
Lest I, even I, exact the cost thereof,'
I know that even as the weather-vane
Follows the wind so would I follow Love."
Sire Edward put aside the lute. "Thus ends the Song of Service," he
said, "which was made not by the King of England but by Edward
Plantagenet--hot-blooded and desirous man!--in honor of the one woman
who within more years than I care to think of has at all considered
"I do not comprehend," she said. And, indeed, she dared not.
But now he held both tiny hands in his. "At best, your poet is an
egotist. I must die presently. Meantime I crave largesse, madame, and a
great almsgiving, so that in his unending sleep your poet may rehearse
our present love." And even in Rigon's dim light he found her kindling
eyes not niggardly.
Sire Edward strode to the window and raised big hands toward the
spear-points of the aloof stars. "Master of us all!" he cried; "O Father
of us all! the Hammer of the Scots am I! the Scourge of France, the
conqueror of Llewellyn and of Leicester, and the flail of the accursed
race that slew Thine only Son! the King of England am I, who have made
of England an imperial nation, and have given to Thy Englishmen new
laws! And to-night I crave my hire. Never, O my Father, have I had of
any person aught save reverence or hatred! never in my life has any
person loved me! And I am old, my Father--I am old, and presently I die.
As I have served Thee--as Jacob wrestled with Thee at the ford of
Jabbok--at the place of Peniel--" Against the tremulous blue and silver
of the forest the Princess saw how horribly the big man was shaken. "My
hire! my hire!" he hoarsely said. "Forty long years, my Father! And now
I will not let Thee go except Thou hear me, and grant me life and this
He turned, stark and black in the rearward splendor of the moon. _"As a
prince hast thou power with God,"_ he calmly said, _"and thou hast
prevailed._ For the King of kings was never obdurate, my dear, to them
that have deserved well of Him. So He will attend to my request, and
will get us out of this pickle somehow."
Even as he said this, Philippe the Handsome came into the room, and at
the heels of the French King were seven lords, armed cap-a-pie.
The French King was an odd man. Subtly smiling, he came forward through
the twilight, with soft, long strides, and he made no outcry at
recognition of his sister. "Take the woman away, Victor," he said,
disinterestedly, to de Montespan. Afterward he sat down beside the table
and remained silent for a while, intently regarding Sire Edward and the
tiny woman who clung to Sire Edward's arm; and in the flickering gloom
of the hut Philippe smiled as an artist may smile who gazes on the
perfected work and knows it to be adroit.
"You prefer to remain, my sister?" he said presently. "He bien! it
happens that to-night I am in a mood for granting almost any favor. A
little later and I will attend to your merits." The fleet disorder of
his visage had lapsed again into the meditative smile which was that of
Lucifer watching a toasted soul. "And so it ends," he said, "and England
loses to-night the heir that Manuel the Redeemer provided. Conqueror of
Scotland, Scourge of France! O unconquerable king! and will the worms of
Ermenoueil, then, pause to-morrow to consider through what a glorious
turmoil their dinner came to them?"
"Do you design to murder me?" Sire Edward said.
The French King shrugged. "I design that within this moment my lords
shall slay you while I sit here and do not move a finger. Is it not good
to be a king, my cousin, and to sit quite still, and to see your
bitterest enemy hacked and slain,--and all the while to sit quite still,
quite unruffled, as a king should always be? Eh, eh! I never lived until
"Now, by Heaven," said Sire Edward, "I am your kinsman and your guest, I
Philippe bowed his head. "Undoubtedly," he assented, "the deed is foul.
But I desire Gascony very earnestly, and so long as you live you will
never permit me to retain Gascony. Hence it is quite necessary, you
conceive, that I murder you. What!" he presently said, "will you not beg
for mercy? I had hoped," the French King added, somewhat wistfully,
"that you might be afraid to die, O huge and righteous man! and would
entreat me to spare you. To spurn the weeping conqueror of Llewellyn,
say ... But these sins which damn one's soul are in actual performance
very tedious affairs; and I begin to grow aweary of the game. He bien!
now kill this man for me, messieurs."
The English King strode forward. "Shallow trickster!" Sire Edward
thundered. _"Am I not afraid?_ You grimacing baby, do you think to
ensnare a lion with such a flimsy rat-trap? Wise persons do not hunt
lions with these contraptions: for it is the nature of a rat-trap, fair
cousin, to ensnare not the beast which imperiously desires and takes in
daylight, but the tinier and the filthier beast that covets meanly and
attacks under the cover of darkness--as do you and your seven skulkers!"
The man was rather terrible; not a Frenchman within the hut but had
drawn back a little.
"Listen!" Sire Edward said, and he came yet farther toward the King of
France and shook at him one forefinger; "when you were in your cradle I
was leading armies. When you were yet unbreeched I was lord of half
Europe. For thirty years I have driven kings before me as did Fierabras.
Am I, then, a person to be hoodwinked by the first big-bosomed huzzy
that elects to waggle her fat shoulders and to grant an assignation in a
forest expressly designed for stabbings? You baby, is the Hammer of the
Scots the man to trust for one half moment a Capet? Ill-mannered
infant," the King said, with bitter laughter, "it is now necessary that
I summon my attendants and remove you to a nursery which I have prepared
in England." He set the horn to his lips and blew three blasts. There
came many armed warriors into the hut, bearing ropes. Here was the
entire retinue of the Earl of Aquitaine. Cursing, Sire Philippe sprang
upon the English King, and with a dagger smote at the impassive big
man's heart. The blade broke against the mail armor under the tunic.
"Have I not told you," Sire Edward wearily said, "that one may never
trust a Capet? Now, messieurs, bind these carrion and convey them
whither I have directed you. Nay, but, Roger--" He conversed apart with
his son, the Earl of Pevensey, and what Sire Edward commanded was done.
The French King and seven lords of France went from that hut trussed
like chickens ready for the oven.
And now Sire Edward turned toward Meregrett and chafed his big hands
gleefully. "At every tree-bole a tethered horse awaits us; and a ship
awaits our party at Fecamp. To-morrow we sleep in England--and, Mort de
Dieu! do you not think, madame, that once within my very persuasive
Tower of London, your brother and I may come to some agreement over
She had shrunk from him. "Then the trap was yours? It was you that lured
my brother to this infamy!"
"In effect, I planned it many months ago at Ipswich yonder," Sire Edward
gayly said. "Faith of a gentleman! your brother has cheated me of
Guienne, and was I to waste eternity in begging him to give me back my
province? Oh, no, for I have many spies in France, and have for some two
years known your brother and your sister to the bottom. Granted that I
came hither incognito, to forecast your kinfolk's immediate endeavors
was none too difficult; and I wanted Guienne--and, in consequence, the
person of your brother. Hah, death of my life! does not the seasoned
hunter adapt his snare to the qualities of his prey, and take the
elephant through his curiosity, as the snake through his notorious
treachery?" Now the King of England blustered.
But the little Princess wrung her hands. "I am this night most hideously
shamed. Beau sire, I came hither to aid a brave man infamously trapped,
and instead I find an alert spider, snug in his cunning web, and
patiently waiting until the gnats of France fly near enough. Eh, the
greater fool was I to waste my labor on the shrewd and evil thing which
has no more need of me than I of it! And now let me go hence, sire,
unmolested, for the sake of chivalry. Could I have come to the brave man
I had dreamed of, I would have come cheerily through the murkiest lane
of hell; as the more artful knave, as the more judicious trickster"--and
here she thrust him from her--"I spit upon you. Now let me go hence."
He took her in his brawny arms. "Fit mate for me," he said. "Little
vixen, had you done otherwise I would have devoted you to the devil."
Still grasping her, and victoriously lifting Dame Meregrett, so that
her feet swung clear of the floor, Sire Edward said, again with that
queer touch of fanatic gravity: "My dear, you are perfectly right. I was
tempted, I grant you. But it was never reasonable that gentlefolk should
cheat at their dicing. Therefore I whispered Roger Bulmer my final
decision; and he is now loosing all my captives in the courtyard of
Mezelais, after birching the tails of every one of them as soundly as
these infants' pranks to-night have merited. So you perceive that I do
not profit by my trick; and that I lose Guienne, after all, in order to
come to you with hands--well! not intolerably soiled."
"Oh, now I love you!" she cried, a-thrill with disappointment to find
him so unthriftily high-minded. "Yet you have done wrong, for Guienne is
a king's ransom."
He smiled whimsically, and presently one arm swept beneath her knees, so
that presently he held her as one dandles a baby; and presently his
stiff and graying beard caressed her burning cheek. Masterfully he said:
"Then let Guienne serve as such and ransom for a king his glad and
common manhood. Now it appears expedient that I leave France without any
unwholesome delay, because these children may resent being spanked. More
lately--he, already I have in my pocket the Pope's dispensation
permitting me to marry, in spite of our cousinship, the sister of the
King of France."
Very shyly Dame Meregrett lifted her little mouth. She said nothing
because talk was not necessary.
In consequence, after a deal of political tergiversation (Nicolas
concludes), in the year of grace 1299, on the day of our Lady's
nativity, and in the twenty-seventh year of King Edward's reign, came to
the British realm, and landed at Dover, not Dame Blanch, as would have
been in consonance with seasoned expectation, but Dame Meregrett, the
other daughter of King Philippe the Bold; and upon the following day
proceeded to Canterbury, whither on the next Thursday after came Edward,
King of England, into the Church of the Trinity at Canterbury, and
therein espoused the aforesaid Dame Meregrett.
THE END OF THE THIRD NOVEL
THE STORY OF THE CHOICES
"Sest fable es en aquest mon
Semblans al homes que i son;
Que el mager sen qu'om pot aver
So es amar Dieu et sa mer,
E gardar sos comendamens."
THE FOURTH NOVEL.--YSABEAU OF FRANCE, DESIROUS OF DISTRACTION, LOOKS FOR
RECREATION IN THE TORMENT OF A CERTAIN KNIGHT, WHOM SHE PROVES TO BE NO
MORE THAN HUMAN; BUT IN THE OUTCOME OF HER HOLIDAY HE CONFOUNDS THIS
QUEEN BY THE WIT OF HIS REPLY.
The Story of the Choices
In the year of grace 1327 (thus Nicolas begins) you could have found in
all England no couple more ardent in affection or in despair more
affluent than Rosamund Eastney and Sir Gregory Darrell. She was Lord
Berners' only daughter, a brown beauty, of extensive repute, thanks to a
retinue of lovers who were practitioners of the Gay Science, and who had
scattered broadcast innumerable Canzons in her honor; and Lord Berners
was a man to accept the world as he found it.
"Dompnedex!" the Earl was wont to say; "in sincerity I am fond of
Gregory Darrell, and if he chooses to make love to my daughter that is
none of my affair. The eyes and the brain preserve a proverbial warfare,
which is the source of all amenity, for without lady-service there would
be no songs and tourneys, no measure and no good breeding; and a man
delinquent in domnei is no more to be valued than an ear of corn
without the grain. No, I am so profoundly an admirer of Love that I can
never willingly behold him slain, of a surfeit, by Matrimony; besides,
this rapscallion Gregory could not to advantage exchange purses with
Lazarus in the parable; and, moreover, Rosamund is to marry the Earl of
Sarum a little after All Saints' day."
"Sarum!" people echoed. "Why, the old goat has had four wives already!"
And the Earl would spread his hands. "These redundancies are permissible
to one of the wealthiest persons in England," he was used to submit.
Thus it fell out that Sir Gregory came and went at his own discretion as
concerned Lord Berners' fief of Ordish, all through those choppy times
of warfare between Sire Edward and Queen Ysabeau. Lord Berners, for one,
vexed himself not inordinately over the outcome, since he protested the
King's armament to consist of fools and the Queen's of rascals; and had
with entire serenity declined to back either Dick or the devil.
But at last the Queen got resistless aid from Count William of Hainault
(in a way to be told about hereafter), and the King was captured by her
forces, and was imprisoned in Berkeley Castle. There they held the
second Edward to reign in England, who was the unworthy son of Dame
Ellinor and of that first squinting King Edward about whom I have told
you in the two tales preceding this tale. It was in the September of
this year, a little before Michaelmas, that they brought Sir Gregory
Darrell to be judged by the Queen; notoriously the knight had been her
husband's adherent. "Death!" croaked Adam Orleton, who sat to the right
hand, and, "Young de Spencer's death!" amended the Earl of March, with
wild laughter; but Ysabeau leaned back in her great chair--a handsome
woman, stoutening now from gluttony and from too much wine,--and
regarded her prisoner with lazy amiability.
"And what was your errand in Figgis Wood?" she demanded--"or are you
mad, then, Gregory Darrell, that you dare ride past my gates alone?"
He curtly said, "I rode for Ordish."
Followed silence. "Roger," the Queen ordered, "give me the paper which I
would not sign."
The Earl of March had drawn an audible breath. The Bishop of London
somewhat wrinkled his shaggy brows, like a person in shrewd and
epicurean amusement, while the Queen subscribed the parchment, with a
great scrawling flourish.
"Take, in the devil's name, the hire of your dexterities," said Ysabeau.
She pushed this document with her wet pen-point toward March. "So! get
it over with, that necessary business with my husband at Berkeley. And
do the rest of you withdraw, saving only my prisoner."
Followed another silence. Queen Ysabeau lolled in her carven chair,
considering the comely gentleman who stood before her, fettered, at the
point of shameful death. There was in the room a little dog which had
come to the Queen, and now licked the palm of her left hand, and the
soft lapping of its tongue was the only sound you heard. "So at peril of
your life you rode for Ordish, then, messire?"
The tense man had flushed. "You have harried us of the King's party out
of England,--and in reason I might not leave England without seeing the
desire of my heart."
"My friend," said Ysabeau, as if half in sorrow, "I would have pardoned
anything save that." She rose. Her face was dark and hot. "By God and
all His saints! you shall indeed leave England to-morrow and the world
also! but not without a final glimpse of this same Rosamund. Yet listen:
I, too, must ride with you to Ordish--as your sister, say--Gregory, did
I not hang, last April, the husband of your sister? Yes, Ralph de
Belomys, a thin man with eager eyes, the Earl of Farrington he was. As
his widow I will ride with you to Ordish, upon condition you disclose to
none at Ordish, saving only, if you will, this quite immaculate
Rosamund, any hint of our merry carnival. And to-morrow (you will swear
according to the nicest obligations of honor) you must ride back with me
to encounter--that which I may devise. For I dare to trust your naked
word in this, and, moreover, I shall take with me a sufficiency of
retainers to leave you no choice."
Darrell knelt before her. "I can do no homage to Queen Ysabeau; yet the
prodigal hands of her who knows that I must die to-morrow and cunningly
contrives, for old time's sake, to hearten me with a sight of Rosamund,
I cannot but kiss." This much he did. "And I swear in all things to obey
"O comely fool!" the Queen said, not ungently, "I contrive, it may be,
but to demonstrate that many tyrants of antiquity were only bunglers.
And, besides, I must have other thoughts than those which I have known
too long: I must this night take holiday from thinking them, lest I go
Thus did the Queen arrange her holiday.
"Either I mean to torture you to-morrow," Dame Ysabeau said, presently,
to Darrell, as these two rode side by side, "or else I mean to free you.
In sober verity I do not know. I am in a holiday humor, and it is as the
whim may take me. But do you indeed love this Rosamund Eastney? And of
course she worships you?"
"It is my belief, madame, that when I see her I tremble visibly, and my
weakness is such that a child has more intelligence than I,--and toward
such misery any lady must in common reason be a little compassionate."
Her hands had twitched so that the astonished palfrey reared. "I design
torture," the Queen said; "ah, I perfect exquisite torture, for you have
proven recreant, you have forgotten the maid Ysabeau,--Le Desir du
Cuer, was it not, my Gregory, that you were wont to call her, as
nowadays this Rosamund is the desire of your heart. You lack
His palms clutched at heaven. "That Ysabeau is dead! and all true joy is
destroyed, and the world lies under a blight from which God has averted
an unfriendly face in displeasure! yet of all wretched persons existent
I am he who endures the most grievous anguish, for daily I partake of
life without any relish, and I would in truth deem him austerely kind
who slew me now that the maiden Ysabeau is dead."
She shrugged wearily. "I scent the raw stuff of a Planh," the Queen
observed; "_benedicite!_ it was ever your way, my friend, to love a
woman chiefly for the verses she inspired." And she began to sing, as
they rode through Baverstock Thicket.
"Man's love hath many prompters,
But a woman's love hath none;
And he may woo a nimble wit
Or hair that shames the sun,
Whilst she must pick of all one man
And ever brood thereon--
And for no reason,
And not rightly,--
"Save that the plan was foreordained
(More old than Chalcedon,
Or any tower of Tarshish
Or of gleaming Babylon),
That she must love unwillingly
And love till life be done,--.
He for a season,
And more lightly."
So to Ordish in that twilight came the Countess of Farrington, with a
retinue of twenty men-at-arms, and her brother Sir Gregory Darrell. Lord
Berners received the party with boisterous hospitality.
"Age has not blinded Father to the fact that your sister is a very
handsome woman," was Rosamund Eastney's comment. The period appears to
have been after supper, and the girl sat with Gregory Darrell in not the
most brilliant corner of the main hall.
The wretched man leaned forward, bit his nether-lip, and then with a
tumbling rush of speech told of the sorry masquerade. "The she-devil
designs some horrible and obscure mischief, she plans I know not what."
"Yet I--" said Rosamund. The girl had risen, and she continued with an
odd inconsequence: "You have told me you were Pembroke's squire when
long ago he sailed for France to fetch this woman into England--"
"--Which you never heard!" Lord Berners shouted at this point. "Jasper,
a lute!" And then he halloaed, "Gregory, Madame de Farrington demands
that racy song you made against Queen Ysabeau during your last visit."
Thus did the Queen begin her holiday.
It was a handsome couple which came forward, with hand quitting hand
tardily, and with blinking eyes yet rapt: these two were not overpleased
at being disturbed, and the man was troubled, as in reason he well might
be, by the task assigned him.
"Is it, indeed, your will, my sister," he said, "that I should
"It is my will," the Countess said.
And the knight flung back his comely head and laughed. "A truth, once
spoken, may not be disowned in any company. It is not, look you, of my
own choice that I sing, my sister. Yet if Queen Ysabeau herself were to
bid me sing this song, I could not refuse, for, Christ aid me! the song
Sang Sir Gregory:
"Dame Ysabeau, la prophecie
Que li sage dit ne ment mie,
Que la royne sut ceus grever
Qui tantost laquais sot aymer--"
and so on. It was a lengthy ditty, and in its wording not oversqueamish;
the Queen's career in England was detailed without any stuttering, and
you would have found the catalogue unhandsome. Yet Sir Gregory delivered
it with an incisive gusto, desperately countersigning his own death
warrant. Her treacheries, her adulteries and her assassinations were
rendered in glowing terms whose vigor seemed, even now, to please their
contriver. Yet the minstrel added a new peroration.
Sang Sir Gregory:
"Ma voix mocque, mon cuer gemit--
Peu pense a ce que la voix dit,
Car me membre du temps jadis
Et d'ung garson, d'amour surpris,
Et d'une fille--et la vois si--
Et grandement suis esbahi."
And when Darrell had ended, the Countess of Farrington, without
speaking, swept her left hand toward her cheek and by pure chance caught
between thumb and forefinger the autumn-numbed fly that had annoyed her.
She drew the little dagger from her girdle and meditatively cut the
buzzing thing in two. She cast the fragments from her, and resting the
dagger's point upon the arm of her chair, one forefinger upon the summit
of the hilt, considerately twirled the brilliant weapon.
"This song does not err upon the side of clemency," she said at last,
"nor by ordinary does Queen Ysabeau."
"That she-wolf!" said Lord Berners, comfortably. "Hoo, Madame Gertrude!
since the Prophet Moses wrung healing waters from a rock there has been
no such miracle recorded."
"We read, Messire de Berners, that when the she-wolf once acknowledges a
master she will follow him as faithfully as any dog. My brother, I do
not question your sincerity, yet everybody knows you sing with the voice
of an unhonored courtier. Suppose Queen Ysabeau had heard your song all
through as I have heard it, and then had said--for she is not as the run
of women--'Messire, I had thought until this that there was no thorough
man in England save tall Roger Mortimer. I find him tawdry now, and--I
remember. Come you, then, and rule the England that you love as you may
love no woman, and rule me, messire, since I find even in your
cruelty--For we are no pygmies, you and I! Yonder is squabbling Europe
and all the ancient gold of Africa, ready for our taking! and past that
lies Asia, too, and its painted houses hung with bells, and cloud-wrapt
Tartary, where we two may yet erect our equal thrones, upon which to
receive the tributary emperors! For we are no pygmies, you and I." She
paused. She shrugged. "Suppose Queen Ysabeau, who is not as the run of
women, had said this much, my brother?"
Darrell was more pallid (as the phrase is) than a sheet, and the lute
had dropped unheeded, and his hands were clenched.
"I would answer, my sister, that as she has found in England but one
man, I have found in England but one woman--the rose of all the world."
His eyes were turned at this toward Rosamund Eastney. "And yet," the man
stammered, "because I, too, remember--"
"Hah, in God's name! I am answered," the Countess said. She rose, in
dignity almost a queen. "We have ridden far to-day, and to-morrow we
must travel a deal farther--eh, my brother? I am going to bed, Messire
So the men and women parted. Madame de Farrington kissed her brother at
leaving him, as was natural; and under her caress his stalwart person
shuddered, but not in repugnance; and the Queen went away singing
"Were the All-Mother wise, life (shaped anotherwise)
Would be all high and true;
Could I be otherwise I had been otherwise
Simply because of you, ...
With whom I have naught to do,
And who are no longer you!
"Life with its pay to be bade us essay to be
What we became,--I believe
Were there a way to be what it was play to be
I would not greatly grieve ...
Hearts are not worn on the sleeve.
Let us neither laugh nor grieve!"
Ysabeau would have slept that night within the chamber of Rosamund
Eastney had either slept. As concerns the older I say nothing. The girl,
though soon aware of frequent rustlings near at hand, lay quiet,
half-forgetful of the poisonous woman yonder. The girl was now fulfilled
with a great blaze of exultation: to-morrow Gregory must die, and then
perhaps she might find time for tears; meanwhile, before her eyes, the
man had flung away a kingdom and life itself for love of her, and the
least nook of her heart ached to be a shade more worthy of the
After it might have been an hour of this excruciate ecstasy the Countess
came to Rosamund's bed. "Ay," the woman began, "it is indisputable that
his hair is like spun gold and that his eyes resemble sun-drenched
waters in June. It is certain that when this Gregory laughs God is more
happy. Girl, I was familiar with the routine of your meditations before
you were born."
Rosamund said, quite simply: "You have known him always. I envy the
circumstance, Madame Gertrude--you alone of all women in the world I
envy, since you, his sister, being so much older, must have known him
"I know him to the core, my girl," the Countess answered. For a while
she sat silent, one bare foot jogging restlessly. "Yet I am two years
his junior--Did you hear nothing, Rosamund?" "No, Madame Gertrude, I
"Strange!" the Countess said; "let us have lights, since I can no longer
endure this overpopulous twilight." She kindled, with twitching fingers,
three lamps. "It is as yet dark yonder, where the shadows quiver very
oddly, as though they would rise from the floor--do they not, my
girl?--and protest vain things. But, Rosamund, it has been done; in the
moment of death men's souls have travelled farther and have been
visible; it has been done, I tell you. And he would stand before me,
with pleading eyes, and would reproach me in a voice too faint to reach
my ears--but I would see him--and his groping hands would clutch at my
hands as though a dropped veil had touched me, and with the contact I
would go mad!"
"Madame Gertrude!" the girl stammered, in communicated terror.
"Poor innocent fool!" the woman said, "I am Ysabeau of France." And when
Rosamund made as though to rise, in alarm, Queen Ysabeau caught her by
the shoulder. "Bear witness when he comes that I never hated him. Yet
for my quiet it was necessary that it suffer so cruelly, the scented,
pampered body, and no mark be left upon it! Eia! even now he suffers!
No, I have lied. I hate the man, and in such fashion as you will
comprehend when you are Sarum's wife."
"Madame and Queen!" the girl said, "you will not murder me!" "I am
tempted!" the Queen answered. "O little slip of girlhood, I am tempted,
for it is not reasonable you should possess everything that I have lost.
Innocence you have, and youth, and untroubled eyes, and quiet dreams,
and the fond graveness of a child, and Gregory Darrell's love--" Now
Ysabeau sat down upon the bed and caught up the girl's face between two
fevered hands. "Rosamund, this Darrell perceives within the moment, as I
do, that the love he bears for you is but what he remembers of the love
he bore a certain maid long dead. Eh, you might have been her sister,
Rosamund, for you are very like her. And she, poor wench--why, I could
see her now, I think, were my eyes not blurred, somehow, almost as
though Queen Ysabeau might weep! But she was handsomer than you, since
your complexion is not overclear, praise God!"
Woman against woman they were. "He has told me of his intercourse with
you," the girl said, and this was a lie flatfooted. "Nay, kill me if you
will, madame, since you are the stronger, yet, with my dying breath, I
protest that Gregory has loved no woman truly in all his life except
The Queen laughed bitterly. "Do I not know men? He told you nothing. And
to-night he hesitated, and to-morrow, at the lifting of my finger, he
will supplicate. Since boyhood Gregory Darrell has loved me, O white,
palsied innocence! and he is mine at a whistle. And in that time to
come he will desert you, Rosamund--bidding farewell with a pleasing
Canzon,--and they will give you to the gross Earl of Sarum, as they gave
me to the painted man who was of late our King! and in that time to come
you will know your body to be your husband's makeshift when he lacks
leisure to seek out other recreation! and in that time to come you will
long for death, and presently your heart will be a flame within you, my
Rosamund, an insatiable flame! and you will hate your God because He
made you, and hate Satan because in some desperate hour he tricked you,
and hate all men because, poor fools, they scurry to obey your whims!
and chiefly you will hate yourself because you are so pitiable! and
devastation only will you love in that strange time which is to come. It
is adjacent, my Rosamund."
The girl kept silence. She sat erect in the tumbled bed, her hands
clasping her knees, and she appeared to deliberate what Dame Ysabeau had
said. Plentiful brown hair fell about this Rosamund's face, which was
white and shrewd. "A part of what you say, madame, I understand. I know
that Gregory Darrell loves me, yet I have long ago acknowledged he loves
me as one pets a child, or, let us say, a spaniel which reveres and
amuses one. I lack his wit, you comprehend, and so he never speaks to me
all that he thinks. Yet a part of it he tells me, and he loves me, and
with this I am content. Assuredly, if they give me to Sarum I shall hate
Sarum even more than I detest him now. And then, I think, Heaven help
me! that I would not greatly grieve--Oh, you are all evil!" Rosamund
said; "and you thrust into my mind thoughts which I may not understand!"
"You will comprehend them," the Queen said, "when you know yourself a
chattel, bought and paid for."
The Queen laughed. She rose, and her hands strained toward heaven. "You
are omnipotent, yet have You let me become that into which I am
transmuted," she said, very low.
She began to speak as though a statue spoke through lips that seemed
motionless. "Men have long urged me, Rosamund, to a deed which by one
stroke would make me mistress of these islands. To-day I looked on
Gregory Darrell, and knew that I was wise in love--and I had but to
crush a lewd soft worm to come to him. Eh, and I was tempted--!"
The girl said: "Let us grant that Gregory loves you very greatly, and me
just when his leisure serves. You may offer him a cushioned infamy, a
colorful and brief delirium, and afterward demolishment of soul and
body; I offer him contentment and a level life, made up of small events,
it may be, and lacking both in abysses and in skyey heights. Yet is love
a flame wherein the lover's soul must be purified; it is a flame which
assays high queens just as it does their servants: and thus, madame, to
judge between us I dare summon you." "Child, child!" the Queen said,
tenderly, and with a smile, "you are brave; and in your fashion you are
wise; yet you will never comprehend. But once I was in heart and soul
and body all that you are to-day; and now I am Queen Ysabeau--Did you in
truth hear nothing, Rosamund?"
"Why, nothing save the wind."
"Strange!" said the Queen; "since all the while that I have talked with
you I have been seriously annoyed by shrieks and imprecations! But I,
too, grow cowardly, it may be--Nay, I know," she said, and in a resonant
voice, "that by this I am mistress of broad England, until my son--my
own son, born of my body, and in glad anguish, Rosamund--knows me for
what I am. For I have heard--Coward! O beautiful sleek coward!" the
Queen said; "I would have died without lamentation and I was but your
"Madame Ysabeau--!" the girl answered vaguely, for she was puzzled and
was almost frightened by the other's strange talk.
"To bed!" said Ysabeau; "and put out the lights lest he come presently.
Or perhaps he fears me now too much to come to-night. Yet the night
approaches, none the less, when I must lift some arras and find him
there, chalk-white, with painted cheeks, and rigid, and smiling very
terribly, or look into some mirror and behold there not myself but
him,--and in that instant I shall die. Meantime I rule, until my son
attains his manhood. Eh, Rosamund, my only son was once so tiny, and so
helpless, and his little crimson mouth groped toward me, helplessly, and
save in Bethlehem, I thought, there was never any child more fair--But I
must forget all that, for even now he plots. Hey, God orders matters
very shrewdly, my Rosamund."
Timidly the girl touched Ysabeau's shoulder. "In part, I understand,
madame and Queen."
"You understand nothing," said Ysabeau; "how should you understand whose
breasts are yet so tiny? So let us put out the light! though I dread
darkness, Rosamund--For they say that hell is poorly lighted--and they
say--" Then Queen Ysabeau shrugged. Pensively she blew out each lamp.
"We know this Gregory Darrell," the Queen said in the darkness, "ah, to
the marrow we know him, however steadfastly we blink, and we know the
present turmoil of his soul; and in common-sense what chance have you of
"None in common-sense, madame, and yet you go too fast. For man is a
being of mingled nature, we are told by those in holy orders, and his
life here is one unending warfare between that which is divine in him
and that which is bestial, while impartial Heaven attends as arbiter of
the tourney. Always a man's judgment misleads him and his faculties
allure him to a truce, however brief, with iniquity. His senses raise a
mist about his goings, and there is not an endowment of the man but in
the end plays traitor to his interest, as of God's wisdom God intends;
so that when the man is overthrown, the Eternal Father may, in reason,
be neither vexed nor grieved if only the man takes heart to rise again.
And when, betrayed and impotent, the man elects to fight out the
allotted battle, defiant of common-sense and of the counsellors which
God Himself accorded, I think that the Saints hold festival in heaven."
"A very pretty sermon," said the Queen. "Yet I do not think that our
Gregory could very long endure a wife given over to such high-minded
talking. He prefers to hear himself do the fine talking."
Followed a silence, vexed only on the purposeless September winds; but I
believe that neither of these two slept with profundity.
About dawn one of the Queen's attendants roused Sir Gregory Darrell and
conducted him into the hedged garden of Ordish, where Ysabeau walked in
tranquil converse with Lord Berners. The old man was in high good-humor.
"My lad," said he, and clapped Sir Gregory upon the shoulder, "you have,
I do protest, the very phoenix of sisters. I was never happier." And he
went away chuckling.
The Queen said in a toneless voice, "We ride for Blackfriars now."
Darrell responded, "I am content, and ask but leave to speak, briefly,
with Dame Rosamund before I die."
Then the woman came more near to him. "I am not used to beg, but within
this hour you encounter death, and I have loved no man in all my life
saving only you, Sir Gregory Darrell. Nor have you loved any person as
you loved me once in France. Oh, to-day, I may speak freely, for with
you the doings of that boy and girl are matters overpast. Yet were it
otherwise--eh, weigh the matter carefully! for I am mistress of England
now, and England would I give you, and such love as that slim, white
innocence has never dreamed of would I give you, Gregory Darrell--No,
no! ah, Mother of God, not you!" The Queen clapped one hand upon his
"Listen," she quickly said; "I spoke to tempt you. But you saw, and you
saw clearly, that it was the sickly whim of a wanton, and you never
dreamed of yielding, for you love this Rosamund Eastney, and you know me
to be vile. Then have a care of me! The strange woman am I, of whom we
read that her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of
death. Hoh, many strong men have been slain by me, and in the gray time
to come will many others be slain by me, it may be; but never you among
them, my Gregory, who are more wary, and more merciful, and who know
that I have need to lay aside at least one comfortable thought against
"I concede you to have been unwise--" he hoarsely began.
About them fell the dying leaves, of many glorious colors, but the air
of this new day seemed raw and chill.
Then Rosamund came through the opening in the hedge. "Now, choose," she
said; "the woman offers life and high place and wealth, and it may be, a
greater love than I am capable of giving you. I offer a dishonorable
death within the moment."
And again, with that peculiar and imperious gesture, the man flung back
his head, and he laughed. Said Gregory Darrell:
"I am I! and I will so to live that I may face without shame not only
God, but also my own scrutiny." He wheeled upon the Queen and spoke
henceforward very leisurely. "I love you; all my life long I have loved
you, Ysabeau, and even now I love you: and you, too, dear Rosamund, I
love, though with a difference. And every fibre of my being lusts for
the power that you would give me, Ysabeau, and for the good which I
would do with it in the England which I or blustering Roger Mortimer
must rule; as every fibre of my being lusts for the man that I would be
could I choose death without debate. And I think also of the man that
you would make of me, my Rosamund.
"The man! And what is this man, this Gregory Darrell, that his welfare
should be considered?--an ape who chatters to himself of kinship with
the archangels while filthily he digs for groundnuts! This much I know,
"Yet more clearly do I perceive that this same man, like all his
fellows, is a maimed god who walks the world dependent upon many wise
and evil counsellors. He must measure, to a hair's-breadth, every
content of the world by means of a bloodied sponge, tucked somewhere in
his skull, a sponge which is ungeared by the first cup of wine and
ruined by the touch of his own finger. He must appraise all that he
judges with no better instruments than two bits of colored jelly, with a
bungling makeshift so maladroit that the nearest horologer's apprentice
could have devised a more accurate device. In fine, each man is under
penalty condemned to compute eternity with false weights, to estimate
infinity with a yard-stick: and he very often does it, and chooses his
own death without debate. For though, 'If then I do that which I would
not I consent unto the law,' saith even an Apostle; yet a braver Pagan
answers him, 'Perceive at last that thou hast in thee something better
and more divine than the things which cause the various effects and, as
it were, pull thee by the strings.'
"There lies the choice which every man must face,--whether rationally,
as his reason goes, to accept his own limitations and make the best of
his allotted prison-yard? or stupendously to play the fool and swear
even to himself (while his own judgment shrieks and proves a flat
denial), that he is at will omnipotent? You have chosen long ago, my
poor proud Ysabeau; and I choose now, and differently: for poltroon that
I am! being now in a cold drench of terror, I steadfastly protest I am
not very much afraid, and I choose death without any more debate."
It was toward Rosamund that the Queen looked, and smiled a little
pitifully. "Should Queen Ysabeau be angry or vexed or very cruel now, my
Rosamund? for at bottom she is glad."
And the Queen said also: "I give you back your plighted word. I ride
homeward to my husks, but you remain. Or rather, the Countess of
Farrington departs for the convent of Ambresbury, disconsolate in her
widowhood and desirous to have done with worldly affairs. It is most
natural she should relinquish to her beloved and only brother all her
dower-lands--or so at least Messire de Berners acknowledges. Here, then,
is the grant, my Gregory, that conveys to you those lands of Ralph de
Belomys which last year I confiscated. And this tedious Messire de
Berners is willing now--he is eager to have you for a son-in-law."
About them fell the dying leaves, of many glorious colors, but the air
of this new day seemed raw and chill, while, very calmly, Dame Ysabeau
took Sir Gregory's hand and laid it upon the hand of Rosamund Eastney.
"Our paladin is, in the outcome, a mortal man, and therefore I do not
altogether envy you. Yet he has his moments, and you are capable. Serve,
then, not only his desires but mine also, dear Rosamund."
There was a silence. The girl spoke as though it was a sacrament. "I
will, madame and Queen."
Thus did the Queen end her holiday.
A little later the Countess of Farrington rode from Ordish with all her
train save one; and riding from that place, where love was, she sang
"As with her dupes dealt Circe
Life deals with hers, for she
Reshapes them without mercy,
And shapes them swinishly,
To wallow swinishly,
And for eternity;
"Though, harder than the witch was,
Life, changing not the whole,
Transmutes the body, which was
Proud garment of the soul,
And briefly drugs the soul,
Whose ruin is her goal;
"And means by this thereafter
A subtler mirth to get,
And mock with bitterer laughter
Her helpless dupes' regret,
Their swinish dull regret
For what they half forget."
And within the hour came Hubert Frayne to Ordish, on a foam-specked
horse, as he rode to announce to the King's men the King's barbaric
murder overnight, at Berkeley Castle, by Queen Ysabeau's order.
"Ride southward," said Lord Berners, and panted as they buckled on his
disused armor; "but harkee, Frayne! if you pass the Countess of
Farrington's company, speak no syllable of your news, since it is not
convenient that a lady so thoroughly and so praise-worthily--Lord, Lord,
how I have fattened!--so intent on holy things, in fine, should have her
meditations disturbed by any such unsettling tidings. Hey, son-in-law?"
Sir Gregory Darrell laughed, very bitterly. "He that is without blemish
among you--" he said. Then they armed completely, and went forth to
battle against the murderous harlot.
THE END OF THE FOURTH NOVEL
[Footnote 1: For this perplexing matter the curious may consult Paul
Verville's _Notice sur la vie de Nicolas de Caen, p. 93 et seq_. The
indebtedness to Antoine Riczi is, of course, conceded by Nicolas in his
[Footnote 2: She was the daughter of King Ferdinand of Leon and Castile,
whose conversion to sainthood the inquisitive may find recorded
[Footnote 3: Not without indulgence in anachronism. But Nicolas, be it
repeated, was no Gradgrindian.]
[Footnote 4: Nicolas gives this ballad in full, but, for obvious
reasons, his translator would prefer to do otherwise.]
THE STORY OF THE HOUSEWIFE
"Selh que m blasma vostr' amor ni m defen
Non podon far en re mon cor mellor,
Ni'l dous dezir qu'ieu ai de vos major,
Ni l'enveya' ni'l dezir, ni'l talen."
THE FIFTH NOVEL.--PHILIPPA OF HAINAULT DARES TO LOVE UNTHRIFTILY, AND
WITH THE PRODIGALITY OF HER AFFECTION SHAMES TREACHERY, AND
COMMON-SENSE, AND HIGH ROMANCE, QUITE STOLIDLY; BUT, AS LOVING GOES,
IS OVERTOPPED BY HER MORE STOLID SQUIRE.
_The Story of the Housewife_
In the year of grace 1326, upon Walburga's Eve, some three hours after
sunset (thus Nicolas begins), had you visited a certain garden on the
outskirts of Valenciennes, you might there have stumbled upon a big,
handsome boy, prone on the turf, where by turns he groaned and vented
himself in sullen curses. His profanity had its palliation. Heir to
England though he was, you must know that this boy's father in the
flesh had hounded him from England, as more recently had the lad's
uncle Charles the Handsome driven him from France. Now had this boy
and his mother (the same Queen Ysabeau about whom I have told you in
the preceding tale) come as suppliants to the court of that stalwart
nobleman Sire William (Count of Hainault, Holland, and Zealand, and
Lord of Friesland), where their arrival had evoked the suggestion that
they depart at their earliest convenience. To-morrow, then, these
footsore royalties, the Queen of England and the Prince of Wales,
would be thrust out-of-doors to resume the weary beggarship, to knock
again upon the obdurate gates of this unsympathizing king or that deaf
Accordingly the boy aspersed his destiny. At hand a nightingale
carolled as though an exiled prince were the blithest spectacle the
There came through the garden a tall girl, running, stumbling in her
haste. "Hail, King of England!" she said.
"Do not mock me, Philippa!" the boy half-sobbed. Sulkily he rose to
"No mockery here, my fair sweet friend. No, I have told my father all
which happened yesterday. I pleaded for you. He questioned me very
closely. And when I had ended, he stroked his beard, and presently
struck one hand upon the table. 'Out of the mouth of babes!' he said.
Then he said: 'My dear, I believe for certain that this lady and her
son have been driven from their kingdom wrongfully. If it be for the
good of God to comfort the afflicted, how much more is it commendable
to help and succor one who is the daughter of a king, descended from
royal lineage, and to whose blood we ourselves are related!' And
accordingly he and your mother have their heads together yonder,
planning an invasion of England, no less, and the dethronement of your
wicked father, my Edward. And accordingly--hail, King of England!" The
girl clapped her hands gleefully. The nightingale sang.
But the boy kept momentary silence. Not even in youth were the men of
his race handicapped by excessively tender hearts; yesterday in the
shrubbery the boy had kissed this daughter of Count William, in part
because she was a healthy and handsome person, and partly because
great benefit might come of an alliance with her father. Well! the
Prince had found chance-taking not unfortunate. With the episode as
foundation, Count William had already builded up the future queenship
of England. The strong Count could do--and, as it seemed, was now in
train to do--indomitable deeds to serve his son-in-law; and now the
beggar of five minutes since foresaw himself, with this girl's love as
ladder, mounting to the high habitations of the King of England, the
Lord of Ireland, and the Duke of Aquitaine. Thus they would herald
So he embraced the girl. "Hail, Queen of England!" said the Prince;
and then, "If I forget--" His voice broke awkwardly. "My dear, if ever
I forget--!" Their lips met now. The nightingale discoursed as if on a
Presently was mingled with the bird's descant another kind of singing.
Beyond the yew-hedge as these two stood silent, breast to breast,
passed young Jehan Kuypelant, one of the pages, fitting to the
accompaniment of a lute his paraphrase of the song which Archilochus
of Sicyon very anciently made in honor of Venus Melaenis, the tender
Venus of the Dark.
At a gap in the hedge the young Brabanter paused. His singing ended,
gulped. These two, who stood heart hammering against heart, saw for an
instant Jehan Kuypelant's lean face silvered by the moonlight, his
mouth a tiny abyss. Followed the beat of lessening footfalls, while
the nightingale improvised an envoi.
But earlier Jehan Kuypelant also had sung, as though in rivalry with
Sang Jehan Kuypelant:
"Hearken and heed, Melaenis!
For all that the litany ceased
When Time had pilfered the victim,
And flouted thy pale-lipped priest,
And set astir in the temple
Where burned the fires of thy shrine
The owls and wolves of the desert--
Yet hearken, (the issue is thine!)
And let the heart of Atys,
At last, at last, be mine!
"For I have followed, nor faltered--
Adrift in a land of dreams
Where laughter and pity and terror
Commingle as confluent streams,
I have seen and adored the Sidonian,
Implacable, fair and divine--
And bending low, have implored thee
To hearken, (the issue is thine!)
And let the heart of Atys,
At last, at last, be mine!"
It is time, however, that we quit this subject and speak of other
matters. Just twenty years later, on one August day in the year of
grace 1346, Master John Copeland--as men now called Jehan Kuypelant,
now secretary to the Queen of England,--brought his mistress the
unhandsome tidings that David Bruce had invaded her realm with forty
thousand Scots to back him. The Brabanter found plump Queen Philippa
with the kingdom's arbitress--Dame Catherine de Salisbury, whom King
Edward, third of that name to reign in Britain, and now warring in
France, very notoriously adored and obeyed.
This king, indeed, had been despatched into France chiefly, they
narrate, to release the Countess' husband, William de Montacute, from
the French prison of the Chatelet. You may appraise her dominion by
this fact: chaste and shrewd, she had denied all to King Edward, and
in consequence he could deny her nothing; so she sent him to fetch
back her husband, whom she almost loved. That armament had sailed from
Southampton on Saint George's day.
These two women, then, shared the Brabanter's execrable news. Already
Northumberland, Westmoreland, and Durham were the broken meats of King
The Countess presently exclaimed: "Let them weep for this that must!
My place is not here."
Philippa said, half hopefully, "Do you forsake Sire Edward,
"Madame and Queen," the Countess answered, "in this world every man
must scratch his own back. My lord has entrusted to me his castle of
Wark, his fiefs in Northumberland. These, I hear, are being laid
waste. Were there a thousand men-at-arms left in England I would say
fight. As it is, our men are yonder in France and the island is
defenceless. Accordingly I ride for the north to make what terms I may
with the King of Scots."
Now you might have seen the Queen's eye brighten. "Undoubtedly," said
she, "in her lord's absence it is the wife's part to defend his
belongings. And my lord's fief is England. I bid you God-speed,
Catherine." And when the Countess was gone, Philippa turned, her round
face somewhat dazed and flushed. "She betrays him! she compounds with
the Scot! Mother of Christ, let me not fail!"
"A ship must be despatched to bid Sire Edward return," said the
secretary. "Otherwise all England is lost."
"Not so, John Copeland! We must let Sire Edward complete his
overrunning of France, if such be the Trinity's will. You know
perfectly well that he has always had a fancy to conquer France; and
if I bade him return now he would be vexed."
"The disappointment of the King," John Copeland considered, "is a
smaller evil than allowing all of us to be butchered."
"Not to me, John Copeland," the Queen said.
Now came many lords into the chamber, seeking Madame Philippa. "We
must make peace with the Scottish rascal!--England is lost!--A ship
must be sent entreating succor of Sire Edward!" So they shouted.
"Messieurs," said Queen Philippa, "who commands here? Am I, then, some
woman of the town?"
Ensued a sudden silence. John Copeland, standing by the seaward
window, had picked up a lute and was fingering the instrument
half-idly. Now the Marquess of Hastings stepped from the throng.
"Pardon, Highness. But the occasion is urgent."
"The occasion is very urgent, my lord," the Queen assented, deep in
John Copeland flung back his head and without prelude began to carol
Sang John Copeland:
"There are taller lads than Atys,
And many are wiser than he,--
How should I heed them?--whose fate is
Ever to serve and to be
Ever the lover of Atys,
And die that Atys may dine,
Live if he need me--Then heed me,
And speed me, (the moment is thine!)
And let the heart of Atys,
At last, at last, be mine!
"Fair is the form unbeholden,
And golden the glory of thee
Whose voice is the voice of a vision
Whose face is the foam of the sea,
And the fall of whose feet is the flutter
Of breezes in birches and pine,
When thou drawest near me, to hear me,
And cheer me, (the moment is thine!)
And let the heart of Atys,
At last, at last, be mine!"
I must tell you that the Queen shivered, as if with extreme cold. She
gazed toward John Copeland wonderingly. The secretary was fretting at
his lutestrings, with his head downcast. Then in a while the Queen
turned to Hastings.
"The occasion is very urgent, my lord," the Queen assented. "Therefore
it is my will that to-morrow one and all your men be mustered at
Blackheath. We will take the field without delay against the King of
The riot began anew. "Madness!" they shouted; "lunar madness! We can
do nothing until our King returns with our army!"
"In his absence," the Queen said, "I command here."
"You are not Regent," the Marquess answered. Then he cried, "This is
the Regent's affair!"
"Let the Regent be fetched," Dame Philippa said, very quietly. They
brought in her son, Messire Lionel, now a boy of eight years, and, in
the King's absence, Regent of England.
Both the Queen and the Marquess held papers. "Highness," Lord Hastings
began, "for reasons of state which I lack time to explain, this
document requires your signature. It is an order that a ship be
despatched to ask the King's return. Your Highness may remember the
pony you admired yesterday?" The Marquess smiled ingratiatingly. "Just
here, your Highness--a crossmark."
"The dappled one?" said the Regent; "and all for making a little
mark?" The boy jumped for the pen.
"Lionel," said the Queen, "you are Regent of England, but you are also
my son. If you sign that paper you will beyond doubt get the pony, but
you will not, I think, care to ride him. You will not care to sit down
at all, Lionel."
The Regent considered. "Thank you very much, my lord," he said in the
ultimate, "but I do not like ponies any more. Do I sign here, Mother?"
Philippa handed the Marquess a subscribed order to muster the English
forces at Blackheath; then another, closing the English ports. "My
lords," the Queen said, "this boy is the King's vicar. In defying him,
you defy the King. Yes, Lionel, you have fairly earned a pot of jam
Then Hastings went away without speaking. That night assembled at his
lodgings, by appointment, Viscount Heringaud, Adam Frere, the Marquess
of Orme, Lord Stourton, the Earls of Neville and Gage, and Sir Thomas
Rokeby. These seven found a long table there littered with pens and
parchment; to the rear of it, with a lackey behind him, sat the
Marquess of Hastings, meditative over a cup of Bordeaux.
Presently Hastings said: "My friends, in creating our womankind the
Maker of us all was beyond doubt actuated by laudable and cogent
reasons; so that I can merely lament my inability to fathom these
reasons. I shall obey the Queen faithfully, since if I did otherwise
Sire Edward would have my head off within a day of his return. In
consequence, I do not consider it convenient to oppose his vicar.
To-morrow I shall assemble the tatters of troops which remain to us,
and to-morrow we march northward to inevitable defeat. To-night I am
sending a courier into Northumberland. He is an obliging person, and
would convey--to cite an instance--eight letters quite as blithely as
Each man glanced furtively about. England was in a panic by this, and
knew itself to lie before the Bruce defenceless. The all-powerful
Countess of Salisbury had compounded with King David; now Hastings,
too, their generalissimo, compounded. What the devil! loyalty was a
sonorous word, and so was patriotism, but, after all, one had estates
in the north.
The seven wrote in silence. I must tell you that when they had ended,
Hastings gathered the letters into a heap, and without glancing at the
superscriptures, handed all these letters to the attendant lackey.
"For the courier," he said.
The fellow left the apartment. Presently you heard a departing clatter
of hoofs, and Hastings rose. He was a gaunt, terrible old man,
gray-bearded, and having high eyebrows that twitched and jerked.
"We have saved our precious skins," said he. "Hey, you fidgeters, you
ferments of sour offal! I commend your common-sense, messieurs, and I
request you to withdraw. Even a damned rogue such as I has need of a
cleaner atmosphere in order to breathe comfortably." The seven went
away without further speech.
They narrate that next day the troops marched for Durham, where the
Queen took up her quarters. The Bruce had pillaged and burned his way
to a place called Beaurepair, within three miles of the city. He sent
word to the Queen that if her men were willing to come forth from the
town he would abide and give them battle.
She replied that she accepted his offer, and that the barons would
gladly risk their lives for the realm of their lord the King. The
Bruce grinned and kept silence, since he had in his pocket letters
from most of them protesting they would do nothing of the sort.
Here is comedy. On one side you have a horde of half-naked savages, a
shrewd master holding them in leash till the moment be auspicious; on
the other, a housewife at the head of a tiny force lieutenanted by
perjurers, by men already purchased. God knows what dreams she had of
miraculous victories, while her barons trafficked in secret with the
Bruce. It is recorded that, on the Saturday before Michaelmas, when
the opposing armies marshalled in the Bishop's Park, at Auckland, not
a captain on either side believed the day to be pregnant with battle.
There would be a decent counterfeit of resistance; afterward the
little English army would vanish pell-mell, and the Bruce would be
master of the island. The farce was prearranged, the actors therein
That morning at daybreak John Copeland came to the Queen's tent, and
informed her quite explicitly how matters stood. He had been drinking
overnight with Adam Frere and the Earl of Gage, and after the third
bottle had found them candid. "Madame and Queen, we are betrayed. The
Marquess of Hastings, our commander, is inexplicably smitten with a
fever. He will not fight to-day. Not one of your lords will fight
to-day." Master Copeland laid bare such part of the scheme as
yesterday's conviviality had made familiar. "Therefore I counsel
retreat. Let the King be summoned out of France."
Queen Philippa shook her head, as she cut up squares of toast and
dipped them in milk for the Regent's breakfast. "Sire Edward would be
vexed. He has always wanted to conquer France. I shall visit the
Marquess as soon as Lionel is fed,--do you know, John Copeland, I am
anxious about Lionel; he is irritable and coughed five times during
the night,--and then I will attend to this affair."
She found the Marquess in bed, groaning, the coverlet pulled up to his
chin. "Pardon, Highness," said Lord Hastings, "but I am an ill man. I
cannot rise from this couch."
"I do not question the gravity of your disorder," the Queen retorted,
"since it is well known that the same illness brought about the death
of Iscariot. Nevertheless, I bid you get up and lead our troops
against the Scot."
Now the hand of the Marquess veiled his countenance. "I am an ill
man," he muttered, doggedly. "I cannot rise from this couch."
There was a silence.
"My lord," the Queen presently began, "without is an army
prepared--yes, and quite able--to defend our England. The one
requirement of this army is a leader. Afford them that, my lord--ah, I
know that our peers are sold to the Bruce, yet our yeomen at least are
honest. Give them, then, a leader, and they cannot but conquer, since
God also is honest and incorruptible. Pardieu! a woman might lead
these men, and lead them to victory!"
Hastings answered: "I am ill. I cannot rise from this couch."
"There is no man left in England," said the Queen, "since Sire Edward
went into France. Praise God, I am his wife!" She went away without
Through the tent-flap Hastings beheld all that which followed. The
English force was marshalled in four divisions, each commanded by a
bishop and a baron. You could see the men fidgeting, puzzled by the
delay; as a wind goes about a corn-field, vague rumors were going
about those wavering spears. Toward them rode Philippa, upon a white
palfrey, alone and perfectly tranquil. Her eight lieutenants were now
gathered about her in voluble protestation, and she heard them out.
Afterward she spoke, without any particular violence, as one might
order a strange cur from his room. Then the Queen rode on, as though
these eight declaiming persons had ceased to be of interest. She
reined up before her standard-bearer, and took the standard in her
hand. She began again to speak, and immediately the army was in an
uproar; the barons were clustering behind her, in stealthy groups of
two or three whisperers each; all were in the greatest amazement and
knew not what to do; but the army was shouting the Queen's name.
"Now is England shamed," said Hastings, "since a woman alone dares to
encounter the Scot. She will lead them into battle--and by God! there
is no braver person under heaven than yonder Dutch Frau! Friend David,
I perceive that your venture is lost, for those men would follow her
to storm hell if she desired it."
He meditated, and shrugged. "And so would I," said Hastings.
A little afterward a gaunt and haggard old man, bareheaded and very
hastily dressed, reined his horse by the Queen's side. "Madame and
Queen," said Hastings, "I rejoice that my recent illness is departed.
I shall, by God's grace, on this day drive the Bruce from England."
Philippa was not given to verbiage. Doubtless she had her emotions,
but none was visible upon the honest face. She rested one plump hand
upon the big-veined hand of Hastings. That was all. "I welcome back
the gallant gentleman of yesterday. I was about to lead your army, my
friend, since there was no one else to do it, but I was hideously
afraid. At bottom every woman is a coward."
"You were afraid to do it," said the Marquess, "but you were going to
do it, because there was no one else to do it! Ho, madame! had I an
army of such cowards I would drive the Scot not past the Border but
beyond the Orkneys."
The Queen then said, "But you are unarmed."
"Highness," he replied, "it is surely apparent that I, who have played
the traitor to two monarchs within the same day, cannot with either
decency or comfort survive that day." He turned upon the lords and
bishops twittering about his horse's tail. "You merchandise, get back
to your stations, and if there was ever an honest woman in any of your
families, the which I doubt, contrive to get yourselves killed this
day, as I mean to do, in the cause of the honestest and bravest woman
our time has known." Immediately the English forces marched toward
Philippa returned to her pavilion and inquired for John Copeland. She
was informed that he had ridden off, armed, in company with five of
her immediate retainers. She considered this strange, but made no
You picture her, perhaps, as spending the morning in prayer, in
beatings upon her breast, and in lamentations. Philippa did nothing of
the sort. She considered her cause to be so clamantly just that to
expatiate to the Holy Father upon its merits would be an impertinence;
it was not conceivable that He would fail her; and in any event, she
had in hand a deal of sewing which required immediate attention.
Accordingly she settled down to her needlework, while the Regent of
England leaned his head against her knee, and his mother told him that
ageless tale of Lord Huon, who in a wood near Babylon encountered the
King of Faery, and subsequently bereaved an atrocious Emir of his
beard and daughter. All this the industrious woman narrated in a low
and pleasant voice, while the wide-eyed Regent attended and at the
proper intervals gulped his cough-mixture.
You must know that about noon Master John Copeland came into the tent.
"We have conquered," he said. "Now, by the Face!"--thus, scoffingly,
he used her husband's favorite oath,--"now, by the Face! there was
never a victory more complete! The Scottish army is fled, it is as
utterly dispersed from man's seeing as are the sands which dried the
letters King Ahasuerus gave the admirable Esther!"
"I rejoice," the Queen said, looking up from her sewing, "that we have
conquered, though in nature I expected nothing else--Oh, horrible!"
She sprang to her feet with a cry of anguish. Here in little you have
the entire woman; the victory of her armament was to her a thing of
course, since her cause was just, whereas the loss of two front teeth
by John Copeland was a calamity.
He drew her toward the tent-flap, which he opened. Without was a
mounted knight, in full panoply, his arms bound behind him, surrounded
by the Queen's five retainers. "In the rout I took him," said John
Copeland; "though, as my mouth witnesses, I did not find this David
Bruce a tractable prisoner."
"Is that, then, the King of Scots?" Philippa demanded, as she mixed
salt and water for a mouthwash. "Sire Edward should be pleased, I
think. Will he not love me a little now, John Copeland?"
John Copeland lifted both plump hands toward his lips. "He could not
choose," John Copeland said; "madame, he could no more choose but love
you than I could choose."
Philippa sighed. Afterward she bade John Copeland rinse his gums and
then take his prisoner to Hastings. He told her the Marquess was dead,
slain by the Knight of Liddesdale. "That is a pity," the Queen said.
She reflected a while, reached her decision. "There is left alive in
England but one man to whom I dare entrust the keeping of the King of
Scots. My barons are sold to him; if I retain Messire David by me, one
or another lord will engineer his escape within the week, and Sire
Edward will be vexed. Yet listen, John--" She unfolded her plan.
"I have long known," he said, when she had done, "that in all the
world there was no lady more lovable. Twenty years I have loved you,
my Queen, and yet it is only to-day I perceive that in all the world
there is no lady more wise than you."
Philippa touched his cheek, maternally. "Foolish boy! You tell me the
King of Scots has an arrow-wound in his nose? I think a bread poultice
would be best." She told him how to make this poultice, and gave other
instructions. Then John Copeland left the tent and presently rode away
with his company.
Philippa saw that the Regent had his dinner, and afterward mounted her
white palfrey and set out for the battle-field. There the Earl of
Neville, as second in command, received her with great courtesy. God
had shown to her Majesty's servants most singular favor: despite the
calculations of reasonable men,--to which, she might remember, he had
that morning taken the liberty to assent,--some fifteen thousand Scots
were slain. True, her gallant general was no longer extant, though
this was scarcely astounding when one considered the fact that he had
voluntarily entered the melee quite unarmed. A touch of age, perhaps;
Hastings was always an eccentric man: in any event, as epilogue, this
Neville congratulated the Queen that--by blind luck, he was forced to
concede,--her worthy secretary had made a prisoner of the Scottish
King. Doubtless, Master Copeland was an estimable scribe, and yet--Ah,
yes, Lord Neville quite followed her Majesty--beyond doubt, the
wardage of a king was an honor not lightly to be conferred. Oh, yes,
he understood; her Majesty desired that the office should be given
some person of rank. And pardie! her Majesty was in the right. Eh?
said the Earl of Neville.
Intently gazing into the man's shallow eyes, Philippa assented. Master
Copeland had acted unwarrantably in riding off with his captive. Let
him be sought at once. She dictated to Neville's secretary a letter,
which informed John Copeland that he had done what was not agreeable
in purloining her prisoner. Let him without delay deliver the King to
her good friend the Earl of Neville.
To Neville this was satisfactory, since he intended that once in his
possession David Bruce should escape forthwith. The letter, I repeat,
suited this smirking gentleman in its tiniest syllable, and the single
difficulty was to convey it to John Copeland, for as to his
whereabouts neither Neville nor any one else had the least notion.
This was immaterial, however, for they narrate that next day a letter
signed with John Copeland's name was found pinned to the front of
Neville's tent. I cite a passage therefrom: "I will not give up my
royal prisoner to a woman or a child, but only to my own lord, Sire
Edward, for to him I have sworn allegiance, and not to any woman. Yet
you may tell the Queen she may depend on my taking excellent care of
King David. I have poulticed his nose, as she directed."
Here was a nonplus, not without its comical side. Two great realms had
met in battle, and the king of one of them had vanished like a
soap-bubble. Philippa was in a rage,--you could see that both by her
demeanor and by the indignant letters she dictated; true, none of
these letters could be delivered, since they were all addressed to
John Copeland. Meanwhile, Scotland was in despair, whereas the traitor
English barons were in a frenzy, because they did not know what had
become of their fatal letters to the Bruce, or of him either. The
circumstances were unique, and they remained unchanged for three
We will now return to affairs in France, where on the day of the
Nativity, as night gathered about Calais, John Copeland came
unheralded to the quarters of King Edward, then besieging that city.
Master Copeland entreated audience, and got it readily enough, since
there was no man alive whom Sire Edward more cordially desired to lay
his fingers upon.
A page brought Master Copeland to the King, that stupendous, blond and
incredibly big person. With Sire Edward were that careful Italian,
Almerigo di Pavia, who afterward betrayed Sire Edward, and a lean
soldier whom Master Copeland recognized as John Chandos. These three
were drawing up an account of the recent victory at Creci, to be
forwarded to all mayors and sheriffs in England, with a cogent
postscript as to the King's incidental and immediate need of money.
Now King Edward sat leaning far back in his chair, a hand on either
hip, and with his eyes narrowing as he regarded Master Copeland. Had
the Brabanter flinched, the King would probably have hanged him within
the next ten minutes; finding his gaze unwavering, the King was
pleased. Here was a novelty; most people blinked quite honestly under
the scrutiny of those fierce big eyes, which were blue and cold and of
an astounding lustre. The lid of the left eye drooped a little: this
was Count Manuel's legacy, they whispered.
The King rose with a jerk and took John Copeland's hand. "Ha!" he
grunted, "I welcome the squire who by his valor has captured the King
of Scots. And now, my man, what have you done with Davie?"
John Copeland answered: "Highness, you may find him at your
convenience safely locked in Bamborough Castle. Meanwhile, I entreat
you, sire, do not take it amiss if I did not surrender King David to
the orders of my lady Queen, for I hold my lands of you, and not of
her, and my oath is to you, and not to her, unless indeed by choice."
"John," the King sternly replied, "the loyal service you have done us
is considerable, whereas your excuse for kidnapping Davie is a farce.
Hey, Almerigo, do you and Chandos avoid the chamber! I have something
in private with this fellow." When they had gone, the King sat down
and composedly said, "Now tell me the truth, John Copeland."
"Sire," Copeland began, "it is necessary you first understand I bear a
letter from Madame Philippa--"
"Then read it," said the King. "Heart of God! have I an eternity to
waste on you slow-dealing Brabanters!"
John Copeland read aloud, while the King trifled with a pen, half
negligent, and in part attendant.
Read John Copeland:
"My DEAR LORD,--_recommend me to your lordship with soul and body and
all my poor might, and with all this I thank you, as my dear lord,
dearest and best beloved of all earthly lords I protest to me, and
thank you, my dear lord, with all this as I say before. Your
comfortable letter came to me on Saint Gregory's day, and I was never
so glad as when I heard by your letter that ye were strong enough in
Ponthieu by the grace of God for to keep you from your enemies. Among
them I estimate Madame Catherine de Salisbury, who would have betrayed
you to the Scot. And, dear lord, if it be pleasing to your high
lordship that as soon as ye may that I might hear of your gracious
speed, which may God Almighty continue and increase, I shall be glad,
and also if ye do continue each night to chafe your feet with a rag of
woollen stuff, as your physician directed. And, my dear lord, if it
like you for to know of my fare, John Copeland will acquaint you
concerning the Bruce his capture, and the syrup he brings for our son
Lord Edward's cough, and the great malice-workers in these shires
which would have so despitefully wrought to you, and of the manner of
taking it after each meal. I am lately informed that Madame Catherine
is now at Stirling with Robert Stewart and has lost all her good looks
through a fever. God is invariably gracious to His servants. Farewell,
my dear lord, and may the Holy Trinity keep you from your adversaries
and ever send me comfortable tidings of you. Written at York, in the
Castle, on Saint Gregory's day last past, by your own poor_
_"To my true lord."_
"H'm!" said the King; "and now give me the entire story."
John Copeland obeyed. I must tell you that early in the narrative King
Edward arose and strode toward a window. "Catherine!" he said. He
remained motionless while Master Copeland went on without any manifest
emotion. When he had ended, King Edward said, "And where is Madame de
At this the Brabanter went mad. As a leopard springs he leaped upon
the King, and grasping him by each shoulder, shook that monarch as one
punishing a child.
"Now by the splendor of God--!" King Edward began, very terrible in
his wrath. He saw that John Copeland held a dagger to his breast, and
he shrugged. "Well, my man, you perceive I am defenceless."
"First you will hear me out," John Copeland said.
"It would appear," the King retorted, "that I have little choice."
At this time John Copeland began: "Sire, you are the mightiest monarch
your race has known. England is yours, France is yours, conquered
Scotland lies prostrate at your feet. To-day there is no other man in
all the world who possesses a tithe of your glory; yet twenty years
ago Madame Philippa first beheld you and loved you, an outcast, an
exiled, empty-pocketed prince. Twenty years ago the love of Madame
Philippa, great Count William's daughter, got for you the armament
with which England was regained. Twenty years ago but for Madame
Philippa you had died naked in some ditch."
"Go on," the King said presently.
"Afterward you took a fancy to reign in France. You learned then that
we Brabanters are a frugal people: Madame Philippa was wealthy when
she married you, and twenty years had quadrupled her private fortune.
She gave you every penny of it that you might fit out this expedition;
now her very crown is in pawn at Ghent. In fine, the love of Madame
Philippa gave you France as lightly as one might bestow a toy upon a
child who whined for it."
The King fiercely said, "Go on."
"Eh, sire, I intend to. You left England undefended that you might
posture a little in the eyes of Europe. And meanwhile a woman
preserves England, a woman gives you Scotland as a gift, and in return
asks nothing--God have mercy on us!--save that you nightly chafe your
feet with a bit of woollen. You hear of it--and inquire, '_Where is
Madame de Salisbury?_' Here beyond doubt is the cock of Aesop's
fable," snarled John Copeland, "who unearthed a gem and grumbled that
his diamond was not a grain of corn."
"You shall be hanged at dawn," the King replied. "Meanwhile spit out
"I say to you, then," John Copeland continued, "that to-day you are
master of Europe. I say to you that, but for this woman whom for
twenty years you have neglected, you would to-day be mouldering in some
pauper's grave. Eh, without question, you most magnanimously loved
that shrew of Salisbury! because you fancied the color of her eyes,
Sire Edward, and admired the angle between her nose and her forehead.
Minstrels unborn will sing of this great love of yours. Meantime I say
to you"--now the man's rage was monstrous--"I say to you, go home to
your too-tedious wife, the source of all your glory! sit at her feet!
and let her teach you what love is!" He flung away the dagger. "There
you have the truth. Now summon your attendants, my tres beau sire, and
have me hanged."
The King made no movement. "You have been bold--" he said at last.
"But you have been far bolder, sire. For twenty years you have dared
to flout that love which is God's noblest heritage to His children."
King Edward sat in meditation for a long while. The squinting of his
left eye was now very noticeable. "I consider my wife's clerk," he
drily said, "to discourse of love in somewhat too much the tone of a
lover." And a flush was his reward.
But when this Copeland spoke he was like one transfigured. His voice
was grave and very tender, and he said:
"As the fish have their life in the waters, so I have and always shall
have mine in love. Love made me choose and dare to emulate a lady,
long ago, through whom I live contented, without expecting any other
good. Her purity is so inestimable that I cannot say whether I derive
more pride or sorrow from its preeminence. She does not love me, and
she will never love me. She would condemn me to be hewed in fragments
sooner than permit her husband's finger to be injured. Yet she
surpasses all others so utterly that I would rather hunger in her
presence than enjoy from another all which a lover can devise."
Sire Edward stroked the table through this while, with an inverted
pen. He cleared his throat. He said, half-fretfully:
"Now, by the Face! it is not given every man to love precisely in this
troubadourish fashion. Even the most generous person cannot render to
love any more than that person happens to possess. I have read in an
old tale how the devil sat upon a cathedral spire and white doves flew
about him. Monks came and told him to begone. 'Do not the spires show
you, O son of darkness' they clamored, 'that the place is holy?' And
Satan (in this old tale) replied that these spires were capable of
various interpretations. I speak of symbols, John. Yet I also have
loved, in my own fashion,--and, it would seem, I win the same reward
The King said more lately: "And so she is at Stirling now? hobnob with
my armed enemies, and cajoling that red lecher Robert Stewart?" He
laughed, not overpleasantly. "Eh, yes, it needed a bold person to
bring all your tidings! But you Brabanters are a very thorough-going
The King rose and flung back his high head. "John, the loyal service
you have done us and our esteem for your valor are so great that they
may well serve you as an excuse. May shame fall on those who bear you
any ill-will! You will now return home, and take your prisoner, the
King of Scotland, and deliver him to my wife, to do with as she may
elect. You will convey to her my entreaty--not my orders, John,--that
she come to me here at Calais. As remuneration for this evening's
insolence, I assign lands as near your house as you can choose them to
the value of L500 a year for you and for your heirs."
You must know that John Copeland fell upon his knees before King
Edward. "Sire--" he stammered.
But the King raised him. "No, no," he said, "you are the better man.
Were there any equity in fate, John Copeland, your lady had loved you,
not me. As it is, I must strive to prove not altogether unworthy of my
fortune. But I make no large promises," he added, squinting horribly,
"because the most generous person cannot render to love any more than
that person happens to possess. So be off with you, John
Copeland,--go, my squire, and bring me back my Queen!"
Presently he heard John Copeland singing without. And through that
instant, they say, his youth returned to Edward Plantagenet, and all
the scents and shadows and faint sounds of Valenciennes on that
ancient night when a tall girl came to him, running, stumbling in her
haste to bring him kingship. "She waddles now," he thought forlornly.
"Still, I am blessed." But Copeland sang, and the Brabanter's heart
was big with joy.
Sang John Copeland:
"Long I besought thee, nor vainly,
Daughter of Water and Air--
Charis! Idalia! Hortensis!
Hast thou not heard the prayer,
When the blood stood still with loving,
And the blood in me leapt like wine,
And I cried on thy name, Melaenis?--
That heard me, (the glory is thine!)
And let the heart of Atys,
At last, at last, be mine!
"Falsely they tell of thy dying,
Thou that art older than Death,
And never the Hoerselberg hid thee,
Whatever the slanderer saith,
For the stars are as heralds forerunning,
When laughter and love combine
At twilight, in thy light, Melaenis--
That heard me, (the glory is thine!)
And let the heart of Atys,
At last, at last, be mine!"
THE END OF THE FIFTH NOVEL
THE STORY OF THE SATRAPS
"Je suis voix au desert criant
Que chascun soyt rectifiant
La voye de Sauveur; non suis,
Et accomplir je ne le puis."
THE SIXTH NOVEL.--ANNE OF BOHEMIA HAS ONE SOLE FRIEND, AND BY HIM
PLAYS THE FRIEND'S PART; AND IN DOING SO ACHIEVES THEIR COMMON
ANGUISH, AS WELL AS THE CONFUSION OF STATECRAFT AND THE POULTICING OF
A GREAT DISEASE.