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Chivalry by James Branch Cabell

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_The Story of the Satraps_

In the year of grace 1381 (Nicolas begins) was Dame Anne magnificently
fetched from remote Bohemia, and at Westminster married to Sire
Richard, the second monarch of that name to reign in England. This
king, I must tell you, had succeeded while he was yet an infant, to
the throne of his grandfather, the third King Edward, about whom I
have told you in the story preceding this.

Queen Anne had presently noted a certain priest who went forbiddingly
about her court, where he was accorded a provisional courtesy, and who
went also into many hovels, where pitiable wrecks of humankind
received his alms and ministrations.

Queen Anne made inquiries. This young cleric was amanuensis to the
Duke of Gloucester, she learned, and was notoriously a by-blow of the
Duke's brother, dead Lionel of Clarence. She sent for this Edward
Maudelain. When he came her first perception was, "How wonderful is
his likeness to the King!" while the thought's commentary ran,
unacknowledged, "Yes, as an eagle resembles a falcon!" For here, to
the observant eye, was a more zealous person, already passion-wasted,
and a far more dictatorial and stiff-necked person than the lazy and
amiable King; also, this Maudelain's face and nose were somewhat too
long and high: the priest was, in a word, the less comely of the pair
by a very little, and to an immeasurable extent the more kinglike.

"You are my cousin now, messire," the Queen told him, and innocently
offered to his lips her own.

He never moved; but their glances crossed, and for that instant she
saw the face of a man who has just stepped into a quicksand. She grew
red, without knowing why. Then he spoke, composedly, of trivial
matters.

Thus began the Queen's acquaintance with Edward Maudelain. She was by
this time the loneliest woman in the island. Her husband granted her a
bright and fresh perfection of form and color, but desiderated any
appetizing tang, and lamented, in his phrase, a certain kinship to the
impeccable loveliness of some female saint in a jaunty tapestry;
bright as ice in sunshine, just so her beauty chilled you, he
complained: moreover, this daughter of the Caesars had been fetched
into England, chiefly, to breed him children, and this she had never
done. Undoubtedly he had made a bad bargain,--he was too easy-going,
people presumed upon it. His barons snatched their cue and esteemed
Dame Anne to be negligible; whereas the clergy, finding that she
obstinately read the Scriptures in the vulgar tongue, under the
irrelevant plea of not comprehending Latin, began to denounce her from
their pulpits as a heretic and as the evil woman prophesied by
Ezekiel.

It was the nature of this desolate child to crave affection, as a
necessary, and pitifully she tried to purchase it through almsgiving.
In the attempt she could have found no coadjutor more ready than
Edward Maudelain. Giving was with these two a sort of obsession,
though always he gave in a half scorn of his fellow creatures which
was not more than half concealed. This bastard was charitable and
pious because he knew his soul, conceived in double sin, to be doubly
evil, and therefore doubly in need of redemption through good works.

Now in and about the Queen's lonely rooms the woman and the priest met
daily to discuss now this or that point of theology, or now (to cite a
single instance) Gammer Tudway's obstinate sciatica. Considerate
persons found something of the pathetic in their preoccupation by
these matters while, so clamantly, the dissension between the young
King and his uncles gathered to a head. The King's uncles meant to
continue governing England, with the King as their ward, as long as
they could; he meant to relieve himself of this guardianship, and them
of their heads, as soon as he was able. War seemed inevitable, the air
was thick with portents; and was this, then, an appropriate time, the
judicious demanded of high Heaven, for the Queen of imperilled England
to concern herself about a peasant's toothache?

Long afterward was Edward Maudelain to remember this quiet and amiable
period of his life, and to wonder over the man that he had been
through this queer while. Embittered and suspicious she had found him,
noted for the carping tongue he lacked both power and inclination to
bridle; and she had, against his nature, made Maudelain see that every
person is at bottom lovable, and that human vices are but the stains
of a traveller midway in a dusty journey; and had incited the priest
no longer to do good for his soul's health, but simply for his
fellow's benefit.

In place of that monstrous passion which had at first view of her
possessed the priest, now, like a sheltered taper, glowed an adoration
which made him yearn, in defiance of common-sense, to suffer somehow
for this beautiful and gracious comrade; though very often pity for
her loneliness and knowledge that she dared trust no one save him
would throttle Maudelain like two assassins, and would move the
hot-blooded young man to a rapture of self-contempt and exultation.

Now Maudelain made excellent songs, it was a matter of common report.
Yet but once in their close friendship did the Queen command him to
make a song for her. This had been at Dover, about vespers, in the
starved and tiny garden overlooking the English Channel, upon which
her apartments faced; and the priest had fingered his lute for an
appreciable while before he sang, more harshly than was his custom.

Sang Maudelain:

"Ave Maria! now cry we so
That see night wake and daylight go.

"Mother and Maid, in nothing incomplete,
This night that gathers is more light and fleet
Than twilight trod alway with stumbling feet,
Agentes semper uno animo.

"Ever we touch the prize we dare not take!
Ever we know that thirst we dare not slake!
Yet ever to a dreamed-of goal we make--
Est tui coeli in palatio!

"Long, long the road, and set with many a snare;
And to how small sure knowledge are we heir
That blindly tread, with twilight everywhere!
Volo in toto; sed non valeo!

"Long, long the road, and very frail are we
That may not lightly curb mortality,
Nor lightly tread together steadfastly,
Et parvum carmen unum facio:

"Mater, ora filium,
Ut post hoc exilium
Nobis donet gaudium
Beatorum omnium!"

Dame Anne had risen. She said nothing. She stayed in this posture for
a lengthy while, one hand yet clasping each breast. Then she laughed,
and began to speak of Long Simon's recent fever. Was there no method
of establishing him in another cottage? No, the priest said, the
peasants, like the cattle, were always deeded with the land, and Simon
could not lawfully be taken away from his owner.

One day, about the hour of prime, in that season of the year when
fields smell of young grass, the Duke of Gloucester sent for Edward
Maudelain. The court was then at Windsor. The priest came quickly to
his patron. He found the Duke in company with the King's other uncle
Edmund of York and bland Harry of Derby, who was John of Gaunt's
oldest son, and in consequence the King's cousin. Each was a proud and
handsome man: Derby alone (who was afterward King of England) had
inherited the squint that distinguished this family. To-day Gloucester
was gnawing at his finger nails, big York seemed half-asleep, and the
Earl of Derby appeared patiently to await something as yet ineffably
remote.

"Sit down!" snarled Gloucester. His lean and evil countenance was that
of a tired devil. The priest obeyed, wondering that so high an honor
should be accorded him in the view of three great noblemen. Then
Gloucester said, in his sharp way: "Edward, you know, as England
knows, the King's intention toward us three and our adherents. It has
come to our demolishment or his. I confess a preference in the matter.
I have consulted with the Pope concerning the advisability of taking
the crown into my own hands. Edmund here does not want it, and my
brother John is already achieving one in Spain. Eh, in imagination I
was already King of England, and I had dreamed--Well! to-day the
prosaic courier arrived. Urban--the Neapolitan swine!--dares give me
no assistance. It is decreed I shall never reign in these islands. And
I had dreamed--Meanwhile, de Vere and de la Pole are at the King day
and night, urging revolt. As matters go, within a week or two, the
three heads before you will be embellishing Temple Bar. You, of
course, they will only hang."

"We must avoid England, then, my noble patron," the priest considered.

Angrily the Duke struck a clenched fist upon the table. "By the Cross!
we remain in England, you and I and all of us. Others avoid. The Pope
and the Emperor will have none of me. They plead for the Black
Prince's heir, for the legitimate heir. Dompnedex! they shall have
him!"

Maudelain recoiled, for he thought this twitching man insane.

"Besides, the King intends to take from me my fief at Sudbury," said
the Duke of York, "in order to give it to de Vere. That is both absurd
and monstrous and abominable."

Openly Gloucester sneered. "Listen!" he rapped out toward Maudelain;
"when they were drawing up the Great Peace at Bretigny, it happened,
as is notorious, that the Black Prince, my brother, wooed in this town
the Demoiselle Alixe Riczi, whom in the outcome he abducted. It is not
so generally known, however, that, finding this sister of the Vicomte
de Montbrison a girl of obdurate virtue, my brother had prefaced the
action by marriage."

"And what have I to do with all this?" said Edward Maudelain.

Gloucester retorted: "More than you think. For this Alixe was conveyed
to Chertsey, here in England, where at the year's end she died in
childbirth. A little before this time had Sir Thomas Holland seen his
last day,--the husband of that Joane of Kent whom throughout life my
brother loved most marvellously. The disposition of the late
Queen-Mother is tolerably well known. I make no comment save that to
her moulding my brother was as so much wax. In fine, the two lovers
were presently married, and their son reigns to-day in England. The
abandoned son of Alixe Riczi was reared by the Cistercians at
Chertsey, where some years ago I found you."

He spoke with a stifled voice, wrenching forth each sentence; and now
with a stiff forefinger flipped a paper across the table. "_In
extremis_ my brother did more than confess. He signed,--your Majesty,"
said Gloucester. The Duke on a sudden flung out his hands, like a
wizard whose necromancy fails, and the palms were bloodied where his
nails had cut the flesh.

"Moreover, my daughter was born at Sudbury," said the Duke of York.

And of Maudelain's face I cannot tell you. He made pretence to read
the paper carefully, but his eyes roved, and he knew that he stood
among wolves. The room was oddly shaped, with eight equal sides: the
ceiling was of a light and brilliant blue, powdered with many golden
stars, and the walls were hung with smart tapestries which
commemorated the exploits of Theseus. "Then I am King," this Maudelain
said aloud, "of France and England, and Lord of Ireland, and Duke of
Aquitaine! I perceive that Heaven loves a jest." He wheeled upon
Gloucester and spoke with singular irrelevance, "And what is to be
done with the present Queen?"

Again the Duke shrugged. "I had not thought of the dumb wench. We have
many convents."

Now Maudelain twisted the paper between his long, wet fingers and
appeared to meditate.

"It would be advisable, your Grace," observed the Earl of Derby,
suavely, and breaking his silence for the first time, "that you
yourself should wed Dame Anne, once the Apostolic See has granted the
necessary dispensation. Treading too close upon the fighting requisite
to bring about the dethronement and death of our nominal lord the
so-called King, a war with Bohemia, which would be only too apt to
follow this noble lady's assassination, would be highly inconvenient,
and, lacking that, we would have to pay back her dowry."

Then these three princes rose and knelt before the priest; they were
clad in long bright garments, and they glittered with gold and many
jewels. He standing among them shuddered in his sombre robe. "Hail,
King of England!" cried these three.

"Hail, ye that are my kinsmen!" he answered; "hail, ye that spring of
an accursed race, as I! And woe to England for that hour wherein
Manuel of Poictesme held traffic with the Sorceress of Provence, and
the devil's son begot an heir for England! Of ice and of lust and of
hell-fire are all we sprung; old records attest it; and fickle and
cold and ravenous and without shame are all our race until the end. Of
your brother's dishonor ye make merchandise to-day, and to-day
fratricide whispers me, and leers, and, Heaven help me! I attend. O
God of Gods! wilt Thou dare bid a man live stainless, having aforetime
filled his veins with such a venom? Then haro, will I cry from Thy
deepest hell.... Oh, now let the adulterous Redeemer of Poictesme
rejoice in his tall fires, to note that his descendants know of what
wood to make a crutch! You are very wise, my kinsmen. Take your
measures, messieurs who are my kinsmen! Though were I of any other
race, with what expedition would I now kill you, I that recognize
within me the strength to do it! Then would I slay you! without any
animosity, would I slay you then, just as I would kill as many
splendid snakes!"

He went away, laughing horribly. Gloucester drummed upon the table,
his brows contracted. But the lean Duke said nothing; big York seemed
to drowse; and Henry of Derby smiled as he sounded a gong for that
scribe who would draw up the necessary letters. The Earl's time was
not yet come, but it was nearing.

In the antechamber the priest encountered two men-at-arms dragging a
dead body from the castle. The Duke of Kent, Maudelain was informed,
had taken a fancy to a peasant girl, and in remonstrance her misguided
father had actually tugged at his Grace's sleeve.

Maudelain went into the park of Windsor, where he walked for a long
while alone. It was a fine day in the middle spring; and now he seemed
to understand for the first time how fair was his England. For all
England was his fief, held in vassalage to God and to no man alive,
his heart now sang; allwhither his empire spread, opulent in grain and
metal and every revenue of the earth, and in stalwart men (his
chattels), and in strong orderly cities, where the windows would be
adorned with scarlet hangings, and women (with golden hair and red lax
lips) would presently admire as King Edward rode slowly by at the head
of a resplendent retinue. And always the King would bow, graciously
and without haste, to his shouting people.... He laughed to find
himself already at rehearsal of the gesture.

It was strange, though, that in this glorious fief of his so many
persons should, as yet, live day by day as cattle live, suspicious of
all other moving things (with reason), and roused from their incurious
and filthy apathy only when some glittering baron, like a resistless
eagle, swept uncomfortably near as he passed on some by-errand of the
more bright and windy upper-world. East and north they had gone
yearly, for so many centuries, these dumb peasants, to fight out their
master's uncomprehended quarrel, and to manure with their carcasses
the soil of France and of Scotland. Give these serfs a king, now, who
(being absolute), might dare to deal in perfect equity with rich and
poor, who with his advent would bring Peace into England as his bride,
as Trygaeus did very anciently in Athens--"And then," the priest
paraphrased, "may England recover all the blessings she has lost, and
everywhere the glitter of active steel will cease." For everywhere men
would crack a rustic jest or two, unhurriedly. Virid fields would
heave brownly under their ploughs; they would find that with practice
it was almost as easy to chuckle as it was to cringe.

Meanwhile on every side the nobles tyrannized in their degree, well
clothed and nourished, but at bottom equally comfortless in condition.
As illuminate by lightning Maudelain saw the many factions of his
barons squabbling for gross pleasures, like wolves over a corpse, and
blindly dealing death to one another to secure at least one more
delicious gulp before that inevitable mangling by the teeth of some
burlier colleague. The complete misery of England showed before
Maudelain like a winter landscape. The thing was questionless. He must
tread henceforward without fear among frenzied beasts, and to their
ultimate welfare. On a sudden Maudelain knew himself to be invincible
and fine, and hesitancy ebbed.

True, Richard, poor fool, must die. Squarely the priest faced that
stark and hideous circumstance; to spare Richard was beyond his power,
and the boy was his brother; yes, this oncoming King Edward would be a
fratricide, and after death would be irrevocably damned. To burn, and
eternally to burn, and, worst of all, to know that the torment was
eternal! ay, it would be hard; but, at the cost of Richard's ignoble
life and of Edward's inconsiderable soul, to win so many men to
manhood was not a bargain to be refused.

The tale tells that Maudelain went toward the little garden which
adjoined Dame Anne's apartments. He found the Queen there, alone, as
nowadays she was for the most part, and he paused to wonder at her
bright and singular beauty. How vaguely odd was this beauty, he
reflected, too; how alien in its effect to that of any other woman in
sturdy England, and how associable it was, somehow, with every wild
and gracious denizen of the woods which blossomed yonder.

In this place the world was all sunlight, temperate but undiluted.
They had met in a wide, unshaded plot of grass, too short to ripple,
which everywhere glowed steadily, like a gem. Right and left, birds
sang as if in a contest. The sky was cloudless, a faint and radiant
blue throughout, save where the sun stayed as yet in the zenith, so
that the Queen's brows cast honey-colored shadows upon either cheek.
The priest was greatly troubled by the proud and heatless
brilliancies, the shrill joys, of every object within the radius of
his senses.

She was splendidly clothed, in a kirtle of very bright green, tinted
like the verdancy of young ferns in sunlight, and wore over all a gown
of white, cut open on each side as far as the hips. This garment was
embroidered with golden leopards and was trimmed with ermine. About
her yellow hair was a chaplet of gold, wherein emeralds glowed. Her
blue eyes were as large and shining and changeable (he thought) as two
oceans in midsummer; and Maudelain stood motionless and seemed to
himself but to revere, as the Earl Ixion did, some bright unstable
wisp of cloud, while somehow all elation departed from him as water
does from a wetted sponge compressed. He laughed discordantly.

"Wait--! O my only friend--!" said Maudelain. Then in a level voice he
told her all, unhurriedly and without any apparent emotion.

She had breathed once, with a deep inhalation. She had screened her
countenance from his gaze the while you might have counted fifty.
Presently she said: "This means more war, for de Vere and Tressilian
and de la Pole and Bramber and others of the barons know that the
King's fall signifies their ruin. Many thousands die to-morrow."

He answered, "It means a war which will make me King of England, and
will make you my wife."

"In that war the nobles will ride abroad with banners and gay
surcoats, and will kill and ravish in the pauses of their songs; while
daily in that war the naked peasants will kill the one the other,
without knowing why."

His thought had forerun hers. "Yes, some must die, so that in the end
I may be King, and the general happiness may rest at my disposal. The
adventure of this world is wonderful, and it goes otherwise than under
the strict tutelage of reason."

"It would not be yours, but Gloucester's and his barons'. Friend, they
would set you on the throne to be their puppet and to move only as
they pulled the strings. Thwart them in their maraudings and they will
fling you aside, as the barons have pulled down every king that dared
oppose them. No, they desire to live pleasantly, to have fish on
Fridays, and white bread and the finest wine the whole year through,
and there is not enough for all, say they. Can you alone contend
against them? and conquer them? for not unless you can do this may I
dare bid you reign."

The sun had grown too bright, too merciless, but as always she drew
the truth from him. "I could not venture to oppose in anything the
barons who supported my cause: for if I did, I would not endure a
fortnight. Heaven help us, nor you nor I nor any one may transform
through any personal force this bitter world, this piercing, cruel
place of frost and sun. Charity and Truth are excommunicate, and a
king is only an adorned and fearful person who leads wolves toward
their quarry, lest, lacking it, they turn and devour him. Everywhere
the powerful labor to put one another out of worship, and each to
stand the higher with the other's corpse as his pedestal; and Lechery
and Greed and Hatred sway these proud and inconsiderate fools as winds
blow at will the gay leaves of autumn. We walk among shining vapors,
we aspire to overpass a mountain of unstable sparkling sand! We two
alone in all the scuffling world! Oh, it is horrible, and I think that
Satan plans the jest! We dream for a while of refashioning this bright
desolation, and know that we alone can do it! we are as demigods, you
and I, in those gallant dreams! and at the end we can but poultice
some dirty rascal!"

The Queen answered sadly: "Once and only once did God tread this
tangible world, for a very little while, and, look you, to what
trivial matters He devoted that brief space! Only to chat with
fishermen, and to talk with light women, and to consort with rascals,
and at last to die between two cutpurses, ignominiously! If Christ
Himself achieved so little that seemed great and admirable, how should
we two hope to do any more?"

He answered: "It is true. Of anise and of cumin the Master gets His
tithe--" Maudelain broke off with a yapping laugh. "Puf! Heaven is
wiser than we. I am King of England. It is my heritage."

"It means war. Many will die, thousands will die, and to no betterment
of affairs."

"I am King of England. I am Heaven's satrap here, and answerable to
Heaven alone. It is my heritage." And now his large and cruel eyes
were aflame as he regarded her.

And visibly beneath their glare the woman changed. "My friend, must I
not love you any longer? You would be content with happiness? Then I
am jealous of that happiness! for you are the one friend that I have
had, and so dear to me--Look you!" she said, with a light, wistful
laugh, "there have been times when I was afraid of everything you
touched, and I hated everything you looked at. I would not have you
stained; I desired to pass my whole life between the four walls of
some dingy and eternal gaol, forever alone with you, lest you become
like other men. I would in that period have been the very bread you
eat, the least perfume which delights you, the clod you touch in
crushing it, and I have often loathed some pleasure I derived from
life because I might not transfer it to you undiminished. For I wanted
somehow to make you happy to my own anguish.... It was wicked, I
suppose, for the imagining of it made me happy, too."

Now while he listened to this dear and tranquil speaking, Edward
Maudelain's raised hands had fallen like so much lead, and remembering
his own nature, he longed for annihilation, before she had appraised
his vileness. He said:

"With reason Augustine crieth out against the lust of the eyes. 'For
pleasure seeketh objects beautiful, melodious, fragrant, savory, and
soft; but this disease those contrary as well, not for the sake of
suffering annoyance, but out of the lust of making trial of them!' Ah!
ah! too curiously I planned my own damnation, too presumptuously I had
esteemed my soul a worthy scapegoat, and I had gilded my enormity with
many lies. Yet indeed, indeed, I had believed brave things, I had
planned a not ignoble bargain--! Ey, say, is it not laughable,
madame?--as my birth-right Heaven accords me a penny, and with that
only penny I must presently be seeking to bribe Heaven."

Then he said: "Yet are we indeed God's satraps, as but now I cried in
my vainglory, and we hold within our palms the destiny of many
peoples. Depardieux! God is wiser than we are. Still, Satan offers no
unhandsome bribes--bribes that are tangible and sure. For Satan, too,
is wiser than we are."

They stood like effigies, lit by the broad, unsparing splendor of the
morning, but again their kindling eyes had met, and again the man
shuddered. "Decide! oh, decide very quickly, my only friend!" he said,
"for throughout I am all filth!"

Closer she drew to him, and laid one hand upon each shoulder. "O my
only friend!" she breathed, with red lax lips which were very near to
his, "through these six years I have ranked your friendship as the
chief of all my honors! and I pray God with an entire heart that I may
die so soon as I have done what I must do to-day!"

Now Maudelain was trying to smile, but he could not quite manage it.
"God save King Richard!" said the priest. "For by the cowardice and
greed and ignorance of little men is Salomon himself confounded, and
by them is Hercules lightly unhorsed. Were I Leviathan, whose bones
were long ago picked clean by pismires, I could perform nothing
against the will of many human pismires. Therefore do you pronounce my
doom."

"O King," then said Dame Anne, "I bid you go forever from the court
and live forever a landless man, friendless, and without even any
name. Otherwise, you can in no way escape being made an instrument to
bring about the misery and death of many thousands. This doom I dare
adjudge and to pronounce, because we are royal and God's satraps, you
and I."

Twice or thrice his dry lips moved before he spoke. He was aware of
innumerable birds that carolled with a piercing and intolerable
sweetness. "O Queen!" he hoarsely said, "O fellow satrap! Heaven has
many fiefs. A fair province is wasted and accords to Heaven no
revenue. So wastes beauty, and a shrewd wit, and an illimitable
charity, which of their pride go in fetters and achieve no increase.
To-day the young King junkets with his flatterers, and but rarely
thinks of England. You have that beauty by which men are lightly
conquered, and the mere sight of which may well cause a man's voice to
tremble as my voice trembles now, and through desire of which--But I
tread afield! Of that beauty you have made no profit. O daughter of
the Caesars, I bid you now gird either loin for an unlovely traffic.
Old Legion must be fought with fire. True that the age is sick, true
that we may not cure, we can but salve the hurt--" His hand had torn
open his sombre gown, and the man's bared breast shone in the
sunlight, and on his breast heaved sleek and glittering beads of
sweat. Twice he cried the Queen's name. In a while he said: "I bid you
weave incessantly such snares of brain and body as may lure King
Richard to be swayed by you, until against his will you daily guide
this shallow-hearted fool to some commendable action. I bid you live
as other folk do hereabouts. Coax! beg! cheat! wheedle! lie!" he
barked like a teased dog, "and play the prostitute for him that wears
my crown, till you achieve in part the task which is denied me. This
doom I dare adjudge and to pronounce, because we are royal and God's
satraps, you and I."

She answered with a tiny, wordless sound. But presently, "I take my
doom," the Queen proudly said. "I shall be lonely now, my only friend,
and yet--it does not matter," the Queen said, with a little shiver.
"No, nothing will ever greatly matter now, I think, now that I may not
ever see you any more, my dearest."

Her eyes had filled with tears; she was unhappy, and, as always, this
knowledge roused in Maudelain a sort of frenzied pity and a hatred,
quite illogical, of all other things existent. She was unhappy, that
only he comprehended: and for her to be made unhappy was unjust.

So he stood thus for an appreciable silence, staying motionless save
that behind his back his fingers were bruising one another. Everywhere
was this or that bright color and an incessant melody. It was
unbearable. Then it was over; the ordered progress of all happenings
was apparent, simple, and natural; and contentment came into his heart
like a flight of linnets over level fields at dawn. He left her, and
as he went he sang.

Sang Maudelain:

"Christ save us all, as well He can,
A solis ortus cardine!
For He is both God and man,
Qui natus est de virgine,
And we but part of His wide plan
That sing, and heartily sing we,
'Gloria Tibi, Domine!'

"Between a heifer and an ass
Enixa est puerpera;
In ragged woollen clad He was
Qui regnat super aethera,
And patiently may we then pass
That sing, and heartily sing we,
'Gloria Tibi, Domine!'"

The Queen shivered in the glad sunlight. "I am, it must be, pitiably
weak," she said at last, "because I cannot sing as he does. And, since
I am not very wise, were he to return even now--But he will not
return. He will never return," the Queen repeated, carefully. "It is
strange I cannot comprehend that he will never return! Ah, Mother of
God!" she cried, with a steadier voice, "grant that I may weep! nay,
of thy infinite mercy let me presently find the heart to weep!" And
about the Queen of England many birds sang joyously.

She sent for the King that evening, after supper, and they may well
have talked of many matters, for he did not return to his own
apartments that night. Next day the English barons held a council, and
in the midst of it King Richard demanded to be told his age.

"Your Grace is in your twenty-second year," said the uneasy
Gloucester, who was now with reason troubled, since he had been vainly
seeking everywhere for the evanished Maudelain.

"Then I have been under tutors and governors longer than any other
ward in my dominion. My lords, I thank you for your past services, but
I need them no more." They had no check handy, and Gloucester in
particular foreread his death-warrant, but of necessity he shouted
with the others, "Hail, King of England!"

That afternoon the King's assumption of all royal responsibility was
commemorated by a tournament, over which Dame Anne presided. Sixty of
her ladies led as many knights by silver chains into the
tilting-grounds at Smithfield, and it was remarked that the Queen
appeared unusually mirthful. The King was in high good humor, a
pattern of conjugal devotion; and the royal pair retired at dusk to
the Bishop of London's palace at Saint Paul's, where was held a merry
banquet, with dancing both before and after supper.

THE END OF THE SIXTH NOVEL

VII

THE STORY OF THE HERITAGE

"Pour vous je suis en prison mise,
En ceste chambre a voulte grise,
Et traineray ma triste vie
Sans que jamais mon cueur varie,
Car toujours seray vostre amye."

THE SEVENTH NOVEL.--ISABEL OF VALOIS, BEING FORSAKEN BY ALL OTHERS, IS
BEFRIENDED BY A PRIEST, WHO IN CHIEF THROUGH A CHILD'S INNOCENCE,
CONTRIVES AND EXECUTES A LAUDABLE IMPOSTURE, AND WINS THEREBY TO
DEATH.

_The Story of the Heritage_

In the year of grace 1399 (Nicolas begins) dwelt in a hut near Caer
Dathyl in Arvon, as he had dwelt for some five years, a gaunt hermit,
notoriously consecrate, whom neighboring Welshmen revered as the
Blessed Evrawc. There had been a time when people called him Edward
Maudelain, but this period he dared not often remember.

For though in macerations of the flesh, in fasting, and in hour-long
prayers he spent his days, this holy man was much troubled by devils.
He got little rest because of them. Sometimes would come into his hut
Belphegor in the likeness of a butler, and whisper, "Sire, had you
been King, as was your right, you had drunk to-day not water but the
wines of Spain and Hungary." Or Asmodeus saying, "Sire, had you been
King, as was your right, you had lain now not upon the bare earth but
on cushions of silk."

One day in early spring, they say, the spirit called Orvendile sent
the likeness of a fair woman with yellow hair and large blue eyes. She
wore a massive crown which seemed too heavy for her frailness to
sustain. Soft tranquil eyes had lifted from her book. "You are my
cousin now, messire," this phantom had appeared to say.

That was the worst, and Maudelain began to fear he was a little mad
because even this he had resisted with many aves.

There came also to his hut, through a sullen snowstorm, upon the
afternoon of All Soul's day, a horseman in a long cloak of black. He
tethered his black horse and he came noiselessly through the doorway
of the hut, and upon his breast and shoulders the snow was white as
the bleached bones of those women that died in Merlin's youth.

"Greetings in God's name, Messire Edward Maudelain," the stranger
said.

Since the new-comer spoke intrepidly of holy things a cheerier
Maudelain knew that this at least was no demon. "Greetings!" he
answered. "But I am Evrawc. You name a man long dead."

"But it is from a certain Bohemian woman I come. What matter, then, if
the dead receive me?" And thus speaking, the stranger dropped his
cloak.

He was clad, as you now saw, in flame-colored satin, which shimmered
with each movement like a high flame. He had the appearance of a tall,
lean youngster, with crisp, curling, very dark red hair. He now
regarded Maudelain. He displayed peculiarly wide-set brown eyes; and
their gaze was tender, and the tears somehow had come to Maudelain's
eyes because of his great love for this tall stranger. "Eh, from the
dead to the dead I travel, as ever," said the new-comer, "with a
message and a token. My message runs, _Time is, O fellow satrap!_ and
my token is this."

In this packet, wrapped with white parchment and tied with a golden
cord, was only a lock of hair. It lay like a little yellow serpent in
Maudelain's palm. "And yet five years ago," he mused, "this hair was
turned to dust. God keep us all!" Then he saw the tall lean emissary
puffed out like a candle-flame; and upon the floor he saw the huddled
cloak waver and spread like ink, and he saw the white parchment slowly
dwindle, as snow melts under the open sun. But in his hand remained
the lock of yellow hair.

"O my only friend," said Maudelain, "I may not comprehend, but I know
that by no unhallowed art have you won back to me." Hair by hair he
scattered upon the floor that which he held. "_Time is!_ and I have
not need of any token to spur my memory." He prized up a corner of the
hearthstone, took out a small leather bag, and that day purchased a
horse and a sword.

At dawn the Blessed Evrawc rode eastward in secular apparel. Two weeks
later he came to Sunninghill; and it happened that the same morning
the Earl of Salisbury, who had excellent reason to consider ...

_Follows a lacuna of fourteen pages. Maudelain's successful imposture
of his half-brother, Richard the Second, so strangely favored by their
physical resemblance, and the subsequent fiasco at Circencester, are
now, however, tolerably well known to students of history._

_In one way or another, Maudelain contrived to take the place of his
now dethroned brother, and therewith also the punishment designed for
Richard. It would seem evident, from the Argument of the story in
hand, that Nicolas de Caen attributes a large part of this mysterious
business to the co-operancy of Isabel of Valois, King Richard's eleven
year old wife. And (should one have a taste for the deductive) the
foregoing name of Orvendile, when compared with "THE STORY OF THE
SCABBARD," would certainly hint that Owain Glyndwyr had a finger in
the affair._

_It is impossible to divine by what method, according to Nicolas, this
Edward Maudelain was substituted for his younger brother. Nicolas, if
you are to believe his "EPILOGUE," had the best of reasons for knowing
that the prisoner locked up in Pontefract Castle in the February of
1400, after Harry of Derby had seized the crown of England, was not
Richard Plantagenet: as is attested, also, by the remaining fragment
of this same_ "STORY OF THE HERITAGE."

... and eight men-at-arms followed him.

Quickly Maudelain rose from the table, pushing his tall chair aside,
and as he did this, one of the soldiers closed the door securely.
"Nay, eat your fill, Sire Richard," said Piers Exton, "since you will
not ever eat again."

"Is it so?" the trapped man answered quietly. "Then indeed you come in
a good hour." Once only he smote upon his breast. "_Mea culpa!_ O
Eternal Father, do Thou shrive me very quickly of all those sins I
have committed, both in thought and deed, for now the time is very
short."

And Exton spat upon the dusty floor. "Foh, they had told me I would
find a king here. I discover only a cat that whines."

"Then 'ware his claws!" As a viper leaps Maudelain sprang upon the
nearest fellow and wrested away his halberd. "Then 'ware his claws, my
men! For I come of an accursed race. And now let some of you lament
that hour wherein the devil's son begot an heir for England! For of
ice and of lust and of hell-fire are all we sprung; old records attest
it; and fickle and cold and ravenous and without fear are all our race
until the end. Hah, until the end! O God of Gods!" this Maudelain
cried, with a great voice, "wilt Thou dare bid a man die patiently,
having aforetime filled his veins with such a venom? For I lack the
grace to die as all Thy saints have died, without one carnal blow
struck in my own defence. I lack the grace, my Father, for even at the
last the devil's blood You gave me is not quelled. I dare atone for
that old sin done by my father in the flesh, but yet I must atone as
befits the race of Oriander!"

Then it was he and not they who pressed to the attack. Their meeting
was a bloody business, for in that dark and crowded room Maudelain
raged among his nine antagonists like an angered lion among wolves.

They struck at random and cursed shrilly, for they were now
half-afraid of this prey they had entrapped; so that presently he was
all hacked and bleeding, though as yet he had no mortal wound. Four of
these men he had killed by this time, and Piers Exton also lay at his
feet.

Then the other four drew back a little. "Are ye tired so soon?" said
Maudelain, and he laughed terribly. "What, even you! Why, look ye, my
bold veterans, I never killed before to-day, and I am not breathed as
yet."

Thus he boasted, exultant in his strength. But the other men saw that
behind him Piers Exton had crawled into the chair from which (they
thought) King Richard had just risen, and they saw Exton standing
erect in this chair, with both arms raised. They saw this Exton strike
the King with his pole-axe, from behind, once only, and they knew no
more was needed.

"By God!" said one of them in the ensuing stillness, and it was he who
bled the most, "that was a felon's blow."

But the dying man who lay before them made as though to smile. "I
charge you all to witness," he faintly said, "how willingly I render
to Caesar's daughter that which was ever hers."

Then Exton fretted, as if with a little trace of shame: "Who would
have thought the rascal had remembered that first wife of his so long?
Caesar's daughter, saith he! and dares in extremis to pervert Holy
Scripture like any Wycliffite! Well, he is as dead as that first
Caesar now, and our gracious King, I think, will sleep the better for
it. And yet--God only knows! for they are an odd race, even as he
said--these men that have old Manuel's blood in them."

THE END OF THE SEVENTH NOVEL

VIII

THE STORY OF THE SCABBARD

"Ainsi il avait trouve sa mie
Si belle qu'on put souhaiter.
N'avoit cure d'ailleurs plaider,
Fors qu'avec lui manoir et estre.
Bien est Amour puissant et maistre."

THE EIGHTH NOVEL.--BRANWEN OF WALES GETS A KING'S LOVE UNWITTINGLY,
AND IN ALL INNOCENCE CONVINCES HIM OF THE LITTLENESS OF HIS KINGDOM;
SO THAT HE BESIEGES AND IN DUE COURSE OCCUPIES ANOTHER REALM AS YET
UNMAPPED.

_The Story of the Scabbard_

In the year of grace 1400 (Nicolas begins) King Richard, the second
monarch of that name to rule in England, wrenched his own existence,
and nothing more, from the close wiles of his cousin, Harry of Derby,
who was now sometimes called Henry of Lancaster, and sometimes
Bolingbroke. The circumstances of this evasion having been recorded in
the preceding tale, it suffices here to record that this Henry was
presently crowned King of England in Richard's place. All persons,
saving only Owain Glyndwyr and Henry of Lancaster, believed King
Richard dead at that period when Richard attended his own funeral, as
a proceeding taking to the fancy, and, among many others, saw the body
of Edward Maudelain interred with every regal ceremony in the chapel
at Langley Bower. Then alone Sire Richard crossed the seas, and at
thirty-three set out to inspect a transformed and gratefully
untrammelling world wherein not a foot of land belonged to him.

Holland was the surname he assumed, the name of his half-brothers; and
to detail his Asian wanderings would be tedious and unprofitable. But
at the end of each four months would come to him a certain messenger
from Glyndwyr, supposed by Richard to be the imp Orvendile, who
notoriously ran every day around the world upon the Welshman's
business. It was in the Isle of Taprobane, where the pismires are as
great as hounds, and mine and store the gold of which the inhabitants
afterward rob them through a very cunning device, that this emissary
brought the letter which read simply, "Now is England fit pasture for
the White Hart." Presently Richard Holland was in Wales, and then he
rode to Sycharth.

There, after salutation, Glyndwyr gave an account of his long
stewardship. It was a puzzling record of obscure and tireless
machinations with which we have no immediate concern: in brief, the
barons who had ousted King Log had been the very first to find their
squinting King Stork intolerable; and Northumberland, Worcester,
Douglas, Mortimer, and so on, were already pledged and in open revolt.
"By the God I do not altogether serve," Owain ended, "you have but to
declare yourself, sire, and within the moment England is yours."

Richard spoke with narrowed eyes. "You forget that while Henry of
Lancaster lives no other man can ever hope to reign tranquilly in
these islands. Come then! the hour strikes; and we will coax the devil
for once in a way to serve God."

"Oh, but there is a boundary appointed," Glyndwyr moodily returned.
"You, too, forget that in cold blood this Henry stabbed my best-loved
son. But I do not forget this, and I have tried divers methods which
we need not speak of,--I who can at will corrupt the air, and cause
sickness and storms, raise heavy mists, and create plagues and fires
and shipwrecks; yet the life itself I cannot take. For there is a
boundary appointed, sire, and beyond that frontier the Master of our
Sabbaths cannot serve us even though he would."

Richard crossed himself. "You horribly mistake my meaning. Your
practices are your own affair, and in them I decline to dabble. I
merely design to trap a tiger with his appropriate bait. For you have
a fief at Caer Idion, I think?--Very well! I intend to herd your sheep
there, for a week or two, after the honorable example of Apollo. It is
your part to see that Henry knows I am living disguised and
defenceless at Caer Idion."

The gaunt Welshman chuckled. "Yes, squinting Henry of Lancaster would
cross the world, much less the Severn, to make quite sure of Richard's
death. He would come in his own person with at most some twenty
trustworthy followers. I will have a hundred there; and certain aging
scores will then be settled in that place." Glyndwyr meditated
afterward, very evilly. "Sire," he said without prelude, "I do not
recognize Richard of Bordeaux. You have garnered much in travelling!"

"Why, look you," Richard returned, "I have garnered so much that I do
not greatly care whether this scheme succeed or no. With age I begin
to contend even more indomitably that a wise man will consider nothing
very seriously. You barons here believe it an affair of importance who
may chance to be the King of England, say, this time next year; you
take sides between Henry and me. I tell you frankly that neither of
us, that no man in the world, by reason of innate limitations, can
ever rule otherwise than abominably, or, ruling, can create anything
save discord. Nor can I see how this matters either, since the
discomfort of an ant-village is not, after all, a planet-wrecking
disaster. No, Owain, if the planets do indeed sing together, it is,
depend upon it, to the burden of _Fools All_. For I am as liberally
endowed as most people; and when I consider my abilities, my
performances, my instincts, and so on, quite aloofly, as I would
appraise those of another person, I can only shrug: and to conceive
that common-sense, much less Omnipotence, would ever concern itself
about the actions of a creature so entirely futile is, to me at least,
impossible."

"I have known the thought," said Owain,--"though rarely since I found
the Englishwoman that was afterward my wife, and never since my son,
my Gruffyd, was murdered by a jesting man. He was more like me than
the others, people said.... You are as yet the empty scabbard,
powerless alike for help or hurt. Ey, hate or love must be the sword,
sire, that informs us here, and then, if only for a little while, we
are as gods."

"Pardie! I have loved as often as Salomon, and in fourteen kingdoms."

"We of Cymry have a saying, sire, that when a man loves par amours the
second time he may safely assume that he has never been in love at
all."

"--And I hate Henry of Lancaster as I do the devil."

"I greatly fear," said Owain with a sigh, "lest it may be your
irreparable malady to hate nothing, not even that which you dislike.
No, you consider things with both eyes open, with an unmanly
rationality: whereas Sire Henry views all matters with that heroic
squint which came into your family from Poictesme."

"Be off with your dusty scandals!" said Richard, laughing.

So then Glyndwyr rode south to besiege and burn the town of Caerdyf,
while at Caer Idion Richard Holland abode tranquilly for some three
weeks. There was in this place only Caradawc (the former shepherd),
his wife Alundyne, and their sole daughter Branwen. They gladly
perceived Sire Richard was no more a peasant than he was a curmudgeon;
as Caradawc observed: "It is perfectly apparent that the robe of
Padarn Beisrudd, which refuses to adjust itself to any save highborn
persons, would fit him as a glove does the hand; but we will ask no
questions, since it is not wholesome to dispute the orderings of Owain
Glyndwyr."

Now day by day would Richard Holland drive the flocks to pasture near
the Severn, and loll there in the shade, and make songs to his lute.
He grew to love this leisured life of bright and open spaces; and its
long solitudes, grateful with the warm odors of growing things and
with poignant bird-noises; and the tranquillity of these meadows, that
were always void of hurry, bedrugged the man through many fruitless
and contented hours.

Each day at noon Branwen would bring his dinner, and she would
sometimes chat with him while he ate. After supper he would discourse
to Branwen of remote kingdoms, through which, as aimlessly as a wind
veers, he had ridden at adventure, among sedate and alien peoples who
adjudged him a madman; and she, in turn, would tell him curious tales
from the _Red Book of Hergest_,--telling of Gwalchmai, and Peredur,
and Geraint, in each one of which fine heroes she had presently
discerned an inadequate forerunnership of Richard's existence.

This Branwen was a fair wench, slender and hardy. She had the bold
demeanor of a child who is ignorant of evil and in consequence of
suspicion. Happily, though, had she been named for that unhappy lady
of old, the wife of King Matholwch, for this Branwen, too, had a
white, thin, wistful face, like that of an empress on a silver coin
which is a little worn. Her eyes were large and brilliant, colored
like clear emeralds, and her abundant hair was so much cornfloss, only
it was more brightly yellow and was of immeasurably finer texture. In
full sunlight her cheeks were frosted like the surface of a peach, but
the underlying cool pink of them was rather that of a cloud just after
sunset, Richard decided. In all, a taking morsel! though her shapely
hands were hard with labor, and she rarely laughed; for, as if in
recompense, her heart was tender, and she rarely ceased to smile as
though she were thinking of some peculiar and wonderful secret which
she intended, in due time, to share with you and with nobody else.
Branwen had many lovers, and preferred among them young Gwyllem ap
Llyr, a portly lad, who was handsome enough, though he had tiny and
piggish eyes, and who sang divinely.

One day this Gwyllem came to Richard with two quarter-staves. "Saxon,"
he said, "you appear a stout man. Take your pick of these, then, and
have at you."

"Such are not the weapons I would have named," Richard answered: "yet
in reason, Messire Gwyllem, I can deny you nothing that means nothing
to me."

With that they laid aside their coats and fell to exercise. In these
unaccustomed bouts Richard was soundly drubbed, as he had anticipated,
but he found himself the stronger man of the two, and he managed
somehow to avoid an absolute overthrow. By what method he contrived
this he never ascertained.

"I have forgotten what we are fighting about," he observed, after ten
minutes of heroic thumps and hangings; "or, to be perfectly exact, I
never knew. But we will fight no more in this place. Come and go with
me to Welshpool, Messire Gwyllem, and there we will fight to a
conclusion over good sack and claret."

"Content!" cried Gwyllem; "but only if you yield me Branwen."

"Have we indeed wasted a whole half-hour in squabbling over a woman?"
Richard demanded; "like two children in a worldwide toyshop over any
one particular toy? Then devil take me if I am not heartily ashamed of
my folly! Though, look you, Gwyllem, I would speak naught save
commendation of these delicate and livelily-tinted creatures so long
as one is able to approach them in a becoming spirit of levity: it is
only their not infrequent misuse which I would condemn; and in my
opinion the person who elects to build a shrine for any one of them
has only himself to blame if his chosen goddess will accept no
burnt-offering except his honor and happiness. Yet since time's youth
have many fine men been addicted to this insane practice, as, for
example, were Hercules and Merlin to their illimitable sorrow; and,
indeed, the more I reconsider the old gallantries of Salomon, and of
other venerable and sagacious potentates, the more profoundly am I
ashamed of my sex."

Gwyllem said: "This lazy gabbling of yours is all very fine. Perhaps
it is also reasonable. Only when you love you do not reason."

"I was endeavoring to prove that," said Richard gently. Then they went
to Welshpool, ride and tie on Gwyllem's horse. Tongue loosened by the
claret, Gwyllem raved aloud of Branwen, like a babbling faun, while to
each rapture Richard affably assented. In his heart he likened the boy
to Dionysos at Naxos, and could find no blame for Ariadne. Moreover,
the room was comfortably dark and cool, for thick vines hung about the
windows, rustling and tapping pleasantly, and Richard was content.

"She does not love me?" Gwyllem cried. "It is well enough. I do not
come to her as one merchant to another, since love was never bartered.
Listen, Saxon!" He caught up Richard's lute. The strings shrieked
beneath Gwyllem's fingers as he fashioned his rude song.

Sang Gwyllem:

"Love me or love me not, it is enough
That I have loved you, seeing my whole life is
Uplifted and made glad by the glory of Love,--
My life that was a scroll bescrawled and blurred
With tavern-catches, which that pity of his
Erased, and wrote instead one lonely word,
O Branwen!

"I have accorded you incessant praise
And song and service, dear, because of this;
And always I have dreamed incessantly
Who always dreamed, when in oncoming days
This man or that shall love you, and at last
This man or that shall win you, it must be
That, loving him, you will have pity on me
When happiness engenders memory
And long thoughts, nor unkindly, of the past,
O Branwen!

"Of this I know not surely, who am sure
That I shall always love you while I live,
And that, when I am dead, with naught to give
Of song or service, Love will yet endure,
And yet retain his last prerogative,
When I lie still, and sleep out centuries,
With dreams of you and the exceeding love
I bore you, and am glad dreaming thereof,
And give God thanks for all, and so find peace,
O Branwen!"

"Now, were I to get as tipsy as that," Richard enviously thought,
midway in a return to his stolid sheep, "I would simply go to sleep
and wake up with a headache. And were I to fall as many fathoms deep
in love as this Gwyllem ventures, or, rather, as he hurls himself with
a splurge, I would perform--I wonder, now, what miracle?"

For he was, though vaguely, discontent. This Gwyllem was so young, so
earnest over every trifle, and above all, was so untroubled by
forethought: each least desire controlled him, as varying winds sport
with a fallen leaf, whose frank submission to superior vagaries the
boy appeared to emulate. Richard saw that in a fashion Gwyllem was
superb. "And heigho!" said Richard, "I am attestedly a greater fool
than he, but I begin to weary of a folly so thin-blooded."

The next morning came a ragged man, riding upon a mule. He declared
himself a tinker. He chatted out an hour with Richard, who perfectly
recognized him as Sir Walter Blount; and then this tinker crossed over
into England.

Richard whistled. "Now my cousin will be quite sure, and now my
anxious cousin will come to speak with Richard of Bordeaux. And now,
by every saint in the calendar! I am as good as King of England."

He sat down beneath a young oak and twisted four or five blades of
grass between his fingers while he meditated. Undoubtedly he would
kill this squinting Henry of Lancaster with a clear conscience and
even with a certain relish, much as one crushes the uglier sort of
vermin, but, hand upon heart, Richard was unable to avow any
particularly ardent desire for the scoundrel's death. Thus crudely to
demolish the knave's adroit and year-long schemings savored actually
of grossness. The spider was venomous, and his destruction laudable;
granted, but in crushing him you ruined his web, a miracle of patient
machination, which, despite yourself, compelled hearty admiring and
envy. True, the process would recrown a certain Richard, but then, as
Richard recalled it, being King was rather tedious. Richard was not
now quite sure that he wanted to be King, and, in consequence, be
daily plagued by a host of vexatious and ever-squabbling barons. "I
shall miss the little huzzy, too," he thought.

"Heigho!" said Richard, "I shall console myself with purchasing all
beautiful things that can be touched and handled. Life is a flimsy
vapor which passes and is not any more: presently Branwen will be
married to this Gwyllem and will be grown fat and old, and I shall be
remarried to little Dame Isabel, and shall be King of England: and a
trifle later all four of us shall be dead. Pending this deplorable
consummation a wise man will endeavor to amuse himself."

Next day he despatched Caradawc to Owain Glyndwyr to bid the latter
send the promised implements to Caer Idion. Richard, returning to the
hut the same evening, found Alundyne there, alone, and grovelling at
the threshold. Her forehead was bloodied when she raised it and
through tearless sobs told of what had happened. A half-hour earlier,
while she and Branwen were intent upon their milking, Gwyllem had
ridden up, somewhat the worse for liquor. Branwen had called him sot,
had bidden him go home. "That I will do," said Gwyllem and suddenly
caught up the girl. Alundyne sprang for him, and with clenched fist
Gwyllem struck her twice full in the face, and laughing, rode away
with Branwen.

Richard made no observation. In silence he fetched his horse, and did
not pause to saddle it. Quickly he rode to Gwyllem's house, and broke
in the door. Against the farther wall stood lithe Branwen fighting
silently: her breasts and shoulders were naked, where Gwyllem had torn
away her garments. He wheedled, laughed, swore, and hiccoughed, turn
by turn, but she was silent.

"On guard!" Richard barked. Gwyllem wheeled. His head twisted toward
his left shoulder, and one corner of his mouth convulsively snapped
upward, so that his teeth were bared. There was a knife at Richard's
girdle, which he now unsheathed and flung away. He stepped eagerly
toward the snarling Welshman, and with both hands seized the thick and
hairy throat. What followed was brutal.

For many minutes Branwen stood with averted face, shuddering. She very
dimly heard the sound of Gwyllem's impotent fists as they beat against
the countenance and body of Richard, and heard the thin splitting
vicious noise of torn cloth as Gwyllem clutched at Richard's tunic and
tore it many times. Richard did not utter any articulate word, and
Gwyllem could not. There was entire silence for a heart-beat, and the
thudding fall of something ponderous and limp.

"Come!" Richard said then. Through the hut's twilight he came, as
glorious in her eyes as Michael fresh from that primal battle with old
Satan. Tall Richard came to her, his face all blood, and lifted her in
his arms lest Branwen's skirt be soiled by the demolished thing which
sprawled across their path. She never spoke. She could not speak. In
his arms she rode homeward, passive, and content. The horse trod with
deliberation. In the east the young moon was taking heart as the
darkness thickened, and innumerable stars awoke. Branwen noted these
things incuriously.

Richard was horribly afraid. He it had been, in sober verity it had
been Richard of Bordeaux, that some monstrous force had seized, and
had lifted, and had curtly utilized as its handiest implement. He had
been, and in the moment had known himself to be, the thrown spear as
yet in air, about to kill and quite powerless to refrain from killing.
It was a full three minutes before he had got the better of his
bewilderment and laughed, very softly, lest he disturb this Branwen,
who was so near his heart....

Next day she came to him at noon, bearing as always the little basket.
It contained to-day a napkin, some garlic, a ham, and a small soft
cheese; some shalots, salt, nuts, wild apples, lettuce, onions, and
mushrooms. "Behold a feast!" said Richard. He noted then that she
carried also a blue pitcher filled with thin wine, and two cups of
oak-bark. She thanked him for last night's performance, and drank a
mouthful of wine to his health.

"Decidedly, I shall be sorry to have done with shepherding," said
Richard as he ate.

Branwen answered, "I too shall be sorry, lord, when the masquerade is
ended." And it seemed to Richard that she sighed, and he was the
happier.

But he only shrugged. "I am the wisest person unhanged, since I
comprehend my own folly. Yet I grant you that he was wise, too, the
minstrel of old time that sang: 'Over wild lands and tumbling seas
flits Love, at will, and maddens the heart and beguiles the senses of
all whom he attacks, whether his quarry be some monster of the ocean
or some fierce denizen of the forest, or man; for thine, O Love, thine
alone is the power to make playthings of us all.'"

"Your bard was wise, no doubt, yet it was not in such terms that
Gwyllem sang of this passion. Lord," she demanded shyly, "how would
you sing of love?"

Richard was replete and contented with the world. He took up the lute,
in full consciousness that his compliance was in large part cenatory.
"In courtesy, thus--"

Sang Richard:

"The gods in honor of fair Branwen's worth
Bore gifts to her:--and Jove, Olympus' lord,
Co-rule of Earth and Heaven did accord,
And Hermes brought that lyre he framed at birth,
And Venus her famed girdle (to engirth
A fairer beauty now), and Mars his sword,
And wrinkled Plutus half the secret hoard
And immemorial treasure of mid-earth;--

"And while the careful gods were pondering
Which of these goodly gifts the goodliest was,
Young Cupid came among them carolling
And proffered unto her a looking-glass,
Wherein she gazed, and saw the goodliest thing
That Earth had borne, and Heaven might not surpass."

"Three sounds are rarely heard," said Branwen; "and these are the song
of the birds of Rhiannon, an invitation to feast with a miser, and a
speech of wisdom from the mouth of a Saxon. The song you have made of
courtesy is tinsel. Sing now in verity."

Richard laughed, though he was sensibly nettled and perhaps a shade
abashed. Presently he sang again.

Sang Richard:

"Catullus might have made of words that seek
With rippling sound, in soft recurrent ways,
The perfect song, or in remoter days
Theocritus have hymned you in glad Greek;
But I am not as they,--and dare not speak
Of you unworthily, and dare not praise
Perfection with imperfect roundelays,
And desecrate the prize I dare to seek.

"I do not woo you, then, by fashioning
Vext analogues 'twixt you and Guenevere,
Nor do I come with agile lips that bring
The sugared periods of a sonneteer,
And bring no more--but just with, lips that cling
To yours, in murmuring, 'I love you, dear!'"

Richard had resolved that Branwen should believe him. Tinsel, indeed!
then here was yet more tinsel which she must receive as gold. He was
very angry, because his vanity was hurt, and the pin-prick spurred him
to a counterfeit so specious that consciously he gloried in it. He was
superb, and she believed him now; there was no questioning the fact,
he saw it plainly, and with exultant cruelty; then curt as lightning
came the knowledge that what Branwen believed was the truth.

Richard had taken just two strides toward this fair girl. Branwen
stayed motionless, her lips a little parted. The affairs of earth and
heaven were motionless throughout the moment, attendant, it seemed to
him; and to him his whole life was like a wave that trembled now at
full height, and he was aware of a new world all made of beauty and of
pity. Then the lute fell from his spread out hands, and Richard
sighed, and shrugged.

"There is a task set me," he said--"it is God's work, I think. But I
do not know--I only know that you are very beautiful, Branwen," he
said, and in the name he found a new and piercing loveliness.

And he said also: "Go! For I have loved many women, and, God help me!
I know that I have but to wheedle you and you, too, will yield! Yonder
is God's work to be done, and within me rages a commonwealth of
devils. Child! child!" he cried, "I am, and ever was, a coward, too
timid to face life without reserve, and always I laughed because I was
afraid to concede that anything is serious!"

For a long while Richard lay at his ease in the lengthening shadows of
the afternoon.

"I love her. She thinks me an elderly imbecile with a flat and reedy
singing-voice, and she is perfectly right. She has never even
entertained the notion of loving me. That is well, for to-morrow, or,
it may be, the day after, we must part forever. I would not have the
parting make her sorrowful--or not, at least, too unalterably
sorrowful. It is very well that Branwen does not love me.

"Why should she? I am almost twice her age, an aging fellow now,
battered and selfish and too indolent to love her--say, as Gwyllem
loved her. I did well to kill that Gwyllem. I am profoundly glad I
killed him, and I thoroughly enjoyed doing it; but, after all, the man
loved her in his fashion, and to the uttermost reach of his gross
nature. I love her in a rather more decorous and acceptable fashion,
it is true, but only a half of me loves her. The other half of me
remembers that I am aging, that Caradawc's hut is leaky, that, in
fine, bodily comfort is the single luxury of which one never tires. I
am a very contemptible creature, the empty scabbard of a man,
precisely as Owain said." This settled, Richard whistled to his dog.

The sun had set. There were no shadows anywhere as Richard and his
sheep went homeward, but on every side the colors of the world were
more sombre. Twice his flock roused a covey of partridges which had
settled for the night. The screech-owl had come out of his hole, and
bats were already blundering about, and the air was cooling. There was
as yet but one star in the green and cloudless heaven, and this was
very large, like a beacon: it appeared to him symbolical that he
trudged away from this star.

Next morning the Welshmen came, and now the trap was ready for Henry
of Lancaster.

It befell just two days later, about noon, that while Richard idly
talked with Branwen a party of soldiers, some fifteen in number, rode
down the river's bank from the ford above. Their leader paused, then
gave an order. The men drew rein. He cantered forward.

"God give you joy, fair sir," said Richard, when the cavalier was near
him.

The new-comer raised his visor. "God give you eternal joy, my fair
cousin," he said, "and very soon. Now send away this woman before that
happens which must happen."

"Do you plan," said Richard, "to disfigure the stage of our quiet
pastorals with murder?"

"I design my own preservation," King Henry answered, "for while you
live my rule is insecure."

"I am sorry," Richard said, "that in part my blood is yours."

Twice he sounded his horn, and everywhere from rustling underwoods
arose the half-naked Welshmen. Said Richard: "You should read history
more carefully, Cousin Henry. You might have profited, as I have done,
by considering the trick which our grandfather, old Edward Longshanks,
played on the French King at Mezelais. As matters stand, your men are
one to ten. You are impotent. Now, now we balance our accounts! These
persons here will first deal with your followers. Then they will
conduct you to Glyndwyr, who has long desired to deal with you
himself, in privacy, since that Whit-Monday when you murdered his
son."

The King began, "In mercy, sire--!" and Richard laughed a little,
saying:

"That virtue is not overabundant among us of Oriander's blood, as we
both know. No, cousin, Fate and Time are merry jesters. See, now,
their latest mockery! You the King of England ride to Sycharth to your
death, and I the tender of sheep depart into London, without any
hindrance, to reign henceforward over these islands. To-morrow you are
worm's-meat, Cousin Henry: to-morrow, as yesterday, I am King of
England."

Then Branwen gave one sharp, brief cry, and Richard forgot all things
saving this girl, and strode to her. He had caught up her hard, lithe
hands; against his lips he strained them close and very close.

"Branwen--!" he said. His eyes devoured her.

"Yes, King," she answered. "O King of England! O fool that I have been
to think you less!"

In a while Richard said: "Well, I at least am not fool enough to think
of making you a king's whore. So I must choose between a peasant wench
and England. Now I choose, and how gladly! Branwen, help me to be more
than King of England!"

Low and very low he spoke, and long and very long he gazed at her, and
neither seemed to breathe. Of what she thought I cannot tell you; but
in Richard there was no power of thought, only a great wonderment.
Why, between this woman's love and aught else there was no choice for
him, he knew upon a sudden. Perhaps he would thus worship her always,
he reflected: and then again, perhaps he would be tired of her before
long, just as all other persons seemed to abate in these infatuations:
meanwhile it was certain that he was very happy. No, he could not go
back to the throne and to the little French girl who was in law his
wife.

And, as if from an immense distance, came to Richard the dogged voice
of Henry of Lancaster. "It is of common report in these islands that I
have a better right to the throne than you. As much was told our
grandfather, King Edward of happy memory, when he educated you and had
you acknowledged heir to the crown, but his love was so strong for his
son the Prince of Wales that nothing could alter his purpose. And
indeed if you had followed even the example of the Black Prince you
might still have been our King; but you have always acted so
contrarily to his admirable precedents as to occasion the rumor to be
generally believed throughout England that you were not, after all,
his son--"

Richard had turned impatiently. "For the love of Heaven, truncate your
abominable periods. Be off with you. Yonder across that river is the
throne of England, which you appear, through some lunacy, to consider
a desirable possession. Take it, then; for, praise God! the sword has
found its sheath."

The King answered: "I do not ask you to reconsider your dismissal,
assuredly--Richard," he cried, a little shaken, "I perceive that until
your death you will win contempt and love from every person."

"Yes, yes, for many years I have been the playmate of the world," said
Richard; "but to-day I wash my hands, and set about another and more
laudable business. I had dreamed certain dreams, indeed--but what had
I to do with all this strife between the devil and the tiger? No,
Glyndwyr will set up Mortimer against you now, and you two must fight
it out. I am no more his tool, and no more your enemy, my
cousin--Henry," he said with quickening voice, "there was a time when
we were boys and played together, and there was no hatred between us,
and I regret that time!"

"As God lives, I too regret that time!" the bluff, squinting King
replied. He stared at Richard for a while wherein each understood.
"Dear fool," Sire Henry said, "there is no man in all the world but
hates me saving only you." Then the proud King clapped spurs to his
proud horse and rode away.

More lately Richard dismissed his wondering marauders. Now he and
Branwen were alone and a little troubled, since each was afraid of
that oncoming moment when their eyes must meet.

So Richard laughed. "Praise God!" he wildly cried, "I am the greatest
fool unhanged!"

She answered: "I am the happier for your folly. I am the happiest of
God's creatures."

And Richard meditated. "Faith of a gentleman!" he declared; "but you
are nothing of the sort, and of this fact I happen to be quite
certain." Their lips met then and afterward their eyes; and each of
these ragged peasants was too glad for laughter.

THE END OF THE EIGHTH NOVEL

IX

THE STORY OF THE NAVARRESE

"J'ay en mon cueur joyeusement
Escript, afin que ne l'oublie,
Ce refrain qu'ayme chierement,
C'estes vous de qui suis amye."

THE NINTH NOVEL.--JEHANE OF NAVARRE, AFTER A WITHSTANDING OF ALL OTHER
ASSAULTS, IS IN A LONG DUEL, WHEREIN TIME AND COMMON-SENSE ARE
FLOUTED, AND KINGDOMS ARE SHAKEN, DETHRONED AND RECOMPENSED BY AN
ENDURING LUNACY.

_The Story of the Navarrese_

In the year of grace 1386, upon the feast of Saint Bartholomew (thus
Nicolas begins), came to the Spanish coast Messire Peyre de Lesnerac,
in a war-ship sumptuously furnished and manned by many persons of
dignity and wealth, in order suitably to escort the Princess Jehane
into Brittany, where she was to marry the Duke of that province. There
were now rejoicings throughout Navarre, in which the Princess took but
a nominal part and young Antoine Riczi none at all.

This Antoine Riczi came to Jehane that August twilight in the hedged
garden. "King's daughter!" he sadly greeted her. "Duchess of Brittany!
Countess of Rougemont! Lady of Nantes and of Guerrand! of Rais and of
Toufon and Guerche!"

She answered, "No, my dearest,--I am that Jehane, whose only title is
the Constant Lover." And in the green twilight, lit as yet by one
low-hanging star alone, their lips and desperate young bodies clung,
now, it might be, for the last time.

Presently the girl spoke. Her soft mouth was lax and tremulous, and
her gray eyes were more brilliant than the star yonder. The boy's arms
were about her, so that neither could be quite unhappy, yet.

"Friend," said Jehane, "I have no choice. I must wed with this de
Montfort. I think I shall die presently. I have prayed God that I may
die before they bring me to the dotard's bed."

Young Riczi held her now in an embrace more brutal. "Mine! mine!" he
snarled toward the obscuring heavens.

"Yet it may be I must live. Friend, the man is very old. Is it wicked
to think of that? For I cannot but think of his great age."

Then Riczi answered: "My desires--may God forgive me!--have clutched
like starving persons at that sorry sustenance. Friend! ah, fair,
sweet friend! the man is human and must die, but love, we read, is
immortal. I am wishful to kill myself, Jehane. But, oh, Jehane! dare
you to bid me live?"

"Friend, as you love me, I entreat you to live. Friend, I crave of the
Eternal Father that if I falter in my love for you I may be denied
even the one bleak night of ease which Judas knows." The girl did not
weep; dry-eyed she winged a perfectly sincere prayer toward
incorruptible saints. Riczi was to remember the fact, and through long
years of severance.

For even now, as Riczi went away from Jehane, a shrill singing-girl
was rehearsing, yonder behind the yew-hedge, the song which she was to
sing at Jehane's bridal feast.

Sang this joculatrix:

"When the Morning broke before us
Came the wayward Three astraying,
Chattering in babbling chorus,
(Obloquies of Aether saying),--
Hoidens that, at pegtop playing,
Flung their Top where yet it whirls
Through the coil of clouds unstaying,
For the Fates are captious girls!"

And upon the next day de Lesnerac bore young Jehane from Pampeluna and
presently to Saille, where old Jehan the Brave took her to wife. She
lived as a queen, but she was a woman of infrequent laughter.

She had Duke Jehan's adoration, and his barons' obeisancy, and his
villagers applauded her passage with stentorian shouts. She passed
interminable days amid bright curious arrasses and trod listlessly
over pavements strewn with flowers. She had fiery-hearted jewels, and
shimmering purple cloths, and much furniture adroitly carven, and many
tapestries of Samarcand and Baldach upon which were embroidered, by
brown fingers that time had turned long ago to Asian dust, innumerable
asps and deer and phoenixes and dragons and all the motley inhabitants
of air and of the thicket; but her memories, too, she had, and for a
dreary while she got no comfort because of them. Then ambition
quickened.

Young Antoine Riczi likewise nursed his wound as best he might; but at
the end of the second year after Jehane's wedding his uncle, the
Vicomte de Montbrison--a gaunt man, with preoccupied and troubled
eyes--had summoned Antoine into Lyonnois and, after appropriate
salutation, had informed the lad that, as the Vicomte's heir, he was
to marry the Demoiselle Gerberge de Nerac upon the ensuing Michaelmas.

"That I may not do," said Riczi; and since a chronicler that would
tempt fortune should never stretch the fabric of his wares too thin
(unlike Sir Hengist), I merely tell you these two dwelt together at
Montbrison for a decade: and the Vicomte swore at his nephew and
predicted this or that disastrous destination as often as Antoine
declined to marry the latest of his uncle's candidates,--in whom the
Vicomte was of an astonishing fertility.

In the year of grace 1401 came the belated news that Duke Jehan had
closed his final day. "You will be leaving me!" the Vicomte growled;
"now, in my decrepitude, you will be leaving me! It is abominable, and
I shall in all likelihood disinherit you this very night."

"Yet it is necessary," Riczi answered; and, filled with no unhallowed
joy, he rode for Vannes, in Brittany, where the Duchess-Regent held
her court. Dame Jehane had within that fortnight put aside her
mourning. She sat beneath a green canopy, gold-fringed and powdered
with many golden stars, when Riczi came again to her, and the rising
saps of spring were exercising their august and formidable influence.
She sat alone, by prearrangement, to one end of the high-ceiled and
radiant apartment; midway in the hall her lords and divers ladies were
gathered about a saltatrice and a jongleur, who were diverting the
courtiers, to the mincing accompaniment of a lute; but Jehane sat
apart from these, frail, and splendid with many jewels, and a little
sad.

And Antoine Riczi found no power of speech within him at the first.
Silent he stood before her, still as an effigy, while meltingly the
jongleur sang.

"Jehane!" said Antoine Riczi, in a while, "have you, then, forgotten,
O Jehane?"

The resplendent woman had not moved at all. It was as though she were
some tinted and lavishly adorned statue of barbaric heathenry, and he
her postulant; and her large eyes appeared to judge an immeasurable
path, beyond him. Now her lips fluttered somewhat. "I am the Duchess
of Brittany," she said, in the phantom of a voice. "I am the Countess
of Rougemont. The Lady of Nantes and of Guerrand! of Rais and of
Toufon and Guerche!... Jehane is dead."

The man had drawn one audible breath. "You are that Jehane, whose only
title is the Constant Lover!"

"Friend, the world smirches us," she said half-pleadingly, "I have
tasted too deep of wealth and power. I am drunk with a deadly wine,
and ever I thirst--I thirst--"

"Jehane, do you remember that May morning in Pampeluna when first I
kissed you, and about us sang many birds? Then as now you wore a gown
of green, Jehane."

"Friend, I have swayed kingdoms since."

"Jehane, do you remember that August twilight in Pampeluna when last I
kissed you? Then as now you wore a gown of green, Jehane."

"But I wore no such chain as this about my neck," the woman answered,
and lifted a huge golden collar garnished with emeralds and sapphires
and with many pearls. "Friend, the chain is heavy, yet I lack the will
to cast it off. I lack the will, Antoine." And now with a sudden shout
of mirth her courtiers applauded the evolutions of the saltatrice.

"King's daughter!" said Riczi then; "O perilous merchandise! a god
came to me and a sword had pierced his breast. He touched the gold
hilt of it and said, 'Take back your weapon.' I answered, 'I do not
know you.' 'I am Youth' he said; 'take back your weapon.'"

"It is true," she responded, "it is lamentably true that after
to-night we are as different persons, you and I."

He said: "Jehane, do you not love me any longer? Remember old years
and do not break your oath with me, Jehane, since God abhors nothing
so much as unfaith. For your own sake, Jehane,--ah, no, not for your
sake nor for mine, but for the sake of that blithe Jehane, whom, so
you tell me, time has slain!"

Once or twice she blinked, as if dazzled by a light of intolerable
splendor, but otherwise she stayed rigid. "You have dared, messire, to
confront me with the golden-hearted, clean-eyed Navarrese that once
was I! and I requite." The austere woman rose. "Messire, you swore to
me, long since, eternal service. I claim my right in domnei.
Yonder--gray-bearded, the man in black and silver--is the Earl of
Worcester, the King of England's ambassador, in common with whom the
wealthy dowager of Brittany has signed a certain contract. Go you,
then, with Worcester into England, as my proxy, and in that island, as
my proxy, become the wife of the King of England. Messire, your
audience is done."

Riczi said this: "Can you hurt me any more, Jehane?--no, even in hell
they cannot hurt me now. Yet I, at least, keep faith, and in your face
I fling faith like a glove--old-fashioned, it may be, but clean,--and
I will go, Jehane."

Her heart raged. "Poor, glorious fool!" she thought; "had you but the
wit even now to use me brutally, even now to drag me from this
dais--!" Instead he went away from her smilingly, treading through the
hall with many affable salutations, while the jongleur sang.

Sang the jongleur:

"There is a land those hereabout
Ignore ... Its gates are barred
By Titan twins, named Fear and Doubt.
These mercifully guard
That land we seek--the land so fair!--
And all the fields thereof,
Where daffodils flaunt everywhere
And ouzels chant of love,--
Lest we attain the Middle-Land,
Whence clouded well-springs rise,
And vipers from a slimy strand
Lift glittering cold eyes.

"Now, the parable all may understand,
And surely you know the name of the land!
Ah, never a guide or ever a chart
May safely lead you about this land,--
The Land of the Human Heart!"

And the following morning, being duly empowered, Antoine Riczi sailed
for England in company with the Earl of Worcester; and upon Saint
Richard's day the next ensuing was, at Eltham, as proxy of Jehane,
married in his own person to the bloat King Henry, the fourth of that
name to reign. This king was that same squinting Harry of Derby
(called also Henry of Lancaster and Bolingbroke) who stole his
cousin's crown, and about whom I have told you in the preceding story.
First Sire Henry placed the ring on Riczi's finger, and then spoke
Antoine Riczi, very loud and clear:

"I, Antoine Riczi,--in the name of my worshipful lady, Dame Jehane,
the daughter of Messire Charles until lately King of Navarre, the
Duchess of Brittany and the Countess of Rougemont,--do take you, Sire
Henry of Lancaster, King of England and in title of France, and Lord
of Ireland, to be my husband; and thereto I, Antoine Riczi, in the
spirit of my said lady"--the speaker paused here to regard the gross
hulk of masculinity before him, and then smiled very sadly--"in
precisely the spirit of my said lady, I plight you my troth."

Afterward the King made him presents of some rich garments of scarlet
trimmed with costly furs, and of four silk belts studded with silver
and gold, and with valuable clasps, of which the owner might well be
proud, and Riczi returned to Lyonnois. "Depardieux!" his uncle said;
"so you return alone!"

"I return as did Prince Troilus," said Riczi--"to boast to you of
liberal entertainment in the tent of Diomede."

"You are certainly an inveterate fool," the Vicomte considered after a
prolonged appraisal of his face, "since there is always a deal of
other pink-and-white flesh as yet unmortgaged--Boy with my brother's
eyes!" the Vicomte said, in another voice; "I have heard of the task
put upon you: and I would that I were God to punish as is fitting! But
you are welcome home, my lad."

So these two abode together at Montbrison for a long time, and in the
purlieus of that place hunted and hawked, and made sonnets once in a
while, and read aloud from old romances some five days out of the
seven. The verses of Riczi were in the year of grace 1410 made public,
not without acclamation; and thereafter the stripling Comte de
Charolais, future heir to all Burgundy and a zealous patron of rhyme,
was much at Montbrison, and there conceived for Antoine Riczi such
admiration as was possible to a very young man only.

In the year of grace 1412 the Vicomte, being then bedridden, died
without any disease and of no malady save the inherencies of his age.
"I entreat of you, my nephew," he said at last, "that always you use
as touchstone the brave deed you did at Eltham. It is necessary for a
gentleman to serve his lady according to her commandments, but you
performed the most absurd and the most cruel task which any woman ever
imposed upon her lover and servitor in domnei. I laugh at you, and I
envy you." Thus he died, about Martinmas.

Now was Antoine Riczi a powerful baron, but he got no comfort of his
lordship, because that old incendiary, the King of Darkness, daily
added fuel to a smouldering sorrow until grief quickened into vaulting
flames of wrath and of disgust.

"What now avail my riches?" said the Vicomte. "How much wealthier was
I when I was loved, and was myself an eager lover! I relish no other
pleasures than those of love. I am Love's sot, drunk with a deadly
wine, poor fool, and ever I thirst. All my chattels and my acres
appear to me to be bright vapors, and the more my dominion and my
power increase, the more rancorously does my heart sustain its
bitterness over having been robbed of that fair merchandise which is
the King of England's. To hate her is scant comfort and to despise her
none at all, since it follows that I who am unable to forget the
wanton am even more to be despised than she. I will go into England
and execute what mischief I may against her."

The new Vicomte de Montbrison set forth for Paris, first to do homage
for his fief, and secondly to be accredited for some plausible mission
into England. But in Paris he got disquieting news. Jehane's husband
was dead, and her stepson Henry, the fifth monarch of that name to
reign in Britain, had invaded France to support preposterous claims
which the man advanced to the crown of that latter kingdom; and as the
earth is altered by the advent of winter, so was the appearance of
France transformed by King Henry's coming, and everywhere the nobles
were stirred up to arms, the castles were closed, the huddled cities
were fortified, and on every side arose entrenchments.

Thus through this sudden turn was the new Vicomte, the dreamer and the
recluse, caught up by the career of events, as a straw is borne away
by a torrent, when the French lords marched with their vassals to
Harfleur, where they were soundly drubbed by the King of England; as
afterward at Agincourt.

But in the year of grace 1417 there was a breathing space for
discredited France, and presently the Vicomte de Montbrison was sent
into England, as ambassador. He got in London a fruitless audience of
King Henry, whose demands were such as rendered a renewal of the war
inevitable; and afterward got, in the month of April, about the day of
Palm Sunday, at the Queen's dower-palace of Havering-Bower, an
interview with Queen Jehane.[*]

[*Nicolas unaccountably omits to mention that during the French
wars she had ruled England as Regent with signal capacity,--although
this fact, as you will see more lately, is the pivot of his
chronicle.]

A curled pert page took the Vicomte to where she sat alone, by
prearrangement, in a chamber with painted walls, profusely lighted by
the sun, and made pretence to weave a tapestry. When the page had gone
she rose and cast aside the shuttle, and then with a glad and wordless
cry stumbled toward the Vicomte. "Madame and Queen--!" he coldly said.

His judgment found in her a quite ordinary, frightened woman, aging
now, but still very handsome in these black and shimmering gold robes;
but all his other faculties found her desirable: and with a contained
hatred he had perceived, as if by the terse illumination of a
thunderbolt, that he could never love any woman save the woman whom he
most despised.

She said: "I had forgotten. I had remembered only you, Antoine, and
Navarre, and the clean-eyed Navarrese--" Now for a little, Jehane
paced the gleaming and sun-drenched apartment as a bright leopardess
might tread her cage. Then she wheeled. "Friend, I think that God
Himself has deigned to avenge you. All misery my reign has been. First
Hotspur, then prim Worcester harried us. Came Glyndwyr afterward to
prick us with his devils' horns. Followed the dreary years that linked
me to the rotting corpse which God's leprosy devoured while the poor
furtive thing yet moved, and endured its share in the punishment of
Manuel's poisonous blood. All misery, Antoine! And now I live beneath
a sword."

"You have earned no more," he said. "You have earned no more, O
Jehane! whose only title is the Constant Lover!" He spat it out.

She came uncertainly toward him, as though he had been some not
implacable knave with a bludgeon. "For the King hates me," she
plaintively said, "and I live beneath a sword. The big, fierce-eyed
boy has hated me from the first, for all his lip-courtesy. And now he
lacks the money to pay his troops, and I am the wealthiest person
within his realm. I am a woman and alone in a foreign land. So I must
wait, and wait, and wait, Antoine, till he devises some trumped-up
accusation. Friend, I live as did Saint Damoclus, beneath a sword.
Antoine!" she wailed--for now the pride of Queen Jehane was shattered
utterly--"I am held as a prisoner for all that my chains are of gold."

"Yet it was not until of late," he observed, "that you disliked the
metal which is the substance of all crowns."

And now the woman lifted toward him her massive golden necklace,
garnished with emeralds and sapphires and with many pearls, and in the
sunlight the gems were tawdry things. "Friend, the chain is heavy, and
I lack the power to cast it off. The Navarrese we know of wore no such
perilous fetters. Ah, you should have mastered me at Vannes. You could
have done so, very easily. But you only talked--oh, Mary pity us! you
only talked!--and I could find only a servant where I had sore need to
find a master. Let all women pity me!"

But now came many armed soldiers into the apartment. With spirit Queen
Jehane turned to meet them, and you saw that she was of royal blood,
for now the pride of many emperors blazed and informed her body as
light occupies a lantern. "At last you come for me, messieurs?"

"Whereas," the leader of these soldiers read from a
parchment--"whereas the King's stepmother, Queen Jehane, is accused by
certain persons of an act of witch-craft that with diabolical and
subtile methods wrought privily to destroy the King, the said Dame
Jehane is by the King committed (all her attendants being removed) to
the custody of Sir John Pelham, who will, at the King's pleasure,
confine her within Pevensey Castle, there to be kept under Sir John's
control: the lands and other properties of the said Dame Jehane being
hereby forfeit to the King, whom God preserve!"

"Harry of Monmouth!" said Jehane,--"ah, my tall stepson, could I but
come to you, very quietly, with a knife--!" She shrugged her
shoulders, and the gold about her person glittered in the sunlight.
"Witchcraft! ohime, one never disproves that. Friend, now are you
avenged the more abundantly."

"Young Riczi is avenged," the Vicomte said; "and I came hither
desiring vengeance."

She wheeled, a lithe flame (he thought) of splendid fury. "And in the
gutter Jehane dares say what Queen Jehane upon the throne might never
say. Had I reigned all these years as mistress not of England but of
Europe,--had nations wheedled me in the place of barons,--young Riczi
had been none the less avenged. Bah! what do these so-little persons
matter? Take now your petty vengeance! drink deep of it! and know that
always within my heart the Navarrese has lived to shame me! Know that
to-day you despise Jehane, the purchased woman! and that Jehane loves
you! and that the love of proud Jehane creeps like a beaten cur toward
your feet, in the sight of common men! and know that Riczi is
avenged,--you milliner!"

"Into England I came desiring vengeance--Apples of Sodom! O bitter
fruit!" the Vicomte thought; "O fitting harvest of a fool's assiduous
husbandry!"

They took her from him: and that afternoon, after long meditation, the
Vicomte de Montbrison entreated a second private audience of King
Henry, and readily obtained it. "Unhardy is unseely," the Vicomte said
at this interview's conclusion. The tale tells that the Vicomte
returned to France and within this realm assembled all such lords as
the abuses of the Queen-Regent Isabeau had more notoriously
dissatisfied.

The Vicomte had upon occasion an invaluable power of speech; and now,
so great was the devotion of love's dupe, so heartily, so hastily, did
he design to remove the discomforts of Queen Jehane, that now his
eloquence was twin to Belial's insidious talking when that fiend
tempts us to some proud iniquity.

Then presently these lords had sided with King Henry, as did the
Vicomte de Montbrison, in open field. Next, as luck would have it,
Jehan Sans-Peur was slain at Montereau; and a little later the new
Duke of Burgundy, who loved the Vicomte as he loved no other man, had
shifted his coat, forsaking France. These treacheries brought down the
wavering scales of warfare, suddenly, with an aweful clangor; and now
in France clean-hearted persons spoke of the Vicomte de Montbrison as
they would speak of Ganelon or of Iscariot, and in every market-place
was King Henry proclaimed as governor of the realm.

Meantime Queen Jehane had been conveyed to prison and lodged therein.
She had the liberty of a tiny garden, high-walled, and of two scantily
furnished chambers. The brace of hard-featured females whom Pelham had
provided for the Queen's attendance might speak to her of nothing that
occurred without the gates of Pevensey, and she saw no other persons
save her confessor, a triple-chinned Dominican; had men already lain
Jehane within the massive and gilded coffin of a queen the outer world
would have made as great a turbulence in her ears.

But in the year of grace 1422, upon the feast of Saint Bartholomew,
and about vespers--for thus it wonderfully fell out,--one of those
grim attendants brought to her the first man, save the fat confessor,
whom the Queen had seen within five years. The proud, frail woman
looked and what she saw was the inhabitant of all her dreams.

Said Jehane: "This is ill done. Time has avenged you. Be contented
with that knowledge, and, for Heaven's sake, do not endeavor to
moralize over the ruin which Heaven has made, and justly made, of
Queen Jehane, as I perceive you mean to do." She leaned backward in
the chair, very coarsely clad in brown, but knowing that her coloring
was excellent, that she had miraculously preserved her figure, and
that she did not look her real age by a good ten years. Such
reflections beget spiritual comfort even in a prison.

"Friend," the lean-faced man now said, "I do not come with such
intent, as my mission will readily attest, nor to any ruin, as your
mirror will attest. Instead, madame, I come as the emissary of King
Henry, now dying at Vincennes, and with letters to the lords and
bishops of his council. Dying, the man restores to you your liberty
and your dower-lands, your bed and all your movables, and six gowns of
such fashion and such color as you may elect."

Then with hurried speech he told her of five years' events: of how
within that period King Henry had conquered France, and had married
the French King's daughter, and had begotten a boy who would presently
inherit the united realms of France and England, since in the supreme
hour of triumph King Henry had been stricken with a mortal sickness,
and now lay dying, or perhaps already dead, at Vincennes; and of how
with his penultimate breath the prostrate conqueror had restored to
Queen Jehane all properties and all honors which she formerly enjoyed.

"I shall once more be Regent," the woman said when the Vicomte had
made an end; "Antoine, I shall presently be Regent both of France and
of England, since Dame Katharine is but a child." Jehane stood
motionless save for the fine hands that plucked the air. "Mistress of
Europe! absolute mistress, and with an infant ward! now, may God have
mercy on my unfriends, for they will soon perceive great need of it!"

"Yet was mercy ever the prerogative of royal persons," the Vicomte
suavely said, "and the Navarrese we know of was both royal and very
merciful, O Constant Lover."

The speech was as a whip-lash. Abruptly suspicion kindled in her
shrewd gray eyes. "Harry of Monmouth feared neither man nor God. It
needed more than any death-bed repentance to frighten him into
restoring my liberty." There was a silence. "You, a Frenchman, come as
the emissary of King Henry who has devastated France! are there no
English lords, then, left alive of his, army?"

The Vicomte de Montbrison said; "There is at all events no person
better fitted to patch up this dishonorable business of your
captivity, in which no clean man would care to meddle."

She appraised this, and said with entire irrelevance: "The world has
smirched you, somehow. At last you have done something save consider
how badly I treated you. I praise God, Antoine, for it brings you
nearer."

He told her all. King Henry, it appeared, had dealt with him at
Havering in perfect frankness. The King needed money for his wars in
France, and failing the seizure of Jehane's enormous wealth, had
exhausted every resource. "And France I mean to have," the King said.
"Now the world knows you enjoy the favor of the Comte de Charolais; so
get me an alliance with Burgundy against my imbecile brother of
France, and Dame Jehane shall repossess her liberty. There you have my
price."

"And this price I paid," the Vicomte sternly said, "for 'Unhardy is
unseely,' Satan whispered, and I knew that Duke Philippe trusted me.
Yea, all Burgundy I marshalled under your stepson's banner, and for
three years I fought beneath his loathed banner, until at Troyes we
had trapped and slain the last loyal Frenchman. And to-day in France
my lands are confiscate, and there is not an honest Frenchman but
spits upon my name. All infamy I come to you for this last time,
Jehane! as a man already dead I come to you, Jehane, for in France
they thirst to murder me, and England has no further need of
Montbrison, her blunted and her filthy instrument!"

The woman nodded here. "You have set my thankless service above your
life, above your honor. I find the rhymester glorious and very vile."

"All vile," he answered; "and outworn! King's daughter, I swore to
you, long since, eternal service. Of love I freely gave you yonder in
Navarre, as yonder at Eltham I crucified my innermost heart for your
delectation. Yet I, at least, keep faith, and in your face I fling
faith like a glove--outworn, it may be, and God knows, unclean! Yet I,
at least, keep faith! Lands and wealth have I given, up for you, O
king's daughter, and life itself have I given you, and lifelong
service have I given you, and all that I had save honor; and at the
last I give you honor, too. Now let the naked fool depart, Jehane, for
he has nothing more to give."

While the Vicomte de Montbrison spoke thus, she had leaned upon the
sill of an open casement. "Indeed, it had been better," she said,
still with her face averted, and gazing downward at the tree-tops
beneath, "it had been far better had we never met. For this love of
ours has proven a tyrannous and evil lord. I have had everything, and
upon each feast of will and sense the world afforded me this love has
swept down, like a harpy--was it not a harpy you called the bird in
that old poem of yours?--to rob me of delight. And you have had
nothing, for he has pilfered you of life, giving only dreams in
exchange, my poor Antoine, and he has led you at the last to infamy.
We are as God made us, and--I may not understand why He permits this
despotism."

Thereafter, somewhere below, a peasant sang as he passed supperward
through the green twilight, lit as yet by one low-hanging star alone.

Sang the peasant:

"King Jesus hung upon the Cross,
'And have ye sinned?' quo' He,--.
'Nay, Dysmas, 'tis no honest loss
When Satan cogs the dice ye toss,
And thou shall sup with Me,--
Sedebis apud angelos,
Quia amavisti!'

"At Heaven's Gate was Heaven's Queen,
'And have ye sinned?' quo' She,--
'And would I hold him worth a bean
That durst not seek, because unclean,
My cleansing charity?--
Speak thou that wast the Magdalene,
Quia amavisti!'"

"It may be that in some sort the jingle answers me!" then said Jehane;
and she began with an odd breathlessness, "Friend, when King Henry
dies--and even now he dies--shall I not as Regent possess such power
as no woman has ever wielded in Europe? can aught prevent this?"

"It is true," he answered. "You leave this prison to rule over England
again, and over conquered France as well, and naught can prevent it."

"Unless, friend, I were wedded to a Frenchman. Then would the stern
English lords never permit that I have any finger in the government."
She came to him with conspicuous deliberation and rested her hands
upon his breast. "Friend, I am weary of these tinsel splendors. What
are this England and this France to me, who crave the real kingdom?"

Her mouth was tremulous and lax, and her gray eyes were more brilliant
than the star yonder. The man's arms were about her, and of the man's
face I cannot tell you. "King's daughter! mistress of half Europe! I
am a beggar, an outcast, as a leper among honorable persons."

But it was as though he had not spoken. "Friend, it was for this I
have outlived these garish, fevered years, it was this which made me
glad when I was a child and laughed without knowing why. That I might
to-day give up this so-great power for love of you, my all-incapable

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