Part 5 out of 18
be burnt and excruciated with a hot iron, who am no felon.
"Pay a certain price in money and anguish for a doubtful remedy,
that will I never.
"Next to money and ease, peace and quiet are certain goods, above
all in a sick-room; but 'twould seem men cannot argue medicine
without heat and raised voices; therefore, sir, I will essay a
little sleep, and Denys will go forth and gaze on the females of
the place, and I will keep you no longer from those who can afford
to lay out blood and money in flebotomy and cautery."
The old physician had naturally a hot temper; he had often during
this battle of words mastered it with difficulty, and now it
mastered him. The most dignified course was silence; he saw this,
and drew himself up, and made loftily for the door, followed close
by his little boy and big basket.
But at the door he choked, he swelled, he burst. He whirled and
came back open-mouthed, and the little boy and big basket had to
whisk semicircularly not to be run down, for de minimis non curat
Medicina-even when not in a rage.
"Ah! you reject my skill, you scorn my art. My revenge shall be to
leave you to yourself; lost idiot, take your last look at me, and
at the sun. Your blood be on your head!" And away he stamped.
But on reaching the door he whirled and came back; his wicker tail
twirling round after him like a cat's.
"In twelve hours at furthest you will be in the secondary stage of
fever. Your head will split. Your carotids will thump. Aha! And
let but a pin fall, you will jump to the ceiling. Then send for
me; and I'll not come." He departed. But at the door- handle
gathered fury, wheeled and came flying, with pale, terror-stricken
boy and wicker tail whisking after him. "Next will come - CRAMPS
of the STOMACH. Aha!
"Then - BILIOUS VOMIT. Aha!
"Then - COLD SWEAT, and DEADLY STUPOR.
"Then - CONFUSION OF ALL THE SENSES.
"Then - BLOODY VOMIT.
"And after that nothing can save you, not even I; and if I could I
would not, and so farewell!"
Even Denys changed colour at threats so fervent and precise; but
Gerard only gnashed his teeth with rage at the noise, and seized
his hard bolster with kindling eye.
This added fuel to the fire, and brought the insulted ancient back
from the impassable door, with his whisking train.
"And after that - MADNESS!
"And after that - BLACK VOMIT
"And then - CONVULSIONS!
"And then - THAT CESSATION OF ALL VITAL FUNCTIONS THE VULGAR CALL
'DEATH,' for which thank your own Satanic folly and insolence.
Farewell." He went. He came. He roared, "And think not to be
buried in any Christian church- yard; for the bailiff is my good
friend, and I shall tell him how and why you died: felo de se!
felo de se! Farewell."
Gerard sprang to his feet on the bed by some supernatural
gymnastic power excitement lent him, and seeing him so moved, the
vindictive orator came back at him fiercer than ever, to launch
some master-threat the world has unhappily lost; for as he came
with his whisking train, and shaking his fist, Gerard hurled the
bolster furiously in his face and knocked him down like a shot,
the boy's head cracked under his falling master's, and crash went
the dumb-stricken orator into the basket, and there sat wedged in
an inverted angle, crushing phial after phial. The boy, being
light, was strewed afar, but in a squatting posture; so that they
sat in a sequence, like graduated specimens, the smaller howling.
But soon the doctor's face filled with horror, and he uttered a
far louder and unearthly screech, and kicked and struggled with
wonderful agility for one of his age.
He was sitting on the hot coals.
They had singed the cloth and were now biting the man. Struggling
wildly but vainly to get out of the basket, he rolled yelling over
with it sideways, and lo! a great hissing; then the humane Gerard
ran and wrenched off the tight basket not without a struggle. The
doctor lay on his face groaning, handsomely singed with his own
chafer, and slaked a moment too late by his own villainous
compounds, which, however, being as various and even beautiful in
colour as they were odious in taste, had strangely diversified his
grey robe, and painted it more gaudy than neat.
Gerard and Denys raised him up and consoled him. "Courage, man,
'tis but cautery; balm of Gilead, why, you recommend it but now to
my comrade here."
The physician replied only by a look of concentrated spite,
and went out in dead silence, thrusting his stomach forth before
him in the drollest way. The boy followed him next moment
but in that slight interval he left off whining, burst into a grin,
and conveyed to the culprits by an unrefined gesture his accurate
comprehension of, and rapturous though compressed joy at, his
THE worthy physician went home and told his housekeeper he was in
agony from "a bad burn." Those were the words. For in phlogistic
as in other things, we cauterize our neighbour's digits, but burn
our own fingers. His housekeeper applied some old women's remedy
mild as milk. He submitted like a lamb to her experience: his sole
object in the case of this patient being cure: meantime he made
out his bill for broken phials, and took measures to have the
travellers imprisoned at once. He made oath before a magistrate
that they, being strangers and indebted to him, meditated instant
flight from the township.
Alas! it was his unlucky day. His sincere desire and honest
endeavour to perjure himself were baffled by a circumstance he had
never foreseen nor indeed thought possible.
He had spoken the truth.
And IN AN AFFIDAVIT!
The officers, on reaching "The Silver Lion, found the birds were
They went down to the river, and from intelligence they received
there, started up the bank in hot pursuit.
This temporary escape the friends owed to Denys's good sense and
observation. After a peal of laughter, that it was a cordial to
hear, and after venting his watchword three times, he turned short
grave, and told Gerard Dusseldorf was no place for them. "That old
fellow," said he, "went off unnaturally silent for such a babbler:
we are strangers here; the bailiff is his friend: in five minutes
we shall lie in a dungeon for assaulting a Dusseldorf dignity, are
you strong enough to hobble to the water's edge? it is hard by.
Once there you have but to lie down in a boat instead of a bed;
and what is the odds?"
"The odds, Denys? untold, and all in favour of the boat. I pine
for Rome; for Rome is my road to Sevenbergen; and then we shall
lie in the boat, but ON the Rhine, the famous Rhine; the cool,
refreshing Rhine. I feel its breezes coming: the very sight will
cure a little hop-'o-my-thumb fever like mine; away! away!"
Finding his excitable friend in this mood, Denys settled hastily
with the landlord, and they hurried to the river. On inquiry they
found to their dismay that the public boat was gone this half
hour, and no other would start that day, being afternoon. By dint,
however, of asking a great many questions, and collecting a crowd,
they obtained an offer of a private boat from an old man and his
This was duly ridiculed by a bystander. "The current is too strong
for three oars."
"Then my comrade and I will help row," said the invalid.
"No need," said the old man. "Bless your silly heart, he owns
There was a powerful breeze right astern; the boatmen set a broad
sail, and rowing also, went off at a spanking rate.
"Are ye better, lad, for the river breeze?"
"Much better. But indeed the doctor did me good."
"The doctor? Why, you would none of his cures."
"No, but I mean - you will say I am nought - but knocking the old
fool down - somehow - it soothed me."
"Amiable dove! how thy little character opens more and more every
day, like a rosebud. I read thee all wrong at first."
"Nay, Denys, mistake me not, neither. I trust I had borne with his
idle threats, though in sooth his voice went through my poor ears;
but he was an infidel, or next door to one, and such I have been
taught to abhor. Did he not as good as say, we owed our inward
parts to men with long Greek names, and not to Him, whose name is
but a syllable, but whose hand is over all the earth? Pagan!"
"So you knocked him down forthwith - like a good Christian."
"Now, Denys, you will still be jesting. Take not an ill man's
part. Had it been a thunderbolt from Heaven, he had met but his
due; yet he took but a sorry bolster from this weak arm."
"What weak arm?" inquired Denys, with twinkling eyes. "I have
lived among arms, and by Samson's hairy pow never saw I one more
like a catapult. The bolster wrapped round his nose and the two
ends kissed behind his head, and his forehead resounded, and had
he been Goliath, or Julius Caesar, instead of an old quacksalver,
down he had gone. St. Denys guard me from such feeble opposites as
thou! and above all from their weak arms -thou diabolical young
The river took many turns, and this sometimes brought the wind on
their side instead of right astern. Then they all moved to the
weather side to prevent the boat heeling over too much all but a
child of about five years old, the grandson of the boatman, and
his darling; this urchin had slipped on board at the moment of
starting, and being too light to affect the boat's trim, was
above, or rather below, the laws of navigation.
They sailed merrily on, little conscious that they were pursued by
a whole posse of constables armed with the bailiff's writ, and
that their pursuers were coming up with them; for if the wind was
strong, so was the current.
And now Gerard suddenly remembered that this was a very good way
to Rome, but not to Burgundy. "Oh, Denys," said he, with an almost
alarmed look, "this is not your road."
"I know it," said Denys quietly; but what can I do? I cannot leave
thee till the fever leaves thee; and it is on thee still, for thou
art both red and white by turns; I have watched thee. I must e'en
go on to Cologne, I doubt, and then strike across."
"Thank Heaven," said Gerard joyfully. He added eagerly, with a
little touch of self-deception, "'Twere a sin to be so near
Cologne and not see it. Oh, man, it is a vast and ancient city
such as I have often dreamed of, but ne'er had the good luck to
see. Me miserable, by what hard fortune do I come to it now? Well
then, Denys," continued the young man less warmly, "it is old
enough to have been founded by a Roman lady in the first century
of grace, and sacked by Attila the barbarous, and afterwards sore
defaced by the Norman Lothaire. And it has a church for every week
in the year forbye chapels and churches innumerable of convents
and nunneries, and above all, the stupendous minster yet
unfinished, and therein, but in their own chapel, lie the three
kings that brought gifts to our Lord, Melchior gold, and Gaspar
frankincense, and Balthazar the black king, he brought myrrh; and
over their bones stands the shrine the wonder of the world; it is
of ever-shining brass brighter than gold, studded with images
fairly wrought, and inlaid with exquisite devices, and brave with
colours; and two broad stripes run to and fro, of jewels so great,
so rare, each might adorn a crown or ransom its wearer at need;
and upon it stand the three kings curiously counterfeited, two in
solid silver, richly gilt; these be bareheaded; but he of Aethiop
ebony, and beareth a golden crown; and in the midst our blessed
Lady, in virgin silver, with Christ in her arms; and at the
corners, in golden branches, four goodly waxen tapers do burn
night and day. Holy eyes have watched and renewed that light
unceasingly for ages, and holy eyes shall watch them in saecula. I
tell thee, Denys, the oldest song, the oldest Flemish or German
legend, found them burning, and they shall light the earth to its
grave. And there is St. Ursel's church, a British saint's, where
lie her bones and all the other virgins her fellows; eleven
thousand were they who died for the faith, being put to the sword
by barbarous Moors, on the twenty-third day of October, two
hundred and thirty-eight. Their bones are piled in the vaults, and
many of their skulls are in the church. St. Ursel's is in a thin
golden case, and stands on the high altar, but shown to humble
Christians only on solemn days."
"Eleven thousand virgins!" cried Denys. "What babies German men
must have been in days of yore. Well, would all their bones might
turn flesh again, and their skulls sweet faces, as we pass through
the gates. 'Tis odds but some of them are wearied of their estate
by this time."
"Tush, Denys!" said Gerard; "why wilt thou, being good, still make
thyself seem evil? If thy wishing-cap be on, pray that we may meet
the meanest she of all those wise virgins in the next world, and
to that end let us reverence their holy dust in this one. And then
there is the church of the Maccabees, and the cauldron in which
they and their mother Solomona were boiled by a wicked king for
refusing to eat swine's flesh."
"Oh, peremptory king! and pig-headed Maccabees! I had eaten bacon
with my pork liever than change places at the fire with my meat."
"What scurvy words are these? it was their faith."
"Nay, bridle thy choler, and tell me, are there nought but
churches in this thy so vaunted city? for I affect rather Sir
Knight than Sir Priest."
"Ay, marry, there is an university near a hundred years old; and
there is a market-place, no fairer in the world, and at the four
sides of it houses great as palaces; and there is a stupendous
senate-house all covered with images, and at the bead of them
stands one of stout Herman Gryn, a soldier like thyself, lad."
"Ay. Tell me of him! what feat of arms earned him his niche?"
"A rare one. He slew a lion in fair combat, with nought but his
cloak and a short sword. He thrust the cloak in the brute's mouth,
and cut his spine in twain, and there is the man's effigy and eke
the lion's to prove it. The like was never done but by three more,
I ween; Samson was one, and Lysimachus of Macedon another, and
Benaiah, a captain of David's host."
"Marry! three tall fellows. I would like well to sup with them all
"So would not I," said Gerard drily.
"But tell me," said Denys, with some surprise, "when wast thou in
"Never but in the spirit. I prattle with the good monks by the
way, and they tell me all the notable things both old and new.
"Ay, ay, have not I seen your nose under their very cowls? But
when I speak of matters that are out of sight, my words they are
small, and the thing it was big; now thy words be as big or bigger
than the things; art a good limner with thy tongue; I have said
it; and for a saint, as ready with hand, or steel, or bolster - as
any poor sinner living; and so, shall I tell thee which of all
these things thou hast described draws me to Cologne?"
"Thou, and thou only; no dead saint, but my living friend and
comrade true; 'tis thou alone draws Denys of Burgundy to Cologne?"
Gerard hung his head.
At this juncture one of the younger boatmen suddenly inquired what
was amiss with "little turnip-face?"
His young nephew thus described had just come aft grave as a
judge, and burst out crying in the midst without more ado. On this
phenomenon, so sharply defined, he was subjected to many
interrogatories, some coaxingly uttered, some not. Had he hurt
himself? had he over-ate himself? was he frightened? was he cold?
was he sick? was he an idiot?
To all and each he uttered the same reply, which English writers
render thus, oh! oh! oh! and French writers thus, hi! hi! hi! So
fixed are Fiction's phonetics.
"Who can tell what ails the peevish brat?" snarled the young
boatman impatiently. "Rather look this way and tell me whom be
these after!" The old man and his other son looked, and saw four
men walking along the east bank of the river; at the sight they
left rowing awhile, and gathered mysteriously in the stern,
whispering and casting glances alternately at their passengers and
The sequel may show they would have employed speculation better in
trying to fathom the turnip-face mystery; I beg,pardon of my age:
I mean "the deep mind of dauntless infancy.
"If 'tis as I doubt," whispered one of the young men, "why not
give them a squeak for their lives; let us make for the west
The old man objected stoutly. "What," said he, "run our heads into
trouble for strangers! are ye mad? Nay, let us rather cross to the
east side; still side with the strong arm! that is my rede. What
say you, Werter?"
"I say, please yourselves."
What age and youth could not decide upon, a puff of wind settled
most impartially. Came a squall, and the little vessel heeled
over; the men jumped to windward to trim her; but to their horror
they saw in the very boat from stem to stern a ditch of water
rushing to leeward, and the next moment they saw nothing, but felt
the Rhine, the cold and rushing Rhine.
"Turnip-face" had drawn the plug.
The officers unwound the cords from their waists.
Gerard could swim like a duck; but the best swimmer, canted out of
a boat capsized, must sink ere he can swim. The dark water bubbled
loudly over his head, and then he came up almost blind and deaf
for a moment; the next, he saw the black boat bottom uppermost,
and figures clinging to it; he shook his head like a water-dog,
and made for it by a sort of unthinking imitation; but ere he
reached it he heard a voice behind him cry not loud but with deep
manly distress, "Adieu, comrade, adieu!"
He looked, and there was poor Denys sinking, sinking, weighed down
by his wretched arbalest. His face was pale, and his eyes staring
wide, and turned despairingly on his dear friend. Gerard uttered a
wild cry of love and terror, and made for him, cleaving the water
madly; but the next moment Denys was under water.
The next, Gerard was after him.
The officers knotted a rope and threw the end in.
Things good and evil balance themselves in a remarkable manner and
almost universally. The steel bow attached to the arbalestrier's
back, and carried above his head, had sunk him. That very steel
bow, owing to that very position, could not escape Gerard's hands,
one of which grasped it, and the other went between the bow and
the cord, which was as good. The next moment, Denys, by means of
his crossbow, was hoisted with so eager a jerk that half his body
bobbed up out of water.
"Now, grip me not! grip me not!" cried Gerard, in mortal terror of
that fatal mistake.
"Pas si bete," gurgled Denys.
Seeing the sort of stuff he had to deal with, Gerard was hopeful
and calm directly. "On thy back," said he sharply, and seizing the
arbalest, and taking a stroke forward, he aided the desired
movement. "Hand on my shoulder! slap the water with the other
hand! No - with a downward motion; so. Do nothing more than I bid
thee." Gerard had got hold of Denys's long hair, and twisting it
hard, caught the end between his side teeth, and with the strong
muscles of his youthful neck easily kept up the soldier's head,
and struck out lustily across the current. A moment he had
hesitated which side to make for, little knowing the awful
importance of that simple decision; then seeing the west bank a
trifle nearest, he made towards it, instead of swimming to jail
like a good boy, and so furnishing one a novel incident. Owing to
the force of the current they slanted considerably, and when they
had covered near a hundred yards, Denys murmured uneasily, "How
much more of it?"
"Courage," mumbled Gerard. "Whatever a duck knows, a Dutchman
knows; art safe as in bed."
The next moment, to their surprise, they found themselves in
shallow water, and so waded ashore. Once on terra firma, they
looked at one another from head to foot as if eyes could devour,
then by one impulse flung each an arm round the other's neck, and
panted there with hearts too full to speak. And at this sacred
moment life was sweet as heaven to both; sweetest perhaps to the
poor exiled lover, who had just saved his friend. Oh, joy to whose
height what poet has yet soared, or ever tried to soar? To save a
human life; and that life a loved one. Such moments are worth
living for, ay, three score years and ten. And then, calmer, they
took hands, and so walked along the bank hand in hand like a pair
of sweethearts, scarce knowing or caring whither they went.
The boat people were all safe on the late concave, now convex
craft, Herr Turnip-face, the "Inverter of things," being in the
middle. All this fracas seemed not to have essentially deranged
his habits. At least he was greeting when he shot our friends into
the Rhine, and greeting when they got out again.
"Shall we wait till they right the boat?"
"No, Denys, our fare is paid; we owe them nought. Let us on, and
Denys assented, observing that they could walk all the way to
Cologne on this bank.
"I fare not to Cologne," was the calm reply.
"Why, whither then?"
"To Burgundy? Ah, no! that is too good to be sooth."
"Sooth 'tis, and sense into the bargain. What matters it to me how
I go to Rome?"
"Nay, nay; you but say so to pleasure me. The change is too
sudden; and think me not so ill-hearted as take you at your word.
Also did I not see your eyes sparkle at the wonders of Cologne?
the churches, the images, the relics
"How dull art thou, Denys; that was when we were to enjoy them
together. Churches! I shall see plenty, go Rome-ward how I will.
The bones of saints and martyrs; alas! the world is full of them;
but a friend like thee, where on earth's face shall I find
another? No, I will not turn thee farther from the road that leads
to thy dear home, and her that pines for thee. Neither will I rob
myself of thee by leaving thee. Since I drew thee out of Rhine I
love thee better than I did. Thou art my pearl: I fished thee; and
must keep thee. So gainsay me not, or thou wilt bring back my
fever; but cry courage, and lead on; and hey for Burgundy!"
Denys gave a joyful caper. "Courage! va pour la Bourgogne. Oh!
soyes tranquille! cette fois il est bien decidement mort, ce
coquin-la." And they turned their backs on the Rhine.
On this decision making itself clear, across the Rhine there was a
commotion in the little party that had been watching the
discussion, and the friends had not taken many steps ere a voice
came to them over the water. "HALT!"
Gerard turned, and saw one of those four holding out a badge of
office and a parchment slip. His heart sank; for he was a good
citizen, and used to obey the voice that now bade him turn again
to Dusseldorf - the Law's.
Denys did not share his scruples. He was a Frenchman, and despised
every other nation, laws, inmates, and customs included. He was a
soldier, and took a military view of the situation. Superior force
opposed; river between; rear open; why, 'twas retreat made easy.
He saw at a glance that the boat still drifted in mid-stream, and
there was no ferry nearer than Dusseldorf. "I shall beat a quick
retreat to that hill," said he, "and then, being out of sight,
They sauntered off.
"Halt! in the bailiff's name," cried a voice from the shore.
Denys turned round and ostentatiously snapped his fingers at the
bailiff, and proceeded.
"Halt! in the archbishop's name."
Denys snapped his fingers at his grace, and proceeded.
"Halt! in the emperor's name."
Denys snapped his fingers at his majesty, and proceeded.
Gerard saw this needless pantomime with regret, and as soon as
they had passed the brow of the hill, said, "There is now but one
course, we must run to Burgundy instead of walking;" and he set
off, and ran the best part of a league without stopping.
Denys was fairly blown, and inquired what on earth had become of
Gerard's fever. "I begin to miss it sadly," said he drily.
"I dropped it in Rhine, I trow," was the reply.
Presently they came to a little village, and here Denys purchased
a loaf and a huge bottle of Rhenish wine. "For," he said, "we must
sleep in some hole or corner. If we lie at an inn, we shall be
taken in our beds." This was no more than common prudence on the
old soldier's part.
The official network for catching law-breakers, especially
plebeian ones, was very close in that age; though the co-operation
of the public was almost null, at all events upon the Continent.
The innkeepers were everywhere under close surveillance as to
their travellers, for whose acts they were even in some degree
responsible, more so it would seem than for their sufferings.
The friends were both glad when the sun set; and delighted, when,
after a long trudge under the stars (for the moon, if I remember
right, did not rise till about three in the morning) they came to
a large barn belonging to a house at some distance. A quantity of
barley had been lately thrashed; for the heap of straw on one side
the thrashing-floor was almost as high as the unthrashed corn on
"Here be two royal beds," said Denys; "which shall we lie on, the
mow, or the straw?"
"The straw for me," said Gerard.
They sat on the heap, and ate their brown bread, and drank their
wine, and then Denys covered his friend up in straw, and heaped it
high above him, leaving him only a breathing hole: "Water, they
say, is death to fevered men; I'll make warm water on't, anyhow."
Gerard bade him make his mind easy. "These few drops from Rhine
cannot chill me. I feel heat enough in my body now to parch a
kennel, or boil a cloud if I was in one." And with this epigram
his consciousness went so rapidly, he might really be said to
Denys, who lay awake awhile, heard that which made him nestle
closer. Horses' hoofs came ringing up from Dusseldorf, and the
wooden barn vibrated as they rattled past howling in a manner too
well known and understood in the 15th century. but as unfamiliar
in Europe now as a red Indian's war-whoop.
Denys shook where he lay.
Gerard slept like a top.
It all swept by, and troop and howls died away.
The stout soldier drew a long breath, whistled in a whisper,
closed his eyes, and slept like a top, too.
In the morning he sat up and put out his hand to wake Gerard. It
lighted on the young man's forehead, and found it quite wet. Denys
then in his quality of nurse forbore to wake him. "It is ill to
check sleep or sweat in a sick man," said he. "I know that far,
though I ne'er minced ape nor gallows-bird."
After waiting a good hour he felt desperately hungry; so he
turned, and in self-defence went to sleep again.
Poor fellow, in his hard life he had been often driven to this
manoeuvre. At high noon he was waked by Gerard moving, and found
him sitting up with the straw smoking round him like a dung-hill.
Animal heat versus moisture. Gerard called him "a lazy loon." He
They set out, and the first thing Denys did was to give Gerard his
arbalest, etc., and mount a high tree on the road. "Coast clear to
the next village," said he, and on they went.
On drawing near the village, Denys halted and suddenly inquired of
Gerard how he felt.
"What! can you not see? I feel as if Rome was no further than yon
"But thy body, lad; thy skin?"
"Neither hot nor cold; and yesterday 'twas hot one while and cold
another. But what I cannot get rid of is this tiresome leg."
"Le grand malheur! Many of my comrades have found no such
"Ah! there it goes again; itches consumedly."
"Unhappy youth," said Denys solemnly, "the sum of thy troubles is
this: thy fever is gone, and thy wound is - healing. Sith so it
is," added he indulgently, "I shall tell thee a little piece of
news I had otherwise withheld."
"What is't?" asked Gerard, sparkling with curiosity.
"THE HUE AND CRY IS OUT AFTER US: AND ON FLEET HORSES."
Gerard was staggered by this sudden communication, and his colour
came and went. Then he clenched his teeth with ire. For men of any
spirit at all are like the wild boar; he will run from a superior
force, owing perhaps to his not being an ass; but if you stick to
his heels too long and too close, and, in short, bore him, he will
whirl, and come tearing at a multitude of hunters, and perhaps
bore you. Gerard then set his teeth and looked battle, But the
next moment his countenance fell, and he said plaintively, "And my
axe is in Rhine."
They consulted together. Prudence bade them avoid that village;
hunger said "buy food."
Hunger spoke loudest. Prudence most convincingly. They settled to
strike across the fields.
They halted at a haystack and borrowed two bundles of hay, and lay
on them in a dry ditch out of sight, but in nettles,
They sallied out in turn and came back with turnips. These they
munched at intervals in their retreat until sunset.
Presently they crept out shivering into the rain and darkness, and
got into the road on the other side of the village.
It was a dismal night, dark as pitch, and blowing hard. They could
neither see, nor hear, nor be seen, nor heard; and for aught I
know, passed like ghosts close to their foes. These they almost
forgot in the natural horrors of the black tempestuous night, in
which they seemed to grope and hew their way as in black marble.
When the moon rose they were many a league from Dusseldorf. But
they still trudged on. Presently they came to a huge building.
"Courage!" cried Denys, "I think I know this convent. Aye it is.
We are in the see of Juliers. Cologne has no power here.
The next moment they were safe within the walls.
Here Gerard made acquaintance with a monk, who had constructed the
great dial in the prior's garden, and a wheel for drawing water,
and a winnowing machine for the grain, etc., and had ever some
ingenious mechanism on hand. He had made several psalteries and
two dulcimers, and was now attempting a set of regalles, or little
organ for the choir.
Now Gerard played the humble psaltery a little; but the monk
touched that instrument divinely, and showed him most agreeably
what a novice he was in music. He also illuminated finely, but
could not write so beautifully as Gerard. Comparing their
acquirements with the earnestness and simplicity of an age in
which accomplishments implied a true natural bent, Youth and Age
soon became like brothers, and Gerard was pressed hard to stay
that night. He consulted Denys, who assented with a rueful shrug.
Gerard told his old new friend whither he was going, and described
their late adventures, softening down the bolster.
"Alack!" said the good old man, "I have been a great traveller in
my day, but none molested me." He then told him to avoid inns;
they were always haunted by rogues and roysterers, whence his soul
might take harm even did his body escape, and to manage each day's
journey so as to lie at some peaceful monastery; then suddenly
breaking off and looking as sharp as a needle at Gerard, he asked
him how long since he had been shriven? Gerard coloured up and
replied feebly -
"Better than a fortnight."
"And thou an exorcist! No wonder perils have overtaken thee. Come,
thou must be assoiled out of hand."
"Yes, father," said Gerard, "and with all mine heart;" and was
sinking down to his knees, with his hands joined, but the monk
stopped him half fretfully -
"Not to me! not to me! not to me! I am as full of the world as
thou or any be that lives in't. My whole soul it is in these
wooden pipes, and sorry leathern stops, which shall perish - with
them whose minds are fixed on such like vanities."
"Dear father," said Gerard, "they are for the use of the Church,
and surely that sanctifies the pains and labour spent on them?"
"That is just what the devil has been whispering in mine ear this
while," said the monk, putting one hand behind his back and
shaking his finger half threateningly, half playfully, at Gerard.
"He was even so kind and thoughtful as to mind me that Solomon
built the Lord a house with rare hangings, and that this in him
was counted gracious and no sin. Oh! he can quote Scripture
rarely. But I am not so simple a monk as you think, my lad," cried
the good father, with sudden defiance, addressing not Gerard but -
Vacancy. "This one toy finished, vigils, fasts, and prayers for
me; prayers standing, prayers lying on the chapel floor, and
prayers in a right good tub of cold water." He nudged Gerard and
winked his eye knowingly. "Nothing he hates and dreads like seeing
us monks at our orisons up to our chins in cold water. For corpus
domat aqua. So now go confess thy little trumpery sins, pardonable
in youth and secularity, and leave me to mine, sweet to me as
honey, and to be expiated in proportion."
Gerard bowed his head, but could not help saying, "Where shall I
find a confessor more holy and clement?"
"In each of these cells," replied the monk simply (they were now
in the corridor) "there, go to Brother Anselm, yonder."
Gerard followed the monk's direction, and made for a cell; but the
doors were pretty close to one another, and it seems he mistook;
for just as he was about to tap, he heard his old friend crying to
him in an agitated whisper, "Nay! nay! nay!" He turned, and there
was the monk at his cell-door, in a strange state of anxiety,
going up and down and beating the air double-handed, like a bottom
sawyer. Gerard really thought the cell he was at must be inhabited
by some dangerous wild beast, if not by that personage whose
presence in the convent had been so distinctly proclaimed. He
looked back inquiringly and went on to the next door. Then his old
friend nodded his head rapidly, bursting in a moment into a
comparatively blissful expression of face, and shot back into his
den. He took his hour-glass, turned it, and went to work on his
regalles; and often he looked up, and said to himself,
"Well-a-day, the sands how swift they run when the man is bent
over earthly toys."
Father Anselm was a venerable monk, with an ample head, and a face
all dignity and love. Therefore Gerard in confessing to him, and
replying to his gentle though searching questions, could not help
thinking, "Here is a head! - Oh dear! oh dear! I wonder whether
you will let me draw it when I have done confessing." And so his
own head got confused, and he forgot a crime or two. However, he
did not lower the bolstering this time, nor was he so uncandid as
to detract from the pagan character of the bolstered.
The penance inflicted was this: he was to enter the convent
church, and prostrating himself, kiss the lowest step of the altar
three times; then kneeling on the floor, to say three paternosters
and a credo: "this done, come back to me on the instant."
Accordingly, his short mortification performed, Gerard returned,
and found Father Anselm spreading plaster.
"After the soul the body," said he; "know that I am the chirurgeon
here, for want of a better. This is going on thy leg; to cool it,
not to burn it; the saints forbid,"
During the operation the monastic leech, who had naturally been
interested by the Dusseldorf branch of Gerard's confession, rather
sided with Denys upon "bleeding." "We Dominicans seldom let blood
nowadays; the lay leeches say 'tis from timidity and want of
skill; but, in sooth, we have long found that simples will cure
most of the ills that can be cured at all. Besides, they never
kill in capable hands; and other remedies slay like thunderbolts.
As for the blood, the Vulgate saith expressly it is the life of a
man.' And in medicine or law, as in divinity, to be wiser than the
All-wise is to be a fool. Moreover, simples are mighty. The little
four-footed creature that kills the poisonous snake, if bitten
herself, finds an herb powerful enough to quell that poison,
though stronger and of swifter operation than any mortal malady;
and we, taught by her wisdom, and our own traditions, still search
and try the virtues of those plants the good God hath strewed this
earth with, some to feed men's bodies, some to heal them. Only in
desperate ills we mix heavenly with earthly virtue. We steep the
hair or the bones of some dead saint in the medicine, and thus
work marvellous cures."
"Think you, father, it is along of the reliques? for Peter a
Floris, a learned leech and no pagan, denies it stoutly,"
"What knows Peter a Floris? And what know I? I take not on me to
say we can command the saints, and will they nill they, can draw
corporal virtue from their blest remains. But I see that the
patient drinking thus in faith is often bettered as by a charm.
Doubtless faith in the recipient is for much in all these cures.
But so 'twas ever. A sick woman, that all the Jewish leeches
failed to cure, did but touch Christ's garment and was healed in a
moment. Had she not touched that sacred piece of cloth she had
never been healed. Had she without faith not touched it only, but
worn it to her grave, I trow she had been none the better for't.
But we do ill to search these things too curiously. All we see
around us calls for faith. Have then a little patience. We shall
soon know all. Meantime, I, thy confessor for the nonce, do
strictly forbid thee, on thy soul's health, to hearken learned lay
folk on things religious. Arrogance is their bane; with it they
shut heaven's open door in their own faces. Mind, I say, learned
laics. Unlearned ones have often been my masters in humility, and
may be thine. Thy wound is cared for; in three days 'twill be but
a scar. And now God speed thee, and the saints make thee as good
and as happy as thou art thoughtful and gracious." Gerard hoped
there was no need to part yet, for he was to dine in the
refectory. But Father Anselm told him, with a shade of regret just
perceptible and no more, that he did not leave his cell this week,
being himself in penitence; and with this he took Gerard's head
delicately in both hands, and kissed him on the brow, and almost
before the cell door had closed on him, was back to his pious
offices. Gerard went away chilled to the heart by the isolation of
the monastic life, and saddened too. "Alas!" he thought, "here is
a kind face I must never look to see again on earth; a kind voice
gone from mine ear and my heart for ever. There is nothing but
meeting and parting in this sorrowful world. Well-a-day!
well-a-day!" This pensive mood was interrupted by a young monk who
came for him and took him to the refectory; there he found several
monks seated at a table, and Denys standing like a poker, being
examined as to the towns he should pass through: the friars then
clubbed their knowledge, and marked out the route, noting all the
religious houses on or near that road; and this they gave Gerard.
Then supper, and after it the old monk carried Gerard to his cell,
and they had an eager chat, and the friar incidentally revealed
the cause of his pantomime in the corridor. "Ye had well-nigh
fallen into Brother Jerome's clutches. Yon was his cell."
"Is Father Jerome an ill man, then?"
"An ill man!" and the friar crossed himself; "a saint, an
anchorite, the very pillar of this house! He had sent ye barefoot
to Loretto. Nay, I forgot, y'are bound for Italy; the spiteful old
saint upon earth, had sent ye to Canterbury or Compostella. But
Jerome was born old and with a cowl; Anselm and I were boys once,
and wicked beyond anything you can imagine" (Gerard wore a
somewhat incredulous look): "this keeps us humble more or less,
and makes us reasonably lenient to youth and hot blood."
Then, at Gerard's earnest request, one more heavenly strain upon
the psalterion, and so to bed, the troubled spirit calmed, and the
sore heart soothed.
I have described in full this day, marked only by contrast, a day
that came like oil on waves after so many passions and perils -
because it must stand in this narrative as the representative of
many such days which now succeeded to it. For our travellers on
their weary way experienced that which most of my readers will
find in the longer journey of life, viz., that stirring events are
not evenly distributed over the whole road, but come by fits and
starts, and as it were, in clusters. To some extent this may be
because they draw one another by links more or less subtle. But
there is more in it than that. It happens so. Life is an
intermittent fever. Now all narrators, whether of history or
fiction, are compelled to slur these barren portions of time or
else line trunks. The practice, however, tends to give the
unguarded reader a wrong arithmetical impression, which there is a
particular reason for avoiding in these pages as far as possible.
I invite therefore your intelligence to my aid, and ask you to try
and realize that, although there were no more vivid adventures for
a long while, one day's march succeeded another; one monastery
after another fed and lodged them gratis with a welcome always
charitable, sometimes genial; and though they met no enemy but
winter and rough weather, antagonists not always contemptible, yet
they trudged over a much larger tract of territory than that,
their passage through which I have described so minutely. And so
the pair, Gerard bronzed in the face and travel-stained from head
to foot, and Denys with his shoes in tatters, stiff and footsore
both of them, drew near the Burgundian frontier.
Gerard was almost as eager for this promised land as Denys; for
the latter constantly chanted its praises, and at every little
annoyance showed him "they did things better in Burgundy;" and
above all played on his foible by guaranteeing clean bedclothes at
the inns of that polished nation. "I ask no more," the Hollander
would say; "to think that I have not lain once in a naked bed
since I left home! When I look at their linen, instead of doffing
habit and hose, it is mine eyes and nose I would fain be shut of."
Denys carried his love of country so far as to walk twenty leagues
in shoes that had exploded, rather than buy of a German churl, who
would throw all manner of obstacles in a customer's way, his
incivility, his dinner, his body.
Towards sunset they found themselves at equal distances from a
little town and a monastery, only the latter was off the road.
Denys was for the inn, Gerard for the convent. Denys gave way, but
on condition that once in Burgundy they should always stop at an
inn. Gerard consented to this the more readily that his chart with
its list of convents ended here. So they turned off the road. And
now Gerard asked with surprise whence this sudden aversion to
places that had fed and lodged them gratis so often. The soldier
hemmed and hawed at first, but at last his wrongs burst forth. It
came out that this was no sudden aversion, but an ancient and
abiding horror, which he had suppressed till now, but with
infinite difficulty, and out of politeness: "I saw they had put
powder in your drink," said he, "so I forbore them. However, being
the last, why not ease my mind? Know then I have been like a fish
out of water in all those great dungeons. You straightway levant
with some old shaveling: so you see not my purgatory."
"Forgive me! I have been selfish."
"Ay, ay, I forgive thee, little one; 'tis not thy fault: art not
the first fool that has been priest-rid, and monk-hit. But I'll
not forgive them my misery." Then, about a century before Henry
VIII.'s commissioners, he delivered his indictment. These gloomy
piles were all built alike. Inns differed, but here all was
monotony. Great gate, little gate, so many steps and then a gloomy
cloister. Here the dortour, there the great cold refectory, where
you must sit mumchance, or at least inaudible, he who liked to
speak his mind out; "and then," said he, "nobody is a man here,
but all are slaves, and of what? of a peevish, tinkling bell, that
never sleeps. An 'twere a trumpet now, aye sounding alarums,
'twouldn't freeze a man's heart so. Tinkle, tinkle, tinkle, and
you must sit to meat with may be no stomach for food. Ere your
meat settles in your stomach, tinkle, tinkle! and ye must to
church with may be no stomach for devotion: I am not a hog at
prayers, for one. Tinkle, tinkle, and now you must to bed with
your eyes open. Well, by then you have contrived to shut them,
some uneasy imp of darkness has got to the bell-rope, and tinkle,
tinkle, it behoves you say a prayer in the dark, whether you know
one or not. If they heard the sort of prayers I mutter when they
break my rest with their tinkle! Well, you drop off again and get
about an eyeful of sleep: lo, it is tinkle, tinkle, for matins."
"And the only clapper you love is a woman's," put in Gerard half
"Because there is some music in that even when it scolds," was the
stout reply. "And then to be always checked. If I do but put my
finger in the salt-cellar, straightway I hear, 'Have you no knife
that you finger the salt?' And if I but wipe my knife on the cloth
to save time, then 'tis, 'Wipe thy knife dirty on the bread, and
clean upon the cloth!' Oh small of soul! these little peevish
pedantries fall chill upon good fellowship like wee icicles
a-melting down from strawen eaves."
"I hold cleanliness no pedantry," said Gerard. "Shouldst learn
better manners once for all."
"Nay; 'tis they who lack manners. They stop a fellow's mouth at
"At every other word, you mean; every obscene or blasphemous one."
"Exaggerator, go to! Why, at the very last of these dungeons I
found the poor travellers sitting all chilled and mute round one
shaveling, like rogues awaiting their turn to be hanged; so to
cheer them up, I did but cry out, 'Courage, tout le monde, le dia-
"Connu! what befell?"
"Marry, this. 'Blaspheme not!' quo' the bourreau. 'Plait-il,' say
I. Doesn't he wheel and wyte on me in a sort of Alsatian French,
turning all the P's into B's. I had much ado not to laugh in his
"Being thyself unable to speak ten words of his language without a
"Well, all the world ought to speak French. What avail so many
jargons except to put a frontier atwixt men's hearts?"
"But what said he?"
"What signifies it what a fool says?"
"Oh, not all the words of a fool are folly, or I should not listen
"Well, then, he said, 'Such as begin by making free with the
devil's name, aye end by doing it with all the names in heaven.'
'Father,' said I, 'I am a soldier, and this is but my "consigne"
or watchword.' 'Oh, then, it is just a custom?' said he. I not
divining the old fox, and thinking to clear myself, said, 'Ay, it
was.' 'Then that is ten times worse,' said he. ''Twill bring him
about your ears one of these days. He still comes where he hears
his name often called.' Observe! no gratitude for the tidings
which neither his missals nor his breviary had ever let him know.
Then he was so good as to tell me, soldiers do commonly the crimes
for which all other men are broke on the wheel; a savoir' murder,
rape, and pillage."
"And is't not true?"
"True or not, it was ill manners," replied Denys guardedly. "And
so says this courteous host of mine, 'Being the foes of mankind,
why make enemies of good spirits into the bargain, by still
shouting the names of evil ones?' and a lot more stuff."
"Well, but, Denys, whether you hearken his rede, or slight it,
wherefore blame a man for raising his voice to save your soul?"
"How can his voice save my soul, when he keeps turning of his P's
Gerard was staggered: ere he could recover at this thunderbolt of
Gallicism, Denys went triumphant off at a tangent, and stigmatized
all monks as hypocrites. "Do but look at them, how they creep
about and cannot eye you like honest men."
"Nay," said Gerard eagerly, "that modest downcast gaze is part of
their discipline, 'tis 'custodia oculorum'."
"Cussed toads eating hoc hac horum? No such thing; just so looks a
cut-purse. Can't meet a true man's eye. Doff cowl, monk; and
behold, a thief; don cowl thief, and lo, a monk. Tell me not they
will ever be able to look God Almighty in the face, when they
can't even look a true man in the face down here. Ah, here it is,
black as ink! into the well we go, comrade. Misericorde, there
goes the tinkle already. 'Tis the best of tinkles though; 'tis for
dinner: stay, listen! I thought so: the wolf in my stomach cried
'Amen!'" This last statement he confirmed with two oaths, and
marched like a victorious gamecock into the convent, thinking by
Gerard's silence he had convinced him, and not dreaming how
profoundly he had disgusted him.
In the refectory allusion was made, at the table where Gerard sat,
to the sudden death of the monk who had undertaken to write out
fresh copies of the charter of the monastery, and the rule, etc.
Gerard caught this, and timidly offered his services. There was a
hesitation which he mistook. "Nay, not for hire, my lords, but for
love, and as a trifling return for many a good night's lodging the
brethren of your order have bestowed on me a poor wayfarer."
A monk smiled approvingly; but hinted that the late brother was an
excellent penman, and his work could not be continued but by a
master. Gerard on this drew from his wallet with some trepidation
a vellum deed, the back of which he had cleaned and written upon
by way of specimen. The monk gave quite a start at sight of it,
and very hastily went up the hall to the high table, and bending
his knee so as just to touch in passing the fifth step and the
tenth, or last, presented it to the prior with comments. Instantly
a dozen knowing eyes were fixed on it, and a buzz of voices was
heard; and soon Gerard saw the prior point more than once, and the
monk came back, looking as proud as Punch, with a savoury crustade
ryal, or game pie gravied and spiced, for Gerard, and a silver
grace cup full of rich pimentum. This latter Gerard took, and
bowing low, first to the distant prior, then to his own company,
quaffed, and circulated the cup.
Instantly, to his surprise, the whole table hailed him as a
brother: "Art convent bred, deny it not?" He acknowledged it, and
gave Heaven thanks for it, for otherwise he had been as rude and
ignorant as his brothers, Sybrandt and Cornelis.
"But 'tis passing strange how you could know," said he.
"You drank with the cup in both hands," said two monks, speaking
The voices had for some time been loudish round a table at the
bottom of the hall; but presently came a burst of mirth so
obstreperous and prolonged, that the prior sent the very sub-prior
all down the hall to check it, and inflict penance on every monk
at the table. And Gerard's cheek burned with shame; for in the
heart of the unruly merriment his ear had caught the word
"courage!" and the trumpet tones of Denys of Burgundy.
Soon Gerard was installed in feu Werter's cell, with wax lights,
and a little frame that could be set at any angle, and all the
materials of caligraphy. The work, however, was too much for one
evening. Then came the question, how could he ask Denys, the
monk-hater, to stay longer? However, he told him, and offered to
abide by his decision. He was agreeably surprised when Denys said
graciously, "A day's rest will do neither of us harm. Write thou,
and I'll pass the time as I may."
Gerard's work was vastly admired; they agreed that the records of
the monastery had gained by poor Werter's death. The sub-prior
forced a rix-dollar on Gerard, and several brushes and colours out
of the convent stock, which was very large. He resumed his march
warm at heart, for this was of good omen; since it was on the pen
he relied to make his fortune and recover his well-beloved. "Come,
Denys," said he good-humouredly, "see what the good monks have
given me; now, do try to be fairer to them; for to be round with
you, it chilled my friendship for a moment to hear even you call
my benefactors 'hypocrites.'"
"I recant," said Denys.
"Thank you! thank you! Good Denys."
"I was a scurrilous vagabond."
"Nay, nay, say not so, neither!"
"But we soldiers are rude and hasty. I give myself the lie, and I
offer those I misunderstood all my esteem. 'Tis unjust that
thousands should be defamed for the hypocrisy of a few."
"Now are you reasonable. You have pondered what I said?"
"Nay, it is their own doing."
Gerard crowed a little, we all like to be proved in the right; and
was all attention when Denys offered to relate how his conversion
"Well then, at dinner the first day a young monk beside me did
open his jaws and laughed right out and most musically. 'Good,'
said I, 'at last I have fallen on a man and not a shorn ape.' So,
to sound him further, I slapped his broad back and administered my
consigne. 'Heaven forbid!' says he. I stared. For the dog looked
as sad as Solomon; a better mime saw you never, even at a Mystery.
'I see war is no sharpener of the wits,' said he. 'What are the
clergy for but to fight the foul fiend? and what else are the
"The fiend being dead,
The friars are sped."
You may plough up the convents, and we poor monks shall have
nought to do - but turn soldiers, and so bring him to life again.'
Then there was a great laugh at my expense. Well, you are the monk
for me,' said I. 'And you are the crossbowman for me,' quo' he.
'And I'll be bound you could tell us tales of the war should make
our hair stand on end.' 'Excusez! the barber has put that out of
the question,' quoth I, and then I had the laugh."
"What wretched ribaldry!" observed Gerard pensively.
The candid Denys at once admitted he had seen merrier jests
hatched with less cackle. "'Twas a great matter to have got rid of
hypocrisy. 'So,' said I, 'I can give you the chaire de poule, if
that may content ye.' 'That we will see,' was the cry, and a
signal went round."
Denys then related, bursting with glee, how at bedtime he had been
taken to a cell instead of the great dortour, and strictly
forbidden to sleep; and to aid his vigil, a book had been lent him
of pictures representing a hundred merry adventures of monks in
pursuit of the female laity; and how in due course he had been
taken out barefooted and down to the parlour, where was a supper
fit for the duke, and at it twelve jolly friars, the roaringest
boys he had ever met in peace or war. How the story, the toast,
the jest, the wine-cup had gone round, and some had played cards
with a gorgeous pack, where Saint Theresa, and Saint Catherine,
etc., bedizened with gold, stood for the four queens; and black,
white, grey, and crutched friars for the four knaves; and had
staked their very rosaries, swearing like troopers when they lost.
And how about midnight a sly monk had stolen out, but had by him
and others been as cannily followed into the garden, and seen to
thrust his hand into the ivy and out with a rope-ladder. With this
he had run up on the wall, which was ten feet broad, yet not so
nimbly but what a russet kirtle had popped up from the outer world
as quick as he; and so to billing and cooing: that this situation
had struck him as rather feline than ecclesiastical, and drawn
from him the appropriate comment of a "mew!" The monks had joined
the mewsical chorus, and the lay visitor shrieked and been sore
discomforted; but Abelard only cried, "What, are ye there, ye
jealous miauling knaves? ye shall caterwaul to some tune to-morrow
night. I'll fit every man-jack of ye with a fardingale." That this
brutal threat had reconciled him to stay another day - at Gerard's
Meantime, unable to disconcert so brazen a monk, and the
demoiselle beginning to whimper, they had danced caterwauling in a
circle, then bestowed a solemn benediction on the two
wall-flowers, and off to the parlour, where they found a pair
lying dead drunk, and other two affectionate to tears. That they
had straightway carried off the inanimate, and dragged off the
loving and lachymose, kicked them all merrily each into his cell,
"And so shut up in measureless content."
Gerard was disgusted: and said so,
Denys chuckled, and proceeded to tell him how the next day he and
the young monks had drawn the fish-ponds and secreted much pike,
carp, tench, and eel for their own use: and how, in the dead of
night, he had been taken shoeless by crooked ways into the chapel,
a ghost-like place, being dark, and then down some steps into a
crypt below the chapel floor, where suddenly paradise had burst on
"'Tis there the holy fathers retire to pray," put in Gerard.
"Not always," said Denys; "wax candles by the dozen were lighted,
and princely cheer; fifteen soups maigre, with marvellous twangs
of venison, grouse, and hare in them, and twenty different fishes
(being Friday), cooked with wondrous art, and each he between two
buxom lasses, and each lass between two lads with a cowl; all but
me: and to think I had to woo by interpreter. I doubt the knave
put in three words for himself and one for me; if he didn't, hang
him for a fool. And some of the weaker vessels were novices, and
not wont to hold good wine; had to be coaxed ere they would put it
to their white teeth; mais elles s'y faisaient; and the story, and
the jest, and the cup went round (by-the-by, they had flagons made
to simulate breviaries); and a monk touched the cittern, and sang
ditties with a voice tunable as a lark in spring. The posies did
turn the faces of the women folk bright red at first: but elles
Here Gerard exploded.
"Miserable wretches! Corrupters of youth! Perverters of innocence!
but for your being there, Denys, who have been taught no better,
oh, would God the church had fallen on the whole gang. Impious,
"Hypocrites?" cried Denys, with unfeigned surprise. "Why, that is
what I clept them ere I knew them: and you withstood me. Nay, they
are sinners; all good fellows are that; but, by St. Denys his
helmeted skull, no hypocrites, but right jolly roaring blades."
"Denys," said Gerard solemnly, "you little know the peril you ran
that night. That church you defiled amongst you is haunted; I had
it from one of the elder monks. The dead walk there, their light
feet have been heard to patter o'er the stones."
"Misericorde!" whispered Denys.
"Ay, more," said Gerard, lowering his voice almost to a whisper;
"celestial sounds have issued from the purlieus of that very crypt
you turned into a tavern. Voices of the dead holding unearthly
communion have chilled the ear of midnight, and at times, Denys,
the faithful in their nightly watches have even heard music from
dead lips; and chords, made by no mortal finger, swept by no
mortal hand, have rung faintly, like echoes, deep among the dead
in those sacred vaults."
Denys wore a look of dismay. "Ugh! if I had known, mules and
wain-ropes had not hauled me thither; and so" (with a sigh) "I had
lost a merry time."
Whether further discussion might have thrown any more light upon
these ghostly sounds, who can tell? for up came a "bearded
brother" from the monastery, spurring his mule, and waving a piece
of vellum in his hand. It was the deed between Ghysbrecht and
Floris Brandt. Gerard valued it deeply as a remembrance of home:
he turned pale at first but to think he had so nearly lost it, and
to Denys's infinite amusement not only gave a piece of money to
the lay brother, but kissed the mule's nose.
"I'll read you now," said Gerard, "were you twice as ill written;
and - to make sure of never losing you" - here he sat down, and
taking out needle and thread, sewed it with feminine dexterity to
his doublet, and his mind, and heart, and soul were away to
They reached the promised land, and Denys, who was in high
spirits, doffed his bonnet to all the females; who curtsied and
smiled in return; fired his consigne at most of the men; at which
some stared, some grinned, some both; and finally landed his
friend at one of the long-promised Burgundian inns.
"It is a little one," said he, "but I know it of old for a good
one; Les Trois Poissons.' But what is this writ up? I mind not
this;" and he pointed to an inscription that ran across the whole
building in a single line of huge letters. "Oh, I see. 'Ici on
loge a pied et a cheval,'" said Denys, going minutely through the
inscription, and looking bumptious when he had effected it.
Gerard did look, and the sentence in question ran thus:
"ON NE LOGE CEANS A CREDIT; CE BONHOMME EST MORT, LES MAUVAIS
PAIEURS L'ONT TUE."
They met the landlord in the passage.
"Welcome, messieurs," said he, taking off his cap, with a low bow.
"Come, we are not in Germany," said Gerard.
In the public room they found the mistress, a buxom woman of
forty. She curtsied to them, and smiled right cordially "Give
yourself the trouble of sitting ye down, fair sir," said she to
Gerard, and dusted two chairs with her apron, not that they needed
"Thank you, dame," said Gerard. "Well," thought he, "this is a
polite nation: the trouble of sitting down? That will I with
singular patience; and presently the labour of eating, also the
toil of digestion, and finally, by Hercules his aid, the strain of
going to bed, and the struggle of sinking fast asleep.
"Why, Denys, what are you doing? ordering supper for only two?"
"What, can we sup without waiting for forty more? Burgundy
"Aha! Courage, camarade. Le dia - "
The salic law seemed not to have penetrated to French inns. In
this one at least wimple and kirtle reigned supreme; doublets and
hose were few in number, and feeble in act. The landlord himself
wandered objectless, eternally taking off his cap to folk for want
of thought; and the women, as they passed him in turn, thrust him
quietly aside without looking at him, as we remove a live twig in
bustling through a wood.
A maid brought in supper, and the mistress followed her, empty
"Fall to, my masters," said she cheerily; "y'have but one enemy
here; and he lies under your knife." (I shrewdly suspect this of
They fell to. The mistress drew her chair a little toward the
table; and provided company as well as meat; gossiped genially
with them like old acquaintances: but this form gone through, the
busy dame was soon off and sent in her daughter, a beautiful young
woman of about twenty, who took the vacant seat. She was not quite
so broad and genial as the elder, but gentle and cheerful, and
showed a womanly tenderness for Gerard on learning the distance
the poor boy had come, and had to go. She stayed nearly
half-an-hour, and when she left them Gerard said, "This an inn?
Why, it is like home."
"Qui fit Francois il fit courtois," said Denys, bursting with
"Courteous? nay, Christian; to welcome us like home guests and old
friends, us vagrants, here to-day and gone to-morrow. But indeed
who better merits pity and kindness than the worn traveller far
from his folk? Hola! here's another."
The new-comer was the chambermaid, a woman of about twenty-five,
with a cocked nose, a large laughing mouth, and a sparkling black
eye, and a bare arm very stout but not very shapely.
The moment she came in, one of the travellers passed a somewhat
free jest on her; the next the whole company were roaring at his
expense, so swiftly had her practised tongue done his business.
Even as, in a passage of arms between a novice and a master of
fence, foils clash - novice pinked. On this another, and then
another, must break a lance with her; but Marion stuck her great
arms upon her haunches, and held the whole room in play. This
country girl possessed in perfection that rude and ready humour
which looks mean and vulgar on paper, but carries all before it
spoken: not wit's rapier; its bludgeon. Nature had done much for
her in this way, and daily practice in an inn the rest.
Yet shall she not be photographed by me, but feebly indicated: for
it was just four hundred years ago, the raillery was coarse, she
returned every stroke in kind, and though a virtuous woman, said
things without winking, which no decent man of our day would say
even among men.
Gerard sat gaping with astonishment. This was to him almost a new
variety of "that interesting species," homo. He whispered "Denys,
"Now I see why you Frenchmen say 'a woman's tongue is her sword:'"
just then she levelled another assailant; and the chivalrous
Denys, to console and support "the weaker vessel," the iron kettle
among the clay pots, administered his consigne, "Courage, ma mie,
le - - " etc.
She turned on him directly. "How can he be dead as long as there
is an archer left alive?" (General laughter at her ally's
"It is 'washing day,' my masters," said she, with sudden gravity.
"Apres? We travellers cannot strip and go bare while you wash our
clothes," objected a peevish old fellow by the fireside, who had
kept mumchance during the raillery, but crept out into the
sunshine of commonplaces.
"I aimed not your way, ancient man," replied Marion
superciliously. "But since you ask me" (here she scanned him
slowly from head to foot), "I trow you might take a turn in the
tub, clothes and all, and no harm done" (laughter). "But what I
spoke for, I thought this young sire might like his beard
Poor Gerald's turn had come; his chin crop was thin and silky.
The loudest of all the laughers this time was the traitor Denys,
whose beard was of a good length, and singularly stiff and
bristly; so that Shakespeare, though he never saw him, hit him in
the bull's eye.
"Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard."
- As You Like It.
Gerard bore the Amazonian satire mighty calmly. He had little
personal vanity. "Nay, 'chambriere,'" said he, with a smile, "mine
is all unworthy your pains; take you this fair growth in hand!"
and he pointed to Denys's vegetable.
"Oh, time for that, when I starch the besoms.
Whilst they were all shouting over this palpable hit, the mistress
returned, and in no more time than it took her to cross the
threshold, did our Amazon turn to a seeming Madonna meek and mild.
Mistresses are wonderful subjugators. Their like I think breathes
not on the globe. Housemaids, decide! It was a waste of histrionic
ability though; for the landlady had heard, and did not at heart
disapprove, the peals of laughter.
"Ah, Marion, lass," said she good-humouredly, "if you laid me an
egg every time you cackle, 'L'es Trois Poissons' would never lack
"Now, dame," said Gerard, "what is to pay?"
"Where is the hurry? cannot you be content to pay when you go?
lose the guest, find the money, is the rule of 'The Three Fish.'"
"But, dame, outside 'The Three Fish' it is thus written - 'Ici-on
ne loge - "
"Bah! Let that flea stick on the wall! Look hither," and she
pointed to the smoky ceiling, which was covered with
hieroglyphics. These were accounts, vulgo scores; intelligible to
this dame and her daughter, who wrote them at need by simply
mounting a low stool, and scratching with a knife so as to show
lines of ceiling through the deposit of smoke. The dame explained
that the writing on the wall was put there to frighten moneyless
folk from the inn altogether, or to be acted on at odd times when
a non-paying face should come in and insist on being served. "We
can't refuse them plump, you know". The law forbids us."
"And how know you mine is not such a face?"
"Out fie! it is the best face that has entered 'The Three Fish'
"And mine, dame?" said Denys; "dost see no knavery here?"
She eyed him calmly. "Not such a good one as the lad's; nor ever
will be. But it is the face of a true man. For all that," added
she drily, "an I were ten years younger, I'd as lieve not meet
that face on a dark night too far from home."
Gerard stared. Denys laughed. "Why, dame, I would but sip the
night dew off the flower; and you needn't take ten years off, nor
ten days, to be worth risking a scratched face for."
"There, our mistress," said Marion, who had just come in, "said I
not t'other day you could make a fool of them still, an if you
were properly minded?"
"I dare say ye did; it sounds like some daft wench's speech."
"Dame," said Gerard, "this is wonderful."
"What? Oh! no, no, that is no wonder at all. Why, I have been here
all my life; and reading faces is the first thing a girl picks up
in an inn."
Marion. "And frying eggs the second; no, telling lies; frying eggs
is the third, though."
The Mistress. "And holding her tongue the last, and modesty the
day after never at all."
Marion. "Alack! Talk of my tongue. But I say no more. She under
whose wing I live now deals the blow. I'm sped - 'tis but a
chambermaid gone. Catch what's left on't!" and she staggered and
sank backwards on to the handsomest fellow in the room, which
happened to be Gerard.
"Tic! tic!" cried he peevishly; "there, don't be stupid! that is
too heavy a jest for me. See you not I am talking to the
Marion resumed her elasticity with a grimace, made two little
bounds into the middle of the floor, and there turned a pirouette.
"There, mistress," said she, "I give in; 'tis you that reigns
supreme with the men, leastways with male children."
"Young man," said the mistress, "this girl is not so stupid as her
deportment; in reading of faces, and frying of omelets, there we
are great. 'Twould be hard if we failed at these arts, since they
are about all we do know."
"You do not quite take me, dame," said Gerard. "That honesty in a
face should shine forth to your experienced eye, that seems
reasonable: but how by looking on Denys here could you learn his
one little foible, his insanity, his miserable mulierosity?" Poor
Gerard got angrier the more he thought of it.
"His mule - his what?" (crossing herself with superstitious awe at
"Nay, 'tis but the word I was fain to invent for him."
"Invent? What, can a child like you make other words than grow in
Burgundy by nature? Take heed what ye do! why, we are overrun with
them already, especially bad ones. Lord, these be times. I look to
hear of a new thistle invented next."
"Well then, dame, mulierose - that means wrapped up, body and
soul, in women. So prithee tell me; how did you ever detect the
"Alas! good youth, you make a mountain of a molehill. We that are
women be notice-takers; and out of the tail of our eye see more
than most men can, glaring through a prospect glass. Whiles I move
to and fro doing this and that, my glance is still on my guests,
and I did notice that this soldier's eyes were never off the
womenfolk: my daughter, or Marion, or even an old woman like me,
all was gold to him: and there a sat glowering; oh, you foolish,
foolish man! Now you still turned to the speaker, her or him, and
that is common sense.
Denys burst into a hoarse laugh. "You never were more out. Why,
this silky, smooth-faced companion is a very Turk -all but his
beard. He is what d'ye call 'em oser than ere an archer in the
Duke's body-guard. He is more wrapped up in one single Dutch lass
called Margaret, than I am in the whole bundle of ye, brown and
"Man alive, that is just the contrary," said the hostess. "Yourn
is the bane, and hisn the cure. Cling you still to Margaret, my
dear. I hope she is an honest girl."
"Dame, she is an angel."
"Ay, ay, they are all that till better acquainted. I'd as lieve
have her no more than honest, and then she will serve to keep you
out of worse company. As for you, soldier, there is trouble in
store for you. Your eyes were never made for the good of your
"Nor of his pouch either," said Marion, striking in, "and his
lips, they will sip the dew, as he calls it, off many a bramble
"Overmuch clack! Marion overmuch clack."
"Ods bodikins, mistress; ye didn't hire me to be one o' your three
fishes, did ye?" and Marion sulked thirty seconds.
"Is that the way to speak to our mistress?" remonstrated the
landlord, who had slipped in.
"Hold your whisht," said his wife sharply; "it is not your
business to check the girl; she is a good servant to you."
"What, is the cock never to crow, and the hens at it all day?"
"You can crow as loud as you like, my man out o' doors. But the
hen means to rule the roost."
"I know a byword to that tune." said Gerard.
"Do ye, now? out wi't then."
"Femme veut en toute saison,
Estre dame en sa mason."
"I never heard it afore; but 'tis as sooth as gospel. Ay, they
that set these bywords a rolling had eyes and tongues, and tongues
and eyes. Before all the world give me an old saw."
"And me a young husband," said Marion. "Now there was a chance for
you all, and nobody spoke. Oh! it is too late now, I've changed my
"All the better for some poor fellow," suggested Denys.
And now the arrival of the young mistress, or, as she was called,
the little mistress, was the signal for them all to draw round the
fire, like one happy family, travellers, host, hostess, and even
servants in the outer ring, and tell stories till bedtime. And
Gerard in his turn told a tremendous one out of his repertory, a
MS. collection of "acts of the saints," and made them all shudder
deliciously; but soon after began to nod, exhausted by the effort,
I should say. The young mistress saw, and gave Marion a look. She
instantly lighted a rush, and laying her hand on Gerard's
shoulder, invited him to follow her. She showed him a room where
were two nice white beds, and bade him choose.
"Either is paradise," said he. "I'll take this one. Do you know, I
have not lain in a naked bed once since I left my home in
"Alack! poor soul!" said she; "well, then, the sooner my flax and
your down (he! he!) come together, the better; so - allons!" and
she held out her cheek as business-like as if it had been her hand
for a fee.
"Allons? what does that mean?"
"It means 'good-night.' Ahem! What, don't they salute the
chambermaid in your part?"
"Not all in a moment."
"What, do they make a business on't?"
"Nay, perverter of words, I mean we make not so free with strange
"They must be strange women if they do not think you strange
fools, then. Here is a coil. Why, all the old greasy greybeards
that lie at our inn do kiss us chambermaids; faugh! and what have
we poor wretches to set on t'other side the compt but now and then
a nice young----? Alack! time flies, chambermaids can't be spared
long in the nursery, so how is't to be?"
"An't please you arrange with my comrade for both. He is
mulierose; I am not."
"Nay, 'tis the curb he will want, not the spur. Well! well! you
shall to bed without paying the usual toll; and oh, but 'tis sweet
to fall in with a young man who can withstand these ancient ill
customs, and gainsay brazen hussies. Shalt have thy reward."
"Thank you! But what are you doing with my bed?"
"Me? oh, only taking off these sheets, and going to put on the
pair the drunken miller slept in last night."
"Oh, no! no! You cruel, black-hearted thing! There! there!"
"A la bonne heure! What will not perseverance effect? But note now
the frowardness of a mad wench! I cared not for't a button. I am
dead sick of that sport this five years. But you denied me; so
then forthwith I behoved to have it; belike had gone through fire
and water for't. Alas, young sir, we women are kittle cattle; poor
perverse toads: excuse us: and keep us in our place, savoir, at
arm's length; and so good-night!"
At the door she turned and said, with a complete change of tone
and manner: "The Virgin guard thy head, and the holy Evangelists
watch the bed where lies a poor young wanderer far from home!
And the next moment he heard her run tearing down the stairs, and
soon a peal of laughter from the salle betrayed her whereabouts.
"Now that is a character," said Gerard profoundly, and yawned over
In a very few minutes he was in a dry bath of cold, clean linen,
inexpressibly refreshing to him after so long disuse: then came a
delicious glow; and then - Sevenbergen.
In the morning Gerard awoke infinitely refreshed, and was for
rising, but found himself a close prisoner. His linen had
vanished. Now this was paralysis; for the nightgown is a recent
institution. In Gerard's century, and indeed long after, men did
not play fast and loose with clean sheets (when they could get
them), but crept into them clothed with their innocence, like
Adam: out of bed they seem to have taken most after his eldest
Gerard bewailed his captivity to Denys; but that instant the door
opened, and in sailed Marion with their linen, newly washed and
ironed, on her two arms, and set it down on the table.
"Oh you good girl," cried Gerard.
"Alack, have you found me out at last?"
"Yes, indeed. Is this another custom?"
"Nay, not to take them unbidden: but at night we aye question
travellers, are they for linen washed. So I came into you, but you
were both sound. Then said I to the little mistress, 'La! where is
the sense of waking wearied men, t'ask them is Charles the Great
dead, and would they liever carry foul linen or clean, especially
this one with a skin like cream? 'And so he has, I declare,' said
the young mistress."
"That was me," remarked Denys, with the air of a commentator.
"Guess once more, and you'll hit the mark."
"Notice him not, Marion, he is an impudent fellow; and I am sure
we cannot be grateful enough for your goodness, and I am sorry I
ever refused you - anything you fancied you should like."
"Oh, are ye there," said l'espiegle. "I take that to mean you
would fain brush the morning dew off, as your bashful companion
calls it; well then, excuse me, 'tis customary, but not prudent. I
decline. Quits with you, lad."
"Stop! stop!" cried Denys, as she was making off victorious, "I am
curious to know how many, of ye were here last night a-feasting
your eyes on us twain.
"'Twas so satisfactory a feast as we weren't half a minute over't.
Who? why the big mistress, the little mistress, Janet, and me, and
the whole posse comitatus, on tiptoe. We mostly make our rounds
the last thing, not to get burned down; and in prodigious numbers.
Somehow that maketh us bolder, especially where archers lie
"Why did not you tell me? I'd have lain awake."
"Beau sire, the saying goes that the good and the ill are all one
while their lids are closed. So we said, 'Here is one who will
serve God best asleep, Break not his rest!'"
"She is funny," said Gerard dictatorially.
"I must be either that or knavish."
"Because 'The Three Fish' pay me to be funny. You will eat before
you part? Good! then I'll go see the meat be fit for such
"What is your will?"
"I wish that was a great boy, and going along with us, to keep us
"So do not I. But I wish it was going along with us as it is."
"Now Heaven forefend! A fine fool you would make of yourself."
They broke their fast, settled their score, and said farewell.
Then it was they found that Marion had not exaggerated the "custom
of the country." The three principal women took and kissed them
right heartily, and they kissed the three principal women. The
landlord took and kissed them, and they kissed the landlord; and
the cry was, "Come back, the sooner the better!"
"Never pass 'The Three Fish'; should your purses be void, bring
yourselves: 'le sieur credit' is not dead for you."
And they took the road again.
They came to a little town, and Denys went to buy shoes. The
shopkeeper was in the doorway, but wide awake. He received Denys
with a bow down to the ground. The customer was soon fitted, and
followed to the street, and dismissed with graceful salutes from
The friends agreed it was Elysium to deal with such a shoemaker as
this. "Not but what my German shoes have lasted well enough," said
Gerard the just.
Outside the town was a pebbled walk.
"This is to keep the burghers's feet dry, a-walking o' Sundays
with their wives and daughters," said Denys.
Those simple words of Denys, one stroke of a careless tongue,
painted "home" in Gerard's heart. "Oh, how sweet!" said he.
"Mercy! what is this? A gibbet! and ugh, two skeletons thereon!
Oh, Denys, what a sorry sight to woo by!"
"Nay," said Denys, "a comfortable sight; for every rogue i' the
air there is one the less a-foot"
A little farther on they came to two pillars, and between these
was a huge wheel closely studded with iron prongs; and entangled
in these were bones and fragments of cloth miserably dispersed
over the wheel.
Gerard hid his face in his hands. "Oh, to think those patches and
bones are all that is left of a man! of one who was what we are
"Excusez! a thing that went on two legs and stole; are we no more
"How know ye he stole? Have true men never suffered death and
"None of my kith ever found their way to the gibbet, I know."
"The better their luck. Prithee, how died the saints?"
"Hard. But not in Burgundy."
"Ye massacred them wholesale at Lyons, and that is on Burgundy's
threshold. To you the gibbet proves the crime, because you read
not story. Alas! had you stood on Calvary that bloody day we sigh
for to this hour, I tremble to think you had perhaps shouted for
joy at the gibbet builded there; for the cross was but the Roman
gallows, Father Martin says."
"The blaspheming old hound!"
"Oh, fie! fie! a holy and a book-learned man. Ay, Denys, y'had
read them, that suffered there, by the bare light of the gibbet.
'Drive in the nails!' y'had cried: 'drive in the spear!' Here be
three malefactors. Three 'roues.' Yet of those little three one
was the first Christian saint, and another was the Saviour of the
world which gibbeted him."
Denys assured him on his honour they managed things better in
Burgundy. He added, too, after profound reflection, that the
horrors Gerard had alluded to had more than once made him curse
and swear with rage when told by the good cure in his native
village at Eastertide: "but they chanced in an outlandish nation,
and near a thousand years agone. Mort de ma vie, let us hope it is
not true; or at least sore exaggerated. Do but see how all tales
gather as they roll!"
Then he reflected again, and all in a moment turned red with ire.
"Do ye not blush to play with your book-craft on your unlettered
friend, and throw dust in his eyes, evening the saints with these
Then suddenly he recovered his good humour. "Since your heart
beats for vermin, feel for the carrion crows! they be as good
vermin as these; would ye send them to bed supperless, poor pretty
poppets? Why, these be their larder; the pangs of hunger would
gnaw them dead, but for cold cut-purse hung up here and there."
Gerard, who had for some time maintained a dead silence, informed
him the subject was closed between them, and for ever. "There are
things," said he, "in which our hearts seem wide as the poles
asunder, and eke our heads. But I love thee dearly all the same,"
he added, with infinite grace and tenderness.
Towards afternoon they heard a faint wailing noise on ahead; it
grew distincter as they proceeded. Being fast walkers they soon
came up with its cause: a score of pikemen, accompanied by several
constables, were marching along, and in advance of them was a herd
of animals they were driving. These creatures, in number rather
more than a hundred, were of various ages, only very few were
downright old: the males were downcast and silent. It was the
females from whom all the outcry came. In other words, the animals
thus driven along at the law's point were men and women.
"Good Heaven!" cried Gerard, "what a band of them! But stay,
surely all those children cannot be thieves; why, there are some
in arms. What on earth is this, Denys?"
Denys advised him to ask that "bourgeois" with the badge; "This is
Burgundy: here a civil question ever draws a civil reply.
Gerard went up to the officer, and removing his cap, a civility
which was immediately returned, said, "For our Lady's sake, sir,
what do ye with these poor folk?"
"Nay, what is that to you, my lad?" replied the functionary
"Master, I'm a stranger, and athirst for knowledge."
"That is another matter. What are we doing? ahem. Why we - Dost
hear, Jacques? Here is a stranger seeks to know what we are
doing," and the two machines were tickled that there should be a
man who did not know something they happened to know. In all ages
this has tickled. However, the chuckle was brief and moderated by
the native courtesy, and the official turned to Gerard again.
"What we are doing? hum!" and now he hesitated, not from any doubt
as to what he was doing, but because he was hunting for a single
word that should convey the matter.
"Ce que nous faisons, mon gars? - Mais - dam - NOUS TRANSVASONS."
"You decant? that should mean you pour from one vessel to
"Precisely." He explained that last year the town of Charmes had
been sore thinned by a pestilence, whole houses emptied and trades
short of hands. Much ado to get in the rye, and the flax half
spoiled. So the bailiff and aldermen had written to the duke's
secretary; and the duke he sent far and wide to know what town was
too full. "That are we," had the baillie of Toul writ back. "Then
send four or five score of your townsfolk," was the order. "Was
not this to decant the full town into the empty, and is not the
good duke the father of his people, and will not let the duchy be
weakened, nor its fair towns laid waste by sword nor pestilence;
but meets the one with pike, and arbalest (touching his cap to the
sergeant and Denys alternately), and t'other with policy? LONG
LIVE THE DUKE!"
The pikemen of course were not to be outdone in loyalty; so they
shouted with stentorian lungs "LONG LIVE THE DUKE!" Then the
decanted ones, partly because loyalty was a non-reasoning
sentiment in those days, partly perhaps because they feared some
further ill consequence should they alone be mute, raised a
feeble, tremulous shout, "Long live the Duke!"
But, at this, insulted nature rebelled. Perhaps indeed the sham
sentiment drew out the real, for, on the very heels of that royal
noise, a loud and piercing wail burst from every woman's bosom,
and a deep, deep groan from every man's; oh! the air filled in a
moment with womanly and manly anguish. Judge what it must have
been when the rude pikemen halted unbidden, all confused; as if a
wall of sorrow had started up before them.
"En avant," roared the sergeant, and they marched again, but
muttering and cursing.
"Ah the ugly sound," said the civilian, wincing. "Les malheureux!"
cried he ruefully: for where is the single man can hear the sudden
agony of a multitude and not be moved? "Les ingrats! They are
going whence they were de trop to where they will be welcome: from
starvation to plenty - and they object. They even make dismal
noises. One would think we were thrusting them forth from
"Come away," whispered Gerard, trembling; "come away," and the
friends strode forward.
When they passed the head of the column, and saw the men walk with
their eyes bent in bitter gloom upon the ground, and the women,
some carrying, some leading little children, and weeping as they
went, and the poor bairns, some frolicking, some weeping because
"their mammies" wept, Gerard tried hard to say a word of comfort,
but choked and could utter nothing to the mourners; but gasped,
"Come on, Denys, I cannot mock such sorrow with little words of
comfort." And now, artist-like, all his aim was to get swiftly out
of the grief he could not soothe. He almost ran not to hear these
sighs and sobs
"Why, mate," said Denys, "art the colour of a lemon. Man alive,
take not other folk's troubles to heart! not one of those whining
milksops there but would see thee, a stranger, hanged without
Gerard scarce listened to him.
"Decant them?" he groaned; "ay, if blood were no thicker than
wine. Princes, ye are wolves. Poor things! Poor things! Ah, Denys!
Denys! with looking on their grief mine own comes home to me.
Well-a-day! ah, well-a-day!"
"Ay, now you talk reason. That you, poor lad, should be driven all
the way from Holland to Rome is pitiful indeed. But these
snivelling curs, where is their hurt? There is six score of 'em to
keep one another company: besides, they are not going out of
"Better for them if they had never been in it."
"Mechant, va! they are but going from one village to another, a
mule's journey! whilst thou - there, no more. Courage, camarade,
le diable est mort."
Gerard shook his head very doubtfully, but kept silence for about
a mile, and then he said thoughtfully, "Ay, Denys, but then I am
sustained by booklearning. These are simple folk that likely
thought their village was the world: now what is this? more
weeping. Oh! 'tis a sweet world Humph! A little girl that hath
broke her pipkin. Now may I hang on one of your gibbets but I'll
dry somebody's tears," and he pounced savagely upon this little
martyr, like a kite on a chick, but with more generous intentions.
It was a pretty little lass of about twelve; the tears were
raining down her two peaches, and her palms lifted to heaven in
that utter, though temporary, desolation which attends calamity at
twelve; and at her feet the fatal cause, a broken pot, worth, say
the fifth of a modern farthing.
"What, hast broken thy pot, little one?" said Gerard, acting
"Helas! bel gars; as you behold;" and the hands came down from the
sky and both pointed at the fragments. A statuette of adversity.