Part 7 out of 18
"Mayhap 'twas for that I did propose it." said the cure subtly.
Thus encouraged, Gerard fired the eyes and nostrils of the image
and made the cure jump. Then lighted up the hair in patches; and
set the whole face shining like a glow-worm's.
"By'r Lady," shouted the cure, "'tis strange, and small my wonder
that they took you for a magician, seeing a dead face thus fired.
Now come thy ways with me!"
He put on his grey gown and great hat, and in a few minutes they
found themselves in presence of the alderman. By his side,
poisoning his mind, stood the accuser, a singular figure in red
hose and red shoes, a black gown with blue bands, and a cocked
After saluting the alderman, the cure turned to this personage and
said good-humouredly, "So, Mangis, at thy work again, babbling
away honest men's lives! Come, your worship, this is the old tale!
two of a trade can ne'er agree. Here is Mangis, who professes
sorcery, and would sell himself to Satan to-night, but that Satan
is not so weak as buy what he can have gratis, this Mangis, who
would be a sorcerer, but is only a quacksalver, accuses of magic a
true lad, who did but use in self-defence a secret of chemistry
well-known to me and all churchmen."
"But he is no churchman, to dabble in such mysteries," objected
"He is more churchman than layman, being convent bred, and in the
lesser orders," said the ready cure. "Therefore, sorcerer,
withdraw thy plaint without more words!"
"That I will not, your reverence," replied Mangis stoutly. "A
sorcerer I am, but a white one, not a black one. I make no pact
with Satan, but on the contrary still battle him with lawful and
necessary arts, I ne'er profane the sacraments, as do the black
sorcerers, nor turn myself into a cat and go sucking infants'
blood, nor e'en their breath, nor set dead men o' fire. I but tell
the peasants when their cattle and their hens are possessed, and
at what time of the moon to plant rye, and what days in each month
are lucky for wooing of women and selling of bullocks and so
forth: above all, it is my art and my trade to detect the black
magicians, as I did that whole tribe of them who were burnt at Dol
but last year."
"Ay, Mangis. And what is the upshot of that famous fire thy tongue
"Why, their ashes were cast to the wind."
"Ay. But the true end of thy comedy is this. The parliament of
Dijon hath since sifted the matter, and found they were no
sorcerers, but good and peaceful citizens; and but last week did
order masses to be said for their souls, and expiatory farces and
mysteries to be played for them in seven towns of Burgundy; all
which will not of those cinders make men and women again. Now 'tis
our custom in this land, when we have slain the innocent by
hearkening false knaves like thee, not to blame our credulous
ears, but the false tongue that gulled them. Therefore bethink
thee that, at a word from me to my lord bishop, thou wilt smell
burning pine nearer than e'er knave smelt it and lived, and wilt
travel on a smoky cloud to him whose heart thou bearest (for the
word devil in the Latin it meaneth 'false accuser'), and whose
livery thou wearest."
And the cure pointed at Mangis with his staff.
"That is true i'fegs," said the alderman, "for red and black be
the foul fiendys colours."
By this time the white sorcerer's cheek was as colourless as his
dress was fiery. Indeed the contrast amounted to pictorial. He
stammered out, "I respect Holy Church and her will; he shall fire
the churchyard, and all in it, for me: I do withdraw the plaint."
"Then withdraw thyself," said the vice-bailiff.
The moment he was gone the cure took the conversational tone, and
told the alderman courteously that the accused had received the
chemical substance from Holy Church, and had restored it her, by
giving it all to him.
"Then 'tis in good hands," was the reply; "young man, you are
free. Let me have your reverence's prayers."
"Doubt it not! Humph! Vice-baillie, the town owes me four silver
franks, this three months and more."
"They shall be paid, cure, ay, ere the week be out."
On this good understanding Church and State parted. As soon as he
was in the street Gerard caught the priest's hand, and kissed it.
"Oh, sir! Oh, your reverence. You have saved me from the fiery
stake. What can I say, what do? what
"Nought, foolish lad. Bounty rewards itself. Natheless - Humph? -
I wish I had done't without leasing. It ill becomes my function to
"Falsehood, sir?" Gerard was mystified.
"Didst not hear me say thou hadst given me that same phosphorus?
'Twill cost me a fortnight's penance, that light word." The cure
sighed, and his eye twinkled cunningly.
"Nay, nay," cried Gerard eagerly. "Now Heaven forbid! That was no
falsehood, father: well you knew the phosphorus was yours, is
yours." And he thrust the bottle into the cure's hand. "But alas,
'tis too poor a gift: will you not take from my purse somewhat for
Holy Church?" and now he held out his purse with glistening eyes.
"Nay," said the other brusquely, and put his hands quickly behind
him; "not a doit. Fie! fie! art pauper et exul. Come thou rather
each day at noon and take thy diet with me; for my heart warms to
thee;" and he went off very abruptly with his hands behind him.
But they itched in vain.
Where there's a heart there's a Rubicon.
Gerard went hastily to the inn to relieve Denys of the anxiety so
long and mysterious an absence must have caused him. He found him
seated at his ease, playing dice with two young ladies whose
manners were unreserved, and complexion high.
Gerard was hurt. "N'oubliez point la Jeanneton!" said he,
"What of her?" said Denys, gaily rattling the dice.
"She said, 'Le peu que sont les femmes.'"
"Oh, did she? And what say you to that, mesdemoiselles?"
"We say that none run women down, but such as are too old, or too
ill-favoured, or too witless to please them."
"Witless, quotha? Wise men have not folly enough to please them,
nor madness enough to desire to please them," said Gerard loftily;
"but 'tis to my comrade I speak, not to you, you brazen toads,
that make so free with a man at first sight."
"Preach away, comrade. Fling a byword or two at our heads. Know,
girls, that he is a very Solomon for bywords. Methinks he was
brought up by hand on 'em."
"Be thy friendship a byword!" retorted Gerard. "The friendship
that melts to nought at sight of a farthingale."
"Malheureux!" cried Denys, "I speak but pellets, and thou
"Would I could," was the reply. "Adieu."
"What a little savage!" said one of the girls.
Gerard opened the door and put in his head. "I have thought of a
byword," said he spitefully -
Qui hante femmes et dez
Il mourra en pauvretez.
There." And having delivered this thunderbolt of antique wisdom,
he slammed the door viciously ere any of them could retort.
And now, being somewhat exhausted by his anxieties, he went to the
bar for a morsel of bread and a cup of wine. The landlord would
sell nothing less than a pint bottle. Well then he would have a
bottle; but when he came to compare the contents of the bottle
with its size, great was the discrepancy: on this he examined the
bottle keenly, and found that the glass was thin where the bottle
tapered, but towards the bottom unnaturally thick. He pointed this
out at once.
The landlord answered superciliously that he did not make bottles:
and was nowise accountable for their shape.
"That we will see presently," said Gerard. "I will take this thy
pint to the vice-bailiff."
"Nay, nay, for Heaven's sake," cried the landlord, changing his
tone at once. "I love to content my customers. If by chance this
pint be short, we will charge it and its fellow three sous
insteads of two sous each."
"So be it. But much I admire that you, the host of so fair an inn,
should practise thus. The wine, too, smacketh strongly of spring
"Young sir," said the landlord, "we cut no travellers' throats at
this inn, as they do at most. However, you know all about that,
'The White Hart' is no lion, nor bear. Whatever masterful robbery
is done here, is done upon the poor host. How then could he live
at all if he dealt not a little crooked with the few who pay?"
Gerard objected to this system root and branch. Honest trade was
small profits, quick returns; and neither to cheat nor be cheated.
The landlord sighed at this picture. "So might one keep an inn in
heaven, but not in Burgundy. When foot soldiers going to the wars
are quartered on me, how can I but lose by their custom? Two sous
per day is their pay, and they eat two sous' worth, and drink into
the bargain. The pardoners are my good friends, but palmers and
pilgrims, what think you I gain by them? marry, a loss. Minstrels
and jongleurs draw custom and so claim to pay no score, except for
liquor. By the secular monks I neither gain nor lose, but the
black and grey friars have made vow of poverty, but not of famine;
eat like wolves and give the poor host nought but their prayers;
and mayhap not them: how can he tell? In my father's day we had
the weddings; but now the great gentry let their houses and their
plates, their mugs and their spoons to any honest couple that want
to wed, and thither the very mechanics go with their brides and
bridal train. They come not to us: indeed we could not find seats
and vessels for such a crowd as eat and drink and dance the week
out at the homeliest wedding now. In my father's day the great
gentry sold wine by the barrel only; but now they have leave to
cry it, and sell it by the galopin, in the very market-place. How
can we vie with them? They grow it. We buy it of the grower. The
coroner's quests we have still, and these would bring goodly
profit, but the meat is aye gone ere the mouths be full."
"You should make better provision," suggested his hearer.
"The law will not let us. We are forbidden to go into the market
for the first hour. So, when we arrive, the burghers have bought
all but the refuse. Besides, the law forbids us to buy more than
three bushels of meal at a time: yet market day comes but once a
week. As for the butchers, they will not kill for us unless we
"Courage!" said Gerard kindly, "the shoe pinches every trader
"Ay: but not as it pinches us. Our shoe is trode all o' one side
as well as pinches us lame. A savoir, if we pay not the merchants
we buy meal, meat, and wine of, they can cast us into prison and
keep us there till we pay or die. But we cannot cast into prison
those who buy those very victuals of us. A traveller's horse we
may keep for his debt; but where, in Heaven's name? In our own
stable, eating his head off at our cost. Nay, we may keep the
traveller himself; but where? In gaol? Nay, in our own good house,
and there must we lodge and feed him gratis. And so fling good
silver after bad? Merci; no: let him go with a wanion. Our
honestest customers are the thieves. Would to Heaven there were
more of them. They look not too close into the shape of the
canakin, nor into the host's reckoning: with them and with their
purses 'tis lightly come, and lightly go. Also they spend freely,
not knowing but each carouse may be their last. But the
thief-takers, instead of profiting by this fair example, are for
ever robbing the poor host. When noble or honest travellers
descend at our door, come the Provost's men pretending to suspect
them, and demanding to search them and their papers. To save which
offence the host must bleed wine and meat. Then come the excise to
examine all your weights and measures. You must stop their mouths
with meat and wine. Town excise. Royal excise. Parliament excise.
A swarm of them, and all with a wolf in their stomachs and a
sponge in their gullets. Monks, friars, pilgrims, palmers,
soldiers, excisemen, provost-marshals and men, and mere bad
debtors, how can 'The White Hart' butt against all these? Cutting
no throats in self-defence as do your 'Swans' and 'Roses' and
'Boar's Heads' and 'Red Lions' and 'Eagles,' your 'Moons,'
'Stars,' and 'Moors,' how can 'The White Hart' give a pint of wine
for a pint? And everything risen so. Why, lad, not a pound of
bread I sell but cost me three good copper deniers, twelve to the
sou; and each pint of wine, bought by the tun, costs me four
deniers; every sack of charcoal two sous, and gone in a day. A
pair of partridges five sous. What think you of that? Heard one
ever the like? five sous for two little beasts all bone and
feather? A pair of pigeons, thirty deniers. 'Tis ruination!!! For
we may not raise our pricen with the market. Oh, no, I tell thee
the shoe is trode all o' one side as well as pinches the water
into our eyn. We may charge nought for mustard, pepper, salt, or
firewood. Think you we get them for nought? Candle it is a sou the
pound. Salt five sous the stone, pepper four sous the pound,
mustard twenty deniers the pint; and raw meat, dwindleth it on the
spit with no cost to me but loss of weight? Why, what think you I
pay my cook? But you shall never guess. A HUNDRED SOUS A YEAR AS I
AM A LIVING SINNER.
"And my waiter thirty sous, besides his perquisites. He is a
hantle richer than I am. And then to be insulted as well as
pillaged. Last Sunday I went to church. It is a place I trouble
not often. Didn't the cure lash the hotel-keepers? I grant you he
hit all the trades, except the one that is a byword for looseness,
and pride, and sloth, to wit, the clergy. But, mind you, he
stripeit the other lay estates with a feather, but us
hotel-keepers with a neat's pizzle: godless for this, godless for
that, and most godless of all for opening our doors during mass.
Why, the law forces us to open at all hours to travellers from
another town, stopping, halting, or passing: those be the words.
They can fine us before the bailiff if we refuse them, mass or no
mass; and say a townsman should creep in with the true travellers,
are we to blame? They all vow they are tired wayfarers; and can I
ken every face in a great town like this? So if we respect the law
our poor souls are to suffer, and if we respect it not, our poor
lank purses must bleed at two holes, fine and loss of custom."
A man speaking of himself in general, is "a babbling brook;" of
his wrongs, "a shining river."
"Labitur et labetur in omne volubilis aevum."
So luckily for my readers, though not for all concerned, this
injured orator was arrested in mid career. Another man burst in
upon his wrongs with all the advantage of a recent wrong; a wrong
red hot. It was Denys cursing and swearing and crying that he was
"Did those hussies pass this way? who are they? where do they
bide? They have ta'en my purse and fifteen golden pieces: raise
the hue and cry! ah! traitresses! vipers! These inns are all
"There now," cried the landlord to Gerard.
Gerard implored him to be calm, and say how it had befallen.
"First one went out on some pretence: then after a while the other
went to fetch her back, and neither returning, I clapped hand to
purse and found it empty: the ungrateful creatures, I was letting
them win it in a gallop: but loaded dice were not quick enough;
they must claw it all in a lump."
Gerard was for going at once to the alderman and setting the
officers to find them.
"Not I," said Denys. "I hate the law. No: as it came so let it
Gerard would not give it up so.
At a hint from the landlord he forced Denys along with him to the
provost-marshal. That dignitary shook his head. "We have no clue
to occasional thieves, that work honestly at their needles, till
some gull comes and tempts them with an easy booty, and then they
"Come away," cried Denys furiously. "I knew what use a bourgeois
would be to me at a pinch:" and he marched off in a rage.
"They are clear of the town ere this," said Gerard.
"Speak no more on't if you prize my friendship. I have five pieces
with the bailiff, and ten I left with Manon, luckily; or these
traitresses had feathered their nest with my last plume. What dost
gape for so? Nay, I do ill to vent my choler on thee: I'll tell
thee all. Art wiser than I. What saidst thou at the door? No
matter. Well, then, I did offer marriage to that Manon."
Gerard was dumfounded.
"What? You offered her what?"
"Marriage. Is that such a mighty strange thing to offer a wench?"
"'Tis a strange thing to offer to a strange girl in passing."
"Nay, I am not such a sot as you opine. I saw the corn in all that
chaff. I knew I could not get her by fair means, so I was fain to
try foul. 'Mademoiselle,' said I, 'marriage is not one of my
habits, but struck by your qualities I make an exception; deign to
bestow this hand on me.'"
"And she bestowed it on thine ear.'"
"Not so. On the contrary she - Art a disrespectful young monkey.
Know that here, not being Holland or any other barbarous state,
courtesy begets courtesy. Says she, a colouring like a rose,
'Soldier, you are too late. He is not a patch on you for looks;
but then - he has loved me a long time.'
"Why, he that was not too late.' Oh. that is the way they all
speak, the loves; the she-wolves. Their little minds go in leaps.
Think you they marshal their words in order of battle? Their
tongues are in too great a hurry. Says she, 'I love him not; not
to say love him; but he does me, and dearly; and for that reason
I'd sooner die than cause him grief, I would.'"
"Now I believe she did love him."
"Who doubts that? Why she said so, round about, as they always say
these things, and with 'nay' for 'ay.'
"Well one thing led to another, and at last, as she could not give
me her hand, she gave me a piece of advice, and that was to leave
part of my money with the young mistress. Then, when bad company
had cleaned me out, I should have some to travel back with, said
she. I said I would better her advice, and leave it with her. Her
face got red. Says she, 'Think what you do. Chambermaids have an
ill name for honesty.' 'Oh, the devil is not so black as he is
painted,' said I. 'I'll risk it;' and I left fifteen gold pieces
Gerard sighed. "I wish you may ever see them again. It is wondrous
in what esteem you do hold this sex, to trust so to the first
comer. For my part I know little about them; I never saw but one I
could love as well as I love thee. But the ancients must surely
know; and they held women cheap. 'Levius quid femina,' said they,
which is but la Jeanneton's tune in Latin, 'Le peu que sont les
femmes.' Also do but see how the greybeards of our own day speak
of them, being no longer blinded by desire: this alderman, to
"Oh, novice of novices," cried Denys. "not to have seen why that
old fool rails so on the poor things! One day, out of the millions
of women he blackens, one did prefer some other man to him: for
which solitary piece of bad taste, and ten to one 'twas good
taste, he doth bespatter creation's fairer half, thereby proving
what? le peu que sont les hommes."
"I see women have a shrewd champion in thee," said Gerard, with a
smile. But the next moment inquired gravely why he had not told
him all this before.
Denys grinned. "Had the girl said 'Ay,' why then I had told thee
straight. But 'tis a rule with us soldiers never to publish our
defeats: 'tis much if after each check we claim not a victory."
"Now that is true," said Gerard. "Young as I am, I have seen this;
that after every great battle the generals on both sides go to the
nearest church, and sing each a Te Deum for the victory; methinks
a Te Martem, or Te Bellonam, or Te Mercurium, Mercury being the
god of lies, were more fitting."
"Pas si bete," said Denys approvingly. "Hast a good eye: canst see
a steeple by daylight. So now tell me how thou hast fared in this
town all day."
"Come," said Gerard, "'tis well thou hast asked me: for else I had
never told thee." He then related in full how he had been
arrested, and by what a providential circumstance he had escaped
long imprisonment or speedy conflagration.
His narrative produced an effect he little expected or desired.
"I am a traitor," cried Denys. "I left thee in a strange place to
fight thine own battles, while I shook the dice with those jades.
Now take thou this sword and pass it through my body forthwith."
"What for in Heaven's name?" inquired Gerard.
"For an example," roared Denys. "For a warning to all false loons
that profess friendship, and disgrace it."
"Oh, very well," said Gerard. "Yes. Not a bad notion. Where will
you have it?"
"Here, through my heart; that is, where other men have a heart,
but I none, or a Satanic false one."
Gerard made a motion to run him through, and flung his arms round
his neck instead. "I know no way to thy heart but this, thou great
Denys uttered an exclamation, then hugged him warmly - and, quite
overcome by this sudden turn of youthful affection and native
grace, gulped out in a broken voice, "Railest on women - and art -
like them - with thy pretty ways. Thy mother's milk is in thee
still. Satan would love thee, or - le bon Dieu would kick him out
of hell for shaming it. Give me thy hand! Give me thy hand! May"
(a tremendous oath) "if I let thee out of my sight till Italy."
And so the staunch friends were more than reconciled after their
The next day the thieves were tried. The pieces de conviction were
reduced in number, to the great chagrin of the little clerk, by
the interment of the bones. But there was still a pretty show. A
thief's hand struck off flagrante delicto; a murdered woman's
hair; the Abbot's axe, and other tools of crime. The skulls, etc.,
were sworn to by the constables who had found them. Evidence was
lax in that age and place. They all confessed but the landlord.
And Manon was called to bring the crime home to him. Her evidence
was conclusive. He made a vain attempt to shake her credibility by
drawing from her that her own sweetheart had been one of the gang,
and that she had held her tongue so long as he was alive. The
public prosecutor came to the aid of his witness, and elicited
that a knife had been held to her throat, and her own sweetheart
sworn with solemn oaths to kill her should she betray them, and
that this terrible threat, and not the mere fear of death, had
glued her lips.
The other thieves were condemned to be hanged, and the landlord to
be broken on the wheel. He uttered a piercing cry when his
sentence was pronounced.
As for poor Manon, she became the subject of universal criticism.
Nor did opinion any longer run dead in her favour; it divided into
two broad currents. And strange to relate, the majority of her own
sex took her part, and the males were but equally divided; which
hardly happens once in a hundred years. Perhaps some lady will
explain the phenomenon. As for me, I am a little shy of explaining
things I don't understand. It has become so common. Meantime, had
she been a lover of notoriety, she would have been happy, for the
town talked of nothing but her. The poor girl, however, had but
one wish to escape the crowd that followed her, and hide her head
somewhere where she could cry over her "pendard," whom all these
proceedings brought vividly back to her affectionate remembrance.
Before he was hanged he had threatened her life; but she was not
one of your fastidious girls, who love their male divinities any
the less for beating them, kicking them, or killing them, but
rather the better, provided these attentions are interspersed with
occasional caresses; so it would have been odd indeed had she
taken offence at a mere threat of that sort. He had never
threatened her with a rival. She sobbed single-mindedly.
Meantime the inn was filled with thirsters for a sight of her, who
feasted and drank, to pass away the time till she should deign to
appear. When she had been sobbing some time, there was a tap at
her door, and the landlord entered with a proposal. "Nay, weep
not, good lass, your fortune it is made an you like. Say the word,
and you are chambermaid of 'The White Hart.'"
"Nay, nay," said Manon with a fresh burst of grief. "Never more
will I be a servant in an inn. I'll go to my mother."
The landlord consoled and coaxed her: and she became calmer, but
none the less determined against his proposal.
The landlord left her. But ere long he returned and made her
another proposal. Would she be his wife, and landlady of "The
"You do ill to mock me," said she sorrowfully.
"Nay, sweetheart. I mock thee not. I am too old for sorry jests.
Say you the word, and you are my partner for better for worse."
She looked at him, and saw he was in earnest: on this she suddenly
rained hard to the memory of "le pendard": the tears came in a
torrent, being the last; and she gave her hand to the landlord of
"The White Hart," and broke a gold crown with him in sign of
"We will keep it dark till the house is quiet," said the landlord.
"Ay," said she; "but meantime prithee give me linen to hem, or
work to do; for the time hangs on me like lead."
Her betrothed's eye brightened at this housewifely request, and he
brought her up two dozen flagons of various sizes to clean and
She gathered complacency as she reflected that by a strange turn
of fortune all this bright pewter was to be hers.
Meantime the landlord went downstairs, and falling in with our
friends drew them aside into the bar.
He then addressed Denys with considerable solemnity. "We are old
acquaintances, and you want not for sagacity: now advise me in a
strait. My custom is somewhat declining: this girl Manon is the
talk of the town; see how full the inn is to-night. She doth
refuse to be my chambermaid. I have half a mind to marry her. What
think you? shall I say the word?"
Denys in reply merely open his eyes wide with amazement.
The landlord turned to Gerard with a half-inquiring look,
"Nay, sir," said Gerard; "I am too young to advise my seniors and
"No matter. Let us hear your thought."
"Well, sir, it was said of a good wife by the ancients, 'bene quae
latuit, bene vixit,' that is, she is the best wife that is least
talked of: but here 'male quae patuit' were as near the mark.
Therefore, an you bear the lass good-will, why not club purses
with Denys and me and convey her safe home with a dowry? Then
mayhap some rustical person in her own place may be brought to
"Why so many words?" said Denys. "This old fox is not the ass he
affects to be."
"Oh! that is your advice, is it?" said the landlord testily. "Well
then we shall soon know who is the fool, you or me, for I have
spoken to her as it happens; and what is more, she has said Ay,
and she is polishing the flagons at this moment."
"Oho!" said Denys drily, "'twas an ambuscade. Well, in that case,
my advice is, run for the notary, tie the noose, and let us three
drink the bride's health, till we see six sots a-tippling."
"And shall. Ay, now you utter sense."
In ten minutes a civil marriage was effected upstairs before a
notary and his clerk and our two friends.
In ten minutes more the white hind, dead sick of seclusion, had
taken her place within the bar, and was serving out liquids, and
bustling, and her colour rising a little.
In six little minutes more she soundly rated a careless
servant-girl for carrying a nipperkin of wine awry and spilling
During the evening she received across the bar eight offers of
marriage, some of them from respectable burghers. Now the landlord
and our two friends had in perfect innocence ensconced themselves
behind a screen, to drink at their ease the new couple's health.
The above comedy was thrown in for their entertainment by
bounteous fate. They heard the proposals made one after another,
and uninventive Manon's invariable answer - "Serviteur; you are a
day after the fair." The landlord chuckled and looked good-natured
superiority at both his late advisers, with their traditional
notions that men shun a woman "quae patuit," i.e. who has become
the town talk.
But Denys scarce noticed the spouse's triumph over him, be was so
occupied with his own over Gerard. At each municipal tender of
undying affection, he turned almost purple with the effort it cost
him not to roar with glee; and driving his elbow into the
deep-meditating and much-puzzled pupil of antiquity, whispered,
"Le peu que sont les hommes."
The next morning Gerard was eager to start, but Denys was under a
vow to see the murderers of the golden-haired girl executed.
Gerard respected his vow, but avoided his example.
He went to bid the cure farewell instead, and sought and received
his blessing. About noon the travellers got clear of the town.
Just outside the south gate they passed the gallows; it had eight
tenants: the skeleton of Manon's late wept, and now being fast
forgotten, lover, and the bodies of those who had so nearly taken
our travellers' lives. A hand was nailed to the beam. And hard by
on a huge wheel was clawed the dead landlord, with every bone in
his body broken to pieces.
Gerard averted his head and hurried by. Denys lingered, and crowed
over his dead foes. "Times are changed, my lads, since we two sat
shaking in the cold awaiting you seven to come and cut our
"Fie, Denys! Death squares all reckonings. Prithee pass on without
another word, if you prize my respect a groat."
To this earnest remonstrance Denys yielded. He even said
thoughtfully, "You have been better brought up than I."
About three in the afternoon they reached a little town with the
people buzzing in knots. The wolves, starved by the cold, had
entered, and eaten two grown-up persons overnight, in the main
street: so some were blaming the eaten - "None but fools or knaves
are about after nightfall;" others the law for not protecting the
town, and others the corporation for not enforcing what laws there
"Bah! this is nothing to us," said Denys, and was for resuming
"Ay, but 'tis," remonstrated Gerard.
"What, are we the pair they ate?"
"No, but we may be the next pair."
"Ay, neighbour," said an ancient man, "'tis the town's fault for
not obeying the ducal ordinance, which bids every shopkeeper light
a lamp o'er his door at sunset, and burn it till sunrise.
On this Denys asked him somewhat derisively, "What made him fancy
rush dips would scare away empty wolves? Why, mutton fat is all
"'Tis not the fat, vain man, but the light. All ill things hate
light; especially wolves and the imps that lurk, I ween, under
their fur. Example; Paris city stands in a wood like, and the
wolves do howl around it all night: yet of late years wolves come
but little in the streets. For why, in that burgh the watchmen do
thunder at each door that is dark, and make the weary wight rise
and light. 'Tis my son tells me. He is a great voyager, my son
In further explanation he assured them that previously to that
ordinance no city had been worse infested with wolves than Paris;
a troop had boldly assaulted the town in 1420, and in 1438 they
had eaten fourteen persons in a single month between Montmartre
and the gate St. Antoine, and that not a winter month even, but
September: and as for the dead, which nightly lay in the streets
slain in midnight brawls, or assassinated, the wolves had used to
devour them, and to grub up the fresh graves in the churchyards
and tear out the bodies.
Here a thoughtful citizen suggested that probably the wolves had
been bridled of late in Paris, not by candle-lights, but owing to
the English having been driven out of the kingdom of France. "For
those English be very wolves themselves for fierceness and
greediness. What marvel then that under their rule our neighbours
of France should be wolf-eaten?" This logic was too suited to the
time and place not to be received with acclamation. But the old
man stood his ground. "I grant ye those islanders are wolves; but
two-legged ones, and little apt to favour their four-footed
cousins. One greedy thing loveth it another? I trow not. By the
same token, and this too I have from my boy Nicole, Sir Wolf dare
not show his nose in London city; though 'tis smaller than Paris,
and thick woods hard by the north wall, and therein great store of
deer, and wild boars as rife as flies at midsummer."
"Sir," said Gerard, "you seem conversant with wild beasts, prithee
advise my comrade here and me: we would not waste time on the
road, an if we may go forward to the next town with reasonable
"Young man, I trow 'twere an idle risk. It lacks but an hour of
dusk, and you must pass nigh a wood where lurk some thousands of
these half-starved vermin, rank cowards single; but in great bands
bold as lions. Wherefore I rede you sojourn here the night; and
journey on betimes. By the dawn the vermin will be tired out with
roaring and rampaging; and mayhap will have filled their lank
bellies with flesh of my good neighbours here, the unteachable
Gerard hoped not; and asked could he recommend them to a good inn.
"Humph! there is the 'Tete d'Or.' My grandaughter keeps it. She is
a mijauree, but not so knavish as most hotel-keepers, and her
house indifferent clean."
"Hey, for the 'Tete d'Or,'" struck in Denys, decided by his
On the way to it, Gerard inquired of his companion what a
Denys laughed at his ignorance. "Not know what a mijauree is? why
all the world knows that. It is neither more nor less than a
As they entered the "Tete d'Or," they met a young lady richly
dressed with a velvet chaperon on her head, which was confined by
law to the nobility. They unbonneted and louted low, and she
curtsied, but fixed her eye on vacancy the while, which had a
curious rather than a genial effect. However, nobility was not so
unassuming in those days as it is now. So they were little
surprised. But the next minute supper was served, and lo! in came
this princess and carved the goose.
"Holy St. Bavon," cried Gerard. "'Twas the landlady all the
A young woman, cursed with nice white teeth and lovely hands: for
these beauties being misallied to homely features, had turned her
head. She was a feeble carver, carving not for the sake of others
but herself, i.e. to display her hands. When not carving she was
eternally either taking a pin out of her head or her body, or else
putting a pin into her head or her body. To display her teeth, she
laughed indifferently at gay or grave and from ear to ear. And she
"sat at ease" with her mouth ajar.
Now there is an animal in creation of no great general merit; but
it has the eye of a hawk for affectation. It is called "a boy."
And Gerard was but a boy still in some things; swift to see, and
to loath, affectation. So Denys sat casting sheep's eyes, and
Gerard daggers, at one comedian.
Presently, in the midst of her minauderies, she gave a loud shriek
and bounded out of her chair like hare from form, and ran
backwards out of the room uttering little screams, and holding her
farthingale tight down to her ankles with both hands. And as she
scuttled out of the door a mouse scuttled back to the wainscot in
a state of equal, and perhaps more reasonable terror. The guests,
who had risen in anxiety at the principal yell, now stood
irresolute awhile, then sat down laughing. The tender Denys, to
whom a woman's cowardice, being a sexual trait, seemed to be a
lovely and pleasant thing, said he would go comfort her and bring
"Nay! nay! nay! for pity's sake let her bide," cried Gerard
earnestly. "Oh, blessed mouse! sure some saint sent thee to our
Now at his right hand sat a sturdy middle-aged burgher, whose
conduct up to date had been cynical. He had never budged nor even
rested his knife at all this fracas. He now turned on Gerard and
inquired haughtily whether he really thought that "grimaciere" was
afraid of a mouse.
"Ay. She screamed hearty."
"Where is the coquette that cannot scream to the life? These she
tavern-keepers do still ape the nobles. Some princess or duchess
hath lain here a night, that was honestly afeard of a mouse,
having been brought up to it. And this ape hath seen her, and
said, 'I will start at a mouse, and make a coil,' She has no more
right to start at a mouse than to wear that fur on her bosom, and
that velvet on her monkey's head. I am of the town, young man, and
have known the mijauree all her life, and I mind when she was no
more afeard of a mouse than she is of a man." He added that she
was fast emptying the inn with these "singeries." "All the world
is so sick of her hands, that her very kinsfolk will not venture
themselves anigh them." He concluded with something like a sigh,
"The 'Tete d'Or' was a thriving hostelry under my old chum her
good father; but she is digging its grave tooth and nail.'
"Tooth and nail? good! a right merry conceit and a true," said
Gerard. But the right merry conceit was an inadvertence as pure as
snow, and the stout burgher went to his grave and never knew what
he had done: for just then attention was attracted by Denys
returning pompously. He inspected the apartment minutely, and with
a high official air: he also looked solemnly under the table; and
during the whole inquisition a white hand was placed conspicuously
on the edge of the open door, and a tremulous voice inquired
behind it whether the horrid thing was quite gone.
"The enemy has retreated, bag and baggage," said Denys: and handed
in the trembling fair, who, sitting down, apologized to her guests
for her foolish fears, with so much earnestness, grace, and
seeming self-contempt, that, but for a sour grin on his
neighbour's face, Gerard would have been taken in as all the other
strangers were. Dinner ended, the young landlady begged an
Augustine friar at her right hand to say grace. He delivered a
longish one. The moment he began, she clapped her white hands
piously together, and held them up joined for mortals to admire;
'tis an excellent pose for taper white fingers: and cast her eyes
upward towards heaven, and felt as thankful to it as a magpie does
while cutting off with your thimble.
After supper the two friends went to the street-door and eyed the
market-place. The mistress joined them, and pointed out the
town-hall, the borough gaol, St. Catherine's church, etc. This was
courteous, to say the least. But the true cause soon revealed
itself; the fair hand was poked right under their eyes every time
an object was indicated; and Gerard eyed it like a basilisk, and
longed for a bunch of nettles. The sun set, and the travellers,
few in number, drew round the great roaring fire, and omitting to
go on the spit, were frozen behind though roasted in front. For if
the German stoves were oppressively hot, the French salles manger
were bitterly cold, and above all stormy. In Germany men sat
bareheaded round the stove, and took off their upper clothes, but
in Burgundy they kept on their hats, and put on their warmest furs
to sit round the great open chimney places, at which the external
air rushed furiously from door and ill-fitting window. However, it
seems their mediaeval backs were broad enough to bear it: for they
made themselves not only comfortable but merry, and broke harmless
jests over each other in turn. For instance, Denys's new shoes,
though not in direct communication, had this day exploded with
twin-like sympathy and unanimity.' 'Where do you buy your shoon,
soldier?" asked one.
Denys looked askant at Gerard, and not liking the theme, shook it
off. "I gather 'em off the trees by the roadside," said he
"Then you gathered these too ripe," said the hostess, who was only
a fool externally.
"Ay, rotten ripe," observed another, inspecting them.
Gerard said nothing, but pointed the circular satire by pantomime.
He slily put out both his feet, one after another, under Denys's
eye, with their German shoes, on which a hundred leagues of travel
had produced no effect. They seemed hewn out of a rock.
At this, "I'll twist the smooth varlet's neck that sold me mine,"
shouted Denys, in huge wrath, and confirmed the threat with
singular oaths peculiar to the mediaeval military. The landlady
put her fingers in her ears, thereby exhibiting the hand in a
fresh attitude. "Tell me when he has done his orisons, somebody,"
said she mincingly. And after that they fell to telling stories.
Gerard, when his turn came, told the adventure of Denys and Gerard
at the inn in Domfront, and so well, that the hearers were rapt
into sweet oblivion of the very existence of mijauree and hands.
But this made her very uneasy, and she had recourse to her grand
coup. This misdirected genius had for a twelvemonth past practised
yawning, and could do it now at any moment so naturally as to set
all creation gaping, could all creation have seen her. By this
means she got in all her charms. For first she showed her teeth,
then, out of good breeding, you know, closed her mouth with three
taper fingers. So the moment Gerard's story got too interesting
and absorbing, she turned to and made yawns, and "croix sur la
This was all very fine: but Gerard was an artist, and artists are
chilled by gaping auditors. He bore up against the yawns a long
time; but finding they came from a bottomless reservoir, lost both
heart and temper, and suddenly rising in mid narrative, said, "But
I weary our hostess, and I am tired myself: so good night!"
whipped a candle off the dresser, whispered Denys, "I cannot stand
her," and marched to bed in a moment.
The mijauree coloured and bit her lips. She had not intended her
byplay for Gerard's eye: and she saw in a moment she had been
rude, and silly, and publicly rebuked. She sat with cheek on fire,
and a little natural water in her eyes, and looked ten times
comelier and more womanly and interesting than she had done all
day. The desertion of the best narrator broke up the party, and
the unassuming Denys approached the meditative mijauree, and
invited her in the most flattering terms to gamble with him. She
started from her reverie, looked him down into the earth's centre
with chilling dignity, and consented, for she remembered all in a
moment what a show of hands gambling admitted.
The soldier and the mijauree rattled the dice. In which sport she
was so taken up with her hands, that she forgot to cheat, and
Denys won an "ecu au soleil" of her. She fumbled slowly with her
purse, partly because her sex do not burn to pay debts of honour,
partly to admire the play of her little knuckles peeping between
their soft white cushions. Denys proposed a compromise.
"Three silver franks I win of you, fair hostess. Give me now three
kisses of this white hand, and we'll e'en cry quits."
"You are malapert," said the lady, with a toss of her head;
"besides, they are so dirty. See! they are like ink!" and to
convince him she put them out to him and turned them up and down.
They were no dirtier than cream fresh from the cob and she knew
it: she was eternally washing and scenting them.
Denys read the objection like the observant warrior he was, seized
them and mumbled them.
Finding him so appreciative of her charm, she said timidly, "Will
you do me a kindness, good soldier?"
"A thousand, fair hostess, an you will."
"Nay, I ask but one. 'Tis to tell thy comrade I was right sorry to
lose his most thrilling story, and I hope he will tell me the rest
to-morrow morning. Meantime I shall not sleep for thinking on't.
Wilt tell him that - to pleasure me?"
"Ay, I'll tell the young savage. But he is not worthy of your
condescension, sweet hostess. He would rather be aside a man than
a woman any day."
"So would - ahem. He is right: the young women of the day are not
worthy of him, 'un tas des mijaurees' He has a good, honest, and
right comely face. Any way, I would not guest of mine should think
me unmannerly, not for all the world. Wilt keep faith with me and
"On this fair hand I swear it; and thus I seal the pledge."
"There; no need to melt the wax, though. Now go to bed. And tell
him ere you sleep."
The perverse toad (I thank thee, Manon, for teaching me that word)
was inclined to bestow her slight affections upon Gerard. Not that
she was inflammable: far less so than many that passed for prudes
in the town. But Gerard possessed a triple attraction that has
ensnared coquettes in all ages. 1. He was very handsome. 2. He did
not admire her the least. 3. He had given her a good slap in the
Denys woke Gerard and gave the message. Gerard was not enchanted
"Dost wake a tired man to tell him that? Am I to be pestered with
'mijaurees' by night as well as day?"
"But I tell thee, novice, thou hast conquered her: trust to my
experience: her voice sank to melodious whispers; and the cunning
jade did in a manner bribe me to carry thee her challenge to
Love's lists! for so I read her message."
Denys then, assuming the senior and the man of the world, told
Gerard the time was come to show him how a soldier understood
friendship and camaraderie. Italy was now out of the question.
Fate had provided better; and the blind jade Fortune had smiled on
merit for once. "The Head of Gold" had been a prosperous inn,
would be again with a man at its head. A good general laid
far-sighted plans; but was always ready to abandon them, should
some brilliant advantage offer, and to reap the full harvest of
the unforeseen: 'twas chiefly by this trait great leaders defeated
little ones; for these latter could do nothing not cut and dried
"Sorry friendship, that would marry me to a mijauree," interposed
"Comrade, be reasonable; 'tis not the friskiest sheep that falls
down the cliff. All creatures must have their fling soon, or late;
and why not a woman? What more frivolous than a kitten? what
graver than a cat?"
"Hast a good eye for nature, Denys," said Gerard, "that I
"A better for thine interest, boy. Trust then to me; these little
doves they are my study day and night; happy the man whose wife
taketh her fling before wedlock, and who trippeth up the
altar-steps instead of down 'em. Marriage it always changeth them
for better or else for worse. Why, Gerard, she is honest when all
is done; and he is no man, nor half a man, that cannot mould any
honest lass like a bit of warm wax, and she aye aside him at bed
and board. I tell thee in one month thou wilt make of this
coquette the matron the most sober in the town, and of all its
wives the one most docile and submissive. Why, she is half tamed
already. Nine in ten meek and mild ones had gently hated thee like
poison all their lives, for wounding of their hidden pride. But
she for an affront proffers affection. By Joshua his bugle a
generous lass, and void of petty malice. When thou wast gone she
sat a-thinking and spoke not. A sure sign of love in one of her
sex: for of all things else they speak ere they think. Also her
voice did sink exceeding low in discoursing of thee, and murmured
sweetly; another infallible sign. The bolt hath struck and rankles
in her; oh, be joyful! Art silent? I see; 'tis settled. I shall go
alone to Remiremont, alone and sad. But, pillage and poleaxes!
what care I for that, since my dear comrade will stay here,
landlord of the 'Tete d'Or,' and safe from all the storms of life?
Wilt think of me, Gerard, now and then by thy warm fire, of me
camped on some windy heath, or lying in wet trenches, or wounded
on the field and far from comfort? Nay" and this he said in a
manner truly noble), "not comfortless or cold, or wet, or
bleeding. 'twill still warm my heart to lie on my back and think
that I have placed my dear friend and comrade true in the 'Tete
d'Or,' far from a soldier's ills,"
"I let you run on, dear Denys," said Gerard softly, "because at
each word you show me the treasure of a good heart. But now
bethink thee, my troth is plighted there where my heart it
clingeth. You so leal, would you make me disloyal?"
"Perdition seize me, but I forgot that," said Denys.
"No more then, but hie thee to bed, good Denys. Next to Margaret I
love thee best on earth, and value thy 'coeur d'or' far more than
a dozen of these 'Tetes d'Or.' So prithee call me at the first
blush of rosy-fingered morn, and let's away ere the woman with the
hands be stirring."
They rose with the dawn, and broke their fast by the kitchen fire.
Denys inquired of the girl whether the mistress was about.
"Nay; but she hath risen from her bed: by the same token I am
carrying her this to clean her withal;" and she filled a jug with
boiling water, and took it upstairs.
"Behold," said Gerard, "the very elements must be warmed to suit
her skin; what had the saints said, which still chose the coldest
pool? Away, ere she come down and catch us."
They paid the score, and left the "Tete d'Or," while its mistress
was washing her hands.
Outside the town they found the snow fresh trampled by innumerable
wolves every foot of the road.
"We did well to take the old man's advice, Denys."
"Ay did we. For now I think on't, I did hear them last night
scurrying under our window, and howling and whining for man's
flesh in yon market-place. But no fat burgher did pity the poor
vagabones, and drop out o' window."
Gerard smiled, but with an air of abstraction. And they plodded on
"What dost meditate so profoundly?"
Denys was anything but pleased at this answer. Amongst his
oddities you may have observed that he could stand a great deal of
real impertinence; he was so good-humoured. But would fire up now
and then where not even the shadow of a ground for anger existed.
"A civil question merits a civil reply," said he very drily.
"Alas, I meant no other," said Gerard.
"Then why pretend you were thinking of my goodness, when you know
I have no goodness under my skin?"
"Had another said this, I had answered, 'Thou liest.' But to thee
I say, 'Hast no eye for men's qualities, but only for women's.'
And once more I do defy thy unreasonable choler, and say I was
thinking on thy goodness of overnight. Wouldst have wedded me to
the 'Tete d'Or' or rather to the 'tete de veau doree,' and left
"Oh, are ye there, lad?" said Denys, recovering his good humour in
a moment. "Well, but to speak sooth, I meant that not for
goodness; but for friendship and true fellowship, no more. And let
me tell you, my young master, my conscience it pricketh me even
now for letting you turn your back thus on fortune and peaceful
days. A truer friend than I had ta'en and somewhat hamstrung thee.
Then hadst thou been fain to lie smarting at the 'Tete d'Or' a
month or so; yon skittish lass had nursed thee tenderly, and all
had been well. Blade I had in hand to do't, but remembering how
thou hatest pain, though it be but a scratch, my craven heart it
failed me at the pinch." And Denys wore a look of humble apology
for his lack of virtuous resolution when the path of duty lay so
Gerard raised his eyebrows with astonishment at this monstrous but
thoroughly characteristic revelation; however, this new and
delicate point of friendship was never discussed; viz., whether
one ought in all love to cut the tendon Achilles of one's friend.
For an incident interposed.
"Here cometh one in our rear a-riding on his neighbour's mule,"
Gerard turned round. "And how know ye 'tis not his own, pray?"
"Oh, blind! Because he rides it with no discretion."
And in truth the man came galloping like a fury. But what
astonished the friends most was that on reaching them the rustic
rider's eyes opened saucer-like, and he drew the rein so suddenly
and powerfully, that the mule stuck out her fore-legs, and went
sliding between the pedestrians like a four-legged table on
"I trow ye are from the 'Tete d'Or?'" They assented. "Which of ye
is the younger?"
"He that was born the later," said Denys, winking at his
"Gramercy for the news."
"Come, divine then!"
"And shall. Thy beard is ripe, thy fellow's is green; he shall be
the younger; here, youngster." And he held him out a paper packet.
"Ye left this at the 'Tete d'Or,' and our mistress sends it ye."
"Nay, good fellow, methinks I left nought." And Gerard felt his
"Would ye make our burgess a liar," said the rustic reproachfully;
"and shall I have no pourboire?" (still more reproachfully); "and
came ventre a terre."
"Nay, thou shalt have pourboire," and he gave him a small coin.
"A la bonne heure," cried the clown, and his features beamed with
disproportionate joy. "The Virgin go with ye; come up, Jenny!" and
back he went "stomach to earth," as his nation is pleased to call
Gerard undid the packet; it was about six inches square, and
inside it he found another packet, which contained a packet, and
so on. At the fourth he hurled the whole thing into the snow.
Denys took it out and rebuked his petulance. He excused himself on
the ground of hating affectation.
Denys attested, "'The great toe of the little daughter of
Herodias' there was no affectation here, but only woman's good
wit. Doubtless the wraps contained something which out of
delicacy, or her sex's lovely cunning, she would not her hind
should see her bestow on a young man; thy garter, to wit."
"I wear none."
"Her own then; or a lock of her hair. What is this? A piece of raw
silk fresh from the worm. Well, of all the love tokens!"
"Now who but thee ever dreamed that she is so naught as send me
love tokens? I saw no harm in her - barring her hands."
"Stay, here is something hard lurking in this soft nest. Come
forth, I say, little nestling! Saints and pikestaves! look at
It was a gold ring. with a great amethyst glowing and sparkling,
full coloured, but pure as crystal.
"How lovely!" said Gerard innocently.
"And here is something writ; read it thou! I read not so glib as
some, when I know not the matter beforehand."
Gerard took the paper. "'Tis a posy, and fairly enough writ." He
read the lines, blushing like a girl. They were very naive, and
may be thus Englished:-
'Youth, with thee my heart is fledde,
Come back to the 'golden Hedde!'
Wilt not? yet this token keepe
Of hir who doeth thy goeing weepe.
Gyf the world prove harsh and cold,
Come back to 'the Hedde of gold.'"
"The little dove!" purred Denys.
"The great owl! To go and risk her good name thus. However, thank
Heaven she has played this prank with an honest lad that will
ne'er expose her folly. But oh, the perverseness! Could she not
bestow her nauseousness on thee?" Denys sighed and shrugged. "On
thee that art as ripe for folly as herself?"
Denys confessed that his young friend had harped his very thought.
'Twas passing strange to him that a damsel with eyes in her head
should pass by a man, and bestow her affections on a boy. Still he
could not but recognize in this the bounty of Nature. Boys were
human beings after all, and but for this occasional caprice of
women, their lot would be too terrible; they would be out of the
sun altogether, blighted, and never come to anything; since only
the fair could make a man out of such unpromising materials as a
boy. Gerard interrupted this flattering discourse to beg the
warrior-philosopher's acceptance of the lady's ring. He refused it
flatly, and insisted on Gerard going back to the "Tete d'Or" at
once, ring and all, like a man, and not letting a poor girl hold
out her arms to him in vain.
"Her hands, you mean."
"Her hand, with the 'Tete d'Or' in it."
Failing in this, he was for putting the ring on his friend's
finger. Gerard declined. "I wear a ring already."
"What, that sorry gimcrack? why, 'tis pewter, or tin at best: and
this virgin gold, forbye the jewel."
"Ay, but 'twas Margaret gave me this one; and I value it above
rubies. I'll neither part with it nor give it a rival," and he
kissed the base metal, and bade it fear nought.
"I see the owl hath sent her ring to a goose," said Denys
sorrowfully. However, he prevailed on Gerard to fasten it inside
his bonnet. To this, indeed, the lad consented very readily. For
sovereign qualities were universally ascribed to certain jewels;
and the amethyst ranked high among these precious talismans.
When this was disposed of, Gerard earnestly requested his friend
to let the matter drop, since speaking of the other sex to him
made him pine so for Margaret, and almost unmanned him with the
thought that each step was taking him farther from her. "I am no
general lover, Denys. There is room in my heart for one
sweetheart, and for one friend. I am far from my dear mistress;
and my friend, a few leagues more, and I must lose him too. Oh,
let me drink thy friendship pure while I may, and not dilute with
any of these stupid females."
"And shalt, honey-pot, and shalt," said Denys kindly'. "But as to
my leaving thee at Remiremont, reckon thou not on that! For"
(three consecutive oaths) "if I do. Nay, I shall propose to thee
to stay forty-eight hours there, while I kiss my mother and
sisters, and the females generally, and on go you and I together
to the sea."
"Denys nor me! 'Tis settled. Gainsay me not! or I'll go with thee
to Rome. Why not? his Holiness the Pope hath ever some little
merry pleasant war toward, and a Burgundian soldier is still
welcome in his ranks."
On this Gerard opened his heart. "Denys, ere I fell in with thee,
I used often to halt on the road, unable to go farther: my puny
heart so pulled me back: and then, after a short prayer to the
saints for aid, would I rise and drag my most unwilling body
onward. But since I joined company with thee, great is my courage.
I have found the saying of the ancients true, that better is a
bright comrade on the weary road than a horse-litter; and, dear
brother, when I do think of what we have done and suffered
together! Savedst my life from the bear, and from yet more savage
thieves; and even poor I did make shift to draw thee out of Rhine,
and somehow loved thee double from that hour. How many ties tender
and strong between us! Had I my will, I'd never, never, never,
never part with my Denys on this side the grave. Well-a-day! God
His will be done.
"No, my will shall be done this time," shouted Denys. "Le bon Dieu
has bigger fish to fry than you or me. I'll go with thee to Rome.
There is my hand on it."
"Think what, you say! 'Tis impossible. 'Tis too selfish of me."
"I tell thee, 'tis settled. No power can change me. At Remiremont
I borrow ten pieces of my uncle, and on we go; 'tis fixed;
They shook hands over it. Then Gerard said nothing, for his heart
was too full; but he ran twice round his companion as he walked,
then danced backwards in front of him, and finally took his hand,
and so on they went hand in hand like sweethearts, till a company
of mounted soldiers, about fifty in number, rose to sight on the
brow of a hill.
"See the banner of Burgundy," said Denys joyfully; "I shall look
out for a comrade among these."
"How gorgeous is the standard in the sun," said Gerard "and how
brave are the leaders with velvet and feathers, and steel
breastplates like glassy mirrors!"
When they came near enough to distinguish faces, Denys uttered an
exclamation: "Why, 'tis the Bastard of Burgundy, as I live. Nay,
then; there is fighting a-foot since he is out; a gallant leader,
Gerard, rates his life no higher than a private soldier's, and a
soldier's no higher than a tomtit's; and that is the captain for
"And see, Denys, the very mules with their great brass frontlets
and trappings seem proud to carry them; no wonder men itch to be
soldiers;" and in the midst of this innocent admiration the troop
came up with them.
"Halt!" cried a stentorian voice. The troop halted. The Bastard of
Burgundy bent his brow gloomily on Denys: "How now, arbalestrier,
how comes it thy face is turned southward, when every good hand
and heart is hurrying northward?"
Denys replied respectfully that he was going on leave, after some
years of service, to see his kindred at Remiremont.
"Good. But this is not the time for't; the duchy is disturbed. Ho!
bring that dead soldier's mule to the front; and thou mount her
and forward with us to Flanders."
"So please your highness," said Denys firmly, "that may not be. My
home is close at hand. I have not seen it these three years; and
above all, I have this poor youth in charge, whom I may not,
cannot leave, till I see him shipped for Rome.
"Dost bandy words with me?" said the chief, with amazement,
turning fast to wrath. "Art weary o' thy life? Let go the youth's
hand, and into the saddle without more idle words."
Denys made no reply; but he held Gerard's hand the tighter, and
At this the bastard roared, "Jarnac, dismount six of thy archers,
and shoot me this white-livered cur dead where he stands - for an
The young Count de Jarnac, second in command, gave the order, and
the men dismounted to execute it
"Strip him naked," said the bastard, in the cold tone of military
business, "and put his arms and accoutrements on the spare mule
We'll maybe find some clown worthier to wear them,"
Denys groaned aloud, "Am I to be shamed as well as slain?"
"Oh, nay! nay! nay!" cried Gerard, awaking from the stupor into
which this thunderbolt of tyranny had thrown him. "He shall go
with you on the instant. I'd liever part with him for ever than
see a hair of his dear head harmed Oh, sir, oh, my lord, give a
poor boy but a minute to bid his only friend farewell! he will go
with you. I swear he shall go with you."
The stern leader nodded a cold contemptuous assent. "Thou, Jarnac,
stay with them, and bring him on alive or dead. Forward!" And he
resumed his march, followed by all the band but the young count
and six archers, one of whom held the spare mule.
Denys and Gerard gazed at one another haggardly. Oh, what a look!
And after this mute interchange of anguish, they spoke hurriedly,
for the moments were flying by.
"Thou goest to Holland: thou knowest where she bides. Tell her
all. She will be kind to thee for my sake."
"Oh, sorry tale that I shall carry her! For God's sake, go back to
the 'Tete d'Or.' I am mad"
"Hush! Let me think: have I nought to say to thee, Denys? my head!
"Ah! I have it. Make for the Rhine, Gerard! Strasbourg. 'Tis but a
step. And down the current to Rotterdam. Margaret is there: I go
thither. I'll tell her thou art coming. We shall all be together."
"My lads, haste ye, or you will get us into trouble," said the
count firmly, but not harshly now.
"Oh, sir, one moment! one little moment!" panted Gerard.
"Cursed be the land I 'was born in! cursed be the race of man! and
he that made them what they are!" screamed Denys.
"Hush, Denys, hush! blaspheme not! Oh, God forgive him, he wots
not what he says. Be patient, Denys, be patient: though we meet no
more on earth, let us meet in a better world, where no blasphemer
may enter. To my heart, lost friend; for what are words now?" He
held out his arms, and they locked one another in a close embrace.
They kissed one another again and again, speechless, and the tears
rained down their cheeks And the Count Jarnac looked on amazed,
but the rougher soldiers, to whom comrade was a sacred name,
looked on with some pity in their hard faces. Then at a signal
from Jarnac, with kind force and words of rude consolation, they
almost lifted Denys on to the mule; and putting him in the middle
of them, spurred after their leader. And Gerard ran wildly after
(for the lane turned), to see the very last of him; and the last
glimpse he caught, Denys was rocking to and fro on his mule, and
tearing his hair out. But at this sight something rose in Gerard's
throat so high, so high, he could run no more nor breathe, but
gasped, and leaned against the snow-clad hedge, seizing it, and
The thorns ran into his hand.
After a bitter struggle he got his breath again; and now began to
see his own misfortune. Yet not all at once to realize it, so
sudden and numbing was the stroke. He staggered on, but scarce
feeling or caring whither he was going; and every now and then he
stopped, and his arms fell and his head sank on his chest, and he
stood motionless: then he said to himself, "Can this thing be?
this must be a dream. 'Tis scarce five minutes since we were so
happy, walking handed, faring to Rome together, and we admired
them and their gay banners and helmets oh hearts of hell!"
All nature seemed to stare now as lonely as himself. Not a
creature in sight. No colour but white. He, the ghost of his
former self, wandered alone among the ghosts of trees, and fields,
and hedges. Desolate! desolate! desolate! All was desolate.
He knelt and gathered a little snow. "Nay, I dream not; for this
is snow: cold as the world's heart. It is bloody, too: what may
that mean? Fool! 'tis from thy hand. I mind not the wound Ay, I
see: thorns. Welcome! kindly foes: I felt ye not, ye ran not into
my heart. Ye are not cruel like men."
He had risen, and was dragging his leaden limbs along, when he
heard horses' feet and gay voices behind him. He turned with a
joyful but wild hope that the soldiers had relented and were
bringing Denys back. But no, it was a gay cavalcade. A gentleman
of rank and his favourites in velvet and furs and feathers; and
four or five armed retainers in buff jerkins.
They swept gaily by.
Gerard never looked at them after they were gone by: certain gay
shadows had come and passed; that was all. He was like one in a
dream. But he was rudely wakened; suddenly a voice in front of him
cried harshly, "Stand and deliver!" and there were three of the
gentleman's servants in front of him. They had ridden back to rob
"How, ye false knaves," said he, quite calmly; "would ye shame
your noble master? He will hang ye to the nearest tree;" and with
these words he drew his sword doggedly, and set his back to the
One of the men instantly levelled his petronel at him.
But another, less sanguinary, interposed. "Be not so hasty! And be
not thou so mad! Look yonder!"
Gerard looked, and scarce a hundred yards off the nobleman and his
friends had halted, and sat on their horses, looking at the
lawless act, too proud to do their own dirty work, but not too
proud to reap the fruit, and watch lest their agents should rob
them of another man's money.
The milder servant then, a good-natured fellow, showed Gerard
resistance was vain; reminded him common thieves often took the
life as well as the purse. and assured him it cost a mint to be a
gentleman; his master had lost money at play overnight, and was
going to visit his leman, and so must take money where he saw it.
"Therefore, good youth, consider that we rob not for ourselves,
and deliver us that fat purse at thy girdle without more ado, nor
put us to the pain of slitting thy throat and taking it all the
"This knave is right," said Gerard calmly. aloud but to himself.
"I ought not to fling away my life; Margaret would be so sorry.
Take then the poor man's purse to the rich man's pouch; and with
it this; tell him, I pray the Holy Trinity each coin in it may
burn his hand, and freeze his heart, and blast his soul for ever.
Begone and leave me to my sorrow!" He flung them the purse.
They rode away muttering; for his words pricked them a little; a
very little: and he staggered on, penniless now as well as
friendless, till he came to the edge of a wood. Then, though his
heart could hardly feel this second blow, his judgment did; and he
began to ask himself what was the use going further? He sat down
on the hard road, and ran his nails into his hair, and tried to
think for the best; a task all the more difficult that a strange
drowsiness was stealing over him. Rome he could never reach
without money. Denys had said, "Go to Strasbourg, and down the
Rhine home." He would obey Denys. But how to get to Strasbourg
Then suddenly seemed to ring in his ears -
"Gyf the world prove harsh and cold,
Come back to the hedde of gold."
"And if I do I must go as her servant; I who am Margaret's. I am
a-weary, a-weary. I will sleep, and dream all is as it was. Ah me,
how happy were we an hour agone, we little knew how happy. There
is a house: the owner well-to-do. What if I told him my wrong, and
prayed his aid to retrieve my purse, and so to Rhine? Fool! is he
not a man, like the rest? He would scorn me and trample me lower.
Denys cursed the race of men. That will I never; but oh, I begin
to loathe and dread them. Nay, here will I lie till sunset: then
darkling creep into this rich man's barn, and take by stealth a
draught of milk or a handful o' grain, to keep body and soul
together. God, who hath seen the rich rob me, will peradventure
forgive me. They say 'tis ill sleeping on the snow. Death steals
on such sleepers with muffled feet and honey breath. But what can
I? I am a-weary, a-weary. Shall this be the wood where lie the
wolves yon old man spoke of? I must e'en trust them: they are not
men; and I am so a-weary."
He crawled to the roadside, and stretched out his limbs on the
snow, with a deep sigh.
"Ah, tear not thine hair so! teareth my heart to see thee."
"Margaret. Never see me more. Poor Margaret."
And the too tender heart was still.
And the constant lover, and friend of antique mould, lay silent on
the snow; in peril from the weather, in peril from wild beasts, in
peril from hunger, friendless and penniless in a strange land, and
not halfway to Rome.
Rude travel is enticing to us English. And so are its records;
even though the adventurer be no pilgrim of love. And antique
friendship has at least the interest of a fossil. Still, as the
true centre of this story is in Holland, it is full time to return
thither, and to those ordinary personages and incidents whereof
life has been mainly composed in all ages.
Jorian Ketel came to Peter's house to claim Margaret's promise;
but Margaret was ill in bed, and Peter, on hearing his errand,
affronted him and warned him off the premises, and one or two that
stood by were for ducking him; for both father and daughter were
favourites, and the whole story was in every mouth, and
Sevenbergens in that state of hot, undiscriminating irritation
which accompanies popular sympathy.
So Jorian Ketel went off in dudgeon, and repented him of his good
deed. This sort of penitence is not rare, and has the merit of
being sincere. Dierich Brower, who was discovered at "The Three
Kings," making a chatterbox drunk in order to worm out of him the
whereabouts of Martin Wittenhaagen, was actually taken and flung
into a horsepond, and threatened with worse usage, should he ever
show his face in the burgh again; and finally, municipal jealousy
being roused, the burgomaster of Sevenbergen sent a formal missive
to the burgomaster of Tergou, reminding him he had overstepped the
law, and requesting him to apply to the authorities of Sevenbergen
on any future occasion when he might have a complaint, real or
imaginary, against any of its townsfolk.
The wily Ghysbrecht, suppressing his rage at this remonstrance,
sent back a civil message to say that the person he had followed
to Sevenbergen was a Tergovian, one Gerard, and that he had stolen
the town records: that Gerard having escaped into foreign parts,
and probably taken the documents with him, the whole matter was at
Thus he made a virtue of necessity. But in reality his calmness
was but a veil: baffled at Sevenbergen, he turned his views
elsewhere he set his emissaries to learn from the family at Tergou
whither Gerard had fled, and "to his infinite surprise" they did
not know. This added to his uneasiness. It made him fear Gerard
was only lurking in the neighbourhood: he would make a certain
discovery, and would come back and take a terrible revenge. From
this time Dierich and others that were about him noticed a change
for the worse in Ghysbrecht Van Swieten. He became a moody
irritable man. A dread lay on him. His eyes cast furtive glances,
like one who expects a blow, and knows not from what quarter it is
to come. Making others wretched had not made him happy. It seldom
The little family at Tergou, which, but for his violent
interference, might in time have cemented its difference without
banishing spem gregis to a distant land, wore still the same
outward features, but within was no longer the simple happy family
this tale opened with. Little Kate knew the share Cornelis and
Sybrandt had in banishing Gerard, and though, for fear of making
more mischief still, she never told her mother, yet there were
times she shuddered at the bare sight of them, and blushed at
their hypocritical regrets. Catherine, with a woman's vigilance,
noticed this, and with a woman's subtlety said nothing, but
quietly pondered it, and went on watching for more. The black
sheep themselves, in their efforts to partake in the general gloom
and sorrow, succeeded so far as to impose upon their father and
Giles: but the demure satisfaction that lay at their bottom could
not escape these feminine eyes -
"That, noting all, seem nought to note'
Thus mistrust and suspicion sat at the table, poor substitutes for
Gerard's intelligent face, that had brightened the whole circle,
unobserved till it was gone. As for the old hosier his pride had
been wounded by his son's disobedience, and so he bore stiffly up,
and did his best never to mention Gerard's name; but underneath
his Spartan cloak, Nature might be seen tugging at his
heart-strings. One anxiety he never affected to conceal. "If I but
knew where the boy is, and that his life and health are in no
danger, small would be my care," would he say; and then a deep
sigh would follow. I cannot help thinking that if Gerard had
opened the door just then, and walked in, there would have been
many tears and embraces for him, and few reproaches, or none.
One thing took the old couple quite by surprise - publicity. Ere
Gerard had been gone a week, his adventures were in every mouth;
and to make matters worse, the popular sympathy declared itself
warmly on the side of the lovers, and against Gerard's cruel
parents, and that old busybody the burgomaster, who must put his
nose into a business that nowise concerned him."
"Mother," said Kate, "it is all over the town that Margaret is
down with a fever - a burning fever; her father fears her sadly."
"Margaret? what Margaret?" inquired Catherine, with a treacherous
assumption of calmness and indifference.
"Oh, mother! whom should I mean? Why, Gerard's Margaret."
"Gerard's Margaret," screamed Catherine; "how dare you say such a
word to me? And I rede you never mention that hussy's name in this
house, that she has laid bare. She is the ruin of my poor boy, the
flower of all my flock. She is the cause that he is not a holy
priest in the midst of us, but is roaming the world, and I a
desolate broken-hearted mother. There, do not cry, my girl, I do
ill to speak harsh to you. But oh, Kate! you know not what passes
in a mother's heart. I bear up before you all; it behoves me
swallow my fears; but at night I see him in my dreams, and still
some trouble or other near him: sometimes he is torn by wild
beasts; other times he is in the hands of robbers, and their cruel
knives uplifted to strike his poor pale face, that one should
think would move a stone. Oh! when I remember that, while I sit
here in comfort, perhaps my poor boy lies dead in some savage
place, and all along of that girl: there, her very name is
ratsbane to me. I tremble all over when I hear it."
"I'll not say anything, nor do anything to grieve you worse,
mother," said Kate tenderly; but she sighed.
She whose name was so fiercely interdicted in this house was much
spoken of, and even pitied elsewhere. All Sevenbergen was sorry
for her, and the young men and maidens cast many a pitying glance,
as they passed, at the little window where the beauty of the
village lay "dying for love." In this familiar phrase they
underrated her spirit and unselfishness. Gerard was not dead, and
she was too loyal herself to doubt his constancy. Her father was
dear to her and helpless; and but for bodily weakness, all her
love for Gerard would not have kept her from doing her duties,
though she might have gone about them with drooping head and heavy
heart. But physical and mental excitement had brought on an attack
of fever so violent, that nothing but youth and constitution saved
her. The malady left her at last, but in that terrible state of
bodily weakness in which the patient feels life a burden.
Then it is that love and friendship by the bedside are mortal
angels with comfort in their voice, and healing in their palms.
But this poor girl had to come back to life and vigour how she
could. Many days she lay alone, and the heavy hours rolled like
leaden waves over her. In her enfeebled state existence seemed a
burden, and life a thing gone by. She could not try her best to
get well. Gerard was gone. She had not him to get well for. Often
she lay for hours quite still, with the tears welling gently out
of her eyes.
One day, waking from an uneasy slumber, she found two women in her
room, One was a servant, the other by the deep fur on her collar
and sleeves was a person of consideration: a narrow band of
silvery hair, being spared by her coiffure, showed her to be past
the age when women of sense concealed their years. The looks of
both were kind and friendly. Margaret tried to raise herself in
the bed, but the old lady placed a hand very gently on her.
"Lie still, sweetheart; we come not here to put you about, but to
comfort you, God willing. Now cheer up a bit, and tell us, first,
who think you we are?"
"Nay, madam, I know you, though I never saw you before: you are
the demoiselle Van Eyck, and this is Reicht Heynes. Gerard has oft
spoken of you, and of your goodness to him. Madam, he has no
friend like you near him now," and at this thought she lay back,
and the tears welled out of her eyes in a moment.
The good-natured Reicht Heynes began to cry for company; but her
mistress scolded her. "Well, you are a pretty one for a
sick-room," said she; and she put out a world of innocent art to
cheer the patient; and not without some little success. An old
woman, that has seen life and all its troubles, is a sovereign
blessing by a sorrowful young woman's side. She knows what to say,
and what to avoid. She knows how to soothe her and interest her.
Ere she had been there an hour, she had Margaret's head lying on
her shoulder instead of on the pillow, and Margaret's soft eyes
dwelling on her with gentle gratitude.
"Ah! this is hair," said the old lady, running her fingers through
it. "Come and look at it, Reicht!"
Reicht came and handled it, and praised it unaffectedly. The poor
girl that owned it was not quite out of the reach of flattery;
owing doubtless to not being dead.
"In sooth, madam, I did use to think it hideous; but he praised
it, and ever since then I have been almost vain of it, saints
forgive me. You know how foolish those are that love."
"They are greater fools that don't," said the old lady, sharply.
Margaret opened her lovely eyes, and looked at her for her
This was only the first of many visits. In fact either Margaret
Van Eyck or Reicht came nearly every day until their patient was
convalescent; and she improved rapidly under their hands. Reicht
attributed this principally to certain nourishing dishes she
prepared in Peter's kitchen; but Margaret herself thought more of
the kind words and eyes that kept telling her she had friends to
Martin Wittenhaagen went straight to Rotterdam, to take the bull
by the horns. The bull was a biped, with a crown for horns. It was
Philip the Good, duke of this, earl of that, lord of the other.
Arrived at Rotterdam, Martin found the court was at Ghent. To
Ghent he went, and sought an audience, but was put off and baffled
by lackeys and pages. So he threw himself in his sovereign's way
out hunting, and contrary to all court precedents, commenced the
conversation - by roaring lustily for mercy.
"Why, where is the peril, man?" said the duke, looking all round
"Grace for an old soldier hunted down by burghers!"
Now kings differ in character like other folk; but there is one
trait they have in common; they are mightily inclined to be
affable to men of very low estate. These do not vie with them in
anything whatever, so jealousy cannot creep in; and they amuse
them by their bluntness and novelty, and refresh the poor things
with a touch of nature - a rarity in courts. So Philip the Good
reined in his horse and gave Martin almost a tete-a-tete, and
Martin reminded him of a certain battlefield where he had received
an arrow intended for his sovereign. The duke remembered the
incident perfectly, and was graciously pleased to take a cheerful
view of it. He could afford to, not having been the one hit. Then
Martin told his majesty of Gerard's first capture in the church,
his imprisonment in the tower, and the manoeuvre by which they got
him out, and all the details of the hunt; and whether he told it
better than I have, or the duke had not heard so many good stories
as you have, certain it is that sovereign got so wrapt up in it,
that, when a number of courtiers came galloping up and interrupted
Martin, he swore like a costermonger, and threatened, only half in
jest, to cut off the next head that should come between him and a
good story; and when Martin had done, he cried out -
"St. Luke! what sport goeth on in this mine earldom, ay! in my own
woods, and I see it not. You base fellows have all the luck." And
he was indignant at the partiality of Fortune. "Lo you now! this
was a man-hunt," said he. "I never had the luck to be at a
"My luck was none so great," replied Martin bluntly: "I was on the
wrong side of the dogs' noses."
"Ah! so you were; I forgot that" And royalty was more reconciled
to its lot."What would you then?"
"A free pardon, your highness, for myself and Gerard."
"Go to; the bird will fly from the cage. 'Tis instinct. Besides,
coop a young man up for loving a young woman? These burgomasters
must be void of common sense. What else?"
"For striking down the burgomaster."
"Oh, the hunted boar will turn to bay. 'Tis his right; and I hold
him less than man that grudges it him. What else?"
"For killing of the bloodhounds."
The duke's countenance fell.
"'Twas their life or mine," said Martin eagerly.
"Ay! but I can't have, my bloodhounds, my beautiful bloodhounds,
"No, no, no! They were not your dogs."
"Whose dogs, then?"
"Oh. Well, I am very sorry for him, but as I was saying I can't
have my old soldiers sacrificed to his bloodhounds. Thou shalt
have thy free pardon."
"And poor Gerard."
"And poor Gerard too, for thy sake. And more, tell thou this
burgomaster his doings mislike me: this is to set up for a king,
not a burgomaster. I'll have no kings in Holland but one. Bid him
be more humble; or by St. Jude I'll hang him before his own door,
as I hanged the burgomaster of what's the name, some town or other
in Flanders it was; no, 'twas' somewhere in Brabant - no matter -
I hanged him, I remember that much - for oppressing poor folk."
The duke then beckoned his chancellor, a pursy old fellow that
rode like a sack, and bade him write out a free pardon for Martin
and one Gerard.
This precious document was drawn up in form, and signed next day,
and Martin hastened home with it.
Margaret had left her bed some days, and was sitting pale and
pensive by the fireside, when he burst in, waving the parchment,
and crying, "A free pardon, girl, for Gerard as well as me! Send
for him back when you will; all the burgomasters on earth daren't
lay a finger on him."
She flushed all over with joy and her hands trembled with
eagerness as she took the parchment and devoured it with her eyes,
and kissed it again and again, and flung her arms round Martin's
neck, and kissed him. When she was calmer, she told him Heaven had
raised her up a friend in the dame Van Eyck. "And I would fain
consult her on this good news; but I have not strength to walk so
"What need to walk? There is my mule."
"Your mule, Martin?"
The old soldier or professional pillager laughed, and confessed he
had got so used to her, that he forgot at times Ghysbrecht had a
prior claim. To-morrow he would turn her into the burgomaster's
yard, but to-night she should carry Margaret to Tergou.
It was nearly dusk; so Margaret ventured, and about seven
in the evening she astonished and gladdened her new but ardent
friend, by arriving at her house with unwonted roses on her cheeks,
and Gerard's pardon in her bosom.
Some are old in heart at forty, some are young at eighty. Margaret
Van Eyck's heart was an evergreen. She loved her young namesake
with youthful ardour. Nor was this new sentiment a mere caprice;
she was quick at reading character, and saw in Margaret Brandt
that which in one of her own sex goes far with an intelligent
woman; genuineness. But, besides her own sterling qualities,
Margaret had from the first a potent ally in the old artist's
Strange as it may appear to the unobservant, our hearts warm more
readily to those we have benefited than to our benefactors. Some
of the Greek philosophers noticed this; but the British Homer has
stamped it in immortal lines:-
"I heard, and thought how side by side
We two had stemmed the battle's tide
In many a well-debated field,
Where Bertram's breast was Philip's shield.
I thought on Darien's deserts pale,
Where Death bestrides the evening gale,
How o'er my friend my cloak I threw,
And fenceless faced the deadly dew.
I thought on Quariana's cliff,
Where, rescued from our foundering skiff,
Through the white breakers' wrath I bore
Exhausted Bertram to the shore:
And when his side an arrow found,
I sucked the Indian's venom'd wound.
These thoughts like torrents rushed along
To sweep away my purpose strong."
Observe! this assassin's hand is stayed by memory, not of benefits
received, but benefits conferred.
Now Margaret Van Eyck had been wonderfully kind to Margaret
Brandt; had broken through her own habits to go and see her; had
nursed her, and soothed her, and petted her, and cured her more
than all the medicine in the world. So her heart opened to the
recipient of her goodness, and she loved her now far more tenderly
than she had ever loved Gerard, though, in truth, it was purely
out of regard for Gerard she had visited her in the first
When, therefore, she saw the roses on Margaret's cheek, and read
the bit of parchment that had brought them there, she gave up her
own views without a murmur.
"Sweetheart," said she, "I did desire he should stay in Italy five
or six years, and come back rich, and above all, an artist. But
your happiness is before all, and I see you cannot live without
him, so we must have him home as fast as may be."
"Ah, madam! you see my very thoughts." And the young woman hung
her head a moment and blushed. "But how to let him know, madam?
That passes my skill. He is gone to Italy; but what part I know
not. Stay! he named the cities he should visit. Florence was one,
and Rome." But then - Finally, being a sensible girl, she divined
that a letter, addressed, "My Gerard - Italy," might chance to
miscarry, and she looked imploringly at her friend for counsel.
"You are come to the right place, and at the right time," said the
old lady. "Here was this Hans Memling with me to-day; he is going
to Italy, girl, no later than next week, 'to improve his hand,' he
says. Not before 'twas needed, I do assure you."
"But how is he to find my Gerard?"
"Why, he knows your Gerard, child. They have supped here more than
once, and were like hand and glove. Now, as his business is the
same as Gerard's, he will visit the same places as Gerard, and
soon or late he must fall in with him. Wherefore, get you a long
letter written, and copy out this pardon into it, and I'll answer
for the messenger. In six months at farthest Gerard shall get it;
and when he shall get it, then will he kiss it, and put it in his
bosom, and come flying home. What are you smiling at? And now what
makes your cheeks so red? And what you are smothering me for, I
cannot think. Yes! happy days are coming to my little pearl."
Meantime, Martin sat in the kitchen, with the black-jack before
him and Reicht Heynes spinning beside him: and, wow! but she
pumped him that night.
This Hans Memling was an old pupil of Jan Van Eyck and his sister.
He was a painter notwithstanding Margaret's sneer, and a good soul
enough, with one fault. He loved the "nipperkin, canakin, and the
brown bowl" more than they deserve. This singular penchant kept
him from amassing fortune, and was the cause that he often came to
Margaret Van Eyck for a meal, and sometimes for a groat. But this
gave her a claim on him, and she knew he would not trifle with any
commission she should entrust to him.
The letter was duly written and left with Margaret Van Eyck; and
the following week, sure enough, Hans Memling returned from
Flanders, Margaret Van Eyck gave him the letter, and a piece of
gold towards his travelling expenses. He seemed in a hurry to be
"All the better," said the old artist; "he will be the sooner in
But as there are horses who burn and rage to start, and after the
first yard or two want the whip, so all this hurry cooled into
inaction when Hans got as far as the principal hostelry of Tergou,
and saw two of his boon companions sitting in the bay window. He
went in for a parting glass with them; but when he offered to pay,
they would not hear of it, No; he was going a long journey; they
would treat him; everybody must treat him, the landlord and all.
It resulted from this treatment that his tongue got as loose as if
the wine had been oil; and he confided to the convivial crew that
he was going to show the Italians how to paint: next he sang his
exploits in battle, for he had handled a pike; and his amorous
successes with females, not present to oppose their version of the
incidents. In short, "plenus rimarum erat: huc illuc diffluebat;"
and among the miscellaneous matters that oozed out, he must blab
that he was entrusted with a letter to a townsman of theirs, one
Gerard, a good fellow: he added "you are all good fellows:" and to
impress his eulogy, slapped Sybrandt on the back so heartily, as
to drive the breath out of his body.
Sybrandt got round the table to avoid this muscular approval; but
listened to every word, and learned for the first time that Gerard
was gone to Italy. However, to make sure, he affected to doubt it.
"My brother Gerard is never in Italy."
"Ye lie, ye cur," roared Hans, taking instantly the irascible
turn, and not being clear enough to see that he, who now sat
opposite him, was the same he had praised, and hit, when beside
him. "If he is ten times your brother, he is in Italy. What call
ye this? There, read me that superscription!" and he flung down a
letter on the table.
Sybrandt took it up, and examined it gravely; but eventually laid
it down, with the remark, that he could not read. However, one of
the company, by some immense fortuity, could read; and proud of so
rare an accomplishment, took it, and read it out:
"To Gerard Eliassoen, of Tergou. These by the hand of the trusty
Hans Memling, with all speed."
"'Tis excellently well writ," said the reader, examining every
"Ay!" said Hans bombastically, "and small wonder: 'tis writ by a
famous hand; by Margaret, sister of Jan Van Eyck. Blessed and
honoured be his memory! She is an old friend of mine, is Margaret