Part 5 out of 5
told me that was all froth, the young duke must wed a princess
with a tocher.'
'I trust none will put it in our Jeanie's light brain,' sighed
Lily, 'or she will be neither to have nor to hold.'
The consultation was interrupted by the sudden bursting in of
Jean herself. She flew up to her friends with outstretched
hands, and hid her face in Lilias's lap.
'Oh, cousins, cousins! tak' me away out of his reach. He has
been the death of poor Meg, now he wants to be mine.'
They could not understand her at first, and indeed shame as
well as dismay made her incoherent--for what had been proposed
to her was at that time unprecedented. It is hard to believe
it, yet French historians aver that the Dauphin Louis actually
thought of obtaining a dispensation for marrying her. In the
unsettled condition of the Church, when it was divided by the
last splinterings, as it were, of the great schism, perhaps the
astute Louis deemed that any prince might obtain anything from
whichever rival Pope he chose to acknowledge, though it was
reserved for Alexander Borgia to grant the first licence of
this kind. To Jean the idea was simply abhorrent, alike as
regarded her instincts and for the sake of the man himself.
His sneering manner towards her sister had filled her with
disgust and indignation, and he had, in those days, been
equally contemptuous towards herself--besides which she was
aware of his share in her capture by Balchenburg, and whispers
had not respected the manner in which his silence had fostered
the slanders that had broken Margaret's heart.
'I would sooner wed a viper!' she said.
What was Louis's motive it is very hard to guess. Perhaps
there was some real admiration of Jean's beauty, and it seems
to have been his desire that his wife should be a nonentity, as
was shown in his subsequent choice of Charlotte of Savoy. Now
Jean was in feature very like her sister Isabel, Duchess of
Brittany, who was a very beautiful woman, but not far from
being imbecile, and Louis had never seen Jean display any
superiority of intellect or taste like Margaret or Eleanor, but
rather impatience of their pursuits, and he therefore might
expect her to be equally simple with the other sister. However
that might be, Sir Patrick was utterly incredulous; but when
his wife asked Madame Ste. Petronelle's opinion, she shook her
head, and said the Sire Dauphin was a strange ower cannie
chiel, and advised that Maitre Jaques Coeur should be
'Who may he be?'
'Ken ye not Jaques Coeur? The great merchant of Bourges--the
man to whom, above all others, France owes it that we be not
under the English yoke. The man, I say, for it was the poor
Pucelle that gave the first move, and ill enough was her
reward, poor blessed maiden as she was. A saint must needs die
a martyr's death, and they will own one of these days that such
she was! But it was Maitre Coeur that stirred the King and
gave him the wherewithal to raise his men--lending, they called
it, but it was out of the free heart of a true Frenchman who
never looked to see it back again, nor even thanks for it!'
'A merchant?' asked Sir Patrick.
'Ay, the mightiest merchant in the realm. You would marvel to
see his house at Bourges. It would fit a prince! He has ships
going to Egypt and Africa, and stores of silk enough to array
all the dames and demoiselles in France! Jewels fit for an
emperor, perfumes like a very grove of camphire. Then he has
mines of silver and copper, and the King has given him the care
of the coinage. Everything prospers that he sets his hand to,
and he well deserves it, for he is an honest man where honest
men are few.'
'Is he here?'
'Yea; I saw his green hood crossing the court of the castle
this very noon. The King can never go on long without him,
though there are those that so bate him that I fear he may have
a fall one of these days. Methinks I heard that he ay hears
his morning mass when here at the little chapel of St. James,
close to the great shrine of St. Martin, at six of the clock in
the morning, so as to be private. You might find him there,
and whatever he saith to you will be sooth, whether it be as
you would have it, or no.'
On consideration Sir Patrick decided to adopt the lady's
advice, and on her side she reflected that it might be well to
take care that the interview did not fail for want of
The glorious Cathedral of Tours was standing up dark, but with
glittering windows, from the light within deepening the stained
glass, and throwing out the beauty of the tracery, while the
sky, brightening in the autumn morning, threw the towers into
relief, when, little recking of all this beauty, only caring to
find the way, Sir Patrick on the one hand, the old Scots French
lady on the other, went their way to the noble west front, each
wrapped in a long cloak, and not knowing one another, till
their eyes met as they gave each other holy water at the door,
after the habit of strangers entering at the same time.
Then Madame de Ste. Petronelle showed the way to the little
side chapel, close to the noble apse. There, beneath the six
altar-candles, a priest was hurrying through a mass in a rapid
ill-pronounced manner, while, besides his acolyte, worshippers
were very few. Only the light fell on the edges of a dark-
green velvet cloak and silvered a grizzled head bowed in
reverence, and Madame de Ste. Petronelle touched Sir Patrick
and made him a significant sign.
Daylight was beginning to reveal itself by the time the brief
service was over. Sir Patrick, stimulated by the lady,
ventured a few steps forward, and accosted Maitre Coeur as he
rose, and drawing forward his hood was about to leave the
'Beau Sire, a word with you. I am the kinsman and attendant of
the Scottish King's sisters.'
'Ah! one of them is to be married. My steward is with me. It
is to him you should speak of her wardrobe,' said Jaques Coeur,
an impatient look stealing over his keen but honest visage.
'It is not of Duke Sigismund's betrothed that I would speak,'
returned the Scottish knight; 'it is of her sister.'
Jaques Coeur's dark eyes cast a rapid glance, as of one who
knew not who might lurk in the recesses of a twilight
'Not here,' he said, and he led Sir Patrick away with him down
the aisle, out into the air, where a number of odd little
buildings clustered round the walls of the cathedral, even
leaning against it, heedless of the beauty they marred.
'By your leave, Father,' he said, after exchanging salutations
with a priest, who was just going out to say his morning's
mass, and leaving his tiny bare cell empty. Here Sir Patrick
could incredulously tell his story, and the merchant could only
sigh and own that he feared that there was every reason to
believe that the intention was real. Jaques Coeur,
religiously, was shocked at the idea, and, politically, wished
the Dauphin to make a more profitable alliance. He whispered
that the sooner the lady was out of reach the better, and even
offered to advance a loan to facilitate the journey.
There followed a consultation in the securest place that could
be devised, namely, in the antechamber where Sir Patrick and
Lady Drummond slept to guard their young princesses, in the
palace at Tours, Jean, Eleanor, and Madame de Ste. Petronelle
having a bedroom within.
Sir Patrick's view was that Jean might take her leave in full
state and honour, leaving Eleanor to marry her Duke in due
time; but the girl shuddered at this. 'Oh no, no; he would
call himself my brother for the nonce and throw me into some
convent! There is nothing for it but to make it impossible.
Sir Patie, fetch Geordie, and tell him, an' he loves me, to wed
me on the spot, and bear me awa' to bonnie Scotland. Would
that I had never been beguiled into quitting it.'
'Geordie Douglas! You were all for flouting him a while ago,'
said Eleanor, puzzled.
'Dinna be sae daft like, Elleen, that was but sport, and--and a
maid may not hold herself too cheap! Geordie that followed me
all the way from home, and was sair hurt for me, and freed me
from yon awsome castle. Oh, could ye trow that I could love
ony but he?'
It was not too easy to refrain from saying, 'So that's the end
of all your airs,' but the fear of making her fly off again
withheld Lady Drummond, and even Eleanor.
George did not lodge in the castle, and Sir Patrick could not
sound him till the morning; but for a long space after the two
sisters had laid their heads on the pillow Jean was tossing,
sometimes. sobbing; and to her sister's consolations she
replied, 'Oh, Elleen, he can never forgive me! Why did my
hard, dour, ungrateful nature so sport with his leal loving
heart? Will he spurn me the now? Geordie, Geordie, I shall
never see your like! It would but be my desert if I were left
behind to that treacherous spiteful prince,--I wad as soon be a
mouse in a cat's claw!'
But George of Angus made no doubt. He had won his ladylove at
last, and the only further doubt remained as to how the matter
was to be carried out. Jaques Coeur was consulted again. No
priest at Tours would, he thought, dare to perform the ceremony,
for fear of after-vengeance of the Dauphin; and Sir Patrick then
suggested Father Romuald, who had been lingering in his train
waiting to cross the Alps till his Scotch friends should have
departed and winter be over; but the deed would hardly be safely
done within the city.
The merchant's advice was this: Sir Patrick, his Lady, and the
Master of Angus had better openly take leave of the Court and
start on the way to Brittany. No opposition would be made,
though if Louis suspected Lady Jean's presence in their party,
he might close the gates and detain her; Jaques Coeur therefore
thought she had better travel separately at first. For Eleanor,
as the betrothed bride of Sigismund, there was no danger, and she
might therefore remain at Court with the Queen.
Jaques Coeur, the greatest merchant of his day, had just
received a large train of waggons loaded with stuffs and other
wares from Bourges, on the way to Nantes, and he proposed that
the Lady Jean should travel with one attendant female in one of
these, passing as the wife and daughter of the foreman. These
two personages had actually travelled to Tours, and were
content to remain there, while their places were taken by
Madame de Ste. Petronelle and Jean.
We must not describe the parting of the sisters, nor the many
messages sent by Elleen to bonny Scotland, and the brothers and
sisters she was willing to see no more for the sake of her
Austrian Duke. Of her all that needs to be said is that she
lived and died happy and honoured, delighting him by her flow
of wit and poetry, and only regretting that she was a childless
Barbe and Trudchen were to remain in her suite, Barbe still
grieving for 'her boy,' and hoping to devote all she could
obtain as wage or largesse to masses for his soul, and Trudchen,
very happy in the new world, though being broken in with some
difficulty to civilised life.
Having been conveyed by by-streets to the great factory or shop
of Maltre Coeur at Tours, a wonder in itself, though far inferior
to his main establishment at Bourges, Madame de Ste. Petronelle
and Jean, with her faithful Skywing nestled under her cloak, were
handed by Jaques himself to seats in a covered wain, containing
provisions for them and also some more delicate wares, destined
for the Duchess of Brittany. He was himself in riding gear, and a
troop of armed servants awaited him on horseback.
'Was he going with them?' Jean asked.
'Not all the way,' he said; but he would not part with the lady
till he had resigned her to the charge of the Sire de Glenuskie.
The state of the roads made it so needful that a strong guard
should accompany any valuable convoy, that his going with the
party would excite no suspicion.
So they journeyed on in the wain at the head of a quarter of a
mile of waggons and pack-horses, slowly indeed, but so steadily
that they were sure of a good start before the princess's
departure was known to the Court.
It was at the evening halt at a conventual grange that they
came up with the rest of the party, and George Douglas spurred
forward to meet them, and hold out his eager arms as Jean
sprang from the waggon. Wisdom as well as love held that it
would be better that Jean should enter Brittany as a wife, so
that the Duke might not be bribed or intimidated into yielding
her to Louis. It was in the little village church, very early
the next morning, that George Douglas received the reward of
his long patience in the hand of Joanna Stewart, a wiser, less
petulant, and more womanly being than the vain and capricious
lassie whom he had followed from Scotland two years previously.