Imágenes de páginas

Suddenly she said, without turning round, for she was standing by a table gazing at the pictures in a book of Hours—

‘I have seen her l'

“The Pucelle—do you speak of her, gentle maid P’

“I saw her and spoke to her, and heard her voice; ' and here her own broke, and I guessed that she was near to weeping. “I went up within the castle precinct, to the tower Coudraye,’ she said, ‘for I knew that she lodged hard by, with a good woman who dwells there. I passed into the chapel of St. Martin on the cliff, and there heard the voice of one praying before the image of Our Lady. The voice was even as you said that day—the sweetest of voices. I knelt beside her and prayed aloud for her and for France. She rested her hand on my hair—her hair is black, and cut en ronde like a man's. It is true that they say, she dresses in man's garb. We came forth together, and I put my hand into hers, and said, “I believe in you ; if none other believes, yet do I believe.” Then she wept, and she kissed me ; she is to visit me here to-morrow, /a fille de Dieu }

She drew a long Sob, and struck her hand hard on the table ; then, keeping her back ever towards me, she fled swiftly from the room. I was amazed—so light of heart as she commonly seemed, and of late disdainful—to find her in this passion. Yet it was to me that she had spoken ; to me that she had opened her heart. Now I guessed that, if I was ever to win her, it must be through this Pucelle, on whom her mind was so strangely bent. So I prayed that, if it might be God's will, He would prosper the Maid, and let me be her loyal servitor, and at last bring me to my desire. Something also I dreamed, as young men will who have read many romances, of myself made a knight for great feats of arms, and wearing in my salade my lady's favours, and breaking a spear on Talbot, or Fastolf, or Glasdale, in some last great victory for France. Then shone on my eyesight, as it were, the picture of these two children, for they were little more, Elliot and the Maid, kneeling together in the chapel of St. Martin, the gold hair and the black blended; and what were they two alone against this world, and the prince of this world? Alas, how much, and again how little, doth prayer avail us!

These thoughts were in my mind all day, while serving and answering customers, and carrying my master's wares about the town, and up to the castle on the cliff, where the soldiers and sentries now knew me well enough, and the Scotch archers treated me kindly. But as for Elliot, she was like her first self again, and merrier than common with her father, to whom, as far as my knowledge went, she said not a word about the meeting in the crypt of St. Martin's chapel, though to me she had spoken so freely. This gave me some hope, but when I would have tried to ask her a question, she only gazed at me in a manner that abashed me, and turned off to toy with her jackanapes. Whereby I went to my bed perplexed, and with a heavy heart, as one that was not yet conversant with the ways of women, nay, nor ever, in my secular life, have I understood what they would be at Happier had it been for my temporal life if I had been wiser in woman's ways. But commonly, when we have learned a lesson, the lore comes too late. Next day my master had business at the castle with a certain lord, and took me thither to help in carrying his wares. This castle was a place that I loved well, it is so old, having first been builded when the Romans were lords of the land ; and is so great and strong that our bishop's Castle of St. Andrews seems but a cottage compared to it. From the hilltop there is a wide prospect over the tower and the valley of the Vienne, which I liked to gaze upon. My master, then, went in by the drawbridge, high above the moat, which is so deep that, I trow, no foeman could fill it up and cross it to assail the walls. My master, in limping up the hill, had wearied himself, but soon passed into the castle through the gateway of the bell-tower, as they call it, but I waited for him on the further end of the bridge, idly dropping morsels of bread to the swans that swam in the moat below. On the drawbridge, standing sentinel, was a French man-atarms, a young man of my own age, armed with a long fauchard, which we call a bill or halberd, a weapon not unlike the Lochaber axes of the Highlandmen. Other soldiers, French, Scottish, Spaniards, Germans, a mixed company, were idling and dicing just within the gate. I was throwing my last piece of crust to a Swan, my mind empty of thought, when I started out of my dream, hearing that rare woman's voice which once I had heard before. Then turning quickly, I saw, walking between two gentlemen, even those who had ridden with her from Vaucouleurs, one whom

no man could deem to be other than that much-talked-of Maid of Lorraine. She was clad very simply, like the varlet of some lord of no great estate, in a black cap with a little silver brooch, a grey doublet, and black and grey hose, trussed up with many points; a sword of no great price hung by her side.” In stature she was something above the common height of women, her face brown with Sun and wind, her eyes great, grey, and beautiful, beneath black brows, her lips red and smiling. In figure she seemed strong and shapely, but so slim—she being but seventeen years of age—that, were it not for her sweet girl's voice, and for the beauty of her grey eyes, she might well have passed for a page, her black hair being cut en ronde, as was and is the fashion among men-at-arms. Thus much have I written concerning her bodily aspect, because many have asked me what manner of woman was the blessed Maid, and whether she was beautiful. I gazed at her like one moon-struck, then, remembering my courtesy, I doffed my cap, and louted low ; and she bowed, smiling graciously like a great lady, but with such an air as if her mind was far away. She passed, with her two gentlemen, but the French sentinel barred the way, holding his fauchard thwartwise. ‘On what business came you, and by what right?” he cried, in a rude voice. “By the Dauphin's gracious command, to see the Dauphin,' said one of the gentlemen right courteously. ‘Here is his own letter, and you may know the seal, bidding La Pucelle to come before him at this hour.’ The fellow looked at the seal, and could not but acknowledge the arms of France thereon. He dropped his fauchard over his shoulder, and stood aside, staring impudently at the Maiden, and muttering foul words. “So this is the renowned Pucelle, he cried ; “by God's name.’ . . . And here he spoke words such as I may not set down in writing, blaspheming God and the Maid. She turned and looked at him,' but as if she saw him not; and then, a strange light of great joy and love transfiguring her face, she knelt down on the drawbridge, folding her hands, her face bowed, and so abode while one might count twenty, we that saw her being amazed. Then she rose and bent as if in salutation to one we saw not; next, addressing herself to the sentinel, she said, very gently— ‘Sir, how can'st thou take in vain the name of God, thou that art in this very hour to die?’ So speaking, she with her gentlemen went within the gate, while the soldier stood gazing after her like a man turned to Stone. The Maid passed from our sight, and then the sentinel, coming to himself, turned in great wrath on me, who stood hard by. “What make you gaping here, you lousy wine-Sack of Scotland P’ he cried ; and at the word, my prayer which I had made to St. Andrew in my bonds came into my mind, namely, that I should not endure to hear my country defamed. I stopped not to think of words, wherein I never had a ready wit, but his were still in his mouth when I had leaped within his guard, so that he might not swing out his long halberd. “Blasphemer and liar!” I cried, gripping his neck with my left hand, while with two up-cuts of my right I sent his lies down his throat in company, as I deem, with certain of his teeth. * He dropped his halberd against the wooden fence of the bridge, and felt for his dagger. I caught at his right hand with mine; cries were in my ears—St. Denis for France / St. Andrew for Scotland/—as the other men on guard came running forth to see the sport. We gripped and swayed for a moment, then the staff of his fauchard coming between his legs, he tripped and fell, I above him; our weight soused against the low pales of the bridge side, that were crazy and old; there was a crash, and I felt myself in midair, falling to the moat far below us. Down and down I whirled, and then the deep water closed over me.

* This description confirms that of the contemporary town clerk of La Rochelle.

(To be continued.)

[merged small][ocr errors]

WHAT endless vistas of beauty the first thought of Shakespeare's woodlands opens up before the mind's eye, and what enchanting combinations of merriment and pathos, of comedy and woe, are recalled to memory by the words ‘under the greenwood, tree’l Banished courtiers—lovely women and gallant men,_courtjesters, brigands, princes, the self-exiled misanthrope, and the ass-headed weaver, fairy queen and king and their train of elves, sad lovers and happy ones, murderers, the wicked queen and her barbarous Moor, cavalcades of royalty and robbers, and huntsmen and hounds; the Roman legions retreating fighting before the victorious Britons, the Welsh fairy that “smelt of cheese’ under the Windsor oak, and the unhappy hunted king; men and women of every degree, and ‘passioned ’ by every emotion that the human heart confesses. Stand still here under this ‘Oak, whose antique root peeps out Upon the brook that brawls along the wood,'

and listen to the voices of Shakespeare's populous forests—the ‘phantom-peopled solitudes’ of his woodlands. The merry laughter of a court at the lamentable comedy of Thisbe, the heart-breaking sobs and tortured cries of poor Lavinia, the chatter of happy lovers and the sighing of the melancholy, the clamour of trumpets amazed by defeat, the jocund horn and music of the hounds, the quarrelling of elfin prince and princess, the groans and cries of the miserable knight being pinched and thumped, the clashing of swords, the tinkle of lutes and voices of pages singing, the twanging of hunters’ bows and the shepherdesses calling home their flocks, the funeral dirge of Fidele's brothers—but the procession is endless;–and here and again an animal voice—the growl of the hungry lioness, the hiss of the snake, the cry of the leopard and the wrathful boar, mingled with the howls of ‘ dew-lapped mourners’ ripped by tusk and claw; the music of the hounds of Spartan breed with

« AnteriorContinuar »