MASTERS OF THE GUILD
L. LAMPREY Author of "In the Days of the Guild"
Illustrated by Florence Choate and Elizabeth Curtis
PEIROL OF THE PIGEONS
A TOURNAMENT IN THE CLOUDS
THE PUPPET PLAYERS
The Abbot's Lesson
PADRAIG OF THE SCRIPTORIUM
Cap O' Rushes
THE TAPESTRY CHAMBER
THE FAIRIES' WELL
Lullaby of the Pict Mother
THE WOLVES OF OSSORY
St. Hugh and the Birds
THE ROAD OF THE WILD SWAN
THE SWORD OF DAMASCUS
To Josian from Prison
THE WISDOM OF THE GALLEYS
BLACK MAGIC IN THE TEMPLE
The Ebbing Tide
THE END OF A PILGRIMAGE
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
"The boy gave a low call and a soft rush of wings was heard" Frontispiece
"'You have your choice—to remain here quietly, alive, or to remain permanently, dead'"
"'How now, Master Stephen! What foolery is this?'"
"It was the first time Padraig had seen anyone write"
"'Every inch of this linen will be covered with embroidery'" (in colors)
"''Tis the brat of a scatter-brained woman'"
"Directly in front sounded the unmistakable snarl of a wolf"
"An immense boar stumbled out and charged at Eleanor's horse"
"'Belike he got it where he's been—in the Holy Land'" (in colors)
"'I know all about your search for treasure'"
"'He called me his mouse and if I kept still I had cheese for my dinner'"
"Nothing would do but that they all should go immediately to see what had come to light"
"Andrea was at work upon the carving of the doorway"
"A siffle of indrawn breath was heard in the crowd as he carried it to the fire" (in colors)
"There was shouting and laughter in the courtyard"
O little girl who used to be, Come down the Old World road with me, And watch the galleons leaping home Deep-laden, through the rainbow foam, And the far-glimmering lances reel Where clashes battle-axe on steel, When the long shouts of triumph ring Around the banner of the King!
To elfin harps those minstrels rime Who live in Once-upon-a-Time!
In that far land of Used-to-Be, Strange folk were known to you and me,— Mowgh and Puck, and all their kin, Launcelot, and Huckleberry Finn, Wise Talleyrand, brave Ivanhoe, Juliet, and Lear, and Prospero, Alleyne and his White Company, And trooping folk of Faerie!
People of every race and clime Are found in Once-upon-a-Time!
And in those days that used to be The gypsy wind that raced the sea Came singing of enchanted lands, Of sapphire waves on golden sands, Of wind-borne fleets that race the swallow, Of Squirrel-fairy in her hollow, Of brooklets full of scattered stars, And odorous herbs by pasture-bars
Where to the cow-bells' tinkling chime Come dreams of Once-upon-a-Time!
O little girl who used to be, The days are long in Faerie,— Their garnered sunshine's wealth of gold No royal treasure-vault may hold. And now, as if our earth possessed Alchemy's fabled Alkahest, Our harbors blaze with jewelled light, Our air-ships wing their circling flight,
And we ourselves are in the rime That sings of Once-upon-a-Time!
PEIROL OF THE PIGEONS
It was a great day in Count Thibaut's castle. Every one knew that, down to the newest smallest scullery-maid. The Count had come home from England with Lady Philippa, his daughter, and there would be feasting and song and laughter for days and days and days.
Ranulph the troubadour, who had arrived in their company, was glad of a quiet hour in the garden before supper was served. He knew that he would have to sing that evening, and he wished to go over the melodies he had in mind, for he might on the spur of the moment compose new words to them. In fact a song in honor of his hostess was already in his thoughts. The very birds of the air seemed to welcome her. The warm southern winds were full of their warbling—beccafico, loriot, merle, citronelle, woodlark, nightingale,—every tree, copse and tuft of grass held a tiny minstrel. When the great gate opened to a fanfare of trumpets, from the castle walls there came the murmur of innumerable doves. A castle had its dove-cote as it had its poultry-yard or rabbit-warren, but the birds were not always so fearless or so many.
The song was nearly finished when the singer became aware that some one else was in the garden. A small boy, with serious dark eyes and a white pigeon in his arms, stood close by. Ranulph smiled a persuasive smile which few children could resist.
"And who are you, my lad?"
"Peirol, the gooseherd's boy," the youngster replied composedly. "You're none of the family, are you?"
"Only a jongleur. You have a great many pigeons here."
"That's why I came in when I heard you playing. Does she—Lady Philippa— like pigeons?"
"I think she does. In fact I know she does. Why?"
"Grandfather said she would not care how many pigeons were killed to make pies. Nobody really loves them much, but me. They're fond of me too."
The boy gave a low call and a soft rush of wings was heard in every direction. Pigeons flew from tree-top, tower, parapet and gable, alighting on his head and arms until he looked like a little pigeon-tree in full bloom.
"Some of them are voyageurs," he said, strewing salted pease for the strutting, cooing, softly crowding birds. "I'm training them every day. Some day I shall know more about pigeons than any one else in the world."
Ranulph had some ado not to smile; the speaker was so small and the tone so assured. "Perhaps you will," he said. "Are they as tame with others as they are with you?" "Some others," answered Peirol gravely. "People who are patient and know how to keep still. They like you."
A slaty-blue pigeon was already pecking at Ranulph's pointed scarlet shoe for a grain lodged there. The troubadour bent down, held out his hand, and the bird walked into it. He had played with birds often enough in his vagabond early years to know their feelings. But now a wave of merry voices broke upon the garden paths.
"Peirol," he said, "I will see you again. I have a little plan for you and the pigeons which will, I think, give pleasure to Lady Philippa."
One of the entertainments arranged to take place was a feast out of doors, in a woodland glade especially suited to it. Ranulph's inspiration had to do with this.
Among the guests the only stranger was Sir Gualtier (or Walter) Giffard, younger son of a Norman family. One of his ancestors had gone to England with Duke William a hundred years before, but the family had not been on good terms with later kings and its fortunes had somewhat fallen. Every one, however, spoke with respect of this knight and his elder brother, Sir Stephen, and they had been of service to Count Thibaut during his stay in England. This Giffard had never been so far south before, and he seemed to feel that he had got into some sort of enchanted realm. He was more soldier than courtier, but his eyes said a great deal. The luxurious abundance of a Provencal castle, the smooth ease of the serving, the wit and gaiety of the people, all were new to him. He had attended state banquets, but they were as unlike the entertainment here provided as was the stern simplicity of his boyhood home in Normandy, or the rough-and- tumble camp life of recent years.
The out-of-door dinner was not a hap-hazard picnic, but neither was it in the least stiff or formal. The servants went by a short cut across the meadow to prepare the tables, while knights and ladies followed the more leisurely path along the river bank. It was a walk through fairyland. The very waters were in a holiday mood. The current strayed from one side to the other, leaving clear still pools and enticing little backwaters, and singing past the elfin islets and huge overshadowing trees, like a gleeful spirit.
Lady Philippa had never looked more lovely. As the party was not to be seen on a public road, veils and wimples were discarded, and her bright brown hair, braided in two long braids, was crowned only by a circlet of gold set with pearls and emeralds. The trailing robes worn at formal dinners would also be out of place, and she wore a bliaut or outer robe of her favorite rose-colored silk, a wide border of gold embroidery giving it weight enough to make it hang in graceful lines. The sleeves were loose and long, the ends almost touching the hem of the gown. Under this was a violet silk robe of heavier material with bands of ermine at the neck and on the small close sleeves. Under this again the embroidered edges of a fine white linen robe could be seen at throat and wrists. The girdle was of braided violet silk, the ends weighted with amethyst and emerald ornaments. A white mantle of silk and wool, trimmed with fur of the black squirrel, and fastened under the chin with a gold button, and an embroidered alms-purse, completed the costume. The other ladies of the party were attired as carefully, and the dress of the men was as rich and brilliant as that of the women. They passed through the wavering light and shadow of the woodlands like a covey of bright-plumaged birds.
In the level open space where the feast was spread the servants had placed trestles, over which long boards were fitted. Benches covered with silken cushions served as seats. The cloth was of linen dyed scarlet in the rare Montpellier dye, and over it was spread another of white linen, embroidered in open-work squares. At each end of the table was a large silver dish, one containing a meat-pie, the other a pie made of the meat of various fowls with savory seasoning. On silver plates were slices of cold chicken and meat. Glass trays contained salad, lettuces, radishes and olives. The salt, pepper and spices were in silver and gold dishes of fanciful shapes. Here and there were crystal vases of freshly gathered roses and violets. On the corners of the table were trenchers of white bread—wastel, cocket, manchet, of fine wheaten flour,—and brown bread of barley, millet and rye. For dessert there were the spicy apples of Auvergne, Spanish oranges, raisins, figs, little sweet cakes, wine white and red, and nuts in a great carved brass dish of the finest Saracen work, with carved wood nut-crackers. Ewers and basins of decorated brass, for washing the hands after the meal, were ready. Eastern carpets and cushions, placed upon a bank under the trees, would afford a place where the company, after dining, might linger for hours, enjoying the gay give- and-take of conversation, the songs of artists who knew their art, and the constant musical undertone of winds, birds and waters. The surprise which Ranulph had planned was designed for the moment when the guests began to dally with nuts and wine, reluctant to leave the table. Some one called upon the troubadour to sing. He had counted upon this. Rising, he bowed to the Count and his daughter, and began:
"In the month of Arcady Green the summer meadows be,— When the dawn with fingers light Lifts the curtains of the night, And from tented crimson skies Glorious doth the sun arise,— Who are these who give him greeting, On swift wings approaching, fleeting,— Who but birds whose carols bring Homage to their gracious King! "Lo! the Queen of Arcady From the land of Faery Gladdens our adoring eyes, Fair and gentle, sweet and wise, Her companions here on earth Love and Loyalty and Mirth! Who, the joyous tidings hearing, Fly to greet her, now appearing? Aphrodite's pigeons fleet,— See, they gather at her feet."
No one had heard a low clear call from the boughs of the tree overhead, or seen the figure of a small boy in a fantastic tunic of goatskins, slipping down the tree-trunk near Ranulph. As the company rose from the table the troubadour moved away a little, still thrumming his refrain, and in that moment there was a whir of sudden wings and the air was dark with pigeons. As the birds alighted Lady Philippa was surrounded by the pretty creatures, and in a graceful little speech Ranulph presented to her Peirol as a Faun, the Master of the Pigeons, who had brought them to do homage to their sovereign lady.
It was just the sort of informal pageant to delight the heart of Provence. No more dainty and captivating interlude had been seen at a festival.
There was a great deal of wonderment about the way in which the scene had been arranged, but it was really quite simple. According to the usual fashion the guests were seated on only one side of the table, the other side being left free for the servants to present the various dishes. The company faced the river, and the trees that canopied the table were behind them. Nothing, therefore, hindered Peirol from luring his pigeons to a point within hearing of his voice, and concealing himself in the thick leafage until Ranulph gave the signal for them to be brought upon the stage. Most of the afternoon was spent in watching and discussing Peirol and the pigeons.
"A pigeon has certain advantages," observed Gualtier Giffard, as he and the troubadour, sitting a little way from the others, watched the carriers rise and circle in the air. "He need only rise high enough to see his goal,—and fly there." "Pity but a man might do the same," said Ranulph lightly. The eyes of the two young men met for an instant in unspoken understanding. Under some conditions they might have felt themselves rivals. But neither the penniless younger son of a Norman house, nor a landless troubadour of Avignon, had much hope of meeting Count Thibaut's views for his only daughter.
"It would be rather absurd," Ranulph went on, stroking the feathers of the little dun pigeon Rien-du-Tout, "for a bird to outdo a man. Perhaps some day we shall even sail the air as now we sail the seas. Picture to yourself a winged galleon with yourself at the helm—about to discover a world beyond the sunset. It is all in having faith, I tell you. Unbelief is the dragon of the ancient fables."
The Norman smiled rather sadly. "Meanwhile," he said, "having no flying ships and no new crusades to prove our mettle, we spend ourselves on such errands as we have, or beat the air vainly—like the pigeons. Were it not that a man owes loyalty to his house and to his King I would enlist under the piebald banner of the Templars. But my brother and I have set ourselves to win back the place that our fathers lost, and until that is done I have no errand with dragons."
Ranulph nodded, thoughtfully. "The King would be glad of more such service," he said. "Good fortune be with you!"
Hail, Poet—and farewell! Our day is past, Yet may we hear new songs before we die, The chanteys of the mightiest and the last,— The squadrons of the sky.
We knew the rhythm of myriad marching feet, Gray tossing seas that rocked the wind-whipped sail, The drumming hoofs of horses, and the beat Of stern hearts clad in mail.
But you—earth-fettered we shall watch your wings Topping the mountains, battling winds,—to dare Challenge the lammergeyer where she swings Down the long lanes of air.
And when you take the skylark for your guide, And soar straight up to sun-drenched shores of Time, Immortal singers there shall, eager-eyed, Await your new-born rhyme.
Their songs are charm-songs, a divine caress, Or torrents that no power of man could tame, Or time-hushed gardens of grave loveliness, But yours,—a leaping flame!
Hail, Poet! Yours the Dream Interpreted, Earth's haunting fairy-tale since life began,— The Dragon of Unfaith, his magic dead, Slain by the Flying Man!
A TOURNAMENT IN THE CLOUDS
Alazais de Montfaucon was to be married, and had chosen her dearest friend Philippa to be maid of honor. None of her friends except Philippa had seen the bridegroom; he was an English knight, Hugh l'Estrange. He had lands on the Welsh marches, and the charming Alazais was to be carried off by him, to live among savages. This, at least, was the impression of Beatriz d'Acunha and Catalina d'Anduze, who were also to be bridesmaids. Philippa, having lived in England, looked at the matter less dolefully. Still, when all was said, it was an immense change for Alazais, and she herself declared that if any one but Hugh had proposed it she would not think of such a thing.
"We must provide you with a flock of these voyageur pigeons," said Savaric de Marsan. "Then, when you are shut up in your stronghold with the Welsh on one side and Saxon outlaws on the other, you can appeal to your friends for help."
Alazais laughed her pretty rippling laugh.
"The fortress is not yet built," she said with a toss of her golden head. "We are not going to live among the heathen."
"You men!" pouted Beatriz. "You are always thinking of battles and sieges, wars and jousting. Perhaps you would like a tournament of pigeons!"
"Why not?" queried Savaric undisturbed. "It would be highly amusing."
"I lay my wager on Blanchette here," said Peire d'Acunha. "She is as graceful as a lady. She shows her breeding."
"Endurance, my friend, is what counts in a carrier," said Bertrand d'Aiguerra. "Pere Azuli yonder will forget the miles behind him—as you forget your debts."
"You are both wrong," said Savaric. "It is spirit that wins. Little Sieur Rien-du-Tout, the pigeon without a pedigree, will make fools of all of you."
The pigeon-tournament was actually planned, with much laughter and light- hearted nonsense. It was to take place at Montfaucon during the week of the wedding. Each knight should adorn his bird with his lady's colors, and the little feathered messengers were to carry love-letters written in verse. Afterward, the pigeons were all to be presented to Lady Alazais for her dovecote in the barbarous land to which she was exiled.
Pigeons were very much the fashion for a time. Dainty demoiselles preened and paced on the short sweet turf, petting and feeding the birds, and looking rather like pigeons themselves. But no one became really intimate with the carriers except Ranulph the troubadour, Lady Philippa, and Sir Gualtier Giffard, who loved them for her sake.
The guests at the castle were all going to the wedding except Ranulph and the Norman knight. Ranulph expected to accompany King Henry to England, and Gualtier Giffard had to take a report from Count Thibaut to friends in Normandy, touching certain matters of state.
Then the Count was invited to a hastily arranged banquet in a town some leagues away, where various important persons were to be guests, among them Henry Plantagenet himself. The way to Montfaucon lying in the same direction, it was decided that Alazais and her bridesmaids should return to her home under escort of the Count and his friends. When the banquet was over and the conference between Henry and his vassals in Guienne was concluded, the wedding guests would assemble at Montfaucon.
Gossip about the banquet and the conference flew like tennis-balls among the guests. It was said that one of the matters discussed would be the claim of the deposed King of Leinster, Dermot MacMurragh, who was even now at the heels of the English King, trying to interest him in a possible Norman invasion of Ireland.
"I have seen this Dermot," said de Marsan, "and a choice group of cut- throats he had collected about him. Garin de Biterres was one of them, by the way."
"He was always over-fond of laying wagers," yawned d'Acunha. "He is probably betting his head on this Irish wild-goose chase."
"I will burn a candle," said Bertrand d'Aiguerra, "to any god of luck who will send that caitiff where he gets himself killed. If he were not one of us he would not be such a nuisance. His mercenaries will be the ruin of us. The people were touchy enough before, but now they begin to think we are all birds of the same black feather."
"He is only half Auvergnais," objected Savaric. "The other half is Sicilian, I believe. A man cannot be half a gentleman, can he? I will admit that Biterres desires to live like a gentleman,—according to his own ideas of one. He has not been the same man since he was taken by the Moors. He was never honest, but that seemed to warp his nature as well as his body. He learned things that it does no man any good to know."
"Let us hope that Saint Patrick will dispose of him for the good of his Irish," remarked Enrique de Montfaucon. "They say that the Plantagenet will do no more than give letters patent to any Norman adventurer who takes up Dermot's cause. I think he has his hands full with his own sons."
Ranulph listened to this conversation with interest. The ill-famed leader of mercenaries had aspired to the hand of Lady Philippa while she was yet a child—and had been brusquely dismissed by her father. He lived now by hiring himself and his troops to any ruler who had a war on hand and would pay his price. In peaceful intervals they lived as they could.
The Count was talking to Gualtier Giffard about the Irish venture.
"If the Normans rule Ireland," he observed, "your fortunes may improve. A grant of land there might be worth your while."
The young knight met the Count's searching glance fearlessly. "I would not take it," he answered. "Dermot lost his realm by his own fault. There is no honor in serving him."
"Ah," said the Count with a quizzical lift of the eyebrow, "in that case you are very right."
Ranulph often acted as an unofficial unrecognized envoy in state matters, and it did not surprise him when he received a message from King Henry to the effect that he was to meet the monarch at Montfaucon after the conference. Peirol, who knew every mile of the country, was to take the pigeons thither for the tournament and be Ranulph's guide. It was altogether a very pleasant prospect for perfect summer weather.
By brisk riding the troubadour and his little companion reached Montfaucon late in the afternoon of the day following the departure of the Count's guests. The porter, a surly looking fellow, hesitated about admitting them, and before opening the wicket gate consulted some one within. The castle seemed to be in a somewhat disorderly state. Soldiers were playing dice by the gateway, and horses were stamping and feeding in the outer bailey. Peirol was evidently taken for the troubadour's servant, and an unkempt lad ushered them into a small room with a barred window, in one of the older towers. Ranulph was not wont to think of his own dignity, but this lack of courtesy did a little surprise him. Almost at once the youth poked his head in, without knocking, to say that the lord of the castle would see him in the great hall.
More mystified than before, Ranulph obeyed the summons, for it amounted to that. In the master's chair sat a man of about thirty, dark-skinned, with dense black hair and eyes, one leg somewhat malformed, the knee being bowed and the foot turned slightly inward. He looked the troubadour over with a sarcastic smile. Ranulph was still in riding-dress, and might have been mistaken for a joglar or wandering minstrel, calling himself by the more dignified title of troubadour or trouvere.
"I think," began the knight in a harsh drawl, "that one can often do no better than to tell the truth, is it not so? I am the lord of this castle- -for the present. Of course I could not refuse you admittance, or you might go off and spread inconvenient rumors. I must ask you therefore to accept our hospitality unquestioning, like a courteous guest. We cannot allow you to depart until we ourselves are gone. You have your choice—to remain here quietly, alive, or to remain permanently, dead.
"Naturally you will not communicate with any ladies whom you may see, but if you can afford them some entertainment you shall be paid. They have had but a dull time thus far, I fear, and I would not have them think us barbarians, soldiers of fortune though we are. When I am through with this castle I shall leave it as I found it, except for the temporary detention of the inmates in various rooms, where I suppose they will stay until some one finds them. If anybody is found dead it will be his own fault. Now, which horn of the dilemma is your choice—troubadour?"
During this extraordinary speech Ranulph had done some rapid thinking. From the man's appearance he believed him to be Garin de Biterres. The castle had evidently been taken by surprise after the Count's party had escorted the maidens thither and ridden away. Perhaps the marauders had been lurking somewhere about awaiting the opportunity. They must know that they could not hold it after the friends of the rightful lord knew what had been done, and their leader was too cool-headed a man to have attempted so bold a raid without some important reason. The abduction of four young girls, two of whom at least were heiresses, might seem such a reason to such a man. Evidently he did not suspect Ranulph's character as a man of some reputation and the confidential messenger of the King of England. This was a piece of luck. The chance of his being useful to the captives was all the better.
With the elaborate meekness proper to his supposed low station he answered, "You leave me no choice, my lord. To resist your will would be suicide, and that is a mortal sin."
The knight grinned like a sour-tempered dog. "Take care," he said, "that you change not your very praise-worthy views. Have you any little diversion which may enliven a tedious hour at supper-time?"
Ranulph's quick mind had been turning over plans. He thanked a hard Fate that his early experience in camps, markets, inn-yards and fairs had been so thorough and so varied. In those days he had been what Biterres now supposed him—one of those vagabond singers who sang popular songs and often did tricks of jugglery, or danced, or gave acrobatic exhibitions, wherever they found an audience. The panier in which the pigeons drowsed was probably taken for a collection of costumes and properties.
The pigeons could not get through the barred window of his room. If they were let loose in the courtyard and recognized as carriers, a bowman could easily bring them down. But now he saw a way to elude suspicion.
"I have a trick," he ventured humbly, "which is most amusing, but it requires a large shell or cofyn of pastry. When this pie is cut, live birds fly out. But perhaps it would not be convenient to have your lordship's cook troubled with this?"
Biterres made an impatient gesture. "Child's play—but it will serve. The cook shall come for your orders. Have it ready before the drinking begins or the men will not know whether you have larks or peacocks in the pie."
Ranulph bowed very low and left the hall.
"Peirol," he said when he re-entered the cell-like room, "we are prisoners to a caitiff knight who has taken this castle and undoubtedly holds your mistress and her friends also captive. I think he intends to carry off the ladies, and I am not sure what will happen to the rest of us. If we can get word to Count Thibaut's castle we may spoil the fellow's game. No one must suspect, of course, that we have carriers with us. He takes us for strolling mountebanks and desires us to amuse the company at supper. Now, I have a plan."
He was already writing the letters to be sent by the winged couriers, putting all his hard-won skill with words into the task of getting all the information possible into a little space. If the rescuing party did not come before Biterres took his prisoners away—and it was hardly to be hoped that they could—at least they should have a fair start in pursuit of him and evidence enough to punish him, if they received even one of these missives.
Peirol heard the scheme with wide-eyed gravity. At the end he nodded.
"That fellow asked what we had here," he said pointing to the panier, "and I told him when the pie was cut he would see."
"Good!" laughed the troubadour. "That was a lucky answer, Peirol. And here comes the cook to make the pie."
The cook, a stout beady-eyed little man, eyed the two somewhat sulkily, but went away grinning over Ranulph's jokes and fingering Ranulph's generous fee. Furthermore he vouchsafed the information that the leader of the mercenaries intended to leave the castle next day for the nearest seaport, where he and his men would take a ship for Ireland. Lady Philippa was destined to be the bride of Biterres himself; Alazais was to marry the second in command, Griffon de Malemort. The other two demoiselles were to be taken to Ireland, where the King would doubtless find them husbands. If they would not agree to this they were to be sold to a Moslem slave-dealer whose galley was somewhere about. The servants and defenders of the castle had been herded into various rooms and locked up. The cook himself did not mind a little recklessness on the part of military adventurers such as these routiers, but he felt that this sort of thing was perilous. He intended to give them the slip at the first opportunity, and they could cook their own soup if they liked.
The plot, infamous as it was, had unfortunately nothing impossible about it. Four unprotected girls could be taken in guarded litters to the sea- coast and shipped to Ireland or to Cadiz, Valencia, Alexandria or Morocco with no difficulty whatever unless some one got wind of the fact. As for the Irish King, a man who had the sort of record he had, was not likely to quibble over the means used by Biterres in getting himself a bride. And before the captives within the castle could reach even the nearest of their friends and bring help, the whole troop would have left the country.
Through the huge carved open-work screen at the end of the hall, after supper was served, Ranulph had a view of the scene within. Biterres, with the fantastic formality it pleased him to use, had insisted on the attendance of his prisoners at supper, and the meal was served with all due ceremony. Biterres and Malemort appeared to be acting with studied politeness. The maidens were behaving with the dignity and self-possession which became daughters of soldiers, although they were pale and woe- begone. The troopers at the lower table were noisy and rude enough, and Ranulph suspected that his entertainment had been ordered partly to keep them from getting out of hand with drinking and rioting. He had contrived a clown's costume from some of his belongings, aided by a little flour and paint, and a bauble made of a toasting fork stuck through an apple. When he pranced into the hall the soldiers yelled with surprise and delight. Behind him at a discreet distance came a small boy, also attired in antic fashion, carrying carefully in both hands a huge pie. The cook was peeping through the screen to see what was going to happen.
Neither Ranulph nor Peirol gave so much as a glance at the captives, who were too much amazed to say anything at first, and quickly saw the danger of any betraying comment. The troubadour marched up to Biterres, asked permission to sing, and began a doggerel ballad about one Sir Orpheus and his magic harp. The harp, as the song explained, had the power of luring pigeons, rabbits, wild geese, lambs, sucking-pigs and even fish from the stewponds, into its owner's dinner-pot, so that Orpheus never lacked for good living and became very fat. The bouillabaisse of Marseilles, the Norman ragout of eels, the roast goose of Arles, the pigs' feet of Spain, the partridge pasty of Periguex,—all the luscious dishes of a land of good eating were described in a way that made these old campaigners howl with reminiscent joy. The rollicking, impudent tune, the allusions to camp customs more notorious than honest, went straight to the heart of the blackguard audience, and half the voices in the room promptly joined the chorus. Eurydice, the singer went on, was an excellent cook, so renowned that the prince of the lower regions abducted her, and Orpheus was allowed to regain possession of her only on the solemn condition that she should make a pie for that sovereign every twelvemonth. This pie, according to the final verse of the song, would now be cut, so that the company could see exactly what a Plutonian banquet was like.
The troubadour borrowed a dagger from a man-at-arms, made one or two slashes at the ornate crust of the pie—and out flew four live pigeons.
Then Peirol gave his birdlike call, and eluding the hands raised to catch them the pigeons swooped down to him. Ranulph began to dance, playing his lute at the same time, and the boy followed, with the doves flying above him just out of reach. In saucy improvised couplets the troubadour called upon one and another to join the dancing, until before any one quite knew what was happening, the company in the lower hall was drawn into a winding lengthening line following the leaders in a sort of farandole. The hall was not large enough for this to go on indefinitely, and Ranulph suddenly bolted into the outer air, where the shouting, laughing crowd paused for breath—and the pigeons went soaring into the sky.
The party from the table on the dais came out to look on, and Garin de Biterres, as he saw the mounting birds, grew suspicious. "Here, Jean! Michaud!" he said sharply. "Loose the hunting hawks!"
Ranulph's heart missed a beat, but he dared not betray himself by a tremor. Hawks could be trained to pursue carriers, but the doves had a fair start and might be able to get away. The two birds of prey which the men brought were moreover not the type of hawk used especially to hunt pigeons, but young falcons or tercels. The men bungled in handling them; they evidently belonged to the castle, not to the troop. When they finally rose into the air, Pere Azuli, the veteran blue pigeon, and Rien-du-Tout, the little dun-colored stray Peirol had trained, were almost out of sight. The luckless Blanchette was lagging, and despite her frantic attempts to escape her enemy she was soon struggling in the falcon's grip. Clair de la Lune, the other white pigeon, seemed about to meet the same fate when something unexpected happened.
Two wild hawks, beating up from the south, spied the pigeons, and pounced one upon the tercel with the dove in his talons, the other upon Clair de la Lune. In the scrimmage which followed Blanchette's little body fell into the river, and the strange hawk gave chase to Pere Azuli, while her mate began to devour Clair de la Lune at his leisure. The ruffled and bewildered tercels were whistled back, and neither Garin de Biterres nor his prisoners could be certain in the gathering twilight whether any of the pigeons had escaped their pursuers.
The pigeon-chase had taken the attention of de Biterres and his men so completely for a few minutes that Ranulph, without seeming to do so, came near to Lady Philippa. A tiny roll of paper encased in a withered leaf dropped from his fingers on the furred edge of her mantle. She bent to shake off the leaf and her hand closed quietly over the letter. When Ranulph had gone to sing ballads of the camp among the troopers, and the young girls had been ceremoniously escorted to their guarded room, she unrolled and read the missive. It was not long. "Dear and Honored Lady—I pray you pardon the fooleries of the night, since in this way only could I hope to escape the surveillance of these miscreants and do you service. The pigeons we are loosing bear messages telling of your doleful plight, and I doubt not that when it becomes known, help will come to you. Sir Gualtier Giffard is, as you know, at your father's castle awaiting messages from him, and we have thus every reason to hope that there will be no mishap. For the rest, sweet lady, I rejoice that I am within these walls, because you are here, and yet would I gladly go to the ends of the earth if so I might hasten your deliverance.
"Ever your servant, "RANULPH D'AVIGNON."
The loyal and generous words were like balm upon wounds. The last speech that Garin de Biterres had made to her that night conveyed a terrifying possibility.
"Lady Philippa," his cold harsh voice had fallen upon her ears like the grating of a key in a prison door, "your father once refused me your hand. I hope to find you more gracious, or at least more compliant. My captain, Malemort, stands ready to wed the Lady Alazais as I would wed you, at high noon to-morrow. The fate of the others depends upon you. As good Christian maidens ye should all prefer Christian marriage to slavery among the Moslems,—but gold in the purse is better than an unwilling bride."
It was not long after sunset when old Grimaud, Count Thibaut's gooseherd, was aroused from a light sleep by a fluttering at his window. He found huddled on the sill a small dun pigeon under whose wing nestled a roll of writing. According to instructions, he took it at once to Sir Gualtier Giffard, who found therein Ranulph's statement of the tragedy impending at Montfaucon. It was like the crater of a volcano suddenly opened in what had seemed a bright and fertile valley. On the very borders of this paradise of luxury and delight lay a world where a thing like this was possible. He strode hastily into the hall, told the news to the old knight, a cousin of Count Thibaut's, who had charge of the castle for the time, and left him to order out the garrison. Five minutes later he was riding at a breakneck pace on his own fleet horse, to rouse the men who had so short a time since been guests of the Count, to the rescue of his daughter and her companions.
Thus it came to pass that early next morning a sentinel at Montfaucon hurried from his watch-tower to make report to Malemort, and Malemort lost no time in reporting to his chief. Peering from an upper window they could see a strong force under the banner of Count Thibaut, flanked by the devices of half Auvergne, coming at a sharp trot toward the castle. There was neither delay nor discussion. Garin de Biterres had not found life altogether pleasant, but he had no wish to end it with a rope around his neck. If some peasant had carried a report of his doings to Count Thibaut there was nothing to do but flee the vengeance now on the way, and that instantly. Without waiting even to close the gates the whole troop of mercenaries went galloping away. When the rescuers clattered into the courtyard they found no one stirring save a little stout man in a cook's apron, who was concocting something in a huge saucepan.
"I am Martin," he said to Savaric de Marsan. "I cook. But I do not cook for cannibals, and my faith! I think that robber captain will end by devouring his fellow-men. I have no mind to poison the food of his enemies, either, so when they went away I hid in the great tun. I am at your service, master."
Savaric was so much amused at the explanation that he then and there decided to rescue Martin from further evil company and place him in his own kitchen.
"There is some consolation for not catching Biterres," he observed to Ranulph later, "in getting a cook like that little man. He deserves something, truly, for giving you the information he did. And then, we are rid of Garin for good now. He will never come back to Auvergne.
"You should have seen that Norman madman when your message came. He had us under arms and riding for dear life before we fairly understood what had happened. Yet from what Martin says, but for your daring and ready wit no message could have come. You will not allow me to say what I think of that, and therefore I suppose we must give all the credit to the victor in our tournament of the pigeons,—little Sieur Rien-du-Tout!"
Where through the dapple of wood-shadows dreaming Faun-footsteps pattering run, Where the swift mountain-brooks silvery-gleaming Carol through rain and through sun, Thee do we follow, O Spirit of Gladness,— Thee to whom Laughter gave suck. We are thy people by night or by noontide,— We are thy loves, O Puck!
Lips thou hast kissed have no pleasure in sadness, Bitterness, cant nor disdain. Hearts to thy piping beat bravely in gladness Through poverty, exile or pain. Gold is denied us—thine image we fashion Out of the slag or the muck. We are thy people in court or by campfire,— We are thy slaves, O Puck!
We are the dancers whose morris-bells ringing Sound the death-knell of our years. We are the harpers who turn into singing Our hopes and our foves and our fears. Thine is the tribute wrung hard from our anguish After the death blows are struck. We are thy bondmen who jest while we languish,— We are thy souls, O Puck!
THE PUPPET PLAYERS
In a blinding snow-storm that blotted out the roads and obscured the outlines of the densely forested mountains, two youths and a small donkey struggled over a mountain trail. Twice the donkey had to be pulled bodily out of a drift, and once for an hour or more the wayfarers were racked by the fear that they had lost their direction altogether. But at last, in the edge of the evening, they saw the lights of the city twinkling like a miniature Milky Way, and urged on their tired beast in the certainty of food and shelter at the end of the day.
They were very unlike, these two strangers. He who seemed the leader was a slender lad, dark and keen of face, who might from his looks have been either French or Italian. In reality he was a Milanese, Giovanni Bergamotto, the only survivor of one of the families driven out of Milan when Barbarossa took the city. He had lived nearly half his life in France and in England, and spoke several languages nearly or quite as well as his own.
The other was a big-shouldered, sullen-looking fellow with black eyes and hair and a skin originally brown and now still darker from his out-of-door life—a Pyrenean mountaineer known as Cimarron. It was doubtful if he himself knew what his name originally had been; to all who knew him now he was Cimarron, the mountain sheep,—strong, sure-footed, and silent, and not half as stupid as people often thought.
The two had been in Brittany, in Paris, in Sicily and in Castile during the past months, and in each country they had made their way directly to the place in which the ruler happened to be holding court. At court they had exhibited the marionette show now packed away in the donkey's saddle- bags, once, twice or thrice as the case might be, until Giovanni had succeeded in gaining audience with the wife of the ruler. He carried pedlar's goods of very choice varieties, which might well appeal to ladies of the court in those days of slow transportation and few shops.
Now the King of England had three daughters, each of them being married to some prince of importance on the Continent of Europe, and he had adopted this means of sending certain letters to be given into their hands. The letter was carried inside a marionette, the head of the little carved wooden figure being so made as to unscrew and reveal a deep narrow hole in the body. The last of the three was Matilda, wife of Henry the Lion Duke of Saxony, the most powerful vassal of Frederick Barbarossa; and Barbarossa and his court now occupied Goslar, the walled city of Prussia which the two comrades were approaching. Giovanni wished to have the Emperor's permission to go on to Saxony. It might save his being detained as a spy or interfered with in some other way.
He wished also to discover how far the preparations for the invasion of Italy had gone. From what he had heard he thought that Barbarossa was about to gather his forces. He himself intended to join the army of the Lombard League as soon as he had delivered his letter.
There was not much difficulty in finding an inn where they could have supper, and sleep, rolled up in their cloaks, on the floor in a corner of the common room. The donkey was unloaded and fed, and the saddle-bags were brought in to serve as pillows. Having eaten, they lay down to the dreamless sleep of healthy youth. Cimarron's mountain-bred ears caught the sound, two hours after, of clanking swords and trampling horses, and he signaled silently to Giovanni. Troopers clattered in, laughing, cursing, calling for this and that, and not seeing the two motionless figures in the dark corner at all. When all was still again Cimarron whispered,
"Who are they?"
"They are Swabian cavalry," answered the other. "We were none too soon. The army is mustering already."
Next morning Giovanni cast about for means to get inside the walls of the great castle, where the Imperial banner floated in the cold blue air. But there seemed to be no disposition to encourage foreigners. Cimarron, who could sometimes gain admittance as a horse-boy, was kicked out. There was tumult and excitement in the streets. Giovanni, retreating to a narrow alley to brush mud off his doublet, was aware that a man with keen observant eyes was regarding him from the doorway of a wine-shop. The man wore the cap and bells of a jester, and his fantastic costume was gorgeously colored and ornamented. He was drinking a cup of wine, and when that was finished he poured another for himself and began to sip it slowly. Catching Giovanni's eye, he asked,
"What's in those great saddle-bags, my friend?"
Giovanni nearly jumped, for the question was in his own native dialect— not only Lombard but the variety peculiar to Milan itself. But remembering that he must not betray his blood he answered meekly, in French,
"I crave your pardon, master. I do not understand your question."
"I asked you," said the jester, "what you had in your luggage. It was an idle question, but you might be a showman of Milan."
Giovanni laughed with mingled amusement and horror. "Milan, do you say? Is it safe to say that name in Goslar? No, master, I am a poor showman from Paris, asking only the opportunity to display my puppets before the great folk. 'Tis a goodly show, I assure you, master—the play of the Ten Virgins. Having but six lady-figures I am forced to make them serve for the wise and the foolish virgins and the bride, but there are also a King, who in this play is the bridegroom, the Merchant, the Monk, the Jester— who is most amusing and can dance upon his head or his heels as you will. The figures were carved by the most skilful wood-carvers of Paris, and the play was written by a pious monk of the Benedictines." (Padraig the scribe would have hooted at this.) "It is a most wise and diverting entertainment, master, I do assure you." The jester seemed not to be listening very attentively. He twirled the stem of the wine-cup in his hand, crooning,
"'Fantoccini, fantoccino,— Chi s'arrischia baldacchino, Ognuno per se, Diavolo per tutti.'"
Only long practice in self-control could have kept Giovanni from starting. The rhyme was a common street-song which every lad in Milan, the city of puppet-shows, would recognize, and not only did it refer to the puppets as "fantoccini" instead of marionettes, but the significance of the last two lines, "Each for himself and the fiend for all," was rather too pointed to be pleasant. But he only bowed uncomprehendingly and awaited the further comment of the singer with more interest than comfort.
"I have a mind to speak a word for your puppet-show," said the jester, cradling his bauble in his arms. "The Emperor gives little thought to such toys; nevertheless he may be graciously pleased to spend a few minutes in that way to-night after supper. Follow me."
He strutted away, a small pompous figure in scarlet and orange, and Giovanni noted the mingled deference and contempt with which he was regarded by the crowd. No more trouble was experienced in getting the donkey along the crowded streets. The fool's discordantly-clashing bells opened a way everywhere. The porter at the castle gate grinned and flung a jest at him, but admitted him and those who followed in his train, without question.
A few steps farther on they were halted by a tall, thin, sour-looking man in the elaborate headgear and robes of a dignitary of the household.
"How now, Master Stephen!" he said sternly. "What foolery is this?"
"Only a showman, Conrad," grinned the jester. "He has a puppet-show in those fat bags of his. Did you think I was trying to smuggle meat-puddings out of the kitchens for my own solitary meals?"
The steward was not satisfied. "Show me the puppets," he ordered. Giovanni obeyed.
The steward scrutinized the bride and her maidens, pulled the strings which moved the humpbacked jester, fingered the costumes, and then with a curt nod bade them go on. "But mind you, Master Stephen," he said, shaking a long finger at the fool, "you are to be responsible for these fellows and keep them in sight from now until the time of the feast. If aught goes amiss you shall be whipt."
The jester giggled, shook his bells, and began to climb a long flight of stairs in a tower opening on the courtyard, beckoning the two youths to follow him. Up and up they climbed, until at last the fool turned and motioned them to halt.
"Come within," he said to Giovanni. "Let your servant await you with your baggage on the landing here. He will tell us if any one approaches."
The room in which Giovanni found himself was a small wainscoted apartment in the top of the tower, furnished in a grotesque fashion well suited to the humped and twisted figure of its master. The jester flung off his tall curved cap and seated himself on the corner of a table. From a flask he poured out a cup of wine and offered it to his guest. "It is not drugged," he said with a laugh, "you need not fear. No? Ah, well, perhaps you are right. I will drink it myself, though I should keep it for the night—the nights are very long sometimes."
He set down the cup and leaned forward, peering intently into Giovanni's face. "You gave me a start just now," he said. "I took you for a ghost— the ghost of a man I once knew—Giovanni Bergamotto."
This was more than exciting; Giovanni's father had been one of the murdered hostages of Crema, and if his name came to the ears of the Emperor he would never leave the castle.
Searching his impassive face the jester nodded approvingly. "I knew it," he said. "No one else would have behaved as you did—and it is for Milan. Milan!" He slipped from the table and stood up, the bells jangling a weird undertone to his every movement. "It is better you should know—I am—I was when I was alive—Stefano Baldi."
Giovanni's eyes blazed, "And you dare ask a Milanese to drink with you?"
"Hear me," begged the jester. "I sinned a great sin—yes; but I have lived twelve years in torment of body and soul for that sin. I sinned for love of a woman, and when I had betrayed my people she denied me, and her brothers delivered me over to the executioners. They spared my life because they thought it not worth the taking, and left me the wrecked and crooked thing you see. Yet I have served Milan since her fall—I, the traitor,—served her by a thousand petty treacheries and inventions. It was I who sent Henry Plantagenet the news of Barbarossa's plans. I have the favor of the Emperor, and hidden things are freely discussed before me. They know I am Milanese and despise me, but they believe me bought with gold and with the wine which is my besetting sin."
Giovanni was silent for very amazement. The fool mistook his attitude.
"See," he pleaded, tearing open his tunic, "here on my heart are the arms of Milan. I kept the badge hidden here under the floor for years, for fear that when I was whipt they would find it. But since I have the Emperor's favor none dare touch me.
"Do you need money? Are you a spy? But nay—tell me not your errand. I might—I might babble in the wine-shop, and then they would torture me to find out the truth, and I might betray you as I betrayed your father. But if you need money—look!"
He knelt above a corner of the hearth and raised a stone, thrusting his hand into the deep hollow under it. He threw out handful after handful of rich gold pieces that winked and gleamed in the pale sunlight. "They are yours—all yours—for Milan."
Giovanni found his tongue. "When I was but a child," he said slowly, weighing his words, "my mother taught me to hate and fear Stefano Baldi. Yet in truth I neither hate nor fear you, Stefano, and I will trust you in this matter. I have an errand at the court of Henry the Lion in Saxony, and it was my hope that the Emperor, should he be pleased with our marionettes, might give me safe-conduct that my journey be the sooner ended. Then I shall go southward to fight for Milan."
Stefano pushed the gold back into the hole and replaced the stone. "I see," he said. "The Emperor is as easily diverted by shows as the Brocken by its clouds. Yet I think I can find a way to make him serve you. Be ready to-night with your puppets and put your own soul into the jesting and the mummery. That is the only thing for you to do. If that fails we will try the gold."
Giovanni spent the hours before the banquet in setting his mimic theater in order, trying every cord, pulley and weight to make sure that it worked perfectly, brushing and reshaping the costumes, going over the songs and speeches of the play in his head. Cimarron also was busy tuning his rebeck and trying over the melodies of the songs which Ranulph the troubadour had written for this little drama. It was based on the story of the ten virgins, and contained much by-play and shrewd comment on the follies and fashions of the day. Besides the written text Giovanni was wont to add some patter of his own, improvised according to the mood of his audience and the scene of the performance, but he ventured on very little of this impromptu comedy on such an occasion as this. Too much was at stake.
After what seemed endless waiting the time came. The huge hall was filled with gayly dressed knights, ladies, serving people, soldiers, and half the petty princes of the Empire. The feasting had given place to wine- drinking, songs and jesting. The Emperor, cold and impassive, sat in his chair of state, his mind apparently a thousand miles away. Then there was a great roar of laughter from the doorway, and a lane opened among the audience to let Stefano come prancing through in all his grotesque bravery, his bells chiming a goblin march. After him came Giovanni, and Cimarron bearing the puppet theater. Giovanni made his obeisance and his opening speech, and the play began.
There seemed to Giovanni to be two of him that night. One self was utterly absorbed in the performance, intent on making every speech tell, every song win its meed of applause and laughter, every little figure act with the spirit and gayety of life. The other self hovered somewhere in the air among the rafters of the hall, critically watching the whole scene. He remembered a sensation something like it when he and Cimarron had crossed a mountain torrent in Spain on a log a hundred and fifty feet above the jagged rocks and tearing waters. And as on that occasion, Cimarron did his part as calmly and indifferently as if he were mending a strap in the donkey's harness.
Certainly the play was a success. Giovanni had never met with greater applause or received more substantial rewards. The ladies gathered to inspect his wooden figures after the play, like children at a fair. He was just leaving the hall when a page came to him and directed him to wait in an ante-room until the Emperor should be at leisure.
It was cold and bleak, and Giovanni's tense nerves shivered as he waited. The noise of departing guests and the tramp of hoofs died away. It grew colder and stiller in the small grim room. At last the Emperor came in, and seated himself in a great chair. A servant brought in a brazier full of coals and went away. The ruler of the Holy Roman Empire, a small man with red hair and beard, and cold eyes, looked Giovanni over from head to foot.
"You go," he said, "to the court of Henry Duke of Saxony?"
"Aye, Sire," said the youth.
"It is not a very safe journey. There are robbers in the forest."
"Surely," said Giovanni humbly, "a poor showman might hope to escape them?"
"I fear not," said the Emperor with the ghost of a smile. "In their disappointment they might break up your puppets and leave you fastened to a tree for the wolves to devour. Such things have been done. I will give you safe conduct and send you on with a company of merchants and soldiers, if you will carry a message for me. Henry the Lion is delaying too long with his answer. Tell him that the time has passed for trifling."
"Who," said Giovanni, wonderingly, "could dream of trifling with your expressed wish?"
"Henry dreams, but he will awake," said the Emperor curtly. "Hark you—you seem to be a clever mountebank, and I know what power fellows of your sort have over the mob—add to your play lines to be spoken by your puppet King. They should convey this meaning—that although he is a King he is but a puppet incapable of independent action. Puppets that go wrong are broken up and burned in the fire. My will is the law for my realm. Saxony shall be taught that law as Milan was taught, if Henry dares disobey."
Writing a brief sentence or two on his tablets, the Emperor affixed his signet and gave the missive to Giovanni. "That shall be your proof that you come from me. Stefano tells me that you go on into Lombardy. Forget not the meaning of your puppet-show when you reach those rebellious states. They have been chastised once or twice before."
Giovanni was left alone. On the morrow he took his departure for Saxony and did his errand. The Duke of Saxony remained at home, and Barbarossa went on without his aid to meet defeat at Legnano. Giovanni met Stefano by chance in Venice when the Emperor went there to sign the peace treaty.
"His armies were doomed from the first," the jester said in his hoarse guttural sing-song. "They were weighted with the souls of the martyred hostages of Crema. I have lived to see that siege avenged,—and now I must go on livin—and never see Milan again."
Marveling much at the heights and depths in the soul of a traitor Giovanni went on his way to England. There he discussed with Tomaso the Paduan physician, Ranulph the troubadour and Brother Basil of the Irish Benedictines the astonishing destruction of the Emperor's army. But he said no word of Stefano.
"It is all in the formula on which his power was based," said the alchemist thoughtfully. "No man—be he duke, prince or kaiser—can pose as the master of humanity. Men are not puppets; they are free souls in a free world. You cannot make even a puppet-player move contrary to its nature."
"That is true," said Giovanni. "And I have never had two that behaved exactly alike. Fantoccini have their own ways of acting—and when you pull the strings yourself, you know."
THE ABBOT'S LESSON
There were twelve good monks and an Abbot who came To found the Abbey and give the name In the early days when the stones were laid, And each of them knew a craft or a trade. Sebastian the shepherd and Peter the smith,
James who made leather, and sandals therewith, Hilarius the cook, of great skill in his art, Anselm whose herbal lay close to his heart, Gildas the fisherman, Paul of the plough, Arnold who looked to the bins and the mow, Matthew the vintner and Mark the librarian, Clement the joiner and John apiarian, Each wise in his calling as craftsmen are made,— And each deep in love with his own special trade. But the Abbot was canny, and never would raise One above other by blame or by praise.
Now the angel who guarded the Eden gate Had pity in thinking on Adam's fate, And sent him three servants, for earth, air and sea, The sheep, and the fish, and the wise little bee. And thus it has happened that some people know More than the rest of us here below.
There was jealousy, bitterness, wrath and fear Among these reverend brethren here, With their leather and parchment and metal and stone, And the seeds of dissension were freely sown— Only Sebastian, Gildas and John In their work appointed went placidly on.
The Abbot considered his turbulent flock, And he saw the wicked beginning to mock, And he gathered the craftsmen about him, to see Why there was peace with the other three.
They found Brother John by his bee-skeps brown Watching his bees in their elfin town. "Little folk, little folk all a-wing, More honey is yours when ye do not sting, And that is a very sensible thing," Said Brother John to the bees.
They found Brother Gildas a-fishing for trout, Oblivious that any one was about. "Finny folk, finny folk, deep in the fen, There's a bait for each fish if we only know when,— And that is the way to fish for men," Said Brother Gildas to the fishes.
They found on the moorland bleak and cold Brother Sebastian, far from the fold. "Sheep of my sheepfold, by night and by day I seek ye untiring wherever ye stray,— For thus ye have taught me the Master's own way," Said Brother Sebastian the shepherd.
And the brethren were silent. Each prayed in his heart That in all of his doings in craft or in art He might give God the glory. Since Adam's fall The workman is nothing, the work is all. There was peace in the cloisters. The Abbot that night Gave thanks that his children had found the light.
PADRAIG OF THE SCRIPTORIUM
Padraig sat on the side of the hill where the Good People were said to dance rings in the turf, his chin on his folded arms, his, arms resting on his drawnup knees—thinking. He might have been taken for a sheogue himself had any one been there to see. His hair was like a red flame, and his eyes were blue as the sky; his arms and legs were as brown as his young, sharp face, and he wore but one garment, a goatskin tunic. He could run like a hare and climb like a squirrel and swim like a salmon, for he had lived like a savage all his life, among the Irish hills.
Before he could remember, he had lost his father, a clever tinker who could make silver brooches and mend brass kettles and had married an Irish colleen in a seashore village. Then pirates raided the coast, and the Irish girl with her baby escaped only by hiding in a cellar under a ruined house. When the boy was seven years old his mother died, and since then he had gone from one village to another as the fancy took him. For a week or more he might be herding goats or sheep, fishing, or cutting peat for fires; he stayed nowhere longer than he chose and owned nothing in the world except what he wore. Under the tunic there hung a small leather bag with the few relics his mother had left him. He could make a fish-hook of a bit of bone, a boat of reeds, or a snare of almost any material he could find where he happened to be.
From this place where he sat he could see a valley of wet meadow-land, in the midst of which gray stone buildings were massed inside a wall which enclosed also the garden and the cloisters. He knew that this was an abbey.
Years before a company of twelve monks and a Prior had come there to found a religious house. They brought from England an arklike chest containing some manuscript books, and relics, chalices, candlesticks and other treasures, and little else except their long black robes, girdles and sandals. These monks, working in orderly and diligent fashion under their superior's direction, had built a chapel, a dormitory, a dining-hall, store-houses, barns,—and the community grew. The building was done first of rough stone and wattle-work after the manner of the country, but later of good cut stone. Half the countryside had been employed there when the chapel was building. They had drained the marsh for their meadow-land, their young trees were growing finely, their vineyard was thriving in a sunny selected nook, their sheep flecked the hills all about them. A deep fish-pond had been made where now two monks sat fishing. Padraig wondered if they had caught anything as good as the lithe trout he had taken from a mountain stream.
He was hungry, for he had been afoot since daylight, and he was wondering whether to make a fire and cook his trout or offer them to the monks in exchange for a supper. The wind that blew from the eight-side cone-roofed kitchen brought to his nostrils a smell so delicious that he was drawn like a fish on a line to the gates of the abbey.
He had met wandering monks and friars, but this was the first abbey he had entered. When he knocked at the gate and the porter asked him what he wanted, he was a little excited and rather scared.
But the porter, although rheumatic and grumpy, knew good fish when he saw them, and considered them just the thing for the Abbot's supper. He let Padraig in by the wicket gate, the door with a grating in it set in the big door and only about a third as large. Soon the boy was sitting by the kitchen fire eating a bowl of the most delicious broth he had ever tasted. Round-faced Brother Hilarius, who had charge of the kitchens, was in so good a humor over the trout that he suggested to Padraig that he might herd sheep for the Abbey. The monks did a great deal of the work about their farms and in their workshops themselves, but there was still much to do, and they were usually willing to give work to anybody who did not ask for more than food and lodging.
Padraig liked the Abbey, but he would probably have gone on before very long had he not found something which interested him more than anything else ever had. Brother Sebastian, the head shepherd, sent him one day to a part of the buildings he had not before seen. The long stone-walled, stone-floored room had little stalls down one side, each with its wooden bench and reading-desk. On one of these desks lay open the first book Padraig had ever seen.
It was not printed, but written, each letter carefully drawn with a quill pen. The initials of the chapters, and the border around each page, had been painted in an ornamental design like a tangle of leaves and vines, in bright red, green, yellow, brown, black, blue. Twisted vines bore fruits, flowers, tiny animals and birds, here and there a saint, angel or cherub. The monk who was doing this illuminating was too much absorbed in his work to know that any one had come in, at first. When he looked up and saw Padraig standing there he smiled very kindly.
He was a gaunt man with eyes as blue as Padraig's own, black eyebrows and lashes, and a queer dreamy look except when he smiled. His name was Brother Basil. When he saw the bundle of especially fine sheepskins that Padraig had brought his face lit up so that it seemed as if the sun had come into the cloister. "Good!" he said. "I will give you a note to carry back."
He took a bit of parchment which had once been written upon and had been scraped clean enough to use again, and made some queer marks upon it with his pen dipped in black fluid. That was the first time Padraig had ever seen any one write.
It did not take long for Brother Basil to find out how fascinated the herd-boy was with the work of the scriptorium. Before any one knew it Padraig was learning to read and write. He learned so quickly that the Abbot and Brother Mark, the librarian, thought he might make a scribe. But when he was asked if he would like to be a monk, he shook his head like a colt eager to be off. Writing was great fun; he practiced with a stick in the sand or charcoal on a stone. But it did not suit his idea of life to sit all day long filling books with page after page of writing.
He liked the making of colors even better than writing. In the twelfth century painters could not buy paints wherever they might chance to be. They had to make them. Brother Basil had studied in Constantinople, or Byzantium as he called it, the treasure-house of books and of learning, with its great libraries and its marvelous old parchments illuminated in colors too precious to be used except for the Gospels or some rare volume of the Church. As time went on Padraig learned all that Brother Basil could teach him.
When a man is working on an important and difficult task, it means much to have a helper tending the fires or grinding the paints, who regards the work as the most important thing in the world and gives his whole mind to his occupation. Such a helper may ask as many questions as he likes, and his master will be glad to give him all the instruction he can possibly want.
Most of the people of the Abbey, in fact, liked Padraig. He knew so little that the monks and lay brothers and even the novices knew, and learned so quickly, and was so ready to put his own knowledge at their disposal, that it gave them the very comfortable feeling of being superior persons, whenever he was about. But there was one person who did not like him. This was Simon, a clerk attached to the house of the Irish prince who had given the land for the Abbey. Simon was of the opinion that vagabond urchins from no one knew where were not proper pupils for monastic schools even in Ireland, which was on the extreme western edge of Christendom. But Brother Basil paid no attention to Simon's opinion. In fact, it is doubtful whether he ever knew that Simon had one.
The most serious trouble Brother Basil had in his work was that many of the materials he needed could not be had in Ireland, nor could the Abbey afford to send for them except in very small quantities. The monks were rich compared with most other folk about them. They had food and drink and warm clothing and well-built houses, and productive land. But as yet they could not sell much of their produce at a profit which would make them rich in money. Brother Basil therefore manufactured all the colors he could, from the resources at hand. To make blue, he pounded up a piece of an old stone he had brought from Canterbury. Gilding was done by making gold-leaf out of real gold. The Tyrian purple was made from a gastropod of the seas near Byzantium, and a little snail-like mollusk of Ireland would serve to make a crimson like it. Thinning it, the painter could make pink. There was no vermilion to be had, and red lead must be used for that color and made by roasting white lead. The white lead was prepared by putting sheets of lead in vats of grape skins when the wine had been crushed out of them. Copper soaked in fermenting grape skins would make green, saffron made it a yellower green,—and saffron was grown on the Abbey land—cedar balsam would make it more transparent. Brother Basil was always trying experiments. He was always glad to see a new plant or mineral which might possibly give him a new color.
In all this Padraig was extremely useful. He made friends with a smith who had a forge and furnace miles away, and wheedled him into lending them the furnace for the roasting of metals. He ranged the woods and cliffs all around the Abbey in search of plants, shrubs, trees and minerals. His knowledge of the country saved Brother Basil many a weary tramp, and he always took Padraig with him when he went looking for any especial thing that was needed.
It was some time, however, before Padraig learned what Brother Basil needed most of all. Now that the work of the scriptorium was coming to be known, orders were received for splendidly illuminated missals and other volumes, for which gilding was necessary. The brilliant colors would lose half their beauty without the decorative touches of gilding to set them off. And gold was costly.
"Where do men get gold?" Padraig asked one day.
"Out of the earth," answered Brother Basil absently.
"I mean," said Padraig hesitating, "what is it like when it is in the earth? Is it a different color—like copper?" Copper, he knew, was often green when it was found.
"Gold is always gold," said Brother Basil, coming out of his fit of dreamy abstraction. "I have seen it washed out of rivers. Gold is heavier than gravel, and when the river carries the gold with the earth down from the mountains, the gold sinks to the bottom."
Padraig said no more, but a day or two later he was missing. The Abbot was not pleased, for now he would have to take a man from other work to do what the boy had been doing. Brother Basil was surprised and hurt. He had never had such a pupil, and had begun to hope that they might always work together for the love of the work and the glory of their Church.
"I suppose he was tired of us," Brother Basil said with a sigh. "He is only a boy."
But Padraig was only a few miles away, high up among the hills where a stream flowed through a ravine,—digging. He remembered seeing something there long ago, before ever he came to the Abbey. He worked for two or three days without finding anything at all. Then, just at sunset, he saw a gleam of something like sunshine in a shadow where no sun shone. He grubbed like a mole for a few minutes, and half a dozen tiny grains of gold lay in his palm.
There was not much gold in the stream, but there was some. He dug and pried and washed the scanty soil until he was sure that no more was there, and then toward evening of the next day started home to the Abbey. When he reached the gate it was dark, and the porter was astonished to see him.
By the light of a rush candle Brother Basil and the Abbot looked at the precious grains of river-washed gold, twinkling like fairy stars. Brother Basil's heart was content, not only because of the gold, but because his most promising pupil, the wild herd-boy from the mountains, had not really been weary of the work, but had proved his love for it and for his master.
The most excited person who heard of the discovery Padraig had made was Simon the clerk. He had never lived in any country where gold could be picked up in the streams, and he did not know, as Brother Basil did, that these little dots of gold-dust had probably been washed down from some rocky height miles away. He badgered Padraig in the hope of making him tell where he had found them, but Padraig would not. It was one of his best fishing-places, and he had no mind to have it ruined by a gold-hungry clerk, seeking what had been put there for Brother Basil.
At last he grew tired of Simon's questioning, and took him aside and told him a secret.
"I wonder," said Brother Basil, as he and his pupil went along a hillside one day at the long, swinging trot they kept for long excursions, "what Simon the clerk is doing there by the marsh. He seems to be looking for something."
"He is," said Padraig with an impish grin. "He thinks the Cluricaune comes there mornings to catch frogs, and if he can catch the Cluricaune he can make him tell where all his gold is."
Brother Basil bit his lips to keep back a smile. "Now I wonder," he said gravely, "who could have told him such a tale?"
"I did," said Padraig. "That is, I said old Granny Dooley told it to me when I was small. I've hid in the bushes to watch for the Cluricaune myself."
Where the downward-swaying branches Shiver, quiver in the sun, And with low persistent murmur The hidden waters run, Far from bell and book and candle With their grisly ban, In the tangle of the rushes Sits the great god Pan.
Oh, the unworn joy of living Is not far to find,— Leave the bell and book and candle Of the world behind, In your coracle slow drifting, Without haste or plan, You shall catch the wordless music Of the great god Pan.
You shall wear the cap of rushes, And shall hear that day All the wild duck and the heron And the curlew say. You shall taste the wild bees' honey That since life began They have hidden for their master— For the great god Pan.
You who follow in the pathway Of the waters fleet, You shall tread the gold of springtime 'Neath your careless feet, Gold the hasting rivers gathered Without thought of man,— Flung aside as hushed they listened To the pipes of Pan!
THE TAPESTRY CHAMBER
Lady Philippa sat with her little daughter Eleanor in the tapestry chamber. This was the only corner of the gray old Norman castle which seemed really their own. All the rest of it was under the rule of Sir Stephen Giffard, the eldest son of the house, and still more under the rule of his mother, Lady Ebba, who seemed more like a man than a woman and managed everything, in-doors and out, including her sons. Eleanor, watching her grandmother with shy observant eyes, was not quite sure whether her father came under that rule or not. He never disputed anything his mother said or opposed her will, but somehow, when he saw that his sweet Provencal wife wanted anything, he contrived that she should have it.
Eleanor could not help seeing, however, that her mother was careful not to appear discontented or melancholy, and to do all that a daughter could do for her husband's stern old mother. Both Sir Stephen Giffard and Sir Walter, Eleanor's father, were away most of the time, and if Lady Philippa had been disposed to make herself unhappy she might have been exceedingly miserable. The old chatelaine did not approve of luxury, even such small luxuries as were almost necessities in that vast pile of stone which was the inheritance of the Norman Giffards. The castle hall was as grim and bare as a guard-room except on state occasions, and the food was hardly better on the master's table than below the salt, where the common folk ate. To be sure, there was plenty to eat, such as it was. The old lord, who had been dead for many years now, had married the daughter of a Saxon earl when he was a young knight in England, and Lady Ebba had been used to plentiful provision in the house of her father. In the autumn, when the other castles in the neighborhood sent forth gay hunting parties, and the deep forest, whose trees had never known the ax since Caesar built his bridges in Gaul, rang to the hunting horns, there was no such merrymaking on the Giffard lands. Instead, the folk were salting down beef and fish and pork—particularly pork, from the herds of swine that roamed the woods feeding on the acorns and beech mast. Toward the end of the winter there seemed to be more pork than anything else on the table.
Lady Philippa had ruled her father's house when she was a girl of fourteen, and she could have taught the people a different way of living. She knew how to raise and care for the great variety of poultry, water- fowl, pigeons, hares, fish, and delicate small birds of many kinds, such as some of their neighbors had and the southern provinces of France enjoyed in even greater abundance. But Lady Ebba would have none of it. Fowls had to be carefully tended, protected from foxes, hawks and other enemies; the fierce half-wild hogs could take care of themselves. All that they needed was a peasant herdsman with a dog to keep them together and see that thieving neighbors did not help themselves. There was more food in one hog than in a whole covey of game birds, to say nothing of the trouble of catching and cooking the birds.
Neither did the old dame approve of tapestried walls, cups and bowls of silver, gold and enamel, flower-gardens or delicately-made dishes. Fortunately her daughter-in-law's herb-garden was not wholly under the ban. It contained herbs useful in medicine, and God has ordained that many useful plants are also beautiful in their season. Sage, balm, caraway, monk's hood, thyme, thrift, mint, and other plants therefore dwelt contentedly in a sunny nook of the castle. The Provence roses, lilies and violets needed little care, and having once taken root were not ousted. One reason may have been that on special occasions perfumed water was offered to some guest of importance, for the washing of the hands after eating. By her manner though not in words Lady Ebba conveyed the idea that it was as well to have some one in the house who had time and taste for such things. The embroidering of tapestries and rich robes, and the repairing of such vestments as had come to mending, might also be done by the person who had time for it.
The pleasantest hours in Eleanor's day were those that she spent with her mother in the tapestry chamber. Whenever the weather would allow it they sat there during the sunny hours of the day, and if Sir Walter was at home, or it was very cold and some important piece of work must be done, they could have a brazier of charcoal to keep them warm. There was no fireplace in the room.
It was not a very large room, and it was stone-floored and stone-walled. It was Lady Philippa's bedchamber. The bed was oak, built into the wall like a cupboard, and almost black with age. There were carved doors of oak that could be shut, making it look like an armoire, but these were usually open, displaying pillow-slips of fine linen and a linen coverlet, spun, woven, and embroidered with black silk, by the lady herself. On the floor were strewn rushes and fragrant herbs. There were two straight carved chairs of old oak, an ivory footstool and a small table which held a few books and an ebony work-box inlaid with ivory, and writing materials. Two carved chests set one on the other served as wardrobe. As for washing conveniences, these were brought in as they were needed, by the knight's body-servant or the lady's own maid. The real luxury in the room was the window, which was more than twice the size of the narrow slits that lighted the great hall, and opened to the south. On pleasant days the sun looked in early and lingered late, as if he loved the room and its gentle mistress.
The room had been much the same for more than a hundred years, the castle having been built during the tenth century. The thing that made it Lady Philippa's own particular room, which could have belonged to no one else, was the set of soft yet brilliant tapestries which covered the walls. They had been worked by her in her girlhood, and she sometimes felt that more than half her life was wrought into the quaint figures and innumerable flowers and leaves and emblems of those narrow panels of embroidery. They had adorned the room which had been hers in her father's castle, and single panels had curtained or covered wall-spaces in many other castles during her life as Queen Eleanor's maid of honor. Little Eleanor had heard the story of the pictures as soon as she was old enough to hear stories at all, and there was some story connected with the making of each part of the set. It presented in a series of scenes the history of Sainte Genevieve of Paris. In the first picture she was shown as a little girl tending her sheep; then there were pictures of her at the various exciting times in her life—her saving the people from the Huns, her staying of the plague, her audience with King Clovis and finally her peaceful old age among the people who loved her.
Eleanor was kneeling on the window-seat where she sometimes slept, her bright braids falling over her white linen underdress and gown of soft blue wool. "Mother," she said earnestly, "I wish I could make some tapestry."
Lady Philippa was deftly drawing together the edges of a rent in an old and magnificent gold-embroidered bed-curtain. "Have you finished your spinning, daughter?" she asked.
"N-o, but it is almost done. Mother, I will spin twice as much every day if you will teach me to do tapestry. Were you older than I am when you learned?"
"Not very much older. Perhaps you might begin now. Finish your task while I make this curtain whole, and we will see."
When her mother said she would "see," Eleanor knew that a favor was as good as granted. She spun away to a happy little song that Collet, her mother's maid, had taught her, and very soon the good linen thread was all wound smoothly and the little spinster sat demurely watching the preparations for her new undertaking.
First her mother opened the wardrobe chest and took out a strip of linen about twenty inches wide and of a brownish cream-color. Next she selected some skeins of dyed linen thread from a heap of all the colors of the rainbow, mementoes of the work her busy fingers had done during many years. In a little enameled box, very carefully wrapped in soft wool to keep them from rusting, were a few needles. Out of a wrapping of cotton paper came a thin stick of charcoal rather like a crayon—charred hard wood that could be used for drawing.
"Now," said the lady smiling at the eager little face, "what shall we choose for the subject of your tapestry, and what is to be its use? Will you have it for a cushion, or a panel of a screen, or something else?"
"I think—a set of panels," said Eleanor slowly. "It will take a long time, but I should like to do exactly like you."
Lady Philippa gave a little, amused, affectionate laugh that ended in a sigh. "But, my dear child, you don't think of copying these?"
"N-o. But when I grow up I want my room to look like yours. I want the tapestry to have a story. Mother, do you think I could work the story of Saint George and the dragon? I like that best of all."
Eleanor drank in all the tales told her so delightedly that her mother had never known she liked one much more than another. "But," she said smiling, "Saint George was an English saint. He was born in Coventry."
"That's why he is my favorite," Eleanor explained. "You know father is English. And Saint George had so many adventures. I think he would be very interesting to do."
"It is your tapestry, dear child," her mother said, laughing her sweet, joyous laugh. "I am sure I think Saint George and the dragon would make a very handsome set. And we need not draw all the designs now. Perhaps by- and-by we shall know some one who will draw a dragon for us. Meanwhile you may begin on the first panel."
Eleanor flung her arms around her mother. "Oh, mother dearest, it's so good of you. I'm so excited to begin. Please commence at the very first part of the story, for that will be easy."
"Not so easy as you think, perhaps, sweetheart. However, we can but try. You mean the setting forth of the knight?"
"No, the time when he was a little boy, and the weird woman of the woods took him away and taught him everything. I like that part almost best of all."
"Very well. That will be a wise beginning, for in embroidering the trees and flowers of the forest you will learn all the different stitches. You will have to embroider quite well before beginning on the figures."
Eleanor leaned breathless over the table while her mother drew the outlines of the picture upon the linen—the witch-woman in her forest home, the straight, sturdy figure of small George standing before her. On two sides and the bottom of the panel were drawn gnarled and twisted tree- trunks and roots, ferns and flowers. Across the top a narrow conventional border was outlined, the cross of Saint George alternating with a five- petaled rose, the wild rose of England.
"You may begin the border now," said Lady Philippa, threading a needle with brown thread. "This is outline stitch, and the design must all be outlined with this, using different colors according to the part of it you are working. Then each space is to be filled in with another stitch—you see it here in the tapestry. For the background we will use still another stitch, and when you are covering large spaces the work is to be done in tent-stitch. Every inch of this linen will be covered with embroidery when it is finished, you know."
Eleanor looked very grave and responsible. She saw long years of work before her, occupied with the triumphant career of the soldier-saint. But the new work proved so fascinating that an hour had gone by before she knew it. It was hard to tear herself away and go down to the chilly stone hall. She was not expected to come very near the fire of blazing logs, and felt her grandmother's eye constantly upon her lest she should not sit erect or behave as a well-born maiden should. She felt also that if Lady Ebba knew how much time would be consumed by the adventures of Saint George, she would begin a calculation of the number of skeins of linen thread that might be spun in that time, to the enrichment of the family. Eleanor privately thought that there was bed-linen in the castle to last for at least twenty years—which was true.
Letters had been received at the castle that day. Sir Walter was on his way home, and with him an English knight who had been his friend for many years—ever since they were squires together in Normandy. Lady Philippa looked rather sad and wistful when she spoke of Sir Hugh l'Estrange. He had married her dearest childhood friend, Alazais de Montfaucon, and Alazais was dead. She had gone a bride into that foreign land, lived seven happy years, and died. Eleanor could not help wondering whether she should ever have any friends who were dear to her as these early friends were to her father and mother. She had never played with any other children at all.
The news of her father's coming had traveled more slowly than he himself did. The next day, while Eleanor and her mother were busy transplanting some asphodel, the horn blew at the gate, and in a few minutes the knight came striding across the turf and caught his wife in one arm and his daughter in the other. Behind him was a great tall man with laughing eyes and a rather sad mouth, and standing very straight and soldierly beside the stranger was a boy some two years older than Eleanor, whom Sir Hugh introduced as "my son, Roger."
The following days were so full of excitement that little time was left for the tapestry chamber. The two knights were on their way southward to meet King Henry and aid him to pacify some of his turbulent subjects. Roger was to be left at the castle. It was usual for a knight to send his sons to some friend for training during the years when a boy must learn the duties of page and esquire. In this case there was more than usual reason for it, for Sir Hugh's castle was in a remote part of England and it would not be safe to leave his only son there during his absence.
Roger himself, while he frankly admitted that he did not much like leaving England, was keenly interested in all that he saw and heard. Soon it seemed as if he had always been at home in the old Norman castle. He called Lady Ebba "grandame," as Eleanor had never dared to do, and though she was as strict with him as she was with every one else, she never seemed exactly displeased with him. Roger himself saw it.