Light as the wings of a sea-mew in the rush of startled flight, Cool as the touch of clover, shy as the dews of night, Strong as the love of freedom, sudden as panic fear, The restless gypsy longing wakes at the turn of the year.
Why do we toil and swelter over the task we hate? What is to keep us fettered to the benches of sullen Fate? There is nothing half so fleeting,—there is nothing half so dear As the unfulfilled desire that comes with the turn of the year!
"Yes," acknowledged old Tomaso thoughtfully, "I knew Archiater of Byzantium very well at one time,—and yet no one ever really knew much about him. He was more than a clever alchemist,—he was a discoverer of secrets, and a good man. But for all that, he was condemned and executed as a wizard."
Alan of York said nothing for a minute, but his fist clenched where it lay on the table. "How could such a thing happen?" he said at last in a low voice.
"Naturally enough, when wisdom must ever contend against the whelming force of folly. But there is something worse—the will of a ruler seeking to enslave knowledge to his own purpose. A madman with ideals is bad enough, but Barbarossa's son is a diabolically sane person without any. A man is not called 'the Cruel' without reason."
"But what object—" Alan began, and paused.
"Archiater the physician, as I knew him, would have been rather worse than useless to that prince as I have heard of him," answered the Paduan deliberately. "Such a patron demands creatures who do as they are told,— which is not the duty of a philosopher. The easiest way to dispose of a man who knows too much is to dub him a wizard. But, of course, all this is merely guessing in the dark.
"The little that I do know is this. When we had been acquainted for about three years he told me that he had been offered the use of a house in Goslar in which he might carry on his experiments privately. The chief inducement, for him, lay in the nature of the country, which is very rich in minerals, and he decided to leave Padua in the hope of making important discoveries in this new field. He went first to Hildesheim and developed a formula for making bronze which is said to be extraordinary, and then began exploring the Harz mountains. He sent me some of the ores he found; it appears that there is nearly everything in those ranges. I heard no more until the news came, in a roundabout way, that he was dead and his ashes cast to the four winds. His writings were supposed to have been burned at the same time, but not all of them were, for three manuscripts at least must have gone to make up the fragments we found among our bezants. I wish for your sake, Alan, my son, that I could tell you more, for I know of no man who would gain more by Archiater's work than you. If he had been your master I think you might have rivaled the Venetians."
Alan was not vain, and he never dreamed that Tomaso thought so highly of his ability. In the Middle Ages the secrets of such arts as glass-making, enameling, leather work, gold and silver work, and the making of dyestuffs, were most jealously guarded. Alan had had two fortunate accidents in his life; he had been taught in the beginning by a master- artist, and later had come upon writings by a still greater genius, the Byzantine philosopher of whom Tomaso had been speaking.
From the first glimpse he had had of the crabbed, clear handwriting, the terse phrases, the daring and independent thought of Archiater, he had been fascinated. Now he had set out to cross the narrow seas and find out what, if anything, remained of the master's life-work.
"May there not have been some friend or pupil," he asked wistfully, "who would have rescued his manuscripts?"
"In that case," Tomaso replied with gentle finality, "I think some of us must have heard of it."
"And yet," Alan persisted, "some one had those parchments—some one who may have received them from Archiater himself."
"Take care," the old man said with a rather melancholy smile. "That a thing is possible and desirable, is no proof that it is true. To search for that man seems to me like hunting the forest for last year's leaves. But here come friends of yours."
Guy Bouverel came springing up the stair, Giovanni and Padraig close behind him. When greetings had been exchanged, and Alan had told the others that he was in London only for a brief stay on his way to France, Tomaso addressed the young goldsmith.
"Guy," he said, "did you ever ferret out anything more about those parchment scraps we found among the King's coin? You said that you should make some inquiries." "Bezants are bezants and tell no tales," said Guy with a shrug. "And if they did, they might lie, like so many of those who love them. Why, you recall that I repacked that gold in my own chest because I thought one of the clerks was growing too fond of it. I took it as it lay and never looked at the parchments. I met the clerk one day in Chepe and questioned him. He said that the gold was a part of that the King recovered from the London Templars—you know, when he had to come with an armed guard to get his moneys that were stored in their house. Gregory of Hildesheim had something to do with it, for he was very wroth when he found that I had got this particular chest. But he could not have known what these scripts were or he would have kept them in a sealed packet under his own hand."
"He could not have read most of them," said Tomaso. "Archiater usually wrote his diaries in cipher. Who is this clerk?"
"Simon Gastard his name is. He was very anxious to leave England when last I saw him. He was at me to join in a scheme for digging gold out of the Harz mountains—Padraig, what are you grinning at?"
"Only to see how keen is your nose for a thief," Padraig chuckled. "If Simon is after digging gold out of the ground with his hands 'tis the honestest plan he has had this long time. Simon thinks gold is what heaven is made of. He would look at the sunset and calculate what the gold would be worth in zecchins—he would. But why all this talk of the parchments?"
"Because I have a mind to see whether any more of Archiater's work is to be found," said Alan quietly. "It may be a fool's errand, but I could not rest till I had made a beginning."
Three faces looked astonished, sympathetic and interested. Alan had the hearty liking of his friends. They could depend upon him as on the market cross. But they would almost as soon have expected to see that cross set forth on pilgrimage as to find the quiet North Country glassmaker beginning any such weird journey as this.
Tomaso broke the little silence, leaning forward in his oaken chair, his finger-tips meeting. "We may as well sift what evidence we have," he said. "If the manuscripts had been in the hands of any one who knew the cipher he must have done work so far beyond anything else in his craft that it would be heard of. Archiater never made use of half his discoveries—and he was always finding out secrets concerning the crafts. He knew things about glassmaking, enamel-work, dyestuffs, and medicine, that no one else did. He was occupied almost wholly with experiment and research. There are not two such men in a century.
"Giovanni, you are the only one of us who has been beyond the Rhine. Do you know any one there who might possibly aid in this search?"
The Lombard seldom talked unless he was directly addressed. "One man," he said, "might know the truth."
"Would he reply to a letter?"
Giovanni shook his head. "He does not write letters. If I could see him I would ask him, but the air of Goslar is not wholesome for me." He looked at Alan curiously. "Do you think of going there?"
"Why not?" Alan returned.
"There are rather more than half a score of reasons why not," said Giovanni, with a little mocking smile. "Do you speak many foreign languages?"
"And the moment you opened your mouth they would know you for an Englishman. A foreign glassworker searching for the books of a reputed wizard who made the Hildesheim bronze they are so proud of. That would interest the Imperial spies."
"Vanni," said Alan, getting up, "I know well what a hare-brained undertaking this must seem to you. But if you see fit to give me any advice, I shall value it."
The young men took their leave of Tomaso and followed the curving shore of the Thames eastward to the city. "Look you," said Guy presently, "I have a plan—not a very shrewd one perhaps, but you shall judge of that. This clerk, Simon Gastard, knows the country and the language. If his story is true it may be worth looking into. I would not trust him alone with the value of a Scotch penny. But if you were to go with him as my proxy, you would have a chance of talking with this man Giovanni has in mind."
Padraig sniffed. "And Simon would sell ye to the devil if he got his price. 'Tis pure rainbow-chasing, Alan—but I love ye for it."
"Fools are safer than philosophers, in some parts of the world," observed Giovanni dryly. "And they are commoner everywhere. I hear that the Templars are trying to find a tame wizard who can be kept in a tower to make gold."
"Vanni," said Guy demurely, "did you ever, in your travels, hear of any one making gold?"
"No," said the Milanese, "but I have known of a score finding fool's gold, and that's the kind you come on at the end of the rainbow. Alan, if you are resolved on this thing, I will give you a token and a password to a man you can trust."
At London Stone they separated, Giovanni turning toward London Bridge, Padraig wending his way to Saint Paul's, Guy and Alan making their way through clamorous narrow streets to the Sign of the Gold Finch.
"By Saint Loy," said the goldsmith suddenly, "here comes the clerk himself. Gastard," he beckoned to a little threadbare man edging along by the wall, "I have a question to ask about the matter you wot of."
If Alan had heard nothing beforehand he would have taken the man for a fussy, inoffensive little scrivener who would never do more than he was bid—or less. But when they were seated in the private room above the shop, in which Guy kept some of the finest of his gold and silver work, Simon's restless eyes began to glitter, and he reminded Alan of a rat in the dairy.
Guy came at once to the point. Would Simon repeat his story for Alan's enlightenment? Simon would. He related how, when returning from pilgrimage, he had lost his way in the Harz valley and come upon a hermitage where a very old monk lay near death. In gratitude (Simon said) for services to him in his extremity, the hermit had revealed the secret of a rich mine of gold in the mountains. Simon had gone to the mine, secured nuggets of the precious metal, but most unfortunately had shown them to Gregory of Hildesheim, a Templar said to be wise in the arts of alchemy and metal-working. Gregory had seemed interested at first, but afterward had told him that the ore was not gold at all, but a cunning counterfeit devised by Satan. He had not even returned the specimens, but had railed upon Simon for trying to pass them off as gold. That night a heavy snowfall, the first of many, made it impossible to visit the mine again. Now that Gregory was in England Simon wished to go again and secure more of the gold secretly. It was scarcely possible to find the place without direction, but one man, Simon solemnly declared, could, with pick and shovel and leathern bag, bring away a fortune.
"It would be necessary," said Guy, "to purify the gold so far as to make it into rude ingots, if it is, as you say, in the rocks and not in free lumps and particles washed down a stream. You need a companion who understands such work. Now, I cannot take up the matter myself, but my friend here knows enough of metals, though he is no goldsmith, to do that part of the work. Some sort of makeshift laboratory might be arranged for that. Then, if it is really a rich mine, we will see what can be done next. But you will understand that I cannot be expected to undertake any work involving great expense unless I have some other proof than you can give me now. If you will take my friend to this mine, so that he may secure ore enough to make his experiments, and I see the gold for myself, I will pay the cost of the expedition. More than this, it seems to me, you cannot expect."
With this Simon effusively agreed. Alan had been watching Guy's face with interest during the interview. The Londoner's usual debonair manner had become the cool decision of a man with whom it is unsafe to deal slyly.
When Simon's back had vanished in the crowd of Chepe, Guy began rolling up papers and closing books. "That may save you some time and trouble," he said, "if you can stomach his company. I do not believe, you know, that there is any gold in the ledges. Simon knows no more of the nature of metals than Saint Anthony's Pig."
"What is the truth of the matter, do you think?" asked Alan.
"I thought at first that he had invented the whole story. But in that case he would hardly have agreed to my plan so eagerly. It is just possible, of course, that gold is there—it has been found in the Harz. He says that the stuff is not brittle, and can be hammered and cut, which does not sound like an iron ore. And his description of the rocks is too good to be his own fancy. Again, the ore may be 'fool's gold',—a mixture of copper and sulphur. In that case you will know it right enough when you come to the roasting of it. In any case I am interested enough in the tale to take a little trouble, and you and your private treasure-hunt happen to alloy very happily with my curiosity."
"Guy," said Alan, "you may laugh, but your aid means more to me than you know. If the clerk's tale is false you shall be repaid for your outlay."
"Pshaw!" laughed Guy, "a copper mine is good enough to repay me. And then, I take a certain interest in the manuscripts you are after. After all, if you should find them it would be no stranger than those parchments coming to us as they did, through the very hands of both Gregory and Simon. That was a golden jest—but we must keep it hid for awhile. And now, what I know of metals and their ways is at your service."
Behold Alan then, after no more than the usual adventures of a journey, busied with a small furnace in a small stone-floored room over an archway in the walled city of Goslar. It was a late spring and bitterly cold, and the heat of the fire was grateful. Simon had thus far put off taking his companion to see the mine, and Alan had been occupied with fitting up a place in which the ore should be tested when the time came.
Hearing the blare of trumpets, he craned his head out of window, and caught a glimpse of the imperial banner flaunting and snapping in the chill wind. He caught up cap and cloak and ran down the winding stone stairs, coming out upon the market-square just as the guards entered it. So close that Alan could have touched him, there went by a humped and twisted figure with a jester's bells and bauble—a man with a maliciously smiling mouth and wicked, observant, tired eyes. The white pointed beard and worn, lined face belonged to an older man than Alan had expected to see. The eyes met his for a second, he flung his cloak over the left shoulder with the gesture Giovanni had taught him, and a few minutes later an impudent small page pulled his sleeve and whispered that Master Stefano desired to see him.
The boy led him through ancient streets to the entrance of a tall house near the wall, and went off whistling. An old woman opened the door and showed him into a little ante-room where, the jester sat, perched upon the corner of a table. Alan bowed, and waited in silence.
"Very well," said the jester with a laugh. "And now, since we are quite alone, why do you, an honest man, pretend to be the fellow of that rascally clerk?"
Alan always met an emergency coolly. "I did not know the country or the language," he said, "and I took this way of reaching Goslar in the hope of learning the truth about one Archiater of Byzantium."
The jester's high cackling laughter broke in. "Truth from a fool!" he shrilled. "Oh, the wisdom of those who are not fools is past understanding! Why do you rake those ashes?"
"I have read some of his writings," Alan went on undisturbed, "and if there should be more—anywhere—I would risk much for the sake of them."
Stefano shook his head mockingly, and the bells mocked with him. "You English are mad after gold. They say here that Archiater sold his soul for his knowledge."
"That is child's prattle," said the young man a little impatiently. "Gold is all very well, but a man's life is in his work, not his wages. If you can tell me nothing of what I seek, I will not trouble you."
The fool clasped one knee in his long crooked white fingers. "You have no wife, I take it."
"I have not thought about it. But that has nothing to do with secrets of the laboratory."
"Heh-heh! Little you know of women. They have everything to do with a secret. But suppose the manuscrips are worthless?"
"That is not possible," Alan returned. "The lightest memorandum of such a man has value. It is like a finger-post pointing to treasure. There are writings, then?"
"I said nothing of the sort," retorted Stefano. "I know all about your search for treasure. Your clerk is digging the hills up this very day for fool's gold. It has the look of gold—yes—but it is copper and brimstone mixed in Satan's crucible—fool's gold and no more. Neither you nor he will get any true gold out of that mine."
"I tell you," said Alan in sharp earnest, "that I came here with him for convenience, not for treasure. A friend to whom I owe much desired to know whether the clerk's story were true or false. For myself I seek only to know what remains of the work of Archiater, because he was a master whose work should not be lost. There must be those—somewhere—who could go on with it,—if we but knew."
"Aye," chuckled the jester, "if we but knew!" Then leaning forward he caught Alan by the shoulder. "Listen, you young chaser of dreams—what would you give to see what Archiater left? Eh? Would you guard the secret with your life? Eh? They burned the books in the public square—yes—but if there was something that was not a book, what would you do for a sight of that?"
Alan's heart was pounding with excitement, but his face was unmoved. "I am not good at fencing, Master Stefano. I have been frank with you because I am assured that you are to be trusted, and I think that you trust me or you would not thus play with me. When you are ready to ask a pledge,—ask it."
"Well and straightly spoken," nodded the jester. "If I reveal to you what I know of this philosopher and his work, you shall pledge yourself to betray nothing, to say nothing—not so much as a hint that I knew him— whether I am alive or dead."
Now and then in his life Alan had acted from pure blind instinct. This was the blindest, blackest place it had ever led him to. He did not hesitate. "I promise," he said.
"Very good," said the jester, and drummed thoughtfully upon the table. "We will begin with matters which are not bound up in your promise—for they concern your friend who desires to sift out the clerk's tale about his mine. This is the true story. Archiater found many metals and minerals in these hills, and made some of his experiments in the ruins of an old pagan temple close to the spot where he discovered a vein of copper. He was half a winter trying out what he found, from arsenic to zircon. Simon watched him by stealth, tracked him like a beagle, and finally went to one high in authority with the report that he was making secret poisons. This would have been no crime had the poisons been available for practical use. As it was, they felt it safest to have Archiater seized when he came back to the city, and tried as a wizard.
"They ransacked his house and got his books, of course, but Simon had stolen some stray manuscripts he found in the old ruin and sold them. Nothing, however, was gained by the person who paid the money, because the writings were partly in cipher, and the key to the cipher had been burned in the public square."
"Then the Templars may still have the manuscripts," mused Alan disconsolately.
"Maybe," the fool said with a little laugh, "but I said there might be something that was not a manuscript. Come you with me."
Taking a rushlight from a shelf the jester toiled slowly up two flights of winding stairs, and then a short, straight flight of wooden steps,—opened a door, and stood aside to let Alan pass. The young man paused on the threshold in silent wonder.
The room within was not large, but it glowed from floor to ceiling like some rare work in mosaic or Limoges enamel. The walls were hung with such tapestries as Alan had seen on rare holidays in a cathedral, or in the palace of duke or bishop. They were covered with needlework of silk in all the colors of the rainbow, wrought into graceful interwoven garlands and figures. The cushions of chair and settle, the panels of a screen, the curtains of the latticed windows, displayed still more of this marvelous embroidery, subtly contrasted and harmonized with the coloring of a rich Persian rug upon the floor. The heart of all this glowing, exquisite beauty was a young girl in straight-hanging robes of fine silk and wool, her gleaming bronze hair falling free over her shoulders from a gold fillet, her deep eyes meeting the stranger's with the sweet frankness of a sheltered, beloved child.
The jester bowed low, his gay fantastic cap in hand, all his fleering, mocking manner changed to a gentle deference.
"Josian, my dear," he said, "this is the young man of whom I sent you word. He has traveled many weary miles to see and speak with Archiater's daughter."
TO JOSIAN FROM PRISON
Sweetheart my daughter: These three days and nights (Stephen has told me) thou dost grieve for me Silently, hour by hour. Yet do not so, My little one, but think what happiness We shared together, and attend thy tasks Diligently as thou 'rt ever wont to do. When thou dost add thy mite of joyous life To the great world, thou art a giver too, Like to the birds who make us glad in spring. Be happy therefore, little bird, and stay Warm in thy nest upon the housetop high, Where may God keep thee safe. And so, good-night.
Dearest my little one: It hath been ruled That I shall go away to that far land Which I have told thee of. Men call it Death. Thou knowest that our souls cannot be free Dwelling within these houses of the flesh, Yet for love's sake we do endure this bondage, As would I gladly if God willed it so. Stephen will care for thee as for a daughter,— Be to him then a daughter; he has none Save thee to love him. For the rest, remember That in the quiet mind the soul sees truth, And I shall speak to thee in our loved books, As in the sunshine and the sound of music, The beauty and the sweetness of the world.
Three kisses give I thee,—brow, eyes, and lips. Think wisely, and see clearly, and speak gently. Thy little bed at night shall hold thee safe As mine own arms,—thine elfin needle make Thy little room a bright and lovely bower. Thy household fairies Rainbow, Lodestone, Flint, Shall do thy will. Thy stars have said to me That thou wilt see far lands and many cities. Await thy Prince from that enchanted shore Beyond the rainbow's end, and read with him Thy magic runes. This charge I lay on him That he shall love thee—more than I—farewell! Thy father, ARCHIATER
To Josian my daughter and sole heiress.
Alan was gathering his French for some sort of greeting, when the young girl spoke in a sweet clear voice and in English.
"I am glad that you have come," she said. "Father Stephen says that you desire to hear of my father."
"I came from England in the hope that I might," Alan answered simply.
"I cannot tell you very much of his work," the girl went on, motioning him to a seat, with a quaint grace of gesture. "I was so very tiny, you see, when he went away. He used to tell me stories and sing little songs to me, and teach me to know the flowers and the birds. My mother would have done so, he said, and he wished so far as he could to be both father and mother to me. It seemed to me that he was so, and I loved him—not as dearly as he loved me, because I was so small, but as much as I possibly could. Oh, much more than my nurse, although Maddalena is very dear to me.
"We lived almost always in the city, so that we had not any garden, but we had pots of flowers in the windows, and I used to tend them. Sometimes, when my father went into the woods and the fields, he would take me, and then I was happy; no bird could have been happier. I would weave garlands of flowers, singing my rhymes about colors, and he taught me how to arrange them to make every blossom beautiful in its place.
"When he sat writing at his table he called me his mouse, and if I kept still I had cheese for my dinner with the bread and fruit. But when I forgot and made a noise he would say that the mouse must be caught in a trap, and he would take me in his arms and call Maddalena to carry me away. And sometimes he went out alone, or shut himself in his own room for days and days. Once he came out in the twilight and found me asleep with my head on his threshold. After that he said that I must have work to do while he did his work, and he would have Maddalena teach me the use of the needle. He dyed the silks for me himself in beautiful colors, and when I had done my task he would teach me to read in the big books and the small, and to draw pictures of what I read. Here is one of the very books I used to read with him."
Alan would have thought what he saw was impossible if anything had seemed unbelievable in this elfin girl. She laid open upon the table a finely illuminated copy, in Greek, of Aesop's Fables, written on vellum in a precise beautiful hand.
"He himself wrote books for me—not many, for he said there were books enough in the world. One was on the nature of herbs, and another was about the stars and their houses in the heavens. But they were lost, those books. Father Stephen brought me others, but they are not the same; my father wrote those only for me." "Had your father no friends?" Alan asked, with a great compassion for the lonely man bending his genius to make a world for his motherless baby.
"Not many, and none here except Father Stephen, who knew my mother when she was a child, in Ravenna. People came sometimes, but they were not friends; their eyes were cold and their voices hard. Since my father went away two old friends of his have been here with Father Stephen, but they came only once. They were not of this people; they came from Byzantium."
"And you have lived here always?"
The maiden laughed, a merry laughter like the lilt of a woodlark. "Oh, no- -o! Father Stephen has taken me to many places—to Venice once, and to Rome, and when I was little we lived in Cordova. That is how I learned to speak in different languages. I learned a new one every year for four years. But for three years I have stayed in Goslar, and Father Stephen says that no one must know I am here. That is queer, is it not, to live in a city where not even the people in the next house know that you are alive? Perhaps some day I shall go away, and live as others do. I wonder very much what it will be like."
The jester's face was shadowed by a sad tenderness. "May you never wish yourself back in your cage, my child," he said. "But it grows late, and I think that you have told this guest all that you can of your father's work."
"All that I know," the young girl said, regretfully. "I really know so little of it—and the books were lost."
In a maze Alan followed the jester down the darkening stairway. At the foot Stefano turned and faced him. "You see what she is," he said. "She is Archiater's only child—she has his signet ring and his letters written her from prison—only two, but I risked my own life to get them for her. When they took him away they did not know that such a little creature existed. She was but seven years old, and her nurse, Maddalena, hid with her in a chest in the garret, telling her that it was a game. That night I took them to a place of safety."
"And you have taken care of her ever since?" the young man asked. The jester nodded his big head. Then, as a group of courtiers came around the corner, with a mocking gesture, Stefano limped away. Alan heard their shout of laughter at his words of greeting, and went home in a dream.
During the following days Stefano treated him with every appearance of confidence. By the jester's invitation he spent many hours at the tall ancient house, in that enchanted room with its latticed windows looking out over street and wall to the mountains. Stefano spent the time lounging on the divan or in the great chair, or watching the street far below. He said very little and often seemed scarcely to hear the talk of the youth and the maiden.
Their talk ranged over many subjects. The girl could read not only in Latin, the common language of all scholars, but in Greek and Arabian. Many of her books were heavy leatherbound tomes by Avicenna, Averroes, Damascene, Pliny, and other writers whose very names were unfamiliar to Alan's ears. She poised above them like a bee over a garden, gathering what pleased her bright fancy. Sometimes while they talked she would be working upon her tapestry, some rich, delicate or curious design in her many-hued silks.
Alan found that her father had begun teaching her the laws of design and color before she could read. He had told her that colors were like notes in music, and had their loves and hates as people do.
"Is it not so in your work, Al-an?" she asked. "Do not the good colors and the bad contend always until you bring them into agreement?"
Alan had told her of his work, and it seemed to interest her immensely. She was greatly delighted when she learned that he had found memoranda in her father's own handwriting, which had led to the making of wonderful deep blue glass.
"If I had the little books he wrote for me," she said one day, "you might find something beautiful in them also."
He watched and wondered at the sure instinct guiding her deft, small fingers in the placing of colors—the purple fruit, the gold-green vine or the scarlet pomegranate flower in her maze-like embroidery. "But how can you make pictures in the windows," she would say, with her lilting laughter, "if you do not know about color?"
To Alan's secret amusement he perceived that she thought her life very ordinary and natural, while his own adventures on the moorland farm of his boyhood were to her like fairy-tales. She was shyly but intensely curious about his mother. She had never known anything of the ways of mothers except from books and tales.
One bright morning she took from a coffer a prism of rock-crystal. "This is one of the playthings my father gave me," she said. "Look how it makes the colors dance upon the wall."
Like a quick silent fairy the little rainbow flitted here and there. "He told me," she went on, "that seven invisible colors live together in a sunbeam, but when they pass this magic door they must go in single file, and then we may see them. Not all are good colors. Some are bad and quarrelsome, and some are good when they are alone, but not when they are with colors they do not like. But when they live together in peace they make the beautiful clear daylight, and we see the world exactly as it is."
"As it is—saints protect her," muttered old Maddalena, and the jester smiled his twisted smile.
That evening Stefano said suddenly, "What are you going to do with your clerk?"
"To-morrow," said Alan, "I shall go to his mine."
"You have not been there?"
"No; he has made some silly excuse each time it has been suggested."
"He will never take you there," said the jester. "You will see."
"Simon," said Alan pleasantly that night, "I am going into the mountains with you to-morrow."
Suspicion, fear, jealous greed, chased one another over the clerk's mean face. "You are in great haste," he muttered. "It is not good weather, but we will go of course, if you wish."
In the morning Simon lay groaning with rheumatism, unable to move. Alan made a fire, covered him warmly, left food within his reach, and went out to think the matter over. Unconsciously his steps tended toward the house of the jester. Stefano, coming out, caught sight of him.
"Hey!" said the fool, "why are you not in the mountains?"
Alan explained. The other gave a dry little laugh. "That need not hinder you," said he. "I will send some one to show you the place. Come to the market-square an hour hence and look for a youth with two horses. I think you would pass for a wood-cutter if you had an ax."
Acting on this hint, Alan provided himself with ax and maul, and found in the place appointed a serving boy riding one horse and leading another. He had reason to be glad of the rough life of his boyhood, for he had ridden all over the moors, bareback, on just such wiry half-broken animals, and the road they now took was not an easy one.
At last they left the horses in a dell at the foot of the ledges and scrambled up to a small stone building near the top of the mountain, half hidden among evergreens. Its door was gone and its roof half fallen in, but in it could be seen a stone altar and various tools and utensils, wood cut and ready for burning. Evidently some one had been using the place—in fact, some one was here now. As Alan stood in the doorway a figure rose from a pile of leaves in the corner.
"Vanni!" said Alan under his breath.
"Oh, he can be trusted," said Giovanni, with a glance at the guide. "I have been here two days. This was Archiater's private workshop. The mountain people think it is haunted, so that it is a good place to hide. I was not pleased when I found that your clerk had taken it for his own. I lay upon the roof for two hours yesterday watching him. Having an errand at Rheims I thought I would come along and see what had happened to you."
Alan had as yet no right to tell the most important thing that had happened. "I have not been here before," he said. "Simon has put me off, and he does not know I am here now."
"Has he shown you his findings? He took a bag away with him—a heavy one."
"Only some minerals which are worth more than he thinks. I have been working with them more or less. He is mightily curious about the action of the furnace. I make a guess he is going to try to test the ore himself."
"There is a donkey-load of it here," said Giovanni, tilting with his foot a stone in the floor. Under it gleamed a mass of irregular shining fragments and yellow lumps of stone. Alan picked up one and scraped it, struck it with a hammer, rubbed it across a chip of wood, "Guy was right," he said, "it is not gold. I can prove that to the fellow if he gives me a chance."
"What shall you do?"
"I am not sure. Are you safe here?"
"So long as they do not know I am here. Master Gay and his son are at Rheims, and I am to join them. If you will come to-morrow or the day after we can go together. I will show you a short way over the mountains that Cimarron found when we were here. Stefano knows of my coming, and I shall see him to-night."
Alan had been thinking. "Vanni, I will do this. I will go with you to- morrow if I can, but if I do not meet you here before noon you will know that I must stay on. Will that answer?"
"I suppose it must. I dislike leaving you here with a twice-proved rascal like this Simon. You do not know what he may do."
"I should like to thrash him," said Alan. "He is planning to get the whole of this gold, as he thinks it, for himself."
"Of course he is. But what good would it do to beat him? You cannot thrash the inside of him, can you?"
Alan laughed, and strode off to the place where the horses were tethered. Before returning to his lodgings he went to see Stefano.
"Well," said the jester when he had heard all, "what shall you do?"
Alan hesitated. "So far as my errand is concerned," he answered, "I might join Giovanni to-morrow. We had all along suspected that the ore was only fool's gold. But—"
"I know," nodded the jester. "And for that other reason, I am going to tell you something. I have known for some time that Josian is not safe in my care. It has never been over-safe, this arrangement, but while she was a child the risk was not so great. Also, having the Emperor's favor, I could do more for her than any one else could—then.
"I have thought for some days that the house was watched, and I do not like that. Some one may have got wind of her being here, or may be tempted by the reports of my hoard of gold. It is not hidden here, but they may think it is. There is danger in the air. I can smell it.
"I have trusted no man as I am trusting you now. I have been looking for some means of sending her away to Tomaso, her father's old friend, but the thing has been most difficult to arrange. I dare not wait longer. Will you take her away, with her nurse Maddalena, and protect her as if she were your sister? You will have the aid of Giovanni, though he has never known this secret."
Alan's eyes met those of the old man eagerly and frankly. "Master Stefano," he answered, "I will guard her with my life. But can she be ready to go at once?"
Stefano nodded. "The preparations that remain to be made will take no more than an hour or two. She is a good traveler. My servant will secure horses for you and meet you just before sunrise, near the gate. Maddalena will come there with her, and you must not ride so fast as to arouse curiosity. I have to play the buffoon at a banquet to-night, and there is but little time, therefore—addio!"
Alan walked home slowly, pondering on all he had seen and heard that day. Coming within sight of his lodgings, he found the street full of people gazing at the windows, out of which a thick smoke was pouring.
"What has happened here?" he asked of a little inn-keeper from Boulogne, with whom he had some acquaintance.
"They say it is the devil," the other replied with a shrug. "Mortally anxious to see him they seem to be."
Alan shouldered his way through the crowd and ran up the stairs. Half way up he met Simon reeling down, and caught him by the arm. "What have you been about?" he asked sternly.
"The gold is bew-witched!" bubbled Simon, arms waving and eyes rolling in terrified despair. "It is changed in the crucible! It is the work of Satan!"
"Nonsense!" said Alan roughly. "You have been roasting the wrong ore. I could have told you it was not true gold. Be quiet, or we shall be driven out of Goslar."
Simon was too distracted to heed, and Alan went hastily up to the rooms, where he found some copper pyrites in process of oxidation, giving forth volumes of strangling sulphur smoke. After quenching the fire and doing what he could to purify the air he gathered his belongings together and left the house, extremely annoyed. He could see suspicion and even threatening in the look of the crowd.
He went into the alley where Martin Bouvin's little inn was and asked shelter for the night.
"I go away to-morrow," he said, "and there is no returning to that place for hours to come."
"H'm!" said the inn-keeper. "What really happened?"
Alan explained. "My faith," commented Bouvin, decanting some wine into his guest's cup, "you are well rid of that fellow. Do you know that he has been spying on you for a week? He dared not follow you, but he tried to hire some one else to do it—that I know."
It was already late. Alan dozed off, despite his uneasiness, for he had had a tiring day. Suddenly he awoke and sat bolt upright. There was a commotion in the street. The innkeeper was peeping out through a hole in the solid shutters. "It is the clerk again," he said. "He is haranguing the people."
Alan slipped out and came up on the outskirts of the crowd. He caught the words "fool's gold" in Simon's shrill voice, and then the crowd began to mutter, "Die Hexe! Die Hexe!"
Alan waited to hear no more. He knew that this meant that sinister thing, a witch-hunt. If Simon had connected Stefano's house and his reputed hoard of gold with his disastrous experiment, and possibly suspected Josian's existence there, it was a time for quick thought and bold action. He raced down the street leading to the rear of the house, vaulted the wall and found old Maddalena unlocking the small side door.
"Get her away," he said in a low voice, "at once—there is danger!"
The old woman pointed up the stairs, and Alan went leaping over them to find the girl hooded and cloaked for the journey in the small room, now bare and cold as the moonlight. Her soft light steps kept pace with his to the garden gate; he hurried her and Maddalena out, bidding them walk away quietly. Then he turned back, heaped a pile of straw and rubbish under the stairs, and flung the contents of a lighted charcoal brazier on it. As the fire blazed up he heard the snarl of the mob coming down the street which passed the front entrance. He could hear words in the incoherent shouting- -"Die Hexe! Die Hexe! Brennen—brennen!"
As he shut the gate and slipped away he found Martin Bouvin keeping pace with him, "Do you know what has happened?" the little man asked. "The guests at the Prince's banquet came late into the street and found Simon raving about his gold. They questioned him, and he told them of a mysterious house where an old witch dwelt and changed into a young girl at sunset. The Prince knew the house. He asked Master Stefano what it meant. When he got no answer but a jest he struck Stefano down and rode over him. He is dead. Then the people caught up the cry and began to talk of burning the witch. They are all out there now, and the Prince is trying to make his guard go in after the gold. That was a good thought of yours, setting fire to the house: they will stay to watch it. I will go with you if I may, Master. If Stefano is gone Goslar is no good place for me!"
Alan remembered now that the jester had spoken in terms of friendship of Martin Bouvin. In any case they were now nearing the gate where the man stood waiting with the horses. Josian and Maddalena were already mounted. As the servant held Alan's stirrup the Englishman looked down and saw under the hood the black piercing eyes and thin face of Giovanni.
"It is all right," whispered the Milanese with a glance at Bouvin. "He can ride the pack-horse. His only reason for staying here was Stefano's business."
The sleepy guard let them out without a look, and they rode on at a good pace toward the mountains. Josian had not said one word.
"Are you afraid, Princess?" Alan asked presently.
She shook her head. When she heard the story of the jester's death she was less shaken than Alan had feared. "He told me last night that he could not live long," she said sadly. "I knew that I should never see him again in this world."
At last they halted for an hour beside a little spring. Josian looked back at the gray pointed roofs and towers of Goslar. "Al-an," she said, "what was that light in the sky?"
"It was your tower," Alan answered. "No one will ever live there again, since you cannot."
Alan marveled at Josian's self-possession during the rough journey. She obeyed orders like a child, showed no fear in the most perilous passes, and fared as roughly as the others did, with quiet endurance. Soon, however, they had crossed the frontier and met the party of travelers in whose company were the London merchant and his wife and son.
Then began days and weeks of travel, the like of which Alan had not known. He had gone from one place to another in such company as offered, many a time, but here were folk who knew every road and every inn, beguiled the hours with songs and jests and stories, and made the time pass like a holiday. He found that his knowledge of the out-of-door world interested Josian more than the ballads and tales of the others. He often rode at her side for an hour or more, pointing out to her the secret quick life of woodland and meadow, and finding perhaps that she already knew the bird, squirrel, marmot or hare, by another name. "London is well enough," he said one day, "but 'tis not for me. I could never live grubbing in the dark there like a mouldiwarp."
Josian's delicate brows drew together. "Mouldi—what strange beast is that, Al-an?" and Alan laughed and explained that it was a mole.
It was at noon of one of the long fragrant days of early summer, while the travelers rested in the forest, that Josian spoke of the jester once more. In the green stillness of the deep woods, birds singing and shy delicate blossoms gemming the moss, the fierce and savage past was like a dream.
"Father Stephen gave me a packet that last night," she said. "He gave Giovanni gold for the journey, but this parcel he said I must carry myself and show to you when I thought fit. I wonder what it can be?"
Alan took the packet and turned it over. It was sealed with a device of Greek letters.
"That is my father's signet," the girl added. "Here is his ring," and she drew from under her bodice a man's ring, hung on a slender gold chain, the stone a great emerald carved with the Greek "AEI"—"Always." Alan cut the cord of the packet and handed it to her. "It is not for me to open it," he said.
She unfolded, tenderly and reverently, the wrappings of parchment and oiled silk, and disclosed a compact manuscript closely written on the thinnest leaves, in a firm clear hand. Lifting two or three of the pages she read eagerly and then looked up, her eyes alight with wondering joy.
"Here are all the most precious of his writings, Al-an!" she cried, "the secrets that were in all the books that were lost—written clearly so that I myself can read them! Oh, it is like having him come back to speak to us—and Father Stephen, too—here by ourselves in the forest! And now you will know all the secrets of his work, for they are written here."
Alan's face had gone whiter than the parchment. Here indeed was the treasure he had come to seek. And it was Josian's free gift.
But that was not all. "Josian," he said, not putting out his hand even to touch the precious parcel, "you must not give away these manuscripts so lightly. They are worth much gold, child—they are a rich dowry for you. You must wait until you see Tomaso the physician, and he will tell you what is best to do with them."
She shook her head. "Oh, n-o," she said. "Father Stephen said that you would make good use of them, and had earned them—but I think he knew quite well what you would say. Perhaps some day you will feel differently."
Dame Cicely of the Abbey Farm welcomed Josian in due time as a daughter. When she and Alan had been married about three months Josian was surveying a panel of just-completed embroidery in which all the colors in exquisite proportion blended in a gold-green jeweled arabesque. Alan came up behind her and caught the sunlight through it. He asked to borrow it, and reproduced the design in painted glass. That was the first window which he made for York Minster.
Among the formulae in the scripts which were Josian's dowry were several for stained glass and the making of colors to be used therein. By means of one of these it became possible to make glass of wonderful rich hues, through which the light came white, as if no glass were there. This is one of the secrets known to the workers of the Middle Ages and now lost; but in old windows there still remain fragments of the glass.
If to-day certain precious bits of glass, ruby-red, emerald-green, sapphire-blue, topaz-yellow, set in the windows of old cathedrals, could speak, they would say proudly that they are the work of Alan of York and Josian, the daughter of Archiater, the philosopher.
I Publius Curtius, these many years dwelling Among these barbarians, a foe and a prefect, To Those whom they worship unreasoning, Gods of the Land, I raise this new altar.
To Thee whom the wild hares in silence foregathering Worship with ears erect in the moonlight, (And vanish at sound of a footstep approaching) God of the Downs, I pour this libation.
To Thee whom the trout in the rainbow foam drifting Behold in the sunlight through wet leafage sifting (And vanish like shadows of clouds in the water) God of the Streams, I pay this my tribute.
To Thee whom the skylark, in rapture ascending Adores in his dithyramb perfect, unending, (And vanishes in the high heaven still singing) God of the Mist, I utter this prayer.
To Ye whom my children, born here in my mansion, Reverence beyond the gods of their fathers, And love as they love their own mother, Gods of the Land, I build ye this temple!
Wilfrid, the potter, stood with his wife and children, looking at what was left of a little old cottage. Fire had left it a heap of ashes and half- burned timbers and rubbish. The red roof-tiles glowed like embers of dead centuries.
"I'd never ha' turned the old man out," he said pensively, "but now he's gone and the cot's gone too, we'll see what's under this end of Cold Harbor."
Edwitha, his wife, looked up, her eyes sparkling through quick tears.
"I was hoping you'd say that, Wilfrid," she said with eager wistfulness. "I've longed so to know—but he'd lived there since our fathers and mothers were children. 'Twould ha' been like taking the soul out of his body to drive him away."
She was a slender, pretty creature, almost as childlike in her way of speaking as if she had been no older than Dorothea or Alfred. The children listened with pleased excitement commingled with a certain awe. Gaffer Bartram had seemed as much a part of their lives as the sun or the wind or the old pollard willow. When he was strong enough he taught Alfred to snare rabbits and catch moles; when rheumatism crippled him he sat by the door making baskets and telling Dorothy rhymes and tales of seventy years ago. Then first his old gray cat Susan had disappeared, after that the old man himself, and last the cottage caught fire and burned. And father was actually giving orders to the men to dig up the garden and see what lay under it.
There is a mysterious immovable setness about the Sussex Downs. What is there seems to have been there always. The oldest man cannot say when the great white hollows were first scooped out of the chalk, or the dewponds made on the heights. Ever since there were people in Sussex—whether it is five thousand years ago or fifteen thousand—the short wind-swept turf has been grazed by woolly flocks. Before ever a Norman castle held a vantage- height the tansy grew dark and rank in cottage gardens and the children went gathering woodruff and speedwell and the elfin gold of "little socks and shoes." Any change, good or bad, is a loss to some one—the land is so full of the life of the past.
Wilfrid and Edwitha well understood this, though they would never have put it into fine phrases. They could not have said it except to each other, and for that there was no need of speech. Because of it they had left the old man at peace in his cottage, and even after he was dead they put off the uncovering of what might lie under the soil of his garden and his orchard.
Wilfrid's pottery had grown up in the last ten years near a claybank, not far from the boundary between his father's land and Edwitha's old home. An irregular terrace broke the slope above it, and here the tilled land had come to an end at one point because the plows came hard against a buried Roman wall. Not being able to break up the solid masonry of Roman builders done a thousand years before, Wilfrid's father had cleared away the soil, roofed over the ruin which he found, and used it to store grain. This was Cold Harbor.
As Wilfrid's pottery prospered he found another use for the building. There was no tavern thereabouts, and when the Saxon abbey five or six miles away could house no more guests, or his workmen could not all find lodging in the neighborhood, it was possible to shelter there. The roof was weather-tight, a wood fire could be built on the stone hearth, and with fresh straw from Borstall Farm for beds, provisions from the same source, and their own cloaks for covering, travelers found themselves fairly comfortable.
Like others of its kind the building came to be known as "Cold Harbor," a "herbergage" or lodging, without food or heat being provided. Sometimes an enterprising innkeeper would take possession of such a place after a time and furnish it as an inn.
At this very time, unknown to Wilfrid, some of his friends were discussing such a possibility as they rode up from Dover. Gilbert Gay the merchant, his wife Thomasyn and his son Nicholas were returning from France, and in their company were Alan of York and Josian his wife, Guy Bouverel the goldsmith, and others. West of Canterbury they came up with a stout bright-eyed little man who looked as if he had fed well all his life, and was called Martin Bouvin.
"What luck, Martin?" asked Master Gay. The little man spread his hands in a gesture of comic despair. All the tavern-sites seemed to be held by some religious house that owned the land, or some nobleman who allowed the innkeeper to use his device as a sign.
"There ought to be an inn there in Sussex where Wilfrid's pottery is," observed the goldsmith. "When I halt there to see Wilfrid I find nine times out of ten that I must e'en quarter myself on him. D'ye remember that old place he calls Cold Harbor? That would be a proper house for a tavern."
"It is not large enough," objected the merchant. "Any tavern worth the name would need more room than that within a twelvemonth. Still, other buildings could be added. If you and the potter can come to an agreement, Bouvin, I will aid you in fitting up the building and you may repay me in dinners. There's not a cook this side Rouen who can match your chestnut soup."
"Made with the yolk of an egg and a little wine of Xeres?" asked Guy with interest. "Giovanni made it so for us once."
The merchant waved a protesting hand. "No, no, no, no—lemon, man, lemon, with white stock, pepper, salt, a little parsley. Sherry is an excellent drink, but not in chestnut soup, I pray you."
"What matters it," asked Alan innocently, "so the food is wholesome and pleasant?
"That is what might be expected of you, you Northern barbarian," laughed Guy. "Where did you get your cunning, Martin?"
The little man's beady black eyes twinkled knowingly. "A true cook, Master Bouverel, takes all good things where he finds them. I make bouillabaisse for those who like it, but—between you and me—Norman matelote of fish is just as good. I cook pigeon broth as they do in Boulogne, I make black bean soup as they do in Spain. I was born in Boulogne, but I have cooked in many other places—in Avignon, where they say the angels taught them how to cook—Messina, Paris, Genoa, all over Aquitaine with the routiers. Perigueux is a very agreeable place—you know the truffles there? I cook sometimes cutlets of lamb and veal in a casserole with truffles, mushrooms, bacon in strips, a lemon sliced, shallots, some chicken stock, and herbs—yes, that is very good. Oh, I can cook for French, Norman, Gascon, Spanish, Lombard—any people. Only in Goslar. That was one horreeble place, Goslar! The people eat pork and cabbage, pork and cabbage, and black bread—chut!" He made a grimace at the memory.
"I fear you will find some of that sort among our English travelers," said Gilbert Gay amusedly. "Not all of them will appreciate—what was that you gave us in Paris? epigrammes of lamb, the cutlets dipped in chicken stock and fried. Swine are still among our chief domestic animals."
"Oh, as to that," said the chef quickly, "I am not too proud to cook for people who like simple things—meat broiled and roasted with plain bread. And do you know that one must be a very fine cook to do such work well? When I am alone, which is not often, I prepare for myself fresh vegetables, broil a fish that has not forgotten the water,—and with a roll and a little fruit, that is my dinner. The soteltes at kings' tables, all colored sugar and pastry and isinglass—they are only good for people who can eat peacock, and those are very few. Do you know, Master Gay, what is the great secret of my art? To know what is good, and not spoil it."
"I foresee," laughed the merchant, "that we shall all be making excuses to come down from London if you stay in Sussex with your saucepans. But hey! there are the towers of the abbey already, and it is not yet mid- afternoon. Let us ride on to see Wilfrid and find out whether he approves of our fine plan."
While this discussion of the noble art of cookery was going on miles away, Wilfrid and Edwitha, with no thought of inns, were watching the laborers digging where Wilfrid thought the rest of the building ought to be. In his travels he had seen other Roman houses better preserved than this, and by inquiring of learned men had gained some idea of Roman civilization. He had been told that Roman officials in England often built villas in places rather like this terrace, and since the building already unearthed was the end of the walls in one direction, the rest of the villa might be found under the cottage of old Bartram and his orchard, garden and cow-byre.
No other house in the neighborhood was as old as that cottage. It was built of beams put together without nails and filled in with a rude wattle-work plastered thickly with coat after coat of mud. Instead of being thatched like most houses of its kind the roof had been covered with fine red tiles,—possibly Roman work. It seemed that the soil must have washed in over the ruins of the Roman building so very long ago that there had been time for trees to grow above it.
Thus Wilfrid reasoned. As his laborers dug and moiled and sweated under the hot clear sun, he watched with lively interest for whatever they might turn up. It is to be feared that Edwitha's maids were less carefully looked after than usual after the work began, and the children spent every minute they could in following their mother or their father about to see what was going to happen.
There was another reason besides curiosity for keeping watch of the work. If any pottery should be discovered, Wilfrid did not wish to have it broken by a careless mattock.
Then Dorothy came running from the house to find her mother and father bending over a newly-unearthed Roman wall. "Father!" she cried, "a man is come to see you!"
"Oh!" said Wilfrid, not very eagerly. He brushed some of the earth from his clothes with a handful of weeds and went toward the gate, where a horseman sat awaiting him. As he came nearer the man dismounted and came toward him with outstretched hand.
"Alan!" cried the potter joyfully. "I heard you were abroad. Come in, and I'll send for Edwitha."
"Not so fast," said his guest. "I am but a harbinger. Guy Bouverel and Master Gay the merchant with his wife and son, and some others, are coming along. We'll stay at the Abbey, but we rode on to see you first. I've my wife with me, Wilfrid."
"That's news indeed," said the potter cordially. "And who may she be? Some foreign damsel you met in your pilgrimage?"
"That's one way of saying it," answered Alan smiling. "You shall see her and judge for yourself. How's all here?"
Wilfrid smiled rather sheepishly. "You and your wife must come and stay with us," he insisted. "We'll make you welcome, spite of being a bit upset. Edwitha has been taking holiday. We're digging up the farm to see what's at the other end of Cold Harbor, lad."
"Make no ado about us," Alan protested. "It's partly about Cold Harbor that we came—but here they all are, upon my life!"
A merry company of travelers rode up the lane, and as they dismounted Edwitha came over the little footpath across the field, with the children clinging to her hands—a little embarrassed to find so many folk arriving and she not there. The boy scampered up to his father piping loudly, "Father, come you quick—we've found a picture in the ground!"
"What's all this?" asked Master Gay. And after Wilfrid's explanation nothing would do but that they all should go immediately to see what had come to light. When they beheld it the younger men could not keep from taking a hand themselves. With brooms of twigs, and potsherds, and water from the well in Cold Harbor, they industriously swept and scraped and washed the pavement which the men had now partly uncovered.
It was a mosaic floor of tiny blocks of red, black, yellow, white, brown, cream and slate-blue, set in cement so strong that not an inch of the fine even surface had warped. It was not a large pavement, and might have been the floor of a small dining or sitting-room so placed as to command a view of the valley. A part of one wall remained. It had been plastered and then covered with a finer plaster which was frescoed with a row of painted pillars against the deep marvelous red of Pompeii. The design of the floor was not at first clear. The edge was decorated with a conventional pattern in gray and white. The corners were cut off by diagonal lines making an eight-sided central space. This was outlined by a guilloche, or border of intertwining bands of brilliant colors. Inside this again was a circle divided into alternate square and triangular spaces with still brighter borders, containing each some bird or animal. In the central space was a seated figure playing on a harp, while around him were packed in a close group a lion, a ram, a bull, a goat, a crab, fishes, and other figures. Nobody at first saw what it could be.
"If I mistake not," said the little stout man, Martin Bouvin, at last, "it is Sir Orpheus playing to the beasts."
"To be sure!" cried Guy Bouverel. "Do you know books as well as cooking- pots, O man of the oldest profession?"
Martin grinned. "I heard a song about that once," he answered, "and I have never forgotten it. It was a lucky song—for some folk."
It was fortunate that at that time of year the sun does not set until after eight o'clock, for no one could have borne to leave that pavement without seeing the whole of it. The children, quite forgotten for once in their lives, grubbed in the piles of earth and found bewitching bronze lion-heads and ornamental knobs and handles, and pictured tiles. At last they all went in to a very late supper. All the guests could be sheltered at Wilfrid's home if the young men were satisfied to lodge in Cold Harbor.
"It is like finding out the people who lived here when the land was young," said Wilfrid, his eyes very bright.
"And there were also the men who made the dewponds," mused Master Gay.
"And there were those Druids of whom my father told me," said Josian wonderingly. "This is like a fairy tale, Al-an. Is York the same?"
"Brother Basil said once that our England is a land of lost kingdoms," Alan answered her. "I see what he meant."
Excavation went on during the following days until all the pavements of the old Roman house had been cleared. The two others were larger but not so fine as the first they had uncovered. One was of stone blocks laid in a sort of checkerboard pattern, and the other of mosaic in a conventional pattern of black and gray and brown and red. They found that under these floors there was an open space about two feet high. The tiled floor which was covered with the mosaic was supported by a multitude of dwarf pillars of stone and brick. This space, although they did not know it, was the hypocaust or heating chamber of the colonial Roman house, and had been kept filled with hot air from a furnace. Beams of wood and heaps of tiles indicated that there had been an upper storey of wood. This in fact was the case, the Romans having a strong objection to sleeping on the ground floor.
Now there was no more doubt that Cold Harbor might be made into a well- appointed tavern. With a little masonry to reenforce them the walls would form a base for a half-timbered house roofed with tiles from Wilfrid's pottery. The largest room would be the general guest-room in which the tables would be set for all comers, and those who could not afford better accommodation might sleep there on benches or on the floor. For guests of higher station, especially those who had ladies in their party, private chambers and dining-rooms would be provided. Master Gay intended to furnish a suite for himself and any of his friends who came that way.
"And by the way," said Guy suddenly, "Cold Harbor will never do for a name. What shall you call the inn, Martin?"
Bouvin snapped his fingers. "I have thought and thought until my head goes to split. I would call it Boulogne Harbor, but there is no picture you could make of that."
"'Mouth' is the English for harbor," suggested Wilfrid. "But all the country people would call it 'Bull-and-Mouth."
Padraig began sketching with a bit of charcoal on the broken wall. "Make it that and I'll paint the sign for ye. 'Bull-and-Mouth'—every hungry man will see the meaning o' that."
With a dozen strokes he sketched a huge mouth about to swallow a bull. This, done with a fine show of color, became the sign of the tavern. Martin never tired of explaining the pun to those who asked. Even before the guest-rooms were finished, travelers began arriving, drawn by the fame of Martin's savory and succulent dishes. Pilgrims, merchants, knights, squires, showmen, soldiers, minstrels, scholars, sea-captains—they came and came again. Almost every subject in church or state, from Peter's pence to the Third Crusade, from the Constitutions of Clarendon to clipped money, was discussed at Martin's tables, with point and freedom. Cold Harbor entered upon a new life and became part of the foundation of a new empire.
Amber, copper, jet and tin, Anklet, bracelet, necklace, pin,— That is the way the trades begin Over the pony's back.
Mother-o'-pearl or malachite, Ebony black or ivory white Lade the dromond's rushing flight Over Astarte's track.
Crucifix or mangonel, Steel for sword or bronze for bell,— That is the way we trafficking sell, Out of the tempest's wrack.
Marble, porcelain, tile or brick, Hemlock, vitriol, arsenic— Souls or bodies barter quick— Masters, what d'ye lack?
THE WISDOM OF THE GALLEYS
It was Nicholas Gay's last night at home. At dawn his father's best ship, the Sainte Spirite, would weigh anchor for the longest eastward voyage she had ever undertaken. His father's brother, Gervase Gaillard of Bordeaux, was going out in charge of the venture. Gilbert Gay, the London merchant, who had altered his name though not his long-sighted French mind in his twenty years of England, thought this an excellent time for his eighteen- year-old son to see the world.
Since Nicholas could remember, he had known the wharves of the Thames and the changeful drama of London Pool. He had been twice to Normandy, but to a lad French by birth, that was hardly a foreign land. Now he was to see countries neither English nor French—some of them not even Christian. Half Spain and all the north coast of Africa were Moslem. Sicily and Sardinia had Saracen traditions. This would be his first sight of the great sea-road from Gibraltar to Byzantium.
During the past three years Gilbert Gay had been often absent, and the boy had taken responsibility of the sort that makes a man. With the keen aquiline French profile he had a skin almost as fair as a girl's, and yellow-brown waving hair. The steady gray eyes and firm lips, however, had nothing girlish about them.
As luck had it these last hours were crowded with visitors. Robert Edrupt, the wool-merchant, and David Saumond, the mason, were taking passage in the Sainte Spirite. Guy Bouverel had a share in her cargo, and came for a word about that and to bid Nicholas good-by. Brother Ambrosius, a solemn- faced portly monk, had letters to send to Rome. Lady Adelicia Giffard came to ask that inquiry be made for her husband, who had gone on pilgrimage more than a year before, and had not been heard of for many months. The poor soul was as nearly distraught as a woman could be. She begged Gervase Gaillard to ask all the pilgrims and merchants he met whether in their travels they had seen or heard of Sir Stephen Giffard, and should any trace of him be found, to send a messenger to her without delay. She was wealthy, and promised liberal reward to any one who could help her in the search. It was her great fear that the knight had been taken prisoner by the Moslems.
"I think that you must have heard of it in that case," said Gilbert Gay gently, "since these marauders ever demand ransom. I pray you remember, my lady, that there are a thousand chances whereby in these unsettled times a man may be delayed, or his letters fail to reach you. 'Tis not well to brood over vain rumors."
"I know," whimpered the poor lady, "but I cannot—I cannot bear that he should be a captive and suffering, and I with hoarded gold that I have no heart to look upon. 'Tis cruel."
"Holy Church," observed Brother Ambrosius, "hath always need of our hearts and of our gold, lady. Peace comes to the spirit that hath learned the sweet uses of submission. To dote on the things of the flesh is unpleasing to God."
"When I was in Spain," said Edrupt, "I heard a monk preaching a new religion. He urged his hearers to aid in rescuing the captives held in Moslem slavery. 'Tis said he has saved many."
"Were it not well," pursued Brother Ambrosius as if he had not heard, "to think upon the glorious opportunity of a captive to bear witness to his faith? We read how angels delivered the apostles from prison, and how Saint Paul in his bonds exhorted and rebuked his people, to the edification of many."
"True," commented Gilbert Gay rather dryly, "but we are not all Saint Pauls. And I have never known of God sending angels to do work that He might properly expect of men and women."
This was a new idea to Brother Ambrosius. Not finding a place in his mind for one just then, he looked meek and said nothing, and presently took his leave.
"Saint Paul was a tentmaker, was he not?" queried Guy Bouverel when the door had closed upon the churchman. "Had he rowed in the galleys I doubt whether we should have had those Epistles."
Nicholas recalled this conversation the next day, as the sturdy little ship of English oak filled her great sails and went blithely out upon the widening estuary of the Thames. The last of the dear London landmarks faded into the gray soft sky. Soon the sailors would begin to look for Sheerness and the Forelands, Dungeness, Beachy Head. Nicholas leaned on the rail above the dancing morning waters and remembered it all.
There was his mother's sweet pale face under the white coif, her busy fingers completing a last bit of stitchery for him. There was his father's fine, keen, kindly face bent over his account-books and coffers. There was pretty Genevieve, his sister, with her husband, Crispin Eyre. And there were the comrades of his boyhood, and the prating monk, and the unhappy lady with her white face framed in rich velvets and furs, and her piteous beseeching hands that were never still. Those faces, in the glow of the fire and the shine of tall candles in their silver sconces, were to be with him often in the months to come.
Edrupt came up just as a long Venetian galley went plowing out to sea, the great oars flashing in the sunlight, one rank above another. "They do not have to pray for a fair wind, those Venetians," Nicholas commented idly.
"That galley's past praying for anything," Edrupt said grimly. "You may be glad that your men fear neither wind nor seas—nor you. 'Tis an ill thing to sail the seas with those who serve only through fear."
Nicholas had not thought of it in that way. He knew, of course, that the slaves who rowed the racing galleys were the offscouring of mankind, desperate men, drawn from all nations. It was as much as two men could do to handle one oar, and all must pull in unison as a huge machine. The Venetian dromond was to other merchant-ships as the dromedary to other camels. To make the speed required the rowers must put forth their whole strength, hour after hour, day after day.
Any work which makes men into parts of a machine is not likely to improve them as men. When they have no love for their work and no hope of reward, and do not even speak the same language, the one motive which can be depended upon to keep them going is fear. The whip of the overseer bred festering, burning hatred, but it kept the sweeps from breaking their monotonous unceasing motion. If the voyage were quick, the profits were the greater, and no one cared for anything else.
Thinking of the hard sea-bitten faces of the galley-slaves Nicholas rejoiced that rather than live so the crew of the Sainte Spirite would every man of them choose a clean death at sea.
Some days later it seemed as if they were fated to die so. A Biscay tempest caught them, and from dark to daylight they were buffeted by the giant battledores of wind and sea. Nicholas spent the sleepless hours in lending a hand and cheering the men as he could.
At last they sighted the great Rock of Gibraltar, fifteen hundred feet of it clear against the sky, like the gateway pillar of another world. Between Europe and Africa they passed into the blue Mediterranean,—blue with the salty sparkle beloved of all sea-lovers since Ulysses. Light warm winds, the scent of orange-groves and rose-gardens, a sky only less deep in its azure splendor than the sea itself—it seemed indeed another world.
But the Sainte Spirite had not come whole out of her struggle with the powers of the abyss. Timbers were sadly strained, a mast was gone, every man on board was weary and muscle-sore. And then a Levantine gale drove the crippled merchantman down on the Barbary coast.
The blackness of that storm ended, for Nicholas Gay, in a plunge into the black waters and a glimpse of the high lantern of his father's ship dancing above the tossing foam like a witch-fire, for an instant before she went down. When he came to himself he was lying on hot sand in the sunshine, and Edrupt and David Saumond were bending anxiously over him.
Half the seamen were gone; so was the captain; so was all of the cargo. Gervase Gaillard had been injured by a falling mast and was helpless. The coast was strange to them all, but the old merchant and Edrupt made a guess that it was a part of Morocco somewhere near the town of Fez. Food they had none; water they might find; and the merchants had not lost quite all they had in the wreck. Some gold and jewels they had saved, secured about their persons. These would pay the passage of the company to London- -if they had luck.
They were considering what to do next when a body of some twoscore horsemen swept down upon them. The leader might have been either Turk or Frank. He was as dark as a Saracen and wore the chain-mail, scimitar and light helmet of the heathen, but he spoke Levantine rather too well for a Moor, and with a different intonation.
"Who are you?" he asked curtly. Nicholas Gay stood up, not yet quite steady on his feet.
"We are London merchant folk," he said, "from the wrecked ship Sainte Spirite, whereof my father, Gilbert Gay, was owner. My uncle here is our chief man, but as you see, he is injured and cannot move. If we may get food and lodging until we are able to return to England, we will requite it freely."
"London," repeated the soldier. "A parcel of London traders, eh?" He spoke a few words to the Moor who rode next him, in another language. "This is the domain of Yusuf of the Almohades," he went on, "and we make no terms with the enemies of God. Yet we condemn no man to starve. Ye shall have food and lodging so long as ye remain with us. Doubtless ye are honest and will pay, but in this barbarous land there are many thieves. Therefore we will take charge of such wealth as ye have. As for that old man, he cannot live to reach his home. Abu Hassan!"
A trooper spurred toward the old merchant and thrust him through with his lance. He half rose, groaned and fell back, dead. Others, dismounting, seized upon the astonished and indignant castaways, and took from them with the deftness of practiced hands whatever they had of value. This was too much for the Breton and English sailors. They would have fought it out then and there. But Nicholas spoke quickly so that only those nearest him heard.
"There is no gain in being killed here one by one. Wait and be silent. Pass the word to the rest."
When the prisoners had been herded into a compact company in the center of the mounted troop, the leader chirruped to his horse. "It grows late," he said. "Y'Allah!" And at the point of the lance the captives were driven forward.
They were taken through the crowded narrow streets of a squalid town and left in a walled enclosure where two negroes brought them an earthen jar of water and some sort of cooked grain in a large bowl. The sun blazed down upon their shelterless heads and flies hummed about the filth in the unclean place. Nicholas, when their hunger had been partly satisfied and there was no more to eat or drink, addressed himself to the others in a cool and quiet voice.
"Friends, it is like we are to be sold into slavery among the infidels. If each man is left to shift for himself they may break us. If we stand by one another and keep our faith we may yet win home to England. They may not separate us at first, and I have been thinking that if they find out the value of a company of men freely choosing to work together in harmony, they will hardly separate us at all. But we must obey their will, we must keep order among ourselves, and above all, we must seem to have given up all hope of escape. What say you?"
Edrupt spoke first. "I'm with you, lad. 'Tis our one chance of seeing home again, I do think."
David Saumond's shrewd eyes were scanning the faces of the sailors. "I'll no be the last to join ye," he said. "But all must agree. One man out would make a hole i' the dyke."
A big Breton sailor stepped forward. "Kadoc of Saint Malo sticks to his ship," he growled, and drew with his forefinger a line in the dust. "Who's next?"
One after another, but with little hesitation, the men crossed the line. All had some idea of what awaited them in the Moorish provinces. It was no new thing for captives of European blood to be sold as slaves. Gangs of them toiled on canals, walls, fortresses, in grain-fields, on board galleys. Those leaders of Islam who urged a holy war sowed fortifications wherever they went. The need for slave labor for such work was greater than the supply. Much of the slave population was unfit for anything but the simplest and rudest tasks, and could be kept at work only by the constant use of the whip.
All the tales Nicholas had heard of slavery crowded into his mind in the first moments of captivity. Once a black-browed Sicilian had told of a night of blood and flame, when the slaves of a galley, mad with toil, privation and hatred, killed their masters and attempted to seize the ship,—and almost succeeded. "Slaves cannot unite," the Sicilian ended contemptuously. "There is always a Judas." But Gilbert Gay had chosen his men for this voyage with especial care. Every man of them, Nicholas believed, could be trusted.
They had never dreamed of anything like the next few days—the filth, the degradation, the cruelty. Nicholas was glad, when half-naked Moslem boys called them names from a safe distance, that the others could not understand. The insults of an Oriental are primitive and plain—and very old. Nicholas had a trick of absorbing languages, and already knew half a score of outlandish tongues and dialects.
Not only the townspeople but their Moslem fellow-slaves held the Kafirs in contempt. Their rations were sometimes food condemned by the Moslem faith. Edrupt's cool common sense and David's dry humor were of valiant service in those days. The Scot averred that better men than Mahomet had been bred on barley bannocks, and that the flat coarse cakes of the Berbers were as near them as a heathen could be expected to come. He also warned them that Moses knew what he was about when he forbade pork to his people, and that the pigs that ran in the streets of an African town were very different eating from the beech-fed hogs of Kent. From a Jewish physician for whom he had once built a secret treasure-vault he had picked up a rough-and- ready knowledge of medicine which was of very considerable value.
One morning they were all marched off, in charge of a greasy indifferent- looking Turk, to work on a canal embankment. The garden of an emir's favorite was to have a new bath-pavilion. Here the great strength of Kadoc, the hard clean muscle and ready resourcefulness of Edrupt, and the Scotch mason's experience in the ways of stones and waters, set the pace for the rest. The seamen studied how to use their strength to the best advantage as they had once studied the sky and the sea. They moved together to the tune of their own chanteys, and the Turk discovered that this one gang was worth any two others on the ground. When questioned, Nicholas replied briefly that it was the way of his people.
The foreign-looking officer smiled incredulously when this explanation was given, and watched them for some time with obvious suspicion. But the men seemed not to be plotting together, and to be thinking only of their work. If the English were fools enough to do more than they were made to do it was certainly no loss to their masters.
"I should like to know the name of that vinegar-faced captain," said Edrupt one day. "I mistrust he wasn't born here."
"No," said Nicholas. "They call him the Khawadji, and they never use that name for one of themselves."
"He's too free with his whip. Yon tall man that tends his horses could tell something of that, I make my guess."
One night they came on the Khawadji's stable-man caring for a lame horse with such skill that Nicholas spoke of it. By some instinct he spoke in Norman-French. The other answered in the same tongue.
"Every knight should know his horse."
"You are of gentle birth, my lord?"
"Call me not lord," the Norman said wearily. "I have seen too much to be any man's lord hereafter. Since my fever I am fit only for this, and none will know the grave of Stephen Giffard."
Nicholas' heart leaped. "Sir," he said quickly, "ere we left London the Lady Adelicia, your wife, came to my father's house to beseech him to aid her in searching for you. If any of us ever see home again I will take care that she is told of this."
The knight looked ten years younger. "I thank you," he answered gravely. "And if I should not live to see her again, I would have her know that my thoughts have been constantly of her."
"Is not this Khawadji a caitiff knight of France? He does not seem like a Moor."
The Norman nodded. "He is Garin de Biterres, a miscreant of Guienne. My brother balked him in some villainy years ago. He took me for Walter when he saw me, and let it out. Aquitaine being too hot to hold him, and the Normans in Ireland refusing to enlist him, he came through the Breach of Roland and took service under the Crescent. He was once a slave among the Moors of Andalusia, and owes his deformity to that. He cozened an old beggar into treating his leg with some ointment which would wither it up so that he could not work, and it never wholly recovered."
"How comes it that he has not allowed you to send word to your people? Most of these folk are greedy for ransom."
"I think he keeps me here for his pleasure. At first he took the letters I wrote and pretended to have sent them, and gibed in his bitter fashion when no reply came. That is how I know that the letters were not sent at all. Had my lady heard so much as a word of my captivity she would have searched me out."
The approach of some troopers broke off the conversation, and Nicholas went his way, marveling at the strange chances of life.