A MAGAZINE OF LITERATURE, ART, AND POLITICS.
VOL. XIII.—MARCH, 1864.—NO. LXXVII.
[Transcriber's Note: Minor typos corrected, and footnotes have been moved to the end of the text.]
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1864, by TICKNOR AND FIELDS, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.
THE QUEEN OF CALIFORNIA.
I can see the excitement which this title arouses as it is flashed across the sierras, down the valleys, and into the various reading-rooms and parlors of the Golden City of the Golden State. As the San Francisco "Bulletin" announces some day, that in the "Atlantic Monthly," issued in Boston the day before, one of the articles is on "The Queen of California," what contest, in every favored circle of the most favored of lands, who the Queen may be! Is it the blond maiden who took a string of hearts with her in a leash, when she left us one sad morning? is it the hardy, brown adventuress, who, in her bark-roofed lodge, serves us out our boiled dog daily, as we come home from our water-gullies, and sews on for us weekly the few buttons which we still find indispensable in that toil? is it some Jessie of the lion-heart, heroine of a hundred days or of a thousand? is it that witch with gray eyes, cunningly hidden,—were they puzzled last night, or were they all wisdom crowded?—as she welcomed me, and as she bade me good-bye? Good Heavens! how many Queens of California are regnant this day! and of any one of them this article might be written.
No, Senores! No, Caballeros! Throng down to the wharves to see the Golden Era or the Cornelius's Coffin, or whatever other mail-steamer may bring these words to your longing eyes. Open to the right and left as Adams's express-messenger carries the earliest copy of the "Atlantic Monthly," sealed with the reddest wax, tied with the reddest tape, from the Corner Store direct to him who was once the life and light of the Corner Store, who now studies eschscholtzias through a telescope thirty-eight miles away on Monte Diablo! Rush upon the newsboy who then brings forth the bale of this Journal for the Multitude, to find that the Queen of California of whom we write is no modern queen, but that she reigned some five hundred and fifty-five years ago. Her precise contemporaries were Amadis of Gaul, the Emperor Esplandian, and the Sultan Radiaro. And she flourished, as the books say, at the time when this Sultan made his unsuccessful attack on the city of Constantinople,—all of which she saw, part of which she was.
She was not petite, nor blond, nor golden-haired. She was large and black as the ace of clubs. But the prejudice of color did not then exist even among the most brazen-faced or the most copper-headed. For, as you shall learn, she was reputed the most beautiful of women; and it was she, O Californians, who wedded the gallant prince Talanque,—your first-known king. The supporters of the arms of the beautiful shield of the State of California should be, on the right, a knight armed cap-a-pie, and, on the left, an Amazon sable, clothed in skins, as you shall now see.
Mr. E. E. Hale, of Boston, sent to the Antiquarian Society last year a paper which shows that the name of California was known to literature before it was given to our peninsula by Cortes. Cortes discovered the peninsula in 1535, and seems to have called it California then. But Mr. Hale shows that twenty-five years before that time, in a romance called the "Deeds of Esplandian," the name of California was given to an island "on the right hand of the Indies." This romance was a sequel, or fifth book, to the celebrated romance of "Amadis of Gaul." Such books made the principal reading of the young blades of that day who could read at all. It seems clear enough, that Cortes and his friends, coming to the point farthest to the west then known,—which all of them, from Columbus down, supposed to be in the East Indies,—gave to their discovery the name, familiar to romantic adventurers, of California, to indicate their belief that it was on the "right hand of the Indies." Just so Columbus called his discoveries "the Indies,"—just so was the name "El Dorado" given to regions which it was hoped would prove to be golden. The romance had said, that in the whole of the romance-island of California there was no metal but gold. Cortes, who did not find a pennyweight of dust in the real California, still had no objection to giving so golden a name to his discovery.
Mr. Hale, with that brevity which becomes antiquarians, does not go into any of the details of the life and adventures of the Queen of California as the romance describes them. We propose, in this paper, to supply from it this reticency of his essay.
The reader must understand, then, that, in this romance, printed in 1510, sixty years or less after Constantinople really fell into the hands of the Turks, the author describes a pretended assault made upon it by the Infidel powers, and the rallying for its rescue of Amadis and Perion and Lisuarte, and all the princes of chivalry with whom the novel of "Amadis of Gaul" has dealt. They succeed in driving away the Pagans, "as you shall hear." In the midst of this great crusade, every word of which, of course, is the most fictitious of fiction, appear the episodes which describe California and its Queen.
First, of California itself here is the description:—
"Now you are to hear the most extraordinary thing that ever was heard of in any chronicles or in the memory of man, by which the city would have been lost on the next day, but that where the danger came, there the safety came also. Know, then, that, on the right hand of the Indies, there is an island called California, very close to the side of the Terrestrial Paradise, and it was peopled by black women, without any man among them, for they lived in the fashion of Amazons. They were of strong and hardy bodies, of ardent courage and great force. Their island was the strongest in all the world, with its steep cliffs and rocky shores. Their arms were all of gold, and so was the harness of the wild beasts which they tamed and rode. For, in the whole island, there was no metal but gold. They lived in caves wrought out of the rock with much labor. They had many ships with which they sailed out to other countries to obtain booty.
"In this island, called California, there were many griffins, on account of the great ruggedness of the country, and its infinite host of wild beasts, such as never were seen in any other part of the world. And when these griffins were yet small, the women went out with traps to take them. They covered themselves over with very thick hides, and when they had caught the little griffins, they took them to their caves, and brought them up there. And being themselves quite a match for the griffins, they fed them with the men whom they took prisoners, and with the boys to whom they gave birth, and brought them up with such arts that they got much good from them, and no harm. Every man who landed on the island was immediately devoured by these griffins; and although they had had enough, none the less would they seize them and carry them high up in the air, in their flight, and when they were tired of carrying them, would let them fall anywhere as soon as they died."
These griffins are the Monitors of the story, or, if the reader pleases, the Merrimacs. After this description, the author goes on to introduce us to our Queen. Observe, O reader, that, although very black, and very large, she is very beautiful. Why did not Powers carve his statue of California out of the blackest of Egyptian marbles? Try once more, Mr. Powers! We have found her now. [Greek: Ehyrhekamen]!
"Now at the time when those great men of the Pagans sailed with their great fleets, as the history has told you, there reigned in this island of California a Queen, very large in person, the most beautiful of all of them, of blooming years, and in her thoughts desirous of achieving great things, strong of limb and of great courage, more than any of those who had filled her throne before her. She heard tell that all the greater part of the world was moving in this onslaught against the Christians. She did not know what Christians were, for she had no knowledge of any parts of the world excepting those which were close to her. But she desired to see the world and its various people; and thinking, that, with the great strength of herself and of her women, she should have the greater part of their plunder, either from her rank or from her prowess, she began to talk with all of those who were most skilled in war, and told them that it would be well, if, sailing in their great fleets, they also entered on this expedition, in which all these great princes and lords were embarking. She animated and excited them, showing them the great profits and honors which they would gain in this enterprise,—above all, the great fame which would be theirs in all the world; while, if they stayed in their island, doing nothing but what their grandmothers did, they were really buried alive,—they were dead while they lived, passing their days without fame and without glory, as did the very brutes."
Now the people of California were as willing then to embark in distant expeditions of honor as they are now. And the first battalion that ever sailed from the ports of that country was thus provided:—
"So much did this mighty Queen, Calafia, say to her people, that she not only moved them to consent to this enterprise, but they were so eager to extend their fame through other lands that they begged her to hasten to sea, so that they might earn all these honors, in alliance with such great men. The Queen, seeing the readiness of her subjects, without any delay gave order that her great fleet should be provided with food, and with arms all of gold,—more of everything than was needed. Then she commanded that her largest vessel should be prepared with gratings of the stoutest timber; and she bade place in it as many as five hundred of these griffins, of which I tell you, that, from the time they were born, they were trained to feed on men. And she ordered that the beasts on which she and her people rode should be embarked, and all the best-armed women and those most skilled in war whom she had in her island. And then, leaving such force in the island that it should be secure, with the others she went to sea. And they made such haste that they arrived at the fleets of the Pagans the night after the battle of which I have told you; so that they were received with great joy, and the fleet was visited at once by many great lords, and they were welcomed with great acceptance. She wished to know at once in what condition affairs were, asking many questions, which they answered fully. Then she said,—
"'You have fought this city with your great forces, and you cannot take it; now, if you are willing, I wish to try what my forces are worth to-morrow, if you will give orders accordingly.'
"All these great lords said that they would give such commands as she should bid them.
"'Then send word to all your other captains that they shall to-morrow on no account leave their camps, they nor their people, until I command them; and you shall see a combat more remarkable than you have ever seen or heard of.'
"Word was sent at once to the great Sultan of Liquia, and the Sultan of Halapa, who had command of all the men who were there; and they gave these orders to all their people, wondering much what was the thought of this Queen."
Up to this moment, it may be remarked, these Monitors, as we have called the griffins, had never been fairly tried in any attack on fortified towns. The Dupont of the fleet, whatever her name may have been, may well have looked with some curiosity on the issue. The experiment was not wholly successful, as will be seen.
"When the night had passed and the morning came, the Queen Calafia sallied on shore, she and her women, armed with that armor of gold, all adorned with the most precious stones,—which are to be found in the island of California like stones of the field for their abundance. And they mounted on their fierce beasts, caparisoned as I have told you; and then she ordered that a door should be opened in the vessel where the griffins were. They, when they saw the field, rushed forward with great haste, showing great pleasure in flying through the air, and at once caught sight of the host of men who were close at hand. As they were famished, and knew no fear, each griffin pounced upon his man, seized him in his claws, carried him high into the air, and began to devour him. They shot many arrows at them, and gave them many great blows with lances and with swords. But their feathers were so tight joined and so stout, that no one could strike through to their flesh." (This is Armstrong versus Monitor.) "For their own party, this was the most lovely chase and the most agreeable that they had ever seen till then; and as the Turks saw them flying on high with their enemies, they gave such loud and clear shouts of joy as pierced the heavens. And it was the most sad and bitter thing for those in the city, when the father saw the son lifted in the air, and the son his father, and the brother his brother; so that they all wept and raved, as was sad indeed to see.
"When the griffins had flown through the air for a while, and had dropped their prizes, some on the earth and some on the sea, they turned, as at first, and, without any fear, seized up as many more; at which their masters had so much the more joy, and the Christians so much the more misery. What shall I tell you? The terror was so great among them all, that, while some hid themselves away under the vaults of the towers for safety, all the others disappeared from the ramparts, so that there were none left for the defence. Queen Calafia saw this, and, with a loud voice, she bade the two Sultans, who commanded the troops, send for the ladders, for the city was taken. At once they all rushed forward, placed the ladders, and mounted upon the wall. But the griffins, who had already dropped those whom they had seized before, as soon as they saw the Turks, having no knowledge of them, seized upon them just as they had seized upon the Christians, and, flying through the air, carried them up also, when, letting them fall, no one of them escaped death. Thus were exchanged the pleasure and the pain. For those on the outside now were those who mourned in great sorrow for those who were so handled; and those who were within, who, seeing their enemies advance on every side, had thought they were beaten, now took great comfort. So, at this moment, as those on the ramparts stopped, panic-struck, fearing that they should die as their comrades did, the Christians leaped forth from the vaults where they were hiding, and quickly slew many of the Turks who were gathered on the walls, and compelled the rest to leap down, and then sprang back to their hiding-places, as they saw the griffins return.
"When Queen Calafia saw this, she was very sad, and she said, 'O ye idols in whom I believe and whom I worship, what is this which has happened as favorably to my enemies as to my friends? I believed that with your aid and with my strong forces and great munition I should be able to destroy them. But it has not so proved.' And she gave orders to her women that they should mount the ladders and struggle to gain the towers and put to the sword all those who took refuge in them to be secure from the griffins. They obeyed their Queen's commands, dismounted at once, placing before their breasts such breastplates as no weapon could pierce, and, as I told you, with the armor all of gold which covered their legs and their arms. Quickly they crossed the plain, and mounted the ladders lightly, and possessed themselves of the whole circuit of the walls, and began to fight fiercely with those who had taken refuge in the vaults of the towers. But they defended themselves bravely, being indeed in quarters well protected, with but narrow doors. And those of the city, who were in the streets below, shot at the women with arrows and darts, which pierced them through the sides, so that they received many wounds, because their golden armor was so weak." (This is Keokuk versus Armstrong.) "And the griffins returned, flying above them, and would not leave them.
"When Queen Calafia saw this, she cried to the Sultans, 'Make your troops mount, that they may defend mine against these fowls of mine who have dared attack them.' At once the Sultans commanded their people to ascend the ladders and gain the circle and the towers, in order that by night the whole host might join them, and they might gain the city. The soldiers rushed from their camps, and mounted on the wall where the women were fighting,—but when the griffins saw them, at once they seized on them as ravenously as if all that day they had not caught anybody. And when the women threatened them with their knives, they were only the more enraged, so that, although they took shelter for themselves, the griffins dragged them out by main strength, lifted them up into the air, and then let them fall,—so that they all died. The fear and panic of the Pagans were so great, that, much more quickly than they had mounted, did they descend and take refuge in their camp. The Queen, seeing this rout without remedy, sent at once to command those who held watch and guard on the griffins, that they should recall them and shut them up in the vessel. They, then, hearing the Queen's command, mounted on top of the mast, and called them with loud voices in their language; and they, as if they had been human beings, all obeyed, and obediently returned into their cages."
The first day's attack of these flying Monitors on the beleaguered city was not, therefore, a distinguished success. The author derives a lesson from it, which we do not translate, but recommend to the students of present history. It fills a whole chapter, of which the title is, "Exhortation addressed by the author to the Christians, setting before their eyes the great obedience which these griffins, brute animals, rendered to those who had instructed them."
The Sultans may have well doubted whether their new ally was quite what she had claimed to be. She felt this herself, and said to them,—
"'Since my coming has caused you so much injury, I wish that it may cause you equal pleasure. Command your people that they shall sally out, and we will go to the city against those knights who dare to appear before us, and we will let them press on the most severe combat that they can, and I, with my people, will take the front of the battle.'
"The Sultans gave command at once to all of their soldiers who had armor, that they should rush forth immediately, and should join in mounting upon the rampart, now that these birds were encaged again. And they, with the horsemen, followed close upon Queen Calafia, and immediately the army rushed forth and pressed upon the wall; but not so prosperously as they had expected, because the people of the town were already there in their harness, and as the Pagans mounted upon their ladders, the Christians threw them back, whence very many of them were killed and wounded. Others pressed forward with their iron picks and other tools, and dug fiercely in the circuit of the wall. These were very much distressed and put in danger by the oil and other things which were thrown upon them, but not so much but that they succeeded in making many breaches and openings. But when this came to the ears of the Emperor, who always kept command of ten thousand horsemen, he commanded all of them to defend these places as well as they could. So that, to the grief of the Pagans, the people repaired the breaches with many timbers and stones and piles of earth.
"When the Queen saw this repulse, she rushed with her own attendants with great speed to the gate Aquilena, which was guarded by Norandel. She herself went in advance of the others, wholly covered with one of those shields which we have told you they wore, and with her lance held strongly in her hand. Norandel, when he saw her coming, went forth to meet her, and they met so vehemently that their lances were broken in pieces, and yet neither of them fell. Norandel at once put hand upon his sword, and the Queen upon her great knife, of which the blade was more than a palm broad, and they gave each other great blows. At once they all joined in a melee, one against another, all so confused and with such terrible blows that it was a great marvel to see it, and if some of the women fell upon the ground, so did some of the cavaliers. And if this history does not tell in extent which of them fell, and by what blow of each, showing the great force and courage of the combatants, it is because their number was so great, and they fell so thick, one upon another, that that great master, Helisabat, who saw and described the scene, could not determine what in particular passed in these exploits, except in a few very rare affairs, like this of the Queen and Norandel, who both joined fight as you have heard."
It is to the great master Helisabat that a grateful posterity owes all these narratives and the uncounted host of romances which grew from them. For, in the first place, he was the skilful leech who cured all the wounds of all the parties of distinction who were not intended to die; and in the second place, his notes furnish the memoires pour servir, of which all the writers say they availed themselves. The originals, alas! are lost.
"The tumult was so great, that at once the battle between these two was ended, those on each side coming to the aid of their chief. Then, I tell you, that the things that this Queen did in arms, like slaying knights, or throwing them wounded from their horses, as she pressed audaciously forward among her enemies, were such, that it cannot be told nor believed that any woman has ever shown such prowess.
"And as she dealt with so many noble knights, and no one of them left her without giving her many and heavy blows, yet she received them all upon her very strong and hard shield.
"When Talanque and Maneli saw what this woman was doing, and the great loss which those of their own party were receiving from her, they rushed out upon her, and struck her with such blows as if they considered her possessed. And her sister, who was named Liota, who saw this, rushed in, like a mad lioness, to her succor, and pressed the knights so mortally, that, to the loss of their honor, she drew Calafia from their power, and placed her among her own troops again. And at this time you would have said that the people of the fleets had the advantage, so that, if it had not been for the mercy of God and the great force of the Count Frandalo and his companions, the city would have been wholly lost. Many fell dead on both sides, but many more of the Pagans, because they had the weaker armor.
"Thus," continues the romance, "as you have heard, went on this attack and cruel battle till nearly night. At this time there was no one of the gates open, excepting that which Norandel guarded. As to the others, the knights, having been withdrawn from them, ought, of course, to have bolted them; yet it was very different, as I will tell you. For, as the two Sultans greatly desired to see these women fight, they had bidden their own people not to enter into the lists. But when they saw how the day was going, they pressed upon the Christians so fiercely that gradually they might all enter into the city, and, as it was, more than a hundred men and women did enter. And God, who guided the Emperor, having directed him to keep the other gates shut, knowing in what way the battle fared, he pressed them so hardly with his knights, that, killing some, he drove the others out. Then the Pagans lost many of their people, as they slew them from the towers,—more than two hundred of the women being slain. And those within also were not without great loss, since ten of the cruzados were killed, which gave great grief to their companions. These were Ledaderin de Fajarque, Trion and Imosil de Borgona, and the two sons of Isanjo. All the people of the city having returned, as I tell you, the Pagans also retired to their camps, and the Queen Calafia to her fleet, since she had not yet taken quarters on shore. And the other people entered into their ships; so that there was no more fighting that day."
I have translated this passage at length, because it gives the reader an idea of the romantic literature of that day,—literally its only literature, excepting books of theology or of devotion. Over acres of such reading, served out in large folios,—the yellow-covered novels of their time,—did the Pizarros and Balboas and Corteses and other young blades while away the weary hours of their camp-life. Glad enough was Cortes out of such a tale to get the noble name of his great discovery.
The romance now proceeds to bring the different princes of chivalry from the West, as it has brought Calafia from the East. As soon as Amadis arrives at Constantinople, he sends for his son Esplandian, who was already in alliance with the Emperor of Greece. The Pagan Sultan of Liquia, and the Queen Calafia, hearing of their arrival, send them the following challenge:—
"Radiaro, Sultan of Liquia, shield and rampart of the Pagan Law, destroyer of Christians, cruel enemy of the enemies of the Gods, and the very Mighty Queen Calafia, Lady of the great island of California, famous for its great abundance of gold and precious stones: we have to announce to you, Amadis of Gaul, King of Great Britain, and you his son, Knight of the Great Serpent, that we are come into these parts with the intention of destroying this city of Constantinople, on account of the injury and loss which the much honored King Amato of Persia, our cousin and friend, has received from this bad Emperor, giving him favor and aid, because a part of his territory has been taken away from him by fraud. And as our desire in this thing is also to gain glory and fame in it, so also has fortune treated us favorably in that regard, for we know the great news, which has gone through all the world, of your great chivalry. We have agreed, therefore, if it is agreeable to you, or if your might is sufficient for it, to attempt a battle of our persons against yours in presence of this great company of the nations, the conquered to submit to the will of the conquerors, or to go to any place where they may order. And if you refuse this, we shall be able, with much cause, to join all your past glories to our own, counting them as being gained by us, whence it will clearly be seen in the future how the victory will be on our side."
This challenge was taken to the Christian camp by a black and beautiful damsel, richly attired, and was discussed there in council. Amadis put an end to the discussion by saying,—
"'My good lords, as the affairs of men, like those of nations, are in the hands and will of God, whence no one can escape but as He wills, if we should in any way withdraw from this demand, it would give great courage to our enemies, and, more than this, great injury to our honor; especially so in this country, where we are strangers, and no one has seen what our power is, which in our own land is notorious, so that, while there we may be esteemed for courage, here we should be judged the greatest of cowards. Thus, placing confidence in the mercy of the Lord, I determine that the battle shall take place without delay.'
"'If this is your wish,' said King Lisuarte and King Perion, 'so may it be, and may God help you with His grace!'
"Then the King Amadis said to the damsel,—
"'Friend, tell your lord and the Queen Calafia that we desire the battle with those arms that are most agreeable to them; that the field shall be this field, divided in the middle,—I giving my word that for nothing which may happen will we be succored by our own. And let them give the same order to their own; and if they wish the battle now, now it shall be.'
"The damsel departed with this reply, which she repeated to those two princes. And the Queen Calafia asked her how the Christians appeared.
"'Very nobly,' replied she, 'for they are all handsome and well armed. Yet I tell you, Queen, that, among them, this Knight of the Serpent [Esplandian, son of Amadis] is such as neither the past nor the present, nor, I believe, any who are to come, have ever seen one so handsome and so elegant, nor will see in the days which are to be. O Queen, what shall I say to you, but that, if he were of our faith, we might believe that our Gods had made him with their own hands, with all their power and wisdom, so that he lacks in nothing?'
"The Queen, who heard her, said,—
"'Damsel, my friend, your words are too great.'
"'It is not so,' said she; 'for, excepting the sight of him, there is nothing else which can give account of his great excellence.'
"'Then I say to you,' said the Queen, 'that I will not fight with such a man until I have first seen and talked with him; and I make this request to the Sultan, that he will gratify me in this thing, and arrange that I may see him.'
"The Sultan said,—
"'I will do everything, O Queen, agreeably to your wish.'
"'Then,' said the damsel, 'I will go and obtain that which you ask for, according to your desire.'
"And turning her horse, she approached the camp again, so that all thought that she brought the agreement for the battle. But as she approached, she called the Kings to the door of the tent, and said,—
"'King Amadis, the Queen Calafia demands of you that you give order for her safe conduct, that she may come to-morrow morning and see your son.'
"Amadis began to laugh, and said to the Kings,—
"'How does this demand seem to you?'
"'I say, let her come,' said King Lisuarte; 'it is a very good thing to see the most distinguished woman in the world.'
"'Take this for your reply,' said Amadis to the damsel; 'and say that she shall be treated with all truth and honor.'
"The damsel, having received this message, returned with great pleasure to the Queen, and told her what it was. The Queen said to the Sultan,—
"'Wait and prosper, then, till I have seen him; and charge your people that in the mean time there may be no outbreak.'
"'Of that,' he said, 'you may be secure.'
"At once she returned to her ships; and she spent the whole night thinking whether she would go with arms or without them. But at last she determined that it would be more dignified to go in the dress of a woman. And when the morning came, she rose and directed them to bring one of her dresses, all of gold, with many precious stones, and a turban wrought with great art. It had a volume of many folds, in the manner of a toca, and she placed it upon her head as if it had been a hood [capellina]; it was all of gold, embroidered with stones of great value. They brought out an animal which she rode, the strangest that ever was seen. It had ears as large as two shields; a broad forehead which had but one eye, like a mirror; the openings of its nostrils were very large, but its nose was short and blunt. From its mouth turned up two tusks, each of them two palms long. Its color was yellow, and it had many violet spots upon its skin, like an ounce. It was larger than a dromedary, had its feet cleft like those of an ox, and ran as swiftly as the wind, and skipped over the rocks as lightly, and held itself erect on any part of them, as do the mountain-goats. Its food was dates and figs and peas, and nothing else. Its flank and haunches and breast were very beautiful. On this animal, of which you have thus heard, mounted this beautiful Queen, and there rode behind her two thousand women of her train, dressed in the very richest clothes. There brought up the rear twenty damsels clothed in uniform, the trains of whose dresses extended so far, that, falling from each beast, they dragged four fathoms on the ground.
"With this equipment and ornament the Queen proceeded to the Emperor's camp, where she saw all the Kings, who had come out upon the plain. They had seated themselves on very rich chairs, upon cloth of gold, and they themselves were armed, because they had not much confidence in the promises of the Pagans. So they sallied out to receive her at the door of the tent, where she was dismounted into the arms of Don Quadragante; and the two Kings, Lisuarte and Perion, took her by the hands, and placed her between them in a chair. When she was seated, looking from one side to the other, she saw Esplandian next to King Lisuarte, who held him by the hand; and from the superiority of his beauty to that of all the others, she knew at once who he was, and said to herself, 'Oh, my Gods! what is this? I declare to you, I have never seen any one who can be compared to him, nor shall I ever see any one.' And he turning his beautiful eyes upon her beautiful face, she perceived that the rays which leaped out from his resplendent beauty, entering in at her eyes, penetrated to her heart in such a way, that, if she were not conquered yet by the great force of arms, or by the great attacks of her enemies, she was softened and broken by that sight and by her amorous passion, as if she had passed between mallets of iron. And as she saw this, she reflected, that, if she stayed longer, the great fame which she had acquired as a manly cavalier, by so many dangers and labors, would be greatly hazarded. She saw that by any delay she should expose herself to the risk of dishonor, by being turned to that native softness which women of nature consider to be an ornament; and therefore resisting, with great pain, the feelings which she had subjected to her will, she rose from her seat and said,—
"'Knight of the Great Serpent, for two excellences which distinguish you above all mortals I have made inquiry. The first, that of your great beauty, which, if one has not seen, no relation is enough to tell the greatness of; the other, the valor and force of your brave heart. The one of these I have seen, which is such as I have never seen nor could hope to see, though many years of searching should be granted me. The other shall be made manifest on the field, against this valiant Radiaro, Sultan of Liquia. Mine shall be shown against this mighty king your father; and if fortune grant that we come alive from this battle, as we hope to come from other battles, then I will talk with you, before I return to my home, of some things of my own affairs.'
"Then, turning towards the Kings, she said to them,—
"'Kings, rest in good health. I go hence to that place where you shall see me with very different dress from this which I now wear, hoping that in that field the King Amadis, who trusts in fickle fortune that he may never be conquered by any knight, however valiant, nor by any beast, however terrible, may there be conquered by a woman.'
"Then taking the two older Kings by the hand, she permitted them to help her mount upon her strange steed."
At this point the novel assumes a tone of high virtue (virtus, mannishness, prejudice of the more brutal sex) on the subject of woman's rights, in especial of woman's right to fight in the field with gold armor, lance in rest, and casque closed. We will show the reader, as she follows us, how careful she must be, if, in any island of the sea which has been slipped by unknown by the last five centuries, she ever happen to meet a cavalier of the true school of chivalry.
Esplandian himself would not in any way salute the Queen Calafia, as she left him. Nor was this a copperhead prejudice of color; for that prejudice was not yet known.
"He made no reply to her, both because he looked at her as something strange, however beautiful she appeared to him, and because he saw her come thus in arms, so different from the style in which a woman should have come. For he considered it as very dishonorable that she should attempt anything so different from what the word of God commanded her, that the woman should be in subjection to the man, but rather should prefer to be the ruler of all men, not by her courtesy, but by force of arms, and, above all, because he hated to place himself in relations with her, because she was one of the infidels, whom he mortally despised and had taken a vow to destroy."
The romance then goes into an account of the preparations for the contest on both sides.
After all the preliminaries were arranged, "they separated for a little and rode together furiously in full career. The Sultan struck Esplandian in the shield with so hard a blow that a part of the lance passed through it for as much as an ell, so that all who saw it thought that it had passed through the body. But it was not so, but the lance passed under the arm next the body, and went out on the other side without touching him. But Esplandian, who knew that his much-loved lady was looking on, [Leonorina, the daughter of the Emperor of Constantinople,] so struck the Sultan's shield, that the iron passed through it and struck him on some of the strongest plates of his armor, upon which the spear turned. But, with the force of the encounter, it shook him so roughly from the saddle that it rolled him upon the ground, and so shook the helmet as to tear it off from his head, and thus Esplandian passed by him very handsomely, without receiving any stroke himself. The Queen rushed upon Amadis, and he upon her, and, before they met, each pointed lance at the other, and they received the blows upon their shields in such guise, that her spear flew in pieces, while that of Amadis slipped off and was thrown on one side. Then they both met, shield to shield, with such force that the Queen was thrown upon the ground, and the horse of Amadis was so wounded that he fell with his head cut in two, and held Amadis with one leg under him. When Esplandian saw this, he leaped from his horse and saved him from that peril. Meanwhile, the Queen, being put to her defence, put hand to her sword, and joined herself to the Sultan, who had raised himself with great difficulty, because his fall was very heavy, and stood there with his sword and helmet in his hand. They came on to fight very bravely, but Esplandian, standing, as I told you, in presence of the Infanta, whom he prized so much, gave the Sultan such hard pressure with such heavy blows, that, although he was one of the bravest knights of the Pagans, and by his own prowess had won many dangerous battles, and was very dexterous in that art, yet all this served him for nothing; he could neither give nor parry blows, and constantly lost ground. The Queen, who had joined fight with Amadis, began giving him many fierce blows, some of which he received upon his shield, while he let others be lost; yet he would not put his hand upon his sword, but, instead of that, took a fragment of the lance which she had driven through his shield, and struck her on the top of the helmet with it, so that in a little while he had knocked the crest away."
We warned those of our fair readers who may have occasion to defend their rights at the point of the lance, that the days of chivalry or the cavaliers of chivalry will be very unhandsome in applying to them the rules of the tourney. Amadis, it will be observed here, does not condescend to use his sword against a woman. And this is not from tenderness, but from contempt. For when the Queen saw that he only took the broken truncheon of his lance to her, she fairly asked him why.
"'How is this, Amadis?' she said; 'do you consider my force so slight that you think to conquer me with sticks?'
"And he said to her,—
"'Queen, I have always been in the habit of serving women and aiding them; and as you are a woman, if I should use any weapon against you, I should deserve to lose all the honors I have ever gained.'
"'What, then!' said the Queen, 'do you rank me among them? You shall see!'
"And taking her sword in both her hands, she struck him with great rage. Amadis raised his shield and received the blow upon it, which was so brave and strong that the shield was cut in two. Then, seeing her joined to him so closely, he passed the stick into his left hand, seized her by the rim of her shield, and pulled her so forcibly, that, breaking the great thongs by which she held upon it, he took it from her, lifting it up in one hand, and forced her to kneel with one knee on the ground; and when she lightly sprang up, Amadis threw away his own shield, and, seizing the other, took the stick and sprang to her, saying,—
"'Queen, yield yourself my prisoner, now that your Sultan is conquered.'
"She turned her head, and saw that Esplandian had the Sultan already surrendered as his prize. But she said, 'Let me try fortune yet one more turn'; and then, raising her sword with both her hands, she struck upon the crest of his helmet, thinking she could cut it and his head in two. But Amadis warded the blow very lightly and turned it off, and struck her so heavy a stroke with that fragment of the lance upon the crest of her helmet, that he stunned her and made her sword fall from her hands. Amadis seized the sword, and, when she was thus disarmed, caught at her helmet so strongly that he dragged it from her head, and said,—
"'Now are you my prisoner?'
"'Yes,' replied she; 'for there is nothing left for me to do.'
"At this moment Esplandian came to them with the Sultan, who had surrendered himself, and, in sight of all the army, they repaired to the royal encampment, where they were received with great pleasure, not only on account of the great victory in battle, which, after the great deeds in arms which they had wrought before, as this history has shown, they did not regard as very remarkable, but because they took this success as a good omen for the future. The King Amadis asked the Count Gandalin to lead their prisoners to the Infanta Leonorina, in his behalf and that of his son Esplandian, and to say to her that he begged her to do honor to the Sultan, because he was so great a prince and so strong a knight, and, withal, very noble; and to do honor to the Queen, because she was a woman; and to say that he trusted in God that thus they should send to her all those whom they took captive alive in the battles which awaited them.
"The Count took them in charge, and, as the city was very near, they soon arrived at the palace. Then, coming into the presence of the Infanta, he delivered to her the prisoners, and gave the message with which he was intrusted. The Infanta replied to him,—
"'Tell King Amadis that I thank him greatly for this present which he sends me,—that I am sure that the good fortune and great courage which appear in this adventure will appear in those which await us,—and that we are very desirous to see him here, that, when we discharge our obligation to his son, we may have him as a judge between us.'
"The Count kissed her hand, and returned to the royal camp. Then the Infanta sent to the Empress, her mother, for a rich robe and head-dress, and, having disarmed the Queen, made her array herself in them; and she did the same for the Sultan, having sent for other robes from the Emperor, her father, and having dressed their wounds with certain preparations made by Master Helisabat. Then the Queen, though of so great fortune, was much astonished to see the great beauty of Leonorina, and said,—
"'I tell you, Infanta, that in the same measure in which I was astonished to see the beauty of your cavalier, Esplandian, am I now overwhelmed, beholding yours. If your deeds correspond to your appearance, I hold it no dishonor to be your prisoner.'
"'Queen,' said the Infanta, 'I hope the God in whom I trust will so direct events that I shall be able to fulfil every obligation which conquerors acknowledge toward those who submit to them.'"
With this chivalrous little conversation the Queen of California disappears from the romance, and consequently from all written history, till the very denouement of the whole story, where, when the rest is "wound up," she is wound up also, to be set a-going again in her own land of California. And if the chroniclers of California find no records of her in any of the griffin caves of the Black Canon, it is not our fault, but theirs. Or, possibly, did she and her party suffer shipwreck on the return passage from Constantinople to the Golden Gate? Their probable route must have been through the AEgean, over Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon to the Euphrates, ("I will sail a fleet over the Alps," said Cromwell,) down Chesney's route to the Persian Gulf, and so home.
After the Sultan and the Queen are taken prisoners, there are reams of terrific fighting, in which King Lisuarte and King Perion and a great many other people are killed; but finally the "Pagans" are all routed, and the Emperor of Greece retires into a monastery, having united Esplandian with his daughter Leonorina, and abdicated the throne in their favor. Among the first acts of their new administration is the disposal of Calafia.
"As soon as the Queen Calafia saw these nuptials, having no more hope of him whom she so much loved, [Esplandian,] for a moment her courage left her; and coming before the new Emperor and these great lords, she thus spoke to them:—
"'I am a queen of a great kingdom, in which there is the greatest abundance of all that is most valued in the world, such as gold and precious stones. My lineage is very old,—for it comes from royal blood so far back that there is no memory of the beginnings of it,—and my honor is as perfect as it was at my birth. My fortune has brought me into these countries, whence I hoped to bring away many captives, but where I am myself a captive. I do not say of this captivity in which you see me, that, after all the great experiences of my life, favorable and adverse, I had believed that I was strong enough to parry the thrusts of fortune; but I have found that my heart was tried and afflicted in my imprisonment, because the great beauty of this new Emperor overwhelmed me in the moment that my eyes looked upon him. I trusted in my greatness, and that immense wealth which excites and unites so many, that, if I would turn to your religion, I might gain him for a husband; but when I came into the presence of this lovely Empress, I regarded it as certain that they belonged to each other by their equal rank; and that argument, which showed the vanity of my thoughts, brought me to the determination in which I now stand. And since Eternal Fortune has taken the direction of my passion, I, throwing all my own strength into oblivion, as the wise do in those affairs which have no remedy, seek, if it please you, to take for my husband some other man, who may be the son of a king, to be of such power as a good knight ought to have; and I will become a Christian. For, as I have seen the ordered order of your religion, and the great disorder of all others, I have seen that it is clear that the law which you follow must be the truth, while that which we follow is lying and falsehood.'
"When the Emperor had heard all this, embracing her with a smile, he said, 'Queen Calafia, my good friend, till now you have had from me neither word nor argument; for my condition is such that I cannot permit my eyes to look, without terrible hatred, upon any but those who are in the holy law of truth, nor wish well to such as are out of it. But now that the Omnipotent Lord has had such mercy on you as to give you such knowledge that you become His servant, you excite in me at once the same love as if the King, my father, had begotten us both. And as for this you ask, I will give you, by my troth, a knight who is even more complete in valor and in lineage than you have demanded.'
"Then, taking by the hand Talanque, his cousin, the son of the King of Sobradisa,—very large he was of person, and very handsome withal,—he said,—
"'Queen, here you see one of my cousins, son of the King whom you here see,—the brother of the King my father,—take him to yourself, that I may secure to you the good fortune which you will bring to him.'
"The Queen looked at him, and finding his appearance good, said,—
"'I am content with his presence, and well satisfied with his lineage and person, since you assure me of them. Be pleased to summon for me Liota, my sister, who is with my fleet in the harbor, that I may send orders to her that there shall be no movement among my people.'
"The Emperor sent the Admiral Tartarie for her immediately, and he, having found her, brought her with him, and placed her before the Emperor. The Queen Calafia told her all her wish, commanding her and entreating her to confirm it. Her sister, Liota, kneeling upon the ground, kissed her hands, and said that there was no reason why she should make any explanation of her will to those who were in her service. The Queen raised her and embraced her, with the tears in her eyes, and led her by the hand to Talanque, saying,—
"'Thou shalt be my lord, and the lord of my land, which is a very great kingdom; and, for thy sake, this island shall change the custom which for a very long time it has preserved, so that the natural generations of men and women shall succeed henceforth, in place of the order in which the men have been separated so long. And if you have here any friend whom you greatly love, who is of the same rank with you, let him be betrothed to my sister here, and no long time shall pass, before, with thy help, she shall be queen of a great land.'
"Talanque greatly loved Maneli the Prudent, both because they were brothers by birth and because they held the same faith. He led him forth, and said to her,—
"'My Queen, since the Emperor, my lord, loves this knight as much as he loves me, and as much as I love thee, take him, and do with him as you would do by me.'
"'Then, I ask,' said she, 'that we, accepting your religion, may become your wives.'
"Then the Emperor Esplandian and the several Kings, seeing their wishes thus confirmed, took the Queen and her sister to the chapel, turned them into Christians, and espoused them to those two so famous knights,—and thus they converted all who were in the fleet. And immediately they gave order, so that Talanque, taking the fleet of Don Galaor, his father, and Maneli that of King Cildadan, with all their people, garnished and furnished with all things necessary, set sail with their wives, plighting their faith to the Emperor, that, if he should need any help from them, they would give it as to their own brother.
"What happened to them afterwards, I must be excused from telling; for they passed through many very strange achievements of the greatest valor, they fought many battles, and gained many kingdoms, of which if we should give the story, there would be danger that we should never have done."
With this tantalizing statement, California and the Queen of California pass from romance and from history. But, some twenty-five years after these words were written and published by Garcia Ordonez de Montalvo, Cortes and his braves happened upon the peninsula, which they thought an island, which stretches down between the Gulf of California and the sea. This romance of Esplandian was the yellow-covered novel of their day; Talanque and Maneli were their Aramis and Athos. "Come," said some one, "let us name the new island California: perhaps some one will find gold here yet, and precious stones." And so, from the romance, the peninsula, and the gulf, and afterwards the State, got their name. And they have rewarded the romance by giving to it in these later days the fame of being godmother of a great republic.
The antiquarians of California have universally, we believe, recognized this as the origin of her name, since Mr. Hale called attention to this rare romance. As, even now, there are not perhaps half a dozen copies of it in America, we have transferred to our pages every word which belongs to that primeval history of California and her Queen.
THE BROTHER OF MERCY.
Piero Luca, known of all the town As the gray porter by the Pitti wall Where the noon shadows of the gardens fall, Sick and in dolor, waited to lay down His last sad burden, and beside his mat The barefoot monk of La Certosa sat.
Unseen, in square and blossoming garden drifted, Soft sunset lights through green Val d'Arno sifted; Unheard, below the living shuttles shifted Backward and forth, and wove, in love or strife, In mirth or pain, the mottled web of life: But when at last came upward from the street Tinkle of bell and tread of measured feet, The sick man started, strove to rise in vain, Sinking back heavily with a moan of pain. And the monk said, "'T is but the Brotherhood Of Mercy going on some errand good: Their black masks by the palace-wall I see."— Piero answered faintly, "Woe is me! This day for the first time in forty years In vain the bell hath sounded in my ears, Calling me with my brethren of the mask, Beggar and prince alike, to some new task Of love or pity,—haply from the street To bear a wretch plague-stricken, or, with feet Hushed to the quickened ear and feverish brain, To tread the crowded lazaretto's floors, Down the long twilight of the corridors, 'Midst tossing arms and faces full of pain. I loved the work: it was its own reward. I never counted on it to offset My sins, which are many, or make less my debt To the free grace and mercy of our Lord; But somehow, father, it has come to be In these long years so much a part of me, I should not know myself, if lacking it, But with the work the worker too would die, And in my place some other self would sit Joyful or sad,—what matters, if not I? And now all's over. Woe is me!"—"My son," The monk said soothingly, "thy work is done; And no more as a servant, but the guest Of God thou enterest thy eternal rest. No toil, no tears, no sorrow for the lost Shall mar thy perfect bliss. Thou shalt sit down Clad in white robes, and wear a golden crown Forever and forever."—Piero tossed On his sick pillow: "Miserable me! I am too poor for such grand company; The crown would be too heavy for this gray Old head; and God forgive me, if I say It would be hard to sit there night and day, Like an image in the Tribune, doing nought With these hard hands, that all my life have wrought, Not for bread only, but for pity's sake. I'm dull at prayers: I could not keep awake, Counting my beads. Mine's but a crazy head, Scarce worth the saving, if all else be dead. And if one goes to heaven without a heart, God knows he leaves behind his better part. I love my fellow-men; the worst I know I would do good to. Will death change me so That I shall sit among the lazy saints, Turning a deaf ear to the sore complaints Of souls that suffer? Why, I never yet Left a poor dog in the strada hard beset, Or ass o'erladen! Must I rate man less Than dog or ass, in holy selfishness? Methinks (Lord, pardon, if the thought be sin!) The world of pain were better, if therein One's heart might still be human, and desires Of natural pity drop upon its fires Some cooling tears." Thereat the pale monk crossed His brow, and muttering, "Madman! thou art lost!" Took up his pyx and fled; and, left alone, The sick man closed his eyes with a great groan That sank into a prayer, "Thy will be done!"
Then was he made aware, by soul or ear, Of somewhat pure and holy bending o'er him, And of a voice like that of her who bore him, Tender and most compassionate: "Be of cheer! For heaven is love, as God himself is love; Thy work below shall be thy work above." And when he looked, lo! in the stern monk's place He saw the shining of an angel's face!
AMBASSADORS IN BONDS.
Mr. Deane walked into church on Easter Sunday, followed by a trophy. This trophy had once been a chattel, but was now, as Mr. Deane assured him, a man. Scarcely a shade darker than Mr. Deane himself as to complexion, in figure quite as prepossessing, in bearing not less erect, he passed up the north aisle of St. Peter's to the square pew of the most influential of the wardens, who was also the first man of the Church Musical Committee.
The old church was beautiful with its floral decorations on this festival. The altar shone with sacramental silver, and rare was the music that quickened the hearts of the great congregation to harmonious tunefulness. The boys in their choral, Miss Ives in her solos, above all, the organist, in voluntary, prelude, and accompaniment, how glorious! If a soul in the church escaped thankfulness in presence of those flowers, in hearing of that music, I know not by what force it could have been conducted that bright morning to the feet of Love. It was "a day of days."
To the trophy of Deane this scene must have been strangely new. No doubt, he had before now sat in a church, a decorated church, a church where music had much to do with the service. But never under such circumstances had he stood, sat, knelt, taking part in the worship, a man among men. Of this Mr. Deane was thinking; and his brain, not very imaginative, was taxed to conceive the conception of freedom a man must obtain under precisely these circumstances.
But the man in question was thinking thoughts as widely diverse from these attributed to him as one could easily imagine. Of himself, and his position, scarcely at all. And when he thought, he smiled; but the gravity, the abstraction into which he repeatedly lapsed, seemed to say for him that freedom was to him more than he knew what to do with. No volubility of joy, no laughter, no manifested exultation in deliverance from bondage: 't was a rare case; must one believe his eyes?
Probably the constraint of habit was upon the fugitive, the contraband. Homesickness in spite of him, it might be. Oh, surely freedom was not bare to him as a winter-rifled tree? Not a bud of promise swelling along the dreary waste of tortuous branches? Possibly some ties had been ruptured in making his escape, which must be knit again before he could enter into the joy he had so fairly won. For you and me it would hardly be perfect happiness to feast at great men's tables, while the faces we love best, the dear, the sacred faces, grow gaunt from starvation.
Mr. Deane took to himself some glory in consequence of his late achievements. He was a practical man, and his theories were now being put to a test that gave him some proud satisfaction. The attitude he assumed not many hours ago in reference to the organist has added to his consciousness of weight, and to-day he has taken as little pleasure as became him in the choir's performance. Now and then a strain besieged him, but none could carry that stout heart, or overthrow that nature, the wonder of pachydermata. Generally through the choral service he retained his seat; a significant glance now and then, that involved the man beside him, was the only evidence he gave that the music much impressed him; but this evidence, to one who should understand, was all-sufficient.
Meanwhile the object of these glances sat apparently lost in vacuity, or patiently waiting the end of the services,—when all at once, during the hymn, he sprang to his feet; at the same moment two or three beside him felt as if they had experienced an electric shock. What was it? A voice joined the soprano singer in one single strain, brief as the best joy, but also as decisive. Ninety-nine hundredths of the congregation never heard it, and the majority of those that did could hardly have felt assured of the hearing; there were, in fact, but three persons among them all who were absolutely certain of their ears. One was this contraband; another an artist who stood at the foot of one of the aisles, leaning against a great stone pillar; the third was, of course, Sybella Ives.
She, the soprano, sang from that moment in a seeming rapture. The artist listened in a sort of maze,—interpreting aright what he had heard, disappointed at its brevity, but waiting on in a kind of wonder through canticle, hymn, and gloria, in a deep abasement that had struck the singer dumb, could she above there have known what was going on here below.
When the singing was over he went away as he had purposed, but it was only to the steps of the church. There he sat until he heard a stir within announcing that the services were ended, when he walked away. But the first person who had heard and understood that voice heard nothing after. He was continually waiting for it, but he had no further sign. Once his attention was for a moment turned towards the preacher, who was dwelling on St. Paul's allusion to himself as an ambassador in bonds; he looked at that instant towards Mr. Deane, who, it happened, was at the same moment gazing uneasily at him. After that his eyes did not wander any more, and from his impassive face it was impossible to discover what his thoughts might be.
To go back now a day or two.
A pleasant sound of young voices, that became subdued as the children passed from street to church-yard, rose from the shadowy elm-walk and floated up through the branches towards the window of the organist, who seemed to have been waiting some such summons, for she now threw aside the manuscript music she had been studying, arrayed herself in her shawl, threw a scarf around her head, and looked at the clock. Straight she gazed at it, a moment full, before she seemed instructed in the fact represented on the dial-plate, thinking still, most likely, of the score she had been revising. Some thought at least as profound, as unfathomable, and as immeasurable as was thereon represented, possessed her, as she now, with a glance around the room, retired from it.
With herself in the apartment it was another sort of place from what it looked when she had left it.
There were three pictures on the wall,—three, and no more. One was a copy of the lovely portraiture of Milton's musical inspired youth; the wonderful eyes, the "breezy hair," the impassioned purity of the countenance, looked down on the place where the musician might be found three-fourths of her waking hours, at her piano. In other parts of the room, opposite each other, were pictures of the Virgin ever-blessed! conquering, crowned.
In the first she stood with foot upon the Serpent, that lay coiled on the apex of the globe. She had crushed the Destroyer; the world was free of its monster. Beneath her shone the crescent moon, whose horns were sharp as swords. Rays of blessing, streaming from her hands, revealed the Mother of grace and of all benefaction.
Opposite, her apotheosis. A chariot of clouds was bearing her to her throne in heaven; the loving head was shining with a light that paled the stars above her; far down were the crags of earth, the fearful precipices that lead the weary and adventurous toiler to at last but narrow prospects. Far away now the conquered Devil, and the conquered world,—the foot was withdrawn from destructions,—the writhing of the Enemy was felt now no more.
The organist had bought these pictures for her wall when she had paid her first month's board in this her present abiding-place.
Towards the centre of the room stood her piano, an instrument of finest tone, whose incasing you would not be likely to admire or observe.
White matting covered the floor. Heaps of music were upon the table and the piano. There were few books to indicate the taste or studies of the owner beside these sheets and volumes of music, and they were everywhere. All that ever was written for organ or piano seemed to have found its way in at the door of that chamber.
On a pedestal in the window stood an orange-tree, whose blossoms filled the room with their bright, soft sweetness; a Parian vase held a bouquet of flowers, gathered, none could question whether for the woman whose room they decorated.
One window of this room looked out on a busy street, another into the church-yard, a third upon the sea: not so remote the sea but one could hear the breaking of its waves, and watch its changing glory.
Thus she had for "influences" the loneliness of the grave,—for the church-yard was filled with monuments of a past generation,—the solitude of the ocean, and the busy street. Was she so involved in duties, or in cares, as to be unmindful of all these diverse tongues that told their various story in that lofty and lonely apartment of the old stone house?
Into the church, equally old and gray, covered with ivy, shadowed even to the roof by the vast branching and venerable trees, she now went,—and was not too early. The boys were growing restless, though it needed but the sound of her coming to reduce them all to silence: when they saw her enter the church-door, they all went down quietly to their places, opened their books, and no one could mistake their aspect for constraint. Here was the bright, beautiful, enthusiasm and blissful confidence of youth.
A few words, and all were in working order. The organist touched the keys. Then a solemn softness, beautiful to see, overspread the young faces. It had never been otherwise since she began to teach them. If she controlled, it was not by exhibition of authority.
At that word, with one consent, the voices struck the first notes of the carol,—
"Let the merry church-bells ring, Hence with tears and sighing; Frost and cold have fled from spring, Life hath conquered dying; Flowers are smiling, fields are gay, Sunny is the weather; With our rising Lord to-day All things rise together."
From strain to strain they bore it along till the old church was glad. How must the birds in the nests of the great elm-branches have rejoiced! And the ivy-vines, did they not cling more closely to the gray stone walls, as if they, too, had something at stake in the music? for they were the children of the church who sang those strains. Among the wonder-working little company within there was no loitering, no laughing, no twitching of coat-sleeves on the sly, no malicious interruptions: all were alert, earnest, conscientious. They sang with a zeal that brought smiles to the face of the organist.
Two or three songs, carols, anthems, and the lesson was over. Now for the reward. It came promptly, and was worth more than the gifts of others.
"You have all done excellently well. I knew you would. If I had found myself mistaken, it would have been a great disappointment. 'T is a great thing to be able to sing such verses as if you were eye-witnesses of what you repeat. That is precisely what you do. Now you may go. Go quietly."
She looked at them all as she spoke; it was a broad, comprehensive glance, but they all felt individualized by it. Then they came, the six lads, with their bright, handsome faces, pride of a mother's heart every one, and took her hand, and carried away, each one, her kiss upon his forehead. Not one of them but had been blest beyond expression in the few half-hours they had been gathered under the instruction of the organist. So they went off, carrying her precious praise with them.
They had scarcely gone, and the organist was yet searching for a sheet of music, when a step was in the aisle, noiseless, rapid, and a young girl came into the singers' seat.
"Am I too early?" she asked,—for her welcome was not immediate, and her courtesy was not just now of the quality that overlooked a seeming lack of it in others. Miss Ives was slightly out of tune.
"Not at all," was the answer. Still it was spoken in a very preoccupied way that might have been provoking,—that would depend on the mood of the person addressed; and that mood, as we know, was not sun-clear or marble-smooth. The organist had now found the music she was looking for, and proceeded to play it from the first page to the last, without vouchsafing an instant's recognition of the singer's presence.
When she had finished, she sat a moment silent; then she turned straight toward Miss Ives, and smiled, and it was a smile that could atone for any amount of seeming incivility.
But not even David, by mere sweep of harp-string, soothed self-beleaguered Saul.
Teacher and pupil did not seem to understand each other as it was best such women should. For, let the swaying, surging hosts throughout the valley deliver themselves as they can from the confusion of tongues, the wanderers among the mountains ought to understand the signals they see flaring from crag and gorge and pinnacle.
Too many shadowy folds were in the mystery that hung about each of these women to satisfy the other: reticence too cold, independence too extreme, self-possession too entire. Why was neither summoned, in a frank, impulsive way, to take up the burden of the other? Was nothing ever to penetrate the seven-walled solitude in which the organist chose to intrench herself? Was nobody ever to bid roses bloom on the colorless face of the singer, and bring smiles, the veritable smiles of youth, and of happiness, into those large, steady, joyless eyes?
But now, while the organist played, and Sybella sat down, supposing she was not wanted yet, she found herself not withdrawn into the indifference she supposed. Presently far more was given than she either looked for or desired.
The music that was being played was indeed wonderful. This was not for the delight of children: no happy sprite with dancing feet could maintain this measure. It was music for the most advanced, enlightened intelligence,—for the soul that music had quickened to far depths,—for the heart that had suffered, triumphed, and gained the kingdom of calm,—for a wisdom riper even than Sybella's.
An audience of a hundred souls would infallibly have gabbled their way through the silence that would naturally gather round those tones. Put Sybella in the midst of such an audience, and you would understand her better than I hope now to make her understood; for the torture of the moment would have been of the quality that has demonstration.
As it was, she now sat silently, as silently as the organist sat in her place; but when all was over, she turned to look at the magician. Sybella had passed through fearful agitation in the beginning and throughout the greater part of the performance, but now she quietly said,—
"That is the one sole composition of its author."
"Why do you say so?" asked the organist, whom people in general called Miss Edgar.
"Because, of course, everything is in it,—I mean the best of everything that could be in one soul. If the composer wrote more, it was fragmentary and repetitious. If you played it, Miss Edgar, to put me in a better voice for singing than I had when I came in, I think you have succeeded. I can almost imagine how Jenny Lind felt, when her voice came back to her."
"We shall soon see that. I don't know that the music has ever been played on an organ before. But you see it is a rare production,—little known,—a book of the Law not read out of the sacred place. Let us try that prayer again. You will sing it differently to-day,—I see it in your face."
"Thou that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us!"
Something had happened to the voice that sang. Never had the organist heard such tones from it before; there was volume, depth, purity, such as had been unheard by those who thought they knew the quality and compass of Sybella's voice.
The organist could not forbear turning and looking at her as she sang. Great, evidently, was her emotion. This nature that had been in bonds manifestly had eschewed the bondage. Was the organist glad thereat? Whose praise would be on everybody's lips on Sunday, if Sybella sang like this? Are women and men generally pleased to hear the praises of a rival? You have had full hearing, generous, more than patient; do you feel a thrill of the old rapture, a kindling of the old enthusiasm, when you hear the praises of the young new-comer, who has reached you with a stride, and will pass you at a bound? Since this may be in human nature, say "Yes" to the catechist. For the organist returned to her duties with a brightened face, she touched the keys with new power. Then, again,—
"Thou that sittest at the right hand of God the Father!"
Had this girl the vision—"Not far from any one of us"?
"I thought so," said the organist. "You come forth at last. This is what I expected, when I overheard you instructing the children in the Sunday-school. Now all that is justified, but you have been a long while about it,—or I have. It seems the right chord wasn't struck. I made these adaptations on purpose for the voice I expected of you."
"Is not the arrangement a new one, Mrs. Edgar?" asked a voice from one of the aisles. "It is perfect."
"It is a new adaptation, Mr. Muir, and I think Miss Ives will hardly improve on her first rendering. It is getting late also. It is time to look at the hymn."
Mr. Muir, who was the rector of the church, now passed along the aisle until he was beyond the voices of the ladies in the choir, and then he stood, during the rehearsal of the Easter hymn,—
"Christ the Lord is risen to-day."
One repetition of these verses, and the rehearsal was at an end. Never was such before in that place. Never before in reality had organist of St. Peter's attempted so much. When the choir came together for an hour's practice, this would be understood. Miss Ives already understood it.
"Now indulge me," she said, "if I have been so fortunate as to satisfy—satisfy you."
In consequence of this request the organist kept her place till night had actually descended. Out of all oratorios, and from many an opera, she brought the immortal graces, and all conceivable renderings of passions, fears, and aspirations of men. At last, and as it seemed quite suddenly, she broke off, closed the organ-doors and locked them, then rose from her place.
A dark figure at the same moment passed up the aisle from the church to the vestry-room in the rear, and organist and singer left the church.
"I believe," said Sybella, as they went, venturing now, while aglow with the music, on what heretofore had been forbidden ground to her,—"I believe, if you would sing, I should be struck dumb, just as now, when you play, I feel as if I could do anything in song. Why do you never show me how a thing should be done by singing it? I've had teachers with voices hoarse as crows', who did it; and I profited, for I understood better what they meant. It seems to me to be the natural impulse, and I don't know how you control it; for of course you do control it."
That was a venture, felt in all its venturesomeness, answered not with encouragement.
"It is all nonsense," said Miss Edgar.
"I expected you to say so; but 't is a scant covering for the truth. For have I never heard you sing? When I was a little girl, my brothers and I were sent to some springs in the mountains. While we were there, one day a party of people came on horseback. They were very gay, and one of them sang. It has come back to me so often, that day! So still, bright, and cool! Did you ever hear singing in the Highland solitudes? When I sing my best, I always seem to hear that voice again. Do you think I never shall?"
"Do you think it possible that such an effect as you describe should be repeated? Evidently the outcome of some high-wrought, rapt state of your own, rather than the result of any singer's skill. It may happen you will never hear a voice like that again. But you may make far better melody yourself. If you like my organ-music, don't ask me for better. A little instrumental performance is all I have to give."
"But," said Sybella, holding to the point with a persistence that showed she would not be lightly baffled, "her face haunted me, too. And I have seen it since then,—engraved, I am sure. Sometimes, when I look at you suddenly, I seem to take hold upon my childhood again."
They had passed from the yard, and walked, neither of them knew exactly whither; but now said the organist abruptly,—
"Why have you never shown me where you live?"
A light that had warmth in it flashed over the pale face of Sybella.
"I will show you now," she said.
And so they walked on together, with a distinct aim,—Sybella the guide. She seemed tranquilly happy at this moment, and fain would she lay her heart in the hand of the organist; for a great trust had composed the heart that long since withdrew its riches from the world, and hid them for the coming of one who should take usury. How long he was in coming! how strangely long! rare worldliness! almost it seemed that now she would wait no longer, for the gold must be given away.
"Why do you sing, Sybella?" asked Miss Edgar, as they went.
"Why did I stop singing?" asked the young lady in turn; this stiff, shy, proud creature, what flame might one soon see flaring out of those blue eyes!
"I knew there had been a break,—that there must have been."
"For two years I did nothing but wait in silence."
"What,—for the voice to come back? overwork? paying a penalty?"
"No,—not the penalty of overwork, at least. I lost everything in a moment. That was penalty, perhaps, for having risked everything. I have only recently been getting back a little: no, getting back nothing,—but some new life, out of a new world, I think. A different world from what I ever thought to inhabit. New to me as the earth was to Noah after the Flood. He couldn't turn a spade but he laid open graves, nor pull a flower but it broke his heart. I should never have been in the church-choir but for you. Of that I am satisfied. When you came and asked me, you saw, perhaps, that I was excited more than so slight a matter warranted. It was, indeed, a simple enough request. Not surprising that you should discover, one way or another, I could sing. And there was need enough of a singer with such an organist. But you never could guess what I went through after I had promised, till the Sunday came. You remember how astonished you were when I came into the choir. I was afraid you were going to excuse me from my part. But you at least understood something of it; you did not even ask if I were not ill. It seems a long time since then."
A little to the organist's surprise, it was into a broad and handsome street that Sybella now led the way, and before the door of a very handsome house she stopped.
"Will you not come in and discover where I live, and how? It will be too late in a moment for you to go back alone. I shall find somebody to attend you."
"In the ten months I have played the organ of St. Peter's Church I have not entered another person's dwelling than my own. I set aside a purpose that must still be rigidly held, for you. Possibly you may incur some danger in receiving me."
"Come in," said Sybella; and she led the way into the house. For one instant she had looked her surprise at Miss Edgar's last words, but not for half an instant did she look the hesitation such words might have occasioned.
The house into which they passed did not, in truth, look like one to suffer in. Walls lined with pictures, ceilings hung with costly chandeliers, floors covered with softest, finest carpets of most brilliant patterns, this seemed like a place for enjoyment, designed by happy hearts. It was: all this wealth, and elaboration of its evidences,—this covering of what might have looked like display by the careful veil of taste. But the house was the home of orphaned children,—of this girl, and three brothers, who were united in their love for Sybella, but on few other points. And curious was the revelation their love had. For they were worldly men, absorbed in various ways by the world, and Sybella lived alone here, as she said, though the house was the home of all; for one was now abroad, and one was in the army, and one was—who knew where?
In the drawing-room it was about the piano that the evidences of real life and actual enjoyment were gathered. Flowers filled a dozen vases grouped on tables, ornamenting brackets, flower-stands, and pedestals of various kinds. The grand piano seemed the base of a glowing and fragrant pyramid; and there, it was easy to see, musical studies by day and by night went on.
Straight toward the piano both ladies went.
"Now, for once," said the organist.
Sybella stood a moment doubting, then she turned to a book-rack and began to look over some loose sheets of music. Presently desisting, she came back. One steady purpose had been in her mind all the while. She now sat down and produced from the piano what the organist had astonished her by executing in the church. But it seemed a variation.
The work of a moment? an effort of memory? a wonderful recall of what she had just now heard? The organist did not imagine such a thing. There was, there could be, only one solution to anything so mysterious. She came nearer to Sybella; invisible arms of succor seemed flung about the girl, who played as she had never played before,—as weeping mortals smile, when they are safe in heaven.
When she had finished, many minutes passed before either spoke a word. At last Sybella said,—
"He told me there was no written copy of this thing he could secure for me, but that I must have it; so he wrote it from memory, and I elaborated the idea I had from his description, making some mistakes, I find. I am speaking," she added, with a resolution so determined that it had almost the sound of defiance,—"I am speaking of Adam von Gelhorn."
"When was this?"
"In our last days."
"He is dead, then?"
Whether the organist remained here after this, or if other words were added to these by the hostess or the guest, there is no report. But I can imagine that in such an hour, even between these two, little could be said. Yesterday I saw on a monument a little bird perched, quite content, and still, so far as song went, as the dead beneath him and around me. He was throbbing from far flight; silence and rest were all he could now endure. But by-and-by he shook his wings and was off again, and nobody that saw him could tell where in the sea of air the voyager found his last island of refreshment.
On Miss Edgar's return to her room, as she opened the door, a flood of fragrance rolled upon her. She put up her hand in hasty gesture, as if to rebuke or resist it, while a shade of displeasure crossed her face. On the piano lay a bouquet of flowers, richest in hue and fragrance that garden or hot-house knows. All the season's splendor seemed concentrated within those narrow bounds.
The gas was already burning from a single jet, which she approached without observing the unusual fact, for the organist was accustomed in this room herself to control light and darkness.
One glance only was needed to convince her through what avenue this flowery gift had come.
Such gifts were offerings of more than common significance. Their renewal at this day seemed to disturb the organist as she turned the bouquet slowly in her hand and perceived how the old arrangement had been adhered to, from passion-flower to camellia, whitest white lily, and most delicate of roses; moss and vine-tendril, jessamine, heliotrope, violet, ivy: it was a work of Art consummating that of Nature, and complete.
With the bouquet in her hand, she went and sat down at the window. It was easy to see, by the changes of countenance, that she was fast assuming the reins of a resolution. Would the door of the organist of St. Peter's never open but to guests ethereal as these? The question was somehow asked, and she could not choose but hear it.
If he who sent the gift had pondered it, no less did she. And for result, at an early hour the next morning, the lady who had lived her life in sovereign independence and an almost absolute solitude, week after week these many months here in H——, was on her way to the studio of Adam von Gelhorn.
As to the lady, what image has the reader conjured up to fancy? Any vision? She was the shadow of a woman. Rachel, in her last days, not more ethereal. Two pale-faced, blue-eyed women could not be more dissimilar than the organist and her soprano. For the organist plainly was herself, with merely an abatement, that might have risen from anxiety, work, or study; whatever her disturbance, she made no exhibition of it; it was always a tranquil face, and no storms or wrecks were discoverable in those deep blue eyes. What those few faint lines on her countenance might mean she does not choose you shall interpret; therefore attempt it not. But when you look at Sybella, it is sorrow you see; and she says as plainly as if you heard her voice,—
"I have come to the great state where I expect nothing and am content."
Yet content! Is it content you read in her face, in her smile? Is it satisfaction that can gaze out thus upon the world?
It is sorrow rather,—and sorrow, with a questioning thereat, that seems prophetic of an answer that shall yet overthrow all the grim deductions, and restore the early imaginings, pure hopes, desires, and loving aims.
You will choose to gaze rather after this shadowy vision of the fair, golden hair that lies tranquilly on the high and beautiful forehead; the face, pale as pallor itself, which seems to have no color, except in eyes and lips: the eyes so large and blue; the lips with their story of firm courage and true genius, so grand in calm. A figure, however, not likely to attract the many, but whom it held for once it held forever.
So the organist came to the room of Adam von Gelhorn.
She knew his working hours and habits, it seemed; at least, she did not fail to find him, and at work.
As she stepped forward into the apartment, before whose door she had paused a moment, no trace of embarrassment or of irresolution was to be seen in face, eye, or movement.
But the artist, who arose from his work, was taken by surprise.
The armor of the world did not suffice to protect him at this moment. He was at the mercy of the woman who was here.
"To thank you for the flowers, and to warn you that setting them in deserts is neither safe nor providential."
And now her eyes ran round the room,—a flash in which was sheathed a smile of satisfaction and of friendly pride. She had come here full of reproaches, but surely there was some enchantment against her.
"You will order a picture, perhaps?" said the artist, restored to at least an appearance of ease.
But his eyes did not follow hers. They stopped with her: with some misgiving, some doubt, some perplexity, for he knew not perfectly the ground on which he stood.
"You have been twice to see me, and both times have missed me," she said. "I was sorry for that. I did not know until then that you were living here."
"But what does it mean, that nobody in H—— has heard the voice yet? It has distracted me to think, perhaps, some harm has come to it."
"Let that fear rest. The voice has had its day. I left it behind me at Havre. Any repetition of what we used to imagine were triumphs in the wonderful Duesseldorf days would now seem absurd, to the painter of these pictures, as to me."
"They were triumphs! Besides, have you forgotten? Was it not in New York, in '58, that you imported the voice from Havre, left behind by mistake? What more could be asked than to inspire a town with enthusiasm, so that the dullest should feel the contagion? They were triumphs such as women have seldom achieved. If you disdain them, recollect that human nature is still the same, and all that I have done is under the inspiration of a voice that broke on me in Duesseldorf, and opened heaven. And people find some pleasure in my pictures."
"Well may they! You, also. You have kept that power separate from sinners, unless I mistake. If it be my music, or the face yonder, that has helped you, or something else, unconfessed, perhaps unknown, you can, I perceive, at least love Art worthily, and be constant. As for St. Peter's, and myself, I find the fine organ there quite enough, with the boys to train and Miss Sybella Ives to instruct. It isn't much I can do for her, though; she is already a great and wonderful artist."
"Is it possible you think so!"
Was it really wonder at the judgment she heard in that exclamation? The voice sounded void of all except wonder,—yet wonder, perhaps, least of all was paramount in the pavilion of his secret thoughts.
"Decidedly. But I only engaged there as organist. I find sufficient pleasure instructing the young lady, without feeling ambitious to appear there as her rival."
"But you know she is not a professional singer": these words escaped the artist in spite of him. "She is an heiress of one of the wealthiest old families of this old town."
"Nevertheless, she is growing so rarely in these days I would not for the world check that growth, as I see I might. Besides, I am selfish; it's best for me to keep to my engagement, and not volunteer anything."
"And so we who have memories must rest content with them. I am glad you tell me, if it must be so. I have not haunted you, and I feel as if I almost deserved your thanks on that account. I've haunted the church, though, but"——
"Miss Ives sings better than she did,—too well for such a girl in such a place."
"Because, as I said before, neither Art nor fortune justifies her, and what she gets will spoil her."
He ended in confusion; some thought unexpressed overthrew him just here, and he could not instantly gather himself up again.
"Do not fear," was the calm answer. "She is sacredly safe from that,—as safe as I am. For so young a person, she is rich in safeguards, though she seems to be alone; and she is brave enough to use them. If you come to the church to-morrow, you will be converted from the error of some of your worst thoughts."
"I told you in secret once, Heaven knows under what insane infatuation, what I could tell you now with husband or child for audience,—there is, there has ever been, but one voice for me."
For answer the organist lifted the lid of the artist's piano, touched a few notes, and sang.
Was that the voice that once brought out the applause of the people, rushing and roaring like the waves of the sea?
The same, etherealized, strengthened,—meeting the desire of the trained and cultured man, as once it had the impassioned aspiration of youth.
He stood there, as of old, completely subject to her will; and of old she had worked for good, as one of God's accredited angels. Every evil passion in those days had stood rebuked before the charmed circle of her influences: a voice to long for as the hart longs for the water-brooks; a spirit to trust for work, or for love, or for truth,—"truest truth," and stanchest loyalty, as one might trust those who are delivered forever from the power of temptation.
When she had ended the song, she had indeed ended. Not one note more. Closing the piano, she walked about the room, looking at his pictures one after another, pausing long before some, but the silence in which she made the circuit was unbroken.
At last she came to the last-painted picture, where a soldier lay dying, with glory on his face, victory in his eyes. Beside this she remained.
"There's many a realization of that dream," she said.
The words seemed to sting the artist as though she had said instead, "Here's one who is in no danger of realizing it."
"I thought," said he, "I might one day prove for myself the emotions attributed to that soldier."
She hesitated before answering. A vision rose before her,—a vision of fields covered with the slain, unburied dead. Here the paths of honor were cut short by the grave. She looked at Adam von Gelhorn. Here was no warrior except for courage, no knight but for chivalry. Yet how proudly his eyes met hers! What was this glance that seemed suddenly to fall upon her from some unbroken, awful height? It was a great thing to say, with the knowledge that came with that glance,—
"Do you no longer think so? Patriotism has its tests. This war will be long enough to sift enthusiasms."
Humbly he answered,—
"I wait my time."
Then, urged on by two motives, distinct, yet confluent, and so all-powerful,—
"Strange army, Adam, if all the soldiers waited for it."
He answered her as mildly as before, but with quite as deep assurance,—
"Not a man of them but has heard his name called. The time of a man is his own. The trumpet sounds, and though he were dead, yet shall he live."
"And do you wait that sound? Then verily you may remain here safely, and paint fine pictures of wounded men on awful battle-fields."
The artist looked at the woman. Did she speak to test his patience, or his courage, or his loyalty? Gravely he answered, true to himself, though baffled in his endeavor to read what she chose to conceal,—
"Once I took everything you said as if you were inspired, for I believed you were. For years I have been accustomed to think of your approval, and wait for it, and long for it; for I always knew you would finally stand here in the midst of my work as the one thing that should prove to me it was good. If you could only know what sort of value I have set on the praise of critics while waiting for yours, you would deem me ungrateful. But I knew you would come. You are here, then,—and I perceive, though you do not say so, that I have not wasted time; often, while I was painting that hero yonder, I said to myself, 'Better die than hold on to life or self a moment after the voice calls!' Julia, it has called!"
This was spoken quietly enough, but with the deep feeling that seeks neither outlet nor consolation in sound. Having spoken, he went up to his easel, cut away the canvas with long, even knife-strokes, set aside the frame. He was ready. And now he waited further orders,—looking at the woman who had accomplished so much.
She did not, by gesture or word, interrupt him; but when he stood absolutely motionless and silent, as if more were to be said, and by her, she evidently faltered.
"Give me the canvas," she said.
He gave it her with a smile.
"No; but if a trophy, worth more than could be told. There's nobler work for you to do than painting pictures. Atonement,—reconciliation,—sacrifice."
"Where? when? how?"
He put these questions with a distinctness that required answer.
"Your heart will tell you."
He had his answer.
"And the portrait yonder, that will tell you. It is not hers, you will say. But it is not mine, nor a vision, except as you have glorified her. In spite of yourself, you are true. And in spite of herself, Sybella believes in you."
"Such a collection of incoherent fragments from the lips of an artist accustomed to treat of unities,—it is incomprehensible."
So the painter began; but he ended,—
"When I come back from battle, I will think of what you say. I do believe in my own integrity as firmly as I trust my loyalty."
There was a rare gentleness in the man's voice that seemed to say that mists were rising to envelop the summits of the mountains, and he looked forth, not to the bald heights, but along the purple heather-reaches, where any human feet might walk, finding pleasant paths, fair flowers, cool shades, and blessed reflections of heaven.
The rector of St. Peter's sat in the vestry-room, which he used for his study, when there came an interruption to the even tenor of his orthodox thinking.
Whoever sought him did so with a determination that carried the various doors between him and the study, and at last came the knock, of which he sat in momentary dread. It expressed the outsider so imperatively, that the minister at once laid aside his pen, and opened the door. And, alas! it was Saturday, P. M.,—Easter at hand!
He should have been glad, of course, of the cordial hand-grasp with which his stanch supporter, Gerald Deane, saluted him; but he had been interrupted in necessary work, and his face betrayed him. It told unqualified surprise, that, at such an hour, he had the honor of a visit from the warden.
The warden, however, was absorbed in his own business to an extent that prevented him from seeing what the minister's mood might be. He began to speak the moment he had thrown himself into the arm-chair opposite Mr. Muir.
"Do you know," said he, "what sort of person we've got here in our organist?"
Indignant was the speaker's voice, and indignant were his eyes; he spoke quick, breathed hard, showed all the signs of violent emotion.