Of course she was quite safe. Saint-Pol could not do anything against the conqueror of Touraine, the ally of his master; but she felt tainted, and had thoughts (not for the first time) of taking the veil. One woman had already taken it; she heard much concerning Madame Alois from the Canonesses, how she had a little cell at Fontevrault among the nuns there, how she shivered with cold in the hottest sun, how she shrieked o' nights, how chattered to herself, and how she used a cruel discipline. All these things working upon Jehane's mind made her love an agony. Many and many a time when her royal lover came to visit her she clung to him with tears, imploring him to cast her off again; but the more she bewailed the more he pursued his end. In truth he was master by this time, and utterly misconceived her. Nothing she might say or do could stay him from his intent, which was to wed and afterwards crown her Countess of Poictou. This was to be done at Pentecost, as the only reparation he could make her.
Not even what befell on the way to Poictiers for this very thing could alter him. Again he misread her, or was too full of what he read in himself to read her at all. They left Le Mans a fortnight before Pentecost with a great train of lords and ladies, Richard looking like a young god, with the light of easy mastery shining in his eyes. She, poor girl, might have been going to the gallows—and before the end of the journey would thankfully have gone there; and no wonder. Listen to this.
Midway between Chatelherault and Poictiers is a sandy waste covered with scrub of juniper and wild plum, which contrives a living by some means between great bare rocks. It is a disconsolate place, believed to be the abode of devils and other damned spirits. Now, as they were riding over this desert, picking their way among the boulders at the discretion of their animals, it so happened that Richard and Jehane were in front by some forty paces. Riding so, presently Jehane gave a short gasping cry, and almost fell off her horse. She pointed with her hand, and 'Look, look, look!' she said in a dry whisper. There at a little distance from them was a leper, who sat scratching himself on a rock.
'Ride on, ride on, my heart,' said Richard; but she, 'No, no, he is coming. We must wait.' Her voice was full of despair.
The leper came jumping from rock to rock, a horrible thing of rags and sores, with a loose lower jaw, which his disease had fretted to dislocation. He stood in their mid path, in full sun, and plucking at his disastrous eyes, peered upon the gay company. By this time all the riders were clustered together before him, and he fingered them out one after another—Richard, whom he called the Red Count, Gaston, Beziers, Auvergne, Limoges, Mercadet; but at Jehane he pointed long, and in a voice between a croak and a clatter (he had no palate), said thrice, 'Hail thou!'
She replied faintly, 'God be good to thee, brother.' He kept his finger still upon her as he spoke again: every one heard his words.
'Beware (he said) the Count's cap and the Count's bed; for so sure as thou liest in either thou art wife of a dead man, and of his killer.' Jehane reeled, and Richard held her up.
'Begone, thou miserable,' he cried in his high voice, 'lest I pity thee no more.' But the leper was capering away over the rocks, hopping and flapping his arms like an old raven. At a safe distance he squatted down and watched them, his chin on his bare knees.
This frightened Jehane so much that in the refectory of a convent, where they stayed the night, she could hardly see her victual for tears, nor eat it for choking grief. She exhausted herself by entreaties. Milo says that she was heard crying out at Richard night after night, conjur ing him by Christ on the Cross, and Mary at the foot of the Cross, not to turn love into a stabbing blade; but all to no purpose. He soothed and petted her, he redoubled her honours, he compelled her to love him; and the more she agonised the more he was confident he would right her.
Very definitely and with unexampled profusion he provided for her household and estate as soon as he was at home. Kings' daughters were among her honourable women, at least, counts' daughters, daughters of viscounts and castellans. She had Lady Saill of Ventadorn, Lady Elis of Montfort, Lady Tibors, Lady Maent, Lady Beatrix, all fully as noble, and two of them certainly more beautiful than she. Lady Saill and Lady Elis were the most lovely women of Aquitaine, Saill with a face like a flame, Elis clear and cold as spring water in the high rocks. He gave her a chancellor of her seal, a steward of the household, a bishop for chaplain. Viscount Ebles of Ventadorn was her champion, and Bertran de Born (who had been doing secret mischief in the south, as you will learn by and by), if you will believe it, Bertran de Born was forgiven and made her trobador. It was at a great Court of Love which Richard caused to be held in the orchards outside Poictiers, with pavilions and a Chastel d'Amors, that Bertran came in and was forgiven for the sake of his great singing. On a white silk tribune before the castle sat Jehane, in a red gown, upon her golden head a circlet of dull silver, with the leaves and thorns which made up the coronet of a countess. Richard bade sound the silver trumpets, and his herald proclaim her three times, to the north, to the east, and to the south, as 'the most puissant and peerless princess, Madame Jehane, by the grace of God Countess of Poictou, Duchess of Aquitaine, consort of our illustrious dread lord Monsire Richard, Count and Duke of the same.' Himself, gloriously attired in a bliaut of white velvet and gold, with a purple cloak over his shoulder, sustained in a tenzon with the chief trobadors of Languedoc, that she was 'the most pleasant lovely lady now on earth, or ever known there since the days of Madame Dido, Queen of Carthage, and Madame Cleopatra, Empress of Babylon'—unfortunate examples both, as some thought.
Minstrels and poets of the greatest contended with him; Saill had her champion in Guillem of Cabestaing, Elis in Girault of Borneilh; the Dauphin of Auvergne sang of Tibors, and Peire Vidal of Lady Maent. Towards the end came sideways in that dishevelled red fox (whom nothing shamed), Bertran de Born himself, looked askance at the Count, puffed out his cheeks to give himself assurance, and began to sing of Jehane in a way that brought tears to Richard's eyes. It was Bertran who dubbed her with the name she ever afterwards went by throughout Poictou and the south, the name of Bel Vezer. Richard at the end clipped him in his arms, and with one arm still round his wicked neck led him to the tribune where Jehane sat blushing. 'Take him into your favour, Lady Bel Vezer,' he said to her. 'Whatever his heart may be, he hath a golden tongue.' Jehane, stooping, lent him her cheek, and Bertran fairly kissed her whom he had sought to undo. Then turning, fired with her favour, he let his shrill voice go spiring to heaven in her praise.
For these feats Bertran was appointed to her household, as I have said. He made no secret of his love for her, but sang of her night and day, and delighted Richard's generous heart. But indeed Jehane won the favour of most. If she was not so beautiful as Saill, she was more courteous, if not so pious as Elis, more the woman for that. There were many, misled by her petulant lips and watchful eyes, to call her sulky: these did not judge her silence favourably. They thought her cold, and so she was to all but one; their eyes might have told them what she was to him, and how when they met in love, to kiss or cling, their two souls burned together. And if she made a sweet lover, she promised to be a rare Countess. Her judgment was never at fault; she was noble, and her sedate gravity showed her to be so. She was no talker, and had great command over herself; but she was more pale than by ordinary, and her eyes were burning bright. The truth was, she was in a fever of apprehension, restless, doomed, miserable; devouringly in love, yet dreading to be loved. So, more and more evidently in pain, she walked her part through the blare of festival as Pentecost drew nigh.
'Upon that day,' to quote the mellifluous abbot, 'Upon that day when in leaping tongues the Spirit of God sat upon the heads of the Holy Apostles, and gave letters to the unlettered and to the speechless Its own nature, Count Richard wedded Dame Jehane, and afterwards crowned her Countess with his own hands.
'They put her, crying bitterly, into the Count's bed in the Castle of Poictiers on the evening of the same feast. Weeping also, but at a later day, I saw her crowned again at Angers with the Count's cap of Anjou. So to right her and himself Count Richard did both the greatest wrong of all.'
Much more pageantry followed the marriage. I admire Milo's account. 'He held a tournament after this, when the Count and the party of the castle maintained the field against all corners. There was great jousting for six days, I assure you; for I saw the whole of it. No English knights were there, nor any from Anjou; but a few French (without King Philip's goodwill), many Gascons and men of Toulouse and the Limousin; some from over the mountains, from Navarre, and Santiago, and Castile; there also came the Count of Champagne with his friends. King Sancho of Navarre was excessively friendly, with a gift of six white stallions, all housed, for Dame Jehane; nobody knew why or wherefore at the time, except Bertran de Born (O thief unrepentant!).
'Countess Jehane, with her ladies, being set in a great balcony of red and white roses, herself all in rose-coloured silk with a chaplet of purple flowers, the first day came Count Richard in green armour and a surcoat of the same embroidered with a naked man, a branch of yellow broom in his helm. None held up against him that day; the Duke of Burgundy fell and brake his collar-bone. The second day he drove into the melee suddenly, when there was a great press of spears, all in red with a flaming sun on his breast. He sat a blood-horse of Spain, bright chestnut colour and housed in red. Then, I tell you, we saw horses and men sunder their loves. The third day Pedro de Vaqueiras, a knight from Santiago, encountered him in his silver armour, when he rode a horse white as the Holy Ghost. By a chance blow the Spaniard bore him back on to the crupper. There was a great shout, "The Count is down! Look to the castle, Poictou!" Dame Jehane turned colour of ash, for she remembered the leper's prophecy, and knew that De Vaqueiras loved her. But Richard recovered himself quickly, crying, "Have at you again, Don Pedro." So they brought fresh spears, and down went De Vaqueiras on his back, his horse upon him. To be plain, not Hector raging over the field with shouts for Achilles, nor flamboyant Achilles spying after Hector, nor Hannibal at Cannae, Roland in the woody pass of Roncesvalles, nor the admired Lancelot, nor Tristram dreadful in the Cornish isle—not one of these heroes was more gloriously mighty than Count Richard. Like the war-horse of Job (the prophet and afflicted man) he stamped with his foot and said among the captains "ha ha!" His nostrils scented the battle from very far off; he set on like the quarrell of a bow, and gathering force as he went, came rocking into his adversary like galley against galley. With all this he was gentle, had a pleasant laugh. It was good to be struck down by such a man, if it ever can be good. He bore away opposition as he bore away the knights.'
If one half of this were true, and no man in steel could withstand him, how could circumstance, how could she, this slim and frightened girl? Mad indeed with love and pride, quite beside herself, she forgot for once her tremors and qualms. On the last day she fell panting upon his breast; and he, a great lover, kissed her before them all, and lifted her high in his hands. 'Oyez, my lords!' he cried with a mighty voice, 'Is this a lovely wife I have won, or not?' They answered him with a shout.
He took her a progress about his country afterwards. From Poictiers they went to Limoges, thence westward to Angoulesme, and south to Perigueux, to Bazas, to Cahors, Agen, even to Dax, which is close to the country of the King of Navarre. Wherever he led her she was hailed with joy. Young girls met her with flowers in their hands, wise men came kneeling, offering the keys of their towns; the youth sang songs below her balcony, the matrons made much of her and asked her searching questions. They saw in her a very superb and handsome Duchess, Jehane of the Fair Girdle, now acclaimed in the soft syllables of Aquitaine as Bel Vezer. When they were at Dax the wise King of Navarre sent ambassadors beseeching from them a visit to his city of Pampluna; but Richard would not go. Then they came back to Poictiers and shocking news. This was of the death of King Henry of England, the old lion, 'dead (Milo is bold to say) in his sin.'
HOW THEY BAYED THE OLD LION
I must report what happened to the King of England when (like a falcon foiled in his stoop) he found himself outpaced and outgeneralled on the moor. Shaken off by those he sought to entrap, baited by the badger he hoped to draw, he took on something not to be shaken off, namely death, and had drawn from him what he would ill spare, namely the breath of his nostrils. To have done with all this eloquence, he caught a chill, which, working on a body shattered by rages and bad living, smouldered in him—a slow-eating fever which bit him to the bones, charred and shrivelled him up. In the clutches of this crawling disease he joined his forces with those of his Marshal, and marched to the relief of Le Mans, where the French King was taking his ease. Philip fired the place when he heard of his approach; so Henry got near enough to see the sky throbbing with red light, and over all a cloud of smoke blacker than his own despair. It is said that he had a fit of hard sobbing when he saw this dreadful sight. He would not suffer the host to approach the burning city, but took to his bed, turned his face to the tent-wall, and refused alike housel and meat. News, and of the worst, came fast. The French were at Chateaudun, the Countess of Brittany's men were threatening Anjou from the north; all Touraine with Saumur and a chain of border castles were subject to Richard his son. These things he heard without moving from his bed or opening his eyes.
After a week of this misery two of his lords, the Marshal, namely, and Bishop Hugh of Durham, came to his bedside and told him, 'Sire, here are come ambassadors from France speaking of a peace. How shall it be?'
'As you will,' said the King; 'only let me sleep.' He spoke drowsily, as if not really awake, but it is thought that he was more watchful than he chose to appear.
They held a hasty conference, Geoffrey his bastard, the Marshal, the Bishop: these and the French ambassadors. On the King's part they made but one request; and Geoffrey made that. The King was dying: let him be taken down to his castle of Chinon, not die in the fields like an old hunting dog. This was allowed. He took no sort of notice, let them do what they would with him, slept incessantly all the way to Chinon.
They brought him the parchments, sealed with his great seal; and he, quite broken, set his hand to them without so much as a curse on the robbery done his kingdom. But as the bearers were going out on tiptoe he suddenly sat up in bed. 'Hugh,' he grumbled, 'Bishop Hugh, come thou here.' The Bishop turned back eagerly, for those two had loved each other in their way, and knelt by his bed.
'Read me the signatures to these damned things,' said the King; and Hugh rejoiced that he was better, yet feared to make him worse.
'Ah, dear sire,' he began to say; but 'Read, man,' said the old King, jerking his foot under the bedclothes. So Hugh the Bishop began to read them over, and the sick man listened with a shaky head, for by now the fever was running high.
'Philip the August, King of the Franks,' says the Bishop; and 'A dog's name,' the old King muttered in his throat. 'Sanchez, Catholic King of Navarre,' says Hugh; and 'Name of an owl,' King Henry. To the same ground-bass he treated the themes of the illustrious Duke of Burgundy, Henry Count of Champagne, and others of the French party. With these the Bishop would have stopped, but the King would have the whole. 'Nay, Hugh,' he said—and his teeth chattered as if it had been bitter cold—'out with the name of my beloved son. So you shall see what joyful agreement there is in my house.' The Bishop read the name of Richard Count of Poictou, and the King grunted his 'Traitor from the womb,' as he had often done before.
'Who follows Richard?' he asked.
'Oh, our Lady, is he not enough, sire?' said the Bishop in fear. The old King sat bolt upright and steadied his head on his knees. 'Read,' he said again.
'I cannot read!' cried Hugh with a groan. The King said, 'You are a fool. Give me the parchment.'
He pored over it, with dim eyes almost out of his keeping, searching for the names at the top. So he found what he had dreaded—'John Count of Mortain.' Shaking fearfully, he began to point at the wall as if he saw the man before him. 'Jesu! Count by me, King by me, and Judas by me! Now, God, let me serve Thee as Thou deservest. Thou hast taken away all my sons. Now then the devil may have my soul, for Thou shalt never have it.' The death-rattle was heard in his throat, and Hugh sprang forward to help him: he was still stiffly upright, still looking (though with filmy eyes) at the wall, still trying to shape in words his wicked vaunts. No words came from him; his jaw dropped before his strong old body. They brought him the Sacrament; his soul rejected it—too clean food. Hugh and others about him, all in a sweat, got him down at last. They anointed him and said a few prayers, for they were in a desperate hurry when it came to the end. It was near midnight when he died, and at that hour, they terribly report, the wind sprang up and howled about the turrets of Chinon, as if all hell was out hunting for that which he had promised them. But, if the truth must be told, he had never kept his promises, and there is no reason to suppose that he kept that one either. Milo adds, So died this great, puissant, and terrible king, cursing his children, cursed in them, as they in him. All power was given over to him from his birth, save one only, power over himself. He was indeed a slave more wretched than those hinds, glebae ascriptitii, whom at a distance he ruled in his lands: he was slave of his baser parts. With God he was always at war, and with God's elect. What of blessed Thomas? Let Thomas answer on the Last Day. I deny him none of his properties; he was open-handed, open-minded, as bold as a lion. But his vices ate him up. Peace be with the man; he was a mighty king. He left a wife in prison, two sons in arms against him, and many bastards.'
As soon as he was dead his people came about like flies and despoiled the Castle of Chinon, the bed where he lay (smiling grimly, as if death had made him a cynic), his very body of the rings on its fingers, the gold circlet, the Christ round his neck. Such flagrancy was the penalty of death, who had made himself too cheap in those days; nor were there any left with him who might have said, Honour my dead father, or dead master. William the Marshal had gone to Rouen, afraid of Richard; Geoffrey was half way to Angers after treasure; the Bishop of Durham (for purposes) had hastened off to Poictiers to be the first to hail the new King. All that remained faithful in that den of thieves were a couple of poor girls with whom the old sinner had lately had to do. Seeing he was left naked on his bed, one of these—Nicolete her name was, from Harfleur—touched the other on the shoulder—Kentish Mall they called her—and said, 'They have robbed our master of so much as a shirt to be buried in. What shall we do?'
Mall said, 'If we are found with him we shall be hanged, sure enough. Yet the old man was kind to me.'
'And to me he was kind,' said Nicolete, 'God wot.'
Then they looked at each other. 'Well?' said Nicolete. And Mall, 'What you do I will do.' So they kissed together, knowing it was a gallows matter, and went in to the dead body of the King. They washed it tenderly, and anointed it, composed the hands and shut down the horrible sightless eyes, then put upon it the only shirt they could find, which (being a boy's) was a very short one. Afterwards came the Chancellor, Stephen of Turon, called up in a great hurry from a merry-making, with one or two others, and took some order in the affair.
The Chancellor knew perfectly well that King Henry had desired to be buried in the church of the nuns at Fontevrault. There had been an old prophecy that he should lie veiled among the veiled women which had pleased him very much, though it had often been his way to scoff at it. But no one dared move him without the order of the new King, whoever that might happen to be. Who could tell when Anjou was claiming a crown? Messengers therefore were sent out hot-foot to Count Richard at Poictiers, and to Count John, who was supposed to be in Paris. He, however, was at Tours with the French King, and got the news first.
It caught him in the wind, so to put it. Alain, a Canon of Tours, came before him kneeling, and told him. 'Lord Christ, Alain, what shall we do?' says he, as white as a cheese-cloth. They fell talking of this or that, that might or might never be done, when in burst King Philip, Saint-Pol, Des Barres, and the purple-faced Duke of Burgundy. King Philip ran up to John and clapped him on the back.
'King John! King John of England!' screamed the young man, like a witch in the air; then Burgundy began his grumble of thunder.
'I stand for you, by God. I am for you, man.' But Saint-Pol knelt and touched his knee.
'Sire, do me right, and I become your man!' So said Des Barres also. Count John looked about him and wrung his hands.
'Heh, my lords! Heh, sirs! What shall I do now?' He was liquid; fear and desire frittered his heart to water.
They held a great debate, all talking at once, except the subject of the bother. He could only bite his nails and look out of the window. To them, then, came creeping Alois of France, deadly pale, habited in the grey weeds of a nun. How she got in, I know not; but they parted this way and that before her, and so she came very close to John in his chair, and touched him on the shoulder. 'What now, traitor?' she said hoarsely. 'Whom next? The sister betrayed; the father; and now the brother and king?'
John shook. 'No, no, Alois, no no!' he said in a whisper. 'Go to bed. We think not of it.' But she still stood looking at him, with a wry smile on that face of hers, pinched with grief and old before its time. Saint-Pol stamped his foot. 'Whom shall we trust in Anjou?' he said to Des Barres. Des Barres shrugged. The Duke of Burgundy grumbled something about 'd——d women,' and King Philip ordered his sister to bed. They got her out of the room after a painful scene, and fell to wrangling again, trying to screw some resolution into the white prince whom they all intended to use as a cat's-paw. About eight o'clock in the morning—they still at it—came a shatter of hoofs in the courtyard, which made Count John jump in his skin. A herald was announced.
Reeking he stood, and stood covered, in the presence of so much majesty.
'Speak, sir,' said King Philip; and 'Uncover before France, you dog,' said young Saint-Pol. The herald kept his cap where it was.
'I speak from England to the English. This is the command of my master, Richard King of the English, Duke of Normandy, Count of Anjou. Bid our brother, the illustrious Count of Mortain, attend us at Fontevrault with all speed for the obsequies of the King our father. And those who owe him obedience, let them come also.'
There was low murmuring in the chamber, which grew in volume, until at last Burgundy thundered out, 'England is here! Cut down that man.' But the herald stood his ground, and no one drew a sword. John dismissed him with a few smooth words; but he could not get rid of his friends so easily. Nor could they succeed with him. If Montferrat had been there they might have screwed him to the pitch. Montferrat had a clear course: any king of England who would help him to the throne of Jerusalem was the king of England he would serve. But Philip would not commit himself, and Burgundy waited on Philip. As for Saint-Pol, he was nothing but a sword or two and an unquenchable grudge. And forbidding in the background stood Alois, with reproach in her sunken eyes. The end of it was that Count John, after a while, rode out towards Fontevrault with all the pomp he could muster. Thither also, it is clear, went Madame Alois.
'I was with my master,' says Milo in his book, 'when they brought him the news. He was not long home from the South, had been hawking in the meadows all day, and was now in great fettle, sitting familiarly among his intimates, Jehane on his knee. Bertran de Born was in there singing some free song, and the gentle Viscount of Beziers, and Lady Elis of Montfort (who sat on a cushion and played with Dame Jehane's hand), and Gaston of Bearn, and (I think) Lady Tibors of Vezelay. Then came the usher suddenly into the room with his wand, and by the door fell upon one knee, a sort of state which Count Richard had always disliked. It made him testy.
'"Well, Gaucelm, well," he said; "on your two legs, my man, if you are to please me."
'"Lord King—" Gaucelm began, then stopped. My lord bayed at him.
'"Oy Deus!" he said in our tongue, below his breath; and Jehane slid off his knee and on to her own. So fell kneeling the whole company, till Gaston of Bearn, more mad than most, sprang up, shouting, "Hail, King of the English!" and better, "Hail, Count of Anjou!" We all began on that cry; but he stopped us with a poignant look.
'"God have mercy on me: I am very wicked," he said, and covered up his face. No one spoke. Jehane bent herself far down and kissed his foot.
'Then he sent for the heralds, and in burst Hugh Puiset, Bishop of Durham, with his flaming face, outstripping all the others and decency at once. By this time King Richard had recovered himself. He heard the tale without moving a feature, and gave a few short commands. The first was that the body of the dead King should be carried splendidly to Fontevrault; and the next that a pall should be set up in his private chapel here at Poictiers, and tall candles set lighted about it. So soon as this was done he left the chamber, all standing, and went alone to the chapel. He spent the night there on his knees, himself only with a few priests. He neither sent for Countess Jehane, nor did she presume to seek him. Her women tell me that she prayed all night before a Christ in her bed-chamber; and well she might, with a queen's crown in fair view. In two or three days' time King Richard pressed out, very early, for Fontevrault. I went with him, and so did Hugh of Durham, the Bishop of Poictiers, and the Dauphin of Auvergne. These, with the Chancellor of Poictou, the household servants and guards, were all we had with us. The Countess was to be ready upon word from him to go with her ladies and the court whithersoever he should appoint. Bertran de Born went away in the night, and King Richard never saw him again; but I shall have to speak of his last tenzon, and his last Sirvente of Kings, by heaven!
'Before he went King Richard kissed the Countess Jehane twice in the great hall. "Farewell, my queen," he said plainly, and, as some think, but not I, deliberately. "God be thy good friend. I shall see thee before many days." If the man was changed already, she was not at all changed. She was very grave, but not crying, and put up her face for his kisses as meek as any baby. She said nothing at all, but stood palely at the door with her women as King Richard rode over the bridge.
'For my part,' he concludes, 'when I consider the youth and fierce untutored blood of this noblest of his race; or when I remember their terrible names, Tortulf Forester, and Ingelger, Fulke the Black and Fulke the Red, and Geoffrey Greygown and Geoffrey the Fair, and that old Henry, the wickedest of all; their deeds also, how father warred upon his sons, and sons conspired against their fathers; how they hated righteousness and loved iniquity, and spurned monks and priests, and revelled in the shambles they had made: then I say to myself, Good Milo, how wouldst thou have received thy calling to be king and sovereign count? Wouldst thou have said, as Count John said, "Lord Christ, Alain, what shall we do?" Or rather, "God have mercy, I am very wicked." It is true that Count John was not called to those estates, and that King Richard was. But I choose sooner to think that each was confronted with his dead father, and not the emptied throne. In which case Count John thought of his safety and King Richard of his sin. Such musing is a windy business, suitable to old men. But I suppose that you who read are very young.'
HOW THEY MET AT FONTEVRAULT
Communing with himself as he rode alone over the broomy downs, King Richard reined up shortly and sent back a messenger for Milo the Abbot; so Milo flogged his old mule. Directly he was level with his master, that master spoke in a quiet voice, like one who is prepared for the worst: 'Milo, what should a man do who has slain his own father? Is repentance possible for such a one?'
Milo looked up first at the blue sky, then about at the earth, all green and gold. He wrinkled close his eyes and let the sun play upon his face. The air was soft, the turf springy underfoot. He found it good to be there. 'Sire,' he said, 'it is a hard matter; yet there have been worse griefs than that in the world.'
'Name one, my friend,' says the King, whose eyes were fixed on the edge of the hill.
Milo said, 'There was a Father, my lord King Richard, who slew His own Son that the world might be the better. That was a terrible grief, I suppose.' The King was silent for a few paces; then he asked—
'And was the world much the better?'
'Beau sire,' replied Milo, 'not very much. But that was not God's fault; for it had, and still has, the chance of being the better for it.'
'And do you dare, Milo,' said the King, turning him a stern face, 'set my horrible offence beside the Divine Sacrifice?'
'Not so, my lord King,' said Milo at large; 'but I draw this distinction. You are not so guilty as you suppose; for in this world the father maketh the son, both in the way of nature and of precept. In heaven it is otherwise. There the Son was from the beginning, co-eternal with the Father, begotten but not made. In the divine case there was pure sacrifice, and no guilt at all. In the earthly case there was much guilt, but as yet no sacrifice.'
'That guilt was mine, Milo,' said Richard with a sob.
'Lord, I think not,' answered the old priest. 'You are what your fathers have made you. But now mark me well: in doing sacrifice you can be very greatly otherwise. Then if no more guilt be upon you than hangs by the misfortunes of tainted man, you can please Almighty God by doing what you only among men can do, wholesome sacrifice.'
'Why, what sacrifice shall I do?' says the King.
Milo stood up in his stirrups, greatly exalted in the spirit.
'My lord,' he said, 'behold, it is for two years that you have borne the sign of that sacrifice upon you, but yet have done nothing of it. During these years God's chosen seat hath lain dishonoured, become the wash-pot of the heathen. The Holy Tree, stock beyond price, Rod of Grace, figure of freedom, is in bonds. The Sepulchre is ensepulchred; Antichrist reigns. Lord, Lord,'—here the Abbot shook his lifted finger,—'how long shall this be? You ask me of sin and sacrifice. Behold the way.'
King Richard jerked his head, then his horse's. Get back, Milo, and leave me,' he said curtly, struck in the spurs, and galloped away over the grey down.
The cavalcade halted at Thouars, and lay the night in a convent of the Order of Savigny. King Richard kept himself to himself, ate little, spoke less. He prayed out the night, or most of it, kneeling in his shirt in the sanctuary, with his bare sword held before him like a cross. Next morning he called up his household by the first cock, had them out on the road before the sun, and pushed forward with such haste that it was one hour short of noon when they saw the great church of the nuns of Fontevrault like a pile of dim rock in their way.
At a mile's distance from the walls the King got off his horse, and bid his squires strip him. He ungirt his sword, took off helm and circlet, cloak, blazoned surcoat, the girdle of his county. Beggared so of all emblems of his grace, clad only in hauberk of steel, bareheaded, without weapon, and on foot, he walked among his mounted men into the little town of Fontevrault. That which he could not do off, his sovereign inches, sovereign eye, gait of mastery, prevailed over all other robbery of his estate. The people bent their knees as he passed; not a few—women with babies in their shawls, lads and girls—caught at his hand or hauberk's edge, to kiss it and get the virtue out of him that is known to reside in a king. When he came within sight of the church he knelt and let his head sink down to his breast. But his grief seemed to strike inwards like a frost; he stiffened and got up, and went forward. No one would have guessed him a penitent then, who saw him mount the broad steps to meet his brother. Before the shut doors of the abbey was Count John, very splendid in a purple cloak, his crown of a count upon his yellow hair. He stood like a king among his peers, but flushed and restless, twiddling his fingers as kings do not twiddle theirs.
Irresolution kept him where he was until Richard had topped the first flight of steps. But then he came down to meet him in too much of a hurry, tripping, blundering the degrees, nodding and poking his head, with hands stretched out and body bent, like his who supplicates what he does not deserve.
'Hail, King of England, O hail!' he said, wheedling, royally vested, royally above, yet grovelling there to the prince below him. King Richard stopped with his foot on the next step, and let the Count come down.
'How lies he?' were his first words; the other's face grew fearful.
'Eh, I know not,' he said, shuddering. 'I have not seen him.' Now, he must have been in Fontevrault for a day or more.
'Why not?' asked Richard; and John stretched out his arms again.
'Oh, brother, I waited for you!' he cried, then added lower, 'I could not face him alone.' This was perfectly evident, or he would never have said it.
'Pish!' said King Richard, that is no way to mend matters. But it is written, "They shall look on him whom they pierced." Come you in.' He mounted the steps to his brother's level; and men saw that he was nearly a hand taller, though John was a fine tall man.
'With you, Richard, with you—but never without you!' said John, in a hush, rolling his eyes about. Richard, taking no notice, bid them set open the doors. This was done: the chill taint of the dark, of wax and damp and death came out. John shivered, but King Richard left him to shiver, and passed out of the sun into the echoing nave. Lightly and fiercely he went in, like a brave man who is fretful until he meets his danger's face; and John caught at his wrist, and went tiptoe after him. All the rest, Poictevins and Frenchmen together, followed in a pack; then the two bishops vested.
At the far end of the church, beyond the great Rood, they saw the candles flare about a bier. Before that was a little white altar with a priest saying his mass in a whisper. The high altar was all dark, and behind a screen in the north transept the nuns were singing the Office for the Dead. King Richard pushed on quickly, the others trooping behind. There in the midst of all this chilly state, grim and sour-faced, as he had always been, but now as unconcerned as all the dead are, lay the empty majesty of England, careless (as it seemed) of the full majesty; and dead Anjou a stranger to the living.
It was not so altogether, if we are to believe those who saw it. The hatred of the dead is a fearful thing: of that which followed be God the only judge, and I not even the reporter. Milo saw it, and Milo (who got some comfort out of it at last) shall tell you the tale; 'for I know,' says he, 'that in the end the hidden things are to be made plain, and even so, things which then I guessed darkly have since been opened out to my understanding. Behold!' he goes on, 'I tell you a mystery. Lightly and adventuring came King Richard to his dead father, and Count John dragging behind him like a load of care. Reverently he knelt him down beside the bier, prayed for a little, then, looking up, touched the grey old face. Before God, I say, it was the act of a boy. But slowly, slowly, we who watched quaking saw a black stream well at the nostril of the dead, and slowly drag a snake's way down the jaw: a sight to shake those fraught with God—and what to men in their trespasses? But while all the others fell back gasping, or whispering their prayers, scarce knowing what I was or did (save that I loved King Richard), I whipt forward with a handkerchief to cover the horror out of sight. This I would have done, though all had seen it; the King had seen it, and that white-hearted traitor Count had seen it, and sprung away with a wail, "O Christ! O Christ!" The King stood up, and with his lifted hand stopped me in the pious act. All held their breaths. I saw the priest at the altar peer round the corner, his mouth making a ring. King Richard was very pale and serious. He began to talk to his father, while the Count lay cowering on the pavement.
'"Thou thinkest me thy slayer, father," he said, "pointing at me the murder-sign. Well, I am content to take it; for be thou sure of this, that if that last war between us was rightfully begun it was rightfully ended. And of righteousness I think I am as good a judge as ever thou wert. Thy work is done, and mine is to do. If I may be as kingly as thou wert, I shall please thee yet; and if I fail in that I shall never blame thee, father. Now, Abbot Milo," he concluded, "cover the face." So I did, and Count John got up to his knees again, and looked at his brother.
'This was not the end. Madame Alois of France came into the church through the nuns' door, dressed all in grey, with a great grey hood on her head, and after her women in the same habit. She came hastily, with a quick shuffling motion of the feet, as if she was gliding; and by the bier she stood still, questing with her eyes from side to side, like a hunted thing. King Richard she saw, for he was standing up; but still she looked about and about. Now Count John was kneeling in the shadow, so she saw him last; but once meeting his deplorable eyes with her own she never left go again. Whatever she did (and it was much), or whatever said (and her mouth was pregnant), was with a fixed gaze on him.
'Being on the other side of the bier from him she watched, she put her arms over the dead body, as a priest at mass broods upon the Host he is making. And looking shrewdly at the Count, "If the dead could speak, John," she said, "if the dead could speak, how think you it would report concerning you and me?"
'"Ha, Madame!" says Count John, shaking like a leafy tree, "what is this?" Madame Alois removed my handkerchief. The horror was still there.
'"He did me kindness," she said, looking wistfully at the empty face; "he tried to serve me this way and that way." She stroked it, then looked again at the Count. "But then you came, John; and you he loved above all. How have you served him, John, my bonny lad? Eh, Saviour!" She looked up on high—"Eh, Saviour, if the dead could speak!"
'No more than the dead could John speak; but King Richard answered her.
'"Madame," he said, "the dead hath spoken, and I have answered it. That is the kingly office, I think, to stand before God for the people. Let no other speak. All is said."
'"No, no, Richard," said Madame Alois, "all is not nearly said. So sure as I live in torment, you will rue it if you do not listen to me now."
'"Madame," replied the King, "I shall not listen. I require your silence. If I have it in me, I command it. I know what I have done."
'"You know nothing," said the lady, beginning to tremble. "You are a fool."
'"May be," said King Richard, with a little shrug, "but I am a king in Fontevrault."
'The Count of Mortain began to wag his head about and pluck at the morse of his cope. "Air, air!" he gasped; "I strangle! I suffocate!" They carried him out of church to his, lodging, and there bled him.
'"Once more, King Richard," said Madame, "will you hear the truth from me?"
'The king turned fiercely, saying, "Madame, I will hear nothing from you. My purpose is to take the Cross here in this church, and to set about our Lord's business as soon as may be. I urge you, therefore, to depart and, if you have time, to consider your soul's health—as I consider mine and my kingdom's."
'She began to cry, being overwrought with this terrible affair. "O Richard," she said, "forgive me my trespasses. I am most wretched."
'He stepped forward, and across the dead man kissed her on the forehead. "God knows, I forgive thee, Alois," he said.
'So then she went away with her people, and no long time afterwards took (as I believe) the whole vow in the convent of Fontevrault.' Thus Milo records a scene too high for me.
When they had buried the old King, Richard sent letters to his brother of France, reminding him of what they had both undertaken to do, namely, to redeem the Sepulchre and set up again in Jerusalem the True Cross. 'As for me,' he wrote, 'I do most earnestly purpose to set about that business as soon as I may; and I require of you, sire and my brother, to witness my resumption of the Cross in this church of Fontevrault upon the feast of Monsire Saint John Baptist next coming. Let them also who are in your allegiance, the illustrious Duke of Burgundy, Conrad Marquess of Montferrat, and my cousin Count Henry, be of your party and sharers with you in the new vow.' This done, he went to Chinon to secure his father's treasure, and then made preparations for his coronation as Count of Anjou, and for Jehane's coronation.
When she got his word that she was to meet him at Angers by a certain day there was no thought of disobedience; the pouting mouth meant no mutiny. It meant sickening fear. In Angers they crown the Count of Anjou with the red cap, and put upon his feet the red shoes. That would make Richard the Red Count indeed, whose cap and bed the leper had bid her beware. Beware she might, but how avoid? She knew Richard by this time for master. A year ago she had subjugated him in the Dark Tower; but since then he had handled her, moulded her, had but to nod and she served his will. With what heart of lead she came, come she did to await him in black Angers, steep and hardy little city of slate; and the meeting of the two brought tears to many eyes. She fell at his feet, clasped his knees, could not speak nor cease from looking up; and he, tall and kingly, stoops, lifts her, holds her upon his breast, strokes her face, kisses her eyes and sorrowful mouth. 'Child,' he says, 'art thou glad of me?' asking, as lovers love best to do, the things they know best already. 'O Richard! O Richard!' was all she could say, poor fond wretch; however, we go not by the sense of a bride's language, but by the passion that breaks it up. Every agony of self-reproach, of fear of him, of mistrust, of lurking fate, lay in those sobbed words, 'O Richard! O Richard!'
When he had her alone at night, and she had found her voice, she began to woo him and softly to beguile him with a hand to his chin, judging it a propitious time, while one of his held her head. All the arts of woman were hers that night, but his were the new purposes of a man. He had had a rude shock, was full of the sense of his sin; that grim old mocking face, grey among the candle-flames, was plain across the bed-chamber where they lay. To himself he made oath that he would sin no more. No, no: a king, he would do kingly. To her, clasped close in his arms, he gave kisses and sweet words. Alas, she wanted not the sugar of his tongue; she would have had him bitter, though it cost her dear. Lying there, lulled but not convinced, her sobs grew weaker. She cried herself to sleep, and he kissed her sleeping.
In the cathedral church of his fathers he did on, by the hands of the Archbishop, the red cap and girdle and shoes of Anjou; there he held up the leopard shield for all to see. There also upon the bent head of Jehane—she kneeling before him—he laid for a little while the same cap, then in its room a circlet of golden leaves. If he was sovereign Count, girt with the sword, then she was Countess of Anjou before her grudging world. What more was she? Wife of a dead man and his killer! The words stayed by her, and tinged the whole of her life.
OF WHAT KING RICHARD SAID TO THE BOWING ROOD; AND WHAT JEHANE TO KING RICHARD
Miracles, as a plain man, I hold to be the peculiar of the Church. This chapter must be Milo's on that ground, if there were no other. But there is one strong other. Milo set the tune which caused King Richard to dance. And a very good tune it is—according to Milo. Therefore let him speak.
'The office of Abbot,' he writes, 'is a solemn, great office, being no less than that of spiritual father to a family of men consecrate (as it is written, Abba, father); yet not on that account should vainglory puff the cheeks of a pious man. God knows that I am no boaster. He, therefore, will not misjudge me, as certain others have done, when I record in this place (for positive cause and reason good) the exorbitant honours I received on the day of my lord Saint John Baptist in this year of thankful redemption eleven hundred and eighty-nine. Forsooth, I myself, this Milo of Saint Mary-of-the-Pine, was chosen to preach in the church of the nuns of Fontevrault before a congregation thus composed:—Two kings (one crowned), one legate a latere, a reigning duke (him of Burgundy, I mean), five cinctured counts, twice three bishops, abbots without number; Jehane Countess of Anjou and wife to the King of England, the Countess of Roussillon, the two Countesses of Angoulesme (the old and the young), Lady Elis of Montfort (reputed the most witty lady in Languedoc), thirteen pronounced poets, and the hairdresser of the King of France—to name no more. That sermon of mine—I shame not to report it-was found worthy the inscription in the Register of Fontevrault; and in the initial letter thereof, garlanded in gold work very beautiful to be seen, is the likeness of myself vested, with a mitre on my head, all done by that ingenious craftsman and faithful Christian man, Aristarchus of Byzantium, suspirante deo. There the curious may consult it, as indeed they do. I hope I know the demands of history upon proportion better than to write it all here. Briefly then, a second Peter, I stood up before that crowned assembly and was bold.
'What, I said, is Pharaoh but a noise? How else is Father Abraham but dusty in his cave? Duke Lot hath a monument less durable than his wicked wife's; and as for Noe, that great admiral, the waters of oblivion have him whom the waters of God might not drown. Conquered lies unconquered Agamemnon; how else lies Julius Caesar? Nabuchodonosor, eater of grass, what is he? Kings pass, and their royal seat gathereth a little dust. Anon with a besom of feathers cometh. Time the chamberlain, and scareth to his hiding-place the lizard on the wall. Think soberly, O ye kings! how your crowns are but yellow metal, and your purple robes the food of moths, and the sceptres of your power no better than hedge-twigs for the driving of rats. Round about your crystal orbs scurry the fleas at play in the night-time; in a little while the joints of your legs will grapple the degrees of your thrones with no more zest than an old bargeman's his greasy poop.
'At this King Philip said Tush, and fidgeted in his chair. He might have put me out of countenance, but that I saw King Richard clasp his knee and smile into the rafters, and knew by the peaking of his beard that I had pleased him.
'Thus by precept, by trope and flower of speech, I gaufred the edges of my discourse; then turning eastward with a cry, I grasped the pulpit firmly with one hand, the while I raised the other. Sorrow, I said, is more enduring than the pride of life, my lords, and to renounce than to heap riches. Behold the King of Sorrows! Behold the Man beggared! Ai, ai, my lords! is there to be no end to His sorrows, or shall He be stripped for ever? Yesterday He put off life itself, and to-day ye bid Him do away with the price of life. Yesterday He hung upon the Tree; and to-day ye hear it said, Down with the Tree; let Mahomet kindle his hearth with it. Let us be done, say you, with dead Lords and wooden stocks: we are kings, and our stocks golden. It is well said, my lords, after the fashion this world holds honourable. But I ask, did Job fear God for nought? But I say, consider the Maccabees. All your broad lands are not worth the rent of that little garden enclosed, where among ranked lilies sat Mary singing, God rest Thee, babe, I am Thy mother and daughter. You wag the head and an enemy dieth. You say, Come up, and some wretch getteth title to make others wretched. But no power of life and member, no fountain of earthly honour, no great breath nor acclamation of trumpets, nor bearing of swords naked, nor chrism, nor broad seal, nor homage, nor fealty done, is worth that doom of the Lord to a man; saying, I was naked (Christ is naked!) and ye clothed Me; I was anhungered (Christ is hungry!) and ye gave Me meat; I was in prison (so is Christ!) and ye visited Me. Therefore again I say unto you, Kings, by the spirit of the Lord which is in me, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem. Awake, do on your panoplies, shake your sceptres over the armied earth! So Hierusalem, that bride among brides, that exalted virgin, that elect lady crowned with stars, shall sit no longer wasted in the brothel of the heathen: Amen!
'I said; and a great silence fell on all the length and breadth of the church. King Richard sat up stiff as a tree, staring at the Holy Rood as though he had a vision of something at work. King Philip of France, moody, was watching his greater brother. Count John of Mortain had his head sunk to his breast-bone, his thin hands not at rest, but one finger picking ever at another. Even the Duke of Burgundy, the burly eater, was moved, as could be seen by the working of his cheek-bones. Two nuns were carried out for dead. All this I saw between my hands as I knelt in prayer. But much more I saw: it seems that I had called down testimony from on high. I saw Countess Jehane, half-risen from her seat, white in the face, open-mouthed, gaping at the Cross. "Saviour, the Rood! the Rood!" she cried out, choking, then fell back and lay quite still. Many rose to their feet, some dropped to their knees; all looked.
'We saw the great painted Christ on the Rood stoop His head forward thrice. At the first and second times, amid cries of wonder, men looked to see whither He bent His head. But at the third time all with one consent fell upon their faces, except only Richard King of England. He, indeed, rose up and stood to his full height. I saw his blue eyes shine like sapphires as he began to speak to the Christ. Though he spoke measuredly and low, you could mark the exultation singing behind his tones.
'"Ah, now, my Lord God," said he, "I perceive that Thou hast singled me out of all these peers for a work of Thine; which is a thing so glorious for me that, if I glory in it, I am justified, since the work is glorious. I take it upon me, my Lord, and shall not falter in it nor be slow. Enough said: Thou askest not words of me. Now let me go, that the work may begin." After which, very devoutly kneeling, he signed to the Archbishop of Tours, who sat in the sedilia of the sanctuary, to affix the Cross to his shoulder. Which was done, and afterwards to most of the company then present—to King Philip, to the Duke of Burgundy, to Henry Count of Champagne, Bertram Count of Roussillon, and Raymond Count of Toulouse; to many bishops; also to James d'Avesnes, William des Barres, and to Eustace Count of Saint-Pol, the brother of Countess Jehane. But Count John took no Cross, nor did Geoffrey the bastard of Anjou. Afterwards, I believe, these two worked the French King into a fury because Richard should have taken upon him the chief place in this miraculous adventure. The Duke of Burgundy was not at all pleased either. But everybody else knew that it was to King Richard the Holy Rood had pointed; and he knew it himself, and events proved it so.
'But that night after supper he and King Philip kissed each other, and swore brotherhood on their sword-hilts before all the peers. I am not one to deny generous moments to that politic prince; this I consider to have been one, evoked certainly by the nobility of King Richard. That appointed champion's exaltation still burned in him; he was fiercely excited, his eyes were bright with fever of fire. "Hey, Philip," he laughed, "now you and I must cross the sea! And you a bad sailor, Philip!"
'"'Tis so, indeed, Richard," says King Philip, looking rather foolish. King Richard clapped him on the shoulder. "A stout heart, my Philip," he says, "is betokened by your high stomach. That shall stand us in a good stead in Palestine." Then it was that King Philip kissed him, and him King Richard again.
'He was in great heart that day, full to the neck with hope and adventure. I would like to see the man or woman to have denied him anything. At times like these he was (I do not seek to disguise it) a frank lover, Non omnia possumus omnes; if any man think he must have been Galahad the Bloodless Knight because he had been singled out by the questing Rood, he knows little how high ventures foment rich blood. Lancelot he never was, to love broadcast; but Tristram, rather, lover of one woman. Hope, pride, knowledge of his force, ran tingling in him; perhaps he saw her fairer than any woman could have been; perhaps he saw her rosy through his sanguine eyes. He clipped her in his arms in full hall that night in a way that made her rosy enough. Not that she denied him: good heaven, who was she to do that? There as he had her close upon his breast he kissed her a dozen times, and "Jehane, wilt thou fare with me to England?" he asked her fondly, "or must I leave thee peaking here, my Countess of Anjou?"
'She would have had her own answer ready to that, good soul, but that the leper gave her another. In a low, urgent voice she answered, "Ah, sweet lord, I must never leave thee now"—as if to ask, Was there need? So he went on talking to her, lover talk, teasing talk, to see what she would say; and all the while Jehane stood very near him, with her face held between his two hands as closely as wine is held by a cup. To whatever he chose to say, and in whatever fashion, whether strokingly (as to a beloved child), or gruffly (in sport) as one speaks to a pet dog, she replied in very meek manner, eyeing him intently, "Yea, Richard," or "Nay, Richard," agreeing with him always. This he observed. "They call me Yea-and-Nay, dear girl," he said, "and thou hast learned it of them. But I warn thee, Jehane, ma mie, I am in a mood of Yea this night. Therefore deny me not."
'"Lord, I shall never deny thee," says Jehane, red as a rose. And reason enough! I remembered the words; for while she said them, it is certain she was praying how best she might make herself a liar, like Saint Peter.
'Pretty matters! on the faith I profess. And if a man, who is king of men, may not play with his young wife, I know not who may play with her. That is my answer to King Philip Augustus, who fretted and chafed at this harmless performance. As for Saint-Pol, who ground his teeth over it, I would have a different answer for him.'
I have given Milo his full tether; but there are things to say which he knew nothing about. Richard was changed, for all his wild mood of that night; nor was Jehane slow to perceive it. Perhaps, indeed, she was too quick, with her wit oversharpened by her uneasy conscience. But that night she saw, or thought she saw this in Richard: that whereas the righting of her had been his only concern before the day of the bowing Rood, now he had another concern. And the next day, when at dawn he left her and was with his Council until dinner, she knew it for sure. After dinner (which he scarcely ate) he rose and visited King Philip. With him, the Legate and the Archbishops, he remained till late at night. Day succeeded day in this manner. The French King, the Duke, and their trains went to Paris. Then came Guy of Lusignan, King (and no king) of Jerusalem, for help. Richard promised him his, not because he liked him any better than the Marquess (who kept him out), but because Guy's title seemed to him a good one. At bottom Richard was as deliberate as a pair of scales; and just now was acting the perfect king, the very touchstone of justice. Through all this time of great doings Jehane stayed quaking at home, sitting strangely among her women—a countess who knew she was none, a queen by nature who dreaded to be queen by law. Yet one thing she dreaded more. She was in a horrible pass. Wife of a dead man and his killer! Why, what should she do? She dared not go on playing wife to the champion of heaven, and yet she dared not leave him lest she should be snatched into the arms of his assassin. On which horn should she impale her poor heart? She tried to wring prayers out of it, she tried to moisten her aching eyes with the dew of tears. Slowly, by agony of effort, she approached her bosom to the steel. One night Richard came to her, and she drove herself to speak. He came, and she fenced him off.
'Richard, O Richard, touch me not!'
'God on the Cross, what is this?'
'Touch me not, touch me never; but never leave me!'
'O my pale rose! O fair-girdled!' She stood up, white as her gown, transfigured, very serious.
'I am not thy wife, Richard; I am no man's wife. No, but I am thy slave, bound to thee by a curse, held from thee by thy high calling. I dare not leave thee, my Richard, nor dare stay by thee so close, lest ruin come of it.'
Richard watched her, frowning. He was much moved, but thought of what she said.
'Ruin, Jehane, ruin?'
'Ruin of thy venture, my knight of God! Ah, chosen, elect, comrade of the Rood, gossip of Jesus Christ, duke dedicate!' She was hued like flame as the great thoughts leaped in her. 'Ah, my Christian King, it is so little a thing I ask of thee, to set me apart! What am I to thee, whose bride is the virgin city, the holy place? What is Jehane, a poor thing handed about, to vex heaven, or be a stumbling-block in the way of the Cross? Put me away, Richard, let me go; have done with me, sweet lord.' And then swiftly she ran and clasped his knees: 'But ask me not to leave thee—no, but I dare not indeed!' Her tears streamed freely now. When Richard with a cry snatched her up, she lay weeping like a lost child in his arms.
He laid her on the bed, worn frail by the strife she had endured; she had no strength to open her eyes, but moved her lips to thank him for his pains. At first she turned her head from side to side, seeking a cool place on the pillow; later she fell into a heavy, drugged sleep. He watched her till it was nearly light, brooding over her unconscious face. No thoughts of a king were his, I think; but once more he lapped them in that young girl's bosom, and let them sway, ebb and flow, with it.
On the flow, great with her theme, he saw her inspired, standing with her torch of flame to point his road. A splintry way leads to the Cross, where even kings consecrate must tear their feet. If he knew himself, as at such naked hours he must, he knew whither his heart was set. He was to lead the armies of Christendom, because no other man could do it. Had he any other pure and stern desire but that? None. If he could win back the Sepulchre, new plant the Holy Cross, set a Christian king on the throne below Golgotha, keep word with God Who had bowed to him from the Rood, give the heathen sword for sword, and hold the armed world like a spear in his hand, to shake as he shook—God of all power and might, was this not worthy his heart?
His heart and Jehane's! The flowing bosom ebbed, and drained him of all but pity. He saw her like a dead flower, wan, bruised, thrown away. Robbery! He had stolen her by force. He clenched his two hands about his knee and shook himself to and fro. Thief! Damned thief! Had he made her amends? He groaned. Not yet. Should she not be crowned? She prayed that she might not be. She meant that; all her soul came sobbing to her lips as she prayed him. He could not deny her that prayer. If she would not mount his throne, she should not—he was King. But that other bidding: Touch me not, she said. He looked at her sleeping; her bosom filled and lifted his hand. God have no mercy on him if he denied her that either. 'So take Thou, God, my heart's desire, if I give her not hers.' Then he stooped and kissed her forehead; she opened her eyes and smiled feebly, half awake.
He was not a man, I say it again, at the mercy of women's lure. Milo was right; he was Tristram, not Galahad nor Lancelot; a man of cold appetite, a man whose head was master, touched rarely, and then stirred only to certain deeps. So far as he could love woman born he loved Jehane, saw her exceedingly lovely, loved her proud remote spirit, her nobility, her sobriety. He saw her bodily perfections too, how splendid a person, how sumptuous in hue and light. Admiring, taking glory in these, yet he required the sting of another man's hand upon her to seize her for himself. For purposes of policy, for ends which seemed to him good, he could have lived with Jehane as a brother with a sister: one thing provided, Let no other man touch.
Now this policy was imperative, this end God said was good. Jehane implored with tears, Christ called from the Cross; so King Richard fell upon his knees and kissed the girl's forehead. When he left her that morning he sought out Milo and confessed his sins. Shriven he arose, to do what remained in the west before he could be crowned in Rouen, and crowned in Westminster.
LAST TENZON OF BERTRAN DE BORN
I wish to be done with Bertran de Born, that lagging fox; but the dogs of my art must make a backward cast if they are to kill him in the open. I beg the reader, then, to remember that when Richard left him half-throttled in his own house, and when he had recovered wind enough to stir his gall, he made preparations for a long journey to the South. In that scandal concerning Alois of France he believed he had stuff which might wreck Count Richard more disastrously than Count Richard could wreck him. He hoped to raise the South, and thither he went, his own dung-fly, buzzing over the offal he had blown; and the first point he headed for was Pampluna across the Pyrenees. It is folly to dig into the mind of a man diseased by malice; better treat such like sour ground, burn with lime (or let God burn) and abide the event in faith. If of all men in the world Bertran hated Richard of Anjou, it was not because Richard had misused him, but because he had used him too lightly. Richard, offended with Bertran, gave him a flick on the ear and sent him to the devil with his japes. He did no more because he valued him no more. He thought him a perverse rascal, glorious poet, ill-conditioned vassal, untimely parasite of his father's realm. He knew he had caused endless mischief, but he could not hate such a cork on a waterspray. Now, it fretted Bertran to white heat that he should be despised by a great man. It seemed that at last he could do him considerable harm. He could embroil him with two kings, France and England, and induce a third to harass him from the South. So he crossed the mountains and went into Navarre.
Over those stony ridges and bare fields Don Sancho was king, the seventh of his name; and he kept his state in the city of Pampluna. Reputed the wisest prince of his day, it is certain that he had need to be so, such neighbours as he had. West of him was Santiago, south of him Castile. These two urgent kings, edging (as it were) on the same bench with him, made his seat a shifty comfort. No sooner had he warmed himself a place than he was hoist to a cold one. In front of him, over against the sun, he saw Philip of France pinched to the same degree between England and Burgundy, eager to stretch his extremities since he could not broaden his sides. Don Sancho had no call to love France; but he feared England greatly—the horrible old brindled Lion, and Richard, offspring of the Lion and the Pard, Richard the Leopard, who made more songs and fought more quarrels out than any Christian prince. Here were quodlibets for Don Sancho's logic. In appearance he was a pale vexed man, with anxious eyes and a thin beard, at which (in his troubles) he plucked as often as he could afford the hairs. Next to his bleached lands he loved minstrels and physicians. Averrhoes was often at his court; so were Guillem of Cabestaing and Peire Vidal. He knew and went so far as to love Bertran de Born. Perhaps he was not too good a Christian, certainly he was a very hungry one; and kings, with the rest of the world, are to be judged by their necessities, not their professions. So much will suffice, I hope, concerning Don Sancho the Wise.
In those days which saw Count Richard's back turned on Autafort, and Saint-Pol's broken at Tours, Bertran de Born came to Pampluna, asking to be received by the King of Navarre. Don Sancho was glad to see him.
'Now, Bertran,' says he, 'you shall give me news of poets and the food of poets. All the talk here is of bad debts.'
'Oy, sire,' says Bertran, 'what can I tell you? The land is in flames, the women have streaked faces, far and wide travels the torch of war.'
'I am sorry to hear it,' says King Sancho, 'and trust that you have not brought one of those torches with you.'
Bertran shook his head; interruptions worried him, for he lived maddeningly, like a man that has a drumming in his ear.
'Sire,' he said, 'there is a new strife between the Count of Poictou, "Yea-and-Nay," and the French King on this account: the Count repudiates Madame Alois.'
'Now, why does he do that, Bertran?' cried King Sancho, opening his eyes wide.
'Sire, it is because he pretends that his father, the old King, has done him dishonour. Says the Count, Madame Alois might be my stepmother, never my wife.'
'Deus!' said the King. 'Bertran, is this the truth?'
That was a question for which Bertran was fully prepared. He always had it put, and always gave the same answer. 'As I am a Christian, sire,' he said, 'the Gospel is no truer.'
To which King Sancho replied, 'I do most devoutly believe in the Holy Gospel, whatever any Arabian may say to the contrary. But is it for this, pray, that you propose to light candles of war in Navarre?'
'Ah,' said Bertran, with his hand scratching in his vest, 'I light no candles, my lord; but I counsel you to light them.'
'Phew!' said King Sancho, and stuck his arms out; 'on whose account, Bertran, on whose account?'
Bertran replied savagely, 'On account of Dame Alois slandered, of her brother France deceived in his hope, of the English King strangely accused, of his son John (a hopeful prince, Benjamin of a second Israel), and of Queen Eleanor of England, of whose kindred your Grace is.'
'Deus! Oy, Deus!' cried King Sancho, pale with amazement, 'and are all these thrones in arms, lighting candles against Count Richard?'
'It is so indeed, sire,' says Bertran; and King Sancho frowned, with this comment—'There seems little chivalry here, take it as you will.' Next he inquired, where was the Count of Poictou?
Bertran was ready. 'He rages his lands, sire, like a leopard caged. Now and again he raids the marches, harries France or Anjou, and withdraws.'
'And the King his father, Bertran, where is he? Far off, I hope.'
'He,' said Bertran, 'is in Normandy with a host, seeking the head of his son Richard on a charger.'
'The great man that he is!' cried Don Sancho. Bertran could not contain himself.
'Great or not, he is to pay his debts! The old rascal stag is rotten with fever.'
I suppose Don Sancho was not called Wise for nothing. At any rate he sat for a while considering the man before him. Then he asked, where was King Philip?
'Sire,' replied Bertran, 'he is in his city of Paris, comforting Dame Alois, and assembling his estates for Count Richard's flank.'
'And Prince John?'
'Oh, sire, he has friends. He waits. Watch for him presently.'
King Sancho frowned his forehead into furrows, and allowed himself a hair or two of his beard. 'We will think of it, Bertran,' he said presently. 'Yes, we will think of it, after our own fashion. God rest you, Bertran, pray go refresh yourself.' So he dismissed him.
When he was alone he went on frowning, and between whiles tapped his teeth with his beard-comb. He knew that Bertran had not come lying for nothing to Pampluna; he must find out on whose account he was lying, and upon what rock of truth (if any at all) he had built up his lies. Was it because he hated the father, or because he hated the son? Or because he served Prince John? Let that alone for a moment. This story of Alois: it must be, he thought, either true or false, but was no invention of Bertran's. Whichever it was, King Philip would make war upon King Henry, not upon Richard; since, wanting timber, you cut at the trunk, not at the branches. He believed Bertran so far, that the Count of Poictou was in his country, and King Henry with a host in his. War between Philip and the Count was a foolishness. Peace between the Count and King Henry was another. Don Sancho believed (since he believed in God) that old King Henry was at death's door; and he saw above all things that, if the scandal was reasonably founded, there would be a bachelor prince spoiling for wedlock. On all grounds, therefore, he decided to write privily to his kinswoman, Queen Eleanor of England.
And so he did, to a very different tune from that imagined by Bertran, the letter which follows:—
'Madame (Sister and Aunt),' he wrote, 'this day has brought tidings to my private ear whereat in part I mourn with you, and rejoice in part, as a wise physician who, hearing of some great lover in the article of death, knows that he has both the wit and the remedy to work his cure. Madame, with a hand upon my heart I may certify the flow of my blood for the causes, serious and horrific, which have led to strife between your exalted lord and most dear consort in Christ Jesus, my lord Henry the pious King of England (whom God assoil) and his august neighbour of France. But, Madame (Sister and Aunt), it is no less my comfort to affirm that the estate of your noble son, the Count of Poictou, no less moves my anguish. What, Madame! So fierce a youth and so strenuous, widowed of his hopeful bed! The face of Paris with the fate of Menelaus! The sweet accomplishments of King David (chief of trobadors) and the ignominy of the husband of Bathsheba! You see that my eloquence burns me up; and verily, Madame (Sister and Aunt), the hot coal of the wrath of your son has touched my mouth, so that at the last I speak with my tongue.
'I ask myself, Madame, why do not the virgins of Christendom arise and offer their unrifled zones to his noble fingers? Sister and Aunt, there is one at least, in Navarre, who so arises. I offer my child Berengere, called by trobadors (because of her chaste seclusion) Frozen Heart, to be thawed in the sun of your son. I offer, moreover, my great fiefs of Oliocastro, Cingovilas, Monte Negro, and Sierra Alba as far as Agreda; and a dowry also of 60,000 marks in gold of Byzance, to be numbered by three bishops, one each of our choosing, and the third to be chosen by Our lord and ghostly father the Pope. And I offer to you, Madame (Sister and Aunt), the devotion of a brother and nephew, the right hand of concord, and the kiss of peace. I pray God daily to preserve your Celsitude.—From our court of Pampluna, etc. Under the Privy Signet of the King himself—Sanchius Navarrensium Rex, Sapiens, Pater Patriae, Pius, Catholicus.'
This done, and means taken for sure despatch, he sends for the virgin in question, and embracing her with one arm, holds her close to his knee.
'My child,' he says, 'you are to be wedded to the greatest prince now on life, the pattern of chivalry, the mirror of manly beauty, heir to a great throne. What do you say to this?'
The virgin kept her eyes down; a very faint flush of rose troubled her cheek.
'I am in your hands, sire,' she said, whereupon Don Sancho enfolded her.
'You are in my arms, dear child,' he testified. 'Your lord will be King of England, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, Count of Anjou, Poictou, and Maine, and lord of some island in the western sea whose name I have forgotten. He is also the subject of prophecy, which (as the Arabians know very well) declares that he will rule such an empire as Alexander never saw, nor the mighty Charles dreamed of. Does this please you, my child?'
'He is a very great lord,' said Berengere, 'and will be a great king. I hope to serve him faithfully.'
'By Saint James, and so you shall!' cried the happy Don Sancho. 'Go, my child, and say your prayers. You will have something to pray about at last.'
She was the only daughter he had left, exorbitantly loved; a little creature too much brocaded to move, cold as snow, pious as a virgin enclosed, with small regular features like a fairy queen's. She had a narrow mind, and small heart for meeting tribulation, which, indeed, she seemed never likely to know. Sometimes, being in her robes of state, crusted with gems, crowned, coifed, ringed, she looked like nothing so much as a stiff doll-goddess set in glass over an altar. It was thus she showed her best, when with fixed eyes and a frigid smile she stood above the court, an unapproachable glittering star set in the clear sky of a night to give men hopes of an ordered heaven. It was thus Bertran de Born had seen her, when for a time his hot and wrong heart was at rest, and he could look on a creature of this world without desire to mar it. Half in mockery, half in love, he called her Frozen Heart. Later on, you remember, he called Jehane Bel Vezer. He was the nicknamer of Europe in his day.
So now, or almost so, he saw her new come from her father's side—a little flushed, but very much the great small lady, ma dame Berengere of Navarre.
'The sun shines upon my Frozen Heart,' said Bertran. She gave him her hand to kiss.
'No heart of yours am I, Bertran,' she said; 'but chosen for a king.'
'A king, lady! Whom then?'
She answered, 'A king to be. My lord Richard of Poictou.'
He clacked his tongue on his palate, and bolted this pill as best he could. Bad was best. He saw himself made newly so great a fool that he dared not think of it. If he had known at that time of Richard's dealing with Jehane Saint-Pol, you may be sure he would have squirted some venom. But he knew nothing at all about it; and as to the other affair, even he dared not speak.
'A great lord, a hot lord, a very strenuous lord!' he said in jerks. It was all there was to say.
'He is a prince who might claim a lady's love, I suppose,' said Berengere, with considering looks.
'Ho ho! And so he has!' cried Bertran. 'I assure your Grace he is no novice. Many he has claimed, and many have claimed him. Shall I number them?'
'I beg that you will not,' she said, stiffening herself. So Bertran grinned his rage. But he had one thing to say.
'This much I will tell you, Princess. The name I give him is Yea-and-Nay: beware of it. He is ever of two minds: hot head and cold heart, flaming heart and chilled head. He will be for God and the enemy of God; will expect heaven and tamper with hell. With rage he will go up, laughing come down. Ho! He will be for you and against you; eager, slow; a wooer, a scorner; a singer of madrigals, ah, and a croaker afterwards. There is no stability in him, neither length of love nor of hate, no bottom, little faith.' Berengere rose.
'You vex yourself, Bertran, and me also,' she said. 'It is ill talking between a prince and his friend.'
'Am I not your friend then, my lady?' he asked her with bitterness.
'You cannot be the friend of a prince, Bertran,' said Berengere calmly. His muttered 'O God, the true word!' sufficed him for thought all his road from Navarre. He went, as you know already, to Poictiers, where Richard was making festival with Jehane.
But when, unhappy liar, he found out the truth, it came too late to be of service to his designs. Don Sancho, he learned, was beforehand with him even there, fully informed of the outrage at Gisors and the marriage at Poictiers, with very clear views of the worth of each performance. Bertran, gnashing his teeth, took up the service of the man he loathed; gnashing his teeth, he let Richard kiss him in the lists and shower favours upon him. When presents of stallions came from Navarre he began to see what Don Sancho was about. Any meeting of Richard and that profound schemer would have been Bertran's ruin. So when Richard was King, he judged it time to be off.
'Now here,' says Abbot Milo, dealing with the same topics, 'I make an end of Bertran de Born, who did enough mischief in his life to give three kings wretchedness—the young King Henry, and the old King Henry, and the new King Richard. If he was not the thorn of Anjou, whose thorn was he? Some time afterwards he died alone and miserable, having seen (as he thought) all his plots miscarry, the object of his hatred do the better for his evil designs, and the object of his love the better without them. He was cast off. His peers were at the Holy War, his enemy on a throne. There had arisen a generation which shrugged at his eld, and remained one which still thought him a misgoverned youth. Great poet he was, great thief, and a silly fool. So there's an end of him: let him be.'
CONVERSATION IN ENGLAND OF JEHANE THE FAIR
It was in the gules of August, we read, that King Richard set out for his duchy and kingdom, on horseback, riding alone, splendid in red and gold; Countess Jehane in a litter; his true brother and his half-brother, his bishops, his chancellor, and his friends with him, each according to his degree. They went by Alencon, Lisieux, and Pont l'Eveque to Rouen; and there they found the Queen-Mother, an unquenchable spirit. One of Richard's first acts had been to free her from the fortress in which, for ten years or more, the old King had kept her. There were no prison-traces upon her when she met her son, and fixed her son's mistress with a calculating eye. A low-browed, swarthy woman, heavily built, with the wreck of great beauty upon her, having fingers like the talons of a bird and a trap-mouth; it was not hard to see that into the rocky mortice where Richard had been cast there went some grains of flint from her. She had slow, deliberate movements of the body, but a darting mind; she was a most passionate woman, but frugal of her passion, eking it out to cover long designs. Whether she loved or hated—and she could glow with either lust until she seemed incandescent—she went slowly to work. The quicker she saw, the slower she was reducing sight into possession. With all this, like her son Richard, she was capable of strong revulsions. Thus she had loved, then hated King Henry; thus she was to spurn, then to cling to Jehane.
At Rouen she did her best to crush the young girl to the pavement with her intolerable flat-lidded eyes. When Jehane saw her stand on the steps of the church amidst the pomp of Normandy and England—three archbishops by her, William Marshal, William Longchamp, the earls, the baronage, the knights, heralds, blowers of trumpets; when at her example all this glory of Church and State bent the knee to Richard of Anjou, and he, kneeling in turn, kissed his mother's hand, then rose and to the others gave his to be kissed; when he, vowed to her, pledged to her, known of her more secretly than of any, passed through the blare of horns alone into the soaring nave—Jehane shivered and crossed herself, faltered a little, and might have fallen. Her King was doing by her as she had prayed him; but the scrutiny of the Queen-Mother had been a dry gloss to the text. She had been able to bear her forsaking with a purer heart, but for the narrow eyes that witnessed it and gleamed. One of her ladies, Magdalene Coucy, put an arm about her; so Countess Jehane stiffened and jerked up her head, and after that walked with no more faltering. If she had seen, as Milo saw, Gilles de Gurdun glowering at her from a corner, it might have gone hard with her. But she did not.
They crowned Richard Duke of Normandy, and to him came all the barons of the duchy one by one, to do him homage. And first the Archbishop of Rouen, in whose allegiance was that same Sir Gilles. But Gilles knew very well that there could be no fealty from him to this robber of a duke. Gilles had seen Jehane; and when he could bear the sight no more for fear his eyes should bleed, he went and walked about the streets to cool his head. He swore by all the saints in the calendar of Rouen—and these are many—that he would close this account. Let him be torn apart by horses, he would kill the man who had stolen his wife and killed his father and brother, were he duke, king, or Emperor of the West. Meantime, in the church that golden-haired duke, set high on the throne of Normandy, received between his hands the hands of the Normans; and in a stall of the choir Jehane prayed fervently for him, with her arms enfolding her bosom.
Gilles was seen again at Harfleur, when the King embarked for England. He had a hood over his head; but Milo knew him by the little steady eyes and bar of black above. When the great painted sails bellied to the off-shore wind and the dragon-standard of England pointed the sea-way northward into the haze, Milo saw Gilles standing on the mole, a little apart from his friends, watching the galley which took Jehane out of reach.
* * * * *
If Milo found the Normans like ginger in the mouth, it is not to be supposed that the English suited him any better. He calls them 'fog-stewed,' says that they ate too much, and were as proud of that as of everything else they did. Luckily, he had very little to do with them, though not much less, perhaps, than his master. Dry facts content him: how the King disembarked at Southampton and took horse; how he rode through forests to Winchester; how there he was met by the bishop, heard mass in the minster, and departed for Guildford; thence again, how through wood and heath they came to Westminster 'and a fair church set in meadows by a broad stream'—to tell this rapidly contents him. But once in London the story begins to concentrate. It is clear there was danger for Jehane. King Richard, it seems, caused her to be lodged 'in a place of nuns over the river, in a place which is called in English Lamehithe.'
This was quite true; danger there was, as Richard saw, who knew his mother. But he did not then know how quick with danger the times were. The Queen-Mother had upon her the letter of Don Sancho the Wise, and to her the politics of Europe were an open book. One holy war succeeded another, and one king; but what king that might be depended neither upon holiness nor war so much as on the way each was used. Marriage with Navarre might push Anjou across the mountains; the holy war might lift it across the sea. Who was the 'yellow-haired King of the West' whom they of the East foretold, if not her goodly son? Should God be thwarted by a ——? She hesitated not for a word, but I hesitate.
If the Queen-Mother was afraid of anything in the world, it was of the devil in the race she had mothered. It had thwarted her in their father, but it cowed her in her sons. Most of all, I think, in Richard she feared it, because Richard could be so cold. A flamy devil as in young Henry, or a brimstone devil as in Geoffrey of Brittany, or a spitfire devil as was John's—with these she could cope, her lord had had them all. But in Richard she was shy of the bleak isolation, the self-sufficing, the hard, chill core. She dreaded it, yet it drew her; she was tempted to beat vainly at it for the passion's sake; and so in this case she dared to do. She would cheerfully have killed the minion, but she dared the King first.
When she opened to him the matter of Don Sancho's letter, none knew better than Richard that the matter might have been good. Yet he would have nothing to say to it. 'Madame,' his words were, 'this is an idle letter, if not impertinent. Don Sancho knows very well that I am married already.'
'Eh, sire! Eh, Richard!' said the Queen-Mother, 'then he knows more than I.'
'I think not, Madame,' the King replied, 'since I have this moment informed you.'
The Queen swallowed this; then said, 'This wife of yours, Richard, who is not Duchess of Normandy, will not be Queen, I doubt?'
Richard's face grew haggard; for the moment he looked old. 'Such again is the fact, Madame.'
'But—' the Queen began. Richard looked at her, so she ended there.
Afterwards she talked with the Archbishop of Canterbury, with the Marshal, with Longchamp of Ely, and her son John. All these worthies were pulling different ways, each trying to get the rope to himself. With that rope John hoped to hang his brother yet. 'Dearest Madame,' he said, 'Richard cannot marry in Navarre even if he were willing. Once he has been betrothed, and has broken plight; once he saw his mistress betrothed, and broke her plight. Now he is wedded, or says that he is. Suppose that you get him to break this wedlock, will you give him another woman to deceive? There is no more faithless beast in the world than Richard.'
'Your words prove that there is one at least,' said the Queen-Mother with heat. 'You speak very ill, my son.'
Said John, 'And he does very ill, by the Bread!'
William Marshal interposed. 'I have seen much of the Countess of Anjou, Madame,' said this honest gentleman. 'Let me tell your Grace that she is a most exalted lady.' He would have said more had the Queen-Mother endured it, but she cried out upon him.
'Anjou! Who dares put her up there?'
'Madame,' said William, 'it was my lord the King.' The Queen fumed.
Then the Archbishop said, 'She is nobly born, of the house of Saint-Pol. I understand that she has a clear mind.'
'More,' cried the Marshal, 'she has a clear heart!'
'If she had nothing clear about her I have that which would bleach her white enough,' said the Queen-Mother; and Longchamp, who had said nothing at all, grinned.
In the event, the Queen one day took to her barge, crossed the river, and confronted the girl who stood between England and Navarre.
Jehane, who was sitting with her ladies at needlework, was not so scared as they were. Like the nymphs of the hunting Maid they all clustered about her, showing the Queen-Mother how tall she was and how nobly figured. She flushed a little and breathed a little faster; but making her reverence she recovered herself, and stood with that curious look on her face, half surprise, half discontent, which made men call her the sulky fair. So the Queen-Mother read the look.
'No pouting with me, mistress,' she said. 'Send these women away. It is with you I have to deal.'
'Do we deal singly, Madame?' said Jehane. 'Then my ladies shall seek for yours the comforts of a discomfortable lodging. I am sorry I have no better.' The Queen-Mother nodded her people out of the room; so she and Jehane were left alone together.
'Mistress,' said the Queen-Mother, 'what is this between you and my son? Playing and kissing are to be left below the degrees of a throne. Let there be no more of it. Do you dare, are you so hardy in the eyes, as to look up to a kingly seat, or measure your head for a king's crown?'
Jehane had plenty of spirit, which a very little of this sort of talk would have fanned into a flame; but she had irony too.
'Madame, alas!' she said, with a hint of shrugging; 'if I have worn the Count's cap I know the measure of my head.'
The Queen-Mother took her by the wrist 'My girl,' said she, 'you know very well that you are no Countess at all in my son's right, but are what one of your nurture should not be. And you shall understand that I am a plain-dealer in such affairs when they concern this realm, and have bled little heifers like you whiter than veal and as cold as most of the dead; and will do it again if need be.'