Jehane did not flinch nor turn her eyes from considering her whitening wrist.
'Oh, Madame,' she says, 'you will never bleed me; I am quite sure of that. Alas, it would be well if you could, without offence.'
'Why, whom should I offend then?' the Queen said, sniffing—'your ladyship?'
'A greater,' said Jehane.
'You think the King would be offended?'
'Madame,' Jehane said, 'he could be offended; but so would you be.'
The Queen-Mother tightened hold. 'I am not easily offended, mistress,' she said, and smiled rather bleakly.
Jehane also smiled, but with patience, not trying to get free her wrist.
'My blood would offend you. You dare not bleed me.'
'Death in life!' the Queen cried, 'is there any but the King to stop me now?'
'Madame,' Jehane answered, 'there is the spoken word against you, the spirit of prophecy.'
Then her jailer saw that Jehane's eyes were green, and very steady. This checked her.
'Who speaks? Who prophesies?'
Jehane told her, 'The leper in a desert place, saying, "Beware 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."'
The Queen-Mother, a very religious woman, took this saying soberly. She dropped Jehane's wrist, stared at and about her, looked up, looked down; then said, 'Tell me more of this, my girl.'
'Hey, Madame,' said Jehane, 'I will gladly tell you the whole. The saying of the leper was very dreadful to me, for I thought, here is a man punished by God indeed, but so near death as to be likely familiar with the secrets of death. Such a one cannot be a liar, nor would he speak idly who has so little time left to pray in. Therefore I urged my lord Richard by his good love for me to forgo his purpose of wedding me in Poictiers. But he would not listen, but said that, as he had stolen me from my betrothed, it comported not with his honour to dishonour me. So he wedded me, and fulfilled both terms of the leper's prophecy. Then I saw myself in peril, and was not at all comforted by the advice of certain nuns, which was that, although I had lain in the Count's bed, I had not lain, but had knelt, in the Count's cap; and that therefore the terms were not fulfilled. I thought that foolishness, and still think so. But this is my own thought. I have never rightly been in either as the leper intended, for I do not think the marriage a good one. If I am no wife, then, God pity me, I have done a great sin; but I am no Countess of Anjou. So I give the prophet the lie. On the other hand, if I am put away by my lord the King that he may make a good marriage, I shall be claimed again by the man to whom I was betrothed before, and so the doom be in danger of fulfilment. For, look now, Madame, the leper said, "Wife of a dead man and his killer"; and there is none so sure to kill the King as Sir Gilles de Gurdun. Alas, alas, Madame, to what a strait am I come, who sought no one's hurt! I have considered night and day what it were best to do since the King, at my prayer, left me; and now my judgment is this. I must be with the King, though not the King's mie; because so surely as he sends me away, so surely will Gilles de Gurdun have me.'
She stopped, out of breath, feeling some shame to have spoken so much. The Queen-Mother came to her at once, with her hands out. 'By my soul, Jehane,' she said, 'you are a good woman. Never leave my son.'
'I never mean to leave him,' said Jehane. 'That is my punishment, and (I think) his also.'
'His punishment, my child?'
'Why, Madame,' said Jehane, 'you think that the King must wed.'
'And to wed, he must put me away.'
'Yes, yes, child.'
'Therefore, although he loves me, he may never have his dear desire; and although I love him, I may give him no comfort. Yet we can never leave each other for fear of the leper's prophecy; but he must always long and I grieve. That, I think, is punishment for a man and woman.'
The Queen-Mother sobbed. Terrible punishment for a little pleasant sin! Yet I doubt'—she said, politic through all—'yet I doubt my son, being a fierce lover, will have his way with thee.'
Jehane shook her head. 'No means,' she said, drawing in her breath, 'no means, Madame. I have his life to think of.' Here, pitying herself, she turned away her face. The Queen-Mother came suddenly and kissed her. They cried together, Jehane and the flinty old shrew of Aquitaine.
A pact was made, and sealed with kisses, between these two women who loved King Richard, that Jehane should do her best to further the Navarrese match. Circumstance was her friend in this pious robbery of herself: Richard, who stood so deep engaged in honour to God Almighty, could get no money.
Busy as he was with one shift after another to redeem his credit, busy also pushing on his coronation, he yet continued to see his mistress most days, either walking with her in the garden of the nuns' house where she lodged, or sitting by her within doors. At these snatched moments there was a beautiful equality between them; the girl no longer subject to the man, the man more master of himself for being less master of her. As often as not he sat on the floor at her feet while she worked at those age-long tapestries which her generation loved; leaning his head back to her knee, he would so lie and search her face, and wonder to himself what the world to come could have more fair to show than this calm treasurer of lovely flesh. This was, at the time, her chief glory, that with all her riches—fragrant allure, soft warmth, the delicacy, nice luxury of her every part, the glow, the tincture, the throbbing fire—she could keep a strong hand upon herself; sway herself modestly; have so much and give so little; be so apt for a bridal, and yet without a sigh play the nun! 'If she, being devirginate through me, can cry herself virgin again—then cannot I, by the King of Heaven?' This was Richard's day-thought, a very mannish thought; for women do not consider their own beauties so closely, see no divinity in themselves, and find a man to be a glorious fool to think one of them more desirable than another. He never spoke this thought, but worshipped her silently for the most part; and she, reading the homage of his upturned face, steeled herself against the sweet flattery, held her peace, and in her fierce proud mind made endless plots against his.
In silence their souls conversed upon a theme never mentioned between them. His restless quest of her face taught him much, disposed him; she, with all the good guile of women to her hand, waited, judging the time. Then one day as they sat together in a window she suddenly slipped away from his hand, dropped to her knees, and began to pray.
For a while he let her alone, finding the act as lovely as she. But presently he stooped his face till it almost touched her cheek, and 'Tell me thy prayer, dear heart! Let me pray also!' he whispered.
'I pray for my lord the King,' she said. 'Let me pray.' But as he insisted, urging, leaning to her, she drew her head back and lifted to his view her face, blanched with pure patience.
'O King Christ,' she prayed, 'take from my soiled hand this sacrifice!'
She prayed to Christ, but looked at Richard. He dared speak for Christ.
'What sacrifice, my child?'
'I give Thee the hero who has lain upon my breast; I give Thee the marriage-bed, the cap of the Count. I give Thee the kisses, the clinging together, the vows, the long bliss where none may speak. I give Thee the language of love, the strife, the after-calm, the assurance, the hope and the promise. But I keep, Lord, the memory of love as a hostage of Thine.'
King Richard, breathless now, looked in her face. It was that of a mild angel, steadfast, grave, hued like fire, acquainted with grief. 'O God-fraught! O saint in the battle! O dipped in the flame! Jehane, Jehane, Jehane! Quicken me!' So he cried in anguish of spirit.
'Quicken thee, Richard?' she said. 'Nay, but thou art quick, my King. The Cross hath made thee quick; thou hast given more than I.'
'I will give all by thy direction,' he said, 'for I know that thou wilt save my honour.'
'Trust me there,' said Jehane, and let him kiss her cheek.
She got a great hold upon him by these means. Quick with the Holy Ghost or not, there was no doubting the quickness of his mind. Here Jehane's wit had not played her false; he read her whole meaning; she never let go the footing she had gained, but in all her commerce with him walked a saint, a maid ravished only by a great thought. Visibly to him she stood symbol of belief, sacramental, the fire on the altar, the fine shy spirit of love lurking (like a rock-flower) at the Cross's foot. And so this fire with which she led him, like the torch she had held up to show him his earlier way, lifted her; and so she became indeed what she signified.
She stood very near the Queen-Mother when Richard was crowned and anointed King of the English, unearthly pure, with eyes like stars, robed in dull red, crowned herself with silver. All those about her, marking the respect which the old Queen paid her, scarce dared lift their eyes to her face. The tall King, stripped to the shirt, was anointed, then robed, then crowned; afterwards sat with orb and sceptre to receive homage. Jehane came in her turn to kneel before him. But her work had been done. That icy stream in the blood, which is cause and proof at once of the kingly isolation, was doubly in Richard, first of that name. He beheld her kneeling at his knee, knew her and knew her not. She with her cold lips kissed his cold hand. That day had love, by her own desire, been frozen; and that which was to awaken it was itself numb in sleep.
On the third of September they crowned him King, and found that he was to be King indeed. On the same day the citizens of London killed all the Jews they could find; and Richard banished his brother John from his dominions in England and France for three years and three days.
FROZEN HEART AND RED HEART: CAHORS
I suppose that the present relations of King Richard and the Countess of Poictou (as she chose to call herself now) were as singular as could subsist between a strong man and beautiful woman, both in love. I am not to extenuate or explain, but say once for all to the curious that she was never again to him (nor had been since that day at Fontevrault) what a sister might not have been. Yet, with all that, it was evident to the world at large that he was a lover, and she mistress of his mind. Not only implicitly so, as witnessed their long intercourse of the eyes, their quick glances, stealthy watching of each other, the little tender acts (as the giving or receiving of a flower), the brooding silences, the praying at the same time or place; but explicitly he pronounced himself her knight. All his songs were of her; he wrote to her many times a day, and she answered his letters by her page, and kept the latest of them always within her vest, over against her heart. She allowed herself more scope than he, trusting herself further: it is known that she treasured discarded things of his, and went so far as to wear (she, the Fair-Girdled!) a studded belt of his made to fit her. She was never without this rude monument of her former grace. But this was the sum-total of their bodily intercourse, apart from speech. Of their spiritual ecstasies I have no warrant to speak, though I believe these were very innocent. She would not dare, nor he care, to indulge in so laxative a joy.
He conversed with her freely upon all affairs of moment; there was no constraint on either side. He was even merry in her company, and astonishingly frank. Singular man! the Navarrese marriage was a common subject of their talk; she spoke of it with serious mockery and he with mock seriousness. From Richard it was, 'Countess Jehane, when the chalk-faced Spaniard reigns you must mend your manners.' And she might say, 'Beau sire, Madame Berengere will never like your songs unless you sing of her.' All this served the girl's private ends. Gradually and gradually she led him to see that thing as fixed. She did it, as it were, on tiptoe, for she knew what a shyer he was; but luckily for her schemes, the Queen-Mother trusted her to the bottom, said nothing and allowed nothing to be said.
Meantime the affairs of the Crusade conspired with Jehane to drive Richard once more to church. If he got little money in England, where abbeys were rich in corn but poor in pelf, and the barons had been so prompt to rob each other that they could not be robbed by the King,—he got less in Gaul, eaten up by war for a hundred years. You cannot bleed a stuck pig, as King Richard found. England was empty of money. He got men enough; from one motive or another every English knight was willing to rifle the East. He had ships enough. But of what use ships and men if there was no food for them nor money to buy it? He tried to borrow, he tried to beg, he tried what in a less glorious cause a plain man would call stealing. King Richard came not of a squeamish race, and would have sold anything to any buyer, pawned his crown or taken another man's to get the worth of a company's pay out of it. Fines, escheats, reliefs, forfeitures, wardships, marriages—he heaped exaction on exaction, with mighty little result. When his mind was set he was inexorable, insatiable, without scruple. What he got only sharpened his appetite for more. King Tancred of Sicily owed the dowry of Richard's sister Joan. He swore he would wring that out of him to the last doit. He offered the city of London to the highest bidder, and lamented the slaughter of the Jews when the tenders were few. Here was a position to be in! His Englishmen lay rotting in Southampton town, his ships in Southampton water. His Normans and Poictevins were over-ripe; he as dry as an unpinched pear. He saw, to his infinite vexation, his honour again in pawn, and no means of redeeming it. Jehane, with tears in her voice, plied the Navarrese marriage with more passion than she would ever have allowed herself to urge her own. Richard said he would think of it. 'Now I have him half-way,' Jehane told the Queen-Mother. He was driven the other half by his banished brother John.
Prince John, bundled out of the country within a week of the coronation, went to Paris and a pocketful of mischief in which to put his hand. King Philip, who should have been preparing for the East, was listening to counsels much more to his liking. Conrad of Montferrat was there, with large white fingers explaining on the table, and a large white face set as lightly as a mouse-trap. His Italian mind, with that strange capacity for subserving business with passion, had a task of election here. The Marquess knew that Richard would sooner help the devil than him to Jerusalem; not only on this account, but on every conceivable account did he hate Richard. If he could embroil the two leaders of the Crusade, there was his affair: Philip would need him. In Paris also was Saint-Pol, fizzling with mischief, and behind him, where-ever he went, stalked Gilles de Gurdun, murder in his heart. The massive Norman was a fine foil to the Count: they were the two poles of hatred. The Duke of Burgundy was not there, but Conrad knew that he could be counted. Richard owed him (so he said) forty pounds; besides, Richard had called him a sponge—and it was true. There, lastly, was Des Barres, that fine Frenchman, ready to hate anybody who was not French, and most ready to hate Richard, who had broken up the Gisors wedding and put, single-handed, all the guests to shame. Now, this was a company after Prince John's own heart. Standing next to the English throne, he was an excellent footstool; he felt the delicate position, he was flattered at every turn. The Marquess found him most useful, not only because he was on better terms with Philip than himself could hope to be, but because he understood him better. John knew that there were two tender spots in that moody King, and he knew which was the tenderer, pardieu! So Conrad's gross finger, guided by John's, probed the raw of Philip's self-esteem, and found a rankling wound, very proud flesh. Oh, intolerable affront to the House of Capet, that a tall Angevin robber should take up and throw away a daughter of France, and then whistle you to a war in the East! Prince John, you perceive, knew where to rub in the salt.
The storm broke when King Richard was again at Chinon. King Philip sent messengers—William des Barres, the Bishop of Beauvais, and Stephen of Meaux—about the homage due to him for Normandy and all the French fiefs. So far well; King Richard was very urbane, as bland as such an incisive dealer could be. He would do homage for Normandy, Anjou, and the rest on such and such a day. 'But,' he added quietly, 'I attach the condition that it be done at Vezelay, when I am there with my army for the East, and he with his army.'
The ambassadors demurred, talking among themselves: Richard sat on immovable, his hands on his knees. Presently the Bishop of Beauvais, better soldier than priest, stood out from his fellows and made this remarkable speech:—
'Beau sire, our lord the august King takes it very ill that you have so long delayed the marriage agreed upon solemnly between your Grace and Madame Alois his sister. Therefore—' Milo (who was present) says that he saw his master narrow his eyes so much that he seemed to have none at all, but 'sockets and blank balls in them, like statues.' The Bishop of Beauvais, apparently, did not observe it. 'Therefore,' he went on, orotund, 'our lord the King desires that the marriage may be celebrated before he sets out for Acre and the blessed work in those parts. Other matters there are for settlement, such as the title of the most illustrious Marquess of Montferrat to the holy throne, in which my master is persuaded your Grace will conform to his desires. This and other matters a many.'
The King got up. 'Too many matters, Bishop of Beauvais,' he said, 'for my appetite, which is poor just now. There is no debate. Say this to your master, I pay homage where it is due. If by his own act he prove that it is not due, I will not be blamed. As to the Marquess, I will never get a kingdom for him, and I marvel that King Philip can make no better choice than of a man whose only title is rape, and can get no better ally than the slanderer of his sister. And upon the subject of that unhappy lady, I tell you this upon the Holy Gospels, that I will marry King Philip himself before I will marry her; and so much he very well knows. I am upon the point to depart in the fulfilment of my vows. Let your master please himself. He is a bad sailor, he tells me. Am I to think him a bad soldier? And if so, in such a cause, what sort of a Christian, what sort of a king, am I to think him?'
The Bishop, his diplomacy at an end, grew very red. He had nothing to say. Des Barres must needs put in his word.
'Bethink you, fair sire,' he says: 'the Marquess is of my kindred.'
'Oh, I do think, Des Barres,' the King answered him; 'and I am very sorry for you. But I am not answerable for the trespasses of your ancestry.'
Des Barres glared about him, as if he hoped to find a reply among the joists.
'My lord,' he began again, 'it is laid in charge upon us to speak the mind of France. Our master is greatly put about in his sister's affair, and not he only, but his allies with him. Among whom, sire, you must be pleased to reckon my lord John of Mortain.'
He had done better to leave John out; Richard's eyes burnt him, and his voice cut. 'Let my brother John have her, who knows her rights and wrongs. As for you, Des Barres, take back to your master your windy conversation, and this also, that I allow no man to dictate marriages to me.' So said, he broke up the audience, and would see no more of the ambassadors. They, in two or three days, departed with what grace they had in them.
The immediate effect of this, you may perhaps expect, was to drive Richard all the road to Navarre. He was profoundly offended, so much so that not Jehane herself dared speak to him. As he always did when his heart mastered his head, he acted now alone and at once. In the heart we choose to seat rage of all sorts, the purest and the most base, the most fervent and the most cold. It so happened that there was business for our King in Gascony, congenial business. Guillem de Chisi, a vassal of his, had been robbing pilgrims, so Guillem was to be hanged. Richard went swift-foot to Cahors, hanged Guillem in front of his own gatehouse, then wrote letters to Pampluna inviting King Sancho to a conference 'upon many affairs touching Almighty God and ourselves.' Thus he put it, and King Sancho needed no accents to the vowels. The wise man set out with a great train, his virgin with him.
* * * * *
The day of his expectation, King Richard heard mass in a most unchristian frame of mind. There was no Sursum Corda for him; but he knelt like a stone image, inert and cold from breast to backbone; said nothing, moved not. How differently do men and women stand at the gate of sorrows! Not far off him knelt Countess Jehane, who in her hands again (it may be said) held up her bleeding heart. The luxury of this strange sacrifice made the girl glow like a fire opal; she was in a fierce ecstasy, her lips parted, eyes half-shut; she breathed short, she panted. There is no moralising over these things: love is a hearty feeder, and thrives on a fast-day as well as on a gaudy. By fasting come visions, tremors, swoonings and such like, dainty perversions of sense. But part of Jehane's exaltation, you must know, came of another spur. She had a sure and certain hope; she knew what she knew, though no other even guessed it. With that to carry she could lift up her head. No woman in the world need grudge the usurper of place while she may go on, carrying her title below the heart. More of this presently. Two hours before noon, in that clear October weather, over the brown hills came a company of knights on white destriers, with their pennons flying and white cloaks over their mail, the outriders of Navarre. They were met in the meadow of the Charterhouse and escorted to their quarters, which were on the right of the King's pavilion. That same pavilion was of purple silk, worked over with gold leopards the size of life. It had two standards beside it, the dragon of the English, the leopards of Anjou. The pavilion of King Sancho was of green silk with silver emblems—a heart, a castle, a stag; Saint George, Saint Michael, Saint James the Great, and Saint Martin with his split cloak—a shining place before whose door stood twenty ladies in white, their hair let loose, to receive Madame Berengere and minister to her. Chief among these was Countess Jehane. King Richard was not in his own pavilion, but would greet his brother king in the hail of the citadel.
So in due time, after three soundings on the silver trumpets and much curious ceremony of bread and salt, came Don Sancho the Wise in a meinie of his peers, very noble on a roan horse; and Dame Berengere his daughter in a wine-coloured litter, with her ladies about her on ambling palfreys, the colour of burnt grass. When they took this little princess out of her silken cage the first face she looked for and the first she saw was that of Jehane Saint-Pol, who received her courteously.
Jehane always wore sumptuous clothing, being aware, no doubt, that her person justified the display. For this time she had dressed herself in silver brocade, let her bosom go bare, and brought the strong golden plaits round about in her favourite fashion. Upon her head she had a coronet of silver flowers, in her neck a blue jewel. All the colour she had lay in her hue of faint rose, in her hair like corn in the sun, in her eyes of green, in her deep red lips. But her height, free build, and liberal curves marked her out of a bevy that glowed in a more Southern fashion. She had to stoop overmuch to kiss Berengere's hand; and this made the little Spaniard bite her lip.
Berengere herself was like a bell, in a stiff dress of crimson sewn with great pearls in leaf and scroll-work. From the waist upwards she was the handle of the bell. This immoderation of her clothes, the fright she was in—so nervous at first that she could hardly stand—became her very ill. She was quite white in the face, with solemn black eyes, glazed and expressionless; her little hands stuck out from her sides like a puppet's. Handsome as no doubt she was, she looked a doll beside the tall Jehane, who could have dandled her comfortably on her knee. She spoke no language but her own, and that not the langue d'oc, but a blurred dialect of it, rougher even than Gascon. Conversation was very difficult on these terms. At first the Princess was shy; then (when she grew curious and forgot her qualms) Jehane was shy. Berengere fingered the jewel in the other's neck, turned it about, wanted to know whence it had come, whose gift it was, etc., etc. Jehane blushed to report it the gift of a friend; whereupon the Princess looked her up and down in a way that made her hot all over.
But when it came to the time of meeting King Richard, Berengere's nervous fears came crowding back; the poor little creature began to shake, clung to Jehane. 'How tall is the king, how tall is he? Taller than you?' she asked, looking up at the Picard girl.
'Oh, yes, Madame, he is taller than I.'
'They say he is cruel. Did you—do you think him cruel?'
'Madame, no, no.'
'He is a poet, they say. Has he made many songs of me?'
Jehane murmured her doubts, exquisitely confused.
'Fifty poets,' continued nestling Berengere, 'have made songs of me. There is a wreath of songs. They call me Frozen Heart: do you know why? They say I am too proud to love a poet. But if the poet is a king! I have a certain fear just now. I think I will—' She took Jehane's arm—'No! no!' She drew away. 'You are too tall—I will never take your arm—I am ashamed. I beg you to go before me. Lead the way.'
So Jehane went first of all the ladies who led the Queen to the King.
King Richard, who himself loved to go splendidly, sat upon his throne in the citadel looking like a statue of gold and ivory. Upon his head was a crown of gold, he had a long tunic of white velvet, round his shoulders a great cope of figured gold brocade, work of Genoa, and very curious. His face and hands were paler than their wont was, his eyes frosty blue, like a winter sea that is made bright, not warm, by the sun. He sat up stiffly, hands on knees; and all about him stood the lords and prelates of the most sumptuous court in the West. King Sancho the Wise was ready to stoop all his wisdom and burden of years before such superb state as this; but the moment his procession entered the hall Richard went down from his dais to meet it, kissed him on the cheek, asked how he did, and set the careworn man at his ease. As for Berengere, he took from her of both cheeks, held her small hand, spoke in her own language honourable and cheerful words, drove a little colour into her face, screwed a word or two out of her. Afterwards there was high mass, sung by the Archbishop of Auch, and a great banquet, served in the cloister-garth of the Charterhouse under a red canopy, because the hail of the citadel was too small.
At this feast King Richard played a great part—cheerful, easy of approach, making phrases like swords, giving and taking the talk without any advantage of his rank. His jokes had a bite in them, as when he said of Bertran that the best proof of the excellence of his verses was that he had undoubtedly made them himself; or of Averrhoes, the Arabian physician and infidel philosopher, that the man equalised his harms by poisoning with his drugs the bodies of those whose minds had been tainted by his heresies. But he was the first to set the laugh against himself, and had a flash of Dame Berengere's fine teeth before he had been ten minutes at table.
After dinner the Kings and their ministers went into debate; and then it seemed that Richard had got up from his meat perverse. He would only talk of one thing, namely, sixty thousand gold besants. On this he harped maddeningly, with calculations of how much victual the sum would buy, of the weight in ounces, of its content in sacks in a barn, of the mileage of the coins set edge to edge, and so on, and so on. Don Sancho sat winking and fidgeting in his chair, and talked of his illustrious daughter.
'Milled edges they should have, these besants,' says King Richard, 'whereof, allowing (say) three hundred and fifty to a piece, we have a surprising total of'—here he figured on the table, and King Sancho pursued his drift until Richard brought his hand slamming down—'of one-and-twenty million ridges of gold upon the treasure!' he concluded with a waggish look. Agreement was as hard as to prolong parallels to a point. Yet this went on for some two hours, until, worn frail by such futilities, the Navarrese chancellor plumply asked his brother of England if King Richard would marry. 'Marry!' cried he, when they brought him down the question, 'yes, I am all for marrying. I will marry one-and-twenty million milled edges, our Saviour!' They reported to King Sancho the substance of these words, and asked him if such and such would be the dowry of his lady daughter.
'Ask King Richard if he will have her with that in hand and the territories demarked,' said Don Sancho.
This was done. Richard grew grave, made no more jokes. He turned to Milo, who happened to be near him.
'Where is the little lady?' he asked him. Milo looked out of the window.
'My lord,' he said, 'she is in the orchard at this moment; and I think the Countess is with her.' Richard blenched, as if he had been struck with a whip. Collecting himself, he turned and looked down through the window to the leafy orchard below. He looked long, and saw (as Milo had seen) the two girls, the tall and the little, the crimson and the white, standing near together in the shade. Jehane had her head bent, for Berengere had hold of the jewel in her bosom. Then Berengere put her arms round the other's neck and leaned her head where the jewel lay. Jehane stooped her head lower and lower, cheek touched cheek. At this King Richard turned about; despair set hard was on his face. He said in a dry voice, 'Tell the King I will do it.'
In the tedious negotiations of the next few days it was arranged that the Princess should await the Queen-Mother at Bayonne, and sail with her and the fleet to Sicily. There King Richard would meet and marry her. What had passed between her and Jehane in the orchard, who knows? They kissed at parting; but Jehane neither told Richard, nor did he ask her, why Berengere had lain her cheek upon her bosom, or why herself had stooped so low her head. Women's ways!
So Red Heart made her sacrifice, and Frozen Heart suffered the Sun; and he they called later Lion-Heart went out to fight Saladin, and less open foes than he.
THE BOOK OF NAY
THE CHAFFER CALLED MATE-GRIFON
Differing from the Mantuan as much in sort as degree, I sing less the arms than the man, less the panoply of some Christian king offended than the heart of one in its urgent private transports; less treaties than the agony of treating, less personages than persons, the actors rather than the scene. Arms pass like the fashion of them, to-day or to-morrow they will be gone; but men live, their secret springs what they have always been. How the two Kings, then, smeared over their strifes at Vezelay; how John of Mortain was left biting his nails, and Alois weeping at the foot of a cross; how Christian armies like dusty snakes dragged their lengths down the white shores of Rhone, and how some took ship at Marseilles, and some saved their stomachs at the cost of their shoes; of King Richard's royal galley Trenchemer, a red ship with a red bridge, and the dragon at the mast; of the shields that made her bulwarks terrible; of who went adventurous and who remained; of a fleet that lay upon the waters like a flock of sea-gulls—countless, now at rest, now beating the sea into spumy wrath; of what way they made, qualms they suffered, prayers they said in their extremity, vows they made and afterwards broke, thoughts they had and afterwards were ashamed of—of these and all such things I must be silent if I am to make a good end to my history. It shall be enough for you that the red ship held King Richard, and King Richard his own thoughts, and that never far from him, in a ship called Li Chastel Orgoilous, sat Jehane with certain women of hers, nursing her hope and a new and fearful wonder she had. Prayer sits well in women, and age-long watching: one imagines that Jehane never left the poop through those long white days, those burning nights; but could always be seen or felt, a still figure sitting apart, elbow on knee, chin in hand-like a Norn reading fate in the starred web of the night. In the dark watches, when the ships lay drifting under the stars, or lurched forward as the surges drove them on, and the tinkling of the water against the side was all the sound, some woman's voice (not Jehane's) would be heard singing faint and far off, some little shrill and winding prayer.
Saincte Catherine, Vela la nuict qui gagne!
they would hear, and hang upon the cadence. At such times Richard, stretched upon his lion-skin, would raise himself, and lift up his face to the immense, and with his noble voice make the darkness tremble as he sang—
Domna, dels angels regina, Domna, roza ses espina, Domna, joves enfantina, Domna, estela marina, De las autras plus luzens!
But so soon as his voice filled the night, the woman's faltered and died; and he, holding on for a stave or more, would stop on a note that had a wailing fall, and the lapping of the waves or cry of hidden birds take up the rule again. This did not often obtain. Mostly he watched out the night, sleeping little, talking none, but revolving in his mind the great deeds to do. By day he was master of the fleet, an admirable seaman who, knowing nothing of ships' business before he embarked, dared not confess so much to himself. Richard must be leader if he was to be undertaker at all. So he led his fleet from his first hour with it, and brought it safely into the roadstead.
* * * * *
They made Messina prosperously, a white city cooped within walls, with turrets and belfries and shining domes, stooping sharply to the violet sea. King Philip with his legions was to have come by land as far as Genoa, and was not expected yet awhile. Nor was there any sign of the Queen-Mother, of Berengere, or of the convoy from Navarre.
A landing was made in the early morning. Before the Sicilians were well awake Richard's army was in camp, the camp entrenched, and a most salutary gallows set up just outside it, with a thief upon it as a warning to his brothers of Sicily. So far good. The next thing was an embassy to King Tancred, the Sicilian King, which demanded (1) the person of Queen Joan (Richard's sister), (2) her dowry, (3) a golden table twelve foot long, (4) a silk tent, and (5) a hundred galleys fitted out for two years. This despatched, Richard entertained himself with his hawks and dogs, and with short excursions into Calabria. On one of these he went to visit the saintly Abbot Joachim, at once prophet and philosopher and man of cool sense; and on another to kill wild boars. When he came back in October from the second of these, he found matters going rather ill.
King Tancred avoided seeing him, sent no tables, nor ships, nor dowry. He did send Queen Joan, and Queen Joan's bed; moreover, because she had been Queen of Sicily, he sent a sack of gold coins for her entertainment; but he did not propose to go any further. Richard, seeing what sort of courses his plans were likely to take, crossed once more into Calabria, attacked a fortified town which the Sicilians had settled, turned the settlers out, and established his sister there with Jehane, her shipload of ladies, and a strong garrison. Then he returned to Messina.
Certainly, he saw, his camp there could be of no long tenure. The Grifons, as they called the inhabitants, were about it like hornets; not a day passed without the murder of some man of his, or an ambush which cost him a score. Thieving was a courtesy, raiding an amenity in a Grifon, it appeared. Richard, hoping yet for the dowry and a peaceful departing, had laid a strict command that no harm should be done to any one of them unless he should be caught bloody-handed. 'Well and good!' writes Milo; 'but this meant to say that no man might scratch himself for fear he should kill a louse.' Nature could not endure such a direction, so Richard then (whose own temper was none of the longest) let himself go, fell upon a party of these brigands, put half to the sword and hanged the other half in rows before the landward gate of Messina. You will say that this did not advance his treaty with King Tancred; but in a sense it did. When the Messenians came out of their gates to attack him in open field, it was found and reported by Gaston of Bearn, who drove them in with loss, that William des Barres and the Count of Saint-Pol had been with them, each heading a company of knights. Richard flew into a royal, and an Angevin, rage. He swore by God's back that he would bring the walls flat; and so he did. 'This is the work of that little pale devil of France, then,' he said. 'A likely beginning, by my soul! Now let me see if I can bring two kings to reason at once.'
He used the argument of the long arm. Bringing up his engines from the ships, he pounded the walls of Messina to such purpose that he could have walked in barefoot in two or three places. King Tancred came in person to sue for peace; but Richard wanted more than dowry by this time. 'The peace you shall have,' he said, 'is the peace of God which passeth understanding, and for which, I take it, you are not yet ready, unless you bring hither with you Philip of France.' This the unfortunate Tancred really could not do; but he did bring proxies of Philip's. Saint-Pol came, Des Barres, and the Bishop of Beauvais with his russet, soldier's face. King Richard sat considering these worthy men.
'Ah, now, Saint-Pol, you are playing a good part in this Christian adventure, I think!' he broke out after a time. Saint-Pol squared his jaw. 'If I had caught you in your late sally, my friend,' Richard went on, 'I should have hanged you on a tree, knight or no knight. Why, fool, do you think your shameful brother worth so much treachery? With him before your eyes can you do no better? I hope so. Get you back, and tell King Philip this: He and I are vowed to honesty; but if he breaks faith again, I have that in me which shall break him. As for you, Bishop of Beauvais'—one saw the old war-priest blink—'I know nothing of your part in this business, and am willing to think charitably. If you, an old man, have any of the grace of God left in you, bestow some of it on your master. Teach him to serve God as you serve Him, Beauvais. I will try to be content with that.' He turned to Des Barres, the finest soldier of the three. 'William,' he said more gently, for he really liked the man, 'I hope to meet you in a better field, and side by side. But if face to face again, William,' and he lifted his hand, 'beware of me.'
None of them had a word to say, but with troubled faces left the presence; which shows (to some men's thinking) that Richard's strength lay in his cause. That was not the opinion of Des Barres, nor is it mine. Meeting them afterwards, when he made a pact of friendship and alliance with Tancred, and renewed that which he had had with Philip, he showed them a perfectly open countenance. Nevertheless, he took possession of Messina, as he had said he would, and built a great tower upon the wall, which he called Mate-Grifon. Then he sent for his sister and Jehane, and kept a royal Christmas in the conquered city.
Trouble was not over. There were constant strifes between nation and nation, man and man. Winter storms delayed the Queen-Mother; Richard fretted and fumed at the wasting of his force, but saw not the worst of the matter. If vice was eating his army, jealousy was eating Philip's sour little heart, and rage that of Saint-Pol. Saint-Pol, with Gurdun to back him, had determined to kill the English King; with them went, or was ready to go, Des Barres. He was not such a steady hater by any means. Some men seek temptation, others fall under it; Des Barres was of this kind.
Of temptation there was a plenty, since Richard was the most fearless of men. When he had forgiven an injury it did not exist for him any more. He was glad to see Des Barres, glad to play, talk, grumble, or swear with him—a most excellent enemy. One day, idling home from a hawking match, he got tilting with the Frenchman, with reeds for lances. Neither seemed in earnest until Richard's horse slipped on a loose stone and threw him. This was near the gate. You should have seen the change in Des Barres. 'Hue! Hue! Passavant!' he yelled, possessed with the devil of destruction; and came pounding at Richard as if he would ride over him. At the battle-cry a swarm of fellows—Frenchmen and Brabanters—came out and about with pikes. Richard was on his feet by that time, perfectly advised what was astir. He was alone, but he had a sword. This he drew, and took a stride or two towards Des Barres, who had pulled up short of him, and was panting. The pikemen, who might have hacked him to pieces, paused for another word. A second of time passed without it, and Richard knew he was safe. He went up to Des Barres.
'Learn, Des Barres,' he said, 'that I allow no cries about my head save those for Saint George.'
'Sire,' said Des Barres, 'I am no man of yours.'
'It is truly said,' replied Richard, 'but I will dub you one'; and he smote him with the flat of his sword across the cheek. The blood leapt after the sword.
'Soul of a virgin!' cried Des Barres, white as cloth, except for the broad weal on his face.
'Your soul against mine, graceless dog,' said the King. 'Another word and I pull you down.' Just then who should come riding out of the gate but Gilles de Gurdun, armed cap-a-pie?
'Here, my lord,' said Des Barres, clearing his throat, 'comes a gentleman who has sought your Grace with better cause than mine.'
'Who is your gentleman?' Richard asked him.
'It is De Gurdun, sire, a Norman knight whose name should be familiar.'
'I know him perfectly,' said Richard. He turned to one of the bystanders, saying, 'Fetch that gentleman to me.' The man ran nimbly to meet De Gurdun.
Des Barres, watching narrowly, saw Gilles start, saw him look, almost saw the bracing of his nerves. What exactly followed was curious. Gilles moved his horse forward slowly. King Richard, standing in leather doublet and plumed cap, waited for him, his arms folded. Des Barres on horseback, an enemy; the bystanders, tattered, savage, high-fed men, enemies also; in front the most implacable enemy of all.
When De Gurdun was within spear-reach he stopped his horse and sat looking at the King. Richard returned the look; it was an eyeing match, soon over. Gurdun swung off the horse, threw the rein to a soldier, and tried footing it. The steady duel of the eyes continued until Gilles was actually within sword's distance. Here he stopped once more; finally gave a queer little grunt, and went down on one knee. Des Barres sighed as he eased his heart. The tension had been terrible.
Richard said, 'De Gurdun, stand up and answer me. You seek my life, as I understand. Is it so?'
Sir Gilles began to stammer. 'No man has loved the law—no knight ever loved lady—' and so on; but Richard cut him short.
'Answer me, man,' he said, in a voice which was nearly as dry as his father's, 'do you wish for my life?'
'King,' said Gilles, his great emotion lending him dignity, 'if I do, is it a strange matter? You have had my father's and brother's. You have mine in your hand. You corrupted and then stole my beloved. Are these no griefs?'
Richard grew impatient; he could never bear waiting.
'Do you wish my life?' he asked again. Gilles was overwrought. 'By God on high, but I do wish it!' he cried out, almost whimpering.
King Richard threw down his sword. 'Take it then, you fool,' he said. 'You talk too much.'
A silence fell upon the party, so profound that the cicala in the dry hedge shrilled to pierce the ear. Richard stood like a stock, with Des Barres gaping at him. Gurdun was all of a tremble, but swung his sword about in his sword-hand. After a while he took a deep breath, a fumbling step forward; and Des Barres, leaning out over the saddle, caught him by the surcoat.
'Drop that man, Des Barres,' said Richard, without moving his eyes from the Norman. Des Barres obeyed; and as the silence resumed Gilles began twitching his sword again. When a lizard rustled in the grass a man started as if shot.
Gilles gave over first, threw his sword away with a sob. 'God ha' mercy, I cannot! I cannot!' he fretted, and stood blinking the tears from his eyes. Richard picked up his weapon and returned it to him. 'You are brave enough, my friend,' he said, 'for better work. Go and do better in Syria.'
'There is no better work for me, sir,' said Gurdun, 'unless you can justify yourself.'
'I never justify myself,' said Richard. 'Give me my sword.' De Gurdun gave it him. Richard sheathed it, went to his horse, mounted, rode away at walking pace. Nobody moved till he was out of sight. Then said Des Barres with a high oath, 'I could serve that King if he would let me.'
'God damn him,' said Gilles de Gurdun for his part.
It was near the end of January when they sighted over sea the painted sails of the Queen. Mother's galley. Her fleet anchored in the roads, and the lady came ashore. She had two interviews, one with her son, one with Jehane. But she did not choose to see her daughter, Queen Joan, a very handsome, free lady.
'Marriage!' cried King Richard, when this was broached. 'This is no time to talk of marriage. I have waited six months, and now the lady must wait a while, other six if needs be. We leave this accursed island in two days. Between my friends and my enemies I have fought the length and breadth of it twice over. Am I to spend my whole host killing Christians? A little more inactivity, good mother, and I shall be in league with the Soldan against Philip. Bring the lady to Acre, and I will marry her there.'
'No, no, Richard,' said the Queen-Mother; 'I am needed in England. I cannot come.'
'Then let Joan take her,' said the King.
The Queen-Mother, knowing him very well, tried him no further. She sent for Jehane, and held her close in talk for nearly an hour.
'Never leave my son, Jehane,' was the string she harped on. 'Never leave him for good or ill weather. Mated or unmated, never leave him.'
'Never in life, Madame,' said Jehane, then bit her lip lest she should utter what her mind was full of. But the Queen-Mother had no eyes.
'Pray for him,' she said; and Jehane, 'I pray hourly, Madame.' Then the Queen kissed her on both cheeks, and in such kindness they parted.
OF WHAT JEHANE LOOKED FOR, AND WHAT BERENGERE HAD
Milo the abbot writes, 'When the spring airs, moving warmly over the earth, ruffled the surface of the deep, and that to a tune so winning that there was no thought of the treachery below, we took to the ships and steered a course south-east by south. This was in the quindenes of Easter. The two queens (if I may call them so, of whom one had been and one hoped to be of that estate), Joan and Berengere, went in a great ship which they call a dromond, a heavy-timbered ship carrying a crowd of sail. With them, by request of Madame Berengere, went Countess Jehane, not by any request of her own. The King himself led her aboard, and by the hand into the state pavilion on the poop.
'"Madame," he said to his affianced, "I bring you your desired mate. Use her as you would use me, for if I have a friend upon earth it is she."
'"Oh, sire," says Berengere, "I am acquainted with this lady. She has nothing to fear from me."
'Queen Joan said nothing, being afraid of her brother. So Madame Jehane kissed the hands of the pair of queens, meekly kneeling to each in turn; and so far as I know she did them faithful service through all the mischances of a voyage whereon every woman and every other man was horribly sick.
'Having made the Pharos in favourable weather, and kept Mount Gibello and the wild Calabrian coast upon our lee (as is fitting), we stood out for the straight course over the immense waste of water. Now was no more land to be seen at either hand; but the sky fitted close upon the edges of the sea like a dome of glass on a man's forehead. There was neither cover from the sun nor hiding-place from the prying concourse of the stars; the wind came searchingly, the waters stirred beneath it, or, being driven, heaped themselves up into towers of ruin. The cordage flacked, the strong ribs creaked; like a beast over-burdened the whole ship groaned, wallowing in a sea-trough without breath to climb. So we endured for many days, a straggling host of men, ordinarily capable, powerless now beneath that dumb tyrant the sky. Where else could be our refuge? We all looked to King Richard—by day to his royal ensign, by night to the great wax candle which he always had lighted and stuck in a lantern. His commands were shouted from ship to ship over two miles or more of sea; if any strayed or dropped behind we lay-to that he might come up. But very often, after a day's idle rolling, we knew that the sea had claimed some boatload of our poor souls, and went on. The galleys kept touch with the dromonds, enclosing them (as it were) within the cusps of a new moon, and so driving them forward. To see this light of our King's moving, now fast, now slow, now up, now down, restlessly over the field of the night, was to remember the God of the Israelites, who (for their sakes and ours) became a pillar of fire at that season, and transformed himself into a tall cloud in the daytime. Busy as it was, this point of light, it only figured the unresting spirit of the King, careful of all these children of his, ordering the hosts of the Lord.
'Storms drove us at length on to the island of Crete, where Minos once had his kingly habitation, and his wife died of pleasure. Again they drove us, more unfortunately, out of our course upon the inhospitable coasts of Rhodes, where the salt wind suffers no trees to live, nor safe anchorage to be, nor shelter from the ravage of the sea. In this vexed place there was no sign of land but a long line of surf beating upon a rocky shore, the mist of spray and blown sand, spars of drowned ships, innumerable anxious flocks of birds. Here was no roadstead for us; yet here, but for the signal providence of heaven, we had likely all have perished (as many did perish), miserably failing at once of purpose, the sacraments of Christ, and reasonable beds. The fleet was scattered wide, no ship could see his neighbour; we called on the King, on the Saviour, on the Father of all. But deep answered to deep, and the prayer of so many Christians, as it appeared, skilled little to change the eternal purposes of God.
'Then one inspired among us climbed up to the masthead, having in his teeth a piece of the True Cross set in a silver heart; and called aloud to the wild weather, "Save, Lord, we perish!" as was said of old by very sacred persons. To which palpable truth so urgently declared an answer was vouchsafed, not indeed according to our full desires, yet (doubtless) level with our deserts. The wind veered to the north; and though it abated nothing of its force, preserved us from the teeth of the rocks. Before it now, under bare poles, without need of oars, we drove to the southward; and while a little light still endured descried a great mountainous and naked coast rising out of the heaped waters, which we knew to be the land of Cyprus. Off the western face of this dark shore, in a little shelter at last, we lay-to and tossed all night. Next day in fairer weather, hoisting sail, we made a good haven defended by stout sea-walls, a mole and two lighthouses: these were of a city called Limasol. Upon my galley, at least, there was one who sang Lauda Sion, whose tune before had been Adhaesit pavimento, when he rested tired eyes upon the clustered spires of a white city, smokeless and asleep in the early morning light.'
So far without weariness I hope Milo may have conducted the reader. In relation to the sea you may take him for an expert in the terrors he describes. Not so in Cyprus. War tempts him to prolixity, to classical allusion, even to hexameters of astonishingly loose joints. Every stroke of his hero's sword-arm seems to him of weight. No doubt it was, once; but not in a chronicle of this sort, where the Cypriote gests must take a lowly place among others fair and foul of this King-errant. Let me put Milo on the shelf for a little, and abridge.
I tell you then that the Emperor of Cyprus, by name Isaac, was a thin-faced man with high cheek-bones. A Greek of the Greeks, he undervalued what he had never seen, precisely for that reason. When heralds went up to Nikosia to announce the coming-in of King Richard, Isaac mumbled his lips. 'Prutt!' he said, 'I am the Emperor. What have I to do with your kings?' Richard showed him that with one king he had plenty to do, by assaulting Limasol and putting armies to flight in the plains about Nikosia. Shall I sing the battle of the fifty against five thousand; tell how King Richard with precisely half a hundred knights came cantering against the sun and a host, as gay and debonair as to a driving of stags? They say that he himself led the charge, covered in a wonderful silken surcoat, colour of a bullfinch's breast, and wrought upon in black and white heraldry. They say that at the sight of the pensils a-flutter, at the sound of the hunting-horns, the Grifons let fly a shaft a-piece; then threw down their bows and scattered. But the knights caught them. Isaac was on a hill to watch the battle. 'Who is that marvellous tall knight who seems to be swimming among my horse?' 'Splendour, it is Rikardos, King of the West,' they told him, 'reputed a fierce swimmer.' 'He drowns, he drowns!' cried the Emperor, as the red plumes were whelmed in black. 'Nay, but he dives rather, Majesty.' He heard the death-shouts, he saw white faces turned his way; then the mass was cleft asunder, blown off and dispersed like the sparks from a smithy. The thing was of little moment in a time of much; there was no fighting left in the Cypriotes after that sunny morning's work. Nikosia fell, and the Emperor Isaac, in silver chains, heard from his prison-house the shouts which welcomed the Emperor Richard. These things were accomplished by the first week in May. Then came Guy of Lusignan with bad news of Acre and worse of himself. Philip was before the town, Montferrat with him. Montferrat had the Archduke's of Austria as well as French support; with these worthies, and the ravished wife of old King Baldwin for title-deed, he claimed the throne of Jerusalem; and King Guy of Lusignan (but for the name of the thing) was of no account at all. Guy said that the siege of Acre was a foppery. King Philip was ill, or thought he was; Montferrat was treating with Saladin; the French knights openly visited the Saracen women; and the Duke of Burgundy got drunk. 'What else could he get, poor fool?' asked Richard; then said, 'But I promise you this: Montferrat shall never be King of Jerusalem while I live—not because I love you, my friend, but because I love the law. I shall come as soon as I can to Acre, when I have done here the things which must be done.' He meant his marriage.
Little Madame Berengere was lodged, as became her, in the Emperor's palace at Limasol, having with her Queen Joan of Sicily, and among her women the young fair lady Jehane, none too fair, poor girl, by this time. Berengere herself, who was not very intelligent, remarked her, and gave her the cold shoulder. As day swallowed up day, and Richard, at his affairs, gave her no thought, or at least no sign, Jehane's condition became an abominable eyesore to the Queendesignate; so Queen Joan plucked up her courage age to the point, and seeking out her brother, let him know that she had tidings for his private ear.
'I do not admit that I have such an ear,' said Richard. It is no part of a king's baggage. Yet by all means name your tidings, my sister.'
'Dear sire,' said Joan, 'it appears that you have sown a seed, and must look before long for the harvest.' The King laughed.
'God knows, I have sown enough seeds. But mostly they come up tares, I am apt to find. My harvesting is of little worth. What now, sister?'
'Beau sire,' says the Queen, I know not how you will take it. Your bonamy, the Picardy lady, is with child, and not so far from her time neither. My sister Berengere is greatly offended.'
King Richard began to tremble; but whether from the ague which was never long out of him, or from joy, or from trouble, who knows?
'Oh, sister,' he said, 'Oh, sister, are you very sure of this?
'I was sure of it,' replied the lady, 'the moment I saw her in the autumn at Messina. But now your question is not worth the asking.'
The King abruptly left his sister and went over to the Queen's side of the palace. Berengere was sitting upon a balcony, all her ladies with her; but Jehane a little apart. When the King was announced all rose to their feet. He looked neither right nor left of him, but fixedly at Jehane, with a high bright flush upon his sharp face and fever sparks in his eyes. To these signals Jehane, because of her great exaltation, flew the answering flags. Richard touched Berengere's hand with the hair on his lip: to Jehane he said, 'Come, ma mye,' and led her out of the balcony.
This was not as it should have been; but Richard, used to his way, took it, and Richard moved could move bigger mountains than those of ceremony. He lunged forward along the corridors, Jehane following as she might, led by the hand, but not against her will. No doubt she was with child, no doubt she was glorious on that account. She was a very proud girl.
Alone, those two who had loved so fondly gazed each at the work wrought upon the other without a word said, the King all luminous with love, and she all dewy. If soul spoke to soul ever in this world, said Richard's soul, 'O Vase, that bearest the pledge of my love!' and hers, 'O Strong Wine, that brimmest in my cup!'
He came forward and embraced her with his arm. He felt her heart beat, he guessed her pride; he felt her thrill, he knew his own defeat. He felt her so strong and salient under his hand—so strong, so full-budded, so hopeful of fruit—that despair of her loss seized him again, terrible rage. He sickened, while in her the warm blood leaped. He wanted everything; she, nothing in the world. He, the king of men, was the bond; she, the cast-off minion, she, this Jehane Saint-Pol, was the free. So God, making war upon the great, rights the balances of this world.
But he was extraordinarily gentle with her; he gripped himself and throttled the animal close. Gaining grace as he went, his heart throve upon its own blood. Balm was shed on his burning face, he sucked peace as it fell. Then he, too, discerned the God near by; to him, too, came with beating wings the pure young Love, that best of all, which hath no needs save them of spending.
His voice was hushed to a boy's murmur.
'Jehane, ma mye, is it true?'
'I am the mother of a son,' she said.
'Give God the glory!'
But she said, 'He hath given it to me.' Her face was turned to where God might be: Richard, looking down, kissed her on the mouth. Tremblingly they kissed and long, not as young lovers, but as spouse and spouse, drinking their common joy.
After a while his present troubles came thronging back, and he said bitterly: 'Ah, child, thou art widowed of me while yet we both live. Yet it was in thy power to be mother of a king.'
Said she, leaning her head on his breast, 'Every woman that beareth a child is mother of a king; but not every woman's child hath a king to his father. Thus it is with me, Richard, who am doubly blessed.'
'Ah, God!' he cried, poignantly concerned, 'Ah God, Jehane, see what trammels I have enmeshed us in, thee in one net and me in another! So that neither can I help thee, being roped down to this work, nor thou thyself, trapped by my fault. How shall I do? Lo, my sin, my sin! I cried Yea; and now cometh God, and, Nay, King Richard, He saith. The sin is mine, and the burden of the sin is thine. Is this a horrible thing?
Jehane smiled up in his face. 'And dost thou think it, Richard, a burden so grievous,' she said, 'to be mother of thy son? Dost thou think that the world can be harsh to me after that; or that in the life to come there will be no remembrance to make the long days sweet?' She looked very proudly upon him, smiling all the time; she put her hands up and crowned his head with them. 'Oh, my dear life, my pride and my master,' said Jehane, 'let all come to me that must come now; I am rich above all my desires, and my lowliness has been of no account with God. Now let me go, blessing His name.'
He would not let her go, but still looked earnestly down at her, struggling with himself against himself.
'I must be married, Jehane,' says he presently. And she, 'In a good hour, my lord.'
'It is an accursed hour,' he said; 'nothing but ill can come of it.'
'Lord,' said she, 'thou art vowed to this work.'
'I know it very well,' he replied; 'but a man does as he can.'
'You, my King Richard, do as you will,' said Jehane. So he kissed her and let her go.
Among the multitudinous affairs now heaped upon him—business of his new empire and his old, business of Guy's, business of the war, business of marriage—he set first and foremost this business of Jehane's. He removed her from the Queen's house, gave her house and household of her own. It was in Limasol, a pleasant place overlooking the sea and the ships, a square white house set deep in myrtle woods and oleanders. Once more the 'Countess of Poictou' had her seneschal, chaplain, ladies of honour. That done, he fixed Saint Pancras' day for his marriage, had the ships got out, furnished, and appointed for sea. The night before Saint Pancras he sent for Abbot Milo in a hurry. Milo found him walking about his room, taking long, carefully accurate strides from flagstone to flagstone.
He continued this feverish devotion for some minutes after his confessor's coming-in; and seeing him deep in thought, the good man stood patient by the doorway. So presently Richard seemed aware of him, stopped in mid walk, and looking at him, said—
'Milo, continence is, I suppose, of all virtues the most excellent?' Milo prepared to expatiate.
'Undoubtedly, sire, it is so, because of all virtues the least comfortable. Saint Chrysostom, indeed, goes so far as to declare—'; but Richard broke in.
'And therefore, Milo, it is urged upon the clergy by the ordinances of many honourable popes and patriarchs?'
'Distinguo, sire,' said Milo, 'distinguo. There are other reasons. It is written, So run that ye may obtain. Now, no man can run after the prize we seek if he carrieth a woman on his back. And that for two reasons: first, because she is so much dead weight; and second, because a woman is so made that, if her bearer did achieve the reward, she would immediately claim a share in it. But that is no part of the divine plan, as I understand it.'
'Let us talk of the laity, Milo,' said the King, abstractedly. 'If one of them set up for a runner, should he not be a virgin?'
'Lord,' replied the abbot, 'if he can. But that is not so convenient.'
'How not so?' asked King Richard.
'My lord,' Milo said, if all the laity were virgins there would soon be no laity at all, and then there would be no priests—a state of affairs not provided for by the Holy Church. Moreover, the laity have a kingdom in this world; but the religious not of this world. Now, this world is too excellent a good place not to be peopled; and God hath appointed a pleasant way.'
Said the King, 'A way of sorrow and shame.'
'Not so, sire,' said Milo, 'but a way of honour. And if I rejoice that the same way is before your Grace, I am not alone in happiness.'
'A king's business,' said Richard, 'is to govern himself wisely (having paid his debts), and his people wisely. It may be that he should get heirs if none are. But if heirs there be, then what is his business with more? Why should his son be better king than his brother, for example?'
'Lord,' Milo admonished, 'a king who is sure of himself will make sure of his issue. That too is a king's business.'
Said Richard moodily, 'Who is sure of himself?' He turned away his head, bidding Milo a good night. As the abbot made his reverence he added, 'I am to be married to-morrow.'
'I devoutly hope so,' said the good man. 'And then your Grace will have a surer hope than in your Grace's brother.'
'Get you to bed, Milo,' Richard said, 'and let me be alone.'
Married he was, so far as the Church could provide, in the Basilica of Limasol, with the Bishop of Salisbury to celebrate. Vassals of his, and allies, great lords of three realms, bishops and noble knights filled the church and saw the rites done. High above them afterwards, before the altar, he sat crowned and vested in purple, holding in his right hand the sceptre of his power, and the orb of his dominion in his left hand. Then Berengere, daughter of Navarre, kneeling before him, was by him thrice crowned: Queen of England, Empress of Cyprus, Duchess of Normandy. But she never got upon her little dark head the red cap of Anjou which had covered up Jehane's gold hair. Jehane was neither at the church nor at the great feast that followed. She, on Richard's bidding, was in her ship, Li Chastel Orgoilous, whose head swayed to the running tide.
But a great feast was held, at which Queen Berengere sat by the King in a gold chair, and was served on knees by the chief officers of the household, the kingdom, and the duchy. Also, after dinner, full and free homage was done her—a desperate long ceremony. The little lady had great dignity; and if they found her stiff, it is to be hoped they remembered her very young. But although everybody saw that Richard was in the clutches of his ague throughout these performances, so much so that when he was not talking his teeth chattered in his head, and his hand spilt the wine on its way to the mouth—none were prepared for what was to come, unless such intimates as Gaston of Bearn or Mercadet, his Gascon con captain, may have known it. At the close of the homage-giving he rose up in his throne, threw back his purple robe, and showed to all beholders the wrinkled mail beneath it. He was, in fact, in chain-armour from shoulders to feet. For a moment all looked open-mouthed. He drew his sword with a great gesture, and held it on high.
'Peers and noble vassals,' he called out in measured tones (in which, nevertheless, deep down the shaking fit could be discerned, vibrating the music), 'the work calls us; Acre is in peril. Kings, who are servants of the King of Kings, put by their private concerns; queens, who bow to one throne only, to that bow with haste. Now, you of the Cross, who follows me to win the Cross? The ships are ready, my lords. Shall we go?'
The great hall was struck dumb. Queen Berengere, only half understanding, looked scared about her. One could not but pity the extinguishment of her poor little great affairs. Queen Joan grew very red. She had the spirit of her family, was angry, fiercely whispered in her brother's ear. He barely heard her; he shook her words from his ears, stamped on the pavement.
'Never, never! I am for the Cross! Lord Jesus, behold thy knight! The work is ready, shall I not do it? I call Yea! for this turn. Ha, Anjou! To the ships, to the ships!'
His sword flickered in the air; there followed it, leaping after the beam, a great swish of steel, soon a forest of swords.
'Ha, Richard! Ha, Anjou! Ha, Saint George!' So they made the rafters volley; and so headlong after King Richard tumbled out into the dusk and sought the ships. The new Queen was crying miserably on the dais, Queen Joan tapping her foot beside her. Late at night they also put out to sea. On his knees, facing the shrouded East, King Richard spent his wedding night, with his bare sword for his partner.
WHO FOUGHT AT ACRE
After they had lost the harbour of Limasol, from that hasty dark hour of setting out, the fleet sailed (it seemed) under new stars and encountered a new strange air. All night they toiled at the oars; and in the morning, very early, every eye was turned to the fired East, where, in the sea-haze, lay the sacred places clothed (like the Sacrament) in that gauzy veil. First of them Trenchemer steered, the King's red galley, in whose prow, stiff and hieratic as a figurehead, was the King himself, watching for a sign. The great ships rolled and plunged, the tide came racing by them, blue-green water lipped with foam, carrying upon it unknown weeds, golden fruit floating, wreckage unfamiliar, a dead fish scarlet-rayed, a basket strangely wrought—drifting heralds of a country of dreams. About noon, when mass had been said upon his galley, King Richard was seen to throw up his arms and stretch them wide; the shout followed the sign—'Terra Sancta! Terra Sancta!' they heard him cry. Voice after voice, tongue after tongue, took up the word and lifted it from ship to ship. All fell upon their knees, save the rowers. A dim coast, veiled in violet, lifted before their eyes—mountain ranges, great hollows, clouded places, so far and silent, so mysteriously wrapt, full of awe, no one could speak, no one had thought to speak, but must look and search and wonder. A quick flight of shore birds, flashing creatures that twittered as they swept by, broke the spell. This then was a land where living things abode; it was not only of the sacred dead. They drew nearer, their hearts comforted.
They saw Margat, a lonely tower high on a split rock; they saw Tortosa, with a haven in the sea; Tripolis, a very white city; Neplyn. Botron they saw, with a great terraced castle; afterwards Beyrout, cedars about its skirt. Mountains rose up nearer to the sound of the surf; they saw Lebanon capped with cloud-wreaths, then snowy Hermon gleaming in the sun. They saw Mount Tabor with a grey head, and two mountains like spires which stood separate and apart. Tyre they passed, and Sidon, rich cities set in the sand, then Scandalion; at length after a long night of watching a soft hill showed, covered with verdure and glossy dark woods, Carmel, shaped like a woman's breast. Making this hallowed mount, in the plain beyond they saw Acre, many-towered; and all about it the tents of the Christian hosts, and before it in the blue waters of the bay ships riding at anchor, more numerous than the sea-birds that haunt Monte Gibello or swim sentinel about its base. Trumpets from the shore answered to their trumpets; they heard a wild tattoo of drums within the walls. On even keels in the motionless tide the ships took up their moorings; and King Richard, throwing the end of his cloak over his shoulder, jumped off the gunwale of Trenchemer, and waded breast-deep to shore. He was the first of his realm to touch this storied Syrian earth.
Now for affairs. The meeting of the Kings was cordial, or seemed so. King Philip came out of his pavilion to meet his royal brother, and Richard, kissing him, asked him how he did. 'Very vilely, Richard,' said the young man. 'I think there is a sword in my head. The glaring sun flattens me by day, and all night I shiver.'
'Fever, my poor coz,' said Richard, with a kind hand upon his shoulder. Philip burst out with his symptoms, wailing like a child: 'The devil bites me. I vomit black. My skin is as dry as a snake's. Yesterday they bled me three ounces.' Richard walked back with him among the tents, conversing cheerfully, and for a few days held his old ascendancy over Philip; but only for a few. Other of the leaders he saw: some gave him no welcome. The Marquess of Montferrat kept his quarters, the Duke of Burgundy was in bed. The Archduke of Austria, Luitpold, a hairy man with light red eyelashes, professed great civility; but Richard had a bad way with strangers. Not being receptive, he took no pains to pretend that he was. The Archduke made long speeches, Richard short replies; the Archduke made longer speeches, Richard no replies. Then the Archduke grew very red, and Richard nearly yawned. This was at the English King's formal reception by the leaders of the Crusade. With the Grand Master of the Temple he got on better, liking the looks of the man. He did not observe Saint-Pol on King Philip's left hand; but there he was, flushed, excited, and tensely observant of his enemy. That same night, when they held a council of war, there was seen a smoulder of that fire which you might have decently supposed put out. King Philip came down in a mighty hurry, and sat himself in the throne; Montferrat, Burgundy, and others of that faction serried round about him. The English and Angevin chiefs were furious, and the Archduke halted between two opinions. By the time (lateish) when King Richard was announced Gaston of Bearn and young Saint-Pol had their swords half out. But Richard came and stood in the doorway, a magnificent leisurely figure. All his party rose up. Richard waited, watching. The Archduke (who really had not seen him before) rose with apologies; then the French followed suit, singly, one here and one there. There only remained seated King Philip and the Marquess of Montferrat. Still Richard waited by the door; presently, in a quiet voice, he said to the usher, 'Take your wand, usher, to that paralytic over there. Tell him that he shall use it, or I will.' The message was delivered: at an angry nod from King Philip the Marquess got darkly up, and Richard came into the hall with King Guy of Jerusalem. These two sat down one on each side of France; and so the council began.
It was hopeless from the outset—a posse of hornets droned into fury by the Archduke. While he talked the rest maddened, longing for each other's blood, failing that of Luitpold. Richard, who as yet had no plans of his own, took no interest whatever in plans. He acted throughout as if the Marquess was not there, and as if he wished with all his heart that the Archduke was not there. On his part, the Marquess would have given nearly all he owned to have behaved so to Guy of Lusignan set over him; but the Marquess had not that art of lazy scorn which belongs to the royal among beasts: he glowered, he was sulky. Meantime the Archduke buzzed his age-long periods, and Richard (clasping his knee) looked at the ceiling. At last he sighed profoundly, and 'God of heaven and earth!' escaped him. King Philip burst into a guffaw—his first for many a day—and broke up the assembly. Richard had himself rowed out to Jehane in her ship.
He had no business there, though his business was innocent enough; but she could not tell him so now. The girl was dejected, ill, and very nervous about herself. Moreover, she had suffered from sea-sickness. She could not hide her comfort to have him; so he took her up and kissed her as of old, and ended by settling her on his knee. There she cried, quietly but freely. He stayed with her till she slept; then went back to the shore and walked about the trenches, thinking out the business before him. The dawn light found him at it. In a day or two, having got his tackle ashore, he began the assault upon a plan of his own, without reference to any other principality or power at all. By this time King Philip lay heaped in his bed, and had had his distempered brain wrought upon by Montferrat and his kind, Saint-Pol, Des Barres, and their kind.
* * * * *
Richard had with him Poictevins and Angevins, men of Provence and Languedoc, Normans and English, Scots and Welshry, black Genoese, Sicilians, Pisans, and Grifons from Cyprus. The Count of Champagne had his Flemings to hand; the Templars and the Hospitallers served him gladly. It was an agglomerate, a horde, not an army, and nobody but he could have wielded it. He, by the virtue in him, had them all at his nod. The English, who love to be commanded, hauled stones for him all day, though he had not a word of their language. The swart, praying Italians raved themselves hoarse whenever he came into their lines; even the Cypriotes, sullen and timorous creatures, whom no power among themselves could have driven to the walls, fixed the great petraries and mangonels, and ran grinning into the trap of death for this tawny-haired hero who stood singing, bareheaded, within bow-shot of the Turks, and laughed like a boy when some fellow slipped on to his back upon the dry grass. He was everywhere, day after day—in the trenches, on the towers, teaching the bowmen their business, crying 'Mort de Dieu!' when a mangonel did its work, and some flung rock made the wall to fly; he crouched under the tortoise-screens with the miners, took a mattock himself as indifferently as an arbalest or a cross-bow. He could do everything, and have (if not a word) a cheerful grin for every man who did his duty. As it was evident that he knew what such duty should be, and could have done it better himself, men sweated to win his praise. He was nearly killed on a scaling-ladder, too early put up, or too long left so. Three arrows struck him, and the defenders, calling on Allah, rolled an enormous boulder to the edge of the wall, which must have crushed him out of recognition on the Last Day. 'Garde, sire!' 'Dornna del Ciel!' came the cries from below; but 'Lady Virgin!' growled a shockhead from Bocton-under-Bleane, and pulled his King bodily off the ladder. The poor fellow was shot in the throat at the next moment; the stone fell harmless. King Richard took up his dead Englishman in his arms and carried him to the trenches. He did no more fighting until he had seen him buried, and ordained a mass for him. Things of those sort tempted men to love him.
The siege lasted ten days or more with varying successes. Day and night in the city they heard the drums beat to arms, the cries of the Sheiks, and more piercing, drawn-out cries than theirs. To the nightly shrilled pronouncement of the greatness of God came as answer the Christian's wailing prayer, 'Save us, Holy Sepulchre!' The King of France had an engine which he called The Bad Neighbour, and did well with it until the Turks provided a Bad Kinsman, much bigger, which put the Neighbour to shame, and finally burned him. King Richard had a belfry, and the Count of Flanders could throw stones with his sling from the trenches into the market-place; at any rate he said he could, and they all believed him. The Christians caused the Accursed Tower to totter; they made a breach below the Tower of Flies, in a most horrible part of the haven. Mine and countermine, Richard on the north side worked night and day, denying himself rest, food, reasonable care, for a week forgetful of Jehane and her hope. The weather grew stiflingly hot, night and day there was no breath of wind; the whole country reeked of death and abomination. Once, indeed, a gate was set fire to and rushed. The Christians saw before them for the first time the ghostly winding way of a street, where blind pale houses heeled to each other, six feet apart. There was a breathless fight in that pent way, a strangling, throttled business; Richard with his peers of Normandy, swaying banners, the crashing sound of steel on steel, the splash of split polls: but it could not be carried. The Turks, surging down on them, a wall of men, bodily forced them out. There was no room to swing an axe, no space for a horse to fall, least of all for draught of the bow. Richard cried the retreat; they could not turn, so walked backwards fighting, and the Turks repaired the gate. Acre did not fall by the sword, but by starvation rather, and the diligent negotiations of Saladin with our King. Richard's terms were, Restore the True Cross, empty us Acre of men-at-arms, leave two thousand hostages. This was accepted at last. The Kings rode into Acre on the twelfth of July with their hosts, and the hollow-eyed courtesans watched them furtively from upper windows. They knew their harvest was to reap.
Harvest with them was seed-time with others. It was seed-time with the Archduke. King Richard set up his household in the Castle (with a good lodging for Jehane in the Street of the Camel); King Philip, miserably ill, went to the house of the Templars; with him, sedulously his friend, the Marquess of Montferrat. But Luitpold of Austria proposed himself for the Castle, and Richard endured him as well as he could. But then Luitpold went further. He set up his banner on the tower, side by side with Richard's Dragon, meaning no offence at all. Now King Richard's way was a short way. He had found the Archduke a burdensome ass, but no more. The world was full of such; one must take them as part of the general economy of Providence. But he knew his own worth perfectly well, and his own standing in the host; so when they told him where the Austrian's flag flew, he said, 'Take it down.' They took it down. Luitpold grew red, made a long speech in German at which Richard frowned, and another (shorter) in Latin, at which he laughed. Luitpold put up his flag again; again Richard said, 'Take it down.' Luitpold was so angry that he made no speeches at all; he ran up his flag a third time. When King Richard was told, he laughed, and on this occasion said, 'Throw it away.' Gaston of Bearn, more vivacious than discreet, did so with ignominious detail. That day there was a council of the great estates, at which King Philip presided in a furred gown; for though the weather was suffocating his fever kept him chill to the bones. To the Marquess, pale with his old grudge, was now added the Archduke, flaming with his new one. The mottled Duke of Burgundy blinked approval of all grudges, and young Saint-Pol poured fire into the fire. Richard was not present, nor any of his faction; they, because they had not been advertised, he, because he was in the Street of the Camel at the knees of Jehane the Fair.
The Archduke began on the instant. 'By God, my lords,' he said, 'is there in the world a beast more flagrant than the King of England not killed already?' The Marquess showed the white rims of his eyes—' Injurious, desperate, bloody villain,' was his commentary; and Saint-Pol lifted up his hand to his master for leave to speak mischief. But King Philip said fretfully, 'Well, well, we can all speak of something, I suppose. He scorns me, he has always scorned me. He refuses me homage, he shamed my sister; and now he takes the lead of me.'
The Marquess kept muttering to the table, 'Hopeless villain, hopeless villain!' and the Archduke, after staring about him for sympathy, claimed attention, if not that; for he brought his fist down with a thump.
'By thunder, but I kill him!' he said deep in his throat. Saint-Pol came running and kissed his knee, to Luitpold's great surprise.
Philip shivered in his furs. 'I must go home,' he fretted; 'I am smitten to death. I must die in France.'
'Where is the King of England?' asked the, Marquess, knowing perfectly well.
'Evil light upon him,' cried Saint-Pol, 'he is in my sister's house. Between them they give me a nephew.'
'Oho!' Montferrat said. 'Is that it? Why, then, we know where to strike him quickest. We should make Navarre of our party.'
'He has done that himself, by all accounts: said the Duke of Burgundy, wide-awake.
The Archduke, returning to his new lodgings in the Bishop's house, sent for his astrologers and asked them, Could he kill the King of England?
'My lord,' said they, 'you cannot.'
'How is that?' he asked.
'Lord,' they told him, 'by our arts we discover that he will live for a hundred years.'
'It is very remarkable,' said the Archduke. 'What sort of years will they be?'
'Lord,' said the astrologers, 'they are divers in complexion; but many of them are red.'
'I will provide that they be,' said the Archduke. 'Go away.'
The Marquess sought no astrologers, but instead the Street of the Camel and Jehane's house. He observed this with great care, watching from an entry to see how King Richard would come out, whether attended or not. He observed more than the house, for much more was forced upon him. Human garbage filled the close ways of Acre, men and women marred by themselves or a hideous begetting, hairless persons and snug little chamberers, botch-faces, scald-heads, minions of many sorts, silent-footed Arabians as shameless as dogs, Greeks, pimps and panders, abominable women. Murder was swiftly and secretly done. Montferrat from his entry saw the manner of it. A Norman knight called Hamon le Rotrou came out of an infamous house in the dusk, and stepped into the Street of the Camel with his cloak delicately round him. Fine as he was, he was insanely a lover of the vile thing he had left; for he knelt down in the street to kiss her well-worn doorstep. He knelt under the light of a small lamp, and out of the shadow behind him stepped catfoot a tall thin man, white from head to foot, who, saying 'All hail, master,' stabbed Hamon deep in the side. Hamon jerked up his head, tottered, fell without more than a tired man's sigh sideways into the arms of his killer. This one eased his fall as tenderly as if he was upholding a girl, let him down into the kennel, drew him thence by the shoulders into the dark, and himself vanished. Montferrat swore softly to himself, 'That was neatly done. I must find out who this expert may be.' He went away full of it, having forgotten his housed enemy.
There was a Sheik Moffadin in the jail, one of the Soldan's hostages for the return of the True Cross. The Marquess went to see him.
'Who of your people,' he asked, 'is very tall and light-footed, robes him from head to foot in white linen, and kills quietly, as if he loved the dead, with an "All hail, master"?'
'We call him an Assassin in our language,' the Sheik replied; 'but he is not of our people by any means. He is a servant of the Old Man who dwells on Lebanon.'
'What old man is this, Moffadin?'
'I can tell you no more of him,' said the Sheik, 'save that he is master of many such men, who serve him faithfully and in silence. But he hates the Soldan, and the Soldan him.'
'How do they serve him, by killing?'
'Yes. They kill whomsoever he points out, and so receive (or think to receive) a crown in Paradise.'
'Is this old man's name Death, by our Saviour?' cried the Marquess.
The Sheik answered, 'His name is Sinan. But the name of Death would suit him very well.'
'Where should I get speech with some of his servants?' the Marquess inquired; adding, 'For my life is in danger. I have enemies who are irksome to me.'
'By the Tower of Flies you will find them,' said the Sheik, 'and late at night. There are always some of his people walking there. Seek out such a man as you have seen, and without fear accost him after his fashion, kissing him and saying, "Ah, Ali. Ah, Abdallah, servant of Ali."
'I am very much obliged to you, Moffadin,' said the Marquess.
* * * * *
That same night Jehane was in pain, and King Richard dared not leave her, nor the physicians either. And in the morning early she was delivered of a child, a strong boy, and then lay back and slept profoundly. Richard set two black women to fan the flies off her without stopping once under pain of death; and having seen to the proper care of the child and other things, returned alone through the blanching streets, glorifying and praising God.
CONCERNING THE TOWER OF FLIES, SAINT-POL, AND THE MARQUESS OF MONTFERRAT
In the church of Saint Lazarus of the Knights, on Lammas Day, the son of Richard and Jehane was made a Christian by the Abbot of Poictiers. Gossips were the Count of Champagne, the Earl of Leicester, and (by proxy) the Queen-Mother. He was named Fulke.
At the moment of anointing the church-bell was rung; and at that moment Gilles de Gurdun spat upon the pavement outside. Saint-Pol said to him, 'We must do better than that, Gilles.'
And Gilles, 'I pray God may spit him out.'
'Oh, He!' said Saint-Pol with a bitter laugh; 'He helps those who are helpful of themselves.'
'I cannot help myself, Eustace,' said Gurdun. 'I have tried. I had him unarmed before me at Messina, and he looked me down, and I could not do it.'
'Have at his back, then.'
'I hope it may not come to that, said Gilles; 'and yet it may, if it must.'
'Come with me to-night to the Tower of Flies,' said Saint-Pol. 'Here is my shameful sister brought out of church. I cannot stay.'
'I stay,' said Gilles de Gurdun. King Richard came out of church, and Jehane, and the child carried on a shield.
Jehane, who had much ado to walk without falling, saw not Gilles; but Gilles saw her, and the red in his face took a tinge of black. While she was before him he gaped at her, with a dry tongue clacking in his mouth, consumed by a dreadful despair; but when she had passed by, swaying in her weakness, barely able to hold up her lovely head, he lifted his face to the white sky, and looked unwinking at the sun, wondering where else an equal cruelty could abide. In this golden king, as cruel as the sun, and as swift, and as splendid! Ah, dastard, dastard! At the minute Gilles could have leapt at him and mauled the great shoulders with a dog's weapons. There was no solace for him but to bite. So he dashed his forearm into his face, and sluiced his teeth in that.
But King Richard of the high head mounted his horse in the churchyard, and rode among the people before Jehane's bearers to the Street of the Camel. Squires of his threw silver coins among the crowds who filled the ways.
Within the house, he laid her on her bed, and held up the child before her, high in the air. He was in that great mood where nothing could resist him. She, faint and fragrant on the bed, so frail as to seem transparent, a disembodied sprite, smiled because she felt at ease, as the feeble do when they first lie down.
'Lo, Fulke of Anjou!' sang Richard—'Fulke, son of Richard, the son of Henry, the son of Geoffrey, the son of Fulke! Fulke, my son Fulke, I will make thee a knight even now!' He held the babe in one hand, with the free hand drew his long sword. The flat blade touched the nodding little head.
'Rise up, Sir Fulke of Anjou, true knight of thine house, Sieur de Cuigny when I have thee home again. By the Face!' he cried shortly, as if remembering something, 'we must get him the badge: a switch of wild broom!'
'Dear lord, sweet lord,' murmured Jehane, faint in bed, nearly gone: but he raved on.
'When I lay, even as thou, Fulke, naked by my mother, my father sent for a branch of the broom, and stuck it in the pillow against I could carry it. And shalt thou go without it, boy? Art not thou of the broom-bearers?' He put the child into the nurse's arm and went to the door. He called for Gaston of Bearn, for the Dauphin of Auvergne, for Mercadet, for the devil. The Bishop of Salisbury came running in. 'Bishop,' said King Richard, 'you must serve me to-day. You must take ship, my friend, with speed; you must go to Bordeaux, thence a-horseback to the moor above Angers. Pluck me a branch of the wild broom and return. I must have it, I tell you; so go. Haste, Bishop. God be with you.'
The Bishop began to splutter. 'Hey, sire—!'
'Never call me that again, Bishop, if your ship is within sight by sunset,' he said. 'Call me rather the Prince of the Devils. See my chancellor, take my ring to him, omit nothing. Off with you, and back with all speed.'
'Ha, sire, look you now,' cried the desperate bishop, 'there will be no broom before next Easter. Here we are at Lammas.'
'There will be a miracle,' said Richard; 'I am sure of it. Go.' Fairly pushing him from the door, he returned to find Jehane in a dead faint. This set him raving a new tune. He fell upon his knees incontinent, raised her in his arms, carried her about, kissed her all over, cried upon the saints and God, did every extravagance under the sun, omitted the one wise thing of letting in the physicians. Abbot Milo at last, coming in, saved Jehane from him for the deeper purposes of God.
The Count of Saint-Pol, going to the Castle, to the Queen's side, found the Marquess with her. She also lay white and twisting on a couch, crisping and uncrisping her little hands. Montferrat stood at her head; three of her ladies knelt about her, whispering in her own tongue, proffering orange water, sweetmeats, a feather whisk. Saint-Pol knelt in her view.
'Madame, how is it with your Grace?' he said. The little lady quivered, but took no notice.
'Madame,' said Saint-Pol again, 'I am a peer of France, but a knight before all. I am come to serve your Grace with my manhood. I pray you speak to me.' The Marquess folded his arms; his large white face was a sight to see.
Queen Berengere's palms were bleeding a little where her nails had broken the skin. She was quite white; but her eyes, burning black, had no pupils. When Saint-Pol spoke for the second time she shook beyond all control and threw her head about. Also she spoke.
'I suffer, I suffer horribly. It is cruel beyond understanding or knowledge that a girl should suffer as I suffer. Where is God? Where is Mary? Where are the angels?'
'Dearest Madame, dearest Madame,' said the cooing women, and one stroked her face. But the Queen shook the hand off, and went wailing on, saying more than she could have meant.
'Is it good usage of the daughter of a king, Lord Jesus? Is this the way of marriage, that the bride be left on her wedding day?' She jumped up on her couch and took hold of her bosom in the sight of men. 'She hath given him a child! He is with her now. Am I not fit for children? Shall there never be milk? Oh, oh, here is more shame than I can bear!' She hid her face in her hands, and rocked herself about.
Montferrat (really moved) said low to Saint-Pol: 'Are we knights to suffer these wrongs to be?' Said Saint-Pol with a sob in his voice, 'Ah, God, mend it!'
'He will,' said Montferrat, 'if we help to mend.'
This reminded Saint-Pol of his own words to De Gurdun; so he made haste to throw himself before the Queen, that he might still be pure in his devotion. 'My lady Berengere,' he said ardently, 'take me for your soldier. I am a bad man, but surely not so bad as this. Let me fight him for you.'
The Queen shook her head, impatient. 'Hey! What can you do against so glorious a man? He is the greatest in the world.'
'Ha, domeneddio!' said the Marquess with a snort. 'I have that which will abate such glory. Dearest Madame, we go to pray for your health.' He kissed her hand, and drew away with him Saint-Pol, who was trembling under the thoughts that fired him.
'Oh, my soul, Marquess!' said the youth, when they were in the glare of day again. 'What shall we do to mend this wretchedness?' The Marquess looked shrewdly.
'End the wretch who wrought it.'
'Do we go clean to that, Marquess? Have we no back-thoughts of our own?'
'The work is clean enough. You come to-night to the Tower of Flies?'
'Yes, yes, I will come,' said Saint-Pol.
'I shall have one with me,' the Marquess went on, 'who will be of service, mind you.'
'Ah,' said Saint-Pol, 'and so shall I.'
The Marquess stroked his nose. 'Hum,' he said, advising, 'who might your man be, Saint-Pol?'
'One,' said Eustace, 'who has reason to hate Richard as much as that poor lady in there.'
'Who is that?'
'My sister Jehane's lover.'
'By the visible Host,' said Montferrat,' we shall be a loving company, all told.' So they parted for the time.
The Tower of Flies stands apart from the city on a spit of sand which splays out into two flanges, and so embraces in two hooks a lagoon of scummy ooze, of weeds and garbage, of all the waste and silt of a slack water. In front of it only is the tidal sea, which there flows languidly with a half-foot rise; on the other is the causeway running up to the city wall. Above and all about this dead marsh you hear day and night the buzzing of innumerable great flies, and in the daytime see them hanging like gauze in the thick air. They say the reason is that anciently the pagans sacrificed hecatombs hereabout to the idols they worshipped; but another (more likely) is that the lagoon is a dead slack, and stinks abominably. All dead things thrown from the city walls come floating thither, and there stay rotting. The flies get what they can, sharing with the creatures of land and sea; for great fish feed there; and at night the jackals and hyaenas come down, and bicker over what they can drag out. But more than once or twice the sharks drag them in, and have fresh meat, if their brother sharks allow it. However all this may be, the place has a dreadful name, a dreadful smell, and a dreadful sound, what with the humming of flies and dull rippling of the sharks. These can seldom be seen, since the water is too thick; but you can tell their movements by the long oily waves (like the heads of large arrows) which their fins throw behind them as they quest from carcase to carcase down there in the ooze.