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Soon after the terrified women had returned home, hardly an hour after the guard had been recalled from the marked house, another soldier stood upon the threshold—a soldier whom Mary Grey did not repel, howsoever ragged and bandaged and bruised. The joy of that unexpected meeting when the widow embraced her son once more, and the lovers sat together, hand in hand, was only marred by the deep gloom that had settled down upon the blighted life of Susan Chedzoy. She would not be comforted; there was an indescribable sadness in her great blue eyes, which was only softened, as time wore on, by religious exercises.
George was safely concealed until long after the gibbets of Weston Zoyland had ceased to frighten the country people, and in due time he was married to Mary Grey. The bells did not ring at their wedding. Mary had no ear for such music after the peals which had announced the defeat of King Monmouth. On the day of their marriage Susan Chedzoy entered a convent, and in later years some of her English happiness seems to have come back to her. She had the reputation of being the loveliest and brightest and most charitable of the sisterhood to which she belonged.
All in good time the Donningtons increased and multiplied, and the story of Sedgemoor was often told round the winter's fire, at the Zoyland farm. The narrative was illustrated by a piece of torn and faded silk which George had brought from the battle-field in his bosom. The story-teller in those days was George himself, assisted by his buxom wife Mary. The audience chiefly consisted of young people who, as the years rolled by, repeated the story to their own children: hence its preservation until these peaceful days that give strength and glory to the throne of Queen Victoria.
By ORDER OF THE KING.
(L'Homme qui Rit.)
A ROMANCE OF ENGLISH HISTORY: BY VICTOR HUG),
PART II.-BOOK THE THIRD.
WHAT REASON COULD A GOLD PIECE HAVE TO LOWER ITSELF BY
MIXING WITH A CROWD OF PIG PENNIES ?
N event happened.
Tadcaster Inn became more and more a furnace of joy and laughter. Never was there such resonant
gaiety. The landlord and his boy were insufficient to draw the ale, stout, and porter. In the evening the lower rooms had their windows all aglow, and not a table empty. They sang, they shouted; the grand old hearth, vaulted like an oven, with its iron bars piled with coals, shone out brightly. It was like a house of fire and of noise.
In the courtyard--that is to say, in the theatre—the crowd was greater still.
All the people that the suburb of Southwark could supply thronged in such a manner to the representation of “Chaos Vanquished,” that so soon as the curtain was raised—that is to say, as soon as the platform of the Green Box was lowered—it was impossible to find a place. The windows were crammed with spectators, the balcony was crammed. It was impossible to see a single square of the paved court. All were replaced with faces.
Only the compartment for the nobility remained empty.
This made in this space, which was the centre of the balcony, a black hole, called, in metaphorical slang, an oven. No one there. A crowd everywhere excepting in that spot.
One evening there was someone.
It was on a Saturday, a day when the English hasten to amuse themselves before the ennui of Sunday. The hall was full.
We say hall. Shakespeare had for a long time but the yard of an inn for a theatre, and he called it hall. At the moment when the curtain drew up on the prologue of “Chaos Vanquished,” Ursus, Homo, and Gwynplaine, being on the scene, Ursus, from habit, cast a look at the audience, and felt a sensation.
The compartment for the nobility was occupied. A woman was sitting alone in the midst of the box on the Utrecht velvet armchair. She was alone, and she filled the box. Certain beings seem to give light. This woman, like Dea, had a light in herself, but a light of a different character.
Dea was pale, this woman was pink. Dea was the daybreak, this woman Aurora.
Dea was beautiful, this woman was superb. Dea was innocence, candour, fairness, alabaster—this woman was of a deeper tint, and you would say that she did not fear to blush. Her irradiation overflowed the box, and she sat in the centre, immoveable, in the plenteous majesty of an idol.
In the midst of this sordid crowd she shone superior, as with the radiance of a carbuncle. She inundated these people with so much light that she drowned the shadow; and all these ignoble faces suffered this eclipse. Her splendour blotted out everything else.
All eyes were turned on her.
Tom-Jim-Jack was levelled with the crowd. He disappeared like all the others in the nimbus of this dazzling creature.
This woman absorbed at first the attention of the public, who had come in a crowd to the spectacle, slightly diminishing the opening effects of “Chaos Vanquished.”
Whatever might be the air of dreamland about her, for those who were near she was a woman ; she was, perchance, too much a woman.
She was tall and dignified, and she showed superbly as much as she could of her person. She wore heavy earrings of pearls, with which were mixed those whimsical jewels called “keys of England.” Her upper dress was made of Indian muslin, embroidered all over with gold-a great proof of luxury, because these muslin dresses cost then six hundred crowns. A large diamond brooch closed her chemise, worn so as to reveal the shoulders and bosom, according to the immodest fashion of the time, and which was made of that very fine lawn, of which Anne of Austria had sheets so delicate that they might be passed through a ring. This woman had what seemed like a cuirass of rubies-s01
some uncut, but polished, and precious stones sewn all over the body of
her dress. Moreover, her eyebrows were blackened with Indian ink; and her arms, elbows, shoulders, chin, below the nostrils, above the eyelids, the lobes of the ears, the palms of the hands, the tips of the fingers, were tinted with colour, and had a look both glowing and attractive; and she had, above all, an implacable determination to be beautiful—so much so that it reached the point of ferocity. It was a panther who could assume the cat, and caress.
One of her eyes was blue, the other black.
Gwynplaine, as well as Ursus, contemplated this woman.
The Green Box somewhat resembled a phantasmagoria in its representations. “Chaos Vanquished” was rather a dream than a piece; it generally produced on the audience the effect of a vision. This time the effect was reflected on the actors. The house took the performers by surprise, and it was their turn to be thunderstruck.
It was a rebound of fascination.
At the distance where they stood, and in that luminous mist which is the half-light of a theatre, details were lost; and it was like an hallucination. Doubtless, it was a woman, but was it not also a chimera ? This penetration of light into their obscurity stupefied them. It was like the appearance of an unknown planet.
It had come from a world of the happy.
The irradiation amplified this creature. This woman was covered with nocturnal glitterings, like a milky-way. The stones were stars. The agrafe of diamonds was perhaps a pleiad. The splendid beauty of her bosom seemed supernatural. They felt, in seeing this star-like creature, a momentary and thrilling approach to the regions of felicity. It was out of the heights of Paradise that she leant towards that mean-looking Green Box, and revealed to the gaze of the miserable audience that look of inexorable serenity. She satisfied her unbounded curiosity, and at the same time gave food for the curiosity of the public.
It was the Above permitting the Below to look at it.
Ursus, Gwynplaine, Vinos, Fibi, the crowd, every one had succumbed to this bewilderment, except Dea, ignorant in her darkness.
An apparition was before them ; but no ideas ordinarily evoked by such a word were realised by this figure.
She had nothing about her diaphanous, nothing undecided, nothing floating, no mist. She was an apparition; she was a creature rosecoloured and fresh, and full of health. And, notwithstanding the optical condition under which Ursus and Gwynplaine were placed, she looked like a vision,
VOL. IV., N. S. 1870.
Heavy phantoms, called vampires, exist. She also, who was for the crowd a spirit, ate up a hundred and twenty thousand of poor people yearly to keep up that fine health.
Behind this woman, in the half shadow, her page was seen, el mozo, a little, child-like man, fair and pretty, with a serious look. A groom, very young and very grave, was the fashion at that period. This page was dressed entirely, from top to toe, in flame-coloured velvet; and had on his skull-cap, embroidered with gold, a bunch of curled feathers, which was the sign of a high class of servant, and indicated attendance on a very great lady.
The lackey belonged to her rank, and it was impossible not to remark in the shadow of this woman the train-bearing page. Memory often takes notes unconsciously; and, without Gwynplaine's suspecting it, the round cheeks, the serious mien, the embroidered and plumed cap of the lady's page left some trace on his mind. The page, however, did nothing to occasion himself to be looked at. To draw attention is to be wanting in respect. He held himself aloof and passive at the back of the box, and retired as far as the closed door permitted.
Notwithstanding her train-bearer was there, this woman was not the less alone in the compartment, since a valet counted as nothing.
However powerful a diversion had been produced by this person, who had the effect of a personage, the winding up of “ Chaos Vanquished" was more powerful still. The impression was, as ever, irresistible. Perhaps even there was in the hall, on account of this radiant spectatress (for sometimes the spectator makes part of the spectacle), an increase of electricity. The contagion of laughter at Gwynplaine was more triumphant than
All the audience fell into an indescribable epilepsy of hilarity, through which could be distinguished the sonorous and magisterial ha! ha! of Tom-Jim Jack.
Only the unknown lady looked at the spectacle with the immobility of a statue, and with her phantom eyes she laughed not. A spectre, but sun-born.
The representation finished, the platform drawn up, and the family having re-assembled in the Green Box, Ursus opened and emptied on the supper table the bag of receipts. It was a heap of heavy pennies, amongst which slid suddenly a Spanish ounce piece of gold.
“ She!” cried Ursus.
This ounce of gold, in the midst of those pence covered with verdigris, was like that woman in the midst of the people.