ページの画像
PDF
ePub

the amende that may be to the heart-broken maiden, and make her true lady and countess of Toulouse.

« And what is this that shall be done to-night?" said the peasant.

“ The Earl goes in his penance to the great Church,” replied the townsman; " and thereafter the Blanche Rose shall be your lady ; and let no man nor maiden think her slight, because the silk mitten was not puissant as the mail glove.”

“ Truly I shall think her the truest and most dolorous lady that ever was named with lips,” said the old man, “ and the devil spit in his face that shall ever say contrar!”

As he spoke, a faint chorus of voices came from the Chateau, and a great light appeared beyond the black crowd of helmets and lances. It advanced slowly up the street, and at length the heavy tread of feet could be heard through the crowd, and a choir of monks chanting the penitential psalms. The solemn strain approached, and rose and fell at intervals, till suddenly the crowd gave back, and the white monks and .bright torches came slowly into the square. All the convents of Toulouse followed in long procession, till a broad heaven of light shone upon the press, and discovered the dark shadows of the black penitents, preceded by their cross, and lighted by a thousand torches.

In the midst, bare-headed and bare-footed, divested of all his feudal ensigns, with a torch in his hand and a chain upon his neck, Earl Raymond walked, in the white gown of penance; but his face was whiter than the cindon, and his eyes bent on the ground before the gaze and murmur that passed before him. A thrill of grief, wonder, and admiration past through every heart which had so lately seen his crowned head, riding through that street, in all the light and glory of victory and the cross; and at each pause of the choir, a deep “ Amen!" an. swered from the crowd. As the procession came to the high cross, the chant ceased, the train stopped, and the heralds lifted their hands and cried, Oyez! Oyez! Oyez ! so should it be done to all knights, traitors to orphelines and maidens.'

A deep death-pause rested upon the crowd, and no voice answered back again ; the heavy tramp went on, the chant rose up, and the procession past on towards the cathedral.

The long lines of monks vanished like shadows within the deep arch of the great portal, till the white gliding figures re-appeared in the light of the still choir, and the cowls, and gowns, and glittering glaives poured through the dim aisles, till the choir and nave was filled with the dark crowd. The church was hung with black, and lighted as for a soulmass; and as the torches and the penitent advanced to the altar, the voices of the unseen choir, and the still peal of the organ, went up over his head, as if the saints and the seraphims mourned over him in heaven. Raymond wrapped his face in his mantle, and knelt upon the stone, and bowed his head upon the footstool of the altar, till the priest raised him, and set him on the “ seige douloureux,” in the sight of all the people.

The service of the penitents was performed, the monks extinguished their torches at the foot of the shrine, and the heralds advanced to the altar. Sir Raymond stood up and turned to the people, and the pursui

• Every knight by his oath was particularly sworn to succour and defend all maidens, orphelines, and “ desolate ladies ;" hence treason against any, in such cha. racter, was the highest act of villains and infamy in a cheralier.

vants took off his white gown, and displayed his knightly habit and belt of estate. There was a terrible pause, and not a breath passed in the chapel. The heralds advanced to the Earl, and broke his sword over his head, and hewed the spurs from his heels, and rent the fur from his tabard; and immediately his shield and crest were spurned from the church door; the trumpets sounded on the steps, and the heralds cried,

-" Raymond de Toulouse! Raymond de Toulouse! Raymond de Toulouse! traitor to God and his lady, and mansworn of his knighthood; traitor knight, 80 is thy name cast out from true knights, and so I cast thy shame in thy teeth, and defy thee in the name of God, the defender of the orpheline and desolate!!

The people stood cold and still, and hushed as death; and the blood went out of the Earl's lips, till they were white as his kirtle. The heralds sat down, but Raymond stood still and vacant, his arms hanging to his side, and his eyes fixed upon the air.

The bishop rose out of his chair and took the book in his hand; for a moment he stood and looked upon the knight.

In the garden of God, one little white rose grew amidst the flowers, very fair, and pure, and bright, the sweetest among the blossoms; the sun loved to shine upon it by day, and the moon by night; and the dew and the rain watered it in the heat, and the breeze kissed it in the morning, and said, God bless thee, and HE did bless it, till it was the fairest of the earth—and the trees bent over to keep it from the wind, and the birds sung to it at noon, and the angels of God looked down upon it, and blessed his name that had made it lovely.

“ God gave thee the flower, and the forest to keep and watch, and defend from all wrong ; and he gave thee the oak, and the palm, the fair fields, and the still, green wood, and all that walked therein—and if this had not been enough he would have given thee more.

“ Thou spared to come to the cedar, and the oak, and plucked the little flower that was lonely, and put it in thy bosom when it was sweet, and when it faded, cast it on the ground to die, and went thy

way!

Raymond fell on his face before the altar; and the people wept and sobbed, and sunk on their knees, as if their hearts fell with his who bowed before them. The bishop laid his hand upon the book

“ When the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive! Look up, my son ; ‘God is merciful and great to forgive us our offences !'-He will see thy repentance and say, "Thou shalt not die !'"

The Earl rose upon his knee, and the bishop laid his hand upon his head, and spoke the words of absolution, and laid the cross on his brow, and bid him rise. Raymond stood up and the prelate kissed him on the cheek, and belted him with a new sword ; and the heralds braced clean spurs upon his heels, and put a crest of a new device upon his head, and cried, “God make thee a new and valiant knight, and keep these arms to his service, to aid the widow, orpheline, and every one distressed and desolate, and maintain the right against all men who may live and die!" Immediately the trumpets sounded, and the pursuivants proclaimed him, lord, earl, and knight; the furred mantle of state was cast over his shoulders, and he came out among his people Raymond de Toulouse.

*

*

That night before the moon went down, Rose knew how she was cleared—but long she lay and wept upon his feet and would not be comforted ; and when at last her strength and mind returned, it was in the strength of her despair, to fly to the bishop, and declare the truth; the hand of Raymond held her like an infant on the grass, but she had no hearing for his words, and would but wring her hands, and cry to be released to do him justice, till she sunk exhausted upon the turf. He watched by her through the night, and in the morning, when her spirits ebbed away and the strength of her delirium was past, she was subdued by his tears, and swore upon his hand. The light came into his face and he kissed her and rose up" You never broke your word,” said he ;

now I will leave you !"

*

*

[ocr errors]

*

[ocr errors]

On St. Bride's-day at noon, the Earl surrounded by all the chivalry and beauty of Languedoc, stood at the high altar, where he had done his penance. BLANCHE Rose bent before the priest in the white bridal amice, her pale brow glistening with pearls and gems, and the white flower shining like a star in the long glossy tresses that fell upon her neck for the last time.* The Earl put the ring upon her finger, the priest set the coronet upon her brow, and the heralds cried her, Countess of Toulouse, at the high cross, amidst the shouts of the people, and the waving of ten thousand caps.

All the city was in a transport, for the constancy “ of the bright lady of the world,” and the self-justice of her supposed traitor knight.

Certainly,” said the vicar of St. John, “ I think him greater for this repenting, than if he had never had tache or spot, not to speak of the ninety and nine in the wilderness; he had then been but a puisnie saint, now he is lith and blood like to you and me, but so as you and I shall never be—the greatest mortal man that ever quelled sinful flesh.”

A week of pomp and pageant, and all that the olden time held gay and splendid, past through Toulouse like night's masque, and again all returned to the quiet sunshine, and still business of a simple summer's day.

The Countess lived in deep seclusion, partly for that the face of man was become terrible to her, partly for her feeble state, which might not suffer ceremony and fatigue. The leaves were falling, the birds had ceased to sing, and the sun looked sad and still upon the yellow fields, when the unconscious cause of her sorrow, was presented to the barons of Languedoc in the great hall of Toulouse ; “ I do not wrong them,” said Raymond, to its heart-broken mother, as she wept at his feet, “ My blood runs in the veins of none living ; there is none to claim the right-you shall make him worthy to hold the sword and the coronet of a brave people, and God and their service shall give him right, better than a name.

*

*

*

It was the vigil of the cross; the night was dark and still upon Toulouse. The quiet streets were silent and empty, and all lights had gone out, except here and there a red solitary candle shed its long still pen

As late as the 17th century long hair was only worn by unmarried ladies, and it was closely confined under the coif or crestine as soon as they became matrons. It was remarked as an impudent assumption, that the beautiful, but scandalous Countess of Essex (in the reign of James VI.) wore loose hair after her infamous repudiation of her husband, and intrigue with the Earl of Rochester.

celle upon the waters of the Garonne. The black pile of the vast Chateau rose like a giant over the dim town, and within the wide courts were silent and deserted, and all dark and quiet except the stamp of a horse that waited beside the postern, and one still solitary watch-light that shone in an upper turret. About that light was gathered all the interest of Toulouse, and perhaps an eye, born upon the gifted night,* might have seen the dim spirits leaning together over the turret, speak. ing the destinies of him, the last of his race, who should inhabit those towers, and who now stood within that dim still room.

It was a small dark turret chamber, hung with coarse arras, and meanly garnished with such furniture as might become the use of a simple esquire, or frugal steward, - a low pallet, half concealed by a curtain of blue sey, filled a small recess beyond the hearth, and at its head stood a long white wand and a walking sword in a scabbard of green

vel. vet. A black carved armoire and oak chest occupied the opposite corners, and the remaining space was no more than sufficient for a tall highbacked chair of black leather, and a wide olive wood table, on which a number of papers, an almoniere, an aunlace, and a heap of loose gold lay by a wax taper that burned under the rood suspended against the wall.

Earl Raymond stood before the light in his travelling cloak, and his grey seneschal sat in the chair, his embossed hands rested upon his knees, and his white bald brow lifted to the face of his master.

“ You know her not,” said the Earl ; 1, who was nursed on the same breast, rocked by the same hand, have grown with her like the twiu bud upon the stalk-I know her-and God knows her, the bright noble ladye of the world ;-I loved her, I will not say how I loved her ; she was very lovely to me- -but I was only as a brother to her, how could I be more, and the glorious beautiful flower of all chivalry sworn to her service. Alas that he had been true as I was, and I would have been a brother to him, as she was a sister to me! and since I am the last of my race, they should have had fair Toulouse and my broad Earldom; and I would have been the soldier of the cross, and prayed that they might have been happy.”

“ God be praised, that has given you to be happy with her yourself," said the seneschal.

Raymond looked upon him as the spirits may look on man that cannot read the secret thoughts of the world above.

To night,” said he, “ I go to the Holy Land.Blessed Saints ! and leave your lady?” exclaimed the seneschal.

The Earl's cheek became white as his tabard, but his voice did not change; “ Be you very true and gentle to her, as you have ever been to me,” said he: “ and serve her as if you were born in her father's house, as you were born in mine ; and she shall still be your lady, and her lonely orpheline shall be your Earl, when I shall come no more.”

“ Alas! alas! what is this?" said the old man.

The Earl stood a moment upon his sword ; “ You have been young that now are old,” said he, “ you shall know that a maiden's love is like the sunshine and the sweet moon-light; it must shine in its own

• It was an ancient superstition that persons born on Christmas-eve were endued with vision sensible of all spirits and supernatural objects. To this cause were referred the dark looks of Philip II. of Spain, whose mind was believed to be impressed by awful appearances to which he was subject.

summer and its own still hour, and cannot come through the cloud when you shall call it. I will never be the cloud to her face, nor a chain upon the heart, which I bound to me for its redeeming ; but she shall be bright and free to shine like the sun upon the flower,-and God send a flower to blossom in her light, and be sweet and bright and grateful to her as the rose to the morning, when I am—where the sun shall never shine again.”

And you will not come back !" said the old man. Raymond laid his hand upon the cross- « Never !

The old man fell on his knees, and bent his white head upon his mas. ter's hand, and wept like a child.

For a long time the count held his trembling hand, and turned away his face, at last, “ Aymer !” said he, “ God reward your true and faithful service to me; I have done with this world ; I was a solitary tree, without a parent, a brother, a sister, to fill my heart--the last of my race. She was a very bright flower to me, the rose to my bower, the sun to my glory, the lamp to my holy shrine; 1 am going- -to die before the cross as your father and mine; and we shall meet together with them before His glorious throne.”

The old man's sobs redoubled, and for a long while he knelt and wept, and the Earl said no more. At length his sobs subsided, the stamp of the horse came from the gate ; the Earl lifted him in silence ; for some moments he wrote upon the papers, and set his seal ; and the old man told the gold and put it in his purse. The knight took off his hat, and kissed his furrowed cheek, and laid his hand upon his head, and for one moment grasped his hands, and looked upon the cross and turned suddenly to the door. The old man tottered after with the light; but Ray.. mond put him back with his averted hand, and threw the cloak about him, and hurried down the stair. The groom started up in his seat and threw the bridle on the Arab, and Raymond leaped into the saddle; the boy touched his bonnet and said some word, but the Earl gave no answer, and spurring through the gate, took the street towards the east port.

[ocr errors]

*

There is a blank in the chronicle of Toulouse; who could tell how Earl Raymond turned his back upon his people—the tower where he was born, the roof where he was nursed, the field where he had plucked the flower, and chased the linnet, the garden where the rose of his love had blown-that rose that was blighted, and faded, and never should bloom again—to him !

The monk did not write of it in his book, nor the troubadour sing of it in his song ; they said only, " Raymond de Toulouse shaped the cross on his sleeve and went to Holy Land."

[blocks in formation]

It was the third evening after the Earl and his company arrived at Acre. The men at arms were busily disembarking their horses to go forward for Jerusalem, and the knight sat upon a stone by the beach, looking upon the bright water and the sun that was going down, red and still, and far away on France.

While he yet gazed, a slender boy, in the dress of a page, came down the sand; he stopped and hesitated, and looked towards the knight as he approached, but at last he came to his side. Sir Raymond did not look up, and the boy stood and held his bonnet and twisted the feather, and the colour went and came in his face,“ Sir Earl !said he, at last

« 前へ次へ »