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Title: Gabriel and the Hour Book
Author: Stein, Evaleen, 1863-1923
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Gabriel and the Hour Book" ***

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Internet Archive)



Gabriel · and · the Hour · Book

Roses of St. Elizabeth Series

Evaleen·Stein·

[Illustration]

[Illustration]



GABRIEL AND THE HOUR BOOK



Roses of St. Elizabeth Series

          Each 1 vol., small quarto, illustrated and decorated
          in colour.                                     $1.00

          The Roses of Saint Elizabeth
          BY JANE SCOTT WOODRUFF

          Gabriel and the Hour Book
          BY EVALEEN STEIN

          The Enchanted Automobile
          _Translated from the French by_
          MARY J. SAFFORD

          Pussy-Cat Town
          BY MARION AMES TAGGART

          L. C. PAGE & COMPANY
          New England Building
          BOSTON, MASS.


[Illustration: _Gabriel_]



Roses of St. Elizabeth Series

Gabriel and the Hour Book

BY Evaleen Stein


_ILLUSTRATED IN COLOURS BY_

Adelaide Everhart

          L. C. Page & Company
          Boston  Mcmvi



          _Copyright, 1906, by
          L. C. PAGE & COMPANY
          (Incorporated)_

          _All rights reserved_

          _First Impression, July, 1906_


          _COLONIAL PRESS_

          _Electrotyped and Printed by C.H. Simonds & Co.
          Boston, U.S.A._



TO

=My friend=

CAROLINE H. GRIFFITHS



CONTENTS

          CHAPTER                               PAGE

             I. The Little Colour Grinder          1

            II. Brother Stephen's Inspiration     19

           III. Gabriel Interviews the Abbot      35

            IV. The Hour Book                     49

             V. The Count's Tax                   65

            VI. Gabriel's Prayer                  74

           VII. The Book Goes to Lady Anne        89

          VIII. Lady Anne Writes to the King      99

            IX. The King's Messenger             116

             X. Gabriel's Christmas              136

            XI. The King's Illuminator           162



[Illustration]

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


  Gabriel                                            _Frontispiece_

  "He saw the Abbot walking up and down"                        38

  "Dreaming of all the beautiful things he meant to paint"      59

  "Taking down the book . . . he unwrapped and unclasped it"    95

  "Began slowly to turn over the pages"                        105

  "He passed a little peasant boy"                             142



Gabriel and the Hour Book



CHAPTER I.

THE LITTLE COLOUR GRINDER


IT was a bright morning of early April, many hundred years ago; and
through all the fields and meadows of Normandy the violets and
cuckoo-buds were just beginning to peep through the tender green of the
young grass. The rows of tall poplar-trees that everywhere, instead of
fences, served to mark off the farms of the country folk, waved in the
spring wind like great, pale green plumes; and among their branches the
earliest robins and field-fares were gaily singing as a little boy
stepped out from a small thatched cottage standing among the fields, and
took his way along the highroad.

That Gabriel Viaud was a peasant lad, any one could have told from the
blouse of blue homespun, and the wooden shoes which he wore; and that he
felt the gladness of the April time could easily be known by the happy
little song he began to sing to himself, and by the eager delight with
which he now and then stooped to pluck a blue violet or to gather a
handful of golden cuckoo-buds.

A mile or two behind him, and hidden by a bend in the road, lay the
little village of St. Martin-de-Bouchage; while in the soft blue
distance ahead of him rose the gray walls of St. Martin's Abbey, whither
he was going.

Indeed, for almost a year now the little boy had been trudging every day
to the Abbey, where he earned a small sum by waiting upon the good
brothers who dwelt there, and who made the beautiful painted books for
which the Abbey had become famous. Gabriel could grind and mix their
colours for them, and prepare the parchment on which they did their
writing, and could do many other little things that helped them in their
work.

The lad enjoyed his tasks at the Abbey, and, above all, delighted in
seeing the beautiful things at which the brothers were always busy; yet,
as he now drew near the gateway, he could not help but give a little
sigh, for it was so bright and sunny out-of-doors. He smiled, though, as
he looked at the gay bunches of blossoms with which he had quite filled
his hands, and felt that at least he was taking a bit of the April in
with him, as he crossed the threshold and entered a large room.

"Good morrow, Gabriel," called out several voices as he came in, for the
lad was a general favourite with the brothers; and Gabriel, respectfully
taking off his blue peasant cap, gave a pleasant "good morrow" to each.

The room in which he stood had plain stone walls and a floor of paved
stone, and little furniture, except a number of solidly made benches and
tables. These were placed beneath a row of high windows, and the tables
were covered with writing and painting materials and pieces of
parchment; for the brotherhood of St. Martin's was very industrious.

In those days,--it was four hundred years ago,--printed books were very
few, and almost unknown to most people; for printing-presses had been
invented only a few years, and so by far the greater number of books in
the world were still made by the patient labour of skilful hands; the
work usually being done by the monks, of whom there were very many at
that time.

These monks, or brothers, as they were often called, lived in
monasteries and abbeys, and were men who banded themselves together in
brotherhoods, taking solemn vows never to have homes of their own or to
mingle in the daily life of others, but to devote their lives to
religion; for they believed that they could serve God better by thus
shutting themselves off from the world.

And so it came about that the brothers, having more time and more
learning than most other people of those days, made it their chief work
to preserve and multiply all the books that were worth keeping. These
they wrote out on parchment (for paper was very scarce so long ago), and
then ornamented the pages with such beautiful painted borders of flowers
and birds and saints and angels, and such lovely initial letters, all in
bright colours and gold, that to this day large numbers of the beautiful
books made by the monks are still kept among the choicest treasures of
the museums and great libraries of the world.

And few of all those wonderful old illuminations (for so the painted
ornaments were called) were lovelier than the work of the brotherhood of
St. Martin's. Gabriel felt very proud even to grind the colours for
them. But as he passed over to one of the tables and began to make ready
his paint mortar, the monk who had charge of the writing-room called to
him, saying:

"Gabriel, do not get out thy work here, for the Abbot hath just ordered
that some one must help Brother Stephen, who is alone in the old
chapter-house. He hath a special book to make, and his colour-grinder is
fallen ill; so go thou at once and take Jacques's place."

So Gabriel left the writing-room and passed down the long corridor that
led to the chapter-house. This was a room the brothers had kept for
years as a meeting-place, when they and the Abbot, who governed them
all, wished to talk over the affairs of the Abbey; but as it had at last
grown too small for them, they had built a new and larger one; and so
the old chapter-house was seldom used any more.

Gabriel knew this, and he wondered much why Brother Stephen chose to
work there rather than in the regular writing-room with the others. He
supposed, however, that, for some reason of his own, Brother Stephen
preferred to be alone.

He did not know that the monk, at that moment, was sitting moodily by
his work-table, his eyes staring aimlessly ahead of him, and his hands
dropped idly in his lap. For Brother Stephen was feeling very cross and
unhappy and out of sorts with all the world. And this was the reason:
poor Brother Stephen had entered the Abbey when a lad scarcely older
than Gabriel. He had come of good family, but had been left an orphan
with no one to care for him, and for want of other home had been sent to
the Abbey, to be trained for the brotherhood; for in those days there
were few places where fatherless and motherless children could be taken
care of.

As little Jean (for this was his name before he joined the monks, when
one's own name was always changed) grew up, he took the solemn vows
which bound him to the rules of the brotherhood without realizing what
it all would mean to him; for Brother Stephen was a born artist; and, by
and by, he began to feel that while life in the Abbey was well for most
of the brothers, for him it was not well. He wanted to be free to wander
about the world; to paint pictures of many things; and to go from city
to city, and see and study the work of the world's great artists.

It is true he spent the greater part of his time in the Abbey working on
the illuminated books, and this he loved; yet it did not wholly satisfy
him. He longed to paint other things, and, above all, his artist nature
longed for freedom from all the little rules of daily life that
governed the days of the brotherhood.

Brother Stephen had brooded much over this desire for freedom, and only
the day before had sought out the Abbot of St. Martin's and asked to be
released from the vows of obedience which he had taken years before, but
which now he found so hard to live up to. But, to his great
disappointment, the Abbot had refused to grant his request.

The Abbot had several reasons for this refusal; one of them was that he
himself dearly loved all the little daily ceremonies of the Abbey, and
he could not understand why any one who had once lived there could
prefer a life in the world. He really thought it was for Brother
Stephen's own good that he should stay in the brotherhood.

And then, too, perhaps there was another reason less to the Abbot's
credit; and this reason was that of all the beautiful illuminated books
for which the Abbey of St. Martin's had become so famous, none were
quite so exquisitely done as those made by Brother Stephen. So perhaps
the Abbot did not wish to lose so skilful an artist from the work-room
of the Abbey, and especially at this particular time. For just before
Brother Stephen had had his talk with the Abbot, a messenger from the
city of Paris had come to the Abbey, bearing an order from the king,
Louis XII., who reigned over France, and Normandy also, which was a part
of France.

Now the following winter, the king was to wed the Lady Anne of Bretagne;
and as Lady Anne was a great admirer and collector of beautiful painted
books, the king thought no gift would please his bride quite so much as
a piece of fine illumination; and he decided that it should be an hour
book. These books were so called because in them were written different
parts of the Bible, intended to be read at certain hours of the day; for
most people at that time were very devout, and the great ladies
especially were very fond of having their hour books made as beautiful
as possible.

As King Louis thought over the best places where he might have his
bride's gift painted, at last he made up his mind to send to the monks
of St. Martin's. He commanded that the hour book be done in the most
beautiful style, and that it must be finished by the following December.

The Abbot was delighted with the honour the king had shown the Abbey in
sending this order; and he determined that Brother Stephen should stay
and make the entire book, as no one else wrote so evenly, or made quite
such lovely initials and borders as did he.

When the Abbot told this to Brother Stephen, however, it was a pity
that he did so in such a cold and haughty way that altogether Brother
Stephen's anger was aroused, for he had a rather unruly temper; and so,
smarting under the disappointment of not receiving his liberty, and
feeling that the book for Lady Anne was one cause of this, he had spoken
angrily and disrespectfully to the Abbot, and refused point-blank to
touch the king's order.

At this the Abbot in his turn became angry, and declared that Brother
Stephen should be compelled to paint the hour book whether he wished to
or not; that he must do it as punishment for his unruly conduct; and the
Abbot threatened, moreover, that if he did not obey, he would be placed
under the ban of the Church, which was considered by all the brotherhood
as a dreadful misfortune.

And so with this threat hanging over him, that very morning, just before
Gabriel reached the Abbey, Brother Stephen had been sent to the old
chapter-house, where he was ordered to work by himself, and to begin the
book at once. And to complete his humiliation, and for fear he might try
to run away, the Abbot caused him to be chained to one of the legs of
the heavy work-table; and this chain he was to wear every day during
working hours.

Now all this made Brother Stephen very angry and unhappy, and his heart
was full of bitterness toward the Abbot and all of the brotherhood and
the world in general, when all at once he heard Gabriel's knock at the
door; and then, in another moment, the door was softly pushed open, and
there, on the threshold, stood the little boy.



CHAPTER II.

BROTHER STEPHEN'S INSPIRATION


GABRIEL knew nothing of Brother Stephen's troubles, and so was smiling
happily as he stepped into the room, holding his cap in one hand, while
with his other arm he hugged to him his large bunch of violets and
cuckoo-buds. Indeed he looked so bright and full of life that even
Brother Stephen felt the effect of it, and his frown began to smooth out
a little as he said:

"Well, my lad, who art thou?"

"I am Gabriel Viaud, Brother Stephen," answered the boy, "and I have
come to help you; for they told me Jacques is fallen ill. What would you
like me to do first?"

To this Brother Stephen scarcely knew what to reply. He was certainly in
no mood for work. He was still very, very angry, and thought himself
terribly misused by the Abbot; and though he greatly dreaded the
latter's threats, he had almost reached the point of defying him and the
king and everybody else, no matter what dreadful thing happened to him
afterward.

But then as he looked again at the bright-faced little boy standing
there, and seeming so eager to help, he began to relent more and more;
and besides, he found it decidedly embarrassing to try to explain things
to Gabriel.

So after a little pause, he said to him: "Gabriel, I am not ready for
thee at this moment; go sit on yonder bench. I wish to think out a
matter which is perplexing me." Then as Gabriel obediently went over to
the bench and seated himself, he added: "Thou canst pass the time
looking at the books on the shelf above thee."

So while Brother Stephen was trying to make up his mind as to what he
would do, Gabriel took down one of the books, and was soon absorbed in
its pages. Presently, as he turned a new one, he gave a little
involuntary exclamation of delight. At this Brother Stephen noticed him,
and--

"Ah!" he said, "what hast thou found that seems to please thee?"

"Oh, sir," answered Gabriel, "this is the most beautiful initial letter
I have ever seen!"

Now Gabriel did not know that the book had been made a few years before
by Brother Stephen himself, and so he had no idea how much it pleased
the brother to have his work admired.

Indeed, most people who do good work of any kind oftentimes feel the
need of praise; not flattery, but the real approval of some one who
understands what they are trying to do. It makes the workman or artist
feel that if his work is liked by somebody, it is worth while to try to
do more and better.

Poor Brother Stephen did not get much of this needed praise, for many of
the other monks at the Abbey were envious of him, and so were unwilling
really to admire his work; while the Abbot was so cold and haughty and
so taken up with his own affairs, that he seldom took the trouble to say
what he liked or disliked.

So when Brother Stephen saw Gabriel's eager admiration, he felt pleased
indeed; for Gabriel had a nice taste in artistic things, and seemed
instinctively to pick out the best points of anything he looked at. And
when, in his enthusiasm, he carried the book over and began to tell
Brother Stephen why he so much admired the painting, without knowing it,
he really made the latter feel happier than he had felt for many a day.
He began to have a decided notion that he would paint King Louis's book
after all. And just then, as if to settle the matter, he happened to
glance at the corner of the table where Gabriel had laid down his bunch
of flowers as he came in.

It chanced that some of the violets had fallen from the cluster and
dropped upon a broad ruler of brass that lay beside the painting
materials. And even as Brother Stephen looked, it chanced also that a
little white butterfly drifted into the room through the bars of the
high, open window; after vaguely fluttering about for a while, at last,
attracted by the blossoms, it came, and, poising lightly over the
violets on the ruler, began to sip the honey from the heart of one of
them.

As Brother Stephen's artistic eye took in the beauty of effect made by
the few flowers on the brass ruler with the butterfly hovering over
them, he, too, gave a little exclamation, and his eyes brightened and he
smiled; for he had just got a new idea for an illuminated border.

"Yes," he said to himself, "this would be different from any I have yet
seen! I will decorate King Louis's book with borders of gold; and on the
gold I will paint the meadow wildflowers, and the bees and butterflies,
and all the little flying creatures."

Now before this, all the borders of the Abbey books had been painted, in
the usual manner of the time, with scrolls and birds and flowers more or
less conventionalized; that is, the artists did not try to make them
look exactly like the real ones, but twisted them about in all sorts of
fantastic ways. Sometimes the stem of a flower would end in the
curled-up folds of a winged dragon, or a bird would have strange
blossoms growing out of his beak, or perhaps the tips of his wings.

These borders were indeed exquisitely beautiful, but Brother Stephen
was just tired of it all, and wanted to do something quite different; so
he was delighted with his new idea of painting the field-flowers exactly
like nature, only placing them on a background of gold.

As he pictured in his mind one page after another thus adorned, he
became more and more interested and impatient to begin at once. He
forgot all about his anger at the Abbot; he forgot everything else,
except that he wanted to begin King Louis's book as quickly as possible!

And so he called briskly to Gabriel, who meantime had reseated himself
on his bench:

"Gabriel, come hither! Canst thou rule lines without blotting? Canst
thou make ink and grind colours and prepare gold size?"

"Yes, sir," said Gabriel, surprised at the monk's eager manner, "I have
worked at all these things."

"Good!" replied Brother Stephen. "Here is a piece of parchment thou
canst cut and prepare, and then rule it, thus" (and here he showed him
how he wished it done), "with scarlet ink. But do not take yonder brass
ruler! Here is one of ivory thou canst use instead."

And then as Gabriel went to work, Brother Stephen, taking a goose-quill
pen and some black ink, began skilfully and carefully to make drawings
of the violets as they lay on the ruler, not forgetting the white
butterfly which still hovered about. The harder he worked the happier he
grew; hour after hour passed, till at last the dinner time came, and
Gabriel, who was growing very hungry, could hear the footsteps of the
brothers, as they marched into the large dining-room where they all ate
together.

Brother Stephen, however, was so absorbed that he did not notice
anything; till, by and by, the door opened, and in came two monks, one
carrying some soup and bread and a flagon of wine. As they entered,
Brother Stephen turned quickly, and was about to rise, when all at once
he felt the tug of the chain still fastened about the leg of the table;
at this his face grew scarlet with shame, and he sank back in his
chair.

Gabriel started with surprise, for he had not before seen the chain,
partly hidden as it was by the folds of the brother's robe. As he
looked, one of the two monks went to the table, and, with a key which he
carried, unlocked the chain so Brother Stephen might have a half-hour's
liberty while he ate. The monks, however, stayed with him to keep an eye
on his movements; and meantime they told Gabriel to go out to the Abbey
kitchen and find something for his own dinner.

As Gabriel went out along the corridor to the kitchen, his heart swelled
with pity! Why was Brother Stephen chained? He tried to think, and
remembered that once before he had seen one of the brothers chained to a
table in the writing-room because he was not diligent enough with his
work,--but Brother Stephen! Was he not working so hard? And how
beautiful, too, were his drawings! The more Gabriel thought of it the
more indignant he grew. Indeed, he did not half-enjoy the bread and
savoury soup made of black beans, that the cook dished out for him; he
took his wooden bowl, and sitting on a bench, ate absently, thinking all
the while of Brother Stephen.

When he had finished he went back to the chapter-house and found the
other monks gone and Brother Stephen again chained. Gabriel felt much
embarrassed to have been obliged to see it; and when Brother Stephen,
pointing to the chain, said bitterly, "Thou seest they were afraid I
would run away from my work," the lad was so much at a loss to know what
to say, that he very wisely said nothing.

Now Brother Stephen, though he had begun the book as the Abbot wished,
yet he had by no means the meek and penitent spirit which also the Abbot
desired of him, and which it was proper for a monk to have.

And so if the truth must be told, each time the other monks came in to
chain him, he felt more than anything else like seizing both of them,
and thrusting them bodily out of the door, or at least trying to do so.
But then he could not forget the Abbot's threat if he showed
disobedience; and he had been brought up to dread the ban of the Church
more than anything else that could possibly happen to him, because he
believed that this would make him unhappy, not only in this life, but in
the life to come. And so he smothered his feelings and tried to bear the
humiliation as patiently as he could.

Gabriel could not help but see, however, that it took him some time to
regain the interest he had felt in his work, and it was not until the
afternoon was half-gone that he seemed to forget his troubles enough
really to have heart in the pages he was making.

When dusk fell, Gabriel picked up and arranged his things in order, and
bidding Brother Stephen good night, trudged off home.



CHAPTER III.

GABRIEL INTERVIEWS THE ABBOT


THE next day of Gabriel's service passed off much the same as the first,
and so it went for almost a week; but the boy saw day by day that
Brother Stephen's chain became more and more unbearable to him, and that
he had long fits of brooding, when he looked so miserable and unhappy
that Gabriel's heart fairly ached for him.

At last the lad, who was a sympathetic little fellow, felt that he
could stand it no longer, but must try and help him in some way.

"If I could only speak to the Abbot himself," thought Gabriel, "surely
he would see that Brother Stephen is set free!"

The Abbot, however, was a very stately and dignified person; and Gabriel
did not quite see how a little peasant boy like himself could find an
opportunity to speak to him, or how he would dare to say anything even
if he had a chance.

Now it happened the very morning that Gabriel was thinking about all
this, he was out in the Abbey kitchen beating up the white of a nice
fresh egg which he had brought with him from home that day. He had the
egg in an earthen bowl, and was working away with a curious wooden
beater, for few people had forks in those days. And as he beat up the
white froth, the Abbey cooks also were very busy making pasties, and
roasting huge pieces of meat before the great open fireplace, and baking
loaves of sweet Normandy bread for the monks' dinner.

But Gabriel was not helping them; no, he was beating the egg for Brother
Stephen to use in putting on the gold in the border he was painting. For
the brothers did not have the imitation gold powders of which we see so
much to-day; but instead, they used real gold, which they ground up very
fine in earthen mortars, and took much trouble to properly prepare. And
when they wanted to lay it on, they commonly used the white of a fresh
egg to fasten it to the parchment.

[Illustration: "_He saw the Abbot walking up and down_"]

So Gabriel was working as fast as he could, for Brother Stephen was
waiting; when all at once he happened to look out the kitchen door,
which opened on a courtyard where there was a pretty garden, and he saw
the Abbot walking up and down the gravel paths, and now and then
stopping to see how the tulips and daffodils were coming on.

As Gabriel looked, the Abbot seated himself on a stone bench; and then
the little boy, forgetting his awe of him, and thinking only of Brother
Stephen and his chain ran out as fast as he could, still holding his
bowl in one hand and the wooden beater in the other.

As he came up to where the Abbot was sitting, he courtesied in such
haste that he spilled out half his egg as he eagerly burst out:

"O reverend Father! will you not command Brother Stephen to be set free
from his chain?"

The Abbot at first had smiled at the droll figure made by the little
boy, whom he supposed to be one of the kitchen scullions, but at this
speech he stiffened up and looked very stern as Gabriel went on
breathlessly:

"He is making such a beautiful book, and he works so hard; but the chain
is so dreadful to him, and I was sure that if you knew they had put it
on him, you would not allow it!"

Here the Abbot began to feel a trifle uncomfortable, for he saw that
Gabriel did not know that he himself had ordered Brother Stephen to wear
the chain. But he mentioned nothing of this as he spoke to Gabriel.

"Boy," he said, severely, "what affair of thine is this matter about
Brother Stephen? Doubtless if he is chained, it is a punishment he hath
merited. 'Tis scarcely becoming in a lad like thee to question these
things." And then, as he looked sharply at Gabriel, he added, "Did
Brother Stephen send thee hither? Who art thou?"

At this Gabriel hung his head, and, "Nay, sir," he answered, simply, "he
does not know, and perhaps he will be angry with me! I am his
colour-grinder, and I was in the kitchen getting the egg for his
gold,"--here suddenly Gabriel remembered his bowl, and looking down in
dismay, "Oh, sir," he exclaimed, "I have spilled the egg, and it was
fresh-laid this morning by my white hen!" Here the boy looked so
honestly distressed that the Abbot could not but believe that he spoke
the truth, and so he smiled a little as he said, not unkindly:

"Well, never mind about thy hen,--go on; thou wast in the kitchen, and
then what?"

"I saw you in the garden," answered Gabriel, "and--and--I thought that
if you knew about the chain, you would not like it;" (here the Abbot
began to look very stern again); "and," Gabriel added, "I could not bear
to see Brother Stephen so unhappy. I know he is unhappy, for whenever he
notices the chain, he frowns and his hand trembles so he can hardly
paint!"

"Ah," said the Abbot to himself, "if his hand trembles, that is another
matter." For the Abbot knew perfectly well that in order to do
successfully anything so delicate as a piece of illumination, one must
have a steady hand and untroubled nerves; and he began to think that
perhaps he had gone a little too far in punishing Brother Stephen. So
he thought a minute, and then to Gabriel, who was still standing before
him, not quite knowing what to do, he merely said:

"Go back to thy work, lad, and mind thy colours; and," he added with
haughty dignity, "I will do as I think best about Brother Stephen's
chain."

So Gabriel went back to the kitchen feeling very uncomfortable, for he
was afraid he had displeased the Abbot, and so, perhaps, done more harm
than good to Brother Stephen. While he was quite sure he had displeased
Brother Stephen, for he had kept him waiting a long while, and worse
still, had spilled the best egg there was in the kitchen! However, the
lad begged one of the cooks to let him have another egg, and, whisking
it up as quickly as he could, made haste to carry it to the
chapter-house.

As he pushed open the door, Brother Stephen said, sharply, "How now! I
thought they had chained thee to one of the tables of the kitchen!"

"I am so sorry," said Gabriel, his face very red,--"but--I--I spilled
the first egg and had to make ready another."

He hoped Brother Stephen would not ask him how he happened to spill it;
for by this time he began to realize that the high-spirited monk
probably had reasons of his own for submitting to the punishment of the
chain, and that very likely he would be displeased if he knew that his
little colour-grinder had asked the Abbot to free him. So Gabriel felt
much relieved when, without further questions, Brother Stephen went on
with his work, in which for the moment he was greatly absorbed.

And thus the day went quietly on, till early in the afternoon; when, to
the great surprise of both of them, the door slowly opened, and in
walked the Abbot himself.

The Abbot was haughty, as usual, and, as Brother Stephen saw him come
in, he raised his head with an involuntary look of pride and resentment;
but neither spoke as the Abbot stepped over to the table, and examined
the page on which the monk was working.

This particular page happened to be ornamented with a wide border of
purple flag-flowers, copied from some Gabriel had gathered the day
before in a swampy corner of one of the wayside meadows. Their fresh
green leaves and rich purple petals shone with royal effect against the
background of gold; while hovering over them, and clinging to their
stems, were painted honey-bees, with gauzy wings, and soft,
furry-looking bodies of black and gold.

As the Abbot saw how beautiful it all was, and how different from any
other of the Abbey illuminations, he smiled to himself with pleasure.
For the Abbot, though he never said a great deal, yet very well knew a
good piece of artistic work when he saw it. Instead of merely smiling to
himself, however, it would have made Brother Stephen much happier if he
had taken the trouble to say aloud some of the nice things he was
thinking about the work.

For Brother Stephen felt very bitter as he thought over all he had been
made to bear; and even as the Abbot looked, he saw, sure enough, that
his hand trembled as Gabriel had said; for the poor monk had hard work
to control his feelings.

Now the Abbot really did not mean to be unkind. It was only that he did
not quite know how to unbend; and perhaps feeling this, he soon went
out.

Gabriel, who had been very much afraid he might say something to him
about their conversation of the morning, felt greatly relieved when the
door closed behind him; and the rest of the afternoon he and Brother
Stephen worked on in silence.



CHAPTER IV.

THE HOUR BOOK


BUT the next morning when Gabriel reached the Abbey, to his great joy he
found the chain gone (for the Abbot had so ordered after his visit to
the chapter-house), and Brother Stephen already hard at work, and happy
as a bird. For like many other artist souls, when things went wrong,
Brother Stephen suffered dreadful unhappiness; while, on the other hand,
when pleased, he was full of boundless delight; and so, being relieved
from the chain, he was in one of his most joyous moods.

He smiled brightly as Gabriel entered; and the April sunlight streaming
in through the high narrow windows sparkled so radiantly, and so filled
them with the life and energy and gladness of the spring-time, that each
of them felt as though he could do no end of work, and that King Louis's
book should be one of the most beautiful things in all the world!

And that morning was but the beginning of a long series of happy days
that Brother Stephen and Gabriel were to spend together. At first the
monk knew nothing of how it happened that he was freed from the
humiliation of the chain; but one day he heard about Gabriel's talk
with the Abbot from one of the brotherhood who had chanced to be in the
garden that morning, and had overheard them.

At first Brother Stephen was rather displeased; for he did not like it
that the little boy had begged of the Abbot something which he himself
was too proud to ask. But when he thought it over, and reflected that it
was out of sheer kindness that Gabriel had made the request, his heart
strangely warmed toward the lad. Indeed, through all his life in the
Abbey, no one had ever really cared whether he was happy or unhappy; and
so poor Brother Stephen had had no idea how very pleasant it would be
to have even a little peasant boy take an interest in him. And as day
after day went by, he began to love Gabriel, as he had never before
loved any one.

Yes, those were very happy days for both of them, and very busy ones,
too. Every morning Gabriel would come to the Abbey with his hands filled
with the prettiest wild flowers he could find on the way; and from these
Brother Stephen would select the ones that pleased him best to paint.
Sometimes it would be the sweet wild hyacinths of pale blue, sometimes
the yellow marsh-marigolds, and again the little deep pink field-roses,
or some other of the innumerable lovely blossoms that every season
brought. And with them all, as he had said, he put in the small flying
creatures; butterflies and bees, scarlet ladybugs and pale green
beetles, whose wings looked like scraps of rainbows; and sometimes, in
his zeal, he even painted the little snails with their curled-up shells,
and the fuzzy caterpillars that happened to come in on Gabriel's
bouquets, and you really would never believe how very handsome even
these looked in the gold borders, when Brother Stephen got through with
them.

And so, day by day, the book grew in perfect beauty. And as Brother
Stephen worked, there was much for Gabriel to do also. For in those days
artists could not buy their ink and paints all ready for use as they do
to-day, but were obliged to prepare by hand almost all their materials;
and a little assistant such as Gabriel had to keep his hands busy, and
his eyes open, too.

For instance, the matter of the ink alone, Gabriel had to have on his
mind for weeks; for one could not then buy it ready made, in a bottle,
as we do now without the least trouble, but the monks or their
colour-grinders had to make it themselves.

And this is the way Gabriel had been taught to do it: morning after
morning of those early spring days, as he trudged along on his way to
the Abbey, he kept sharp watch on the young hawthorn-trees by the
roadside; and when their first buds showed, and while they were still
tiny, he gathered armfuls of the boughs, and carried them to the Abbey,
where he spread them out in a sunny corner of the courtyard to stay
until quite dry. Then he had to put them in a stone mortar and pound off
all the bark; and this he put to steep in great earthen jars of water,
until the water might draw all the sap from out the bark. All this took
several weeks to do.

And then Gabriel spent a number of busy days in the great kitchen. There
he had a large saucepan, and in it he placed, a little at a time, the
water in which the bark was steeping; and then raking out some coals
from the blazing fire of logs, he set his saucepan over them, and
watched the barky water until it had boiled down very thick, much as one
boils down syrup for preserves.

Then he dipped out the thick liquid into little bags of parchment, which
he had spent days stitching up very tightly, so that nothing could leak
out. After the little bags were filled, he hung them out-of-doors in the
bright sunlight; and as the days grew warmer and warmer, the sun soon
dried their contents, so that if one of the little bags were opened it
would be found filled with a dark powder.

And then, last of all, when Brother Stephen wished some fresh ink for
his writing, or for the delicate lines about his initial letters or
borders, Gabriel would take a little of the dry powder from one of the
bags, and, putting it in a small saucepan over the fire, would melt it
with a little wine. And so at last it would be ready for use; a fine,
beautiful black ink that hundreds of years have found hard work to fade.

[Illustration: "_Dreaming of all the beautiful things he meant to
paint_"]

Then there was the gold to grind and prepare; that was the hardest of
all, and fairly made his arms ache. Many of the paints, too, had to be
worked over very carefully; and the blue especially, and other brilliant
colours made from vegetable dyes, must be kept in a very curious way.
Brother Stephen would prepare the dyes, as he preferred to do this
himself; and then Gabriel would take little pieces of linen cloth and
dip a few in each of the colours until the linen would be soaked; and
afterward, when they had dried in the sun, he would arrange these bits
in a little booklet of cotton paper, which every night Brother Stephen,
as was the custom with many of the monks, put under his pillow so that
it might keep very dry and warm; for this preserved the colours in all
their brightness. And then when he wanted to use some of them, he would
tell Gabriel to cut off a bit of the linen of whatever colour he wished,
and soak it in water, and in this way he would get a fine liquid
paint.

For holding this paint, as dishes were none too plenty in those days,
mussel shells were generally used; and one of Gabriel's tasks was to
gather numbers of these from the banks of the little river that ran
through one of the Abbey meadows. That was very pleasant work, though,
and sometimes, late in the afternoons of those lovely summer days,
Brother Stephen and Gabriel would walk out together to the edge of this
little river; the monk to sit on the grassy bank dreaming of all the
beautiful things he meant to paint, while Gabriel hunted for the pretty
purple shells.

And oftentimes the lad would bring along a fishing-pole and try his luck
at catching an eel; for even this, too, had to do with the making of the
book. For Brother Stephen in putting on the gold of his borders, while
he generally used white of egg, yet for certain parts preferred a glue
made from the skin of an eel; and this Gabriel could make very finely.

So you see there were a great many things for a little colour-grinder to
do; yet Gabriel was very industrious, and it often happened that he
would finish his tasks for the day, and still have several hours to
himself. And this was the best of all; for at such times Brother
Stephen, who was getting along finely, would take great pleasure in
teaching him to illuminate. He would let the boy take a piece of
parchment, and then giving him beautiful letters and bits of borders,
would show him how to copy them. Indeed, he took so much pains in his
teaching, that very soon Gabriel, who loved the work, and who had a real
talent for it, began to be quite skilful, and to make very good designs
of his own.

Whenever he did anything especially nice, Brother Stephen would seem
almost as much pleased as if Gabriel were his own boy; and hugging him
affectionately, he would exclaim:

"Ah, little one, thou hast indeed the artist soul! And, please God, I
will train thy hand so that when thou art a man it shall never know the
hard toil of the peasant. Thy pen and brush shall earn a livelihood for
thee!" And then he would take more pains than ever to teach Gabriel all
the best knowledge of his art.

Nor did Brother Stephen content himself with teaching the boy only to
paint; but in his love for him, he desired to do still more. He had no
wealth some day to bestow upon him, but he had something that was a very
great deal better; for Brother Stephen, like many of the monks of the
time, had a good education; and this he determined to share with
Gabriel.

He arranged to have him stay at the Abbey for his supper as often as he
could be spared from home; and hour after hour of the long summer
evenings he spent teaching the lad to read and write, which was really
quite a distinction; for it was an accomplishment that none of the
peasants, and very few of the lords and ladies of that time possessed.
Gabriel was quick and eager to learn, and Brother Stephen gradually
added other things to his list of studies, and both of them took the
greatest pleasure in the hours thus passed together.

Sometimes they would go out into the garden, and, sitting on one of the
quaint stone benches, Brother Stephen would point out to Gabriel the
different stars, or tell him about the fragrant growing plants around
them; or, perhaps, repeat to him some dreamy legend of old, old
Normandy.

And then, by and by, Gabriel would go home through the perfumed dark,
feeling vaguely happy; for all the while, through those pleasant
evenings with Brother Stephen, his mind and heart were opening brightly
as the yellow primroses, that blossomed by moonlight over all the Abbey
meadows.



CHAPTER V.

THE COUNT'S TAX


AND in this happy manner the spring and summer wore away and the autumn
came. Brother Stephen felt very cheerful, for the beautiful book grew
more beautiful week by week; and he was very proud and happy, because he
knew it was the loveliest thing he had ever made.

Indeed, he himself was so cheerful, that as the autumn days, one after
another, melted away, it was some little time before he noticed that
Gabriel was losing his merriness, and that he had begun to look sad and
distressed. And finally, one morning, he came looking so very unhappy,
that Brother Stephen asked, with much concern:

"Why, lad, whither have all thy gay spirits taken flight? Art thou ill?"

"Nay, sir," answered Gabriel, sadly; "but oh, Brother Stephen, we are in
so much trouble at home!"

At this the monk at once began to question him, and learned that
Gabriel's family were indeed in great misfortune.

And this is how it came about: in those days the peasant folk had a very
hard time indeed. All of the land through the country was owned by the
great nobles; and the poor peasants, who lived on the little farms into
which the land was divided, had few rights. They could not even move to
another place if they so wished, but were obliged to spend all their
lives under the control of whatever nobleman happened to own the estate
on which they were born.

They lived in little thatched cottages, and cultivated their bits of
land; and as rent for this, each peasant was obliged to help support the
great lord who owned everything, and who always lived in a strong
castle, with armed men under his command.

The peasants had to raise wheat and vegetables and sheep and cows, so
that the people of the castles might eat nice, white bread, and nut
cookies and roast meat; though the poor peasants themselves had to be
content, day after day, with little more than hard, black bread, and
perhaps a single bowl of cabbage or potato soup, from which the whole
family would dip with their wooden spoons.

Then, too, the peasants oftentimes had to pay taxes when their noble
lord wished to raise money, and even to follow him to war if he so
commanded, though this did not often happen.

And now we come to the reason for Gabriel's troubles. It seems that the
Count Pierre de Bouchage, to whose estate Gabriel's family belonged,
had got into a quarrel with a certain baron who lived near the town of
Evreux, and Count Pierre was determined to take his followers and attack
the baron's castle; for these private wars were very common in those
days.

But Count Pierre needed money to carry on his little war, and so had
laid a very heavy tax on the peasants of his estate; and Gabriel's
father had been unable to raise the sum of money demanded. For besides
Gabriel, there were several little brothers and sisters in the family,
Jean and Margot and little Guillaume, who must be clothed and fed; and
though the father was honest and hard-working, yet the land of their
little farm was poor, and it was all the family could do to find
themselves enough on which to live.

When peasant Viaud had begged Count Pierre to release him from the tax,
the count, who was hard and unsympathetic, had become angry, and given
orders that the greater part of their little farm should be taken from
them, and he had seized also their little flock of sheep. This was a
grievous loss, for out of the wool that grew on the sheeps' backs,
Gabriel's mother every winter made the warm, homespun clothes for all
the family.

Indeed, Count Pierre had no real right to do all this; but in those
times, when a noble lord chose to be cruel and unjust, the poor
peasants had no way to help matters.

And this was not all of Gabriel's woes; for only a few days after he had
told these things to Brother Stephen, when he went home at night, he
found his mother crying bitterly, and learned that Count Pierre, who was
having some trouble in raising his money, and so had become more
merciless than ever, had that day imprisoned his father at the castle,
and refused to release him unless some of the tax were paid.

This was the hardest blow of all; and though the other children were too
young to understand all that had befallen them, poor Gabriel and his
mother were so distressed that neither slept that night; and the next
morning when the little boy arose, tired out instead of rested by the
long night, he had scarcely the heart to go away to the Abbey, and leave
things so miserable at home. But his mother thought it best for him to
keep on with his work with Brother Stephen, because of the little sum he
earned; and then, too, he felt that he must do his part to help until
King Louis's book was finished. After that, he did not know what he
could do! He did not know how he could best try to take his father's
place and help the family; for, after all, he knew he was only a little
boy, and so things seemed very hopeless!

Indeed the grief and poverty that had come upon them at home made
Gabriel so sad that Brother Stephen was quite heart-broken, too, for he
deeply loved the lad. As he worked, he kept trying all the while to
think of some way to help them; but as the monk had passed all his life
within the walls of the Abbey, he knew but little of the ways of the
outside world; and he had no money of his own, or he would gladly have
paid the tax himself.



CHAPTER VI.

GABRIEL'S PRAYER


MEANTIME, though they worked quietly, they were both very industrious;
and at last one day, late in October, when the first snow was beginning
to fall, Brother Stephen finished the last page of the beautiful book.
He gave a sigh as he laid down his paintbrush; not because he was tired,
but because in his heart he was really sorry to finish his work, for he
knew that then it would soon be taken away, and he hated to part with
it.

As he and Gabriel laid all the pages together in the order in which they
were to go, brother Stephen's heart swelled with pride, and Gabriel
thought he had never seen anything half so lovely!

The text was written in beautiful letters of the lustrous black ink
which Gabriel had made; and at the beginnings of new chapters, wonderful
initial letters glittered in gold and colours till they looked like
little mosaics of precious stones.

Here and there through the text were scattered exquisite miniature
pictures of saints and angels; while as for the borders that enclosed
every page, they wreathed around the written words such lovely garlands
of painted blossoms, that to Gabriel the whole book seemed a marvellous
bouquet of all the sweet flowers he had daily gathered from the Norman
fields, and that Brother Stephen, by the magic of his art, had made
immortal.

Indeed the little boy fairly blinked as he looked at the sparkling
beauty of those pages where the blossoms were to live on, through the
centuries, bright and beautiful and unharmed by wind or rain or the
driving snow, that even then was covering up all the bare frost-smitten
meadows without.

And so Gabriel turned over page after page shining with gold and purple
and rose-colour, till he came to the very last of the text; and then he
saw that there was yet one page more, and on turning over this he read
these words:

"I, Brother Stephen, of the Abbey of St. Martin-de-Bouchage, made this
book; and for every initial letter and picture and border of flowers
that I have herein wrought, I pray the Lord God to have compassion upon
some one of my grievous sins!"

This was written in beautifully, and all around it was painted a
graceful border like braided ribbons of blue.

Now in Brother Stephen's time, when any one finished an especially
beautiful illumination of any part of the Bible, it was quite customary
for the artist to add, at the end, a little prayer. Indeed, no one can
make a really beautiful thing without loving the work; and those
old-time artist-monks took such delight in the flowery pages they
painted, that they felt sure the dear Lord himself could not help but be
pleased to have his words made so beautiful, and that he would so grant
the little prayer at the end of the book, because of the loving labour
that had gone before.

As Gabriel again read over Brother Stephen's last page, it set him to
thinking; and a little later, as he walked home in the frosty dusk, he
thought of it again.

It was true, he said to himself, that all the beautiful written and
painted work on King Louis's book had been done by Brother Stephen's
hands,--and yet,--and yet,--had not he, too, helped? Had he not gathered
the thorny hawthorn, and pricked his fingers, and spent days and days
making the ink? Had he not, week after week, ground the colours and the
gold till his arms ached, and his hands were blistered? Had he not made
the glue, and prepared the parchment, and ruled the lines (and one had
to be _so_ careful not to blot them!), and brought all the flowers for
the borders?

Surely, he thought, though he had not painted any of its lovely pages,
yet he had done his little part to help make the book, and so,
perhaps--perhaps--might not the Lord God feel kindly toward him, too,
and be willing to grant a little prayer to him also?

Now of course Gabriel could have prayed any time and anywhere, and
simply asked for what he wanted. But he had a strong feeling that God
would be much more apt to notice it, if the prayer were beautifully
written out, like Brother Stephen's, and placed in the book itself, on
the making of which he had worked so long and so hard.

Gabriel was very pleased with his idea, and by the time he reached home,
he had planned out just what he wanted to say. He ate his supper of hard
black bread very happily, and when, soon after, he crept into bed and
pulled up his cover of ragged sheepskin, he went to sleep with his head
so full of the work of the past few months, that he dreamed that the
whole world was full of painted books and angels with rose-coloured
wings; that all the meadows of Normandy were covered with gold, and the
flowers fastened on with white of egg and eel-skins; and then, just as
he was getting out his ruler to rule lines over the blue sky, he rubbed
his eyes and woke up; and, finding it was morning, he jumped out of bed,
and hastened to make himself ready for his day's work.

When he reached the Abbey, Brother Stephen was busy binding together the
finished leaves of the book; for the monks had to do not only the
painting, but also the putting together of their books themselves.

After Gabriel had waited on Brother Stephen for awhile, the latter told
him he could have some time to himself, and so he hurried to get out the
little jars of scarlet and blue and black ink, and the bits of parchment
that Brother Stephen had given him. He looked over the parchment
carefully, and at last found one piece from which he could cut a page
that was almost as large as the pages of the book. It was an old piece,
and had some writing on one side, but he knew how to scrape it off
clean; and then taking some of the scarlet ink, he ruled some lines in
the centre of the page, and between these, in the nicest black letters
he knew how to make, he wrote his little prayer. And this is the way it
read:

"I, Gabriel Viaud, am Brother Stephen's colour-grinder; and I have made
the ink for this book, and the glue, and caught the eels, and ground the
gold and colours, and ruled the lines and gathered the flowers for the
borders, and so I pray the Lord God will be kind and let my father out
of prison in Count Pierre's castle, and tell Count Pierre to give us
back our meadow and sheep, for we cannot pay the tax, and mother says we
will starve."

Now in the little prayers that the monks added at the end of a book, it
was the custom to ask only that their sins might be forgiven. But
Gabriel, though he knew he had plenty of sins,--for so the parish priest
of St. Martin's village told all the peasant folk every Sunday,--yet
somehow could not feel nearly so anxious to have them forgiven, as he
was to have his father freed from prison in the castle, and their little
farm and flock restored to them; and so he had decided to word his
prayer the way he did.

It took him some time to write it out, for he took great pains to shape
every letter as perfectly as possible. Nor did he forget that Brother
Stephen had taught him always to make the word God more beautiful than
the others; so he wrote that in scarlet ink, and edged it with scallops
and loops and little dots of blue; and then all around the whole prayer
he made graceful flourishes of the coloured inks. He very much wished
for a bit of gold with which to enrich his work, but gold was too
precious for little boys to practise with, and so Brother Stephen had
not given him any for his own. Nevertheless, when the page was finished,
the artistic effect was very pleasing, and it really was a remarkably
clever piece of work for a little boy to have made.

He did not tell Brother Stephen what he was doing, for he was afraid
that perhaps he might not quite approve of his plan. Not that Gabriel
wished for a moment to do anything that Brother Stephen would not like
him to do, but only that he thought their affairs at home so desperate
that he could not afford to risk losing this means of help;--and then,
too, he felt that the prayer was his own little secret, and he did not
want to tell any one about it anyway.

And so he was greatly relieved that Brother Stephen, who was very much
absorbed in his own work, did not ask him any questions. The monk was
always very kind about helping him in every way possible, but never
insisted on Gabriel's showing him everything, wisely thinking that many
times it was best to let the boy work out his own ideas. So Gabriel said
nothing about his page, but put it carefully away, until he could find
some opportunity to place it in the book itself.

Meantime Brother Stephen worked industriously, and in a few days more he
had quite finished the book. He had strongly bound all his painted pages
together, and put on a cover of violet velvet, which the nuns of a
near-by convent had exquisitely embroidered in pearls and gold. And,
last of all, the cover was fastened with clasps of wrought gold, set
with amethysts. Altogether it was a royal gift, and one worthy of any
queen. Even the Abbot, cold and stately though he usually was,
exclaimed with pleasure when he saw it, and warmly praised Brother
Stephen upon the loveliness of his work.



CHAPTER VII.

THE BOOK GOES TO LADY ANNE


AND it was well that the beautiful book was finished, for the very next
afternoon a nobleman, with several attendants, arrived at the Abbey to
see if the work were done. The nobleman was Count Henri of Lisieux, who
had been sent by King Louis to bear to Lady Anne a precious casket of
jewels as part of his bridal gifts to her; and the count had also
received orders from the king to go to St. Martin's Abbey on his way,
and if the book of hours were finished, to take it along to the Lady
Anne.

Count Henri was greatly pleased when they showed the work to him, and he
said that he knew both King Louis and his bride could not help but be
delighted with it. And then, after it had been duly looked at and
admired, the book was wrapped up in a piece of soft, rich silk and laid
on a shelf in the chapter-house to wait until the next morning, when
Count Henri would take it away. For he had come far, and the Abbot had
invited him to stay overnight in the Abbey before going on with his
journey.

While all this was taking place, and the book was being examined,
Gabriel had been quietly at work in one corner of the chapter-house,
grinding some gold; and when he heard that Count Henri was going away
the next morning, he knew that if he expected to put his own little page
in the book, he must do so some time before he went home that evening;
and he did not quite see how he could manage it.

Late in the afternoon, however, a little before dusk, all the others
left the chapter-house, Brother Stephen to go to his own cell, while the
Abbot took Count Henri out to show him over the Abbey. And just as soon
as they were gone, Gabriel hastily put down the stone mortar in which he
was grinding the gold, and, going over to the work-table, opened the
drawer in which he kept his own things, and took out the page on which
he had written his little prayer.

He then went to the shelf and took down the book. He felt guilty as he
unfolded the silk wrappings, and his hands trembled as he loosened the
golden clasps, and hurriedly slipped in his piece of parchment. He put
it in at the very back of the book, after Brother Stephen's last page.
Then carefully refastening the clasps, and again folding it up in its
silken cover, he replaced the book on the shelf.

Poor Gabriel did not know whether he had done very wrong or not in
taking this liberty with the painted book. He only knew that he could
not bear to have it go away without his little prayer between its
covers; and he thought that now God would surely notice it, as he had
written it as nicely as he knew how, and had placed it next to Brother
Stephen's.

By this time it was growing dark, and so Gabriel left the Abbey and took
his way home. When he reached their forlorn little cottage, he found
only a scanty supper awaiting him, and very early he went to bed; for
they had but little fire and were too poor to afford even a single
candle to burn through the long winter evening.

[Illustration: "_Taking down the book . . . he unwrapped and unclasped
it_"]

As Gabriel lay shivering in his cold little bed, he wondered how long
it would be before God would grant his prayer for help. And then he
wondered if God would be displeased because he had dared to put it in
the beautiful book without asking permission from Brother Stephen or the
Abbot. And the more he thought of the possibility of this, and of all
their other troubles, the more miserable he felt, till at last he sobbed
himself to sleep.

The poor little boy did not know that after he himself had been sleeping
for several hours, Brother Stephen, who had not slept, came out of his
cell in the Abbey, and, carrying in his hand a small lamp, passed softly
down the corridor and into the chapter-house. For Brother Stephen,
like many another true artist who has worked long and lovingly upon some
exquisite thing, found it very hard to part with that which he had made.
He did not expect ever again to see the beautiful book after it left the
Abbey, and so he felt that he must take a farewell look at it all by
himself.

As he entered the chapter-house, he set the lamp on the table; and then
taking down the book and placing it also on the table, he unwrapped and
unclasped it, and seating himself in front of it, looked long and
earnestly at each page as he slowly turned them over, one by one.

When at last he came to the end, and found a loose leaf, he picked it
up in dismay, wondering if his binding could have been so badly done
that one of the pages had already become unfastened. But his look of
dismay changed to bewilderment as he examined the page more closely, and
saw Gabriel's little prayer. He read this over twice, very slowly; and
then, still holding the page in his hand, he sat for a long time with
his head bowed; and once or twice something that looked very like a tear
fell on the stone floor at his feet.

After awhile the lamp began to burn low; and Brother Stephen rising,
gave a tender look to the loose page he had been holding, and then
carefully put it back in the book, taking pains to place it, as nearly
as he could, exactly as Gabriel had done. Then, with a sigh, he shut the
velvet covers, once more fastened the golden clasps, and, replacing the
silken wrappings, laid the book on the shelf, and went back to his cell.

The next morning Count Henri and his escort made ready for their journey
to Bretagne. Count Henri himself placed the precious book in the same
velvet bag which held the casket of jewels for the Lady Anne, and this
bag he hung over his saddle-bow directly in front of him, so that he
could keep close watch and see that no harm befell King Louis's gifts.

And then he and his soldiers mounted their horses, and, taking a
courteous leave of the Abbot and the brotherhood of St. Martin's, they
trotted off along the frosty road.



CHAPTER VIII.

LADY ANNE WRITES TO THE KING


AFTER several days' journey they entered Bretagne, and before long drew
near to the city of Nantes and the castle of Lady Anne. This castle was
very large, and had many towers and gables and little turrets with
sharp-pointed, conical roofs. There was a high wall and a moat all
around it, and as Count Henri approached, he displayed a little banner
given him by King Louis, and made of blue silk embroidered with three
golden lilies.

At the sight of this, the keepers of the drawbridge (who in those days
always had to be very watchful not to admit enemies to their lord's
castle) instantly lowered the bridge, and Count Henri and his guard rode
over and were respectfully received within the gate.

They dismounted in the courtyard, and then, after resting awhile in one
of the rooms of the castle, Count Henri was escorted into the great hall
of state, where Lady Anne was ready to receive him.

This hall was very large and handsome, with a high, arched ceiling, and
walls hung with wonderful old tapestries. Standing about in groups were
numbers of picturesquely dressed pages, ladies-in-waiting, richly clad,
and Breton gentlemen gorgeous in velvets and lace ruffles, for a hundred
of these always attended Lady Anne wherever she went. At one end of the
hall was a dais spread with cloth of gold, and there, in a carved chair,
sat the Lady Anne herself. She wore a beautiful robe of brocaded crimson
velvet, and over her dark hair was a curious, pointed head-dress of
white silk embroidered with pearls and gold thread.

As Count Henri approached, she greeted him very cordially; and then,
kneeling before her, he said:

"My Lady, I have the happiness to deliver to your hands these bridal
gifts which our gracious sovereign, King Louis, did me the honour to
entrust to my care."

And then, as he handed to her the casket of jewels and the silken
package containing the hour book, she replied:

"Sir Count, I thank you for your courtesy in bearing these gifts to me,
and I am well pleased to receive them."

Then summoning a little page, she told him to carry the presents up to
her own chamber, where she might examine them at her leisure.

By and by, Count Henri withdrew, after asking permission to start the
next morning on his return to Paris; for he wished to report to the
king that he had safely accomplished his errand.

And then Lady Anne, having given orders that he and his followers be
hospitably entertained during their stay in the castle, mounted the
great stone staircase, and went to her own room, for she very much
wanted to look at the gifts from King Louis.

These she found on a table where the little page had placed them. The
casket was uncovered, while the book was still wrapped up in the piece
of silk, so that one could not tell just what it was.

[Illustration: "_Began slowly to turn over the pages_"]

Lady Anne opened the casket first, as it happened to be nearest to her;
and she drew in her breath, and her eyes sparkled with pleasure, as she
lifted out a magnificent necklace, and other rich jewels that gleamed
and glittered in the light like blue and crimson fires. She tried on all
the ornaments, and then, after awhile, when she had admired them to her
heart's content, she took up the silk-covered package, and curiously
unwrapped it. When she saw what it contained, however, her face grew
radiant with delight, and--

"Ah!" she exclaimed to herself, "King Louis's gifts are indeed princely,
and this one is the most royal of all!"

For King Louis had been entirely right in thinking nothing would please
the Lady Anne quite so much as a piece of fine illumination.

Still holding the book carefully in her hands, she at once seated
herself in a deep, cushioned chair, and began slowly to turn over the
pages, taking the keenest pleasure, as she did so, in every fresh beauty
on which her eyes fell. When she had gone about half through the book,
she lifted it up to look more closely at an especially beautiful initial
letter, and then, all at once, out fluttered the loose leaf which
Gabriel had put in.

As it fell to the floor, a little page near by hastened to pick it up,
and, bending on one knee, presented it to Lady Anne. At first she
frowned a little, for she thought, as had Brother Stephen, that the
book must have been badly bound. But when she took the leaf in her hand,
to her surprise, she saw that it was different from the others, and that
it had not been bound in with them; and then she read over the writing
very carefully. When she had finished, she sat for some time, just as
Brother Stephen had done, holding the page in her hand, while her face
wore a very tender expression.

Lady Anne was really deeply touched by Gabriel's little prayer, and she
wished greatly that she herself might find a way to help him and his
family out of their trouble.

But the more she thought about it, she realized that she had no
authority over a Norman nobleman, and that no one in France, except the
king, was powerful enough to compel Count Pierre to release the peasant
Viaud from imprisonment.

So going over to a little writing-table, she took out a thin sheet of
parchment, a quaint goose-quill pen, and a small horn full of ink, and
wrote a letter which she addressed to King Louis. Then she took the
loose leaf on which Gabriel's prayer was written, and, folding it in
with her letter, tied the little packet with a thread of scarlet silk
(for no one used envelopes then), and sealed it with some red wax. And
on the wax she pressed a carved ring which she wore, and which left a
print that looked like a tiny tuft of ermine fur encircled by a bit of
knotted cord; for this was Lady Anne's emblem, as it was called, and
King Louis, seeing it, would know at once that the packet came from her.

Then she went down into the great hall of the castle, and sent one of
her Breton gentlemen to bring Count Henri. When the latter entered, she
said to him:

"Sir Count, it would give me great pleasure to keep you longer as my
guest, but if you must return to Paris tomorrow, I will ask you to be my
bearer for a little packet which I am anxious to send to King Louis."

Then, as she handed it to him, she added with a smile, "I give it to
you now, for if you ride early in the morning, I must leave my Breton
gentlemen to do the honours of your stirrup-cup."

(This last was the cup of wine which it was considered polite to offer a
departing guest as he mounted his horse, and was a little ceremony over
which Lady Anne liked to preside herself; that is, when her guests went
away at agreeable hours.)

As Count Henri received the packet from her, he made a very deep bow,
and replied that he would be most happy to serve the Lady Anne in any
way he could, and that he only awaited her command to start at once on
his journey.

"Nay," said Lady Anne, with another little smile, "'tis no affair of
state importance! Only a matter of my own on which I have set my heart.
But I will not hear to your setting forth, until you have sat at my
table and rested overnight in the castle."

To this Count Henri again gallantly bowed his obedience; and then,
before long, Lady Anne led all the company into the great banquet-hall,
where a number of long tables were set out with roasted game, and bread
and wine and the many different cakes and sweetmeats of Bretagne.

The Lady Anne took her place at the head of the longest table of all,
and she placed Count Henri at her right hand. Near them sat many of the
ladies-in-waiting, and Breton gentlemen of the highest rank; while at
the farther end, beyond a great silver saltcellar standing in the middle
of the table, were seated those of less degree.

The dishes were of gold and silver, and Lady Anne herself was waited
upon by two noblemen of Bretagne, for she lived very magnificently, as
was fitting for the bride of King Louis.

When the supper was over, they all went back into the great castle hall,
where bright fires of logs were blazing in the huge fireplaces; and as
they sat in the firelight, they listened to the beautiful songs and
music of two troubadours who had that day chanced to come to the castle,
and who sang so sweetly that it was very late before the company broke
up for the night.

All through the evening, however, in spite of the pleasant
entertainment, Lady Anne, who was very sympathetic, could not help but
think many times of poor little Gabriel, and how cold and hungry and
miserable he must be! She had been much struck, too, with the beautiful
way in which he had written out and ornamented his little prayer, for
she was a good judge of such things; and, as she thought about it, she
determined some day to see the lad herself. Meantime she was very
anxious to help him as soon as possible. Indeed, she felt much happier
when the next morning came, and Count Henri set out for Paris; for then
she knew that her letter and Gabriel's little written page were on their
way to King Louis.

In due time, Count Henri arrived safely at the king's palace, and
delivered the packet from Lady Anne. And when King Louis broke the wax
seal, and read the letter and Gabriel's little prayer, he, too, was
deeply touched. Lady Anne's letter explained to him about finding the
loose page in the beautiful book he had sent her, and asked that he
would see to it that Count Pierre set the boy's father free.

This King Louis at once determined to do, for he was a just and
kind-hearted monarch, and during his reign did much to lighten the taxes
and oppression of the peasant-folk; and, moreover, in this trouble of
Gabriel's father, he now took an especial interest, as it gave him great
pleasure to grant any wish of the Lady Anne, whom he loved deeply.

So that very day he sent for a trusty messenger, and after explaining
things to him, directed him to set out as soon as possible for St.
Martin's Abbey, and there to seek out Brother Stephen and inquire about
the little peasant boy, Gabriel Viaud. And then, if he found everything
to be true that Gabriel had said in his prayer, he was to act according
to further orders which King Louis gave him.



CHAPTER IX.

THE KING'S MESSENGER


NOW while all these things had been going on, poor Gabriel had been
growing more wretchedly unhappy day by day. His people had become poorer
and poorer, and the long, cold winter was upon them. They had almost
given up hope of the release of peasant Viaud from prison, and did not
know where they could get bread or fire to keep them alive through the
bitter cold. Sometimes Gabriel thought with despair of how much he had
hoped from his little prayer! For he was sure, by this time, that God
was angry with him for daring to put it in the beautiful book.

And to add the last touch to his distress, he had been obliged to give
up his work and lessons at the Abbey; for Brother Stephen had been ill
for a time, and unable to paint, and all the other monks had
colour-grinders of their own. So Gabriel, who could not afford to be
idle even for a few days, had been forced to seek employment elsewhere.

The only work he could find was with a leather dresser in the village of
St. Martin's, and though it was very hard and distasteful to him, he
felt that he must keep at it, as he could thus earn a few pennies more
each day than he could as colour-grinder at the Abbey. And yet, with all
his hard toil, the little sum he brought home at night was far from
enough to keep them all from want, to say nothing of paying the tax
which still hung over them; and so every day they became more hopeless
and discouraged.

Indeed, in those times, when a peasant family fell under the displeasure
of their noble lord, it was a bitter misfortune, for there were few
places to which they might turn for help.

And it seemed to Gabriel especially hard to bear all their troubles in
the gracious Christmas season; for it was now past the middle of
December. Always before they had had enough for their happy little
Christmas feast, and some to spare. They had always had their sheaf of
wheat put by for the birds; and for two seasons past Gabriel's father
had let him climb up the tall ladder and fasten the holiday sheaf, bound
with its garland of greens, to the roof of the little peaked and gabled
dovecote that stood on top of a carved pole in the centre of the
farmyard. For every Norman peasant always wishes the birds, too, to be
happy at the joyous Christmas-tide.

And always, every Christmas eve, when Gabriel and his little brothers
and sister had gone to bed, they had set their wooden shoes in a row on
the hearthstone; and then in the morning when they wakened up, they
always found that the blessed Christ-child had been there in the night,
and filled all the little shoes with red apples and nuts.

But this Christmas-time everything was so sad and changed, they were
sure even the Christ-child would forget them. And, day by day, the
little supply of coarse meal for their black bread grew smaller and
smaller, and the snow became deeper, and the wintry winds blew more cold
and cruelly.

Meantime, King Louis's messenger was travelling as fast as he could,
and three days before Christmas he arrived at St. Martin's Abbey. The
Abbot was greatly surprised to see him, and still more so when he asked
if he might speak privately with Brother Stephen. This the Abbot
granted, though he was very anxious to know the messenger's errand; for
he could think of no reason for it, unless there had been something
wrong with King Louis's book. So he was quite uneasy as he saw the
messenger enter Brother Stephen's cell and close the door.

Brother Stephen, too, was at first much surprised when his visitor told
him he had come from King Louis to inquire about a peasant boy by the
name of Gabriel Viaud; though in a moment it flashed through his mind
that Gabriel's prayer had found its way to the palace, and that the
answer was coming.

He said nothing of this, however, but when the messenger asked if he had
had such a boy for colour-grinder, he eagerly answered:

"Yes, and there lives no manlier and sweeter-spirited lad in all
France!"

"Is it true," continued the messenger, "that Count Pierre de Bouchage
hath imprisoned his father for failure to pay a tax, and that the family
are now in sore distress?"

"Yes, that also is true," replied the monk very sadly. And then he said
beseechingly: "But surely King Louis will help them? Surely our
gracious sovereign will not allow such injustice and cruelty?"

Here the messenger answered:

"Nay, our sovereign is indeed a generous monarch! Else had he not been
touched by the little prayer which the peasant lad placed in the book
thou madest for the Lady Anne. Though I dare say thou knewest naught of
it" (here Brother Stephen smiled gently, but said nothing), "yet so the
lad did. And 'twas because of that scrap of parchment falling under the
eyes of King Louis, that I have journeyed all the way from Paris. And,"
he added, as he remembered the heavy snow through which he had ridden,
"it takes a stout heart and a stouter horse to brave thy Norman roads
in December!"

Then he asked Brother Stephen a great many more questions, and inquired
what road to take in order to find Count Pierre's castle, and also the
Viaud cottage. And then when he had satisfied himself about all these
matters, he went back to the great hall of the Abbey, where the Abbot
was slowly pacing the floor, telling his beads as he walked.

The Abbot, though very curious as to the reason of the messenger's
visit, asked him no questions other than if the book for Lady Anne had
been entirely satisfactory; and he felt relieved when the messenger
assured him that so far as he knew both the king and Lady Anne had been
greatly delighted with it. Then, after talking a little while about
Brother Stephen's artistic work, the messenger briefly explained to the
Abbot his errand, and told him that King Louis had ordered him to make
his inquiries about Gabriel as quietly as possible.

As he heard, the Abbot raised his eyebrows and looked somewhat
disapproving, when he realized that the peasant lad who had dared to put
his page into the beautiful book was the same little colour-grinder who
had had the boldness to speak to him, one day in the garden, and ask him
to take off Brother Stephen's chain. However, whatever he may have
thought, he kept it to himself; he treated the messenger with much
courtesy, and, on bidding him good night, invited him to stay as a guest
of the Abbey so long as he chose.

The next morning the messenger rode to the Viaud farm, and, though he
did not go into the cottage, he looked it over carefully and the land
about it; and then he took the highway that led to the castle of Count
Pierre de Bouchage.

When he reached the castle, he asked to see Count Pierre, and so was
taken into the great hall, where the count received him in a very
haughty manner. He became somewhat more polite, however, when he learned
that King Louis had sent the messenger to him; though he looked
decidedly blank when the latter presented to him a letter written on
parchment and fastened with a wax seal stamped with the king's emblem,
which was the print of a little porcupine with the quills on his back
standing up straight, and a crown on top of them.

On seeing this letter, Count Pierre looked blank because the truth was,
that, like many other noble lords at that time, he could read only with
great difficulty. But then the messenger rather expected this, and so he
asked permission to read the parchment to him, and Count Pierre
frowningly assented.

Indeed, though the messenger pretended not to notice his angry looks, he
frowned blacker and blacker as the reading went on. For King Louis
requested in the letter that Count Pierre at once release from prison in
his castle one Jacques Viaud, peasant on his estate. And the king
further said that he himself wished to buy the Viaud cottage and farm,
together with a good-sized piece of ground that adjoined it (the
messenger, in looking it over that morning, had selected a piece of land
which was much better soil than the most of the Viaud farm), and he
stated that for this purpose he had sent by his messenger a certain sum
in gold pieces.

The king mentioned also that he would like to have the flock of sheep,
with the addition of fifty more than had been taken from them, restored
to the Viaud family. And, finally, he said that he desired Count Pierre
to do these things in honour of his king's approaching marriage with the
Lady Anne. For when kings and queens marry, it is generally customary
for them, and for many of the loyal noblemen who are their subjects, to
bestow gifts and benefits upon the poor people, so that every one may be
as happy as possible on the royal wedding-day.

Now Count Pierre really did not care a fig to do honour to King Louis's
marriage, and he was very angry to be asked to release a peasant whom
he had imprisoned, and to restore flocks which he had seized; and
especially was he furious at the request to buy the land, for he did not
wish to sell it, and so to lose control over the peasant-folk who lived
there.

But, nevertheless, in spite of his wrath, the count knew well enough
that he had no real right to do as he had done, and that King Louis knew
it also; and that therefore the very best thing he could do was to obey
the king's wishes at once.

King Louis had made his letter a polite request rather than a command,
because some of his unruly subjects, like Count Pierre, were proud and
difficult to manage, and he wished to settle matters pleasantly and
peaceably, if possible. And so, in asking him to honour the royal
wedding, he gave the count an excuse to yield to his king's wishes,
without hurting his pride so much as if he were obliged to obey a
command.

Count Pierre began to see this, too; and, moreover, he knew that,
notwithstanding the politeness of his letter, the king had plenty of
soldiers, and that he would not hesitate to send them to the Castle de
Bouchage, if necessary, to bring its lord to terms. And he very wisely
reflected that to fight King Louis would be a much more dangerous and
expensive undertaking than the private war with the Baron of Evreux,
which he already had on his hands.

Before yielding to the requests in the letter, however, Count Pierre
wished to satisfy himself that the messenger had correctly read it to
him. And so, haughtily demanding it for a few minutes, he hurried out of
the hall, and sent a page scampering off to bring to him a troubadour;
for one or more of these wandering singers were always to be found in
every nobleman's castle, and the count knew that most of them could
read.

When in a few minutes the page came back, followed, close at his heels,
by a man in motley dress, with a viol hung over his shoulders, Count
Pierre, without waiting to greet the latter, thrust the parchment into
his hands with the gruff command:

"There, fellow! read this letter for me instantly! and if thou makest a
single mistake, I will have thee strangled with the strings of thine own
viol, and tumbled off the highest turret of this castle before set of
sun!"

At this fierce threat, the troubadour began at once to read, taking care
to make no mistakes. Count Pierre listened attentively to every word,
and when the troubadour came to the end, having read it exactly as the
messenger had done, the count angrily snatched it from his hands, and,
swallowing his rage as best he could, went slowly back to the castle
hall.

Then, after a few moments' silence, he very ungraciously and
ill-naturedly gave orders that peasant Viaud be released from prison,
and the sheep sent back. He made a very wry face over the fifty extra
ones, and did not look at all anxious to celebrate King Louis's
approaching wedding.

And then he took the gold pieces which the messenger offered him, and
reluctantly scrawled his name (it was all he could write, and that very
badly) to a piece of parchment which the messenger had ready, and which,
when Count Pierre had signed it, proved that he had sold to King Louis
the land and cottage, and no longer held control over peasant Viaud or
any of his family.

When this was done, the messenger, bidding the nobleman a courteous
farewell, left the latter still very angry and scowling, and, above all,
lost in amazement that King Louis should take all this trouble on
account of a poor, unknown peasant, who had lived all his life on a tiny
farm in Normandy! And as no one ever explained things to him, Count
Pierre never did know how it had all come about, and that, however much
against his will, he was doing his part toward helping answer Gabriel's
little prayer.



CHAPTER X.

GABRIEL'S CHRISTMAS


WHEN the messenger reached the courtyard of the castle, he found peasant
Viaud awaiting him there. The poor man looked very pale and wan from his
imprisonment, and his face pitifully showed what anxiety he had suffered
in thinking about his family left with no one to help them. His clothes,
too, were thin and worn, and he shivered in the cold December wind.
Noticing this, the messenger at once sent word to Count Pierre that he
was sure King Louis would be highly gratified, if, in further honour of
his coming marriage, the count would supply peasant Viaud with a warm
suit of clothes before leaving the castle.

This message was almost too much for Count Pierre to bear, but he did
not dare to refuse. And the messenger smiled to himself when, by and by,
a page came and called Gabriel's father into the castle, from which, in
a little while, he came out, warmly clad, and quite bewildered at all
that was happening to him.

As they set out together for the Viaud cottage, peasant Viaud walking,
and the messenger riding very slowly, the latter explained to him all
about Gabriel's little prayer in the beautiful book, and how Lady Anne
had sent it to King Louis, to whom he owed his release from prison. But
the messenger added that, aside from the lad's father and mother, the
king did not wish any one, not even Gabriel himself, to know how it had
all come about.

For King Louis declared that he himself did not deserve any thanks, but
that the good God had only chosen the Lady Anne and himself and Count
Pierre (though the latter did not know it) as the means of answering
Gabriel's prayer, and of helping the Christ-child bring happiness at the
blessed Christmas-time. For King Louis had not forgotten that the great
day was near at hand.

Of the promised return of the sheep, and the buying of the farm by the
king, the messenger said nothing then; and when they had nearly reached
the cottage, he took leave of peasant Viaud and rode back to the Abbey.
For, having finished the king's errand, before going away, he wanted to
say good-bye to the Abbot and brothers of St. Martin's, and also to get
some of his belongings which he had left at the Abbey.

A few minutes after the messenger had left him, peasant Viaud reached
the cottage and raised the latch,--but then it is no use trying to tell
how surprised and happy they all were! how they hugged and kissed each
other, and laughed and cried!

And then, when the first excitement was over, they began soberly to
wonder what they would do next; for they still feared the displeasure of
Count Pierre, and still did not know where to turn to raise the tax, or
to help their poverty.

"If only he had not taken the sheep," said Gabriel's mother, sadly, "at
least I could have spun warm clothes for all of us!"

But even as she spoke, a loud "Baa! Baa!" sounded from up the road, and
presently along came a large flock of sheep followed by one of Count
Pierre's shepherds, who, without saying a word to any one, skilfully
guided them into the Viaud sheepfold, and there safely penned them in;
then, still without a word, he turned about and went off in the
direction of the castle.

Gabriel's father and mother, who from the cottage window had watched all
this in silent amazement, looked at each other, too bewildered to speak.
Then they went out together to the sheepfold, and peasant Viaud, who
began to realize that this, too, must be part of King Louis's orders,
explained to his wife that which the messenger had told him. When he had
finished, they went back, hand in hand, to the house, their eyes filled
with happy tears, and in their hearts a great tenderness for the little
son who had brought help to them.

[Illustration: "_He passed a little peasant boy_"]

Just before dark, that same afternoon, the king's messenger, having
taken leave of the Abbey folk, once more passed along the highroad. On
his way, he was particular to stop at the Viaud cottage, where he
contrived to have a few minutes' talk alone with Gabriel's mother, and
then wishing her a merry Christmas, he spurred his horse, and rode along
on his journey back to Paris.

As he neared St. Martin's village, he passed a little peasant boy, in a
worn blouse, walking toward the country; and had he known that this same
lad was the Gabriel because of whom, at King Louis's order, he had
ridden all the way from Paris, he would certainly have looked at the boy
with keen interest.

While for his part, had Gabriel known that the strange horseman was a
messenger from the king, and that he had that day played a very
important part in the affairs of the Viaud family,--had he known
this,--he surely would have stood stock-still and opened his eyes wide
with amazement!

But the messenger was absorbed in his own thoughts, and so rode swiftly
on; while poor Gabriel was too sad and wretched to pay much attention to
any one.

As the lad drew near home, however, all at once he fancied he heard the
bleating of sheep. At this he pricked up his ears and began to run, his
heart suddenly beating very fast with excitement!

When he reached the sheepfold, sure enough, there was no mistaking the
sounds within. He opened the door and hurried through the thatched shed,
noting with delight the rows of woolly backs glistening in the twilight,
and then, bursting into the cottage, rushed up to his father and kissed
and hugged him with all his might!

Indeed, Gabriel was so happy and excited that he did not realize that he
was not at all surprised with their good fortune. For miserable as he
had been for weeks, and though he had thought that he had quite
despaired of his prayer being answered, yet deep down in his heart,
without knowing it, all the while he had cherished a strong hope that it
would be.

Nor was Brother Stephen surprised either, when, at barely daybreak the
next morning, before going to his work, Gabriel hurried up to the Abbey
and told him all about it. His face beamed with delight, however, and he
seemed almost as happy over it all as Gabriel himself. He smiled, too,
but said nothing, as the lad wondered over and over what God had done to
Count Pierre, to make him willing to free his father and restore the
sheep! He only said, as he gently patted Gabriel's hair:

"There, there, little one! the good God hath many ways of softening
men's hearts, and never thou mind in what manner he hath chosen to
manage the Count Pierre!"

Just then one of the monks went past the open door, his arms full of
evergreens, and carrying in his hand a pot of the pretty white flowers
that the Norman peasant folk call Christmas roses. Seeing him, Brother
Stephen told Gabriel that he must go and help the brothers trim the
Abbey church for the joyous service of the morrow; and so with another
affectionate little pat, he went out to do his part in arranging the
holiday greens and garlands and tall wax candles, while Gabriel hurried
off to his work in the village.

The little boy was so happy, though, over the things that had happened
at home, that he went about all day in a sort of wondering dream. And
that evening as he went home from his work, very tired, but still
dreaming, the early Christmas-eve stars shone and twinkled so radiantly
over his head and the snow sparkled so brightly under his feet, that he
fairly tingled through and through with the nameless, magic happiness of
the blessed season!

And when he reached home, and sat down next to his father while they ate
their scanty supper, they all felt so glad to be together again that
nobody minded that the pieces of black bread were smaller than ever,
and that when the cold wind blew through the crevices of the cottage
walls, there was not enough fire on the hearth to keep them from
shivering.

Indeed, they were all so much happier than they had been for many weeks,
that when Gabriel and the younger children went to bed, the latter, with
many little gurgles of laughter, arranged their little wooden shoes on
the hearth, just as they had always done on Christmas eve.

For they said to each other, Jean, and Margot, and little Guillaume,
that surely the good God had not forgotten them after all! Had he not
brought back their father and the sheep? And surely he would tell the
little Christ-child to bring them a few Christmas apples and nuts!

Gabriel, however, took no part in their talk, and he did not set his
shoes on the hearth with the others; not that he feared they would be
forgotten, but rather because he thought that he had already asked for
so much and been so generously answered, that he had had his share of
Christmas happiness.

His father was freed from prison, and the flock of sheep, with fifty
more than they had had before, were back in the fold; and though they
were not yet relieved from the tax, nor was their land restored to them,
as he had prayed, yet he felt sure that these, too, would come about in
some way.

And so, considering all these things, he did not quite like to set out
his wooden shoes, and thus invite the Christ-child to give him more; for
he knew the Christ-child had a great many shoes to attend to that night.
So Gabriel, as he made himself ready for bed, pretended not to hear the
chatter of his little brothers and sister, nor to notice what they were
doing.

When peasant Viaud, however, saw them standing their little empty shoes
in front of the meagre fire, he bowed his head on his hands, and the
tears trickled through his fingers. But the mother smiled softly to
herself, as she kissed each of the children and tucked them into their
worn sheepskin covers.

Next morning, at the first peep of day, every one in the cottage was
wide awake; and as soon as they opened their eyes, the children all
jumped out of bed and ran to the hearth with little screams of delight.
For there stood the little wooden shoes,--Gabriel's, too, though he had
not put them there,--and even a larger one apiece for the father and
mother, and the blessed Christ-child had not forgotten one!

Only instead of apples and nuts, they were filled with the most
wonderful bonbons; strange sugar birds, and animals, and candied fruits
such as no peasant child in Normandy had ever before seen; for they
were sweetmeats that no one but the cooks of old Paris knew just how to
make.

And then, as with eager fingers the children drew out these marvels,
down in the toe of each shoe they found a little porcupine of white
sugar with pink quills tipped with a tiny, gilded, candy crown; and last
of all, after each little porcupine, out tumbled a shining yellow gold
piece stamped with the likeness of King Louis.

Even the larger shoes were filled with bonbons, too, and from the toe of
the mother's out dropped a gold piece, like the others, only larger. But
when the father, with clumsy hands, emptied his shoe, instead of a gold
piece, there fell out a small parchment roll fastened with a silken
cord, and showing at one corner a wax seal bearing the print of the
little royal porcupine and crown.

Peasant Viaud gazed at it for a few minutes, in utter bewilderment, and
then handing it to Gabriel, who was standing by, he said:

"Here, child, 'tis a bit of writing, and thou art the only one of us who
can read. See if Brother Stephen's lessons have taken thee far enough to
make out the meaning of this!"

Gabriel took the roll and eagerly untied the cord, and then he carefully
spelled out every word of the writing, which was signed by Count Pierre
de Bouchage.

For it was the very same parchment which King Louis's messenger had
made Count Pierre sign to prove that he had sold to the king, for a
certain sum of gold, the old Viaud farm, together with a piece of good
land adjoining it; and then, at the end of the deed, as the writing was
called, there were a few lines from King Louis himself, which said that
in honour of the blessed Christmas-time the king took pleasure in
presenting to peasant Viaud, and his heirs for ever, everything that he
had bought from Count Pierre.

When Gabriel had finished reading, no one spoke for a little while; it
was so hard to realize the crowning good fortune that had befallen them.
Peasant Viaud looked fairly dazed, and the mother laughed and cried as
she snatched Gabriel to her and kissed him again and again. The younger
children did not understand what it all meant, and so went on munching
their sweetmeats without paying much attention to the little piece of
parchment which Gabriel still held in his hand.

As for Gabriel, he really had had no idea that any one could possibly be
so happy as he himself was at that moment! He had not the least notion
of how it had all come about; he only knew that his heart was fairly
bursting with gratitude to the dear God who had answered his little
prayer so much more joyously and wonderfully than he had ever dared to
dream of!

In his excitement he ran out of the house and hurried into the
sheepfold, where he patted the soft woolly backs of each of the sheep,
and then he raced around the snowy meadows trying to realize that all
these belonged to his family for ever! And that Count Pierre could never
again imprison his father or worry him with heavy taxes!

But the wonders of this wonderful day were not yet over; for presently,
as Gabriel raised his eyes, he saw a strange horseman coming down the
road and looking inquiringly in the direction of the Viaud cottage. Then
seeing the boy standing in the meadow, the horseman called out:

"Ho, lad! Is this the farm of the peasant Viaud?"

"Yes, sir," answered Gabriel, coming up to the road; and then,

"Art thou Gabriel?" asked the rider, stopping and looking curiously at
the little boy.

When again Gabriel wonderingly answered, "Yes, sir," the stranger
dismounted, and, after tying his horse, began deliberately unfastening
the two fat saddle-bags hanging over the back of the latter; and loading
himself with as much as he could carry, he gave Gabriel an armful, too,
and walked toward the cottage.

To the surprised looks and questions of Gabriel's father and mother, he
only said that the Christ-child had been in the castle of the Lady Anne
of Bretagne, and had ordered him to bring certain things to the family
of a Norman peasant boy named Gabriel Viaud.

And such delightful things as they were! There was a great roll of
thick, soft blue cloth, so that they could all be warmly clad without
waiting for the mother to spin the wool from the sheeps' backs. There
were nice little squirrel-fur caps for all the children; there were more
yellow gold pieces; and then there was a large package of the most
enchanting sweetmeats, such as the Bretons make at Christmas-time;
little "magi-cakes," as they were called, each cut in the shape of a
star and covered with spices and sugar; curious old-fashioned candies
and sugared chestnuts; and a pretty basket filled with small round
loaves of the fine, white bread of Bretagne; only instead of the
ordinary baking, these loaves were of a special holiday kind, with
raisins, and nuts, and dried sweet-locust blossoms sprinkled over the
top.

Indeed, perhaps never before had so marvellous a feast been spread under
a peasant roof in Normandy! All were beside themselves with delight; and
while the younger children were dancing round and round in happy
bewilderment, Gabriel snatched up a basket, and hurriedly filling it
with some of the choicest of the sweetmeats, started off at a brisk run
for the Abbey; for he wanted to share some of his Christmas happiness
with Brother Stephen.

When he reached the Abbey, his eyes bright with excitement, and his
cheeks rosy from the crisp cold air, and poured out to Brother Stephen
the story of their fresh good fortune, the monk laughed with delight,
and felt that he, too, was having the happiest Christmas he had ever
known.

And then, by and by, when he took Gabriel by the hand and led him into
the Abbey church for the beautiful Christmas service, as the little boy
knelt on the stone floor and gazed around at the lovely garlands of
green, and the twinkling candles and white Christmas roses on the altar,
half-hidden by the clouds of fragrant incense that floated up from the
censers the little acolytes were swinging to and fro,--as he listened to
the glorious music from the choir, and above all, as he thought of how
the dear God had answered his prayer, the tears sprang to his eyes from
very joy and gratitude! And perhaps that Christmas morning no one in all
France, not even King Louis himself, was quite so happy as the little
peasant boy, Gabriel Viaud.



CHAPTER XI.

THE KING'S ILLUMINATOR


AND to say that he was happier than even King Louis, is saying a very
great deal; for King Louis spent the day most delightfully in Bretagne,
in the castle of his bride to be, the Lady Anne. And then, just after
the holiday season had passed, early in January, he and Lady Anne were
married with great ceremony and splendour.

After the wedding, for three months, the king and queen lingered in
Bretagne; enjoying themselves by night with magnificent entertainments
in the castle, and by day in riding over the frosty fields and in
hunting, of which both of them were very fond. And then in April, when
the first hawthorn buds were beginning to break, they journeyed down to
Paris to live in the king's palace.

Before long, King Louis and Queen Anne decided to make a number of
improvements in this palace; and as they both were great lovers of
beautiful books, they determined, among other things, to build a large
writing-room where they could have skilful illuminators always at work
making lovely books for them.

When this room was finished, and they began to think of whom they would
employ, the first one they spoke of was Brother Stephen, whose exquisite
work on the book of hours had so delighted them. But then, much as they
wished to have him in the palace, they did not think it possible to do
so, as they knew he belonged to the brotherhood of St. Martin's Abbey,
and so of course had taken vows to spend his whole life there.

It chanced, however, soon after this, that King Louis happened to have a
little talk with the messenger he had sent to the Abbey at Christmas
time to see about Gabriel. And this messenger told the king that while
there the Abbot, in speaking to him of Brother Stephen's work, had said
that the latter really wished to leave the brotherhood and go into the
world to paint; and that, though he had refused his request to be freed
from his vows, yet the monk had worked so faithfully at King Louis's
book that he thought he had earned his freedom, and that perhaps he, the
Abbot, had done wrong in forcing him to stay at the Abbey if he wished
to study his art elsewhere.

In short, he had as much as said that if Brother Stephen ever again
asked for his freedom, he would grant it; and this showed that the Abbot
had relented and unbent a great deal more than any one could ever have
believed possible.

When King Louis heard what the messenger told him, he was greatly
pleased; and after talking it over with the queen, he decided to send
the same messenger post-haste back to the Abbey to ask for the services
of Brother Stephen before the Abbot might again change his mind.

Now King Louis was a very liberal monarch, and both he and Queen Anne
liked nothing better than to encourage and help along real artists. And
so they thought that they would supply Brother Stephen with money so
that he could travel about and study and paint as he chose, even if he
preferred always to paint larger pictures rather than to illuminate
books; though they hoped that once in awhile he might spend a little
time in their fine new writing-room.

When the messenger started, they told him to explain all this to Brother
Stephen, and let the latter plan his work in whatever way best pleased
him.

But the queen gave particular orders that, if possible, the messenger
was to bring the peasant boy, Gabriel Viaud, back to the palace with
him; for she thought the lad's work on the page where he had written his
little prayer showed such promise that she wished to see him, and to
have him continue his training in the beautiful art of illumination.

The messenger, having thus received his orders, at once set out again
for Normandy; and he found this second journey much more pleasant than
the one he had made before, through the winter snows. For this time he
rode under tall poplar-trees and between green hedgerows, where the
cuckoos and fieldfares sang all day long. And when, after several days'
travelling, he drew near St. Martin's Abbey, the country on either side
of the road was pink with wild roses and meadowsweet, just as it had
been a year before, when Gabriel used to gather the clusters of
field-flowers for Brother Stephen to paint in the beautiful book.

Indeed, Gabriel still gathered the wild flowers every day, but only
because he loved them; for though, since their better fortunes, he was
again studying and working with Brother Stephen, the latter was then
busy on a long book of monastery rules, with only here and there a
coloured initial letter, and which altogether was not nearly so
interesting as had been the book of hours with its lovely painted
borders.

And so when the messenger reached the Abbey, and made known his errand,
they were both overjoyed at the prospect King Louis offered them.

After talking with the messenger, the Abbot, true to his word, in a
solemn ceremony, freed Brother Stephen from his vows of obedience to
the rules of St. Martin's brotherhood; and then he gave both him and
Gabriel his blessing.

Brother Stephen, who had been too proud to ask a second time for his
freedom, was now delighted that it had all come about in the way it did,
and that he could devote his time to painting anything he chose.

Gabriel, too, was enchanted at the thought of all that he could do and
learn in the king's palace; and though he felt it hard to leave his
home, Queen Anne had kindly made it easier for him by promising that
sometimes he might come back for a little visit.

So in a few days he and Brother Stephen had made all their preparations
to leave; and they set out, Gabriel going with the messenger directly to
King Louis's palace in Paris; while Brother Stephen, taking the bag of
gold pieces which the king and queen had sent for him, travelled to many
of the great cities of Europe, where he studied the wonderful paintings
of the world's most famous masters, and where he himself made many
beautiful pictures. In this way he spent a number of happy months.

And then, just as a great many other people do, who find out that as
soon as they are not compelled to do a certain kind of work, they really
like it very much better than they thought, so, Brother Stephen, being
no longer obliged to illuminate books, all at once discovered that he
really enjoyed painting them more than anything else in the world.

And so it was that, by and by, to the gratification of the king and
queen, and above all to the great delight of Gabriel, he made his way to
the great writing-room of the palace in Paris. And there, in the doing
of his exquisite artistic work, he passed the rest of his long and happy
life.

And through all the years the warm love and friendship between himself
and Gabriel was as sweet and beautiful and as unchanging as any of the
white and golden lilies that they painted in their rarest books. For
Gabriel, too, became one of the finest illuminators of the time, and
his work was much sought for by the great nobles of the land.

Indeed, to this day, many of the wonderful illuminations that were made
in that writing-room are still carefully kept in the great libraries and
museums of France and of Europe. And some time, if ever you have the
happiness to visit one of these, and are there shown some of the painted
books from the palace of King Louis XII. and Queen Anne, if the work is
especially lovely, you may be quite certain that either Brother Stephen,
or Gabriel, or perhaps both of them together, had a hand in its making.

          THE END.





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