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Title: Life on a Mediaeval Barony - A Picture of a Typical Feudal Community in the Thirteenth Century
Author: Davis, William Stearns
Language: English
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           Life on a
        Mediaeval Barony

    A Picture of a Typical
    Feudal Community in the
      Thirteenth Century


 William Stearns Davis, Ph.D.

  _Professor of History in the
 University of Minnesota_



 Harper & Brothers Publishers
     New York and London


      Copyright, 1922
   By Harper & Brothers
  Printed in the U. S. A.

      _First Edition_

            To Ephraim Emerton
  Master Interpreter of Mediæval History
         this book is dedicated by
          an ever-grateful pupil.

        Table of Contents

        Chapter                                       Page

     I. The Fief of St. Aliquis; Its History and
        Denizens                                         1

    II. The Castle of St. Aliquis                       16

   III. How the Castle Wakes. Baronial Hospitality      41

    IV. Games and Diversions. Falconry and
        Hunting. The Baroness's Garden                  51

     V. The Family of the Baron. Life of the
        Women                                           70

    VI. The Matter of Clothes. A Feudal Wedding         88

   VII. Cookery and Mealtimes                          113

  VIII. The Jongleurs and Secular Literature and
        Poetry                                         132

    IX. The Feudal Relationship. Doing Homage          146

     X. Justice and Punishments                        159

    XI. The Education of a Feudal Nobleman             176

   XII. Feudal Weapons and Horses. Dubbing a
        Knight                                         189

  XIII. The Tourney                                    208

   XIV. A Baronial Feud. The Siege of a Castle         224

    XV. A Great Feudal Battle--Bouvines                241

   XVI. The Life of the Peasants                       253

  XVII. Charity. Care of the Sick. Funerals            275

 XVIII. Popular Religion. Pilgrimages. Superstitions.
        Relic Worship                                  286

   XIX. The Monastery of St. Aliquis: Buildings,
        Organization. An Ill-Ruled Abbey               312

    XX. The Monastery of St. Aliquis: The Activities
        of Its Inmates. Monastic Learning              330

   XXI. The "Good Town" of Pontdebois: Aspect
        and Organization                               343

  XXII. Industry and Trade in Pontdebois. The
        Great Fair                                     357

 XXIII. The Lord Bishop. The Canons. The Parish
        Clergy                                         373

  XXIV. The Cathedral and Its Builders                 393


 Life in the Middle Ages                         Frontispiece

 The Castle of St. Aliquis                           Page xiv

 Typical Castle of the Middle Ages                     "   17

 View of the Court and the Donjon                      "   25

 Upper Hall of the Donjon                              "   31

 Interior of a Thirteenth-century Apartment      Facing p. 36

 A Thirteenth-century Bed                             Page 39

 A Game of Chess                                       "   54

 A Game of Ball                                        "   57

 Lady with a Falcon on Her Wrist                       "   58

 The Falcon Hunt                                       "   59

 Noble Holding a Falcon in Each Hand                   "   61

 A Hunter                                              "   63

 The Stag Hunt                                         "   66

 Coiffure of a Noblewoman                              "   71

 Cradle                                                "   81

 A King in the Twelfth Century Wearing Pellison        "   90

 Wreath Made of Metal Flowers Sewed on Braid           "   91

 Felt Shoe                                             "   93

 Winter Costume in the Twelfth Century                 "   94

 Headdress of a Man                                    "   95

 Costume of a Nobleman                                 "   96

 Coiffure of a Woman                                   "   97

 A Royal Marriage in the Thirteenth Century            "   99

 Cooks                                                 "  114

 Pork Butchers (Bourges)                               "  115

 Servants Bringing the Food to the Table               "  123

 Young Girls of the Nobility Serving at the Table      "  126

 A Feast of Ceremony in the Twelfth Century     Facing p. 128

 Small Portable Organ of the Thirteenth Century      Page 132

 Acrobats                                            Page 134

 Dancer of the Twelfth Century                         "  137

 Thirteenth-century Harp                               "  139

 Listening to a Trouvère in a Château of the
 Thirteenth Century                             Facing p. 140

 Banner of the Thirteenth Century                    Page 147

 The Coat of Arms of the Dukes of Bretagne
  (Thirteenth Century)                                 "  148

 Seal of the Duke Jean of Bretagne (Thirteenth and
 Fourteenth Centuries)                                 "  149

 Homage in the Twelfth Century                  Facing p. 156

 Costume of a Nobleman (Thirteenth Century)          Page 177

 Gothic Writing                                        "  179

 A Teacher Holding a Ferule in His Hand                "  180

 Maneuvering with a Lance in the Thirteenth Century    "  185

 A Knight at the End of the Thirteenth Century         "  190

 German Helmets of the Thirteenth Century              "  192

 A Thirteenth-century Shield                           "  193

 Thirteenth-century Swords                             "  194

 Horse Trappings                                       "  196

 A Knight of the Thirteenth Century                    "  198

 A Thirteenth-century Knight                           "  199

 A Thirteenth-century Knight                           "  200

 A Beggar                                              "  201

 A Tournament in the Twelfth Century            Facing p. 214

 Knightly Combat on Foot                             Page 219

 A Combat in the Twelfth Century                       "  221

 A Catapult                                            "  236

 An Attack with the Aid of a Tower                     "  237

 A Mantelet in Wood                                    "  238

 Attack on a Wall with the Aid of the Sap              "  239

 Group of Peasants and of Shepherds                    "  255

 Peasants at Work                                      "  260

 A Laborer (Thirteenth Century)                        "  264

 Peasant Shoes                                         "  265

 A Reaper                                              "  265

 A Marriage in the Thirteenth Century                  "  266

 A Plow                                                "  267

 A Leper                                               "  278

 A Thirteenth-century Doctor                           "  281

 A Thirteenth-century Burial Scene                   Page 284

 A Group of Priests (Thirteenth Century)               "  287

 A Shrine in the Form of an Altar
 (Thirteenth Century) in the Cathedral at Rheims       "  299

 Richard Coeur de Lion                          Facing p. 302

 View of an Abbey of the Thirteenth Century          Page 313

 The Galleries of the Cloister of the Abbey
 of Mont-Saint-Michel (Thirteenth Century)             "  316

 The Refectory at the Abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel
  (Thirteenth Century)                                 "  318

 A Benedictine Monk (Thirteenth Century)               "  320

 A Piece of Furniture Serving as a Seat and a
 Reading Desk                                          "  335

 Cloth Merchants                                       "  358

 A Commoner (Thirteenth Century)                       "  362

 Money-changers (Chartres)                             "  365

 A Fair in Champagne in the Thirteenth
 Century                                        Facing p. 366

 The Sale of Peltries (Bourges)                      Page 370

 Episcopal Throne of the Thirteenth Century            "  374

 A Bishop of the Twelfth Century                       "  376

 A Bishop of the Thirteenth Century                    "  379

 A Deacon (Thirteenth Century)                         "  388

 Notre Dame and the Bishop's Palace at the
 Beginning of the Thirteenth Century                   "  395

 Thirteenth-century Window in the Cathedral of Chartres,
 Representing Saint Christopher Carrying Christ        "   400


This book describes the life of the Feudal Ages in terms of the
concrete. The discussions center around a certain seigneury of St.
Aliquis. If no such barony is easily identifiable, at least there were
several hundred second-grade fiefs scattered over western Christendom
which were in essential particulars extremely like it, and its Baron
Conon and his associates were typical of many similar individuals, a
little worse or a little better, who abounded in the days of Philip

No custom is described which does not seem fairly characteristic of
the general period. To focus the picture a specific region, northern
France, and a specific year, A.D. 1220, have been selected. Not many
matters have been mentioned, however, which were not more or less
common to contemporaneous England and Germany; nor have many usages
been explained which would not frequently have been found as early as
A.D. 1100 or as late as 1300.

Northern France was _par excellence_ the homeland of Feudalism and
hardly less so of Chivalry, while by general consent the years around
1220 mark one of the great turning epochs of the Middle Ages. We are at
the time of the development of French kingship under Philip Augustus,
of the climax and the beginning of the waning of the crusading spirit,
of the highest development of Gothic architecture, of the full
blossoming of the popular Romance literature, and of the beginning of
the entirely dissimilar, but even more important, Friar movement.

To make the life of the Middle Ages live again in its pageantry and
its squalor, its superstition and its triumph of Christian art and
love, is the object of this study. Many times has the author been
reminded of the _intense contrasts_ between sublime good and extreme
evil everywhere apparent in the Feudal Epoch. With every effort at
impartiality, whether praising or condemning, it is dangerously easy to
write in superlatives.

Although the preparation of this book was not undertaken without that
knowledge and investigation of those mediæval authors, ecclesiastics,
and laymen upon which every significant study of this kind must
rest, every scholar will recognize the author's debt to many modern
specialists. To Th. Wright, Lacroix, Luchaire, Justin H. Smith,
Viollet-le-Duc, and Chéruel the acknowledgments are very specific. To
Leon Gautier they must be more specific still. It is a great misfortune
that his masterpiece, _Le Chivalrie_, is no longer current in a good
English translation. The words in quotation, sprinkled through the
text, are usually from pertinent mediæval writers, except where they
purport to be direct snatches of conversation.

To my colleague in this university, Prof. August C. Krey, who has read
and criticized the manuscript with friendly fidelity and professional
alertness and acumen, there are due many hearty thanks.

  W. S. D.

  The University of Minnesota.
  Minneapolis, Minn.

     Life on a
 Mediaeval Barony


Chapter I: The Fief of St. Aliquis: Its History and Denizens.

In the duchy of Quelqueparte there lay, in the later days of the great
King Philip Augustus, the barony of St. Aliquis. Perhaps you may have
trouble in finding any such places upon the maps of Mediæval France. In
that case, I must tell you that they did not lie so far from Burgundy,
Champagne, and Blois that the duke and his vassal, the baron, could not
have many brave feuds with the seigneurs of those principalities, nor
so far from Paris that peddlers and pilgrims could not come hence or go
thither pretty often, nor the baron of St. Aliquis sometimes journey to
the king's court, to do his loyal devoir to his high suzerain, or to
divert himself with many lordly pleasures.

About A.D. 1220, when King Philip Augustus was near his end, there was
exceptional peace in northern France, and conditions around St. Aliquis
were entirely normal. We purpose, therefore (with the help of Our Lady,
of holy St. Aliquis himself, and perhaps also of that very discreet
_fée_ Queen Morgue, "the wife of Julius Cæsar and the mother of King
Oberon"), to visit the aforesaid barony as it existed at that time. We
shall look around us unseen by the inhabitants, but able to ask many
questions and to get pertinent answers. Thereby shall we gather much
knowledge, and that, too, not about St. Aliquis only; for this little
world by itself is a cross-section, as it were, of a great part of
France; nay, of all feudal Europe.

It is fortunate that we are suffered, when we make this return journey
to the Middle Ages, to arrive not long after the year 1200. A century
or two earlier one might have found conditions decidedly more crude,
semi-barbarous, disgusting; one would have indeed been tempted to
doubt whether from so lawless and uncultivated a world any progressive
civilization could really develop. On the other hand, had we postponed
the excursion until, say, A.D. 1400, we would have found a society
already becoming sophisticated and to no slight extent modernized. The
true mediæval flavor would have been partially lost. But A.D. 1220
represents the epoch when the spirit of the Middle Ages had reached
its full development. The world was still full of ignorance, squalor,
and violence, yet there were now plenty of signs of a nobler day.
France was still scattered with feudal castles and tales of baronial
ruthlessness abounded, but the rise of the royal power and the growth
of the chartered communal towns were promising a new political era.
The bulk of the people were still illiterate peasants, and many of
the nobility even felt very awkward when fumbling over books; but the
monasteries had never been so full of worthy activities and of very
genuine learning. Thousands of scholars were trudging to the University
of Paris; and meantime, even in the more starving towns were rising
Gothic churches and cathedrals, combining in their soaring fabrics
not merely the results of supreme architectural genius, but a wealth
of masterpieces of sculpture and of colored glass which were to draw
visitors of later days from the very ends of the earth.

The crusading fervor had somewhat waned, but around the castles there
were still elderly knights who had once followed Richard the Lion
Hearted or Philip Augustus upon the great Third Crusade to Palestine,
likewise a good many younger cavaliers who had shared the military
glory and moral disgrace of the Fourth Crusade, which had ended not
with the recovery of Jerusalem, but the sack and seizure of Christian
Constantinople. At Rome the great and magnanimous Pope Innocent III had
hardly ceased to reign (1216); while the founders of the remarkable
Friar movement--that new style of monasticism which was to carry the
message of the Church closer to the people--St. Francis, the apostle of
love, and St. Dominic, the apostle of learning, were still alive and
active. The world, therefore, was looking forward. The Middle Ages were
close to apogee.

[Sidenote: The Fief of St. Aliquis]

We purpose to tell what may be found on the barony of St. Aliquis,
first at the castle itself and in the household of Messire the
Seigneur, then in the villages of peasants round about; next in the
abbey slightly removed; and lastly in the chartered town and cathedral
seat of the bishop a few miles further off. But first one must ask
about the origin of the principality and how there came to be any
such barony at all, for St. Aliquis would have been an exceptional
seigneury if it had not had considerable history behind it, and had not
represented the growth of several different elements.

The castle of St. Aliquis lies at the junction of two rivers. The
smaller of these, the Rapide, tumbles down from some hills, cutting a
gorge through the dense beech forest until it runs under a precipitous
slope, then dashes into the greater, more placid current of the Claire.
The Claire is an affluent, perhaps of the Seine, perhaps of the Loire.
It is navigable for flat barges a good many miles above its junction
with the Rapide, and the tolls upon this commerce swell the baron's

At the triangle formed by the converging streams rises an abrupt rocky
plateau practically inaccessible from the banks of either river and
which can be approached only from the third side, where the land slopes
gently away from the apex of the triangle. Here rise some jagged crags
marking out the place as a natural fortress. Most castles which dot
feudal Europe are thus located in the most advantageous spot in their
respective regions.

Possibly human habitations have existed upon this promontory ever since
God drove Adam and Eve out of Eden. If we consult Brother Boniface,
the librarian at the local monastery, the best-read person in the
district, the good old man will tell us that long before the Romans
came, the ancient Druids ("now in hell") had their pagan altars here,
and sacrificed human victims under a great oak. Some chiseled masonry
found on the spot also indicates an extensive settlement in Roman days,
when Gaul was a province of the Cæsars. Of course, all the pious people
know that under the persecuting Emperor Diocletian, the holy Aliquis
himself, a centurion in the Legions, was shot to death with burning
arrows because he preferred Christ to Jupiter, and that the place
of his martyrdom is at the new abbey church about a league from the

[Sidenote: Founding of the Castle]

Nevertheless, secular history is not precise until after the time of
the mighty Charlemagne. Under his feeble successor, Charles the Bald,
tradition affirms that the vikings, Scandinavian barbarians, came up
the greater river, ascended the Claire in their long dragon ships; then
on the site of the present castle they established a stockaded camp,
whence they issued to ravage the country. This was about A.D. 870, but
after a year they departed, leaving desolation behind them. About A.D.
880 another band of vikings came with similar foul intent, but they met
a different reception. The saints had raised up a brave protector for
the Christian folk of those lands.

Very uncertain is the ancestry of the redoubtable warrior Heribert, who
about A.D. 875 seized the rocky triangle at the mouth of the Rapide,
and built the first castle of St. Aliquis. Perhaps he was descended
from one of Charlemagne's famous Frankish "counts." He did, indeed,
only what was then being done everywhere to check the Scandinavian
hordes: he built a castle and organized the levies of the region,
hitherto footmen, into an effective cavalry force. This castle was
anything save the later majestic fortress. It was merely a great square
tower of rough masonry, perched on the crag above the streams. Around
it was a palisade of heavy timbers, strengthened on the landward side
by a ditch. Inside this compound were huts for refugees, storehouses
for fodder, and rude stalls for the cattle. To stop passage up the
Claire a heavy chain of iron was stretched across the river and stone
piers were sunk at shallow places, thus forcing boats to pass close
under the fortress in range of descending missiles. Where the chain was
landed there was built another smaller stone tower. All the crossing
then had to be by skiffs, although somewhat later an unsteady bridge
was thrown over the stream.

The second expedition of vikings found that these precautions had
ruined their adventure. They lost many men and a dragon ship when
they tried to force the iron chain. Heribert's new cavalry cut off
their raiding parties. Finally they departed with thinned numbers and
scant spoils. Heribert was hailed as savior of the region, just as
other champions, notably the great Count Odo at the siege of Paris,
won similar successes elsewhere on a larger scale. The vikings had
departed, but Heribert's tower remained. So began the castle of St.

Heribert had taken possession ostensibly as the king's "man," claiming
some royal commission, but as the power of Charlemagne's feeble
rulers dwindled, Heribert's heirs presently forgot almost all their
allegiance to their distant royal "master." This was merely as seemed
the case about A.D. 900 all through the region then coming to be called
"France." Castles were rising everywhere, sometimes to repel the
vikings, sometimes merely to strengthen the power of some local chief.
Once erected, the lords of those castles were really little princes,
able to defy the very weak central authority. To capture a considerably
less formidable fortalice than St. Aliquis implied a tedious siege,
such as few kings would undertake save in an emergency.

The result was that ere A.D. 1000 Heribert's great-grandsons had almost
ceased to trouble about the king. The person they genuinely feared
was the local Duke of Quelqueparte, another feudal seigneur with more
followers and more castles than they. Partly from prudence, partly from
necessity, they had "done homage" to him, become "his men," and as
his vassals rode to his wars. The dukes, in turn, full of their own
problems, and realizing the strength of St. Aliquis, seldom interfered
in the fief, save on very serious occasions. The barons of St. Aliquis
therefore acted very nearly like sovereign princes. They, of course,
had their own gallows with power of life and death, waged their own
personal wars, made treaties of peace, and even coined a little
ill-shapen money with their own superscription.[1] "Barons by the Grace
of God," they boasted themselves, which meant that they obeyed the duke
and _his_ suzerain, the king, very little, and, we fear, God not a
great deal.

[Sidenote: Turbulent Barons]

In the recent centuries, however, the barony had changed hands several
times. About 1070 the lord had the folly to refuse his ordinary
feudal duty to the Duke of Quelqueparte. The latter roused himself,
enlisted outside aid, and blockaded and starved out the castle of St.
Aliquis. The unfortunate baron--duly adjudged "traitor and felon" by
his "peers," his fellow vassals--was beheaded. The duke then bestowed
the fief, with the hand of the late owner's niece, upon Sire Rainulf,
a younger son of a south-country viscount, who had visited the duke's
court, bringing with him an effective battle-ax and fifty sturdy
followers. Sire Rainulf, however, died while in the First Crusade.
The reigning duke next tried to give the barony to another favorite
warrior, but the son of the late baron proved himself of sturdy stuff.
He fought off his suzerain and enlisted allies from Burgundy. The duke
was forced, therefore, to leave him in peace.

Presently, about 1140, another baron died, survived only by a
daughter. Her uncles and cousins did their best to expel this poor lady
and induced the suzerain duke to close his eyes to their deeds, but,
fortunately, the new baroness had been very pious. The influence of the
great St. Bernard of Clairvaux was exerted, thereby persuading King
Louis VII to warn the duke that if he could not protect his vassals
"the king would do justice." So the Lady Bertrada was given in marriage
to a respectable Flemish cavalier Gui, who ruled the barony with only
the usual wars. He left two sons, Garnier and Henri. Sire Henri, the
younger, lived at the inferior castle of Petitmur, went on the Fourth
Crusade (1203-04), and perished in the fighting around Constantinople
ere the French and Venetians sacked the city. Garnier, the elder,
received, of course, the great castle. He was the uncle of the Baron
Conon III, the son of Henri, and the present lord of St. Aliquis.

It is well said by the monks that the blessed feel joys in paradise all
the keener because a little earlier they have escaped from the pangs
and fires of purgatory. Certes, for all laymen and clerics on the St.
Aliquis fiefs, there was purgatory enough in Baron Garnier's day to
make the present "sage" rule of Baron Conon seem tenfold happy.

The late seigneur ruled about twenty years, filled up with one round of
local wars, oppression of the small, and contentions with the great.
Baron Garnier was assuredly a mighty warrior. Never was he unhorsed in
jousting or in mêlée. His face was one mass of scars and he had lost an
ear. Plenty of landless knights and wolfish men at arms rioted around
his donjon. His provosts and foresters knew how to squeeze the poor
of the seigneury, and by this income and by the ransoms from numerous
captives he was able to rebuild the castle of St. Aliquis according to
the first military art of the day.

[Sidenote: Crimes of Baron Garnier]

But his sins were more than the hairs of his grizzled head. Having
taken dislike to his wife, and the bishop refusing an annulment,
he kept the poor Lady Ada mewed up in one chamber for years, and,
according to many stories, loaded her with chains and spared not
tortures, until in mercy she died. However, he had plenty of less
regular consorts. The castle courts had swarmed with loud women,
the favorites of himself and his familiars, and with their coarse,
unacknowledged brats. No pretty peasant girl's honor was safe in those
parts. As for the prisoners--after Messire Conon came into power it
was a marvel the quantity of human bones, gnawed by the rats, which
they took out of the lower dungeons, as well as how they released four
wretches who had been incarcerated in the dark so long that they were
blinded. Needless to say, the compartments of the gallows never lacked
their swinging skeletons. Women still hush their squalling children
with, "Be silent--or Baron Garnier will get you!"

Yet with all these deeds this baron affected great hospitality. He kept
a roaring hall, with ready welcome for any cavalier who enjoyed deep
drinking and talking of horses, women, falcons, and forays; and a good
many seigneurs found his alliance useful. So he continued his evil ways
until (praised be Our Lady of Mercies) he came to a fit end. Thrice he
had been excommunicated by the bishop. Thrice he had been readmitted
to ghostly favor, thanks to large gifts toward the new cathedral at
Pontdebois. Then he let his men murder a priest who was traveling with
a precious chalice. So he was excommunicated a fourth time. While in
this perilous state (though boasting that he would soon make his new
terms with the Church) his companion in sin, Suger of the Iron Arm,
quarreled with him over their cups and ran him through with a boar
spear. The baron lived just long enough to see Suger hewn in pieces
by his comrades. Then he died (priestless, of course, and unabsolved)
cursing God and crying piteously for help from the devil. Christians
cross themselves when they think of his fate hereafter.

Garnier left no legitimate children. He was on very cold terms with his
brother's widow, the Lady Odelina, who was rearing her two sons and
daughter at Petitmur; but Odelina had faced her brother-in-law down
and clung tightly to her own little fief. She had given her children
a "courteous" and pious education, and induced a neighboring seigneur
to take her eldest son, Conon, to "nourish" as his squire, and rear to
be a knight. At length came her reward. The youth was knighted by the
Count of Champagne three weeks before his evil uncle perished. Then
the suzerain duke was glad to have St. Aliquis pass to so competent a
vassal as young Sire Conon.

This is a bare suggestion of the contentions, feuds, and downright
wars of which the barony has been the scene, and yet St. Aliquis has
probably been freer from such troubles than most of its neighbors.

[Sidenote: Baronial Fiefs and Vassals]

Although this castle is the center of Baron Conon's power, it is by
no means his only strong place. He has three other smaller castles
(besides Petitmur, which will go to his brother) that he sometimes
inhabits, but which he ordinarily rules through castellans. In the
twenty-odd villages upon the fief there are some ten thousand peasants
whom he governs through his provosts.[2] Also, there depend on him
his own "noble" vassals--about twelve "sires," petty nobles each
with his own small castle or tower, hamlet of peasants, and right
to "low justice." These vassals follow the St. Aliquis banner and
otherwise contribute to the baron's glory. That seigneur himself is
likewise "advocate" (secular guardian) of the neighboring Abbey of St.
Aliquis--an honorable post involving delicate dealings with the lord
abbot. Also, a few leagues away lies the "good town" of Pontdebois. The
baron, as will be explained, has very important relations with that
city. In addition he "holds" of the bishop there resident some farms
with hunting and fishing rights. For this inferior fief he does homage,
of course, not to the Duke of Quelqueparte, but to the Bishop of
Pontdebois. Some years previous, when the duke and bishop were at war,
the baron was obligated to send twenty knights to fight for the duke,
but also six to fight for the bishop. The Scriptures warn us against
trying "to serve two masters"; but the baron happily made shift to keep
the two contingents of his little array from engaging with one another
until his two overlords had made peace!

In addition to all the above, Conon holds still another small castle at
quite a distance, for which he does homage to the Duke of Burgundy--a
fact promising more complications when Quelqueparte and Burgundy (as
is most likely) go to war. Finally, he holds a large farm from his
otherwise equal, the Baron of Harcourt. Here he is sure to cut his
feudal devoir to a minimum, and leave the Lord of Harcourt to consider
whether to pocket his pride, risk a "private war," or attempt a lawsuit
before their mutual suzerain, the Duke of Quelqueparte.[3]

The Baron Conon would gladly be the direct vassal of the king. The
higher your suzerain the higher, on the whole, your own glory in the
feudal firmament; but the duke would resent bitterly any attempt to get
his vassals away and all the other first-class nobles would support
him. Baron Conon must wait, therefore, perhaps until the present
elderly duke is dead and the duchy falls under feeble heirs. Then he
will find the astute king, if Philip Augustus is still reigning, only
too willing and able to meet him halfway. At present, however, Conon
is on good terms with the duke, although he is just as jealous himself
to prevent his own sires from "holding" directly from the duke as the
latter is to check the baron's going over to the king. Everywhere there
is this friction over "subinfeudation." "The vassal of my vassal is
_not_ my vassal": that is the angry comment daily.

All in all, the seigneury of St. Aliquis thus covers three hundred
square miles, whereof about one-third is controlled by the baron as his
personal domain and the remainder by his vassals. Perhaps there are two
hundred similar baronies and countships dotting France, some larger,
some smaller, but in their histories, feudal relationships, and general
problems much alike. This fief, however, is especially fortunate in
that the baron possesses an old charter, wrung from some tottering
Carolingian king, giving him the right to collect a sack of grain, a
large truss of hay, or a similar quota in kind from every loaded barge
traversing down the navigable Claire; also to levy a copper obol for
every Christian foot passenger, and three obols for every mounted
traveler or Jew (mounted or walking) crossing the very important bridge
by the castle. These tolls give messire many fine suits of armor, buy
silk gowns for the baroness, and make all the local seigneurs anxious
to marry their daughters to the baron's sons as soon as the boys can be

[Sidenote: A Superior Type of Baron]

St. Aliquis, we have said, is happy in its present seigneur. Monks,
villeins, and petty nobles agree in praising Baron Conon. When a
seigneur is practically a sovereign, everything depends upon his
character. If the saints desire to punish certain Christians for their
sins, let them merely send them an evil, or only an inefficient,
quarrelsome baron! Like the unlamented Garnier, he can soon make their
lives into a perfect Gehenna.

Conon III has now ruled for more than ten years. He has kept out of
all private wars but one, a feat almost exceptional; but in that
one war he struck so hard and so skillfully that his opponent, the
Viscount of Foretvert, swore on the relics to a peace which cost him
a village of peasants and the transfer of two petty sires to the St.
Aliquis fealty. Conon fought also in the great battle of Beauvais so
as to win the personal praise of the king himself. He compounded with
the abbey over the division of the income of a farm in a manner which
left him and the abbot firm friends--a singular piece of diplomacy.
Better still, he held to his point about some hunting rights with the
Bishop of Pontdebois, and finally won most of his claims without being
even temporarily subjected to excommunication. His peasants pay their
imposts loyally, for the baron not merely protects them from the raids
of brigands and rival feudatories; he also represses worse pillagers
still, his own seigneurial officers, who were ravaging harpies in all
the little thatched villages through Baron Garnier's day. Therefore,
Conon is called "a very gentle seigneur," which means that he is every
inch a lord and which term does not prevent him from swinging a heavy
sword, and from knocking down a villein with his own fist when there is
need of teaching a lesson.

[Sidenote: A Baronial Family]

As for Conon's family, his good mother, Lady Odelina, is now resting
under the stones of the abbey church; but she lived to see her
first-born wedded to Adela, the daughter of a rich Picard sire, a dame
of many virtues. The marriage has been blessed with two healthy sons,
François and Anseau--the pampered tyrants of all the castle folk.
The baron's household also includes his younger brother Aimery, who
has just reached the age for knighthood, and his marriageable sister
Alienor. So far the family had been marvelously harmonious. There has
been none of those passages at arms between elder and younger brothers
which often make a castle the antechamber to hell. Adela is "the very
_gentle_ dame"--beloved of husband and revered by vassals and villeins,
but whose "gentleness," like her husband's, by no means keeps her from
flogging her maids when their sins deserve it. Alienor is already going
to tourneys and has presented at least three young knights with her
stockings to tie to their lances; but she knows that it is a brother's
duty to find a husband for one's sister, and Conon has promised that
whoever he selects will be young, brave, and kindly. Therefore Alienor
is not borrowing trouble. As for Aimery, he is proud of being almost
as good a hawker and jouster as his brother. He will soon be knighted
and rule over Petitmur, but his head is full of a visit to the king's
court, of winning vast favor, and finally of being given the only
daughter and heiress of a great count--in short, of possessing a fief
bigger than St. Aliquis.

There, then, is the little world, ruled by persons perhaps a little
more honorable and kindly than the run of North French barons, but by
no means of impossible virtue.

It is June, A.D. 1220. The sun is just rising. Let us enter St. Aliquis
as the warders unbar the gates; for the castle is the heart of the
feudal civilization.


[1] Long before the assigned date of this narrative, some king
or other potentate had assuredly given the lords of St. Aliquis
_immunity_--_i.e._, exemption from ordinary jurisdiction, taxation,
etc., by outside powers, with corresponding privileges for the local
seigneurs themselves.

[2] On some fiefs, as on the royal domain at this time, there would be
a higher seigneurial officer, the _bailli_, set over the provosts.

[3] The Baron of St. Aliquis was fortunate if his feudal relationships,
conflicting overlords, etc., were not even more complicated than here
indicated. There was nothing "simple" about the composition of a feudal

Chapter II: The Castle of St. Aliquis.

The castle makes the feudal ages possible. It is because western Europe
is covered with thousands of strongholds, each of which can stand off
a considerable army, that we have the secular institutions of the
thirteenth century. To be the owner and lord of at least one castle is
the dream of every nobleman, and in fact until he can hoist his own
banner from his own donjon he hardly has a defined place in the feudal

[Sidenote: The Castle of St. Aliquis]

As we have seen, the castle of St. Aliquis is now nearly three hundred
and fifty years old. Since it has been continuously inhabited by
enterprising owners, its structure has been as continuously changing.
However, if we had come to the barony only fifty years ago, we would
have found a decidedly primitive structure. The general plan of
Heribert's original stronghold was then still retained: first, on the
landward side of the triangle above the two converging rivers there
was a rather deep moat, next a parapet whereof the lower part was made
of earth taken from this same moat, and upon the mound rose a strong
palisade of tree trunks. Within the palisade were barns, outbuildings,
and barracks for such of the baron's men as did not live in the inner
stronghold. Then last of all was the donjon, the castle proper--a huge
square tower built with little art, but which defied attack by mere
solidity. The entrance to this grim tower was by a steep inclined plane
leading to a small door in the second story. In case of danger, if
the palisade were forced, the seigneur and his men retreated into the
tower, knocked down the wooden gangway, and shouted defiance to the
enemy. The mass and height of the donjon baffled any ordinary methods
of attack save that of blockade and starvation--and there would be six
months' supply of wheat, salt beef, and ale in the tower vaults.


(Without large barbican court)]

Nevertheless, this seemingly impenetrable fortress did not suffice. In
the first place, superior methods of siege warfare were developing: the
stoutest fortifications could be cracked.[4] In the next place, if the
donjon were hard to enter, it was almost equally hard to sally forth
from it. No rapid sortie could be made from the door in the second
story; the defense must be wholly passive. Finally, this stark masonry
tower was a most uncomfortable place, with its cavernous "halls" barely
lighted by tiny loopholes, frigid in winter, stifling in summer,
unsanitary--in short, almost intolerable for habitation by a large body
of men. After the First Crusade (1094-99) numerous cavaliers came home
with great tales of the fortresses of the Byzantines and the Saracens.
During the twelfth century, consequently, castle architecture underwent
a remarkable transformation. Richard the Lion Hearted built Château
Gaillard in Normandy. His mighty rival, Philip Augustus, built the
famous Louvre to dominate Paris, and erected other new-style castles
with cylindrical towers at Montargis, Poissy, Dourges, and elsewhere.
Already by 1220 the plans are being drawn for a great castle at Coucy
(built between 1223 and 1230) which is to be almost a model for all
subsequent fortress builders, until the advent of gunpowder.

[Sidenote: Castle Rebuilt Scientifically]

Baron Garnier, whatever his crimes, had certainly understood the art
of war. He rebuilt St. Aliquis in a thoroughly scientific manner,
employing a learned masterbuilder and "sage," an elderly Fleming who
had seen the best fortifications of the Infidels and had lived long
in those famous Syrian-Christian fortresses like Krak des Chevaliers,
which by the mere excellence of construction had enabled small
garrisons of western "Franks" to defy the full power of Saladin.
Instead of a mere ditch, palisade, and then a single vast tower, St.
Aliquis has consequently become a huge complex of defenses within
defenses, each line of resistance a little harder to penetrate and
with every outwork commanded by an inner fortification. If at last you
come to the central donjon, it still looms up above you--defiant and
formidable, and you can have your fill of desperate fighting, only
perhaps to be bloodily repulsed in the end. Of course, the donjon can
indeed be starved out, but it is not very often that any enemy of St.
Aliquis will have resources and persistence enough to keep his troops
together until the castle supplies are exhausted. He must either
get possession pretty quickly or not at all--and Garnier's Fleming
certainly took pains he should not get in quickly!

In examining St. Aliquis or its rivals, one must remember that they
are the creations of men who have devoted most of their thought to the
problems of war. Every possible contingency has been anticipated. The
architect and his employer have practically spent their lives studying
"how can a castle be made to hold out as long as possible?" Being,
despite their sins, highly intelligent men, it is not surprising that
they produce remarkable results.

We are approaching the castle as the morning mists are lifting from
the Claire and the Rapide. Ahead of us, out of the dispersing fog, is
rising what seems a bewildering mass of towers, walls, battlements gray
and brown, with here and there a bit of green, where a little earth
has been allowed to lodge and a few weeds shoot forth. High above all
soars the mass of the great central tower, the donjon, from the summit
of which Baron Conon's banner is now idly trailing.

We come down a road that takes us over the toll bridge across the
Rapide and find ourselves in a kind of parade ground where there are
only a few cattle sheds and possibly a rude cabin or two for such
of the baron's herdsmen as must sleep outside overnight. This open
ground is the scene for martial exercises, rallyings of the vassals,
and even for tournaments. Many people are headed toward the castle,
mostly from the village of peasants just westward across the river;
but there is also the subprior on a mule, riding over from the abbey,
and also a messenger who has spurred down very early from Pontdebois
with a communication from the bishop. As we near the castle its tower
and inner and outer wards become more distinct. We readily believe
that it took Garnier's architect three years to carry through the
work; that all the peasants of the barony had been put to grievous
_corvées_ (forced labor) digging, hewing and dragging stone, or working
the great derricks; and that ten expert stonecutters and fully eighty
less skilled masons had been hired in from Paris, Rheims, and Orléans,
besides a master mason who demanded rewards that seemed outrageous for
a mere villein and not for a belted knight.

[Sidenote: The Barbican and Lists]

These speculations end as we come, not to the castle, but to a
semicircular palisade inclosing the regular gate on the landward side.
This palisade is too high to scramble over; the piles are too sharply
pointed and stout enough to stand considerable battering. This outwork
is the barbican--the first of the long series of obstacles awaiting
the foe. Of course, it could not be defended in a regular siege, but
its purpose is to stop any surprise attack long enough to enable the
garrison to rally, close the great gate, and man the walls. The whole
crowd of folk now entering make for the heavy wooden barrier which is
just being thrown open by a rather sleepy porter. Since it is a time
of profound peace, he lets them all stream inside, merely requiring
everyone to leave his weapons in his custody. We pass unchallenged,
thanks to the kind _fée_ aforementioned, who has rendered us as
invisible as the owner of Gyges's ring. If, however, we had been guests
of noble rank, we would have proceeded onward to the inner gate and
rung loudly on a heavy metal gong hanging there. One of the baron's
squires would then have greeted us. If we had been the baron's equal
or superior in the social scale, Conon himself would next have come
down to lead us in; if somewhat inferior, we would have been conducted
by the squire to the great hall, where we would have removed hood
and gloves before the magnate presented himself. But we have much to
examine ere we penetrate the seigneurial hall.

Once inside the barbican, one discovers that between this extreme
barrier and the fortress proper there is another open space with a
road, and another place for equestrian exercises extending from the
Claire straight over to the abrupt slopes of the Rapide. The palisades
run all the way from river to river. This space within the barbican
forms the lists, where two young sergeants are breaking in a balky
stallion. The lists are a great convenience in peace time, but the real
utility is in war, and they are even more important in the castles that
have land on every side. They supply a good road by which men can be
hurried round the castle circuit in reasonable safety. On the other
hand, if the enemy suddenly forces the barriers, he finds himself most
awkwardly in a limited space between the palisade and the castle moat,
with all the arbalists (crossbows) playing on him from the walls above.

Inside the lists and next to the masonry walls runs the moat. It is
some twenty feet wide, partly filled now with scum-covered rain water.
In the spring the varlets have great joy here hunting frogs, but as the
year advances it assuredly breeds mosquitoes. It constitutes, however,
another formidable barrier to an enemy, and that is its sole object.

After crossing these lists, the path leads straight to the drawbridge.
This has just been lowered by means of heavy counterpoises swung on
a kind of trestle overhead, for even in peace times no seigneur will
sleep soundly before the drawbridge is up. The portcullis, the frame
of iron bars which is lowered whenever the bridge is raised, has also
been hoisted in its groove by the gateway. The heavy oaken gates, faced
with metal, have not been unbarred, however. A smaller door, just big
enough for a horse, has been opened in one of them, admitting to the
castle proper. Despite the earlier scrutiny at the barbican, one now
catches a watchful eye at the small window in the turret close beside
the portcullis. The chief porter has a very responsible position. Many
a fortress has been lost because he has been careless or unfaithful. He
would, in any case, be chargeable if he admitted unwelcome guests or
idle rascals. Porters are often accused of being gruff, insolent, fat,
and lazy, but part of their bad name comes because they have to repel
bad characters.

[Sidenote: The Bailey, Gates and Towers]

And now we are about to enter the outer ward, or bailey, of the
castle of St. Aliquis. The walls and towers of these outer defenses
are less formidable than those of the inner ward; yet they seem of
massive thickness and imposing altitude. There is a solid round tower
covering either side of the gate; to about fifteen feet these twain
rise above the moat naked and sheer, then are pierced with narrow
slits intended, not to let in light, but to permit archers to cover
every inch of the way from the barbican to the drawbridge. Even if the
foe should cross the moat, shatter the portcullis, and split open the
heavy doors, he would be merely at the beginning of terrible hours of
ax- and sword-play. He would be in a narrow and low vaulted passage,
with many loopholes on either side for archers, and also with slits
in the ceiling for pouring down boiling oil, seething pitch, molten
lead, and other pleasantries; and if he rushed past all these forms of
death into the courts, there, behind him, capable still of very stout
defense, would rise the two strong gate towers, rendering every attempt
to re-enforce the original attacking party a dice-throwing with death,
and making retreat equally dangerous. Few leaders, therefore, will be
foolish enough to try to storm St. Aliquis simply by a desperate rush
against the gate.

From the two gate towers, right and left, there extends a considerable
stretch of sheer wall terminating at either extremity with two more
towers which mark the corners on the landward side of the fortress.
These four towers, of course, by projecting far beyond this curtain
wall, are posted so as to permit a steady fire of missiles on any
enemy who may somehow ensconce himself close under the wall. The two
sections of curtain wall themselves are some dozen feet thick, with a
firm walk along their summit, protected by a stone parapet. To enable
the defenders, however, to drop stones and other forms of destruction
upon attackers who may be under the very base of the wall and defying
the bolts from the towers, a structure of heavy timbers can be built
out all along the wall overhanging the moat. These wooden hordings
are strong enough to withstand many stones from the casting engines,
but they can sometimes be set on fire. In a siege, therefore, they
will be covered with raw hides. The same will also be put over the
conical wooden roofs which cap the towers. Since this is a time of
peace, however, the hordings stand weather-stained and bare. To cover
the entire woodwork with hides will be one of the first tasks of the
garrison in case of a serious alarm.

As we survey the outer walls of the castle, it is clear that no enemy
will try to batter down the towers. Even if he could penetrate their
shells, he would merely find himself in a dark, cavernous, vaulted
chamber, with the defenders flinging down death from above. He would
then have to bore through the inner wall, nearest the court, under
every disadvantage. The towers are built so completely of masonry that
it is impossible to burn them. Winding stairs, leading up through the
stonework, conduct from one stage to another; and these staircases are
so narrow and tortuous that a single warrior with an ordinarily lively
ax can stop a hundred men ascending.[5] The attack, therefore, must
be on the curtain walls. But even here, supposing one has scaled the
battlements, more troubles are awaiting. The only way downward from
the curtain walls is through the towers at the end of the parapets. To
leap into the court inside means broken bones. The gangways along the
parapet are intercepted at several points by wooden bridges. These
can be easily knocked away, leaving yawning gaps defying any leaper.
If you reach the towers they are all barred, and the arbalists are
shooting down on the captured gangways from a dozen loopholes. Finally,
be it said, each tower is a little fortress by itself. It has its own
cistern, fireplace for cooking, and storeroom. Even if isolated, its
garrison can hold out stoutly. So much for the task of attacking merely
the outer ward of St. Aliquis.


[Sidenote: Inner Court and Donjon]

The problems of the towers and the curtain wall detain one long,
for they sum up the fundamental principles of thirteenth-century
fortifications. But now before us opens the broad court of the bailey
itself, the scene of much of the homely life of the castle; in fact,
the place now swarms with people busy with all kinds of activities.
The pavement is none too clean. There are large muck piles, and one
sees hens and a few pigs and dogs foraging everywhere. A genuine
village really exists inside the bailey. To the right of the gate is
a rambling, thatched-roof stable where in a long row of stalls the
fifty-odd horses of the seigneur are champing their morning fodder.
Near the stables stand tall ricks of hay. Behind these are a second
line of inelegant wooden structures: they are the barracks for the less
favored castle servitors, and for a part of the heavy-handed men at
arms whom Baron Conon keeps for instant duty.

[Sidenote: Buildings and Life in the Bailey]

On the left side of the gate are several more buildings. To be noted
are a commodious carpenter shop where saw and hammer are already
plying; a well-appointed smithy where at one ringing forge the
baroness's white palfrey is being reshod, and at another the master
armorer is putting a new link into a mail shirt. The castle smith's
position is no sinecure. He has to keep a great quantity of weapons
and armor in constant order; he has to do all the recurring small
jobs around the great establishment; and in emergency to manufacture
quantities of lance heads and arbalist bolts, as well as perhaps to
provide the metal work for siege engines on which may rest the fate
of the castle. Conon's first armorer is accordingly one of the most
important and best rewarded of all the servitors.

Besides these workshops there is a long storehouse, a repository for
not merely the food, but all other kinds of supplies needful in a
siege. Near by stands a smaller, shedlike structure, puzzling at first
to strangers, but which explains itself by the shrill screams and cries
issuing thence. It is the baron's hawk house, the mews, where the chief
falconer is now feeding the raw meat to the great hawks and falcons in
which his noble masters take delight. Close to these secular buildings,
however, there rises somewhat incongruously an elegant Gothic chapel,
with soaring pinnacles, a rose window at the end of the small nave,
sculptured saints flanking the portal, and within one finds glorious
stained glass, more saints' images and carvings, and a rich altar. This
is the little castle church to which very many dwellers of St. Aliquis,
including messire and madame, had repaired piously at gray dawn, and
where now good Father Grégoire has just finished a rather hasty mass.

The bailey, in short, is overrunning with activities. Horses are
neighing, cows are being milked, an overladen donkey is braying.
Yonder in one corner is a small building with a tall chimney. Here is
the seigneur's great oven, whither not merely the castle folk, but a
great number of the peasants, resort to bake their bread. In front of
the chapel bubbles a little fountain, and chattering women, scantily
attired, are filling their water pots. Children in various degrees of
nakedness and dirtiness play everywhere. Noises of every kind blend
in a hubbub. Lastly we notice, close to the inner drawbridge, another
building again with a tall chimney. This is the castle cookhouse,
where the dinners are prepared for the great hall within. A glance
through the door shows the vast fireplace where one can roast a whole
sheep or a small beef entire. The cookhouse is located here because
of the danger of fire in the inner castle, and because the position
is convenient for the great number of the servitors who must eat in
their barracks. When it is mealtime, however, this arrangement compels
a prodigious running to and fro all through the dinner hour between
kitchen and hall on the part of the twenty-odd sergeants and squires
who serve Baron Conon's guests and family. It bothers not the appetites
of pious Christians that their food is cooked amid contending odors
and that many of the doings near the cookhouse make its condition
extraordinarily unsanitary.

We have now crossed the bailey and its teeming life. Before us rises
the inner ward of the castle. Here are the gate and the walls of the
bailey over again, but far more pretentious and formidable. There is
another moat filled with muddy water; another drawbridge larger than
the outer one. The two gate towers are higher; their structures are
thicker, more solid. The curtain walls are so lofty that arbalistiers
thereon can pick off the enemy who may have gained the parapet of the
outer defenses. Finally, between the gate towers and the towers at
the end of the curtains, both to right and left, there is interposed
an extra tower, making the flanking fire much more close and deadly.
Consequently, the foe who could force his way into the bailey would
thus probably find it merely a bloody cockpit. The retreating garrison
would set fire to all the rude wooden buildings, and rake the outer
court with their bows and engines. If it would cost dearly to win the
bailey, what would it not cost to storm the castle proper?

[Sidenote: Inner Court, Donjon and Palais]

The gate to the inner ward is flung wide, but the portcullis still
slides in its grooves, being dropped every night to make sure that low
fellows from the barracks do not prowl around the seigneurial residence
in the darkness. Just at present swarms of people are going to and fro
between the two great sections of the castle, and jostling and laughing
in the narrow passages. As we pass through to the inner ward we realize
a certain touch of refinement. The pavement is cleaner. Most of the
servitors are better dressed and better mannered. Before us opens the
great court of the castle, set with stone flags and reasonably well
swept. Here the baron and his brother will practice their martial
exercises when the weather is bad and they must avoid the tilting
grounds. Here the horses will be mounted when Conon, Adela, and all
their noble friends assemble to ride out for hunting or hawking. On
either side the stately towers set into the walls frown downward, but
our gaze is ahead. Straight before one rises first a rather elegant
stone building with large pointed windows and a high sloping roof, and
then looming before that an enormous round citadel--one that dwarfs all
the other towers. It stands at the apex of the triangle; on one side
is the castle court, but to right and left the crags at its base are
falling precipitously away to the Rapide and the Claire.

The stone building is the _palais_, the actual residence of the baron.
The giant tower is the donjon, the great keep of the castle, built on
the site of Heribert's old stronghold, but twenty times as formidable.
The _palais_ is nearest to us, but since the apartments of the seigneur
are there, and we wish to examine these later, it is best to pass
around one end thereof and visit the donjon first.

Baron Garnier had built his donjon about one hundred and ten feet high
and some fifty-five feet in diameter, with walls a dozen feet thick.
This size is large, but not extraordinary. At Coucy they are planning
a tower two hundred and twenty-five feet high and ninety-five feet in
diameter. If Garnier had built a little earlier he would have made it
square, like that pitiless tower at Loches, which is only one hundred
feet high, but is seventy-six feet on its longest side. To enter the
donjon we go over still another drawbridge, although the ditch below
is dry, and on penetrating a small door in the masonry we wind up a
passageway through the thick wall. Passing from the bright morning
light of the court, one seems plunged into pitchy darkness. Strangers
stumble up steep stairways, with here and there a twinkle of light from
loopholes a couple of feet high, although barely wide enough at their
openings to allow the free flight of an arrow. Far below may be caught
glimpses of the twinkling, rushing Rapide, and of the bright green
country stretching away in the distance.

[Sidenote: The Donjon]

When St. Aliquis was rebuilt by Baron Garnier's architect, although
the donjon was greatly improved, much of the old masonry of the
original tower was retained, as well as the general arrangement of the
staircases, loopholes, and succession of _halls_, chambers, and lofts.
We see what the castle resembled in Heribert's day. By a turn or two in
the gaunt entrance we come to the original great hall of the castle.
It is offensively dark; the windows are mere loopholes at the end
of deep, cone-shaped passages let into the walls. Even on this balmy
June morning the atmosphere is clammy. As our eyes adjust themselves,
however, we see that we are in a huge vaulted chamber with a great
fireplace, and with a kind of wooden gallery about eight feet above
the floor, around the entire circuit. In this great chamber can be
assembled a good fraction of the entire garrison. The seigneur or his
spokesmen standing in the center or near the fireplace can give orders
which every man present can understand. Directions can thus be given
for any move needful for the defense of the castle.


As we shall see, there is now a newer and better hall in the more
modern and airy _palais_, but the older hall is still used at great
feasts for the overflow of guests. Even now are standing long oaken
tables, duly hacked by the trencher knives of many boisterous diners;
and on the walls--blackened by the smoke from the great fireplace--are
hanging venerable trophies of the chase, antlers, the head of a bear,
great boar tusks, as well as an array of all kinds of hunting weapons
used by departed generations.

If we were to follow the staircase down from the hall we would come
to an even darker vaulted apartment used sometimes as a supplementary
dormitory for the humbler guests, but also (to the astonishment of
later-day medical usage) with small rooms set off to be used as a kind
of sick ward; because every physician, whether schooled at Salerno,
Cordova, or Montpellier, will tell you that darkness is the friend of
health and that few invalids can hope to get better unless they are
kept as shaded and sequestered as possible.

[Sidenote: The Prison and the Watch Tower]

If we wished to pursue still lower, descending a black staircase with
lanterns, the rocks would begin to drip dampness. We could hear the
rushing of the Rapide against the base of the castle. The journey would
end at a barred iron door. Within would be a fetid, reeking chamber lit
only by two or three tiny chinks in the masonry, and with the bare rock
for the floor. Here is Baron Conon's prison. He is counted a merciful
seigneur, yet he thinks nothing of thrusting genuine offenders therein
and keeping them for weeks, if not months, before releasing or hanging.
Lucky if Maître Denis, the turnkey, remembers to bring down a coarse
loaf each day, and if the rats do not devour the prisoners' toes; but
we shall consider all such nice matters later[6].

It is alleged that from these lower vaults there is an underground
passage leading from the castle to a secret sallyport at the foot
of the precipice by the Rapide. If a passage exists, however, it is
known only to Conon and a very few trusted retainers. But not all such
stories are false; many castles have such secret passages; and at Coucy
they are quietly planning to introduce a rather elaborate system of the
same. Quite possibly St. Aliquis possesses something of this nature.

Far pleasanter is it now to ascend from the main hall through a couple
of stages of upper and airier chambers (now used as apartments by part
of the castle folk) until by a dizzy ladder we reach the summit of the
donjon itself. Here on one edge of the broad platform is a little round
turret carrying us still higher. From the turret flutters the orange
banner of St. Aliquis, with some kind of a black dragon (in memory,
possibly, of the viking raid) broidered upon it, and the arrogant
legend of the noble family, "Rather break than bend." To lower this
banner were a horrid disgrace. Never is it to be struck unless the
castle surrenders, when it will be sadly flung into the moat.

Under the flagstaff is a stout projecting beam rigged with a pulley.
Here is a gibbet in case the baron wishes to hang offenders as a
warning for the countryside. Fortunately, however, Adela has a dislike
to seeing the corpses dangling, and has persuaded Conon to order his
recent hangings at the ordinary gallows across the Claire by the
village. On the flag turret is always a watchman; day or night some
peasant must take his turn, and even in peace he has no sinecure. He
must blow on his great horn at sunrise, at "cover fire" at night,
when the baron's hunt rides out and returns, and again when a strange
retinue approaches the gate. The whole wide countryside spreads in a
delightful panorama below him at present, but on winter nights, when
every blast is howling around the donjon, the task is less grateful. No
wonder that peasants impressed for this service complain that "watchmen
have the lot of the damned."

So back through the donjon and again to the castle court. The donjon is
purely military. In times of peace it is a mere storehouse, prison, and
supplementary barrack for the seigneur's people. In war it is the last
position where the garrison can stand desperately at bay. A hundred
years earlier Adela and her sister-in-law, Alienor, would have lived
out most of their days in the cheerless dark chambers directly above
the main hall. Now they are more fortunate. They dwell in the elegant
Gothic arched _palais_.

[Sidenote: Great Hall of the Palais]

The _palais_ consists of a long, somewhat narrow building thrusting
out into the inner court, and of other structures resting against the
western curtain wall on one side, but with their larger inner windows
looking also into the court. The rooms are high, with enormous
fireplaces where great logs can warm the apartments in winter. The
ceilings are ribbed and vaulted like a church, and some of the masonry
is beautifully carved. Where the bare walls are exposed they are often
covered with a stucco on which are sketched fresco scenes somewhat
after the style of stiff Byzantine paintings, or the famous tapestry of
Queen Mathilde at Bayeux. All the tints are flat red, yellow, or brown,
without perspective or fine lines, and in a kind of demi-silhouette.
Little touches of green, violet, and blue relieve the bareness, and
despite many awkward outlines and other limitations many of the scenes
are spirited as well as highly decorative. Some of the pictures are
religious. We notice "Christ on the Cross" between the "Synagogue" and
the "New Law," a "Last Judgment," an episode in the life of St. Aliquis
himself; also many secular pictures based often on the jongleur's
epics. Thus from the "Song of Roland" there is the tearing by wild
horses of the traitor Ganelon.

The windows in this _palais_ betray the luxury of the owner. They are
not closed by wooden shutters, as are most other apertures in the
castle. They are of glass, with very small panes set in lead. The panes
in the smaller rooms are uncolored, although hardly of transparent
whiteness, but in the huge dining hall they are richly colored as in
a church, giving a jewel-set galaxy of patron saints (_e.g._, St.
Martin, the warrior saint of France) and of knights and paladins from
Charlemagne and King Artus down, gazing benignantly upon the feasters

This new hall is, of course, the finest apartment in the castle. Here
amid wood- and stone-work deeply carved the baron's household sits down
to dinner. It is, however, more than a mere dining room. Great feudal
ceremonies, such as the receiving of homage, here take place. Hither
also in bad weather or on winter evenings nearly all the castle folk
will resort. Messire will sit on the dais upon his canopied chair;
everybody else will wedge in as closely as possible, and after infinite
chatter, jesting, dice playing, and uproar the ever-popular jongleurs
will take station near the fireplace, do their tricks, sing songs, or
recite romances. The hall is, in short, the focus of the peaceful life
of the castle.

There are other rooms in the _palais_, but, considering the number
of people who have to live therein, they seem rather few. There is
little real privacy in St. Aliquis. The baron has a special closet
indeed, where he can retire and hope that he is not overheard, but
the great chamber for himself and the baroness is ordinarily full of
servitors. Next to the chamber is a second room where the baron's sons
sleep while they are little, and where honored guests can be lodged.
Conon's brother and sister have each a large apartment, but there seems
a singular lack of anterooms, boudoirs, and other retiring rooms. It
is perfectly good manners to ask noble guests to share the same rooms
with the family; and a couple of the baroness's maids will sleep on
pallets within her chamber, with the baron's favorite squire just
outside the door. As for the lesser folk at night, they often stretch
unceremoniously on the tables or even on the floor in the main hall.
The possession of a strictly private room is indeed a decided luxury;
even a great noble is often able to go without it.


From the restoration by Viollet-Le-Duc. At the left the chair where
sits the seigneur, the bed separated by a screen from the rest of the
hall; at the back, between the two windows, a cupboard; opposite the
fireplace, a large table. Tapestries ornament the walls.]

[Sidenote: Tables, Rushes and Tapestries in Hall]

The furniture of these apartments seems scanty, but it is at least very
solid. In the hall there are lines of tables set upon trestles, faced
by long backless seats. Here it is often needful to remove these tables
to arrange for a feudal ceremony or for a dance; but at one end
of the apartment is a raised dais, and at right angles to the others
runs the ponderous oaken table of the master. Conon faces the hall
from a high carved chair under a wooden canopy. The other seats on the
dais have the luxury of backs and arms. The fireplace is an enormous
construction, thrusting far into the room, where long logs on high
andirons can heat the stonework so it will glow furiously for hours.
To keep off the heat in winter there are fire screens of osier, but of
course in summer these disappear. Every festival day the paved floors
of the rooms in the _palais_ are strewn, if possible, with new rushes
and flowers--roses and lilies, flags and mint, making a soft crackling
mass under one's feet. They are fragrant and pleasant while fresh, and
even through the winter are allowed to remain to protect against the
chill of the floor. By springtime they are dried and are very filthy,
for the diners throw their bones and bits of bread and meat into them,
and the dogs and cats roaming about cannot devour all of such refuse.
Certain seigneurs, indeed are introducing the use of "Saracen carpets,"
gorgeous rugs either imported from the East or made up in France after
imported patterns; but these are an expensive innovation, and Conon as
yet keeps to his river rushes.

Of another luxury, however, he is rightly proud. Stowed away
in carefully guarded cupboards is a quantity of admirable wall
tapestries, some of the precious sendal (taffeta) silk, some of hardly
less valuable Sicilian woolen stuff. Their designs are of blazing
magnificence. There is one of great elaboration showing "The Seven
Virtues and the Seven Vices," another giving a whole sequence of scenes
concerning Charlemagne. But such precious ornaments must be kept for
great occasions. The order, "Hang the tapestries," is a sign to the
servitors that Conon contemplates a tourney or a great feast or a visit
from the duke. For to-day the _palais_ contents itself with its simple
fresco decoration.

The bedroom furniture is equally simple. The chamber of the baron and
his wife is lit by three windows with arched tops pierced into the
masonry, overlooking the castle court. There is a little table by the
fireplace holding a board of chessmen and there are a few backless
stools and long narrow benches. In the window places are comfortably
upholstered "She and I" seats facing one another. Opposite the
fireplace is a chair of state for the baron, with high carved back and
arms, a wooden canopy of equally heavy carving, and a footstool covered
with red silk. There are several ponderous wardrobes, and especially a
number of very massive iron-bound chests containing valuable garments,
jewels, and the like. Bureaus and chests of drawers hardly exist in
this age, and ordinary chests take their place. Indeed, no bedroom is
fitted properly unless it has a solid chest at the foot of the bed
for the prompt reception of any guest's belongings. When a castle is
taken the cry, "Break open the chests!" is equivalent to calling to the
victors, "Scatter and pillage!"

Near one of the windows in the wall there is also a large crucifix
carved of dark wood, and beneath it on a shelf is a small silver box
richly chased with figures of saints and angels. This is a reliquary
containing a trophy brought from the Holy Land by a crusader--a cluster
of hair of St. Philip the Apostle, likewise some ravelings of the robe
of St. Anna, mother of the Virgin. Before these sacred objects the
baron and baroness kneel on red-silk cushions and say their prayers
morning and night.


Reconstructed by Viollet-Le-Duc, from a manuscript in the Bibliothèque

[Sidenote: Furniture and Beds]

But the central object of the chamber is the bed. To have a fine bed
for the master and mistress is the ambition of every feudal household.
It stands under a great canopy, with heavy curtains of blue taffeta.
The bed itself, a great mass of feather mattresses and gorgeously
embroidered coverlets, projects its intricately carved footboard far
into the room. The whole structure is set upon a platform. When the
baron and baroness have retired, their attendants will pull the thick
curtains and practically inclose them in their own secluded bedroom.
The curtains cut off air, but that is no disadvantage, because every
physician tells you that night air is most unhealthful.

This nearly completes the furnishings of the chamber, save for various
perches, wooden hooks, and racks set here and there for clothes and
sometimes for the baroness's hunting hawks, and two bronze lamps
swinging on chains, which give a very imperfect illumination. If more
brilliance is needed (and if the great fireplace is not throwing out a
glare) one can do as they do in the great hall for extra lighting--set
resinous torches in metal holders along the walls. However, for
ordinary purposes the baron and baroness prefer the less odorous wax
candles. In fact, a very tall wax candle stands near to the bed and is
allowed to burn all night. This keeps away pixies and the Devil, and
makes things generally more cheerful for Christians.

The other apartments of the castle are similarly furnished, although
with less magnificence. Of course, in the barracks for the lower
servitors and the men at arms each man is lucky if he has a large bag
crammed with straw for a bed, a solid blanket, and a three-legged stool
whereon to sit by day.

Thus have been inspected exterior, the stone, and the wooden aspects of
St. Aliquis. The task is next to see the doings of the people who give
to the unyielding fortress its significance and life.


[4] See chap. xiv.

[5] Often at dark turns in these towers the floor would be made of
wooden scaffolding, easy to destroy; and the attacker would (if not
wary) suddenly tumble to the cellar of the tower.

[6] See ch. x.

Chapter III: How the Castle Wakes. Baronial Hospitality.

Whatever the sins of the men of the thirteenth century, they are not
late risers. The lamps and candles are so poor that only rarely, when
there is a great festival or imperative work to be performed, do
persons remain about many hours after sunset. In winter the castle
folks possibly spend nearly half of their entire time in bed; in
summer, thanks to the long evenings, they would hardly get sufficient
sleep save for a noon siesta.

Some seigneurs will actually rise considerably before sunup, hear mass,
mount their high turret, survey the landscape, then descend to order
the washing horn to be blown. We hear, too, of ladies who rise at dusk,
have chaplains chant matins while they are throwing on some clothes,
then go to the regular chapel mass, next complete their toilet and
take a walk in their garden, all before breakfast. There are, indeed,
stories of noble folk sleeping even in summer right up to 6 A.M., but
these backslidings follow only a deplorable carouse. Conon and Adela
are neither indefatigable risers, nor among the slothful. They are
seldom found in bed at cock-crow, and the baron is already warning his
young sons that "he who sleeps too long in the morning becomes thin and
lazy." So at gray dawn William, Conon's first body squire, has yawned
on his pallet by the chamber door, tugged on his own clothes, then
hastened to the great bed to assist his master to dress. This is one
of a good squire's prime duties, but he need not divest his lord of any
nightgown. Nightdresses are no more used in the thirteenth century than
are table forks. Conon has been sleeping between the sheets, with only
the clothing of a newborn babe, although, curiously enough, he wraps
around his head a kind of napkin, precursor of the later nightcap.

When the baron has donned a part of his clothes Gervais, the second
squire, brings in a metal basin of water and a white towel. The age
is one of great contradictions in matters of cleanliness. Baron Conon
washes his face and hands carefully and frequently. He also takes
complete baths pretty often, using large wooden tubs filled with hot
perfumed water. Personally he seems an extraordinarily neat man, and
so are all the higher-rank people. But the age has never heard of
polluted wells and other breeding spots for malignant fevers. Flies
are harmless annoyances. Numerous evil smells can hardly be prevented,
any more than cold weather--the saints give us grace to bear them! In
short, cleanliness stops with care of the person. Preventive sanitation
is as unknown as are the lands which may lie across the storm-tossed
Atlantic--"the Sea of Darkness."

There is an old rhyme which is supposed to give the right times for the
routine of the day:

    "Rise at five, dine at nine,
    Sup at five, to bed at nine,
    Is the way to live to be ninety and nine."

Sometimes dinner came later than nine, but never, if possible, much
after ten. People have sometimes become distressed because the meal had
to be postponed until noon. This was natural, for everybody is stirring
at daybreak and for breakfast probably has had only a few morsels of
bread washed down with thin wine--a poor substitute even for the
coffee and rolls of the later continental breakfast.

[Sidenote: A Baron's Routine Business and Diversions]

Having dressed and washed, the baron goes down to mass at the chapel.
Attending daily mass is a duty for every really pious seigneur. One
of Garnier's infamies had been his gross irregularity in this matter.
If there had been no chapel in the bailey, the service could have
been held in a vestibule to the hall of the _palais_. After mass
is over, Conon is ready for business or pleasures. It is a time of
peace; and, truth to tell, the baron would really be not a little
glad of the excitement, bustle, and strenuous preparation which come
with the outbreak of war. The list of things he can do to divert
himself in times of public quiet seems limited: He can hunt, fish,
fence, joust, play chess, eat and drink, listen to the songs of the
jongleurs, hold his court, walk in the meadows, talk with the ladies,
warm himself, have himself cupped and bled, and watch the snow fall.
This last amusement is hardly practicable in June. Being bled is not
commonly reckoned a regular sport in other ages! Neither can he hold
court--receive his vassals and dispense justice--save at intervals.
The jongleurs ordinarily reserve themselves for the evenings. Conon's
secret hankering for a war is, therefore, somewhat explicable.

If this is a fortunate day, however, the horn on the turret will blow,
and then the gong at the bailey gate will reverberate. A visitor of
noble rank has arrived. Nothing can ordinarily be more welcome in
castle communities. Little isolated fractions of humanity as they are,
with the remainder of the world seemingly at an extreme distance, the
coming of a stranger means a chance to hear news of the king's court,
of the doings of the Emperor Frederick II, of the chances of another
crusade, of the latest fashions in armor, of the newest methods of
training hawks, nay, possibly of rumors of another brave war like
that which culminated in the glorious battle of Bouvines. Unknightly,
indeed, is the seigneur who does not offer profuse hospitality to a
noble visitor; and any priest, monk, or law-abiding merchant will be
given a decent, though less ceremonious, welcome. No wonder the inns
everywhere are so bad, when the lords of so many castles grow actually
angry if a traveler will not tarry perhaps for days.

[Sidenote: Hospitality to Guests]

There are stories of knights who have deliberately caused the roads to
be diverted to compel travelers to come close to their castles, where
they can be politely waylaid and compelled to linger. Conon is not so
absurd, but if to-day a guest of noble rank approaches the castle, all
the ordinary routine ceases. At the outer gate the strangers are met by
William, the first squire. If he reports that their chief is a baron,
the visitors have the gates unbarred before them; they ride straight
over both drawbridges to the inner court. Conon himself leads in the
horse of his chief guest, and when the visiting nobleman dismounts he
usually kisses him upon mouth and chin, although, if the strange knight
is an elderly man, or of very exalted rank, he shows his respect by
kissing only his shoulders. Adela and her maidens at once conduct the
visitors to a chamber, where the best feather beds are piled high in
their honor, and next skillfully take off their armor, bathe their
feet,[7] and even assist them to don loose clean clothes--a kind of
wrapper very pleasant for indoor wear. Meantime their horses are
being stabled and given every attention. Only after the visitors are
dressed, refreshed, bathed, and perhaps fed, will Conon courteously
inquire for how long he is to enjoy their company and whether they
are making St. Aliquis merely a stopping point or have come to him on

Non-noble guests do not receive such ceremony, unless they are high
churchmen--bishops, abbots, and their direct subordinates--but even a
poor villein, if he appears on a fit errand, is welcome to a solid meal
and a bed on the rushes in one of the halls.[8] A jongleur is always
received heartily and entertained with the best; the payment will be
in songs and tricks after supper. On most feast days, furthermore,
the gates of St. Aliquis will open wide. Conon's servitors will say
to everyone, "If you are hungry, eat what you please!" There will be
simply enormous gorging and guzzling at the baron's expense.

Yet if there are no outside guests the baron is far from being an idle
man. Since he has been stirring at 4 A.M. he is able to accomplish
a great deal during the morning. All the stables must be inspected;
directions are given about a brood mare; the noisy falcon house is
surveyed; various stewards, bailiffs, and provosts come in with reports
about the peasants, the baron's farms, and especially the contention
with a neighboring seigneur's woodcutters about the right to take
timber in a disputed forest land--a case calling for major diplomacy
to avoid a brisk private war. Then, too, although this is not a court
day, the baron as the dispenser of justice has to order two brawling
peasants to be clapped in the stocks until sundown, and to direct that
an ill-favored lad who had been caught in an honest villein's corn bin
shall have his ears cropped off.

The castle is, in fact, an economic unit all by itself. If the baron is
idle or preoccupied he leaves its management to deputies; but a good
seigneur knows about everything. The estate has its own corn lands and
pasture, its stacks of hay, its granaries and storehouses, its mills,
cattle byres, slaughter houses, and salting sheds. Practically every
scrap of food actually needed in the castle is grown locally. The
innumerable women and varlets wear coarse woolen cloth made from wool
raised, sheared, carded, spun and woven on the seigneury. The ordinary
weapons and tools required in war are made at the smithy in the bailey.
The result is that the castle people do very little buying and selling.
Conon has a certain income in silver deniers, but, except for the
important sums he is laying by for a tournament, his sister's marriage,
perhaps a private war, and other like occasions, he spends it almost
entirely on the finer articles of clothing, for superior weapons, for
cookery spices, and for a few such luxuries as foreign wines. These can
be bought from visiting packmen or by a visit to Pontdebois during the
fair seasons.[9] St. Aliquis therefore presents what is to us a curious
spectacle--a sizable community wherein many of its members seldom
handle that thing called "money" from one month to another.[10]

[Sidenote: Comradery and Organization of Castle Folk]

Conon, on many mornings, is thus kept busy adjusting petty matters
concerning the estate. The seigneur is the center, the disposing
power for the whole seigneury, but he is not the despot. The castle
is one huge family, and shares its joys and troubles together. The
upper servitors hold their position by a kind of hereditary right.
Guilbert, who presides over the smithy, is son of the smith before
him. In similar case are the chief cook, the master huntsman, and many
others. Even the dubious post of baronial executioner is transmitted
by a kind of hereditary prerogative. For Conon to dismiss any of these
subordinates save for very obvious reasons would be resented by all
their fellows and produce a passive rebellion unwelcome to the most
arbitrary seigneur. Even tyrannous Baron Garnier had to wait a suitable
opportunity ere changing an unwelcome servitor. Every person has his
own little sphere of influence and privilege. The successful baron
respects all these "rights" and handles each inferior tactfully. The
result is that there is a great deal of comradery and plain speaking.
The baron and baroness must listen to flat contradictions every day.

"You are absolutely wrong, Messire," says Herbert, the cowherd, to-day,
when Conon directs him to wean certain calves. "I shall execute no
such order." And the baron (who would have fought a mortal duel with
a fellow noble ere accepting such language) wisely acquiesces, with a
laugh. Herbert is "his man" and as such has his own sphere of action,
and, besides, Herbert and all his fellows will fight for their seigneur
to the last drop of their blood, and obey all strictly military orders
with touching fidelity.

Indeed, the St. Aliquis people are somewhat like grown-up children.
They are often angry, turbulent, obstinate, contentious, even
exchanging cuffs and blows. The women are almost as passionate as
the men. But tempers cool with equal rapidity. Two varlets who
almost drew knives this morning will be communing like twin brothers
this afternoon. Furthermore, despite much apparent friction, the
three-hundred-odd people who sleep behind the walls of St. Aliquis are
fairly well organized. First of all the baron has his three squires,
youths of friendly baronial families who are being "nourished" by
Conon preparatory to knighthood and whose education will be described
later.[11] They are, of course, "noble," and are looking forward to
ruling their own castles. Noble, too, is Sire Eustace, the seneschal,
the baron's old companion in arms, who carries the great gonfalon of
St. Aliquis into battle, and who, in peace times, is chief factotum
and superintendent of almost everything about the fief. The marshal
who has charge of the stables is also "the son of a good house," and
the chamberlain, who has oversight over all that interior economy
which does not pertain to food, drink, and mealtimes, is an elderly,
childless knight who became lamed in the service of the baron's father,
and who really holds an honorable sinecure. There are, besides these,
four other petty nobles, whose estates are so small that they find it
pleasantest to live at St. Aliquis, ride in the baron's hunts, and
command his men at arms.

The remainder of the castle servants are indeed non-noble; but there
is nothing dishonorable in personal service, provided you serve a lord
higher than yourself. Conon would feel complimented if, on a visit
to Paris, he were asked to carry a great pasty and set it before the
queen. The importance of a baron is somewhat gauged by the number of
his squires and noble servitors. Many a poor sire has to put up with
only one squire, and perhaps a seneschal. As for Conon and Adela,
they have a cherished ambition that in their sons' day, at least, the
St. Aliquis butler, cellarer, dispenser, and even the master falconer
should be of gentle blood also; but that would be putting their
household practically on an equality with the duke's.

[Sidenote: Dinner, Supper and Nightfall]

When dinnertime comes there will be a great rush for the hall, but
the ceremonies of the table will be told later.[12] Of course, on
common days one will not expect a banquet--only one or two plates of
meat, some fish, a few vegetables, bread, and common wine, but all in
abundance. Hunger seldom troubles St. Aliquis. If the weather is fine,
very likely dinner and supper will be served in the garden, outside
the barbican, under pleasant shade trees, close to the purling Rapide.
There will be long tables covered with linen dyed with Montpellier
scarlet. The honored guests will have cushioned benches; the remainder
will sit on almost anything.[13] Supper may be either in the hall or
in the garden, according to circumstances. It is a long time between
dinner and supper, and appetites are again keen. After supper, if by
the presence of jongleurs there are excuses for torches and music, the
castle folk join in diversions or even in dancing, until a large silver
cup is solemnly handed to the baron. He drinks deeply. All his guests
are similarly served. Then he rises and the company goes to bed. If
there are honored visitors, Conon will escort them to their chambers
himself, and take another sup of wine with them ere parting for the

The seneschal meantime makes a careful round of the walls, to satisfy
himself that the outer drawbridge is raised, the sentries posted, and
that everything is safe. Then he will transmit the ponderous keys to be
taken to the baron's room till dawn. The seigneur is undressed by his
squires and reposes under an avalanche of feather beds thick enough to
provide a vapor bath. Soon all the lights are extinguished throughout
the whole black mass of the castle, save only the tall taper in the
master's apartment. So the castle sleeps through the darkness, unbroken
save for the occasional "All is well!" from the yawning sentry on the
turret, until the thrushes and blackbirds begin their noise in the
garden and in the trees by the rivers. Then again St. Aliquis resumes
its daytime business.


[7] Hospitality sometimes went to such a point that we are told the
ladies of the castle assisted a visiting knight to take a complete
bath--a service quite innocently rendered and accepted. Similar
customs, of course, obtained among the Greeks of the _Iliad_ and

[8] See ch. xvii.

[9] See ch. xxii.

[10] Even when sums of money are mentioned in connection with peasants'
dues, etc., one may guess that often payments in kind are really in

[11] See ch. xi.

[12] See ch. vii.

[13] Mediæval men did not use the floor to the extent of the Chinese
and Japanese, but they were certainly often willing to dispense with
seats even indoors, and to sit on their haunches upon the pavement or
rushes, "Turk fashion."

Chapter IV: Games and Diversions. Falconry and Hunting. The Baroness'

If Baron Conon has been fortunate enough to receive a noble guest,
almost the first question is how to divert the stranger. The inevitable
program will be to constrain the visitor to tarry at least long enough
to cast hawks or to chase down a deer. If that is not possible, at
least he will be courteously urged to attempt some game, and it will be
most "ungentle" of him to refuse.

Indoor games are in great demand where bad weather often makes open
sports impossible and where bookish diversions are limited. The baron
frequently plays with his own family when there are no outside guests,
and all the household are more or less expert. To understand them is
part of a gentle education for both sexes. Indeed, there is no better
way for a noble dame and a cavalier to begin a romance than to sit
through a long afternoon studying one another's faces no less than the
gaming table.

Some of these diversions are decidedly like those of a later age. For
example, if all present are reasonably literate they can play "ragman's
roll"! Burlesque verses--some suitable for men, some for women, and all
often deplorably coarse--are written on slips of parchment wound in a
roll. On each slip is a string with some sign showing for which sex it
is intended. Everybody has to draw a roll, then open and read it aloud
to the mirthful company. The verses are supposed to show the character
of the person drawing the same. Also, even grown-up folk are not above
"run around" games which are later reserved for children. High barons
play blind-man's buff; seigneurs and dames sometimes join in the
undignified "hot cockles." A blindfolded player kneels with his face
on the knee of another and with his hands held out behind him. Other
players in turn strike him on the hand, and he tries to guess who has
hit him. If he is correct, the person last striking takes his place.
Of course, a large part of the sport is to deliver very shrewd blows.
The fact that such a game can be in vogue shows again that even the
high and mighty are often like hot-blooded children abounding in animal

These games Conon will not press upon his guests. He will urge on them
backgammon, checkers, chess or, if they seem young and secular, perhaps
dice. Backgammon is called "tables." It is a combination of dice
playing plus the motion of pieces on a board which goes back to Roman
times. The boards and methods of play are so like those of a later age
that one need not comment thereon.

Backgammon is a popular diversion, but hardly more so than checkers
(Anglice "draughts") known in France as "dames." Here also is a game
that hardly changes essentially from age to age. The checkermen at St.
Aliquis are square, not round. Otherwise, no explanation is needed.

[Sidenote: Backgammon, Checkers and Dice]

What men like Conon really enjoy, however, are games of dice.
Nevertheless, since the Church has often censured these cubes of ivory,
he and his baroness do not dare to use them too often; besides, they
realize the havoc often wrought among the young by dice throwing,
and wish to keep their own sons from temptation. In parts of France
there are laws reading: "Dice shall not be made in this dominion, and
those using them shall be looked upon as suspicious characters."[14]
All such enactments are usually dead letters, and a high justiciar
can ordinarily punish merely the manufacture and use of loaded dice.
Although church prelates rail vigorously, their complaints are not
merely that games of chance are, _ipso facto_, sinful, but that the
blasphemies constantly uttered by losing dice players form a means of
populating hell.

Dice playing assuredly is extremely common. It is even impiously
called "the game of God," because the regulation of chance belongs
to Providence. Did not the Holy Apostles cast lots between Justus
and Matthias to select a successor to the wicked Judas; and can good
Christians question means acceptable to St. John and St. Peter? So
gamesters will quiet their consciences. Vainly does King Philip
Augustus command that any person swearing over dice in his royal
presence, no matter how high his rank, shall be cast into the river.
Dice are everywhere--in the travelers' and pilgrims' wallets and in
almost every castle, hut, or town dwelling. Let any three or four men
come together for an idle hour and fortunate it is if a set of dice
does not appear to while away the time. The thirteenth century is
innocent of cards; dice form the substitute.

The swearing is evil, but the gambling is worse. There are at least
ten gambling games, some with three dice, some needing six. Adela has
been warning François, her eldest son, concerning a recent instance of
reckless playing. A young squire, whose father held lands of Conon,
set forth to seek his fortune at the king's court. He halted at
Pontdebois, where he met an older soldier of fortune at the tavern. The
poor young man was induced "to try a few casts." Soon he had lost his
travel money; next his horse; next his armor. In desperation he began
pledging his ordinary vesture to the tavern keeper (who acted as a kind
of pawnbroker). Ill luck still pursued, and he was reduced to his bare
shirt[15] before a friend of his father's, chancing about the inn,
recovered his necessary clothes between them and sent him home, utterly
humiliated. Such calamities are constant. Dice are daily the ruin of
countless nobles and villeins--but the accursed gaming continues. It is
even rumored that in certain disorderly monasteries these tools of the
devil often intrude further to demoralize the brethren.

[Illustration: THE GAME OF CHESS

An ivory plaque of the fourteenth century (Musée du Louvre).]

[Sidenote: Chess in Great Esteem]

No such ill odor, however, attends that game in which Conon delights
most. To play at chess is part of an aristocratic education. In a
jongleur's romance we hear of a young prince who was brought up "first
to know his letters," and then "to play at tables (backgammon), and
at chess; and soon he learned these games so well that no man in this
world could 'mate' him." François and Anseau, the baron's sons, make
no such boasts, but both know the moves, and François takes great
pride in having lately forced a visiting knight to a stalemate. Great
seigneurs and kings carry chessboards around with them on campaigns
and are said to amuse themselves with chess problems immediately
before or after desperate battles. Plenty of other anecdotes tell of
short-tempered nobles who lost self-control when checkmated, broke the
chessboards over their opponents' heads, and ended the contest in a
regular brawl.

This royal game has doubtless come from the Orient. Caliphs of the
Infidels have long since boasted their skill in taking rooks and
pawns, but in western lands about the first record comes from the time
of Pope Alexander II (1061-73), to whom complaint was made that a
bishop of Florence was "spending his evenings in the vanity of chess
playing." The bishop's enemies alleged that this was forbidden by
the canons prohibiting dice. But the bishop retorted that "dice and
chess were entirely different things: the first sinful; the second a
most honorable exercise for Christians." The Pope tactfully refrained
from pressing the matter. Nevertheless, austere churchmen regarded
the game as worldly, and impetuous religious reformers insisted on
confounding it with games of chance. It was only in 1212 that a Council
of Paris forbade French clerics to play chess, just as it (for about
the thousandth time) forbade dice--despite which fact the Bishop of
Pontdebois spent a whole afternoon over the chessboard the last time he
visited the castle and could test his skill on the baron.

As for the nobility, no one thinks of refusing to play, although
naturally it is the older knights who have the patience for long
contests. According to the _Song of Roland_, after Charlemagne's host
had taken Cordova the Emperor and all his knights rested themselves
in a shady garden. The more sedate leaders immediately played chess,
although the younger champions selected the more exciting backgammon.

The chessmen are often made of whalebone and imported from Scandinavia.
They are models of warriors. The kings have their swords drawn; the
knights are on horseback; in place of castles we have "warders," a
kind of infantrymen; the bishops hold their croziers; and the queens
upbear drinking horns like the great ladies in a northern house. Conon,
however, has a fine ivory set made in the East; and Oriental models
differ from the Norse. The Infidels, of course, have no bishops;
instead there is a _phil_--a carved elephant; and since Moslems despise
women, instead of a queen there is a _phrez_, or counselor. Chessboards
are usually made of inlaid woods, or even metals, and Conon has an
elegant one with squares of silver and gilt, the gift of a count whose
life he once saved in battle.

Needless to say, chess is a game in which the women can excel. Alienor
is well able to defeat her brother, despite his boasting; and among the
duties of the ladies of a castle is to teach the young squires who are
being "nourished" by its lord how to say "check."

Chess is supposed to be a game of such worth and intricacy as not to
need the stimulus of wagering. But, alas! such is the old Adam in
mankind that scandalous gambling often goes on around a chessboard.
At festivals when nobles assemble, if two distinguished players match
their skill, there is soon an excited, if decently silent, crowd around
their table. Soon one spectator after another in whispers places wagers
to support a contestant; the players themselves begin to bet on their
own skill. The final result may leave them almost as poverty-stricken
as the dicers in the tavern, as well as compromising salvation by awful

[Illustration: A GAME OF BALL (STRUTT)]

Young nobles also kill much time with out-of-door games resembling
tennis and billiards. The tennis is played without rackets, by merely
striking the ball with the open hand. The billiards require no tables,
but are played on level ground with wooden balls struck with hooked
sticks or mallets, somewhat resembling the hockey of another age. Here
again reckless youths often wager and lose great sums. Lads and young
maidens are fond, too, of guilles--a game resembling ninepins, although
the pins are knocked down, not with balls, but with a stick thrown
somewhat like a boomerang. Of course, they also enjoy tossing balls,
and young ladies no less than their brothers practice often with the
arbalist, shooting arrows with large heads for bringing down birds
which take refuge in bushes when pursued by the hawks.

[Sidenote: Hawking]

But chess, dice and every other game indoors or outdoors pales
before the pleasure of hawking or hunting. There is no peace-time
sensation like the joy of feeling a fast horse whisk you over the
verdant country, leaping fences, and crashing through thickets with
some desperate quarry ahead. It is even a kind of substitute for the
delights of war. If a visiting knight shows the least willingness, the
baron will certainly urge him to tarry for a hunting party. It will
then depend on the season, the desire of the guests, and reports from
the kennels and mews and the forest whether the chase will be with
hawks or with hounds.

Master huntsmen and falconers are always at swords' points. Their
noble employers also lose their tempers in the arguments as to venery
and falconry, but the truth is that both sports are carried on
simultaneously at every castle. If fresh meat is needed, if most of the
riders are men, if time is abundant, probably the order is "bring out
the dogs." If only the sport is wanted, and the ladies can ride out
merely for an afternoon, the call is for the hawks.


From a thirteenth-century seal (Archives nationales).]

Hunting hawks are everywhere. Last Sunday Adela and Alienor rode over
to mass at the abbey church. The good brethren chanting the service
were nowise disturbed when each of their high-born worshipers kept a
great hooded hawk strapped to her wrist during the whole service.[16]
It is well to take your hawks everywhere with you, especially when
there are crowds of people, to accustom them to bustle and shouting;
but we suspect another reason for always taking hawks about is that
the carrying of a hunting bird on your wrist is a recognized method of
saying, "I am of gentle blood and need not do any disagreeable work
with my hands."

[Sidenote: Complicated Art of Falconry]

Falcons are counted "noble birds"; they rank higher in the social
hierarchy of beasts than even eagles. If one cannot afford large hawks
and falcons one can at least keep sparrow hawks; and "sparrow hawk"
is the nickname for poor sires who only maintain birds large enough
to kill partridges and quails. In short, the possession of a hawk of
_some_ kind is almost as necessary for a nobleman as wearing a sword,
even with knights who can seldom go out hunting. However, it takes
a rich noble like Conon to possess a regular falconry with special
birds, each trained for attacking a certain kind of game--hares, kites,
herons--with the expert attendants to care for them.

[Illustration: THE FALCON HUNT

Thirteenth century; from a German manuscript in the Bibliothèque de

Falconry has become a complicated art. Very possibly the good folk in
St. Aliquis will have their bodies physicked or bled by physicians
much less skillful in treating human ills than Conon's falconers are
in treating birds. To climb high trees or crags and steal the young
hawk out of the nest is itself no trifling undertaking.[17] Then the
prizes must be raised to maturity, taught to obey whistles and calls,
and to learn instantly to do the bidding of the master. In the baron's
mews are more than a score of birds; gerfalcons, saker hawks, lanners,
merlins, and little sparrow hawks squawk, peck, and squabble along with
huge goshawks. The male birds are generally smaller than the female,
and the latter are reserved for striking the swiftest game, such as
herons. Some birds will return of their own accord to the hand of the
master after taking game, but many, including all sparrow hawks, have
to be enticed back by means of a lure of red cloth shaped like a bird.
The falconer swings his lure by a string, and whistles, and, since the
falcon is accustomed to find a bit of meat attached to the lure, he
will fly down promptly and thus be secured.

Conon's head falconer is only a villein, but he is such an expert
that recently the Count of Champagne offered a hundred Paris livres
for him. This important personage is himself the son of a falconer,
for the science runs in families. He is a man of shrewd knowledge and
a real wizard at breaking in young birds, teaching them to strike
dummies and decoys, to remain contented in their cages or hooded on
their perches, and yet not lose their hunting spirit. He has precise
methods of feeding--so much meat, preferably poultry, and so much of
vegetables, preferably fresh fruit. He takes long counsel with Conon
how a recalcitrant goshawk can be induced to sit quietly on the baron's
fist. He also teaches young François to carry his little sparrow hawk
so it will not be incommoded by any horse motion or be beaten upon
unpleasantly by the wind, and how to adjust its hood.

[Sidenote: Professional Jargon of Falconry]

There are few more acceptable presents to a nobleman or, better still,
to a lady, than a really fine bird. Abbots send five or six superior
hawks to the king when craving protection for their monasteries.
Foreign ambassadors present His Royal Grace with a pair of birds
as the opening wedge to negotiations. The "reception of hawks" is
indeed a regular ceremony at the Paris court. Most of Conon's hawks
have come from fellow cavaliers who craved his favor. The St. Aliquis
gentry pride themselves on understanding all the professional jargon
of falconry. Only peasant clowns would confess themselves ignorant
thereof; yet even among nobles few speak it really well. The other day
a pretentious knight dined at the castle. He put his gerfalcon on the
perch provided in the hall for such use by the guests. But, thunder of
heaven! how great seemed his foolishness when Conon courteously led the
subject around to falconry! "He said: 'The _hand_ of the bird' instead
of 'the talon'; 'the _talon_' instead of 'the claw'; 'the _claw_'
instead of 'the nail.' It was most distressing to find such a man with
a claim to courteous treatment!"


Thirteenth century; restored by Viollet-Le-Duc, from a manuscript in
the Bibliothèque de Bruxelles.]

Of course, at some excesses in falconry Conon draws the line. He
considers impious his neighbor the Viscount of Foretvert, who sprinkles
his hawks with holy water prior to every hunt, and says a prayer over
them adjuring, "You, O Eagles, by the True God, the Holy Virgin, and
the holy prophets, to leave the field clear for our birds and not to
molest them in their flight." The church has never authorized this,
though the viscount's worldly chaplain certainly condones the practice.

Everything about falcons must be compatible with their nobility. The
glove on which they are carried is embroidered with gold. The hood
which keeps them blindfolded is likewise adorned with gold thread,
pearls, and bright feathers. Every bird has attached to his legs two
little bells engraved with his owner's name. High in the air they can
be heard tinkling. If the bird is lost the peasants discovering it can
return it to the owner--and woe to the villein who retains a falcon
found in the forest! The local law provides that either he must pay a
ruinous fine or let the falcon eat six ounces of flesh from his breast.
As for stealing a hunting bird outright, there is hardly a speedier
road to the gallows; it is what horse stealing some day will become in
communities very far from France.

Assuredly it is an exhilarating sight to see the castle folk go hawking
on a fine morning. The baron, baroness, and all their older relatives
and guests, each with bird on gauntlet, are on tall horses; the squires
and younger people have sparrow hawks to send against the smaller
prey, but the leaders of the sport will wait until they can strike a
swift duck or heron. Dogs will race along to flush the game. Horns are
blowing, young voices laughing, all the horses prancing. Conon gives
the word. Away they go--racing over fences, field and fallow, thicket
and brook, until fate sends to view a heron. Then all the hawks are
unhooded together; there are shouts, encouragement, merry wagers, and
helloing as the birds soar in the chase. The heron may meet his fate
far in the blue above. Then follow more racing and scurrying to recover
the hawks. So onward, covering many miles of country, until, with blood
tingling, all canter back to St. Aliquis in a determined mood for

[Sidenote: Hunting Serious Business]

Hunting is more serious business than falconry. The castle folk do
not care much for beef and mutton; they prefer venison and boar's
meat, and the great woods to the east of the castle supply food no
less than diversion. Hunting is a pursuit quite allowable to pious
laymen, and in moderation is even commended by the Church. By hunting
one benefits one's soul, for thus we "avoid the sin of indolence, and,
according to our faith, he who avoids the seven mortal sins will be
saved; therefore, the good sportsmen will be saved." The huntsmen's
saints--St. Germain, St. Martin, and above all St. Hubert of Liège, a
renowned hunter of the eighth century[18]--are invoked in countless
castles oftener, one fears, than such greater saints as St. Peter and
St. Paul.

[Illustration: A HUNTER

From a seal of the thirteenth century (Archives nationales).]

There are many dangerous beasts in the great forests spread over
France. Charlemagne (the tale runs) was once nearly hugged to death by
a hard-pressed bear. Every nobleman has met with very ugly boars and
also powerful stags who fought desperately.

As for the ladies (who, after all, are of one blood with their
brothers) the hunt is almost the closest they can come to martial
pleasures. Adela and her sister-in-law can wind horns, follow stags,
control dogs almost as well as Conon and Aimery. Of course, they could
ride from early girlhood. On occasion of ceremony they ride sidesaddle,
but when hunting and hawking they go astride in wholly masculine
manner. François has been riding now for years, and even little Anseau,
barely seven, can cling to the back of a high steed and keep beside his
mother, unless the hunt becomes extremely furious.

The equipments for hunting are simple. The only real luxury is in the
hunting horns, the great olifants whose piercing notes can ring a mile
through the still forests. These horns are made of ivory, chased with
gold, and swung from each important rider's neck by a cord of silk or
fine leather. The hunters wear leather gauntlets and use a bow and
arrows, a "Danish ax" (a kind of tomahawk), a boar spear (the favorite
hunting weapon), and also a large knife for emergencies. As the party
mounts in the castle court, around them are leaping and yelping the
great pack of dogs--white in teeth, red tongues, straining the
leashes and barely controlled by their keepers. Dogs are loved almost
as much as falcons, and Conon has a large collection of greyhounds,
staghounds, boarhounds, and even of terrible bloodhounds. The kennels
are replenished constantly, for stags and old boars can kill many dogs
ere they are finally run down and speared. The gift of a litter of fine
puppies is, therefore, often as welcome as a cast of hawks.

[Sidenote: Chasing Down a Great Boar]

It is a happy day if a beater comes in with tidings of "a wild boar,
the strongest of which anyone has ever heard tell, in the forest of
Pevele and Vicogne near the free holdings of St. Bertin." The baron
will call out all the castle folk, and, if time admits, will send to
some favorite vassals a few miles away to join the sport. With ten
pairs of hounds and at least fifteen huntsmen and beaters he will
thus organize the pursuit. The hunt will start at dawn, and it will
take much of the forenoon to reach the forest where the boar has been
discovered. Then (recites a jongleur) will begin "the baying and the
yelping of dogs. They are unleashed. They bound through the thicket
and find the tracks where the boar has dug and rooted for worms." One
of the keepers then unleashes Blanchart, the baron's best bloodhound.
Conon pats his head and they put him on the track.

The hound soon discovers the boar's lair. "It is a narrow place between
the trunks of two uprooted oaks, near a spring. When the boar hears
the baying of the hound he stands erect, spreads his enormous feet,
and, disdaining flight, wheels around, until, judging himself within
reaching distance of the good hound, he seizes it and fells it dead
by his side. The baron would not have given Blanchart for one hundred
deniers. Not hearing his barking he runs up, sword in hand; but he is
too late; the boar is gone."

After that there is nothing for it except to keep up the chase
relentlessly until evening, with the whole company gradually scattering
through the forest until Conon at last overtakes the chase. But the
baron is now alone save for a few dogs. "The boar has finally come to
bay in front of a thicket. He begins by refreshing himself in a pool;
then, raising his brows, rolling his eyes, and snorting, he bares his
tusks and dashes upon the dogs, and rips them open or tears them to
pieces, one after another, all except three of the best greyhounds.
Then Conon arrives, and first of all he sees his dogs stretched out
dead. 'Oh, son of a sow,' cries he, 'it is you that have disemboweled
my dogs, have separated me from my friends, and have brought me I know
not where! You shall die!' He leaps from his steed. At his shout the
boar, despite bushes and ditches, leaps upon him swift as an arrow.
Conon lets him come straight on, and, holding the boar spear straight
before him, strikes at his breast. The point pierces the heart and
goes out at the shoulder blade. Mortally wounded, the boar swerves to
one side, totters, and falls."[19] So the chase ends and the dogs are
avenged. The baron has to blow his horn many times ere his party finds
him. Luckily the boar has run back somewhat toward St. Aliquis. They
are therefore able to get home in noisy triumph that night, and all the
castle women are under the red torches outside the gate to "oh!" and
"ah!" at the boar and to praise the prowess of their seigneur.

[Illustration: THE STAG HUNT

Twelfth century; from a window in the cathedral of Chartres.]

Conon is fortunate in being able to return home without more
adventures. His high suzerain, King Philip Augustus, while a young
prince, once followed a boar until he was lost in the forest, and
became justly anxious; but just as he was commending himself to God,
the Virgin, and "St. Denis, the protector of the King of France," to
his great relief he met "a charcoal burner, grim to behold, with a face
black with charcoal, carrying a great ax on his shoulder." This honest
peasant guided the prince to safety.

[Sidenote: Hunting Across Peasants' Lands]

One important part of the St. Aliquis population, however, regards
all hunting parties with far less satisfaction. The chase often goes
straight across the peasants' fields, with twenty horses beating down
the newly seeded ground or even the standing crops. This is the baron's
absolute privilege and any protest is treasonable. The villeins have
not simply to submit to this, but if deer nibble or boars root upon
their fields, they can merely try to scare the ravagers off. Their
lord and his friends alone may use arrow, blade, or spear against the
game. The St. Aliquis peasants bless the saints that this time the boar
kept conveniently in the forest and did not sell his life dearly in a
half-ripe cornfield.

Hawking and hunting are two great out-of-door sports, always excepting
martial exercises and downright war; although sometimes Aimery and
other young men, for a tame diversion, take crossbows and try to shoot
birds in the meadows.

If Conon is naturally the master of the hunt, Adela is as invariably
mistress of a very important place--the garden. Castles are
disagreeable residences. Even with the newer _palais_ rising beside
the grim donjon, they are usually dampish, illy lighted, and subject
to uncanny odors. In northern France there is enough confining weather
in any case. Therefore, the more reason there is, the moment the sun
shines, for hastening where there are sweet air, bright flowers, and
delightful greenness.

The castle garden is outside the barbican, shut off by a dense hedge
from the exercise ground. In it are not merely many beds of flowers,
but fruit trees and a group of venerable elms much older than the First
Crusade. Also, there is a broad, fine stretch of closely cropped grass,
shaded by the trees for most of the day. Here all kinds of things
can occur. At long tables the whole castle will dine and sup in fine
weather. Here Conon will assemble his vassals for ceremonious council.
Here will be played innumerable games of chess. And here especially, if
a few jongleurs can be found to saw their viols on fête days, all the
castle folk, noble and villein, will rapturously join in dances, not in
stuffy hall under midnight lamps, but in bright daylight with the merry
feet twinkling on God's soft green grass.

[Sidenote: The Castle Garden]

Adela has taken great pains with her garden, which fell into a bad
condition during Baron Garnier's day. She often councils with Brother
Sebastian at the abbey, a real botanist with a true love of plants
and flowers. One side of the beds is adorned with roses, lilies, and
marigolds. On the other grow useful herbs such as lettuce, cresses,
mint, parsley, hyssop, sage, coriander, and fennel. With these, too,
are also poppies, daffodils, and acanthus plants, while a vegetable
garden supplies the castle with cucumbers, beets, mustard, and
wormwood. The fruit trees yield a sizable crop of apples, quinces,
peaches, and pears. There is a kind of hot-house in which the baroness
has tried to raise figs, but with no great success; but, of course,
there is no difficulty in maturing grapes and cherries; indeed,
cherry festivals are among the most familiar and delightful holidays
in all this part of France. "Life," say monkish writers, warning the
thoughtless, "though perhaps pleasant, is transitory, 'even as is a
cherry fair.'"

"Crooked" Heman (the hunchbacked gardener) has considerable skill even
without the teachings of Brother Sebastian. He practices grafting
successfully, although his theories on the subject are absurd. He is
trying to develop a new kind of plum and is tenderly raising some of
the new "Agony" pears--a bitter variety for pickling. True, he believes
that cherries can grow without stones if you have the right recipe, and
that peach trees will bear pomegranates if only you can sprinkle them
with enough goats' milk. This does not prevent large practical results.
His tools are simple--an ax, a spade, a grafting knife, and a pruning
hook; but, thanks to the unlimited number of peasant clowns which the
baroness can put at his disposal, he keeps the garden and orchard in
admirable order.

Heman's office is the more important because the garden does not exist
solely as a pleasure spot or for its fruits and vegetables. Flowers are
in constant demand, whenever obtainable, for garlands and chaplets.
Even as with the Greeks, no feast is complete without them. Wild
flowers are in favor, and many a time Adela's maids are sent out to
gather and wreathe woodbine or hawthorn; but, of course, such a supply
is irregular. On every social occasion from early spring to the edge of
winter the castle garden must, therefore, supply its garlands. It is,
accordingly, one of the essential working units of St. Aliquis, along
with the stables, the mews, and the armory.


[14] Such a law was actually enacted for the entire kingdom of France
in 1256.

[15] A mediæval manuscript contains a vivid picture of two gamesters,
one of whom had only a shirt left; the other had been reduced to
sheer nakedness. Their companions had evidently stripped them almost
completely, leaving them to compete for one garment!

[16] We hear scandalous stories of bishops and abbots who did not
think it unfit to take their hawks to church. It is alleged that they
would strap their precious charges to the altar rail while they were
performing the holy offices.

[17] By the thirteenth century a material fraction of the better
falcons seem, however, to have been hatched and bred in captivity, thus
avoiding this perilous exercise.

[18] The story had it that he was converted to a religious life after
meeting in the woods a stag bearing between his horns an image of the
Saviour. St. Hubert's feast day was always faithfully celebrated by
kings and nobles.

[19] The quotations are from the story of the boar hunt in the romance
_Garin le Lorrain_, with Baron Conon substituted for Duke Begoy in the

Chapter V: The Family of the Baron. Life of the Women.

Conon, we have said, has lived in great harmony with his baroness.
Well he might. A short time ago a visiting cavalier, who had learned
to string words after the South Country troubadour fashion, saw fit
to praise Adela after this manner: "She has fair blond locks and a
forehead whiter than the lilies. Her laughing eyes change color with
her mood. Her nose is straight and firm. Her fresh face outvies the
white and vermilion of the flowers. Her mouth is small and her teeth
are white like snow on the wild rose. White are her fair hands, and
the fingers are both smooth and slender." Also the baron is very proud
of his sister, for whom he is planning a worthy marriage. A Breton
jongleur, who found St. Aliquis's hospitality grateful, sang thus of
Alienor: "Passing slim is the lady, sweet of bodice and slender of
girdle. Her throat is whiter than snow on branch, and her eyes are like
flowers set in the healthful pallor of her face. She has a witching
mouth, a dainty nose, and an open brow. Her eyebrows are brown, and her
golden hair is parted in two soft waves upon her forehead."[20]

[Sidenote: Types of Beautiful Women]

Both of these laudators exaggerate. Neither Adela nor Alienor has a
monopoly of good looks; yet a life of eager exercise in the open has
given them both a complexion which many a town-pent rival might envy.
Their positions in the castle, as at once the gracious hostesses to
equals and the unquestioned mistresses over hundreds of dependents,
bestow on them dignity and "noble" assurance. Each lady rejoices in
the good fortune of being blond, a first prerequisite to beauty--for
in all the romances there is hardly one brunette maiden who comes in
for praise. Their hair falls down the length of their arms, to the
owners' great satisfaction, and is worn in two long braids, entwined
with ribbons, or on gala days with gold thread, resting in front over
their shoulders. Adela, at least, has long since become complaisant
to all kinds of flatteries, though Alienor is still thrilled when a
jongleur or sentimental knight assures her that she has "lips small
as an infant's," "cheeks the color of peach bloom," "teeth of perfect
regularity," "breath sweet as the censer swung above a church altar,"
and that "her beauty suddenly illuminates the whole castle." Both of
the ladies are tall and slender, again the ideal type of femininity;
and they have unconcealed pity for the poor Viscountess of Foretvert,
who is short, plump, and afflicted with dark hair.


Twelfth century (cathedral of Chartres).]

Alienor's mother is dead, but her sister-in-law is enough older to
take her place somewhat and give much well-meant advice, which the
younger damsel must take meekly. Adela often admonishes thus: "My fair
sister, be courteous and meek, for nothing else so secures the favor
of God and of mortals. Be friendly to small and great. I have seen a
great duchess bow ceremoniously to an ironmonger. One of her followers
was astonished. 'I prefer' replied she, 'to have been guilty of too
great courtesy toward that man, than guilty of the least incivility
toward a knight.' Also one must shun foreign fashions at festivals and
tourneys, lest one become foolishly conspicuous; and above all beware
of lofty headgear, lest you resemble stags who must lower their heads
on entering a wood, and in order that you may not by your loud fashions
make everyone stare at you as if you were a wild beast."

Recently, too, Adela has been giving sisterly advice on how to walk
becomingly: "Look straight before you, with your eyelids low and fixed,
gazing forward at the ground six fathoms ahead, not changing your look
from one place to another, nor laughing, nor stopping to chatter with
anybody upon the highway."

Conon, too, has beset poor Alienor, with all the superiority of
an elder brother. He has commended the instructions of a certain
_trouvère_ (North French minstrel) to a young noblewoman. She must not
talk too much; especially she must not boast of the attentions paid by
young knights. When going to church she must not "trot or run," but
salute "debonairely" all persons she meets. She must not let men caress
her with their hands or kiss her upon the mouth. They might misconstrue
such familiarities. She must not go around with part of her body
uncovered, undress in the presence of men, nor accept presents from any
man not a kinsman nor her accepted lover.

[Sidenote: Good Manners for Noblewomen]

The _trouvère_ instructor also goes on to warn his fair pupils against
scolding in public, against overeating, and against getting drunk,
"whence much mischief might arise." Unless she is ugly or deformed,
she should not cover her face coquettishly. "A lady who is pale faced
or has not a good smell ought to breakfast early in the morning! for
good wine gives a very good color, and she who eats and drinks well can
heighten her complexion." To avoid bad breath eat aniseed and fennel
for breakfast. Keep your hands clean and cut your nails so as not to
retain dirt. When you are sharing the same dish at table with some one
else (as is the custom) do not pick out all the best bits for yourself;
and beware of swallowing too large or too hot a morsel of food. Also,
wipe your mouth frequently, but on your napkin, and particularly not
upon the tablecloth. Also, do not spill from your mouth or grease
your hands too much. Young ladies also should keep from telling
lies.--Alienor wishes the impertinent _trouvère_ in purgatory.

But following Conon and Adela, Father Grégoire, the chaplain, and then
even holy Brother Matthew, the prior of the abbey, takes her in hand.
She must avoid sin by never letting her mantle trail disgracefully,
lest she seem like a fox whose glory is in his tail. Her maids must
avoid repeating gossip. She must never travel without proper retinue,
lest she be caught in compromising situations. She must attend mass
regularly and not be satisfied "merely with hearing low mass and
hurrying two or three times through the Lord's Prayer and then going
off to indulge herself with sweetmeats." Alienor should also avoid all
games of chance, including backgammon (advice, indeed, at which Conon
laughs) and not to waste too much time even at chess, nor to take
indecent pleasure in the low songs and antics of the jongleurs. No
wonder the poor girl vows she will perversely do these very things at
first opportunity![21]

Alienor tells herself, however, that she is fortunate she is not
troubled by worse things than hortatory friends. Champions of "equality
of sexes" from a later age can become horrified over the legal status
of women in the feudal centuries. Females can never bear arms; they
must remain perpetually as minors before the law. Even a great heiress
will be under severe pressure to take a husband who will perform the
military duties of her fief as soon as possible. If a baron dies,
leaving only a young daughter, the suzerain can complain that he has
been injured in one of his most important rights--his claim to armed
service from the fief holder. Where now is the vassal to follow his
banner? Perhaps a decent suzerain will wait until the heiress is
twelve. Then he will "give" her to some battleworthy follower. She will
not have any real choice, even if the bridegroom is old, ugly, and

On the other hand, many a fatherless girl becomes terribly anxious to
be married. Only married women have a fixed status in feudal society.
Only a husband can keep an heiress's lands from shameless plunder.
There is the familiar story of a young noblewoman who went straight
before the king and said: "My father has been dead two months. I demand
of you a husband." She never dreamed of suggesting any particular
husband. _That_ was the suzerain's business; but to leave her in
unprotected celibacy was an outrage which no lord had a right to
inflict upon an orphan.

[Sidenote: Position of Women in Castles]

Legally and morally, husbands have the right to treat their wives
harshly if the latter provoke them. Every girl around St. Aliquis
knows the story of the silly wife who often contradicted her husband
in public, and how, after he had vainly remonstrated, "one day raised
his fist, knocked her down, and kicked her in the face while she was
prostrate, and so broke her nose." The story conveys the plain lesson
that she was directly to blame, "for it is only right that words of
authority should belong to her lord, and the wife's duty requires that
she should listen in peace and obedience." It is, indeed, repeated as
something rather exceptional that Adela has recently boasted to certain
relatives: "My husband since our marriage has never once laid hands on
me." Not that all castellans are brutal--but after all, men will be
men, lose their tempers, and treat their wives accordingly. Everybody
knows the scene from an epic poem where a certain king is angered at
a tactless remark by his queen, and therefore "shows his anger in his
face, and strikes her in the nose so hard that he draws four drops of
blood, at which the lady meekly says 'Many thanks. When it pleases you,
you may do it again!'" Such submissiveness is the best way to disarm a
husband's anger.

Conon has been mildly ridiculed among his fellow knights because
he takes counsel with his wife. Minstrels like to make fun of such
cavaliers and to commend the baron who told his officious spouse:
"Woman, go within and eat and drink with your maids. Busy yourself
dyeing silks. Such is _your_ business. _Mine_ it is to strike with the
sword of steel!"[22] Of course, many knights do worse things than to
tell their wives not to meddle, and, if not obeyed, occasionally knock
them down. It has been told how Baron Garnier imprisoned his unhappy
consort. This was harsh, but not exceptional. Philip Augustus, the
reigning king, kept his unlucky bride, Ingebord of Denmark, long years
in captivity, notwithstanding the menaces of the Church; holding her
tight in the gloomy Tower of Éstampes, where she complained she had
not enough either to eat or to wear. Many nobles sometimes imitate
their lord. Thus over in Burgundy, Gautier of Salins recently threw
his wife into prison, whence, however, she contrived to escape to her
parents. In any case, when, for the sake of her fiefs, a girl of twelve
to eighteen is wedded to a husband of forty or fifty, all kinds of
unhappy things can happen. The devil can fill the poor damsel's mind
with love for a handsome squire. Her lord may neglect her scandalously
until suddenly he finds himself required to avenge "his honor" by some
deed of startling cruelty. Such things make the kind saints weep. Not
without reason does Conon make discreet inquiries concerning a certain
widower knight who has sought Alienor's hand: "Does he horsewhip his
servants save for good cause? Did he leave his last wife to mope about
the hall while he spent his months riotously at the king's court?"

Nevertheless the chatelaines and baronesses of these parts are not
always meek doves at the mercy of their husbands. Are they not sprung
themselves from a domineering stock? Are they not reared around a
castle, which is a great barrack, and where the talk is ever of feuds
and forays, horses, lances, and armor? Many a noble lady can answer
her husband's fist with a rousing box on the ear, and, if he is not
a courageous man, make him quail and surrender before her passions.
Her habits are likely to seem very masculine. If she can quarrel like
a virago, she can also prove a she-wolf in times of danger. A knight
will ride away to the wars, leaving his castle under the command of his
wife and feel certain that it will be defended to the inner donjon. The
rough men at arms will obey her orders as implicitly as her husband's.
In short, the feudal noblewoman is, as might be expected, a compound
of mortal weaknesses and excellencies, but all of these qualities are
somewhat naïve and elemental.

In any case the castle women cannot complain of being shut up in a
harem. They have perfect freedom to meet strange men. If we accept the
epic poems, when noble maidens believe a visiting knight to be very
handsome they do not hesitate to tell him so to his face. In many love
stories the first advances come from the lady, and not infrequently
these advances are rather coldly received by the knight. Your average
mail-clad cavalier is a man of strong passions, but he is often more
interested in war and the chase than in fair maidens. He is seldom a

[Sidenote: Grossness of Castle Life]

If we visited the castles around St. Aliquis and listened to typical
jongleurs' tales, we should gather abundant material for monkish
preachments. Noble ladies are said to make few difficulties about
inviting male visitors to their chambers to sit on their beds while
they are still within the same--or entering the room of a male guest
and sitting on _his_ bed while conversing very familiarly. Women often
meet strangers in scandalously insufficient garments. Ladies also
talk with the uttermost freedom to men, quite as openly as young men
will talk on ticklish matters among themselves. Many a story, jesting
question, or "gab" which is utterly coarse, not to say worse, will be
exchanged in mixed company. Young women are seldom well chaperoned. In
place of the duenna there is the "waiting woman," herself apt to have
her own lover and ready to help her mistress push matters with hers.
If there is a sensual intrigue, all criticism ceases if there is, at
the end, a formal marriage; but many romances (according to the current
stories) in no wise end in marriages. A wedding is by no means the
standard climax even to a happy love affair.

The monks, of course, are scandalized at less harmful things than
these. They assert that the fair sex, besides being sinful coquettes,
are spendthrifts, ruining their husbands by their own extravagance.
Women as a sex are inordinately fond of false hair, rouging, and other
forms of giving a lie to the faces which God has vouchsafed. As for
controlling them, Brother Guyot, of Provins, wrote in despair thus:
"The wisest are astray when they wish to judge or correct a woman. She
has never found her master, and who can flatter himself that he knows
her? When her eyes weep her heart laughs. There are men who teach
astronomy, necromancy, geometry, law, medicine, and music; but I have
never known a person who was not a fool to take _woman_ for a subject
of study."

All the above seems true. Yet when due allowances are made, the number
of noblewomen who lead happy, honorable lives is great; and if many
barons are unkind to their wives, many others reckon them as their
greatest treasures. If reasonable care has been taken not to force the
mating of obviously uncongenial couples, a decent respect is likely
to result, even after a marriage arranged wholly by outsiders. If,
in many of the epics, sundry fair ladies seem unprudish, very many
others are superlatively faithful, devoted to their husbands, foes to
all evil thoughts and seducers, and know how to draw the line very
sharply between those familiar attentions which courtesy demands and
those where real sinfulness begins. Even a baron who will curse his
wife roundly and switch her shoulders treats her also as his _juré_,
the holder of his pledge, to whom he can trust his honor and leave the
command of his castle when he rides to war.

[Sidenote: Accomplishments of Castle Women]

"A great deal depends upon the woman herself," Adela assures Alienor.
Husbands and wives are shut up together in a castle often for weary
months, and a clever wife can easily make herself indispensable to
her husband, and then rule the whole barony. In short, in treatment
of women, as in all things else, the Feudal Age is a jumble of
contradictions. You can find the worst and the best. "A good woman
suffices to illuminate a kingdom," a poet declares; while even a crusty
monk writes that "we ought to love, serve, and honor woman, for out
of her we all come." And what, in one sense, is the intense worship
of the Virgin but a sign that woman is extraordinarily venerated and
very powerful? "God, thou son of St. Mary"--is that not a standing
invocation among the knights?

As for the pursuits of the women, there is little about the castle
to which they cannot devote themselves. Sometimes they have even to
replace the men on armed expeditions. Adela is grateful that she
has not had to imitate the great Countess Blanche of Champagne, who
(while guardian of her young son) has recently, in 1218, conducted an
invading army into Lorraine and burned Nancy, and then again, near
Château-Villein, has led her knights in person and won a real pitched
battle. Adela, however, understands all the technic of defending the
castle in a siege, she can help her husband about the entire peace-time
economy of the seigneury, check up the provosts's accounts, sift out
the complaints of the peasants, arrange the alms to the poor, and, best
of all, knows how to manage the local bishop and abbot, with a mingling
of piety, harmless coquetry, and firmness--a great asset for the weal
of the barony.

Her greatest task, however, is to direct the perpetual weaving,
knitting, embroidering, and sewing of the castle women. Even if some of
the finer cloth is imported, nearly all the garments must be made up
in St. Aliquis; and the ladies must set their maids as good an example
with their needles as the baron must furnish to his men with his sword.
The chambers of the _palais_, and even the garden in summer, seem
given over to incessant cutting and sewing; and many a time can you
watch the fair Alienor, like the girl in the romance, "seated in her
brother's chambers, working a stole and 'amise' in silk and gold, right
skillfully; and she made it with care, and many a little cross and many
a little star she sets therein, singing all the while the 'Song of the
Cloth'"--a gentle, lilting air suitable for the movements of her white
hands and her needle.

It was when so engaged that her brother, coming in early from the
hounds, vowed he would not spare the dowry to get her a gallant
husband; and that night he cast five deniers to the jongleur who
praised her to her face before the applauding hall:

    She is the rose, the lily, too,
    The sweetest violet, and through
    Her noble beauty, stately mien,
    I think her now the finest queen
    Which mortal eyes have ever seen.
      Simple, yet coy, her eyes flash joy:
      God give her life without annoy
    And every bliss whereof I ween!

[Sidenote: Customs at Births and Baptisms]

Of course, the prime centers of Adela's life are the rearing of her
children and the management of her servants. When little François and
Anseau were being born, the castle bell, and that, too, of the village
church, were all the time rung furiously to induce the saints to ease
their mother's labor. Sensible Father Grégoire had to interpose his
ghostly authority to check the midwife from at once plunging the
feet of the newly born into icy water to toughen them to the cold, or
rubbing their cheeks with a gold piece to make them rich. Of course,
Conon was delighted each time they told him, "A sturdy son!" On
François' advent he called all his vassals to a feast. "Be joyous!" he
proclaimed. "There is born the seigneur from whom you will hold your
lands. He will give you rich furs, white and gray, beautiful arms, and
horses of price. Yes, in twenty years my son will be dubbed a knight!"

[Illustration: CRADLE

Thirteenth-century manuscript in the Cambridge Library (Green).]

The young St. Aliquis barons were rocked in beautifully carved cradles.
They were bathed before a great fire and wrapped, not merely in the
usual long baby clothes, but in little robes of silk and furs, even of
precious ermine, to proclaim their noble rank. They were, of course,
baptized at first opportunity, because unbaptized children had very
dubious chances in the next world. Adela had been unable to go to the
ceremony for either, but there had been a great gathering of relatives
and vassals; for a christening is the formal acknowledgment of the
child's legitimacy and settles many claims to inheritance. A child
must have three godparents, two of its own sex and one of the other.
At the font, one of these holds the babe round the body, and each of
the others grasps a leg. Then the priest dips the child completely in
the water. "Bare as a babe at baptism," runs the saying. Of course, the
higher the rank of the godparents, the luckier the infant. François is
proud already because the Duke of Quelqueparte calls him "godson," and
Anseau because he is styled the same by the high Countess of Blois.

Up to seven the young boys were left to the care of their mother. Adela
nursed her own sons, although wet nurses were the rule in many noble
families; but at least three maids were constantly in attendance on
each young sprig of St. Aliquis. Neither François nor Anseau is spared
the wholesome diet of many blows. Monkish preachers are always warning
against sparing the rod and spoiling the child, and every father and
mother heeds this particular admonition. Truth to tell, conditions
round a castle often tend to make boys little demons of rascality.
All the hall has laughed at the epic "Daurel and Beton," in which a
child at four was clever enough to steal his guardian's gloves, and
at five to play chess and dice and to ride a tall horse. But François
and Anseau are growing up reasonably honest, thanks to frequent dermal
pain. They have enjoyed a great variety of toys, most of them of types
as old as the Pyramids and which will be a delight in succeeding
centuries. There are dolls with hempen wigs, carved wooden soldiers
with helms and hauberks, windmills, all kinds of animals made of baked
clay, wooden horses, and, of course, an armory of wooden weapons.
The scores of children swarming the bailey are at their disposal as
playfellows, with the sons of the higher officers preferred. There are
innumerable games of the tag variety, but already François is learning
to marshal his playmates in military companies. What greater delight
than to defend some tower against their father's old foe, Foretvert?
It will be lucky if they do not filch real arbalists and shoot deadly
bolts at one another.

[Sidenote: Education of Young Noblewomen]

François is now being taken in hand by his father and taught many
things needful for a baron's son to know before he is sent away to be
"nourished" by some friendly seigneur. He has no sisters, but his aunt
Alienor is just emerging from the usual education of a girl of family.
If there had been a local nunnery she might have been sent to the
convent school. As it was, Conon took in the daughter of a petty noble,
a kind of sister under minor vows, who was half teacher, half attendant.

This good soul has given Alienor rather more of bookish learning than
François will probably obtain. The young lady has learned to read and
write Romain (North French) and at least to read Latin. The result is
that she devours every romance manuscript which she can borrow or can
persuade her brother to buy. She has been taught arithmetic fairly
well; she has learned the names of the chief stars and constellations
and the legend about the "Way of St. Jacques" (the Milky Way). She
has picked up a knowledge of healing herbs and is not afraid of the
sight of blood, nor does she flinch when binding up a wound. Warfare
and tourneys require that young girls should become expert nurses and
even make shift to set shattered bones. Of course, she can ride, and
at hawking or hunting upon her dear roan Marchegai can keep up with
the best; and, like every fortunate maiden in France, her lips are
perpetually light with songs--pious or secular, from quaint little
chants in honor of the Virgin to the merry

    Easter time in April
    Sings each small bird gentle,
    "_Zo fricandés, zo, zo!_--
    _Zo fricandés, zo!_"

Assuredly, Father Grégoire and the monks have not neglected her
religious education. She has learned many prayers, besides the Credo,
Ave, and Paternoster, which every Christian child must memorize
as soon as possible. Her brother one Easter gave her a finely
illustrated psalter, and she has most of the chants by heart. By
constant attendance at mass she knows practically the entire service
and understands its symbolism. She has plenty of quaint little
superstitions, but no degrading ones. At bedtime she repeats a prayer
which is popular with all the girls of France: "I implore thee again,
Virgin Mary, mayest thou, with all the saints and the elect of God,
keep close to me and council me, and further all my prayers and
desires: and be with me in all my sorrows and necessities, in all that
I am called upon to do, to say, or to think; on all days, at all hours,
through all the moments of my life."

Her dolls, of course, have been much finer, and have been retained much
longer, than those of François. In her chamber her pet falcon is seldom
lacking from his perch--a fact which does not add to cleanliness.
She has also a caged magpie which she is laboriously teaching to
talk. At the last fair she longed vainly for a rare Eastern parrot,
but has consoled herself with a very small lap dog presented by a
friendly vassal. Cats abound in the bailey, but they are not pets for
noblewomen. There is something plebeian about them. Ill-famed old
crones always possess black cats, which possibly partake of the devil.
The Church, however, does not support this last belief, because in most
nunneries the sisters are forbidden to keep any animals except cats,
which evidently belong less to this world than dogs, the companions of
secular warriors.

There is one thing which Alienor really loves even better than riding
and hawking--_a long, hard dance_. The mania young people have for
dancing is sinful. The Church vainly tries to restrain it. Preferably,
Alienor would dance with a handsome knight or squire, yet if these
lack, the most indifferent music and company will suffice. The truth is
that her robust, vigorous body demands a violent outlet. It is vain for
the graver Adela to tell her of the count who allowed so much dancing
in his castle that finally at a _bal_ on Christmas Day so many joined
the revel and all danced so violently that the floor of his great hall
suddenly collapsed. The whole company were flung to the cellar, and the
foolish count's own daughter was the first body to be taken out.

At the time of the great Church festivals, of course, comes the delight
of the mystery plays, and Alienor herself has participated therein,
once as an angel and once also as Queen Esther at the Easter play
arranged at Pontdebois by the cathedral clergy. She has hopes now that
next Easter she can be Herodias's daughter--which is surely the best
part open to women, except that of the Holy Virgin herself.

[Sidenote: Castle Servants]

While Adela is, on her part, graciously assisting her family, she is
also more explicitly directing her servants. She need not reckon the
lack of domestic help among her troubles; hundreds of young men and
women from the peasants are only too glad to enter service in return
for a straw pallet, a suit of clothes yearly, and a seat in the great
hall after the regular diners have risen. Money wages need hardly be
considered, although everybody expects a few obols at Christmas and
Easter. The importance of a baron is partly indicated by the number of
his dependents wearing his insignia, "eating his bread," and attending
him and his lady everywhere. Conon is hardly less vain than his peers.
The result is that St. Aliquis has twice as many servitors as are
really required. The courtyards swarm with busy idlers, although there
is a certain organization and hierarchy of service, and all but the
least responsible lads and damsels enjoy the honor of having at least
_one_ inferior whom they can afflict with cuffings and snappish orders.

Adela commands some twenty young women. One or two of these are
_pucelles_, daughters of petty nobles and entitled to a certain
consideration, even as are the baron's squires. They dress their
mistress and Alienor, accompany them, and discreetly share their
pleasures. The others, strong-limbed Aiglentine, Jeanette, Martine, and
their sisters, by their loose, sleeveless aprons betray peasant origin.
They have been carefully selected by the baroness from thrice as many
candidates. She has taken pains to learn whether they come of honest
parents, are greedy or inclined to drink, are respectful, and whether
they are accustomed merely to answer on receiving an order, "It shall
be done pretty soon."[23]

[Sidenote: Duties of Servants]

These maids are trained to clean the apartments; next to wipe down all
the stools and benches; next to feed the "chamber animals"--dogs and
cage birds. After that the mistress must assign to them their task of
weaving, cutting, sewing, etc. They are fed plentifully, "but only on
one meat, and have only one kind of drink, nourishing but not heady,
whether wine or otherwise." They must also eat promptly, "not reposing
on their meal, or halting or leaning on their elbows," and "they must
rise as soon as they begin to talk and lounge about." After supper they
must go immediately to bed, unless with the remainder of the castle
they sit up for a jongleur.

So passes the routine of many days until at last the prospect dawns
of an event which will tax the full administrative capacities of
the baroness, and which sets Adela and Aimery each in a different
kind of a flutter. Conon is about to give his sister in marriage and
immediately after that to knight his brother. There will be a festival
which will carry the name of St. Aliquis all over northern France.


[20] These quotations are from Arnaut de Maruelh and Marie de France,

[21] All the above advice to noblewomen is from contemporary etiquette
books or clerical writers. The trouvère quoted is Robert of Blois, a
writer of the thirteenth century.

[22] Students of the _Odyssey_ will recall a similar command which
Telemachus addressed to his mother, Penelope. Homeric society and
feudal society had many viewpoints in common.

[23] The directions about engaging servants given in mediæval handbooks
on domestic economy contain much practical common sense for any age.

Chapter VI: The Matter of Clothes. A Feudal Wedding.

Inasmuch as from time immemorial a wedding has seemed primarily a
matter of clothes, what better place than this wherein to consider the
costumes of the good folk of St. Aliquis? Assuredly, the Scripture
warns us, "Take no thought saying ... 'Wherewithal shall we be
clothed?'" but that admonition (so Adela tells the abbot) was doubtless
intended only for the Holy Apostles, not for a Christian woman who must
make a fair showing for her husband in the face of Heaven knows how
many critical baronesses and countesses.

Already Western folk have made that great change in their general style
of costume which is to last for many generations later. The Greeks and
Romans _wrapped on_ their garments; all of them were forms of slightly
elaborated shawls, fastened with fibulæ or buckles, but devoid of
buttons. Even as late as Frankish times the garments of Charlemagne's
contemporaries seemed fairly loose, after the antique model. But with
the Feudal Age has come elaborately made clothing which must be _put
on_ and securely fastened. We have reached the epoch of the shirt, the
stocking, and even of objects later to be styled "trousers." Perhaps
the life constantly spent in the saddle requires this; also, the
demand for garments easily worn under the hauberks, the great coats of
mail.[24] The great transition has been made. The men of St. Aliquis
wear garments strange enough to another epoch, but without those
sartorial differences which will separate the twentieth century from
the age of Nero.

[Sidenote: Materials for Clothing]

Another thing to observe is that nearly all garments are still made of
wool, save, indeed, the leathern leggings and gauntlets of the hunters,
and crude garments of skins for the peasants. Cotton and silk, if not
quite unknown, have been rare, with linen not very common. The woolen
fabrics have usually been coarse, home spun literally, made up in the
castles or farmhouses. Such garments are warm and durable, but they are
prone to collect dirt, hard to wash, and very irritating to the skin.
Probably it is the general use of woolen clothing, along with the fact
that much of the population possesses no other raiment than what it is
wearing incessantly every day, which accounts for the number of skin
diseases, from leprosy downward, which are direfully prevalent. Matters
are improving, however. More flax is being spun up into fine linen.
People of quality change their clothes pretty often. Cotton and silk
are coming from the Levant at prices that permit the ordinarily rich
to command them. Wash day is even developing into a fixed institution
around most castles. All this makes for health and comfort. Still, the
great majority of all garments are woolen; and, Holy saints! how the
fleas jump out of a villein's doublets whenever you beat their wearer!

Conon normally dons the following peace-time garments. First, his
squire helps him into underdrawers of fine white linen; next come
long hose which can be of various fabrics or colors. Upon a gala day
he will proclaim himself to be a rich baron by wearing silk hose;
otherwise they are of fine wool. Good taste forbids stockings of
brilliant color, they should be black, brown, or, at most, black with
red stripes. After that comes the chemise, a shirt of white linen, but
_sans_ cuffs or collar.


Restored by Viollet-Le-Duc, from a manuscript of the Bibliothèque

The baron is now ready for his regular outer garments. He will put on
his pelisson. This is a long fur-edged garment, very warm and pleasant
in winter when the castle is a barnlike place. In summer it is often
hot, and as substitute one wears the _cotte_ without fur and made of
very thin stuff. Over the pelisson is thrown the bliaut, a tunic,
fairly loose, which is pulled on over the head like a shirt. The best
bliauts are of silk, but for common use one wears fustian or, perhaps,
even cotton. Finally, if the baron is going abroad, he will swing his
mantle over his shoulders. It is a semicircular cape, with a fur lining
even in summer, and very likely ornamented by many silk tassels.

The shoemakers are already masters of their art. Anybody can buy
well-cobbled leather shoes or high boots, but if a nobleman wishes to
dress in state he will wear cloth shoes, and display his wealth by
having them plated with gold and embroidered with jewels; for good
taste here permits elaborate ornaments.

[Sidenote: Women's Garments]

Conon's most variable garment is his headdress. In the house, or on
state occasions, he wears a chaplet of flowers, or even a thin gold
wreath of floreated design; outdoors he is likely to appear as do
meaner men, in a cloth bonnet--a kind of Phrygian cap of bright color.
If, however, the weather is bad, he will probably pull on a _chaperon_.
This is a combination cap and cape which is drawn on over the head, and
which sticks up or is pulled back in a kind of peak, at the same time
covering cheeks and shoulders, while the face shows through a long slit
cut in the upper part.


Thirteenth century (church of St. Thibaut; Côte-d'Or).]

These are the orthodox male garments, while the female dress is much
the same, albeit with certain simplifications here and elaborations
elsewhere. Adela's maids ordinarily put upon her a long linen chemise,
preferably white, which descends to her knees. Over that comes the
pelisson, again with the fur edging. It can be made of some very fine
wool or silk, and falls over the chemise clear to her feet. Above this
again is the bliaut, sometimes worn rather loosely, but more often
close fitting and showing off the figure. The baroness's maids lace it
tightly and take pains adjusting the long trailing sleeves. It is held
in place by a girdle of woven cords, preferably of silk. The bliaut,
of course, can be of very fine material, and ornamented with gold
embroideries and pearl beadwork. Finally there is the mantle, a loose
trailing cloak, often cut as a long semicircular cape and made, on gala
occasions, of the richest stuffs available.

Plenty of elegant fabrics can be had by the wealthy. You can bring
back from the Champagne fairs figured silk, woven with silver and
gold thread; also very heavy silks woven with large threads of white,
green or red. This is the fair _samite_ whereof the poets delight
to sing. But perhaps more useful is the thin, airy, shimmery sendal
silks, useful both for delightful summer garments and for making those
brilliant banners which noble ladies give to the knights of their
choice. Naturally, too, there are plenty of Oriental silks, with
strange Egyptian and Persian figures. For humbler wear (if homespun
is not desired) you can buy all kinds of of honest woolens; Flemish
and Picard, Champagne products, or those from Languedoc. They come
in serges and rough goods, as excellent as anyone could ask. Linen
is available bleached to a dazzling whiteness for those who have the
price; but cotton cloth is still costly, although the mercers often
spread out to the ladies "silk at a marvelously low price" which is
really naught but cotton, woven up, perhaps, in Sicily.

However, the finest samite and sendal cannot take the place of suitable
furs. _Wearing furs is practically a sign of nobility_, like wearing a
sword or carrying a hawk. Many a petty noble will cling to his frayed
tippet of black lambskin, even in the hottest weather, merely to
proclaim that he is not a villein. Fox- and wolf-skins and civet are,
of course, common, but your high noble seeks something better. He will
line his pelisson and other garments with red or white marten, black
sable, with the gray of the beautiful northern squirrel, and especially
(if his purse can compass it) with ermine, the precious fur of the
white weasel. The choicest furs probably come from those dim countries
called "Russia." You cannot make a noble friend a much more acceptable
present than a fine ermine skin; and many a baron has pledged lands to
the Jews merely to satisfy his wife's taste for miniver, a superior
form of marten. In fact, there is more extravagance over furs than over
jewelry, or even over falcons!

[Sidenote: Luxurious Fashions]

Fashions in dress do not change around St. Aliquis so rapidly as in
other ages, yet there are constant innovations. For example, the
surcoat is coming in. Originally it was a longish woman's garment,
but recently a fine knight riding down from Rheims wore one cleverly
adapted to masculine necessities. It was a close, sleeveless jacket
cut short at the hips and made with big armholes for easy movement.
Conon must have one very soon. Inevitably too, at the king's court all
kinds of new fashions, luxuries and ornamentations are to be observed.
Women cover themselves with gold embroidery, wear gold buttons, and
gold girdles set alternately with agates and sapphires. They protect
their hands with chamois-skin gloves, and swing a silken alms purse
from silver chains at their belts. Fine cavaliers load themselves with
a dozen buckles set with sardonyx, and pieces of enamel, and even wear
small emeralds in the embroidery on their mantles. Pointed shoes are
coming much into style, with the use of colored thongs to bind them to
the feet.

[Illustration: FELT SHOE

Thirteenth century (various monuments).]

Yet the St. Aliquis simplicity is hardly undermined. Except on fête
days the seigneur is not much better clad than the upper servitors,
and Adela never ceases to warn her sister-in-law against extravagance
of dress. "Consider always your husband's rank and fortune, but never
disgrace them by seeming to devote too much study to your costume or by
constantly plunging into new fashions. Before leaving your room be sure
your appearance is neat, and see especially to it that the collar of
your gown is well adjusted and is not put on crooked."[25]

The dress of the humbler folk is of the above nature, of course
simplified, and of more sober hue. Blue is the color of the baronial
house and nearly all its lord's followers wear bliauts of that color.
This is their livery, because twice per year there is a distribution
(a _livraison_) of garments to all whom Conon undertakes to clothe and


From a manuscript in the Bibliothèque nationale (Viollet-Le-Duc).]

Noble folk thus display their rank by wearing furs. They also show
it by their headdresses. When the baron wishes to put on dignity he
assumes a velvet bonnet in place of the ordinary cloth one. On formal
occasions, however, this bonnet will be embroidered with gold thread
and become his "cap of presence." Sometimes these caps are elaborated
and made with a flattened square top. These are the _mortiers_, and in
generations later great lawyers and doctors will wear the mortar-board
as a professional badge long after the high barons have absolutely
discarded the fashion.

As for the head covering of women, the thirteenth century is as yet
rather innocent of those towering constructions of peaks and veils
common in the succeeding age. Even noblewomen are usually content (as
we have seen) with the long braids of their hair intertwined often
with ribbons. If the sun is hot or the weather bad they will wear thin
veils or solid woolen hoods, according to the seasons; and on gala days
they will don either floral chaplets or genuine crowns of gold and
pearls, according to the wealth of their fathers or husbands.

[Illustration: HEADDRESS OF A MAN

Popular in the thirteenth century (tomb of Saint-Denis).]

[Sidenote: Hair Dressing and Beards]

Conon's appearance differs from that of his grandsire's in one
important particular. Until rather recently gentlemen had their hair
cut short in front, although rather long behind, and wore beards, often
divided into a great many little tufts which they might even wind with
gold thread. By 1200, however, noblemen were usually smooth shaven,
although the hair was allowed to grow to some length and sometimes was
arranged in little curls. Thus ended a long struggle, for the Church
has for generations disapproved of lengthy beards; many a bishop has
warned that "they are the sign of the children of Belial," and the
great Pope Gregory VII uttered a regular anathema against them. The
reign of the barber is renewed, and the St. Aliquis tonsor twice or
thrice per week scrapes over the chins of all the knightly males in
the castle. For the servitors and villeins, however, there is no such
luxury. All the humbler folk wear beards of great bushiness, as well as
unsanitariness; and their hair is cut so seldom that often it can be
almost braided like the women's.

Every person of consequence wears a ring. Its signet device is often
equivalent to a personal signature. All a man's friends know his ring
and will give credence to messengers who produce the same. Women give
rings to their lovers, as well, of course, as receiving rings in
return. It is believed that many rings have charmed virtues. Conon's
signet has been in the family at least since the First Crusade. It has
a green Egyptian turquoise cut with a serpent, and is called "The Luck
of St. Aliquis." The servitors profess confidence that so long as the
baron keeps this ring the castle cannot be taken; and François has
already had his head filled with such stories as that of the father
who on his deathbed gave his son a ring, "the virtue of which was
that whosoever should wear it should have the love of all men"; or
the tale of Princess Rigmel, who gave to her lover a ring so potent
that "whoever bore it upon him could not perish; he need not fear to
die in fire or water, nor on the battlefield nor in the mêlées of the


Thirteenth century; restored by Viollet-Le-Duc, from various monuments.]

Such are the ordinary articles of costume and adornment. One need not
dwell on the buckles and brooches, the golden pins and the jewel-set
necklets which Adela treasures in her coffers. They come from Oriental,
Byzantine, or Venetian workshops. Some are very beautiful, but fine
jewelry, generally speaking, has changed comparatively little from age
to age.

[Sidenote: Cosmetics and False Hair]

The baroness is not above certain frivolities of toilet herself, but
Alienor's approaching marriage has given her fair opportunity to
admonish the younger lady on the sins of false adornments. Indeed,
these iniquities are thundered against nearly every Sunday at the
churches, because the shrewd preachers know that all the men in the
congregation will grin approval the fiercer the invectives become.
Women are regularly accused "of turning their bodies out of their
natural form" by means of laces and stays, of dyeing their hair, of
painting their faces. It is affirmed that David was first impelled
to desire Bathsheba because she combed her long hair at a window
too openly, and all her sore troubles came justly upon her "for the
overgreat attention which she sinfully gave to the ornamenting of her

Then, in another sermon, there is approvingly repeated the sarcastic
story by the monk Guyot of Provins, that the saints have brought suit
at the Assize of God against the race of women because the latter
have used so much color for their faces there is none left wherewith
to paint the holy images in the churches! The noble ladies are told
that when they smear on vermilion, saffron, or quicksilver, or apply
poultices of mashed beans and mare's milk to improve their complexions,
they are adding centuries to their durance in purgatory, if not taking
chances of eternal damnation.

[Illustration: COIFFURE OF A WOMAN

Thirteenth century (cathedral of Rheims).]

Lastly, there is the iniquity of false hair--as if the good God
did not know the proper amount of herbage to grow from each female
head! Once there was a holy man who could heal the sick. A young
noblewoman suffered from grievous headaches. The miracle worker took
one glance at her towering headpiece. "First," said he, "remove that
scaffolding which surmounts your head. Then will I pray for you with
great confidence." The sacrifice was too great, and she refused; yet
erelong her anguish became unendurable and the holy man was recalled.
He compelled her to cast away all her false hair and colored bands and
swear never to resume them. Immediately then he began to pray--and,
behold! her headache departed.

These sermons and Adela's sisterly warnings produce as much result as
such admonitions can. Alienor will go through life, now dreading for
her comeliness and now for her soul, but never quite imperiling either.
Yet she is surely less frivolous than the family rivals, the Foretvert
dames--who (tasteless creatures!) could adorn a whole cathedral of
saints' images with their paint pots.

There are sometimes seen around St. Aliquis certain obnoxious people
who are compelled to wear conspicuous garments in order that others may
be warned and thus avoid physical or moral contamination. If you meet
a man with a gray coat and a scarlet hat, pass at a distance--he is a
leper. If he has a big circle of saffron cloth sewed on his breast,
look to your money--he is a Jew. If he has a cross sewed on each side
of his breast, say a prayer--he is a released heretic. Finally, if
you go to Pontdebois and come upon sundry unveiled females in scarlet
dresses, accost them not if you are a decent man--they are women of the

At last we have seen the general nature of the garments which are to
make gay Alienor's wedding. It is time for the wedding itself.

Marriage, in noble families often does not mean the union of two souls,
but of two fiefs. The average baron marries to extend his seigneury
and to rear up sons to defend it. A wife represents an estate and a
castle. Not many young men marry before they have been knighted. After
that they are glad to enter into holy wedlock, for the normal way an
aspiring young cavalier whose father is living can gain independence
is through his wife's dowry, unless his father allows him a share of
the barony.

[Sidenote: Ages for Marriage]

Since young men are not often knighted until late in their teens or
even beyond twenty, weddings on their side seldom take place early.
Girls, however, become marriageable sooner. South Country troubadours
assert that love can begin to claim a girl when she is thirteen; she
is then eligible for marriage. If she has not "given her heart" by the
time she is twenty-one there is no hope for her, save in a nunnery; and
old maids find no recognized place in society whether in castle, city,
or peasant hut.[26]


From a manuscript preserved in the British Museum (Green).]

Of course, couples can marry younger than that. Not many years earlier
Count Baldwin VI of Hainault was wedded to Countess Marie of Champagne.
The bride was only twelve, the bridegroom only fourteen. Boys and girls
are thus sometimes merely "so many pieces on a chessboard," to suit the
ambitions of guardians.

If a noblewoman's husband dies she need not expect to be a widow very
long, for a man is required to manage her fief. It was one of the
greatest proofs of Conon's mother's strong character and ability that
when his father died she prevented Baron Garnier from forcing her into
nuptials with one of his boon companions--a roistering daredevil who,
as guardian of her children, would have ruined them, body and soul.
Also, if an heiress's husband does not prove suitable to the prevailing
powers, strange things can happen. In 1190, when the crown of Jerusalem
became vacant, Isabella (the new queen) was forcibly separated from her
husband, the Seigneur Onfroy, by the barons of the Crusaders' realm,
and was given to a more powerful noble, Conrad of Montferrat. Twice the
poor queen's husbands died, and twice her barons forced new spouses
upon her. The wishes of Isabella herself, who sincerely cared for
Onfroy, were in nowise consulted.

In all the romances you can find stories of marriages consummated with
amazing haste. There is, _e.g._, the tale of the old Baron Aimeri, who
wished to find his son an heiress. The lad, unaware of what was to
happen, was summoned into the presence of a duke, his father's friend.
"Young sir," said the duke, "you are of high lineage. I am going to
give you my pretty daughter." The boy stood silent while the pucelle
was brought in. "Belle," said her father, "I have given you a husband."
"Blessed be God!" she replied promptly. The next to come in was a
bishop. The ceremony was immediately over; the young people were mated
for life, seemingly before either could get his or her breath. Here, at
least, the lad was as much the helpless tool of his elders as was the

A story in the "Lorraine" romance makes the proceedings hardly less
precipitate. The Count of Flanders is resolved to give his bereaved
sister to his valiant friend, Fromont. She had never seen this hero,
but has heard much about him. Suddenly her brother takes her by the
hand, saying, "My beautiful and dear sister, let us converse a little
apart." Then he announces "to-morrow, you shall have a husband." The
lady protests that she has been a widow only a month and has an infant
son. "You will do this, however, my sister," insists the count. "He
whom I give you is far richer than your first husband." Then he says
much in praise of Fromont, whereupon the lady responds, "Sire brother,
I will do according to your desires." Thereupon, runs the story,
"They did not wait a day, they did not wait an hour. On the spot they
proceeded to the church. Clerics and priests were notified. There they
were blessed and married."

[Sidenote: Church Control of Marriages]

This is a strange state of things, but, fortunately, the Church comes
partly to the rescue. It demands first that the maiden shall be at
least fifteen years old (a point sometimes waived), that she shall not
be too closely related to the man, and that she shall give her "free
consent" (another matter not always investigated). The question of the
"forbidden degrees" is, however, a bar to many projected alliances. The
Church endeavored formerly to forbid the marriage of cousins up to the
seventh degree, but that rule had proved unworkable, since god-parents
were reckoned the same as relatives. The Lateran Council of 1215 has
therefore ordained invalid marriages between cousins through the
_fourth_ degree; and the saints know that this rule makes complications
enough, considering how the great families are interrelated! Of course,
the regulations are wise, otherwise heiresses would always be given in
an outrageous manner to near kinsmen. On the other hand, the forbidden
degrees are sometimes a little trenched upon to give the contracting
parties an excuse for repudiating each other in case they get tired
of their bargain--although here again is a practice which the Church
treats with just anger.[27]

The Church does not formally permit divorce, but it cannot thwart many
of the currents of the age. Nobles frequently repudiate their wives for
trivial reasons--mere ill health, for instance; and often the women
take the initiative. There are worldly bishops who will give their help
toward an annulment on grounds of "lack of inward consent." Again, if
a very desirable marriage with a cousin comes in question, often a
"dispensation" can be obtained from the same complaisant authorities.
It is easy to become cynical if you study how easily the "holy bonds of
matrimony" can be put on and off by the powerful, although sometimes a
great pope like Innocent III will teach even a mighty king a lesson,
as Philip Augustus learned when he tried to repudiate poor Ingeborg of

If a maiden has a father, a competent brother, or an uncle she is
lucky. Otherwise, the bestowal of her hand belongs to her suzerain.
This right to bestow heiresses or the widows of vassals on faithful
retainers is one of the most precious privileges of a great seigneur.
Many a knight is kept loyal by the hope that presently his lord will
say: "One of my barons is dead without sons. I will give you his
fiefs and his daughter"; or, "Take the widow of the late Sire X....
You may have the land along with the lady." Under feudal usage it is
well-nigh impossible to deprive an heiress of her estates directly,
but her marriage practically gives her husband the ownership of the
property. No wonder the Duke of Quelqueparte is anxious to see whether
the sickly Count of Greve is about to die and leave only a daughter,
so that he can secure the desirable allegiance of the Baron of St.
Saturnin, who has been a widower now these six months, yet has remained
still "uncomforted" just in hope of this particular happening.

[Sidenote: Scandalous Relationships]

What wonder if under these conditions strange romances occur; if the
lady gives "her love and kiss" to some young knight, not her husband;
if South Country troubadours assert that "married couples cannot truly
love;" and if barons sometimes bring irregular consorts straight into
their castles, while perhaps winking at their wives' uncanny doings?
All this is true. Yet, as stated before, not everything is bad. Girls
are taught not to expect too much of their spouses. They usually accept
the situation as they accept stormy or sunny weather. Besides, if some
fathers or guardians are scandalously careless in disposing of their
charges, many fathers and brothers are full of honest affection and
accept the duty of marrying off their daughters or sisters as a solemn
responsibility; and if they are wise custodians the results are usually
happy. There is no need of pitying Alienor too much because she has not
the right to elope.

Conon has negotiated a most satisfactory marriage. He will give his
sister to Sire Olivier, the eldest son of the Count of Perseigne. The
Perseignes are a great Burgundian family with many castles, and counts
think themselves a little higher in the social scale than do barons,
but St. Aliquis is also a powerful fief, and its alliance will be
useful to Perseigne when he has his expected war with the Vidame of
Dijon. Conon will give the young couple his outlying Burgundian castle
(not of great value to himself) and the alliance will enable him to
talk roundly to his uncivil neighbors. A most excellent match; another
sign that St. Aliquis has an extremely sage seigneur!

Alienor is now nearly seventeen and has been thinking about a wedding
since before she was fifteen. Her nurses have long since reviewed all
the eligible cavaliers for her. Her great dread has been lest she have
to wed some old and very stupid man--as befell her cousin Mabila, who
had been sent away tearful and pouting to Picardy, the bride of a
three-times widower. Who can measure her relief when Conon declared he
would not give her to old St. Saturnin? It was all very well for the
jongleurs to sing, "An old man who loves a young maiden is not merely
old, but a fool!" The thing has happened so often!

Her ideal is to have a "damoiseau (squire or young knight) just with
his first beard"--one who is brave, valiant, and is, of course,
courteous and handsome. She had once hoped that Conon would give a
great tourney and award her to the conqueror; but this desire faded
when she learned that the victor in the last tourney was ugly and
brutal. She has been on very brotherly terms with William, Conon's
first squire, but William is still too young, and it is not always
honorable for a squire to push intrigues in the house of his lord.
Thus she is in a very open state of mind when her brother says to her
one day: "Fair sister, I have arranged your marriage with Olivier of
Perseigne. He is a gallant cavalier. Any maiden might rejoice to have
him. Consider well what I say because (here he adds a phrase which he
hopes will not be taken too literally) I would not have you wed him
against your wish."

If Alienor has anything against Olivier, if her antipathy were violent
and based on reason, Conon, as a genuinely affectionate brother, might
give it weight; but in fact, though she has met Olivier only a few
times at a tourney, at the Christmas fête at the Duke of Quelqueparte's
court, and once when he stopped at the castle, she has not the least
objection. He has certainly large blue eyes, blond hair, a large nose,
and a merry laugh. He is reported to be kind to his servants, generous
to a fault, and not overgiven to drinking or brawling. At the tourney
he broke three lances fairly against a more experienced knight. His
family is excellent and her brother's desires are obvious. She will not
have to live too far from St. Aliquis. What more could be said? After a
few hours of decent reflection she informs Adela that she will comply
with Conon's wishes. After that the castle takes on a joyous activity.

[Sidenote: Betrothal Ceremonies]

Before the wedding had come the betrothal. It was a solemn ceremony,
blessed by the Church. Sire Olivier visited the castle with a great
following of relatives and met the shy and blushing Alienor. In the
chapel, after suitable prayers by Father Grégoire, the pair had
awkwardly enough exchanged their promises! "I will take you for my
wife." "And I for my husband." After this there would have been great
scandal had either side turned back. The Church affirms energetically,
however, that betrothal is _not_ marriage. Otherwise the affianced
pair might have considered themselves somewhat wedded on trial, only
to repudiate their obligations later. Also, not merely the young
couple, but their parents or guardians, had to be present and add their
consent; and, of course, all the pledges were sworn to over the holiest
relics available.

Olivier, during all this happy time, has lodged at the castle of a
friendly vassal of St. Aliquis, and he rides over frequently to visit
his betrothed. He is excellently bred and knows everything expected of
a prospective bridegroom of good family. The alliance has been largely
negotiated by his parents, but he has been consulted, understands
that Alienor is witty and beautiful, and he is wholly aware of the
worldly advantages of being Conon's brother-in-law. At meals he and his
beloved are allowed to sit together and above all to eat out of the
same porringer, when he delicately leaves to his intended all the best
morsels. He consults a competent jongleur, and with his aid produces
suitable verses praising his fiancée's beauty. He gives her a gold ring
with both his own name and hers engraved thereon. In return, besides
a sleeve and a stocking to hang on his lances (gifts which she has
already sent in mere friendship to other cavaliers), she bestows a lock
of her hair set around a gold ring; likewise a larger lock which he
may twine around his helmet. The happy pair are permitted to take long
walks together, and to promenade up and down the garden, with Olivier
holding his lady in the politest manner by one finger--the accepted
method of showing intimacy.[28]

We have said that Conon is resolved to knight his brother at the same
time he gives his sister in marriage. This involves holding a tourney
and many other proceedings really unnecessary for a wedding; but, of
course, it will attract a much greater number of guests and advertise
the prosperity of the baron of St. Aliquis to all northwestern France.
The knighting and tourney will come after the bridal, however, and it
is easier to explain the two things separately. We omit the gathering
of the wedding guests--the coming of distant counts, barons, and sires;
the erection around St. Aliquis of a real village of brilliant tents
and pavilions; the ceremonious greetings; the frenzied efforts of the
castle folk to make all ready; the inevitable despair, not once, but
many times, of Adela, who directs everything. At last it is the morning
of _the_ day, in midsummer. No rain and, blessed be St. Martin, not
too much heat. Alienor is surrounded by a dozen women, old and young,
arraying her for her wedding.

[Sidenote: Dressing the Bride]

There is no regular bridal costume. Alienor does not dress much
differently from what she does on Easter or at some other major
festival. Her two great braids of hair are weighted down over her
breasts with an extra intertwining with gold thread. Her chemise is
of very fine saffron-tinted linen. Her pelisson is completely fringed
with magnificent ermine, the gift of the Countess of Perseigne, and
the garment itself is made of two cloths sewed together, the inner of
fine wool, the outer of beautiful bendal of reddish violet. The whole
is laced tightly until Alienor can hardly breathe. Above this garment
floats the elegant bliaut, of green silk with long sleeves, many
folds, and a long train. There is more silk embroidery and elaborate
flouncing. Fairest of all is the girdle, made of many pieces of gold
and each set with a good-luck stone--agate to guard against fever,
sardonyx to protect against malaria, and many similar. In the clasp
are great sapphires which Baron Garnier originally "acquired" from
a town merchant shortly before he hanged him. Finally, there is the
mantle--again of silk intricately embroidered and dyed with a royal

Alienor's pointed shoes are of vermilion leather from Cordova, with
still more of gold-thread embroidery. While one female minister is
clasping these, her chief pucelle is putting on a small saffron-colored
veil, circular, and held down by a golden circlet--a genuine crown;
beautifully engraved and set with emeralds. Inevitably the whole
process of dressing is prolonged. Alienor is too excited to feel hot
or pinched, but her attendants find her very exacting. They bless the
Virgin, however, that she is not as some noble brides, who fly into a
passion if every hair in their eyebrows is not separately adjusted.

Meantime, in a secluded part of the castle, the groom has been
wrestling with a similar problem, assisted by his two squires, although
requiring less of time and agony. His legs are covered with fine
brown silk stockings from Bruges; but it is effeminate to wear a silk
shirt--one of fine white linen will answer. His pelisson is like his
bride's, although less tightly laced--of cloth and silk, trimmed with
rich fur; and the outer color is pale red, inevitably with much gold
embroidery around the neck and sleeves. His bliaut does not come below
his knees, but it is of blue sendal silk; his mantle is also edged
with fur and of the same color as his pelisson. Simple as it is, it
must hang exactly right. Everybody will ask, "Did the groom wear his
mantle like a great baron?" The squires take a long time adjusting it.
Olivier's shoes are of very fine leather. On his crisply curled hair
they set a golden chaplet set with flashing gems--very much like that
worn by his bride.

Hardly are the happy twain ready before the wedding procession forms
in the bailey. So large a company could never crowd into the castle
chapel. It will go across the bridge over the Claire to the parish
church by the village--a Gothic structure sufficiently pretentious to
suit the occasion. The Perseignes reckon a bishop among their cousins,
and he is on hand to officiate.

[Sidenote: Marriage Procession and Ceremony]

So the procession forms. Ahead go a whole platoon of jongleurs puffing
their cheeks for their flutes, twanging their harps, or rasping
their viols. The Feudal Age delights in music, and does not mind if
sometimes melody is exchanged merely for a joyous noise. Alienor comes
next. She is on a black mule with extra long ears and a finely curried
shining coat. His harness is of gold and his trappings of scarlet
samite. She has been swung into the saddle by her eldest brother
("Alas! that her father, who should do this, is dead!" murmur all the
women), and he as her guardian leads the mule. Olivier rides a tall
white palfrey with a saddle of blue leather. His mother, Adela, and all
the St. Aliquis and Perseignes female relatives follow on other mules,
led by gayly dressed squires. Then come all the noble guests, the Duke
of Quelqueparte at their head. No wonder there is no work being done in
all the villages for miles around, and that all the villeins are lining
the road, doffing caps, and cheering as the dazzling cortége sweeps

The details at the church we pass over. Among other features to be
noted is the fact that the bride is swung down from her mule upon a
great truss of straw, that the bishop meets them at the sacred portal,
and that outside the actual building Olivier and Alienor exchange those
vows which form the essential part of the marriage ceremony. After that
Conon's chief provost recites in loud voice all the estates, horses,
fine garments, and servitors which the bride brings as her dowry. This
customary publication may avert bitter disputes later. Next the happy
pair scatter newly coined silver deniers among the swarm of ill-favored
mendicants permitted to elbow and scramble among the more pretentious

Finally, the church is thrown open. The great nave opens mysterious and
dark, but galaxies of candles are burning and the lofty stained-glass
windows gleam like jewels. Olivier and Alienor occupy seats of honor in
the choir, while the bishop says the very solemn mass of the Trinity
and pronounces a special blessing over them. "Let this woman," intones
the prelate, "be amiable as Rachel, wise as Rebecca, faithful as Sarah.
Let her be sober through truth, venerable through modesty, and wise
through the teaching of Heaven."

So at last the mass ends. The "Agnus Dei" is chanted. The bridegroom
advances to the altar and receives from the bishop the kiss of peace.
Then he turns, and right at the foot of the great crucifix embraces his
wife and transmits the kiss to her. This act completes the ceremony.
Away the whole company go from the church. They have been condemned to
silence for nearly two hours, and are glad now to chatter like magpies.
When back at St. Aliquis they find the great hall has been swept,
garnished, and decorated as never before. The walls of the hall are
hung with the pictured tapestries or beautiful pieces of red and green
silk. Your feet crush fresh roses and lilies scattered on the floor.
Alienor almost bursts with delight at the number of high-born cavaliers
and dames who press up to kiss and congratulate. All the remainder
of her life she will match weddings with her friends: "I had so many
counts and barons at my marriage." "But I had so many!"

All these guests, however, expect to receive presents--bliauts,
mantles, goblets, and other things, each suitable to the recipient.
It is well that Conon has saved many livres in his strong box. The
presenting of the gifts by the host is quite a ceremony; each article
has to be accompanied by a well-turned speech. By the time this
reception to the bride and groom is over the trumpets sound furiously.
They tell that the feast is ready in the fragrant garden under the
trees. There is a fine tent of blue silk for the bridal party and the
more exalted guests. All the others must sit on long tables open to
the glad sunshine.

[Sidenote: The Marriage Feast]

What Messire Conon's guests have to eat and drink is so serious a topic
that we must tell thereof separately. We speak here merely concerning
the festivities of the wedding. Olivier and Alienor are served by two
barons as squires of state. The groom drinks from a great goblet, then
sends it to his wife, who ceremoniously finishes the draught. In the
bridal tent there is a reasonable amount of decorum, but elsewhere
(Blessed martyrs!) what noise and tumult! All the villeins appear to
be there, and burghers have even wandered up from Pontdebois. It will
never do to have men say, "The bride was charming, but her brother
stinted his hospitality." Enough food and drink is gorged and guzzled
to stave off a famine next winter. The jongleurs keep quiet during the
first part of the feast; later they earn their dinner by singing of the
loves of Jourdain and Orabel or of Berte, who was the faithful wife of
Girard of Roussillon through all of her lord's adversity. At many of
the tables the jesting and horseplay become unspeakably ribald. After
the wine circulates two petty nobles quarrel; one strikes the other
with a drinking cup, but the sergeants pull them apart before they can
whip out swords.

After three hours of this some guests are sleeping stertorously under
the trees; but those nobles who have kept their wits go to another
large tent, and, despite their heavy meal, dance with vigor. The bride
and groom are expected to dance together, and everybody is prepared
to admire the beauty of one and the grace and strength of the other.
As evening advances a priest appears. He solemnly blesses the nuptial
couch strewn with roses, while the new couple piously kneel. The couch
is then "censed" like an altar, and the women guests join in the
bizarre usages of "putting the bride to bed."

The morning after the marriage the newly wedded pair attend mass in the
castle chapel. Here they are expected to make privately all kinds of
vows of good conduct, and Alienor especially promises always to obey
her husband, and call him dutifully "mon sire" and "mon baron."

The festivities will last two weeks longer, and conclude with the
dubbing of knights and the tournament, whereof more presently. After
that Olivier and his wife will depart for their Burgundian castle
without anything like a honeymoon to strange parts....

So they celebrate the wedding at St. Aliquis. Very far is it from being
a love match of a later day; yet there is a decent hope of happiness
for the two most deeply interested. A new spirit in the relations of
men and women has been creeping into the world since Greek and Roman
days, and if this spirit too often manifests itself in illicit romances
it is something if romantic love can exist at all, and if, also, in
many an instance (as the jongleurs already like to tell us), their
story can run that "thus the twain were wedded, and forevermore lived
together happily."

It was as early as about 1160 that the South Country troubador, Bernart
de Ventadoun, sang about the great motive which was coming to add
beauty to the world:

        "For indeed I know
    Of no more subtle passion under heaven
    Than is the maiden passion for a maid;
    Not only to keep down the base within a man,
    But teach high thought and amiable words,
    And courtliness and the desire of fame
    And love of truth, and all that makes a man!"


[24] Of course, the northern climate and the fact that the Germanic
tribes wore many garments of skins and leather were contributing

[25] From a mediæval _Treatise of Instructions to a Young Lady_.

[26] Troubadour and romance love stories were thus likely to revolve
around very young and flighty people. If they survived this critical
period of youth they were likely to be staid and sober enough the rest
of their lives.

[27] How serious the problem of the "forbidden degrees" could be is
shown by the case of the pious Louis VII of France, who put away
his wife, the great heiress Eleanor of Aquitaine, because he was
the fifth in descent from Hugh Capet, who had married a sister of
the great-great-grandfather of Eleanor. Of course, the marriage had
actually proved uncongenial before this point was raised.

[28] Friends would seldom walk arm in arm. Two persons of the same
sex or of different sexes would walk familiarly hand in hand, or, if
especially friendly, one leading the other by a single finger.

Chapter VII: Cookery and Mealtimes.

Now it is as certain as that God reigns in heaven, that if one desires
a wedding and a tournament, although the first thought must be of
raiment, the second must be of food and drink. When Conon bids Adela
make ready for the festivities, straightway that prudent dame sends
for the butler and the cellarer and takes account of everything stowed
away in the great vaults under the castle. Then she orders the chief
huntsman muster all his beaters and course the forests, not for sport,
but for victuals. At the same time nets are set out in the Claire;
purveyors with their carts are ordered up from Pontdebois, and a
messenger is even sent to Troyes to bring back a tun of rare Grecian
wine. All available maids from the village are requisitioned to make
great pasties, and a master cook is imported from Paris to prepare
special cakes and pastries. In short, it is no light thing even for
the huge St. Aliquis household to prepare to feed several thousands
without aid of those miracles which caused five loaves and two fishes
to suffice in the days of our Blessed Lord.

For the baron's feast the great fireplace in the bailey cookhouse is
insufficient. They build fires in the open out in the tilt yard or
garden and all day perspiring varlets stand feeding on great logs over
which roast long spits of chickens and geese, or boil caldrons of
meat. In the cookhouse, where the finer dishes must be prepared, the
master cook has a true arsenal of utensils--pots, trivets, mortar and
pestle, a table for mincing herbs, pothooks, caldrons, frying pans and
gridirons, saucepans, platters, a pepper mill, dressing board, scummer,
ladle, and many things else. There is no lack of help in the kitchen.
Half a dozen loutish boys gladly work there all day long (receiving,
incidentally, many of the cook's hard knocks) in return for being
allowed to lick the pans and gnaw the scraps, so cheap is human labor.

[Illustration: COOKS

From a manuscript in the Bodleian Library at Oxford (Wright).]

[Sidenote: Cookery and Mealtimes]

On ordinary days we would marvel at the quantity of boiled meat served
at St. Aliquis. About the only way to preserve meat is to salt it (the
vats of the castle are full of salted meat kept against winter or a
siege), and this flesh must ordinarily be boiled. The result is that a
great copper meat pot seems always in action, with a boy pumping the
bellows to make the caldron bubble. But fowls and fresh meat are often
boiled as well. Butcher's meat, however, is less welcome at feasts than
is game. An ideal dish is a stag, roasted whole in the great fireplace,
crisped and larded, then cut up into quarters and served on very large
plates. Upon such dishes is poured a hot, steaming pepper sauce.
Therefore a stag will be served at the wedding banquet besides many
other kinds of choice game.


Since there are no iceboxes, unsalted meat must be eaten soon after
being killed, although your feudal epicure is not squeamish. Beef and
mutton are often killed, cut up, and cooked almost on the spot. There
is a story of a butcher who, coming late to a town, got a lodging at
the priest's house, and to pay for his quarters killed the sheep which
they ate for supper. But pork is probably the commonest meat. Conon has
great droves of hogs fattening out in his oak forests, which supply
abundant crops of acorns. Pigs seem to penetrate almost everywhere save
into messire's and madame's chamber. They are the general scavengers
and apparently replace plumbing and sewerage systems. They infest
castle courts and the streets of towns. In 1131 the Crown Prince of
France was killed in Paris by a pig which ran between the legs of his
horse as he rode from the Hotel de Ville to the Church of St. Gervais.
People will tell you that pork promotes leprosy, but, nevertheless,
they devour it. Pork, too, is the main substance of those great
sausages and black puddings in which everybody delights, especially
on Easter, when you break your Lenten fast with as much heavy food as
possible. Veal, too, is desirable, as is the flesh of kids; but lamb is
by no means so much in favor.

Almost all kinds of birds are counted edible. Herons, cranes, storks,
cormorants, and such fowl as can be taken by hawks are in preference,
but crows are considered very fair eating. The flock of stately
swans by the mouth of the Rapide has just been depleted, for these
elegant birds are kept for the kitchen rather than for ornament. As
for small fowl--thrushes, starlings, blackbirds, quail, partridges,
and cuckoos--the varlets can bring in as many as possible with their
crossbows and snares. Young rabbits, likewise, are welcome, but older
rabbits are too tough save for the diet of the least-considered
villeins. Everybody knows the saying, "An old hare and an old goose are
food for the devil!"

There is plenty of poultry around St. Aliquis. Most Christians hold
that birds are of aquatic origin, hence, like fish, can be eaten on
fast days, although the Church opposes this opinion, and is slowly
overcoming it. Chickens have been fattened for the feast by shutting
them up in dark coops and gorging them. Droves of geese have been
coming in from the fields, great honking armies, crowding the narrow
way, hissing and biting, but all propelled steadily ahead by the
cracking whips of the small goosegirls. Ducks are more commonly
preferred in their wild stage; but out in the exercise ground several
peacocks have been preening themselves, and at least two of these are
now sacrificed to make a gala dish to serve the highest seigneurs, for
peacocks are counted especial "food for the brave." Indeed, there is
the old proverb that "thieves have as much taste for falsehood as a
hungry man for a cooked peacock."[29]

Fish is hardly in great request. One is likely to have too much of it
on the numerous fast days. Still, out of the Claire they draw excellent
barbel and eels; there are carp in a near-by pond, and splendid trout
in the brooks that feed the Rapide. The lads bring in many. If you go
to Paris you can eat salt herring taken in the North Sea. All through
the spring, furthermore, the St. Aliquis folk have had their fill of
frogs' legs from the castle moat and the numerous bogs, and Conon has
a "snail bed" to provide snails for garnishings and salads during Lent
and on Fridays.

[Sidenote: Game Birds and Poultry]

One cannot stay at the castle long and not discover the vast importance
of soup. One partakes thereof at least twice per day: "dried peas and
bacon water," watercress soup, cabbage soup, cheese soup, and "poor
man's soup" (made up of odds and ends collected on short warning), and
fish soups for Lent. All the better soups are spiced with marjoram,
sage, and sweet basil, if not with the favorite condiment, pepper. But
what are soups compared with meat pies? Whenever the castle cook is in
doubt how to please their lordships he decides upon a noble pasty. Much
thought has been concentrated upon this subject. There are little poems
to be memorized by illiterate cooks explaining this triumph of their
mystery--_e.g._, that they should use "three young partridges large
and fat, not forgetting six quail put on their side"; add to these
thrushes, some bacon, some sour grapes, and a little salt. Then if all
is made aright, the crust nicely rolled of pure flour, and the "oven of
proper heat with the bottom quite free from ashes," when all is baked
enough "you will have a dish to feast on"! Other pasties can be made
of chickens, venison, salmon, eels, pigeons, geese, and other kinds of
meat. Probably, in fact, more energy goes into making the pasties than
into any other one form of culinary effort.

The St. Aliquis folk are not at all vegetarians, but they cannot
eat meat forever, and the poorer peasants seldom touch flesh save
on important feast days. The cooks have at their disposal onions
and garlic, cabbages and beets, carrots and artichokes, lentils and
both long and broad beans, peas, turnips, lettuce, parsley, water
cress--in short, nearly all the vegetables of a different age save the
all-important potato. Turnips are in favor, and figure in far more
dietaries than they will do later. Cabbages, too, are in request:
there are Roman white cabbages, huge Easter cabbages, and especially
the Senlis cabbages, renowned for their excellent odor. Cucumbers are
supposed to cause fever, but Herman raises some in the garden for the

As always, bread is the staff of life. Naturally, the villeins
have to use flour that is very coarse and made of barley, rye, or
oats--producing black bread, before which noble folk shudder. It
is one of the signs of messire's prosperity that all his household
are ordinarily fed on white bread. In the castle ovens they make a
great variety of loaves--huge "pope's" or "knight's" loaves, smaller
"squire's" loaves, and little "varlet's" loaves, or rolls. There is a
soft bread made of milk and butter, a dog bread, and two-color bread
of alternate layers of wheat and rye. Then there are the table loaves,
sizable pieces of bread to be spread around the tables, from which
courteous cavaliers will cut all the crust with their knives and pass
the remainder to the ladies, their companions, to soak up in their
soup. The servants have less select common bread, although it is still
wheaten. Finally, there are twice-baked breads, or crackers. These are
often used in monasteries, also in the provisioning of castles against
a siege.

[Sidenote: Breads, Pastries and Cheese]

Fancy jellies, pastries, and sweet dishes are coming into vogue,
although they have not reached the perfection to be attained by later
French cookery; but for the St. Aliquis feast they are able to prepare
great molded structures of lions and suns, made of white chicken and
pink jelly. The quantity of spices used is simply enormous. To enjoy
food thus charged, especially with pepper, is an acquired taste,
which developed following the First Crusade. The cooks, too, use a
liberal supply of mustard, and a favorite sauce is made from strong
garlic. Fresh and pickled olives are sent up from Provence, likewise
a good deal of olive oil; but the oil used in common cooking is often
extracted from walnuts or even from poppies. Another favorite flavoring
is with rose water. All through June you can see great basins of water
filled with rose petals steeping in the sun. The liquor thus obtained
will add zest to sauces for the next twelve months. There is also a
certain whitish substance known as "sugar." It comes from the Levant,
in small irregular lumps. Its flavoring qualities are delightful, but
it is too expensive to use in cookery. A small quantity is passed about
among Conon's higher guests, to be eaten as a confection. The ordinary
sweetening is still that of the Greeks and Romans, honey, supplied from
the well-kept hives of the bees belonging to the monastery.

Cheeses hardly figure in feasts, but for everyday diet they are
important. On feast days they often replace meat. Their varieties are
legion--white, green, large, small, etc. Some places produce famous
cheeses exported all over France, and in Paris one can hear the street
venders shrilly chanting:

  "Buy my cheese from Champagne,
  Or my cheese from Brie!"

As for eggs and butter, they are gifts of the kindly saints, to carry
men through Lent and fast days. Theologians have said that hens were
aquatic creatures, like other birds; that hence good Christians could
eat their eggs freely. But butter (by some unaccountable notion) if
eaten during times of abstinence, must be freshly churned. It must not
be salted, nor used for cooking purposes.

Passing next to beverages, be it said that the St. Aliquis denizens are
fairly abstemious folk. All of them sometimes get tipsy, even Adela
and Alienor, but only seldom. Conon's servants help him to bed once or
twice per year. Down in the villages there are disgraceful guzzlings
among the peasants, especially on saints' days. But the beverages are
not very alcoholic--one must absorb a great deal to be really upset.
The region grows its own wine for ordinary consumption, and a little
thereof is shipped to Paris and even to Flanders and England, along
with the more famous vintages of Gascony, Saintonge, Macon, Rheims,
the Marne, and the Orleanais. The most desirable French wine is that
of St. Pourcain, in Auvergne, and the baron has a carefully cherished
tun of the same in his cellars. Poems, indeed, exist in praise of this
St. Pourcain wine, "which you drink for the good of your health." On
occasions of great state, however, imported wines will be produced,
mainly because they are unusual and expensive. The St. Aliquis feasters
are consequently offered heady Cyprian and Lesbian from the Levant,
also Aquilian from Spain, and not a little Rhenish from the German
lands, less distant.

[Sidenote: Wine, Beer and Other Drinks]

In the autumn when the apples and pears are falling, the peasants will
make cider and perry, and get outrageously drunk when these beverages
grow hard; but outside of Normandy such drink seldom appeals to castle
folk. There are also in common use many substitute wines, really
infusions of wormwood, hyssop, and rosemary, and taken mostly to clear
the system; although "nectar" made of spices, Asiatic aromatics, and
honey is really in request.

The great competitor of wine is beer. In northern France we are in the
dividing zone between the land of the winepress and the land of the
brewhouse. Everybody drinks beer and makes beer. The castle has a great
brewhouse; likewise the monastery. Beer is made of barley, and only
late in the Middle Ages will hops be added to add to the zest. Really
fine beer is _god-ale_ (from the German "good" and "ale") or "double
beer." Common beer is "small beer." Since the Crusaders have returned
from the East, spiced beer has been growing in favor--charged with
juniper, resin, gentian, cinnamon, and the like, until the original
taste has been wholly destroyed.

The St. Aliquis folk do not, however disdain buttermilk. This they
like to ferment, boil up with onions and garlic, then cool in a closed
vessel. The product is _serat_, the enjoyment of which is surely
difficult for a stranger.

Another form of beverage is not quite unknown. Some physicians
prescribe water of gold and allege it "prolongs health, dissipates
superfluous matters, revives the spirits, and promotes youth." Also it
"greatly assists the cure of colic, dropsy, paralysis, and ague." Of
a surety, it aids the patient temporarily to forget his troubles. Yet
this is hardly more than a costly medicine. Many years later it will
become more common; but its name will be changed to "brandy."

The usages even of a great dinner depend largely on the customs of
everyday life. One cannot understand the splendors of the marriage
feast of Sire Olivier and Alienor without knowing what goes on
regularly in the hall of St. Aliquis.

When the day is started we have seen how everybody arises to a very
light breakfast of bread and wine, although sometimes, as in the epic
of Doon of Mayence, when the work promises to be arduous, the baron's
squire may bring him a favorite pasty because "eating early in the
morning brings health and gives one greater courage and spirit." Dinner
also, we have discovered, can begin as early as nine in the morning,
and a good part of the day's business comes after this heavy meal.
Sometimes when dinner is late you do not serve your guests any regular
supper, but when they go to bed have the attendants bring cakes and
fruits and wine. If you entertain guests, however, always it is proper
to try to make them eat and drink as much as possible. There is a story
of an overhospitable Count of Guines who not merely constrained any
knight passing through his dominions to a feast, but kept quantities of
white wine always on hand, so that if his visitors asked to have their
red wine diluted with water, they might be hoodwinked by seeing a white
liquid mixed in their goblets. In this way he once rendered the whole
suite of a bishop gloriously intoxicated!

The ingenious Bartolomes of Granvilla has laid down the following
requisites for an ideal banquet: (1) a suitable hour, not too early
nor too late; (2) a pleasant place; (3) a gracious and liberal host;
(4) plenty to eat, so one may choose one's dishes; (5) the same as
to things to drink; (6) willing servants; (7) agreeable company;
(8) pleasant music; (9) plenty of light; (10) good cooking; (11) a
seasonable conclusion; (12) quiet and repose afterward. A marriage
feast and a tourney can hardly provide this twelfth desideratum, but
they ought, with proper management, to supply everything else.


From a manuscript of the thirteenth century in the library of Munich

[Sidenote: Service at Table]

The tables for the notables are laid and served by two classes of
attendants; first by Conon's three squires, aided on this grand
occasion by several young nobles who have actually received knighthood;
second, by the older professional servitors of villein stock. The
first class of attendants are resplendent in bliauts of colored silk
with fur trimmings. Most of the dishes will be passed to them by the
soberly clad villeins, then to be presented on bended knee by noble
hands to noble guests. The whole process is under Sire Eustace, the old
seneschal, who orders about his platoons of attendants with as much
precision as he might command the men at arms for defense of the castle.

It is part of a squire's education to learn to wait on table. One
may have to do this for some superior all one's life, unless one be
king or emperor! Conon's squires have been taught to stand at perfect
ease; not to roll their eyes or stare blankly; not to laugh save when
guests are laughing; to keep their finger nails clean and hands well
washed. If they sit at table themselves they are models of propriety.
They do not gobble down their food, but put a little from every
plate into the basket of collected leavings for the poor; they do not
chatter, nor fill their mouths too full, nor chew on both sides of the
mouth at once, nor laugh or talk with a mouthful, nor make a noise by
overeating, nor handle cats or dogs during mealtime, nor wipe their
knives on the tablecloth, nor pick their teeth publicly, nor wipe their
noses with their fingers, nor (last but not least) spit across the
table or beyond it.[30]

The tables are nearly always long and narrow. In the great hall they
are fixed and of heavy oak planks, but there are plenty of light tables
of boards to be set on horses, if the seneschal suddenly says, "The
weather is fine; Messire will dine in the garden." The favored guests
are provided with cushions, and, of course, in the hall the baron
and his immediate friends and family sit on the long master-seat on
the dais, facing the company, and with the baron's own chair under a
canopy. This canopy is the sign of high seigneurial privilege. One
will be set for Conon even when he sits in the garden; and he will
never surrender his place save when he entertains a superior, like his
suzerain the duke, or when, as at present, all other claims fade before
those of a bridal couple.

Indoors or outdoors, it is no mean art to lay the tables. Enormous
tablecloths have to be spread out smoothly, and set with napkins neatly
doubled; also at each place a suitable drinking vessel, and a knife and
spoon. These articles, gold or silver, are carefully handed out by the
seneschal. They represent a good fraction of the portable wealth of the
castle and must be laboriously counted before and after use. The knives
are sharp steel for serious business. The drinking cups are often of
bizarre forms--lions, birds, and dragons, while for the humbler folk
there are huge cups of wood and also large "jacks" of leather. At every
place, too, there must be a good-sized cake of fine white flour, and
between every two places there is a large porringer (pewter or silver)
to be shared by each pair of guests.

[Sidenote: Entering the Dining Hall]

Feast day or fast day, it is the loud blast on trumpets which sends
the mighty and the humble bustling toward the garden or the hall.
Of course, at a wedding feast there is some little formality, but
ordinarily in the St. Aliquis household the good-natured jostling
and scampering is prodigious. Men and women live close to nature and
are always conscious of rousing appetites. On ordinary days when you
entered the baron's hall, you would take your turn at the lavatory
close to the entrance. Here would be several little washstands with
pitchers and basins, and everybody would fall in line in order of
precedence: first, any visiting clergy; then visiting knights; then
the seigneur's family, etc. The hand washing presents a great chance
for flirtation among the young: Olivier and Alienor had great delight
"passing the towel" to each other during their betrothal. But now at a
great festival, when you enter the special banqueting tent you are met
by two handsome varlets. The first holds a water jug and a small basin.
Water is dexterously poured over your fingers, and as promptly wiped
off by the second varlet, and each guest patiently waits until the
persons ahead have enjoyed this courtesy. So they enter the tent, and
the magnates make for the seats of honor.

The placing of the company has been a matter of serious deliberation
between Messire Conon and the sage Sire Eustace. Of course, to-day
the bride and groom take the canopy. At Olivier's right must be the
officiating bishop. At the bishop's right must be the suzerain Duke of
Quelqueparte, and at Olivier's left must be the bride and the Count
and Countess of Perseigne. All that is standardized. But how locate
the dozen other counts and barons who, with their dames, have honored
the bridal? Will the old rival Foretvert stomach it now if he is
seated farther from the canopy than the Count of Maric, who is richer
and of a more ancient house? Bloody feuds have started from failure
to seat guests properly. It is a matter for supreme diplomacy. So far
as possible, a lady is placed beside each cavalier. The two will use
the same dish and the same goblet during the entire feast--obviously
another case where one is compelled to test one's brains while
selecting partners.


From a thirteenth-century manuscript of the library of Munich

[Sidenote: Serving the Banquet]

So the feast begins after grace by the bishop. An endless procession
commences between the cookhouse and the banqueting place--boys running
with great dishes which they commit to the more official servitors to
pass to the guests. It is a solemn moment, followed by cheering, when
into the bridal tent, with clash of cymbals and bray of trumpet, Sire
Eustace in a bright scarlet bliaut enters, waving his white wand and
followed by all the squires and upper servants, each carrying shoulder
high a huge dish of some viand. A great haunch of the stag is set on
the table. The baron's carver cuts ample slices, while two jongleurs
blow at their flutes. He holds the meat "by two fingers and a thumb"
(no fork), plying a great knife as a surgeon might his scalpel. Equal
skill is demanded of the cup-bearers when they fill the flagons, not
spilling a drop. Even the bride and groom are now hungry and ready for
the venison.

The banqueters have little need of plates. They take the loaves lying
ready, hack them into thick slices, place the pieces of meat upon
the same, then cut up the meat while it is resting on the bread.
These "trenchers" (_tranchoirs_) will not ordinarily be eaten at the
feast; they go into the great alms basket for the poor, along With
the meat scraps. However, the higher guests to-day enjoy a luxury.
Silver plates are placed under their bread trenchers. For most guests,
however, the bare tablecloth is bottom enough for these substitutes
for the porcelain of another day. Whatever does not go into the alms
basket will be devoured by the baron's dogs, who attend every meal by
prescriptive right. Indeed, early in the feast the Duke of Quelqueparte
benevolently tosses a slice of venison to a fine boarhound.

Time fails to repeat all the good things which Conon and Adela set
before their guests. The idea is to tempt the appetite to utter satiety
by forcing first one dish upon the feasters, and then another. There is
not really a good sequence of courses. Most of the dishes are heavy;
and inasmuch as vegetables are in great demand on common occasions,
the average banquet seems one succession of varieties of meat. The
noble folk in the bridal pavilion have at least a chance to eat their
fill of these comestibles:

[Sidenote: Typical Bills-of-Fare]

First course: Slices of stag, boar's head larded with herb sauce, beef,
mutton, legs of pork, swan, roasted rabbit, pastry tarts.

Second course: Pottage of "drope and rose" mallard, pheasant and roast
capon, pasties of small birds.

Third course: Rabbits in gravy heavily spiced with onion and saffron;
roasted teal, woodcock and snipe; patties filled with yolk of eggs,
cheese, and cinnamon, and pork pies.

No salads, no ices, no confectionery; nevertheless, some of the dishes
are superb--notably the swan, which is brought once more on with music,
prinked out as if he were alive and swimming, his beak gilt, his body
silvered, resting on a mass of green pastry to represent a grass field,
and with little banners around the dish, which is placed on a carpet
of silk when they lay it on the table. The cooks might also serve
a peacock with outspread plumage. Instead, toward the close of the
repast, two squires tug in an enormous pasty. Amid an expectant hush
Conon rises and slashes the pasty open with a dagger. Instantly out
flutter a score of little birds which begin to dash about the tent;
but immediately the baron's falconers stand grinning at the entrance.
They unhood a second score of hawks which in a twinkling pounce after
the wretched birds and kill them, to the shouts and delight of the
feasters, right above the tables. Inevitably there is confusion,
rustling by the ladies and merry scrambling, before the squawking hawks
can be caught, hooded, and taken away. In fact, from the beginning the
feast is extremely noisy. Everybody talks at once. The appearance of
the stag has started innumerable hunting stories. The duke has to
tell his loyal lieges how he slew a bear. Two of the baron's dogs get
to fighting and almost upset the chair of a countess. Everything is
very merry.


It was the custom during the repast to bring in enormous pâtés which
held little live birds: these flew about the hall when the crust of the
pâté was broken; immediately the servants loosened falcons which gave
chase. This part of the feast is represented here.]

If an elaborate dinner had been required on a so-called fast day, the
cooks could still have met the occasion and yet have kept within the
commands of the Church; although not merely would there have been much
fish, but also more vegetables. The guests could have been served with
roast apples garnished with sorrel and rosemary; then might have come
a rich soup made of trout, herring, eels salted twenty-four hours,
and salt whiting soaked twelve hours, almonds, ginger, saffron, and
cinnamon powder. If possible to bring them up from the ocean, there
would have been soles, congers, turbots, and salmon--and in any case
these can be had salted--the rivers in turn supply pike (preferably
with roe), carp, and bream. For side dishes there can be lampreys,
porpoise, mackerel, and shad served with juice of crab apples, rice,
and fried almonds. Finally might come stewed or ripe fruits--figs,
dates, grapes, and filberts; the whole washed down with spiced wine
(hippocras). To the minds of men of a later age this fast-day dinner
might seem only a little less gorging than the orthodox feast upon

But elaborate as is this wedding banquet, at last everybody has had
his fill. The concluding baked pears, the peeled walnuts, dates, and
figs have been passed. The noble dames have chewed their unfamiliar
sugar plums. A last cup of spiced wine is handed around, but nobody has
drunk too much to become worse than merrily talkative. Before rising
the guests have all very properly "thought of the poor," called in the
servitors and piled all the loose food upon great platters to be kept
for the needy. To-day, in fact, all the indigent in the region are
eating voraciously at the outer tables, but on the morrow of a festival
day you will see a great collection of halt, sickly, and shiftless
hanging around the barbican in just expectation that Conon and Adela
will order a distribution.[31]

At last the bishop returns thanks; basins, pitchers, and towels are
again carried around. Then the guests rise, some to mingle with the
less exalted visitors outside, some to repose under the shade trees,
some to listen to the jongleurs who are now tuning their instruments,
and many (especially the younger) to get ready for the thing we have
seen they liked almost the best--extremely vigorous dancing.

Outside of the state pavilion the service has naturally been less
ceremonious and the fare less sumptuous, but all of the countryside
has been welcome to wander into the castle gardens and to partake.
Greasy, unkempt villeins have been elbowing up to the long tables,
snatching joints of meat, bawling to the servitors to refill their
leather flagons, and throwing bits of cheese and bread around in an
outrageously wasteful manner. Thousands of persons, apparently many of
whom will be happy if they can have black bread all through the winter,
are trying to-day to avenge past hunger by devouring and drinking just
as much as possible. Sire Eustace is continually calling; "Another tun
of wine! Another vat of beer! Another quarter of beer!" These viands
for the multitude are not select, but there are bread, flesh, and drink
without stinting. Fortunate it is that Conon has not _two_ marriageable
sisters, or there would be naught left to eat on the seigneury!

[Sidenote: Wholesale Hospitality]

As the shadows lengthen everybody seems satisfied. The villeins and
petty nobles lay down their flagons. Groups of friends, if sufficiently
sober, begin to sing songs in a round, each member improvising a
doggerel verse, and the group thundering out the chorus. But many of
the guests do not retain wits enough for recreations. While their
noble hosts are dancing, the others throw themselves on the grass in
companies to watch or listen to the jongleurs: then as the wedding
dances finish, Olivier and Alienor come out of the great tent to take
their seats on flower-wreathed chairs before the principal minstrels,
and by their presence give some decorum to what threatens to become a
disgracefully confused and coarse form of reveling.

For a great feast the jongleurs seem, in fact, almost as indispensable
as the cooks. We have now to ask the nature of North French


[29] Peacocks, as especially desirable poultry, practically took the
place of the turkey of later days.

[30] The existence of many of these prohibitions in the etiquette
manuals shows that they were not unneeded.

[31] See p. 275.

[32] What actually was involved in the way of mere victuals for a
public feast in the Middle Ages is shown by the following record of the
hospitality dispensed by an archbishop of York, England, in 1466. There
is no reason for believing such lavish "feeding of the multitude" was
not fairly common also in France a little earlier.

This festival required, by formal record, "300 quarters of wheat, 300
tuns of ale, 100 tuns of wine, 104 oxen, 100 sheep, 304 calves, 304
swine, 400 swans, 2,000 geese, 1,000 capons, 2,000 pigs, 100 dozen
quails, 4,000 mallards and teal, 204 cranes, 204 kids, 2,000 ordinary
chickens, 4,000 pigeons, and over 500 stags, bucks, and roes." In
addition there were made up "4,000 cold venison pasties, 3,000 dishes
of jelly, 4,000 baked tarts, 1,500 hot venison pasties, 2,000 hot
custards" and proportionate quantities of spices, sweetened delicacies,
and wafer cakes.

Evidently the archbishop was deliberately planning to feast the entire
population of a considerable area of England. Conon's hospitality
herein depicted was, of course, nothing like this.

Chapter VIII: The Jongleurs and Secular Literature and Poetry.

The St. Aliquis folk delight in music. It is very desirable for a
cavalier to have a rich voice and know how to twang a harp. Aimery,
soon to be Sire Aimery, can sing and play as well as many minstrels.
Adela spent many hours at her viol and at a little portable organ
before family cares took up her time. Five or six of the servitors
hold their places mainly because they can play so excellently at those
impromptu dances which Conon gives on every possible occasion.[33] You
cannot linger long around the castle without hearing the lutes, the
flutes, and the castanets, and in confining weather in winter the music
keeps up almost the whole day long.


From a manuscript in the Bibliothèque nationale.]

However, variety is the spice of life. It is a red-letter day when a
new jongleur or, better still, a troupe of jongleurs arrive. They will
teach new music, new songs, new tricks to the regular denizens, and
break up that desperate monotony which sometimes causes the barons to
fret with a pent-up energy and to precipitate new wars merely to get
relief. As for a great fête like the present, obviously a large corps
of entertainers must be mobilized. The mere news through the region
that messire proposed a marriage feast and a tourney has been enough to
start many such itinerant gentry toward St. Aliquis. Sire Eustace was
overwhelmed with offers of assistance and has had to chase away some of
the would-be entertainers almost by force.

[Sidenote: Varieties of Dances]

Jongleurs are versatile people, and each of them has his specialty.
Their name, "jongleur," like "charity," covers a multitude of sins.
Some of them are merely expert players upon the viol, and supply music
for dancers. The dances of noble folk are simple: often enough fair
dames and cavaliers merely take hold of one another's hands and whirl
themselves furiously in a circle, while the music goes faster and
faster until the revelers cease and almost sink of exhaustion. Then
there are variations when the cavaliers decorously drop from the ring
and bow to their ladies; or the "dance of the chaplet," at the end of
which each cavalier ceremoniously kisses his lady on the cheek--kissing
between equals being quite proper if it is not on the lips. It takes
rather more skill, as at present, when young Aimery dances an intricate
galliard with the daughter of the Baron of Bovri. The two performers
stand opposite to each other, advancing, bowing, and retiring, every
step made to music; then at last the cavalier makes his bow to the
lady, takes her by the hand, thanks her, and leads her to her seat.
After that another noble couple dances the _tourdion_, a similar
performance, but faster and with more violent action.

For all this competent musicians are indispensable. But a good jongleur
is far more than a musician. He can dance himself, with intricate
acrobatic figures impossible for the unprofessional; he can sing
love songs, chant or recite romances; and, if he has companions, even
present short farces and comedies. He is probably possessed also of
series of tricks and sleight-of-hand accomplishments, which appeal more
to the groundlings than do high-flown poetic recitals. If he can reach
the summit of his profession he will be received at castles almost as
the equal of the seigneur, and be able to retire rich, after having
been showered with such gifts as palfreys, furs, jewels, mantles of red
cloth, and, of course, with much money. Jongleurs recall with pride
their fellow-minstrel Tallefer, who gallantly led the charge of the
Normans at Hastings, trolling the Song of Roland as he tossed up his
sword and caught it again in the very face of the English, and who fell
in the battle only after making as much havoc among the foe as would a

[Illustration: ACROBATS

Reproductions by the English archæologist Strutt, from various
fourteenth-century manuscripts in England.]

[Sidenote: Depraved Mountebanks]

There is a great distance, however, between such pretentious folk and
the run of minstrels. A little while since a mountebank pair called at
St. Aliquis. They called themselves by grotesque names, "Brise-Tête"
and "Tue-Boeuf." When they had disposed of a pork pasty, the
seneschal made it plain they had better pay for their dinner. Thereupon
Tue-Boeuf produced a harp, and Brise-Tête leaped on the table, flung
his arms and legs about, and showed himself a regular acrobat. After
that his companions set the lads and girls to "ah-ing!" by swallowing
knives and by apparently eating red brands right out of the fireplace.
Next the twain joined in a witty dialogue presenting a clutching priest
wheedling money out of a miserly burgher; and finally Tue-Boeuf
began telling stories so outrageous that Adela (not more squeamish
than most dames) bade her sister-in-law to retire. So the two kept the
whole hall laughing through a rainy afternoon, and Conon contented his
entertainers each with a denier.[34] They slept on the straw under
the tables and were off early the next morning. Their repertory was
probably exceedingly limited, and they must have spent their lives
wandering from castle to castle, seldom tarrying anywhere more than
a single night. Other jongleurs have appeared with trick dogs and
monkeys, and who could themselves dance through hoops, perform such
feats as tossing up two small apples and catching each simultaneously
on the point of a knife held in each hand, or prove themselves genuine
contortionists, as is declared in the old Latin poem:

    He folds himself,
        He unfolds himself,
    And in unfolding himself,
        He folds himself!

It is often a question, indeed, to tell when a jongleur is really
anything more than a roving scoundrel. Certes, they frequently
seem full of thievishness, licentiousness, and lies. With them are
frequently low jongleuresses, women capable of corrupting a whole
monastery. The Church denounces this entire breed, male and female,
as "ministers of the devil." All the vices which other ages impute to
actors are charged against them, and there is an old jesting question,
"Which would you rather be, a jongleur or a robber?" Answer: "A robber."

Nevertheless, God knows that people must be amused, and jongleurs
are almost indispensable. Besides, as we have seen, not all are of
this sinful class. The higher grade of jongleurs sometimes travel in
considerable companies. They bring an orchestra of music--viols,[35]
guitars, and gigues--long, slim, stringed instruments shaped like a
figure eight--and, of course, including flutes, harps, and even little
portable organs on which you work the bellows with one hand and press
the keys with the other, something like an accordion. Horns are not
lacking, nor dulcimers, nor cymbals. The Feudal Ages miss the piano,
but otherwise have plenty of sweet-toned instruments.

[Sidenote: Superior Type of Jongleur]

Each member of such a troupe has his specialty, and some of the
feats are wonderful. There is usually a slim girl who can perform a
"Herodias's daughter's dance" so magnificently that everybody can
understand how the Palestinian princess took in the gullible king by
her acrobatic feats. She can even dance on her hands and kick her feet
in the air, to the great delight of all but the more sanctimonious
guests. Vainly did the holy St. Bernard inveigh against the seigneurs
who receive such troupes in their castles: "A man fond of jongleurs
will soon possess a wife named Poverty. The tricks of jongleurs can
never please God." Certain it is that at the wedding the bishop and his
priests, after a few _pro forma_ coughings, seem laughing as loudly as
do the barons at all the tricks of Conon's entertainers.


Restored by Viollet-Le-Duc (Musée de Toulouse).]

A great feast demands enough jongleurs to entertain many different
circles. While one bold fellow is keeping the villeins roaring by
the antics of his tame bear, while three others (including a woman)
are dancing grossly upon a platform before other gaping hundreds, a
superior member of their mystery is attracting again many noble guests
to the banqueting tent. He is no common performer. Messire sent all the
way to Chalons for him, promising ample reward. Maître Edmond boasts
that he is a Christian--meaning he takes his profession as a kind of
lay priesthood. He is on friendly terms with great prelates. He never
recites the scurrilous little _fabliaux_ assailing the clergy. He knows
by heart, however, nearly all the great epics and romances. His rich
bliaut of green silk sets forth his impressive figure. His gestures
are eloquent. He can work upon the imaginations of his audience and
move it to tears, acclamations, or wild excitement. In a later age he
would, in short, be a great actor or an equally great "reader"--causing
all the parts of a drama to speak through one person.

Maître Edmond has consulted Conon as to what romance or epic would
please the best. There is a great collection of stories of heroes,
usually in a kind of sing-song verse, and claiming very largely to
have a Breton origin. One whole category revolves around the doings of
Charlemagne and his peers; another deals with King Artus (Arthur) of
Brittany (really Britain) and his Knights of the Round Table; still
another cycle tells of the Trojan War, and Sire Hector, Sire Achilles,
and Sire Ulysses, making the ancient Ilium into a North French castle
besieged by decidedly feudal methods; while others rehearse the mighty
deeds of Alexander. In all there are at least forty well-recognized
epic _chansons de geste_ (songs of mighty deeds), most of them six
thousand to eight thousand lines in length, besides many shorter
romances. Maître Edmond knows a surprising number of them all. These
bald figures give some idea of the richness of this type of feudal

Of course, the famous "Chanson de Roland" constitutes the most splendid
narrative. Everybody knows the story of how Roland and Olivier, the
favorite peers of Charlemagne, were betrayed to the Paynim in Spain by
the foul traitor Ganelon; how they sold their lives right dearly after
innumerable doughty deeds; how their souls ascended to heaven; and how
later Charlemagne took terrific vengeance both on the Infidels and on
Ganelon. It is an epic which in later days will be rated equal, if not
superior, to its German rival, the "Nibelungenlied." But the "Song of
Roland" is now nearly two centuries old and is very familiar. Besides,
it is too long for one afternoon, and it is hard to pick out episodes.
Maître Edmond proposes some scenes from the stories of Troy, but the
baron thinks they are not sufficiently sentimental for the occasion.
So they agree on the "Story of Tristan and Ysolt." This is fairly
well known by the company, but is not threadbare; it gives plenty of
opportunity for the women to weep, and the jongleur says that he has a
new version not overlengthy.

Maître Edmond, therefore, strides out into the bridal tent, accompanied
by a handsome youth in a saffron mantle, who thrums a harp with silver
frets. The high jongleur begins his story in an easy recitative which
occasionally breaks into melodious arias. It is really a mingling of
verse and prose, although the language never loses a certain meter and


From sculpture in the cathedral of Chartres.]

[Sidenote: Story of Tristan and Ysolt]

The narrative runs along the conventional lines:--King Mark of Cornwall
was a good man and wise prince. The beautiful Ysolt was his wife;
the valiant and poetic Tristan his nephew. These last two, in all
innocency, take a magic potion which compels them to fall in love, and
any sinful deeds which follow are excused by the enchantment. King Mark
suffers for long, trying to forgive, but at last, catching Tristan
playing the lute in the queen's bower, smites him with a poisoned dart.
The unhappy youth, mortally wounded, takes refuge in the house of his
friend Dinas. While he is still alive, King Mark magnanimously says he
is sorry for his act, while poor Ysolt announces that she will not
survive her lover.

So Tristan sends for his uncle and tells Mark that he bears him no
ill will; while the king (realizing his nephew is not morally guilty)
laments: "Alas, alas! Woe to me for having stabbed my nephew, the best
cavalier in the whole world!" After that Mark and Ysolt visit Tristan
and make lamentation over his dying state. He presently causes his
sword to be drawn that he may see it for the last time. "Alas! good
sword, what will become of you henceforth, without your trusty lord. I
now take leave of knighthood, which I have honored. Alas! my friends,
to-day Tristan is vanquished!" Then, with tears, he bequeathes his
sword to his comrade in arms. Next he turns to the queen. "Very dear
lady," he gasps, "what will you do when I die? Will you not die with
me?" "Gentle friend," says Ysolt, "I call God to witness that nothing
would afford me so much joy as to bear you company this day. Assuredly,
if ever a woman could die of anguish or sorrow, I should have died
already." "And would you like, then, to die with me?" asks Tristan.
"God knows," replied the queen, "that never did I desire anything more
sincerely." "Approach me, then," whispers the knight, "for I feel death
coming upon me and I should like to breathe my last in your arms."
Ysolt leans over Tristan, who embraces her and presses her so tightly
that her heart bursts, and he expires with her, thus mingling their
last sighs.

Needless to say, by the time Maître Edmond (after much skillful
prolongation and stirring of the feelings) has finished, all the noble
dames are indulging in sobs, and, indeed, many of the barons blink
hard. It is a delightfully tragic story! Although the minstrel is of
too high a quality to cry "largesse!" when he concludes, like all
the humbler jongleurs, there are many deniers thrown his way (which
the harpist duly gathers), the duke tells him, "Come to my court at
Christmas and recite the love of Launcelot and Guinevere--it shall be
worth your while," and Conon orders that a good Aragonese mule be added
to the money payment originally promised.

[Sidenote: A Literary Baron]

Maître Edmond, has, however, another line of business. His opportunity
opens this way. Among Conon's guests is a baron of Harvengt. This rich
seigneur has spent much time in the south country. He has learned
the gay science of the troubadours. Superior minstrels are always
welcome at his castle; in fact, he is something of a minstrel himself.
Indeed, it is claimed he is too much interested in matters which are
primarily only for villeins or at best for the women, and neglects
his hawks, tourneys, and even his proper feuds with his neighbors.
Nevertheless, Orri de Harvengt is an extremely "gentle" man. He
possesses a considerable number of books in Latin--Virgil, Ovid, Lucan,
and others--although a visiting monk has grumbled that nearly all the
volumes are by questionable pagans, and that this baron has almost no
parchments of saints' lives and Church fathers. However, Orri spends
little time over the Latin. He holds that the classical language is
best for religious matters, but that for telling of brave deeds and
affairs of the heart nothing surpasses romance--the tongue of North

A friend of Orri's was Geoffroi de Villehardouin, who has written
in French an excellent history of the Fourth Crusade, in which he
participated; and although the churchmen complain that "his abandonment
of Latin means the ruin of all learning," the use of the vulgar tongue
for all kinds of books is undoubtedly increasing.

For the less formal kind of writings there is already a considerable
French literature. Conon himself has a book of philosophers' proverbs,
a collection of wise saws and maxims that are often attributed to such
ancient worthies as Homer, Æsop, Moses, and Solomon, but which have
a flavor extremely French. Here you can find many a saying that will
long survive the thirteenth century, although it is doubtless much
more ancient. "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush"; "All is
not gold that glitters"; "God helps those who help themselves"; "A
friend in need is a friend indeed"; "Still waters run deep"--all are
threadbare wisdom around St. Aliquis, as well as such maxims as do not
transmit so well, such as, "Among the blind, the one-eyed man is king";
and, "Famine drives the wolf out of the woods."

But the bulk of this "vulgar" literature is in poetry. The epics
(_chansons_) have been growing ever since a certain Turould is said
to have composed the "Song of Roland" not very long after A.D. 1000.
We have just seen what a wealth of romances Maître Edmond has at his
disposal. The earlier of these tales are mere recitals of war and
adventure; but in the later, though they continue in the North French
dialect, the South French (troubadour) influence appears. We have
stories turning about lawful or illicit love rather than about lance
thrusts. The troubadours of the Langeudoc language find now compeers in
the _trouvères_ of the northern Languedoil. Baron Orri is a _trouvère_
himself. He has tried his hand at making a _chanson_ on the adventures
of the hero Renaud of Montauban; while composers of less exalted rank
prepare the shorter _fabliaux_, _contes_, and _dits_ which abound with
comedy and sarcasm, striking at all the vices and follies of society.

[Sidenote: North French Epics and Romances]

Baron Orri, however (who is not an original genius), is perhaps to be
classed really as an _assembleur_--that is, he adapts old romances and
puts them in a new setting. He changes over stories from the Languedoc
or from the Breton to his North French dialect. To-day, at a quiet
interval, Maître Edmond takes him aside. "Fair baron, you know that
we master jongleurs seldom wish to set written copies of the poems we
chant before strangers, but how can I deny anything to so liberal a
seigneur as you? I have with me transcripts of a new song concerning
Charlemagne's paladin, William of Orange, and another prepared by the
great _trouvère_, Robert of Borron, concerning the finding of the Holy
Grail by King Artus's knight, Sire Perceval. Would you have sight of

Baron Orri is only too pleased. Before he quits St. Aliquis he will
have possessed himself of the precious parchments, and Maître Edmond
becomes the richer by several Paris livres. A fine copy of a great
_chanson_ is worth its weight in silver. The monks complain that the
capital letters are as carefully elaborated in gold, and the miniature
illustrations are as delicately executed, as those in a copy of the
Gospel; and that the bindings of embossed leather make the books so
heavy that they require reading stands, before which the ladies,
nevertheless (neglecting holier things), seem willing to stand all day

However, before the wedding guests end their happy day, another
entertainer than Maître Edmond is asked to perform. It is Baron Orri
himself. He has lived so long in the south country that he has caught
the troubadour gallantries. Stories run that he has left three lady
loves in three different castles; that he has had a most romantic duel
with a jealous husband, which ended however, in a reconciliation on
proof that the friendship had been only platonic; and that he is a past
master in all the thirty-four different methods of rhyming and the
seventy-four different kinds of stanzas with which the expert bards
of southern France serve up their sentimental ditties. At a suitable
moment just before the noble guests are gathering for the supper Adela
addresses him:

"We know, kind Sire Orri, that you are a practitioner of all the 'gay
science' of the South. You can sing _chansons_, songs of love; _vers_,
the poems of slower movement; _sirventes_, poems of praise or satire;
and also are master of the _tenso_, the debate on some tender subject,
carried on in courtly verse. Honor us with your skill; for our northern
poetry is rude and uncourtly beside that of the Languedoc."

Barron Orri makes an elegant bow: "Ah, gracious lady," he says, "I
wish I could convince you that a good refusal were worth more than
a poor gift, but doubtless you would think me rude; therefore, I
will obey. Though many of you, I fear, do not speak the beautiful
Languedoc tongue, yet in so noble a company I am sure most of you will
at least understand me. What shall it be, a _tenso_ by Bernart de
Ventadorn discussing most wittily, 'How does a lady show the greater
affection--by enjoining her friend to win renown, or by urging him
simply to love her?' or shall I attempt a short _chanson_ by that other
high troubadour, Arnaut de Maruelh?"

"The _chanson_--the love song!" cry the company.

"Ah! very well, my gentle mistresses and lords," answers the
minstrel--"you have chosen. And now I pray Queen Venus to inspire me.
Here, boy, my harp!" He takes a small lute and touches the strings. His
blue mantle floats back in statuesque folds as with clear, deep voice
he sings:

[Sidenote: South French Troubadour Songs]

    "Fair to me is April bearing
        Winds that o'er me softly blow;
    Nightingales their music airing
        While the stars serenely glow.
    All the birds as they have power
        While the dews of morning wait,
    Sing of joy in sky and bower,
        Each consorting with his mate.
    And as all the world is wearing
        New delights while new leaves grow,
    'Twould be vain to try forswearing
        _Love_ which makes my joys o'erflow....

    Helen were not worth comparing,
        Gardens no such beauty show,
    Teeth of pearl, the truth declaring,
        Blooming cheeks, a neck of snow,
    Tresses like a golden shower,
        Courtly charms, for baseness hate.
    God, who bade her thus o'ertower
        All the rest, her way made straight!"[36]

And so through many similar stanzas. The Baron Orri's eyes are fixed
mischievously on a certain countess with whom he had talked intimately
all the afternoon. Her husband looks somewhat awkward, but at the end
he joins in the warm applause. So the entertainment at the wedding
feast ends; and the great secular literature, which is to be the
priceless heritage of later civilization, is (despite much crudeness
and false sentimentality) being born.

Hitherto we have seen the life of St. Aliquis at peace; now we must
gradually turn toward its grimmer aspects and the direct preparations
for war.


[33] If St. Aliquis had been a slightly larger fief, its lord would
probably have allowed himself the luxury of a professional minstrel in
residence--half musician and half jester.

[34] It was not unknown for jongleurs of this inferior grade to stop
at an exciting part of the story they were narrating and say (as in
the poem "Gui of Burgundy"): "Whoever wants to hear more of this
recital must haste to open his purse; for now it is high time to give
me something." The company would thus be straightway held up. Or the
entertainer would announce, "It was too near vespers," or "He was
too weary to finish that day," the result being that he could claim
hospitality at the castle of his hosts another twenty-four hours until
he could satisfy the general curiosity.

[35] The viol was practically like a violin, although more round and
more clumsy. It was played with a bow.

[36] Translated by Justin H. Smith. Reprinted by kind permission of G.
P. Putnam's Sons.

Chapter IX: The Feudal Relationship. Doing Homage.

Some days intervene between the wedding festivities of the sister of
Messire Conon and the adubbement as knight of his brother with the
tourney which follows this second ceremony. No baron can be rich enough
to make presents to all the knights who frequent the tourney, if they
were also guests at the wedding; on the other hand, numerous cavaliers
who have no interest in the affairs of Olivier and Alienor are glad
to come and break lances in the jousts and to shatter helmets in the
mêlée. Most of the original guests at the wedding, however, stay on
for the adubbement, and are joined by many others. Meantime there are
hunts, hawkings, dances, garden feasts, and jongleur recitals. It is
all one round of merry excitement. Yet gradually there creeps in a more
martial note. Maître Edmond's chants have less to do with parted lovers
and more to do with valiant deeds. The bride and groom recede from
central gaze. Young Squire Aimery is thrust forward.

While the lists are being prepared for the jousting, one can examine
the public economy of the seigneury; discover how it is a military as
well as a political unit; and learn the process of education which has
enabled Aimery to claim the proud status of a knight--a _miles_--a
first-class fighting man.


From a manuscript in the Bibliothèque nationale (Viollet-Le-Duc).]

[Sidenote: Types and Privileges of Fief Holders]

The status of St. Aliquis is typical of that of many baronies. Fiefs
are not necessarily composed of real estate: for example, one of
Conon's vassals does homage to him merely for the right to fish for a
mile along the Claire, and another for the privilege of maintaining the
baronial mill, with corresponding perquisites, in an outlying section
of the seigneury.[37] Nevertheless, as a rule a "fief" means a section
of land held by a person of noble family. He does not own this land by
complete right, but pays a kind of rent to his suzerain in the form of
military service, of sums of money in various emergencies determined
upon, and of various other kinds of moral and material assistance.
Ordinarily every feudal lordship will center round a castle; or,
failing that, a fortalice, a strong tower capable of considerable
defense, or a manor house not vulnerable to mere raiders. Every noble
fief holder claims the right to have his own banner; to a seal to
validate his documents; and of late there have been appearing insignia
soon to be known as heraldic coats of arms, which will be used or
displayed by everybody of "gentle condition." Many fief holders also
claim the right to coin money, even when their lands are on a very
modest scale; but suzerains are gradually curtailing this privilege,
base-born merchants churlishly complain that the mints of the lesser
seigneurs strike money too full of alloy and of vexatiously variable
standards; and, indeed, there is even talk that this privilege of
coining is likely to be monopolized by the king.


Feudalism, if systematized, would seem an admirably articulated
system, extending upward from the petty nobles to the king or even
the emperor.[38] The little castellans would do homage to the barons,
they to the viscounts, they to the counts, they to the dukes, and
they to the supreme suzerain, His Grace Philip Augustus, at Paris.
Actually, of course, nothing of the kind occurs. Not merely do many
fief holders have several suzerains (as does Conon) and serve some of
them very poorly, but there is no real gradation of feudal titles.
Conon, a baron, feels himself equal to many counts and superior to most
viscounts. The mighty Count of Champagne holds his head arrogantly as
the equal of the Duke of Burgundy. Of late years, especially since
Philip Augustus began to reign (1180), the kings of France have made it
clear that they are the mightiest of the mighty, and deserve genuine
obedience. Yet even now many seigneurs grumble, "These lords of Paris
are only the Capetian dukes who began to call themselves kings some
two hundred years ago. Let them wax not too proud or we will send them
about their business as our forefathers sent the old Carolingians." In
short, the whole feudal arrangement is utterly confused. "Organized
anarchy," despairing scholars of a later age will call it.


[Sidenote: Duties of Fief Holders]

Yet there are some pretty definite rules about fief holding. Generally
speaking a fief includes enough land to maintain at least one knight
and his war horse. This warrior is obligated usually to lead out a
number of armed villeins, proportionate to the number of knights. The
conditions on which the estate can be held vary infinitely. The great
obligation is military service. The average vassal is bound to follow
his suzerain for forty days per year on summons to an offensive war.
He is required to give much greater assistance in a strictly defensive
war, and especially to aid in the defense of his lord's castle. He has
to wait on the suzerain at times, when the latter may desire a great
retinue to give prestige to his court. At such gatherings he must
likewise assist his lord in dispensing justice--a matter sometimes
involving considerable responsibility for the judges. When his seigneur
marries off his eldest daughter, bestows knighthood on his eldest son,
or needs ransom money, if held a prisoner, the vassals must contribute,
and the St. Aliquis fief holders are blessing their patron saints
that Alienor and Aimery are not their overlord's children--otherwise
they would pay for most of the high festivities themselves. They must
also, when their lord visits them, give him proper hospitality in
their castles. Of course, they must never betray his secrets, adhere
to his enemies, or repudiate the pledges made to him. To do so were
"treason," the worst of all feudal crimes.

We have seen that holding a fief usually implies military service, and
that if the estate falls to a woman the suzerain can administer the
property until the maid is of marriageable age, and then give her to
some competent liegeman. It is about the same if the heir is a boy.
The overlord can exercise guardianship over the fief until the lad is
old enough to lead out his war band and otherwise to prove a desirable
vassal. Even when the vassals are of satisfactory sex and age, the
suzerain is entitled to a _relief_, a money payment, whenever an old
knight dies and his battle-worthy son takes over the barony.[39] This
is always a fairly heavy lump sum; and is still heavier if the fief
goes not to the son, but to a collateral heir. Also, when the vassal
wants to sell his fief to some stranger, not merely must the suzerain
approve the change, but he is entitled to an extra large fee, often as
much as three years' revenue from the entire holding.

Nevertheless, when all is said, many fief holders act as if they were
anything but humble vassals. Happy is many a suzerain when he is so
exempt from squabbles with his feudal equals and his own overlord that
he can compel his loyal lieges to execute all their promises, and when
he can indulge in the luxury of dictating to them the manner whereby
they must rule their lands. Some of the mottoes of the great baronial
houses testify how little the feudal hierarchy counts with the lord of
a few strong castles.

Boast the mighty Rohans:

    "Dukes we disdain:
    Kings we can't be:
    _Rohans_ are we!"

And still more arrogant is that of a seigneur whose magnificent
fortress-château is in the process of erection; "No king am I, no
prince, no duke: I'm just the Sire of Coucy." And to be "Sire of Coucy"
means to dispose of such power that when the canons of Rheims complain
to King Philip against his deeds of violence, the king can merely
reply, "I can do no more for you than _pray_ the Sire of Coucy to leave
you unmolested."

Sometimes, in addition to money payments or personal or military
service, a vassal is required to make symbolic gifts in token of loyal
intentions. Thus annually Conon sends to the Duke of Quelqueparte three
black horses; while for his holdings of the local abbey, every June he
presents the abbot with a basket of roses and a bunch of lilies, and
many other estates are burdened with some such peculiar duties.[40]

[Sidenote: Barons Largely Independent]

So long as he discharges his feudal obligations a seigneur can run his
barony practically to suit himself. If he treats his own vassals and
his peasants too outrageously they may cry out to the suzerain for
justice, and sometimes the overlord will delight in an excuse to humble
an arrogant feudatory. But the limits of interference are well marked.
No seigneur should undermine a faithful vassal's hold on his own
subjects. Every noble will feel his own rights threatened if a suzerain
begins to meddle with a dependent, even if the reason for doing so is
manifest. Many a baron can therefore play the outrageous tyrant if so
the devil inspires him. He has (as we have seen) to observe the vested
rights of his subordinates on the fief; otherwise he may provoke
a dangerous mutiny within his own castle.[41] Baron Garnier of St.
Aliquis, however, has been typical of many of his class. Prisoners,
travelers, peasants are subject to unspeakably brutal treatment. As
has been written concerning one such seigneur: "He was a very Pluto,
Megæra, Cerberus, or anything you can conceive still more horrible. He
preferred the slaughter of his captives to their ransom. He tore out
the eyes of his own children, when in sport they hid their faces under
his cloak. He impaled persons of both sexes on stakes. To butcher men
in the most horrible manner was to him an agreeable feast." Of another
such baron, the trembling monks record: "When anyone by force or
fraud fell into his hands, the captive might truly say, 'The pains of
hell have compassed me about.' Homicide was his passion and glory. He
treated his wife in an unspeakably brutal manner. Men feared him, bowed
down to him and worshiped him!"[42]

[Sidenote: Types of Evil and Good Barons]

Evidently, such outrageous seigneurs hold their lieges in a kind of
fascinated obedience, just as do the emirs and atabegs among the
Infidels. Of course, they treat merchants as merely so many objects
for plunder. If they do not watch the roads themselves, they make
bargains with professional robbers, allowing the latter to infest their
seigneuries in return for an agreed share of their booty. Even noble
folk are liable to be seized, imprisoned, and perhaps tortured to get a
ransom. If you cannot find the deniers, you may leave your bones in a
foul dungeon.

Nevertheless, St. Michael and all angels be praised! this evil is
abating. In the direct royal dominions such "men of sin" have been
rooted out since old Louis VI's time. The Church is using its great
influence against evil sires. The communal towns are waxing strong and
sending civic armies to besiege their towers and protect the roads.
The better class of seigneurs also unite against these disgraces to
nobility. As for Baron Garnier, he died betimes, for his suzerain the
duke (weary of complaints) was about to call out the levy of the duchy
and attack St. Aliquis. In other words, law and order are gradually
asserting themselves after the heyday of petty tyrannies, yet there
are still queersome happenings on every seigneury, and the amount of
arbitrary power possessed by the average baron is not good even for a
conscientious and high-minded man.

It is not the theoretical powers of a seigneur, but his actual mental
and ofttimes physical ability, which determines the real extent of
his power. Fiefs are anything but static. They are always growing or
diminishing. A capable seigneur is always attracting new lands to
himself. He ejects unfaithful vassals and adds their estates to his own
personal domain land. He induces his vassal's vassals to transfer their
allegiance directly to him. He wins land from his neighbors by direct
conquest. He induces his neighbor's vassals to desert to the better
protection of his suzerainty. He negotiates advantageous marriage
treaties for his relatives which bring new baronies into his dynasty.
When his own suzerain needs his military aid beyond the orthodox "forty
days," he sells his assistance for cash, lands, or valuable privileges.

Then, often when such an aggressive seigneur dies, his whole
pretentious fief crumbles rapidly. His eldest son is entitled to the
central castle, and the lion's share of the barony, but not to the
whole. The younger lads each detach something, and the daughters cannot
be denied a portion.[43] The suzerain presses all kinds of demands upon
the weakened heir. So do neighboring seigneurs who are the new baron's
feudal equals. One little quarrel after another has to be compounded
after ruinous concessions. Worst of all, the direct vassals of the
incoming baron refuse him homage, hunt up more congenial suzerains, or,
if swearing fealty, nevertheless commit perjury by the treacherous way
they execute their oaths. In a few years what has appeared a powerful
fief, under a young or incapable baron seems on the very edge of
ruin--its lord reduced to a single castle, with perhaps some question
whether he can defend even that.

[Sidenote: Accession to a Barony]

Through such a peril Conon passed inevitably when, as a very youthful
knight, he took over the estates of his unblessed uncle. Only the
saints' favor, his mother's wise counsels, and his own high looks and
strong arm kept the fief together. But after the vassal petty nobles
had been duly impressed with the fact that, even if the new baron were
less of a bloody tyrant than his predecessor, he could storm a defiant
fortalice and behead its rebellious master, the barony settled down to
relative peace. There was a meeting at St. Aliquis of all the vassals.
Conon, clothed in full armor, then presented himself in the great hall.

"Will you have Sire Conon, the nephew of your late lord, as your
present undoubted baron and suzerain?" demanded Sire Eustace, the

"_Fiat! Fiat!_--So be it!" shouted all the knights. Whereat each in
turn did homage; and Conon was now their liege lord by every Christian
and feudal law. Next Conon himself visited the Duke of Quelqueparte,
paid his relief, in turn did his own homage; and henceforth had his
position completely recognized.

From that time Conon had been obeyed by his vassals with reasonable
fidelity. They had never refused military service; they had fought
round his standard very faithfully at the great battle of Bouvines;
they had given him no reason to doubt that if he were hard bestead they
would discharge the other feudal duties of defending his person at the
hazard of their lives, of resigning a horse to him that he might save
himself in a battle, or even of going prisoner for him to secure his
release, if he were captive. On the other hand, Conon had earned their
love by proving himself a very honorable seigneur. When his vassal,
Sire Leonard, had died, leaving only a minor son, he administered the
lad's fief very wisely and gave it back a little richer, if anything,
when the heir came of age. When another vassal had fallen into a feud
with a neighboring sire, Conon had afforded military help, although it
was not his direct quarrel. He had respected the wives and daughters of
his petty nobles as though they had been his sisters. In short, on St.
Aliquis had been almost realized that happy relation mentioned in the
law books, "The seigneur owes faith and loyalty to his 'man' as much as
the man to his seigneur."

Nevertheless, Conon ("wise as a serpent, but _not_ harmless as a dove,"
as Father Grégoire says, pithily) takes nothing for granted. Twice he
has somewhat formally made the circuit of his seigneury, stopping at
each castle, allowing each little sire to show hospitality, and then
receiving again his pledges. Homage can be done many times. The more
often it is repeated the more likely it will be effective.[44] Your
vassal who swore fealty last Christmas is much more likely to obey the
_ban_ (the call to arms) than he who took his oath ten years ago. The
St. Aliquis vassals have all performed this devoir quite recently, save
one, Sire André of the sizable castle of Le Chenevert, whose father
died last Lent, and who has waited for the present fêtes to take his
vows and receive due investiture.

This ceremony, therefore, takes place some day after the wedding feast.
There is nothing humiliating therein for Sire André; on the contrary,
he is glad to have many of the noble guests be witnesses--they will
serve to confirm his title to his father's fief.

[Sidenote: Ceremony of Homage]

The great hall has been cleared. Messire Conon sits in his high chair
under the canopy. He wears his ermine and his velvet cap of presence.
Adela sits at his side, with many cavaliers on either hand. The other
St. Aliquis vassals and the noble leaders of the castle men at arms,
all in best armor, stand before the dais in a semicircle. Sire Eustace
holds a lance with a small red pennon. Sire André, in silvered mail and
helmet and his sword girded, comes forward, steps up to the dais, and
kneels. Conon rises, extends both hands, and André takes one in each of
his, then repeats clearly the formula dictated by Father Grégoire,
now, as so often, acting as baronial chancellor:

"Sire baron, _I enter into your homage and faith and become your man_,
by mouth and hands, and I swear and promise to keep faith and loyalty
to you against all others, saving only the just rights of the Baron of
Braisne, from whom I hold two farms and certain hunting rights, and I
swear to guard your rights with all my strength."


The future vassal has put his hands in those of his lord and pays him
homage; a soldier holds the lance which the lord will give to his
subject as a mark of investiture in the domain.]

Whereupon Conon makes reply, "We do promise to you, vassal André, that
we and our heirs will guarantee to you the lands held of us, to you and
your heirs against every creature with all our power, to hold these
lands in peace and quiet."

Conon then bends, kisses André upon the mouth, and the latter rises to
his feet. Father Grégoire holds out a small golden box flashing with
jewels, a saint's reliquary. The vassal puts his right hand upon it and

"In the name of the Holy Trinity, and in reverence of these sacred
relics, I, André, swear that I will truly keep the promise which I have
taken, and will always remain faithful to Sire Conon, my seigneur."

The first formula has technically been the "homage." The second is
the "oath of fealty"; now comes the "investiture." Sire Eustace steps
forward and gives to the vassal the lance, the symbolic token of the
lawful transfer to him of the fief. In other places, local custom would
make the article a glove, a baton, or even a bit of straw, but some
symbol is always required. This act completes the ceremony.

Sire André is now in possession of Le Chenevert and its lands, and
cannot be ousted thence so long as he performs his feudal duties. Of
course, if the fief had been granted out for the first time, or had
been transferred to some one not a direct heir, there would be a deed
of conveyance drafted in detail, and sealed by many ponderous lumps of
wax attached to the parchment with strips of leather. In many cases
however, no new document is needful, and, indeed, all through the
Feudal Ages even important bargains are likely often to be determined
merely by word of mouth--a reason for requiring many witnesses.

There is little danger, however, of a quarrel between such congenial
spirits as Baron Conon and Sire André. At its best, vassalship is not
a state of unworthy dependence; it is a state of junior comradeship
which, "without effacing distances, created a close relation of mutual
devotion"; and if vassals are often rebellious, vassals again and again
in history and in story have proved willing to lay down their lives
for their lord. There are few sentiments the jongleurs can repeat in
the average castle with surer hope of applause than when they recite
once more from the "Epic of Garin," concerning the Duke of Belin, who
declared that there was something more precious than all his riches and
power; for "wealth consists neither in rich clothes, nor in money, nor
in buildings, nor in horses, but is made from kinsmen and _friends_;
the heart of one man is worth all the gold in a country!"


[37] The right to profit from certain beehives could constitute a fief,
or to a fraction, say, of the tolls collected at a certain bridge.

[38] The emperor of the Holy Roman Empire (Germany and Italy) was
usually acknowledged as the social and titular superior of the king of
France, but he was never conceded any practical power over Frenchmen.

[39] Sometimes the relief was also payable when a new suzerain came in,
not merely when the fief changed vassals.

[40] In a South Country castle a certain seigneur was obligated, if his
suzerain, the Duke of Aquitaine, visited him, to wait on the duke's
table, wearing himself scarlet leggings with spurs of gold. He had to
serve the duke and ten knights with a meal of pork, beef, cabbage,
roast chickens, and mustard. Many other obligations for payments or
rendering of hospitality which were equally curious could be recorded.

[41] One might describe the situation by saying that many a baron who
would order a stranger or captive to be executed in cold blood without
form of trial, would hesitate to have him hanged or beheaded save by
the hereditary executioner of the seigneury, who had a vested right to
perform such nice matters.

[42] What could go on in feudal families earlier, in the eleventh
century, is illustrated by the tale of three brothers, noblemen of
Angouleme, who quarreled. Two of them treacherously invited the third
to their joint Easter festivities. They seized him in bed, put out
his eyes, and cut out his tongue that he might not denounce them. The
facts, however, leaked out. Their suzerain, the Duke of Aquitaine,
ravaged their lands with fire and sword (thus ruining their innocent
peasants), took the two criminals and cut out their own tongues and put
out their eyes in retaliation.

[43] The absence of a strict rule of primogeniture in France and other
continental countries added much to the complexities of the whole
feudal regime.

[44] Homage may be likened somewhat to _vaccination_ in a later
day--the more recently performed the greater its effectiveness.

Chapter X: Justice and Punishments.

One of the great duties of a high seigneur is to render justice. It is
for that (say learned men) that God grants to him power over thousands
of villeins and the right to obedience from nobles of the lower class.
Indeed, it can be written most properly that a good baron "is bound to
hear and determine the cause and pleas of his subjects, to ordain to
every man his own, to put forth his shield of righteousness to defend
the innocent against evildoers, and deliver small children and such
as be orphans and widows from those that do overset them. He pursues
robbers, raiders, thieves, and other evildoers. For this name 'lord' is
a name of peace and surety. For a good lord ceaseth war, battle, and
fighting, and reconciles men that are at strife. And so under a good,
strong, and peaceable lord, men of the country are safe."

The best of barons only measurably live up to this high standard. Yet
Conon is not wholly exceptional in telling himself that a reputation
for enforcing justice is in the end a surer glory than all the fêtes
around St. Aliquis.

Justice, of course, does not mean equality before the law. There is
one legal measure for country villeins, another for citizens of the
commune, another for petty nobles, another for greater nobles of
Conon's own rank. The monks and priests can always "plead their clergy"
and get their cases transferred to a special Church tribunal.[45] The
question really is: Has a man been given everything due to others of
his own class? If not, there is denial of justice.

The laws enforced in the St. Aliquis region are the old customary
laws in use ever since the Frankish barbarians' invasions. Many of
these laws have never been reduced to writing--at least for local
purposes--but sage men know them. There are no professional jurists
in the barony. Sire Eustace, the seneschal, understands the regional
law better than any other layman around the castle, though he in turn
is surpassed by Father Grégoire. The latter has, indeed, a certain
knowledge of the Canon law of the Church, far more elaborate than
any local territorial system, and he has even turned over voluminous
parchments of the old Roman law codified by the mighty Emperor
Justinian. Up at Paris, round the king there are now trained lawyers,
splitters of fine hairs, who say that this Roman law is far more
desirable than any local "customary law," and they are even endeavoring
(as the king extends his power) to make the Code of Justinian the basis
for the entire law of France. But conditions on most baronies are still
pretty simple, the questions to be settled call merely for common sense
and a real love of fair play on the part of the judges. One can live
prosperously and die piously under rough-and-ready laws administered
with great informality.

[Sidenote: High and Low Justice]

Conon has "high justice" over his vassals and peasants. This means
absolute power of life and death over any non-noble on the seigneury,
unless, indeed, the baron should outrage merchants bound to a
privileged free city, or some other wayfarers under the specific
protection of the king or the Duke of Quelqueparte. If strange
noblemen get into trouble, it will depend on circumstances whether
Conon undertakes to handle their cases himself, or refers them to
his suzerain, the duke. The right of seigneurs to powers of justice
on their own lands even over high nobles is, however, tenaciously
affirmed, and it is only with difficulty the duke and, above him, the
king can get some cases remitted to their tribunals.[46] If, however,
the alleged offender is a monk, he will be handed over to the local
abbot or, if a priest, to the bishop of Pontdebois to be dealt with
according to the law of the Church.

Even the lesser sires have "low justice," with the privilege of
clapping villeins in the stocks, flogging, and imprisoning for a
considerable time for minor offenses; and robbers caught on their lands
in the act of crime can be executed summarily. But serious cases have
to go to the court of the baron as high justiciar, as well as all the
petty cases which have arisen on that lord's personal dominions. If the
litigants are peasants, the wheels of justice move very rapidly. There
is a decided absence of formalities.

A great many disputes go before the provost's court, presided
over by Sire Macaire, a knight of the least exalted class, who is
Conon's "first provost." We shall see later how the baron's provosts
practically control the life of the peasants.[47] One of Sire Macaire's
main duties is to chase down offenders, acting as a kind of sheriff,
and after that to try them. Among the brawling, brutal peasantry there
is always a deplorable amount of crime. The seigneury has been blessed
with a comparative absence of bandits, but ever and anon a Pontdebois
merchant gets stripped, a girl is carried off into the woods, or even
the body of a traveler is found by the roadside. All this renders Sire
Macaire's office no sinecure.

Small penalties are handed down every day, but more serious matters
must wait for those intervals when Messire Conon calls his noble
vassals to his "plaids" or "assizes." Every fief holder is expected to
come and to give his lord good counsel as to what ought to be done,
especially if any of the litigants are noble, and also to give him
material aid, if needs be, in executing the decision reached.[48] This
last is very important, for if a fief holder is dissatisfied with a
verdict, he has a technical right to declare the decision "unjust" and
demand that it be settled by "ordeal of battle"--the duel not being
between the defeated suitor and his adversary, but between this suitor
and his judge!

All men know of what happened (according to the "Song of Roland") in
the case of the traitor Ganelon. This scoundrel, who had betrayed
his suzerain Charlemagne and had caused the brave Roland's death,
was seized by the emperor, but he demanded "judgment by his peers."
Charlemagne could not deny this claim. He convoked the high barons,
whereupon Lord Pinabel, Ganelon's kinsman, announced that "he would
give the lie with the sword" to any seigneur who voted for punishment.
All the barons were afraid. Pinabel was a mighty warrior. They reported
an acquittal to Charlemagne. The mighty emperor raged, but felt
helpless until he discovered the brave knight Thierry of Anjou, who
boldly asserted that "Ganelon deserves death."

[Sidenote: Ordeal by Battle]

Instantly Pinabel strode forward and cried to the assize of nobles:
"I say that Thierry has lied. I will fight!" and at once Charlemagne
took pledges from both champions that they would stand the "ordeal."
Each warrior then promptly went to mass, partook of the Sacrament,
and bestowed great gifts on the monasteries. Next they met in mortal
combat. After a desperate duel Thierry smote his foe "through the nasal
of the helmet ... and therewith the brain of Pinabel went gushing
from his head." There was no appeal from that verdict! Well content,
Charlemagne immediately caused Ganelon to be pulled asunder by four
fierce stallions.

However, these noble usages are falling into decadence. Certes, it
is an unknightly thing when both litigants are young cavaliers,
evenly matched, and when the issue concerns honor rather than legal
technicalities, for them to insist that the matter be settled merely
by a peaceful verdict, as if they had been wrangling merchants. But
the Church, the men of books, and the higher suzerains discourage
this practice, especially when the cases are intricate, and one of
the litigants cannot fight efficiently or provide a champion. As for
challenging a judge after a disagreeable verdict, the thing is becoming
dangerous, for all the other judges will feel bound to support him.[49]

The most likely happening is for the defeated litigant to retire to
his castle, summon his followers, and defy the court to enforce its
verdict. This happened with a sire of the Court of Trabey, a neighbor
of Conon's. Said sire, having been ordered by his peers to give up a
manor he had been withholding from his young nephew, sent a pursuivant
before their tribunal formally declaring war. The entire seigneury had
to arm and actually storm his castle before he would submit.

However, most St. Aliquis cases concern not the nobles, but only
villeins, and with these (thanks be to Heaven!) short shrifts are
permitted. The provost can handle the run of crimes when the baron
is busy; but a good seigneur acts as his own judge if possible. Even
during the festival period it is needful for Conon to put aside his
pleasures one morning to mount the seat of justice. In wintertime
the tribunal is, of course, in the great hall, but in such glorious
weather a big shade tree in the garden is far preferable.[50] Here
the baron occupies a high chair. Sire Eustace sits on a stool at his
right, Sire André and another vassal at his left as "assessors," for no
wise lord acts without council. Father Grégoire stands near by, ready
to administer oaths on the box of relics; Sire Macaire, the provost,
brings up the litigants and acts as a kind of state attorney.

[Sidenote: Trial of Villeins]

For the most part it is a sordid, commonplace business. Two villeins
dispute the ownership of a yoke of oxen. A peddler from Pontdebois
demands payment from a well-to-do farmer for some linen. An old man
is resisting the demands of his eldest son that he be put under
guardianship: the younger children say that their brother really covets
the farm. If the court's decisions are not so wise as Solomon's, they
are speedy and probably represent substantial justice. But there is
more serious business in hand. The news of the fêtes at St. Aliquis
has been bruited abroad. All the evil spirits of the region have
discovered their chance. Certain discharged mercenary soldiers have
actually invaded a village, stolen the peasants' corn, pigs, and
chickens, insulted their women, and crowned their deeds by firing many
cottages and setting upon three jongleurs bound for the tourney. They
were in the very act of robbing them to their skin when a party of the
provost's men, coming up, managed to seize two of these sturdy rascals.
Sire Macaire has also arrested a young peasant who stabbed an older
farmer painfully while they wrangled over a calf.

This second case is settled summarily. The defendant is of bad
reputation. He must stand all day in the pillory, and then to be
branded on his forehead with a red-hot iron, that all men may beware of
him. As for the alleged bandits, the case is not so simple. They keep
a sullen silence and refuse to betray the lair of their comrades who
have escaped. The provost intimates that they may be _halegrins_, and
outlaws of the foulest type, said to violate tombs and devour human
flesh. Very possibly they may have belonged to that notorious gang of
brigands many of which King Philip lured inside the walls of Bourges,
then closed the gates and slew them, thus capturing all their plunder.
Such fellows are, of course, food for the crows, but they must not be
allowed to get out of life too easily.

"Let the baron command preparatory torture?" suggests Sire Macaire,
with a sinister smile. Conon nods. The two beastlike wretches groan
and strain at their fetters. Preparatory torture, they know well, is
inflicted both to get a confession of guilt and also to extort details
about accomplices.

It is no pleasure to follow the provost, his guards, and his prisoners
to a certain tower, where in a lower vaulted room there are various
iron and wooden instruments. We are given to understand that torture
is a pretty usual part of criminal proceedings, unless the defendant
is a noble whose alleged crime does not touch the safety of the state.
It is true that wise men have discouraged the practice. What seems
clearer than that which Pope Nicholas I wrote A.D. 866? "A confession
must be voluntary and not forced. By means of torture an innocent man
may suffer to the uttermost without making any avowal--in such a case
what a crime for the judge! Or a person may be subdued by pain, and
acknowledge himself guilty, though he be innocent--which throws an
equally great sin upon the tribunal." Nevertheless, the Church is said
now to be allowing torture in her own ecclesiastical courts, and Sire
Macaire would tell us cynically that "torture is a sovereign means
wherewith to work miracles--to make the dumb speak."

Torture at St. Aliquis is administered by a sober-faced man in a
curious yellow dress. He is known as Maître Denis,[51] the baron's
"sworn executioner." He acts as torturer, chief jailer, and also
attends to beheadings and hangings. To be a professional hangman
implies considerable ostracism. Hangmen's families have to marry among
themselves, between fief and fief; hangmen's sons follow their fathers'
calling. On the other hand, the position is an assured one, with good
perquisites and not too much labor. Maître Denis is a quiet and pious
man, who can exhort condemned criminals quite as sanctimoniously as a
priest; but his piety never compels him to false mercy.

[Sidenote: Varieties of Tortures]

There are assuredly many ways of helping transgressors to make a
complete confession. Forms of torture vary from region to region. In
Brittany the culprit is often tied in an iron chair and gradually
brought near to a blazing fire; but in Normandy the effect seems best
when one thumb is squeezed by a kind of screw in the ordinary, and both
thumbs in the extraordinary (doubly severe) torture. At Autun they have
an ingenious method. After high boots of spongy leather have been put
on the culprit's feet, he is tied near a large fire and boiling water
is poured on the boots, which penetrates the leather, eats away the
flesh, and vouchsafes a foretaste of the pangs of hell.

At Orléans they have another method. The accused's hands are tied
behind his back, and a ring fastened to them. By this ring the unhappy
fellow is lifted from the floor and hung up in midair. If they then
desire the "extraordinary" torture, weights of some two hundred and
fifty pounds are attached to his feet. He is hoisted to the ceiling by
a pulley, and presently allowed to fall with a jerk, dislocating his

There are, indeed, many simpler, more convenient methods of torture.
You can inject boiling water, vinegar, or oil into the accused, apply
hot pitch, place hot eggs under the armpits, thrust sharp-cornered dice
between the skin and flesh, tie lighted candles to the hands so that
they can be consumed simultaneously with the wax, or allow water to
drip from a great height upon the stomach. This, curiously enough, is
said to break down the most stubborn criminals, as will watering the
soles of the feet with salted water, and allowing goats to lick the

However, the ordinary method is the rack. Then the offender is laid
on a wooden trestle, cords are bound to his limbs and then steadily
tightened with winches. Baron Garnier in his day took great interest in
obtaining a well-made rack. It now is put to proper use in "stretching"
the two brigands. Happily, these culprits break down after the first of
them has undergone a few turns before his limbs are dislocated; and to
the provost's satisfaction they howl out sundry details as to how their
comrades can be taken. The prisoners are therefore remanded to custody
until their statements can be investigated. Woe to them if they have
lied! In that event there are promised them much keener tortures to
make them weary of life.

While Sire Macaire is therefore leading his band after the remaining
brigands, Maître Denis conducts the two captives back to prison. Really
it is only a few feet from the great hall of state in the _palais_,
to the cells under the old donjon. In their confinement the prisoners
can hear the revelry of the baron's guests. Through their airholes
drifts the jongleur's music. They can almost, at times, catch the swish
and rustle of the rich dresses of the noblewomen. Conon is accounted
a merciful custodian compared with his uncle, but he does not let
offenders forget their sins because of kindness.

[Sidenote: Prisoners and Dungeons]

Noble prisoners are entitled to relatively comfortable quarters, to
double rations of decent food, to give bail if their alleged offense
is not a very heavy one, and to be released on reasonable ransom if
they are captives of war. Villeins have no such privileges. They are
fortunate if first they are not stripped naked as a pair of tongs
before the lock rattles behind them. They are usually cast into
filthy holes, sometimes with water running across the floor, and with
reptiles breeding in the mire. In Paris, where the king is considered
more tender-hearted than the average seigneur, we hear of a cell of
only eleven by seven feet in which ten people have been thrust to spend
the night. Of course, these were not great criminals. The latter might
enjoy the _chausse d' hypocras_, where a man had his feet continually
in water, or the _fosse_, a jug-shaped round chamber let into the
bowels of the rock, into which prisoners must be lowered by a pulley
from the ceiling;[53] or a Little-Ease chamber, where one could neither
sit nor stand. If, however, you have money you can sometimes bribe the
turnkeys into letting you have a cell more private and less noisome,
with the luxury of bedding and a chair;[54] but in any case he who
enters a feudal prison had better invoke his patron saint.

Maître Denis has not treated the two brigands quite so badly as lay in
his power. He has left them their clothes--since they are sure to be
executed and he can get the raiment later. He has not put them in the
_fosse_ (where Baron Garnier had sometimes dropped his victims) because
of the trouble later of hoisting them out. He gives them coarse bread
and some meat not unfit for dogs, at the same time advising them "on
his word as a Christian" to confer with Father Grégoire.

The miserable pair are not long uncertain about their fate. They have
told the truth about the lair of their comrades. The provost's band
surprises the spot. Six hardened rogues, in the very act of counting
their plunder, are overpowered. But why weary Messire the Baron with
the empty form of trying these robbers when there is no mortal doubt
of their guilt and no new information is to be extracted from them?
Their throats are therefore cut as unceremoniously as the cook's boy
attends to pigeons. The next day, wholly casually, Sire Macaire reports
his good success to his lord, and remarks, "I presume, fair Sire, that
Denis can hang the two he has in the dungeon." Conon (just arranging
a hawking party) rejoins: "As soon as the chaplain can shrive them."
Why, again, should the prisoners complain? They are certainly allowed
to prepare decently for the next world, a favor entirely denied their

If there had been any real doubt as to the guilt of the two bandits,
they might in desperation have tried to clear themselves by _ordeal_.
If they could have picked a stone out of a caldron of boiling water,
lifted and carried a red-hot iron, or even partaken of the Holy
Sacrament (first calling on God to strike them dead if they were
guilty), and after such a test seemed none the worse, they might
have had some claim to go free. _Ordeals_ are an old Germanic usage.
They seem to refer the decision to all-seeing God. But ever since
Charlemagne's day they have been falling into disfavor. Great churchmen
are ordinarily too intelligent to encourage them. Men learned in the
law say that often they wrest justice. Brave knights declare the only
ordeal worth having is a duel between two champions.

[Sidenote: Ordeals, the Pillory and Flogging]

Sometimes, instead of wrangling, clerics have undertaken to prove
themselves right by "passing through fire"--walking down a narrow
lane between two great piles of blazing fagots, and trusting that
Heaven will guard them even as it did the three Hebrew children in
Nebuchadnezzar's furnace. Such tests seldom are satisfactory. Men
still dispute about the ordeal of the monk Peter Barthelmey during
the First Crusade. He was accused of a pretended miracle and tried to
vindicate himself by "passing through fire alive." All agreed that he
emerged from the flames alive; yet in a few days he died. His foes said
because he was sorely burned; his friends because, although unscathed
by the fire, he was merely trampled upon by the crowd that rushed up to
discover his fate!

The only time one can ordinarily rely upon ordeals is in tests for
witchcraft. If an old woman is so accused, she must be tied hand and
foot and cast into the river. If she floats, the devil is aiding; draw
her out, therefore, and burn her at the stake. If she sinks (as in a
case recently at Pontdebois) she is innocent. Unfortunately, in this
instance the poor wretch went to the bottom before they could determine
that she was guiltless; but the saints know their own, and doubtless
they have given recompense and rest to her soul.

Naturally many petty offenses do not deserve death. The criminals are
usually too poor to pay fines, and it is a waste of honest folk's bread
to let them spend set terms in prison. For small misdemeanants it is
often enough to drive the rascals around the neighboring villages in a
cart, calling out their names amid hootings and showers of offal. But
in the village beyond the Claire is located the pillory for a large
class of rogues. It is a kind of high scaffold with several sets of
chains and wooden collars, through which the offenders' arms and heads
are thrust, while they stand for hours, in hot sun or winter cold,
exposed to the jeerings and pebbles of the assembled idlers gathered

The next stage of penalty is sometimes a public flogging. The prisoner
is stripped to the waist and driven around the seigneury. At each
crossroads his guards give so many blows over the shoulders with a
knotted rope. We have seen how branding was ordered for one young
miscreant to put on him an ineffaceable stigma; and not infrequently
one can meet both men and women with a hand lopped off, or even an eye
gouged out, as a merciful substitute for their true deserts upon the
gallows. Old Baron Garnier once, when peculiarly incensed, ordered the
"hot bowl"--namely, that a red-hot brazier should be passed before the
eyes of his victim until sight was destroyed.

But if a villein has committed a great crime he were best dismissed
from an overtroubled world. Dead men never bother the provost twice.
All over France you will find a gallows almost as common a sight
in the landscape as a castle, an abbey, or a village. Many a fine
spreading tree by the roadway has a skeleton be-dangling from one of
its limbs. It is a lucky family of peasants which has not had some
member thereof hanged, and even then plenty of rogues will die in their
beds. Considering the general wickedness abroad, it seems as if there
were a perpetual race between the criminals and the hangmen, with the
criminals well to the fore.[55]

[Sidenote: The Public Gallows]

There are almost as many forms of execution as there are of torture.
Fearful criminals, gross blasphemers, and the like might be killed by
quartering: first their flesh might be nipped off by red-hot pinchers
and hot lead poured into their wounds; then death comes as a release
by attaching a strong horse to each arm and leg and tearing the victim
into four parts. Witches, wizards, and heretics are, of course, burned,
because they thus share the element of their patron, the devil. Most
malefactors, however, find beheading or hanging the ordinary ending.

Beheading is "honorable." It is the nobleman's expiation for misdeeds.
The victim is not degraded and leaves no stigma upon his children. In
England the headsman uses the ax, but in France he ordinarily swings a
great two-handed sword. A skillful executioner does his business at one
blow--a most merciful form of mortal exit.

Hanging, however, is "dishonorable." Nobles who have especially
exasperated their judges are sometimes subjected to it. Henceforth
people will cry, "Their father was a felon," to their disgraced
children. When a villein is ordered to die, he is ordinarily hanged,
unless some other method is specified. In the village near St. Aliquis
the gallows is near the pillory. It is not so large as that huge
gallows at Montfaucon, near Paris, which sees the end of so many of
the city offenders, and where there is a great series of stone piers
with wooden crosspieces, arranged in two stories, making twenty-four
compartments in all. There are permanent ladders fixed for dragging up
the criminals. When all the compartments are full and additional room
is needed for more executions, some of the skeletons are thrown into a
deep, hideous pit in the center of the structure. The less pretentious
St. Aliquis gallows has only four compartments. The structure stands
close to the road, that all may learn how energetic are the baron's
provosts. Two compartments are now empty, however, and Sire Macaire is
glad of a chance to fill them.

Because the two bandits made prompt confession they are not subjected
now to a "previous" torture--that is, to a new racking as an extra
punishment before execution. They are compelled, however, to perform
the _amende honorable_. This involves being haled to the parish church
in the village. A long candle is thrust in the hands of each victim.
They are dragged forward by a noose, and at the door of the church cast
themselves down and cry; "We have grievously sinned against Heaven. Our
punishment is just. We beg pardon of God and man. May Heaven have mercy
upon our souls!" Then they are forced back to the cart whereon they are
being trundled to execution.

"Riding the cart" is a familiar phrase for going to the gallows.
For a noble prisoner to be compelled to take his last journey upon
a cart, instead of cavalier-wise upon a horse, is the last touch of
degradation. The two bandits, securely pinioned, are placed in a
two-wheeled vehicle, attended by Maître Denis and an assistant, and
with Father Grégoire repeating prayers. They seem followed by all the
lewd fellows of the baser sort in the entire region, and even certain
knights and dames, come for the tournament, are not above craning
their necks and gazing after the noisy procession. A hanging is just
infrequent enough in St. Aliquis to afford a little excitement. At the
gallows Maître Denis acts with a fearful dexterity. First one, next the
other, criminal is dragged up the ladder with the noose about his neck,
then swung off into eternity with a merciful speed. A good hangman does
not let his victims suffer long. Soon a great flock of crows will be
flapping around the gallows, giving the last rites to the lawbreakers,
and the ogling crowd will slink away.

[Sidenote: Ceremonies at an Execution]

The poor wretches are fortunate in that their anguish is not prolonged
by such customs as obtain at Paris. There many death carts stop at
the Convent of the Filles-Dieu, where the nuns are obligated to give
every condemned criminal a glass of wine and three pieces of bread.
This pathetic meal is seldom refused, and a great throng will stand
gaping about until it is consumed. Father Grégoire, too, had mercifully
refrained from a long public exhortation at the gallows as to how,
literally, "the wages of sin is death," another custom ere offenders
are turned off. But after the deed is over, confessor, executioner, and
provost do not decline their perquisite after every such ceremony--a
liberal banquet at the castle.

These proceedings have been unpleasant but not unusual interludes
between such happenings as the wedding and the adubbement. It is time
to return to young Squire Aimery, and see how he has been educated and
"nourished" preparatory to the greatest event in his life.


[45] See pp. 379, 380.

[46] Of course, a seigneur who grossly molested a peaceable traveling
knight, or, for that matter, a villein in lawful errand going through
the barony, could be cited before his suzerain's own tribunal for
"denial of justice," and might (in clear-cut cases) have his whole
position put in jeopardy.

[47] See p. 380.

[48] On account of the expense and trouble involved in attending the
suzerain's court, and because of the risks of acting as judge, this
feudal obligation was often poorly discharged.

[49] It was clearly recognized, also, that the "right of duel" was
subject to abuses, and successful efforts were made to limit it to (1)
very serious offenses; (2) cases where there was no direct evidence,
but only circumstantial evidence, against the accused.

[50] The case of Louis IX holding court under a great tree in the royal
forest at Vincennes will be recalled as typical of this custom.

[51] Outside the barony he would probably be known by the name of the
seigneury he served--_e.g._, "Maître St. Aliquis." Down to the verge of
the Revolution the chief hangman of the capital of France was "Monsieur

[52] This method of torture by "squasations" seems to have been the one
ordinarily used in the Inquisition, which began its unhappy history in
the thirteenth century.

[53] This was one of the famous _Oubliettes_ ("Chambers of
Forgetfulness") or _Vade-in-pace_ (Depart-in-peace) cells where the
prisoners could be left to starve in pitch darkness, or perhaps be fed
by a few scraps flung down from the hole in the vaulting.

[54] It was a great concession in the Paris prisons when the government
ordered that the jailers in the more public wards should "keep large
basins on the pavement, so that the prisoners might get water whenever
they wished."

[55] Of course, the terrible severity of the penalties made many
persons who were guilty of relatively small offenses feel that they had
sinned beyond pardon. They would, therefore, plunge into a career of
great crimes, to "have their fling" ere the inevitable gallows.

Chapter XI: The Education of a Feudal Nobleman.

To the noble troubadour Bertran de Born, a congenial comrade of Richard
the Lion Hearted, is attributed a little song which seems re-echoed in
many a castle.

    Peace delights me not!
    War--be thou my lot!
    Law--I do not know
    Save a right good blow!

[Sidenote: Nobles Delight in War]

Even a seigneur who nods pious assent to all that the monks and priests
affirm in praise of peace wishes in his heart that it were not sinful
to pray for brisk fighting. To be a good warrior, to be able to take
and give hard blows, to enjoy the delights of victory over doughty
adversaries, and finally to die a warrior's death on "the field of
honor," not a "cow's death" in one's bed--that is the ambition of
nearly every noble worthy of his gentility.

Bertran de Born has again expressed this brutal joy in still greater

    I prize no meat or drink beside
      The cry, "On! On!" from throats that crack:
    The neighs when frightened steeds run wide,
      A riderless and frantic pack,
        And set the forest ringing:--
    The calls, "Help! Help!"--the warriors laid
    Beside the moat with brows that fade
        To grass and stubble clinging:--

    And then the bodies past all aid
    Still pierced with broken spear or blade....
        Come barons, haste ye, bringing
    Your vassals for the daring raid;--
    _Risk all--and let the game be played!_

Clearly other and supposedly more peaceful ages will find in the Feudal
Epoch a very bloody world.

There is at least this extenuation. Even in France the winters are
cold, the days short, the nights long. Castles at best are chilly,
musty barracks. Many people are living in a small space and are
constantly jostling one another. Thanks to sheer ennui, many a baron
becomes capricious and tyrannical. Even in summertime, hunts, hawking,
jongleurs' lays, and tournaments grow stale. Often the average cavalier
is in a receptive mood for war just because he is grievously bored.


The countenances of the older warriors around St. Aliquis; the great
scars on cheek, chin, and forehead; the mutilated noses and ears--tell
how strenuous have been most of their lives. The scars are badges
of honor. Aimery is nigh regretful that there are no slashes on his
youthful countenance, although Sire Eustace, his mentor, grimly assures
him "this trouble will pass with time." Aimery is now nineteen. His
brother gave him a careful training, as becoming the cadet of a great
house, and then arranged that he be "nourished"--that is, taken into
the family and educated as squire--by a powerful count. Unfortunately,
just as Aimery was about to demand knighthood of his lord, the latter
suddenly died. He therefore returned to St. Aliquis and waited some
months impatiently, until Conon could give him an adubbement worthy of
the St. Aliquis name.

From earliest youth Aimery has had success in arms held before him as
the one thing worth living for. True, he has been taught to be pious.
He understands it is well that God has created priests and monks, who
may by their ceremonies and prayers enable the good warriors to enter
into paradise. But the squire has never had the slightest desire to
become a cleric himself. He thanks his divine patroness, St. Génevieve,
that Conon has not treated him as so many younger brothers are treated,
and forced him into the Church. What is it to become a lazy rich canon,
or even a splendid lord bishop, beside experiencing even the modest
joys of a common sire with a small castle, a fast horse, good hawks,
and a few stout retainers? Aimery has learned to attend mass devoutly
and to accept implicitly the teachings of the priests, but his moral
training is almost entirely based on "courtesy," a very secular code
indeed. Hence he acts on the advice given him while very young: "Honor
all churchmen, but look well to your money."

Another well-remembered warning is never to put trust in villeins. He
cannot, indeed, refuse to deal with them. He must treat them ordinarily
with decency, but never trust them as real friends. The ignoble are
habitually deceitful. They cannot understand a cavalier's "honor."
They are capable of all kinds of base villainies. A sage man will have
comradeship only with his nobly born peers, and pride is no fault in a
baron when dealing with inferiors.

[Illustration: GOTHIC WRITING

From a thirteenth-century chart.]

[Sidenote: Literary Education of Young Nobles]

Although he is to be a warrior, Aimery has been given a certain
training in the science of letters. It is true that many seigneurs
cannot read a word on the parchments which their scriveners interpret,
draw up, or seal for them,[56] but this is really very inconvenient.
Conon is genuinely thankful he is not thus at the mercy of Father
Grégoire. Another reason for literacy is that delightful books of
romantic adventure are multiplying. The younger brother has, therefore,
been sent over to the school at the neighboring monastery, where
(along with a few other sons of noblemen) he has had enough of the
clerk's art switched into him to be able to read French with facility,
to pick out certain Latin phrases, and to form letters clumsily on
wax tablets--writing with a stylus something after the manner of the

Once possessed of this wonderful art of reading that Aimery had while
yet a lad, he could delve into the wonderful parchments of romances
which told him of the brave deeds done of old. Especially, he learned
all about the Trojan War, which was one long baronial feud between
North French cavaliers fighting for the fair Helen, imprisoned in a
strong castle. His sympathy was excited for Hector as the under dog. He
read of many exploits which had escaped the knowledge of Homer, but
which were well known to Romance trouvères. He reveled in scenes of
slaughter whereof the figures are very precise, it being clearly stated
that 870,000 Greeks and 680,000 Trojans perished in the siege of that
remarkable Trojan fortress.


Restored by Viollet-Le-Duc from a thirteenth-century manuscript in the
Bibliothèque nationale.]

Almost equally interesting was the history of Alexander, based on the
version of the pseudo-Callisthenes. This was very unlike the accounts
which other ages consider authentic. The names of the battles with
Darius were altered, strange adventures with the Sirens crept into the
narrative, and finally Alexander (the tale ran) died sorely lamenting
that he could not conquer France and make Paris his capital.

The story of Cæsar is also available, but it seems less romantic,
although full of episodes of fairies and dwarfs.

For the history of France, Aimery has learned that the country was
originally settled by exiled Trojans; later the Romans came, and some
time later one meets the great Emperor Charlemagne, whose exploits
entwine themselves with Charles Martel's defeat of the Saracens.
Charlemagne, we gather, conducted a crusade to the Holy Land and took
Jerusalem, although later the Infidels regained it. Recent French
history remains very mixed in the young noble's mind until the great
Council of Clermont (1095), which launched the First Crusade. In
the century after that great episode, however, the events stand out
clearly, and of course he knows all the history of the local baronial
houses down to the story of the petty feud forty years ago between two
Burgundian counts.

But what is monk's or jongleur's lore compared with the true business
of a born cavalier? When he was only seven or eight, Aimery was fencing
with a blunted sword. From ten onward he took more regular fencing
lessons, first from Sire Eustace; then from a professional master, a
keen Gascon, hired by Conon. Equally early he had his horse, his hawks,
and his dogs; he was taught how to care for them entirely himself,
and was soon allowed to go on long rides alone into the dense forest
in order to develop his resourcefulness, sense of direction, and
woodcraft. Then, as he grew taller, his brother began to deliver long
lectures for his betterment, even as Adela had admonished Alienor.

[Sidenote: Maxims for Youthful Cavaliers]

One day Conon exhorted him in the style of the old Count Guy advising
his son Doon in the epic, "Doon of Mayence." "Ask questions of good
men whom you know, but never put trust in a stranger. Every day,
fair brother, hear the holy mass; and whenever you have money give
to the poor--for God will repay you double. Be liberal in gifts to
all, for a cavalier who is sparing will lose all in the end and die
in wretchedness; but wherever you can, give without promising to give
again. When you come to a strange house, cough very loudly, for there
may be something going on there which you ought not to see. When you
are in noble company, play backgammon; you will be the more prized on
that account. Never make a noise or jest in church; it is done only
by unbelievers. If you would shun trouble, avoid meddling and pretend
to no knowledge you do not possess. Do not treat your body servant as
your equal--that is, let him sit by you at table or take him to bed
with you; for the more honor you do a villein the more he will despise
you. After you are married by no means tell a secret to your wife;
for if you let her know it you will repent your act the first time
you vex her." And with this shrewd thrust at Adela the flow of wisdom
temporarily ceases.

Before he was fifteen Aimery had thus learned to read and write, to
ride and hawk, to play chess, checkers, and backgammon, to thrum a
harp and sing with clear voice, to shoot with the arbalist, and to
fence with considerable skill. He was also learning to handle a light
lance and a shield while on horseback. Then came his first great
adventure--his brother sent him to the gentle Count of Bernon to be

The higher the baron the greater his desire to have nobly born lads
placed in his castle as _nourris_, to serve as his squires and be
trained as cavaliers. Bernon had kept three squires simultaneously, as
did Conon himself. It is a friendly courtesy to send word to an old
comrade in arms (as these two seigneurs had been), saying: "You have a
fine son (or brother); send him to be 'nourished' in my castle. When he
is of ripe age I will give him furs and a charger and dub him knight."
Of course, it was a high honor to be reared by a very great lord like
the Duke of Quelqueparte; but younger sons or brothers did not often
enjoy such good fortune. Petty nobles had to send their sons to the
manors of poor sires of their own rank, who could keep only one squire.

[Sidenote: Training of a Squire]

Once enrolled as squire to a count, Aimery soon learned that his master
was a kind of second father to him--rebuking and correcting him with
great bluntness, but assuming an equal responsibility for his training.
Hereafter, whatever happened, no ex-squire could fight against his
former master without sheer impiety. The Emperor Charlemagne once, in a
passion, smote the hero Roland in the face. Roland turned red. His fist
clenched--then he remembered how Charlemagne had "nourished" him. He
accepted an insult which to him no other mortal might proffer.

It is held that no father or brother can enforce sufficient discipline
over a growing lad, and that "it is proper he shall learn to obey
before he governs, otherwise he will not appreciate the nobility of his
rank when he becomes a knight." Aimery in the De Bernon castle surely
received his full share of discipline, not merely from the count, but
from the two older squires, who took pains at first to tyrannize over
him unmercifully, until they became knighted, and he gained two new
companions younger than himself, with whom he played the despot in turn.

In his master's service Aimery became expert in the use of arms. First
he was allowed to carry the count's great sword, lance, and shield,
and to learn how the older nobles could handle them. Next he was given
weapons and mail of his own, and began the tedious training of the tilt
yard, discovering that a large part of his happiness in life would
consist in being able to hold his lance steady while his horse was
charging, to strike the point fairly on a hostile shield until either
the tough lance snapped or his foe was flung from the saddle, and at
the same time to pinch his own saddle tightly with his knees while
with his own shield covering breast and head against a mortal blow.
Couch, charge, recover--couch, charge, recover--he must practice it a
thousand times.

Meantime he was attending the count as a constant companion. He rose
at gray dawn, went to the stables, and curried down his master's best
horse; then back to the castle to assist his superior to dress. He
waited on his lord and lady at table. He was responsible for receiving
noble guests, preparing their chambers and generally attending to their
comfort. On expeditions he led the count's great war charger when the
seigneur rode his less fiery palfrey; and he would pass his lord his
weapons as needed. At tournaments he stood at the edge of the lists,
ready to rush in and rescue the count from under the stamping horses
if he were dismounted. He was expected to fight only in emergencies,
when his master was in great danger; but Bernon was a gallant knight,
and repeatedly in hot forays Aimery had gained the chance to use his

At the same time he was learning courtesy. He was intrusted with the
escort of the countess and her daughters. He entertained with games,
jests and songs noble dames visiting the castle. He learned all the
details of his master's affairs. The count was supposed to treat him
as a kind of younger self--intrust him with secrets, send him as
confidential messenger on delicate business, allow him to carry his
purse when he journeyed, and keep the keys to his coffers when at
home. After Aimery became first squire he was expected also to assist
the seneschal in a last round of the castle at night, to make sure
everything was locked and guarded; then he would sleep at the door of
the count's chamber. Beyond a doubt, since the count was an honorable
and capable man, Aimery received thereby a training of enormous value.
While still a lad he had large responsibilities thrust upon him, and
learned how to transmit commands and to handle difficult situations. He
was versed in all the ordinary occasions of a nobleman. When he became
a knight himself, he would be no tyro in all the stern problems of
feudal life.


Restored by Viollet-Le-Duc, from a manuscript in the Bibliothèque

Thus Conon's brother came within four years to be an admirable
_damoiseau_ (little lord), an epithet decidedly more commendatory than
its partial equivalent "squire" (_ecuyer_, shield bearer).[58]

[Sidenote: Martial Exercises, the Quintain]

Of course, his military training had proceeded apace. Soon he was
allowed to tilt with his horse and lance at the _quintain_. This is a
manikin covered with a coat of mail and a shield, and set on a post.
The horseman dashes up against it at full gallop, and tries to drive
his lance through shield and armor. There are many variations for
making the sport harder. After Aimery could strike the _quintain_ with
precision he took his first tilt against an older squire. Never will
he forget the grinding shock of the hostile lance splintering upon his
shield; the almost irresistible force that seemed smiting him out of
the saddle; the dismay when he found his own lance glancing harmlessly
off the shield of his opponent, slanted at a cunning angle. But
practice makes perfect. When he finally returned to St. Aliquis his own
brother was almost unhorsed when they tried a friendly course by the

So Aimery completed his education. If he has failed to learn humility,
humanity to villeins, and that high respect for women which treats them
not merely as creatures to be praised and courted, but as one's moral
and intellectual equals, he at least has learned a high standard of
honor in dealing with his fellow nobles. The confidences his master
has reposed in him have made it a fundamental conviction that it were
better to perish a dozen times than to betray a trust. He believes that
the word of a cavalier should be better than the oath of the ignoble.
As for courage, it were better to die like Ganelon, torn by wild
horses, than to show fear in the face of physical danger. He has been
trained also to cultivate the virtue of generosity to an almost ruinous

Free giving is one of the marks of a true nobleman. Largess is praised
by the minstrels almost as much as bravery. "He is not a true knight
who is too covetous." Therefore money is likely to flow like water
through Aimery's fingers all his life. The one redeeming fact will
be that, though he will be constantly _giving_, he will always be
as constantly _receiving_. Among the nobles there is an incessant
exchanging of gifts--horses, armor, furs, hawks, and even money.
All wealth really comes from the peasants, yet their lords dispose
carelessly of it even though they do not create it. Even the villeins,
however, will complain if their masters do not make the crowds scramble
often for coppers--never realizing that these same coppers represent
their own sweat and blood.

[Sidenote: Demanding Knighthood]

As already stated, Aimery's master had died (to his squire's sincere
grief) shortly before the latter could have said to him according to
the formula, "Fair Sire, I demand of you knighthood." The young man
has accordingly returned to St. Aliquis, and waited for some action
by his brother. Knighthood means for a noble youth the attainment of
his majority. It involves recognition as a complete member of that
aristocracy which was separated by a great gulf from the villeins.
Very rarely can the base-born hope for that ceremonial buffet which
admits them to the company of the gentle. If a peasant has exhibited
remarkable courage and intelligence, and above all has rendered some
extraordinary service to a duke or king, sometimes his villein blood
may be forgotten officially. But even if he is knighted, all his life
he can be treated as a social upstart, his dame despised and snubbed by
noblewomen, and his very grandchildren reminded of the taint of their

True, indeed, not all men of nobility can become knights. Knighthood
ordinarily implies having a minimum of landed property, and ability to
live in aristocratic idleness. Many poor nobles, and especially the
younger sons of poor nobles, remain bachelors, fretting upon their
starving properties, or serving some seigneur as mercenaries, and
hoping for a stroke of fortune so that they can demand knighthood. But
they are likely to die in their poverty, jealous of the rich sires, yet
utterly scornful of the peasants and thanking the saints they are above
touching a plow, mattock, or other vulgar means of livelihood.

On the other hand, there are many seigneurs who, although rich and
dubbed as knights, nevertheless give the lie to their honors by their
effeminacy and luxury. They are worse than the baron whom we saw as
a _trouvère_ and collector of minstrels' romances, and who even read
Latin books. The monkish preachers scold such weaklings and pretended
gallants. "To-day our warriors are reared in luxury. See them leave
for the campaign! Are their packs filled with iron, with lances, with
swords? Not so, but with leathern bottles filled with wine, with
cheeses, and spits for roasting. One would imagine that they were going
to a feast in the gardens and not to a battle. They carry splendidly
plated shields; but greatly they hope to bring them back undented."[59]

Such unworthy knights unquestionably can be found, but they have not
tainted the whole nobility. Your average cavalier has spent his entire
life training for combat; he dreams of lance thrusts and forays; and
the least of his sins is that he will shun deadly blows.

At last the great day for which Aimery has waited is at hand. To-morrow
Conon will dub him a knight.


[56] As late as about 1250 there was a "grand chamberlain of France"
who seems to have been absolutely illiterate.

[57] It is risky to generalize as to the extent of learning among the
average nobles. Some modern students would probably represent them as
being sometimes better lettered than were Conon and Aimery.

[58] The sharp distinction between the young attendants known as
"pages," and the older "squires," had hardly been worked out by A.D.
1220. Such young persons could also be called "varlets," but that name
might be given as well to non-noble servitors. When chivalry was at
its height the theory developed that a nobleman's son should spend his
first to his seventh year at home with his mother, his eighth to his
fifteenth in suitable training as a "page," and from that time till he
was one-and-twenty serving as a squire. This precise demarcation of
time was probably seldom adhered to. Many ambitious young nobles would
serve much less than seven years as a squire. On the other hand, many
petty nobles might remain squires all their lives, for lack of means to
maintain themselves as self-respecting knights.

[59] The words quoted are those of the Archdeacon Peter of Blois,
haranguing about A.D. 1180.

Chapter XII: Feudal Weapons and Horses. Dubbing a Knight.

The thing which really separates a noble from a villein is the former's
superiority in arms. True, God has made the average cavalier more
honorable, courteous, and sage than the peasant; but, after all, his
great advantage is material. The villeins, poor churls, spend their
days with shovel, mattock, or in mechanic toil. Doubtless, they can
grow wheat, raise pigs, weave cloth, or build houses better than their
masters, but in the use of arms how utterly are they inferior. How can
a plowman, though you give him weapons, hold his own against a man
of gentility who has been trained in arms from early boyhood. As for
the peasants with their ordinary weapons--flails, boar spears, great
knives, scythes set on poles, bows and arrows--suppose ten of them
meet one experienced cavalier in full panoply upon a reliable charger.
His armor will turn their puny blows. He will, perhaps, have brained
or pinked through four of them before the other six can run into the
woods. No wonder nobles give the law to villeins!

The noble is almost always a horseman. It is the great war steed that
gives him much of his advantage, and a large part of the remainder
comes from his magnificent armor, which enables him often to go
through desperate contests unscathed, and which is so expensive that
most non-nobles can never afford it. A good cavalier despises missile
weapons, he loves to come to grips. Bowmen are despised as being
always villeins. Says a poet, "Coward was he who was the first archer;
he was a weakling and dared not come close to his foe." And many armies
are reckoned by cavalry alone, even as sang another minstrel of a
legendary host, "there were in it sixty thousand knights, not counting
foot soldiers of whom no account is taken."


Restored by Viollet-Le-Duc, from a manuscript in the Bibliothèque
nationale. He wears on his shoulders small metal plaques called

Old warriors dislike arbalists, those terrible crossbows, wound up
with a winch, which enable base-born infantrymen to send heavy bolts
clear through shirts of mail. They are most unknightly things. In
1139 a Lateran Council actually forbade their use against Christians.
Arbalists certainly are useful in sieges for clearing ramparts or
repelling attack; but they take so long to wind up after every shot
that their value in open battles is limited. Crossbowmen, unless
carefully protected, can be ridden down by cavalry. So for another
hundred years the mailed knight will hold his own. Then may come the
English long-bow (far more rapid in its fire than the arbalist), and
the day of the infantry will return.

[Sidenote: Training to Fight in Armor]

Knights are continually fighting, or at least are exercising most
violently in tourneys; yet the proportion of contestants slain is not
very great. This is because their armor makes them almost invulnerable.
After a battle, if you count the dead, you find they are usually all
from the poor villein infantry or the luckless camp followers. Yet
this harness has inconveniences. It is so heavy that the knight is the
prisoner of his own armor. He can hardly mount his horse unassisted.
Once flung from the saddle, he can scarcely rise without help. The
lightest suit of armor in common use weighs at least fifty-five pounds.
Powerful knights often wear much heavier. Yet to be able to move about
with reasonable freedom, to swing one's shield, to control one's horse,
and finally to handle lance or sword with great strength and precision,
doing it all in this ponderous clothing of metal, are what squires like
Aimery must learn to a nicety ere claiming knighthood. Wearing such
armor, it is not remarkable that noblemen always prefer horseback, and
fight on foot only in emergencies.

The prime unit in a suit of armor is the hauberk. He who has a fine
hauberk, light (considering the material), pliable, and of such finely
tempered steel as to be all but impenetrable, has something worth a
small manor land. On this hauberk will often depend his life.

In the olden days, before about A.D. 1000, the hauberk was a shirt of
leather or quilted cloth, covered by overlapping metal plates like
fishscales. Now, thanks to ideas probably gathered from the Saracens,
it is a shirt of ring mails, a beautiful network of fine chains and
links, in the manufacturing of which the armorers ("the worthiest folk
among all villeins," declares Conon) can put forth remarkable skill.
The double or triple links are all annealed. The metal is kept bright
and "white" by constant polishing (a regular task for the squires),
and Conon has one gala shirt of mail which has been silvered. These
garments form an almost complete protection, thanks to long sleeves,
a long skirt below the knees, and a hood coming right over the head
and partly covering the cheeks. A few brightly colored threads are
sometimes worked into the links for ornament, but the flashing sheen of
a good hauberk is its sufficient glory. The widowed Countess of Bernon
has sent to Aimery, as token of good will, a ring shirt belonging to
her husband. The knight-to-be swears that he will never dishonor its
former owner while he wears it.


[Sidenote: Hauberks, Helmets and Shields]

The next great unit in the armor is the helmet. Helmets have been
steadily becoming more complicated, but most warriors still prefer
a plain conical steel cap encircled with a band of metal which may
be adorned with gilt enamel. It has also a "nasal," a metal bar to
protect the nose. Helmets are usually laced to the hood of the hauberk
by small leathern straps. Since even a light and well-tempered helmet
is an uncomfortable thing, you seldom wear it until just before going
into action. "Lace helmets!" is the order to get ready for a charge;
and after a knight is wounded the first friendly act is to unlace
his headpiece. By the early thirteenth century helmets are beginning
to have closed visors to keep out missiles. But these visors are
immovable without taking off the whole helm; and if they get displaced
and the small eyeholes are shifted, the wearer is practically blind.
The old-style open helm will therefore continue in vogue until the
coming of the elaborate plate armor and the more manageable jointed
helms of the fourteenth century.


The third great protection is the shield. These have been getting
smaller as hauberks and helmets have been improving; but one cannot
trust solely to the body armor. Besides, a shield is a kind of
offensive weapon. A sharp thrust with its edge or a push with its broad
surface may often knock your opponent over. Aimery's new shield is
semioval and slightly pointed at the bottom. It covers its possessor
from shoulder to knees while sitting on his horse. The stoutest kind
of hide is used in making it, with a backing of light, tough wood,
and a strong rim of metal. It curves inward slightly for the better
protection of the body. In the center is a metal knob, usually of
brilliant brass, and the name "buckler" comes from this strong "boss"
(_boucle_). There is a big leather strap by which the shield is
ordinarily carried about the neck; but when you go into action you run
your left arm through two strong handles.

A shield seems a simple object, but almost as much skill goes into
compacting the wood, leather, and metal into one strong mass, not
easily split or pierced, as into making the hauberk. The front, of
course, is highly colored, and, although the heraldic "coat armor"
has yet hardly developed, every cavalier will flaunt some design of
a lion, eagle, dragon, cross, or floral scroll. As for the handling
of the shield, it is nearly as great a science as the handling of the
sword; indeed, the trained warrior knows how to make shield and sword,
or shield and lance, strike or fend together almost as one weapon.


Nevertheless, it is the strictly offensive weapons on which the noble
warrior sets greatest store, and the weapon _par excellence_ is the
sword. Barons often love their swords perhaps more than they love their
wives. They treat them almost as if they are persons. They try to keep
them through their entire lives. According to the epics, the hero
Roland liked to talk to his sword "Durendal," and Ogier to his "Brans."
Conon swears one of his fiercest oaths, "by my good sword 'Hautemise,'"
and Aimery has named his new sword "Joyeuse," after the great blade of

[Sidenote: Swords and Lances]

There are many fashions in swords. You can always revive a flagging
conversation by asking whether your companion likes a tapering blade
or one of uniform thickness and weight. But the average weapon is
about three inches wide at the hilt, and some thirty-two inches long
in blade, slightly tapering. The hilt should be adorned with gilt,
preferably set with pearls, and at the end have a knob containing some
small saints' relics placed behind a bit of crystal to reveal the holy
objects. Conon's Hautemise thus contains some dried blood of St. Basil,
several hairs of St. Maurice, and lint from the robe which St. Mary
Magdalene wore after she repented. These relics are convenient, for
whenever a promise must be authenticated, the oath taker merely claps
his hand on his hilt, and his vow is instantly registered in heaven.

The lance is the other great weapon of the cavalier. Normally you use
it in the first combats, and resort to your sword only after the lance
is broken. The average lance is not more than ten feet long.[60] It
has a lozenge-shape head of fine Poitou or Castile steel. Care must
be taken in selecting straight, tough, supple wood for the shaft and
in drying it properly, for the life of the warrior may depend on the
reliability of his lance shaft, and the amount of sudden strain which
it can stand in a horse-to-horse encounter. Ashwood is ordinarily
counted the best. As a rule there is no handle on the butt. The art
of grasping the round wood firmly, of holding the long weapon level
with the hip, and finally of making the sharp tip strike squarely on
the foeman's shield (however he may slant the latter) is a matter of
training for wrist and eye which possibly exceeds all skill in fencing.
The whole body works together in lance play. The horse must be guided
by the knees; the shield must be shifted with the left hand, the lance
with the right; the eye and nerves must be under perfect control--and
then, with man and horse fused into one flying weapon, away you
go--what keener sport can there be in the world?[61]

[Illustration: HORSE TRAPPINGS

Restored by Viollet-Le-Duc, from a manuscript in the Bibliothèque

Yet there is something more important to the warrior than his panoply.
What is a cavalier without his horse? Few, indeed, are the humans whom
the best of barons will set above his favorite destrer. Your horses are
comrades in hunt, tourney, and battle. By their speed and intelligence
they save your life when squire or vassal avail not. When they fail,
commend your soul to the saints--you will soon be in purgatory. From
boyhood a cavalier has almost lived in the saddle. When in danger he
knows all the capacities of his charger, and trusts him accordingly.
Such a companion is to be treated with care. He is fed daintily; he
is combed and tricked out like a delicate woman, and when ill he is
physicked with more wisdom possibly than will be vouchsafed to most
Christian denizens of a castle. Stories abound of how horses have
succored their masters and stood watch over them while sleeping; and
even one tale of how, when a knight returned after seven years, he
was not recognized by his betrothed, but was by his faithful destrer.
Another anecdote is how a knight answered, on being asked, "What will
be your chief joy in paradise?" "To see Blanchart, my old horse."

Such being the case, the greatest pains are taken with horse breeding.
Rich seigneurs rejoice in valuable stallions, and even monasteries
keep breeding stables. A fine horse is an even more acceptable gift
to a potentate than a notable hawk. Many horses are called "Arabian,"
but probably these come from North Africa. In France are raised horses
equal to the best, especially those powerful steeds not quite so swift
as the Oriental, but better able to bear a knight in ponderous armor.
Gascon horses are in particular demand, and Conon takes peculiar
satisfaction in a brood mare from Bordeaux. To ride a mare, however,
is regarded as unknightly--"the women to the women"--probably an old
Teutonic prejudice.

Aimery, while squire, found the care of the count's horses a prime
duty. This was no trifle, for De Bernon, like every magnate, always
kept several palfreys, handsome steeds of comfortable pace for
peace-time riding, besides his special destrer--the great fierce
war horse for battle. "To mount the high horse"--the destrer--is to
show one's pride, not by vain boasting, but by displaying oneself in
terrible weapons.[62] Of course, however, the haughty young squire did
not have to bother about his lord's _roncins_, the ordinary steeds for
the servants, or the _sommiers_ for the baggage, humbler creatures

The favorite color for horses is white; after that dappled gray; after
that bay or chestnut. Poets exhaust their skill in describing beautiful
steeds, as if they were beautiful women. Wrote one bard about a Gascon
horse: "His hair outshone the plumage of a peacock; his head was lean;
his eye gray like a falcon; his breast large and square; his crupper
broad; his thigh round; and rump tight. All beholding him exclaimed
'they had never seen a handsomer creature!'"


From a bas-relief in the church of Saint-Nazaire at Carcassonne

[Sidenote: The Great War Horses]

Such precious beings have names of honor. Charlemagne's destrer was the
great Tencendur. Roland charged on Veilantif. Carbonel, Palantamur,
Grisart are familiar names; and Conon's dearly loved companion is
Regibet, whom, with all his fierceness, the baron could ride safely
without bit, bridle, or spurs. The harness of the war horse is still
very simple. The elaborate trappings and armor belong to a later
age, but the stirrups and high saddle can be gilded and even set
with pearls. More noticeable still are the dozens of little bells on
different parts of the harness, which jingle merrily like sleigh bells
of another age, as the great steeds pound along.

Aimery has lived where hauberks, helms, shields, swords, and lances
have been the small coin of conversation since he has been able to
talk. He has come to know horseflesh far better than he knows that
other important mortal thing called "woman." He has now reached the
age when he is extremely confident in his own abilities and equally
confident that a fame like Roland's or Godfrey of Bouillon's is waiting
him, provided the saints will assist. If he could have followed
daydreaming, he would have been dubbed knight by the king himself after
mighty deeds on the field of battle, while still covered with blood
and grime; but such fair fortune comes only in the romances. At least,
he is glad that he has a brother who is a brother indeed, and does not
keep him in the background nor withhold from him his inheritance, as is
the luck of so many younger sons.


From sculpture in the cathedral of Rheims.]

[Sidenote: Candidates for Knighthood]

It is a great grief that Aimery's father is not living to see his sons
"come to knighthood." A good father always looks forward to that happy
day; although in some disordered fiefs the seigneur will have to watch
jealously lest the moment his offspring become full-fledged warriors
they are not worked upon by disloyal vassals who will tell them, "Your
father is old, and cannot rule the barony; seize it for yourselves."
Even kings have to guard against this danger. Philip Augustus has
knighted his heir, Prince Louis, only after the latter has taken a
solemn oath not to enroll armed followers or perform other sovereign
acts, save with his father's specific consent.

Theoretically, any knight can grant adubbement to any person he thinks
worthy; but actually a knight who dubs a villein, save in very
exceptional circumstances, will jeopardize his own claim to nobility;
and if he thrusts the honor on young, untried petty nobles, he will
be laughed at, and their claims to the rank be promptly questioned.
Fathers have often dubbed their sons, but better still, a young noble
will seek the honor from his suzerain. Aimery learns with satisfaction
that the Duke of Quelqueparte has consented to give the buffet of
honor, for the higher the rank of the adubbing cavalier, the greater
the glory of the ex-squire.


From a bas-relief at the cathedral of Rheims (Viollet-Le-Duc).]

The adubbement of knights is still a decidedly secular ceremony.
Doubtless, the custom can be somewhat traced back to the crude rites
whereby Germanic youths were initiated into the ranks of first-class
warriors. Beyond the vigil in the church and the hearing of mass, there
is not much that is religious about it. Clerical customs are indeed
intruding. Young nobles like to visit Rome and be dubbed by the Pope.
Others now are beginning to kneel before bishops and crave knighthood
as a kind of lay consecration. Opinion, however, still frowns on
this. Adubbement is a military business and churchmen had better keep
their place. It will be more than a hundred years before religion and
sentimentality can intrude much into what has long been a distinctly
martial affair.

[Sidenote: Ceremonies Before Adubbement]

Easter, Ascension Day, Pentecost and St. John's day are acceptable
times for adubbements; but there are plenty of precedents for
combining the ceremony with an important wedding, as it might be with
the baptism of the heir to a barony. In the present case, moreover,
as happens very often, Aimery, although the chief candidate for
knighthood, is not alone. The duke will give the qualifying blow to
five other young men, sons of the St. Aliquis vassals; and, indeed,
twenty or more candidates are often knighted together at the king's

[Illustration: A BEGGAR

End of the twelfth century (from a manuscript in the Bibliothèque

The night before the ceremony the whole castle is in as great a stir
as before the wedding. More guests, more feasting, more jongleurs,
perpetual singing, music, noise. Upon the table in the great hall
Adela and Alienor (as substitutes for Aimery's mother) have laid out
for public admiration the costume which he will assume the next day.
The articles are selected as carefully as for the bridal--especially
the spotless white shirt, the costly robe of ermine, and the spurs of
gold. A host of beggars swarm in the bailey, for this occasion calls
for an unusual recklessness of almsgiving. Even the invited guests are
throwing around coppers, thereby proving their nobility.

As for Aimery, when the evening falls he and his five companions take a
complete bath, not without considerable solemnity. This act has genuine
significance. "It is to efface all villainies of the past life, that
the bather may come out pure."[63] There are no boisterous splashing
and merrymaking as the youths sit in the long wooden bathtubs. While
they dress themselves, smiling sergeants appear with presents.
Relatives, the suzerain, noble friends, have sent them articles of
costly apparel, usually silken and fur-lined, to wear during their
"vigil at arms." These are very much like the gifts that are showered
upon a bride.

It is about half a mile from St. Aliquis castle to the parish church.
After their bath the six candidates go hither, attended by the youths
who are to become their squires. The company is joyous, but not noisy;
violent mirth were unbecoming. At the church the squires-to-be leave
the others. The candidates enter the great dark building. On the high
altar a lamp burns, and on the side altar of St. Martin, the warrior
saint, is a blaze of candles before a picture showing the holy man in
the costume of a knight giving half of his military cloak to a beggar.
The new weapons and armor of the candidates have been laid upon this
altar. Then the vigil begins. The six knights-elect must not converse.
They can only stand, or kneel at preference, for the whole ten hours--a
serious physical ordeal.

During the solemn silence they are expected to pray to all their patron
saints and make solemn vows to govern their whole life. It is a time
for serious meditation, and Aimery beseeches, "Give to me honor,"
loyally adding, "and to my brother long life!" He does not ask "honor"
for Conon also, for that would imply the mighty baron still needed it.
Then at last dawn creeps through the storied windows. An old priest
enters and says mass, which the candidates follow gravely. At six in
the morning, with the summer air bright and beautiful around them, they
are all going again to the castle, merry and talkative in reaction from
the long constraint.

[Sidenote: Dressing the Candidates]

Back in the castle Aimery is glad of an unusually hearty breakfast.
Not merely has the long vigil of standing wearied him, but he will
need all his strength for the ordeal of the day. Next he goes to his
chamber, where the stripling who is to be his squire, the son of a
friendly baron, puts on his new master's gala dress. White is the
predominant color--"whiter than the snow of the April flowers." Friends
of his brother come in to witness the process, and compliment the
candidate very openly upon his broad shoulders, healthy complexion, and
hardened sinews. These congratulations become more pronounced when a
bustling servitor announces that "all is ready." Aimery strides into
the courtyard. The place seems crammed with knights and dames, old and
young, all in their best. Everybody (partly from politeness, partly
from genuine enthusiasm) begins to call out: "How fine he is! A true
St. Aliquis! Right worthy of his brother!"

Immediately two loud trumpets announce the ceremony. A great orchestra
of jongleurs raises a clamor. The sight is magnificent. The castle
court seems alive with color. The women are in striking costumes,
with their long hair hanging braided on their shoulders. The knights
wear either bliauts, green, blue, or red, or hauberks of dazzling
brightness. The numerous priests present have on their finest robes.
Even the monks seem less somber in their habits. All is noise, music,
and animation.

The six candidates, followed by the whole rejoicing company, cross
the bailey and the lists and go forth to the exercise ground by the
garden. Here there is a platform covered with fine Saracen carpets.
The Duke of Quelqueparte stands thereon, a majestic elderly warrior in
gilded armor. The six candidates form a semicircle at the foot of the
platform; then Aimery, as the brother of the giver of the fête, is the
first to mount.

Immediately his "first sponsor" presents himself, a white-headed
knight, a maternal uncle. Deliberately he kisses the candidate; then,
kneeling, puts on his two golden spurs. As the uncle steps back, Conon
and Olivier present themselves. They are the second and third sponsors.
They pull a dazzling white steel hauberk over Aimery's head and adjust
its cape. Upon this last they set the equally brilliant helmet, adorned
with semiprecious stones. Then the fourth sponsor, the stately Count
of Perseigne, girds on the candidate's sword, adding a few words of
admonition how the younger man "must use it worthily"; to which the
other responds by lifting the weapon and piously kissing the relics set
in the hilt.

[Sidenote: The Buffet of Knighthood]

The four sponsors step back. The assembled jongleurs give a mighty
crash of music. The duke lifts his clenched hand. "Bow the head!" he
orders. "I will give you the blow." Aimery bows himself meekly to the
greater lord, but his meekness is tested by the terrific stroke of his
suzerain's fist, which sends him reeling. But the instant he recovers,
the duke seizes him in comradely embrace. "Be brave, Sire Aimery.
Recall that you are of a lineage famous both as seigneurs and as
vassals, and do nothing base. Honor all knights. Give to the poor. Love
God. Go!"

The happy cavalier replies: "I thank you, fair lord, and may God hear
you. Let me always serve and love him." Then he descends the platform,
and each of the other candidates mounts in turn to be knighted with
similar ceremonies, although the sponsors (drawn from relatives or
connections) will be different. The crowd standing round follows the
proceedings with the uttermost interest, joining in a mighty shout each
time the blow of honor is given. Then Conon, as master of ceremonies,
waves to his marshal. "Bring in the horses!"

Immediately the new squires to the new knights appear, leading six
steeds, faultlessly groomed and in beautiful harness--the gift of
the baron to the candidates. The instant the horses are in front of
the platform the new cavaliers break from their statuesque rigidity.
Clothed as they are now in heavy hauberk and helmet, they run, each
man to his horse, and try to leap to the saddle at one bound without
touching foot to the stirrups. An anxious moment for them; an equally
anxious moment for parents, brothers, or sisters. From the time a young
nobleman is in his cradle his mother will discuss with his father,
"Will he make the 'leap' when he is knighted?" It is one of the great
tests of a martial education, and one that must be taken with the
uttermost publicity. Truth to tell, Aimery and his friends have been
practicing the feat with desperate energy for the last month. Done!
All six have mounted fairly! Salvos of applause. His friends are
congratulating Conon: "Such a brother!" The kinsfolk of the other young
knights are similarly overwhelmed.

[Sidenote: Concluding Exercises]

Meantime the happy new cavaliers hold their horses motionless for
an instant while their squires run to them with their lances and
triangular shields. The lances have long bright pennons with three
tails which float down upon their riders' helmets. This act performed,
the riders put their steeds through all manner of gallops and
caracoles, and next, "singing high with clear voice," away they go,
flying toward a place on the exercise ground where the _quintain_--the
wooden manikin warrior--has been set up.[64] To smash its shield
and fling it to the ground with a single lance thrust is another
unescapable test. This ordeal also is met by Aimery and his peers with
tolerable glory for all. After this sport the new knights are expected
to _behourder_--that is, to indulge in mock duels with blunted weapons.
These were not counted serious contests, but often enough, if blood is
high and rivalry keen, they can take on the form of vigorous combats.
To-day, however, everybody is in too good humor for violent blows;
besides, the real tournament begins to-morrow, and it is best to keep
strength and weapons until then.

The morning is now spent. Seigneurial appetites have been nobly
whetted. The pavilions are again ready in the garden, and the cooks
have prepared pasties, joints of meat, and great quantities of roast
poultry, even as for the wedding feast. There is another round of
gorging and guzzling, only this time the six new knights occupy the
place of honor, and the master jongleur's story is not concerning sad
Tristan, but about how brave Godfrey of Bouillon stormed Jerusalem.

Everybody is commenting upon the admirable grace, modesty, and
proficiency in arms of Sire Aimery. A count has approached Conon
already before dinner. "Fair Baron, you have a brother who is a credit
to your name. Is it true he is to receive Petitmur? I have a daughter
in her fifteenth year; her dowry will be----"

But Conon tactfully shrugs his shoulders. "Fair Count, my brother will
indeed receive Petitmur; but to-day he is knighted and can speak for
himself. Make your marriage proposals to him. I have no longer the
right to control him."


[60] Lances grew longer and stouter in the later Middle Ages. In the
fourteenth century they were about fifteen feet long and were a kind of
battering rams designed to dash one's opponent out of the saddle, even
if his armor were not pierced.

[61] Another weapon not infrequently used was the mace, an iron-headed
war club with a fairly long handle. In powerful hands such a weapon
could fell the sturdiest opponent, however good his armor. The mace was
somewhat the favorite of martial bishops, abbots, and other churchmen,
who thus evaded the letter of the canon forbidding clerics to "smite
with the edge of the sword," or to "shed blood." The mace merely smote
your foe senseless or dashed out his brains, without piercing his lungs
or breast!

Another weapon especially common in the early Middle Ages was the
battle ax.

[62] The destrer was so called because it was supposed to be led at
the knight's right hand (_dexter_) and ready for instant use, as he
traveled on his less powerful palfrey.

[63] As chivalry took on its later and more religious cast, all the
acts of an adubbement became clothed with allegorical meaning--_e.g._
besides the bath, the candidate must lie down (at least for a moment)
upon a bed, because "it was an emblem of the rest which God grants to
His followers, the brave knights." The candidate's snow-white shirt is
to show that "he must keep his flesh from every stain if he would hope
to reach heaven." His scarlet robe shows that he "must be ready to pour
out his blood for Holy Church." His trunk hose of brown silk "remind
him by their somber hue he must die." His white girdle "warns him that
his soul should be stainless."

[64] See p. 185.

Chapter XIII: The Tourney.

When Conon decided to give a tourney as a climax to the wedding
and adubbement festivities, he sent out several servitors of good
appearance and loud voices to course the country for some twenty
leagues around. These varlets bawled their proclamation at every
crossroad, village, inn, and castle gate.

"The Wednesday after St. Ancildus Day, good people! In the meadow at
St. Aliquis by the Claire. The Wednesday after St. Ancildus day! Let
all come who love to see or to join in deeds of valor!"

This is "crying the tourney." As soon as the news spreads abroad, every
petty sire takes council with his wife whether he can afford to go. The
women begin to hunt up their best bliauts and furs; the men to furbish
their armor. Soon various cavaliers, arranging with their friends,
undertake to form challenge parties. They write on a scroll "At the
castle of A---- there are seven knights who will be ready to joust with
all comers to St. Aliquis." This they post on a tree by the wayside in
order that other lordlings may organize similar parties to confront

Tourneys are to be reckoned as "little wars themselves, and the
apprenticeship for great ones." They have an inconceivably prominent
place in feudal life. Vainly the Church objects to them. All nobles
will tell you that without tourneys you can never train good warriors.

[Sidenote: Early Tourneys Were Battles]

Tourneys, however, bring profit and pleasure to all manner of
people--no cause for unpopularity. The "joy women," who rush to
ply their sinful wiles despite every attempt to restrict them; the
common villeins, who drop their work to enjoy one grand holiday; and
the merchants, who really hold a small fair near the lists, all are
delighted. As for men of gentle blood, an English chronicler can state
the case alike for France and England: "A knight cannot shine in war if
he has not been prepared for it in tourneys. He must have seen his own
blood flow, have had his teeth crackle under the blow of his adversary,
have been dashed to the earth with such force as to feel the weight
of his opponent, and disarmed twenty times; he must twenty times have
retrieved his failures, more than ever set on combat." _Then_ he will
be ready for actual war and can hope to conquer!

In early feudal days tourneys differed from battles merely in that the
time and the place were fixed in advance, and fair conditions arranged.
According to the epics, at "Charlemagne's court" the nobles often got
tired of ordinary sports and "demanded a tourney." The results were
merely pitched battles in which many were slain and many more wounded.

There was no luxury, pomp, or patronage by fair ladies at the earliest
tourneys.[65] They were exceedingly violent pastimes in which "iron
men" measured their strength and rejoiced in deadly blows. Since then
tourneys have been getting less brutal. An important spectacular
element is intruding. The rules of combat are becoming more elaborate,
fewer knights are killed, and there is an appeal to something better
than mere fighting instinct. On the other hand, in the thirteenth
century jousts and mêlées are far from being mere displays of fine
armor and fine manners. The military element is still uppermost.
Furthermore, since the vanquished cavaliers are the prisoners of the
victors and are subject to ransom, or at least their horses and armor
are forfeit, certain formidable knights go from tourney to tourney
deliberately seeking profit by taking prisoners. In short, so dangerous
are tourneys even yet, that as recently as 1208, when Prince Louis,
heir of King Philip, was knighted, his father made him swear he would
merely watch them as spectator--for the life of a prince royal is too
precious to risk in such affairs.

The popes have long since denounced tourneys. Innocent II, Eugenius
III, Alexander III, and finally the great and wise Innocent III have
prohibited Christians from participating in the same under peril of
their souls. But _cui bono_? Great barons who shudder at the thought
of eating beef on Fridays defy the Church absolutely when it comes to
a matter of "those creations of the devil" (to quote St. Bernard of
Clairvaux) in which immortal souls are so often sped.

When Conon decides to add a tourney as a climax to his fête, a score
of carpenters are hired down from Pontdebois to help out the levy of
peasants in preparing the lists and lodges. Some of the guests have
already come to the wedding and the adubbement, but many more arrive
merely for the knightly contests. For these, of course, the baron
affords only limited hospitality--a good place to pitch their tents,
water and forage, with perhaps an invitation to the castle hall at
dinner time to certain leaders. Many visitors can get accommodation in
the better houses in the village, or at the monastery; but, the weather
being fine, the majority prefer to set out their pavilions by the
Claire, and the night before the sports begin there seem to be tents
enough for an army.

[Sidenote: The Lists and the Lodges]

The visitors come in their best bliauts and armor. Certain powerful
counts collect as many lesser nobles as possible, even making up bands
of twenty knights, twenty squires, a great number of ladies and waiting
women, also some hundreds of ignoble servitors. Except for the presence
of the women and the omission of military precautions, you might think
them going to an ordinary muster for war.

Meantime, in the wide exercise ground where Sire Aimery had been
dubbed, the special lists are made ready. These are simple affairs,
something like a race course of other days. Two pairs of strong wooden
palisades are erected. The outer line is shoulder high; the inner is
lower and has many openings. Between the two lines is the space for
spare horses, squires, attendants, and heralds; also for privileged
spectators. The humbler onlookers will peer standing over the outer
palisade, but behind and above this rise the series of lodges, shaded
with tentlike canopies, floored with carpets, and gay with pennons. In
them will be stationed the ladies and the older, less martial knights.
The space within the lists is some hundred yards long by fifty wide.
That evening Conon and Sire Eustace survey the decorations, the forest
of banners waving over the colored pavilions of the visitors, and
listen complacently to the glad hum of voices and the jongleur's chants
everywhere arising.

"Ah, fair Baron," says the seneschal, "all France will talk of this
spear breaking until Christmas! It will be a great day for St. Aliquis."

At gray dawn the heralds from the castle go through the avenues of
tents, calling, monotonously: "Let the jousters make ready! Let the
jousters make ready!"

Soon squires half dressed are seen running to and fro. There is a great
saddling and girdling, neighing and stamping. A few pious knights and
dames hurry to the castle chapel for a mass very hastily said, but the
bulk of the company cross themselves and mutter: "We will be sinners
to-day. The blessed saints are merciful!" Presently, by the time the
sun is well above the trees, everybody is bound for the lists. The
ladies, if possible, ride white mules and are dressed as splendidly as
for their own weddings. Not in many a day will St. Aliquis see again
such displays of marten, ermine, and vair, of sendal and samite, of
gold thread and pearls. The common folk point and applaud loudly when
an unusually handsomely clad dame sweeps by. What right have grand folk
to claim the obedience of the lesser, if they cannot delight the public
gaze by their splendors? As for the jongleurs, their name is legion.
The whole affair is characterized by a "music" becoming deafening.

While the dames and other noncombatants take seats in the lodges,
the six camp marshals--distinguished knights in charge of the
contests--appear in the lists. They advance on foot, wearing very
brilliant bliauts. Conon, as giver of the festivities, is naturally
at their head. Behind follow the humbler born heralds and pursuivants
who will assist them, and encourage the combatants with such cries as:
"Remember whose son you are!" "Be worthy of your ancestry!" There is
also a large squad of varlets and sergeants to keep order, bring new
lances, clear away broken weapons, and rescue fallen knights. Conon's
keen eye sweeps the tilt yard. Everything is ready. The baron bows
politely to his suzerain, the duke and duchess, in the central lodge;
then he raises a white baton. "Bring in the jousters!" he commands.

[Sidenote: Brilliant Procession of Jousters]

Instantly there is a great blare of trumpets from the end of the
lists farthest from the castle. Four gorgeously arrayed heralds lead
the procession on foot. Then comes a jongleur on horseback, playing
with his sword, tossing it high in the air and catching as it whirls
downward. Next come the actual contestants, some eighty knights riding
two by two. They go down one side of the lists and back the other. Some
cavaliers turn deliberately to ogle the ladies in the lodges, and the
gentle dames (old and young) are not backward in leaning forward and
waving in reply. It is a sight to stir the blood--all the pageantry
of war, without as yet its slaughter; the presence of gorgeously clad
women in graceful attitudes; and the air charged with the excitement
of brave deeds and of genuine perils to come. Suddenly all the knights
begin to sing. The women catch up the chorus of some rousing melody
which makes the lists shake. The cavaliers compel their horses to
prance and curvet as they go by some lady of especial favor. From
many lances are hanging bright streamers--not banners, but sleeves
and stockings, the gifts of friendly dames. The younger knights are
rejoiced by seeing damsels, whose eye they have taken, rise in the
lodges and then and there, before the cheering hundreds, fling them
"gages of love." It is so with young Sire Aimery as he modestly rides
near the tail of the procession. The daughter of the approving count
stands boldly and casts him a long red ribbon wherewith she had braided
her hair. The other new knights receive similar tokens from unabashed
admirers. This process will keep up through the games. The shrieking,
excited ladies will presently cast into the lists gloves, girdles, and
ribbons. Many will sit at the end with only their flying hair, and
their pelissons and chemises for costume.

Some combatants are intent on grim business. These are the professional
jousters, determined to get as many ransoms as possible and to maintain
their own proud reputation. Their armor is beautifully burnished; but
it is quite plain. They have prepared for a regular battle. Other
knights have painted their scabbards, lance butts, and shields with
brilliant white, red, or black. On the crests of their helmets they
have set outlandish figures--monsters, heads of birds, or of women.
As in fancy balls of other days, their aim is to attract attention
by the peculiarity of their costumes. Conon does not desire a bloody
tourney and the funeral of several friendly knights as a climax to his
gayety. Orders have therefore been given that all lance points are
to be blunted, also that all sword edges and points be rounded. The
tournament lances, too, are lighter than the battle lances and made
of brittle wood.[66] Nevertheless, the blows struck will be terrible.
The best leach from Pontdebois is already in the duke's lodge, and his
services will be needed.

Strictly speaking, a tourney falls into two parts--the jousting always
comes first, with the mêlée, which is the real tourney proper, as the
grand climax to the entire occasion.

What follows might seem to men of other days somewhat monotonous after
the novelty has worn away, although the first contests are exciting
enough. The competing knights have been told off in pairs, partly
by mutual consent, partly by the tactful arrangement of the camp
marshals. After the procession around the lists, the contestants take
their stations, some in the saddle, some dismounted in the spaces
between the barriers. There is an awesome hush along the lodges and
in the great standing throng of the vulgar. A herald calls in loud
voice, "Let him come to joust who wishes to do battle!" Instantly two
keen trumpets answer each other from opposite ends of the lists, and
two pursuivants come forward. These worthies are really only jongleurs
on less exciting days. They have now taken the deniers of two young
barons who are anxious to make a brave appearance. The pursuivants are
grotesquely dressed with bright parti-colored mantles and bliauts.
Each begins bawling shrilly even while his rival is calling: "Here is
the good cavalier and baron, Ferri of St. Potentin. A brave knight of
a valorous house. He will teach a lesson to his enemies!" "Here is
the good cavalier, Raoul, eldest son of the most puissant Count of
Maurevay. Watch now his deeds, all you who love brave actions!"


At the back are the galleries where the ladies sit; then, near the
entrance to the lists, some cavaliers wait their turn to take part in
the contest; in the center, some servants and others of the contestants
pick up one of the combatants who has been thrown from his horse by his

Then each of the twain reviles the master of the other: "_He!_ Your
Sire Raoul is the son of a crow. All his friends will this day be
ashamed of him. Let him find his ransom money!"

"Silence all boasts, you pursuivant of a caitiff master. Sire Ferri,
if he outlives the shock, will have his spurs struck from his heels as
being unworthy of knighthood!"

Meantime the two champions, rigid as statues, suffer their squires to
lead them upon their tall destrers to opposite ends of the lists. When
they are facing and their squires have nodded that their masters are
ready, a marshal waves his white baton, calling loudly, "In the name of
God and St. Michael, do your battle!"

[Sidenote: Lance Breaking in the Lists]

All the dames, nobles, and base-born rise in the lodges and shout
together when suddenly the two knights and their mighty horses spring
to life. The ground quakes and the sod flies when they rush down the
lists as if hurried toward each other by irresistible force. As they
gallop, each bends low in the saddle--swings his shield to cover his
body, lowers his helmet almost to the top of his shield, swerves his
horse so as to pass his opponent on the right, and with sure grip drops
his lance point before him.

"Crash!" The splintering of wood can be heard through the din from the
lodges. Both horses are thrown upon their haunches and are casting out
great clods of earth. Each knight is flourishing the broken butt of a
lance and across the shield of each there is a long jagged mark.

"Fairly broken! Fairly broken! A noble course!" cries everyone. The
two contestants wheel gracefully and canter back to their stations.
Squires run up with fresh lances. Sire Raoul takes a new shield, the
earlier one showing signs of splitting as well as being battered.
Another course; another crash--and two more broken lances. But at the
third shock Sire Ferri meets utter humiliation. He indeed meets Raoul's
lance fairly on his shield and again the tough wood is splintered, but
excitement, overconfidence, or the intervention of the devil makes
his wrist a little unsteady. At the moment of collision Raoul swerves
his body a trifle to the left. Ferri's lance misses his foe's shield
entirely. It flies off in the air, and in the confusion escapes from
his hand. There is hooting from the villeins; worse still, there is
shrill derision from all the lodges. Sire Ferri rides back to his
post, grinding his teeth and swearing blasphemously. He must now pay a
ransom to Raoul for his horse and armor, despite the boastings of his
pursuivant, and not even have the melancholy consolation of knowing
that he was unhorsed in a fair collision.

[Sidenote: A Bloody Duel]

But the next duel has a more exciting ending. Two cavaliers who now
engage are exceptionally experienced knights. At the first charge
both horses sustain such a shock when the lances shiver that their
masters can barely force them to their feet. At the second charge the
more skillful rider holds his lance so squarely that, instead of its
breaking, the opposing knight is fairly flung out of the saddle--dashed
from his horse and sprawled headlong with a great clattering of armor.
The heralds and squires run to him and find that, thanks to his
hauberk, he has escaped dangerous wounds, though he coughs away several
teeth. Great is the excitement in the lodges.

Several duels after this end in honorable draws. The knights have
agreed to "break three lances fairly for the love of the ladies,"
and gallantly do so. There are no victors or vanquished. Then it is
proclaimed that two seigneurs from Champagne, Sire Emeri and Sire
Lourent, having an especial desire to "debate together" (their original
quarrel had been over dice) are resolved to fight until one cries
"mercy," and will continue their battle on foot should either be
unhorsed. Three times they break lances unscathed, but the fourth time
Lourent's stirrup parts and he is pitched upon the sands. Instantly
he is free from his snorting, plunging destrer and on his feet,
flourishing his great sword. Emeri now might lawfully ride against
him, but it is no chivalrous thing for a mounted knight to attack an
unmounted one. Down he leaps also, making his blade dance above his
head like a stream of light. Then to the infinite joy of the lodges the
two cavaliers hack and feud with each other for a good ten minutes,
till the blood streams down their faces, the bright paint on their
shields is marred, and the crests of their helmets have vanished in
dentings. At last Emeri flings his strength into a lucky blow. His
sword is blunted, but by sheer weight of the stroke the blade smashes
Lourent's shield asunder, descending like a smith's sledge upon his
helmet. Lourent topples like a log.

A great shout goes through the lodges. "Dead!" cry many; but, to the
relief of the women, the word presently spreads that he is only soundly
stunned, though the leech says that "he will not fight again till

The duels continue all through the morning. There is an interval while
cakes and wine are passed through the lodges and loaves are thrown
among the plebeians. Most duels seem decidedly similar, but each is
followed with undiminishing delight. The ladies no less than their
brothers and husbands grasp all the niceties of the contests--the
methods whereby each champion holds his lance and shield and controls
his horse are wisely discussed by a hundred pairs of pretty lips.
Between each tilt the heralds, besides praising the valor of the next
pair of combatants, keep up their cries, "Largesse, gallant knights!
Largesse!" and now one, now another baron rises in the lodges to fling
coins among villeins (whose rough scrambling causes much merriment), or
even to toss money to the heralds themselves--which they never hesitate
to pick up.

[Sidenote: Contest at the Barriers]

Many knights are content with a single passage at arms, but some who
have been successful once tempt fortune a second time. These are likely
to be the professional champions, and they give remarkable exhibitions
of perfect horsemanship and lance play. As the afternoon advances, for
variation, there is a fight at the barriers. A stout wooden bar about
waist high is set across the middle of the lists, and seven knights
from one seigneury and seven from another undertake to cross the same,
while preventing the other party from advancing. They fight on foot
with sword and mace. It is desperate work; and when at last one party
has forced its way across, four of the defeated side have broken bones,
despite their hauberks, and all-but-broken heads, despite their helmets.


(From an old print.)]

Then a very arrogant baron who has already won three ransoms determines
to increase his wealth. Stationing himself at the head of the lists, he
bids his pursuivant challenge all comers. There is a long hush. Sire
Paul has made such a trade of his prowess that assuredly there seems
something mercantile about his valor, yet assuredly he is a terrible
man. Suddenly the lodges begin to cry, "A St. Aliquis!" Sire Aimery
himself (who earlier had broken three lances very neatly with a friend)
is sending down his pursuivant.

All the older knights mutter: "A fearful risk for the lad! Let him pray
to his saints." Conon demands angrily of Olivier, "Could not you keep
back the boy from this folly?" But does not Heaven favor the young and
brave? Perhaps it is because Sire Paul has let himself become careless;
perhaps because his squire has forgotten to tighten his saddle girths;
perhaps because St. Génevieve cannot allow her votary to undergo
disgrace thus early in his knighthood. In any case, results confound
the wiseacres. "The pitcher that goes too often to the well is broken,"
dryly observes Father Grégoire, when at the first course Sire Paul is
ignominiously flung from the saddle. _Hé!_ Sire Aimery will now have
more sleeves, girdles, and stockings than can ever flutter from any one
lance, and his kinsfolk are out of their wits for joy! No victory could
ever be more praised and popular.

So ends the jousting, and that night round St. Aliquis blaze the great
camp fires of the company, all cooking most hearty suppers (after
fasting almost all day), everybody visiting from tent to tent, fighting
the day's contests over again, condoling with the defeated and praising
the victors. Alliances, both military and matrimonial, are negotiated
between consequential barons; the jongleurs produce tricks and songs;
there is a great deal of dancing by the red firelight; and also, one
fears, much hard drinking and most unseemly revelry.

[Sidenote: The Great Mêlée]

The next day there is the climax to the festival, the mêlée. Really,
it is nothing less than a pitched battle on a small scale. The details
have been arranged at a council of the more prominent seigneurs at the
castle. About forty knights on a side are to fight under the leadership
of the Viscount of Gemours and the Baron of Dompierre. The space in the
lists is insufficient. They go to a broad, convenient meadow across the
Claire, where the noncombatants can watch from a safe distance. The
marshals array the two companies "at least a bowshot apart." Groups of
friendly knights are set together and are placed opposite to groups
of rivals with whom they are anxious to collide. The great banners
of the houses of Gemours and Dompierre flutter in the center of each
respective array, and all the little banderoles of the various knights
wave with them.

When all is ready, Conon gives the signal, "Charge them in God's name!"


From the manuscript of Herrade of Landsperg (Schultz).]

Each baron is expected to charge a particular foe, but all are liable
to be swerved in the great rush of men and horses. The two flashing
squadrons of cavalry come together like thunderbolts. All the danger
of the jousts is present, and another more terrible--that of being
trampled to death, if once down, by the raging horses. There is no
real leadership. Gemours and Dompierre merely try to set examples
of valor and to push their banners forward as rallying points. At
first the fighting is good-humored, but when the lances are broken
and everyone is smiting one another with sword or mace, the contest
becomes desperate. A fearful cloud of dust rises, almost blinding to
the combatants, and rendering their blows more reckless.

After the fight has progressed some time, certain of the less
adventurous knights begin to drop out. The squires dive into the murk
of warriors and horses and drag to safety now this, now another fallen
cavalier. At last, just as Conon is considering whether he should
not proclaim a "draw," the Gemours banner is observed to topple. A
desperate attempt is made to right it, but it sinks again amid a
rending shout from the victors. The uplifted hands fall. The frantic
horses are brought under control. "A Dompierre! A Dompierre!" bawl all
the heralds. And so the mêlée ends.

No one, thanks to excellent armor, is dead, although one heir to a
barony is in a desperate condition and several shoulders and thighs are
broken. It is futile to count the shattered collar bones and ribs. "A
very _gentle_ passage at arms!" says the Duke to Conon, congratulating
his vassal on the fête and its climax. All the other seigneurs join in
similar praises. That night there is another round of festivities and
of visiting. The next dawn the whole company scatters. The jongleurs'
music has ceased at last. There is no more dancing. After over two
weeks of intensifying gayety St. Aliquis suddenly returns to sober,
normal life.

Alienor, after tearful farewells, departs with her husband for
Burgundy. Aimery rides over to his little castle at Petitmur, which
he will hold as his brother's vassal. Adela lectures her maids on the
need of catching up with their weaving, while Conon holds anxious
conferences with his chief provost on the costs of the celebration.

[Sidenote: Vast Expense of Tourneys]

Doubtless the affair has brought glory to the seigneury. More than
a hundred knights and two hundred squires or unknighted nobles have
attended, along with thousands of villeins. But how costly have
been the furs, drinking cups and fine weapons presented the guests,
the destrers given the new knights, above all the vast quantity of
provisions devoured! Just God! If Conon had realized the entire expense
he would hardly have embarked on the whole undertaking. The worst is
that the peasants of the whole barony are so demoralized that it will
be two weeks more ere they return to work. Money must be borrowed from
Jew Simon in Pontdebois to tide over the crisis. The baron must give
up his usual visit to the king's court at Paris. He must also dismiss
certain cherished schemes of picking a quarrel with the Sire of Rideau
and forcing a private war. Thanks be to Our Lady, however, François
need not be knighted these ten years, when (being an eldest son) an
"aide" can be levied on all the vassals to help cover the cost.


[65] The earliest recorded tourney is alleged to have been about A.D.
850. In Germany they long continued to be excessively brutal. As late
as 1240 one was held near Cologne at which more than sixty persons

[66] Often sharp weapons were used in tournaments, especially between
combatants who fought _à outrance_, to clear up some desperate personal
grudge. Many noblemen were thus slain--_e.g._, in a tourney "in the
French fashion" at London, the Earl of Essex was killed in 1216.

Chapter XIV: A Baronial Feud. The Siege of a Castle.

We have visited St. Aliquis in days of peace, and at peace the
seigneury remains while we tarry. But peace and pageants no more deadly
than tourneys are seldom the continuous state of things. "Rumors of
wars" there are every day; actual wars every few years. Let the saints
be praised if such contests are largely local, are not bitterly fought
out, and are composed before they have caused worse things than the
harrying of certain villages of helpless, innocent peasants.

In spite of the efforts of clergy and of kings it will be truthfully
written of feudal France that "war was practically a permanent scourge
almost everywhere. _In the society of that day war was the normal
state._" When these wars are waged by mighty kings one can at least
take the comfort that perhaps they are settling long-standing questions
concerning many people, and, however dreadful, may pave the way for
lasting peace. Such a war has lately found its climax in the decisive
battle of Bouvines, whereof more anon. But most of the wars are for
miserably petty stakes. Time was when every insignificant sire holding
a feeble tower considered that he had the right to declare war on any
neighbor with whom he argued the rights to a trout stream. Yet the
case is changing. Suzerains are insisting that the lower class of
vassals arbitrate their quarrels and not embroil the neighborhood.
Nevertheless, the superior type of barons still claim war as their
"noble right." The amount of local fighting can hardly be computed.

[Sidenote: Varieties of Baronial Wars]

There is something abnormal about a powerful seigneur who (if blessed
with a long lifetime) does not have at least _one_ war with each of
his several suzerains, a war with the bishops and abbots with whom he
has contact, a war with each neighboring noble of equal rank, unless
their houses are unwontedly friendly, and a war with at least some of
his own vassals. A war can start out of a dispute about a bit of land,
an ill-defined boundary, or the exact obligations of a feudal tenure.
Theoretically, the suzerain can interfere between wrangling vassals.
Practically, he had better let them fight it out, at least till there
seems real danger that their fiefs will be permanently injured. Then he
can sometimes compel a truce.

Unfortunately, however, God often permits the bitterest wars to be
fought within the fief itself. Sons fight with fathers--"the Old Man"
will not let his grown boys rule the seigneury to their liking.[67]
Younger brothers battle with elder brothers over the inheritance.
Nephews attack uncles who seem prolonging their guardianship. Sons even
attack a widowed mother to seize her dower lands. These are only some
of the things which make the devil rub his taloned fingers.

Nevertheless, certain limitations are intruding, customs that have
nearly the force of law.[68] For example, if a vassal attacks his
suzerain, none but his own family (among his noble followers) can aid
him. Also, in any case, at least a week's notice must be given ere
the war is commenced. After the war does begin, forty days' respite
must also be granted your foe's relatives ere attacking them. In the
interval they are entitled to proclaim their neutrality and so to
become safe. Again, one is supposed to respect priests and women and
minors. Finally, if a truce is made the suzerain is bound to punish the
violators. Such understandings rob warfare of part of its horrors, but
do not prevent infinite blood and misery.

As for that motive which prevails in other ages for waging
wars--_patriotism_--often it does not seem to exist so vitally.
Certainly Frenchmen ought to make a common front against Germans,
Italians, English, etc., but lapses from this obligation are not always
condemned as morally outrageous. Quite recently the Count of Boulogne,
being at odds with King Philip, took money from both the King of
England and the Emperor of Germany to raise up enemies against the King
of France; and the count evidently felt that this was a proper measure
against an obnoxious suzerain. The great significant tie is that of
_personal loyalty_.[69] It is horrible to betray the prince to whom
you have sworn fealty. A suzerain will call out his host by a summons
to "my vassals," he will seldom think of appealing to "my fellow

[Sidenote: Few Battles and Little Strategy]

We have said that wars are incessant; yet there is one strange thing
about them--_pitched battles are very rare_. The campaigns abound
in petty skirmishes--valorous duels, surprises of small castles,
occasional clashes of cavalry, and, above all, in the pitiless ravaging
of the lands, farms, and villages of the helpless peasantry. What
better way to put pressure on your foe than to reduce his villeins to
such misery that they can render him nothing in money or kind and that
he thus be brought to poverty? If you have the weaker force you will
not think of meeting an invader in battle. You will shut yourself up
in your castles when you see the burning villages, stifle your pride,
remain passive, and trust that after the "forty days' service" of
your enemy's vassals is expired they will weary of the operations and
not venture to besiege your strongholds. Then when the foe's army is
beginning to disperse you can employ some neutral baron or abbot to
negotiate peace.

Even when kings are in the field, with really large armies, somehow
the opposing forces seldom risk a decisive encounter. They maneuver,
skirmish, and negotiate underhandedly with the uncertain elements in
the hostile camp. The upshot often is that the invading army, having
devoured all the provisions in the open country and not daring to
besiege strong cities with a powerful enemy close at hand, retreats

Of course, sometimes there are great battles with great results. Such
in the eleventh century was Senlac, when Duke William the Norman won
all England. Such, more recently, was the famous day at Bouvines. Such
marked several of the Crusades against the Infidels, particularly the
great and successful First Crusade, and the Third Crusade, when Richard
the Lion Hearted seemed to come nearer than any other feudal general to
being a really able tactician, if not a great strategist.

These battles are few and far between--and even the mighty Richard's
ideal style of fighting was rather that of a headlong cavalier followed
by only fifteen knights and with his ponderous ax hewing a bloody lane
through a host of Infidels, than that of a careful commander coolly
directing a mighty army. Besides, most of the wars between second-class
barons involve very small forces. They are only affairs for hundreds.
If matters come to grips, the best captain is he who orders "Advance,
banner bearer! Follow me, vassals!" and leads the headlong charge.

Enormous pains have been taken in training the individual warrior. For
personal prowess the French cavalier is as formidable an individual
as ever shared the sins of mankind. But he is trained only in simple
evolutions when maneuvering in companies. He dislikes taking orders. He
wearies of long campaigns. His camps are very unhygienic and subject to
pestilence. Wars, in short, are to him superb games, exciting, spiced
with danger, and played for large stakes--which give the zest; but,
save in the Crusades and certain other rare cases, the higher objects
which supply wars with their sole justification escape him entirely.
"Warfare," in the true scientific sense of the word, is something
whereof your baron is usually in complete ignorance.

Earlier in this recital it has been seen that Baron Conon, soon after
he obtained the seigneury, engaged in a brisk feud with the Viscount of
Foretvert. This was so like many other feuds in the region that it is
well to obtain an authentic history thereof from Father Grégoire, who
knows all the circumstances.

[Sidenote: Beginning of a Feud]

The origin of the quarrel (he tells us) was commonplace. Doubtless
the viscount had a contemptuous opinion of his then young and untried
neighbor. There was a wood betwixt the two seigneuries which had
been haltingly claimed by Foretvert; but all through terrible Baron
Garnier's time none but St. Aliquis peasants had been suffered to
cut fagots there. Now suddenly Huon, one of the forester's helpers,
appeared before Conon in a piteous plight. His thumbs had been hewn
clean off. He had been chopping timber on the debatable land, had been
seized by the viscount's men, haled before their master, and the latter
had ordered this treatment, adding, with a grin: "This is the drink
penny for touching a twig in my forests. Tell your young lord to spread
these tidings among his villeins."

When Conon had heard this taunt, his squires trembled at the workings
of his face. Then and there he pulled out his sword, placed his
hands on the hilt, pressing upon the reliquary, and swore "By God's
eyes!"[70] that he would make the viscount and all the spawn of
Foretvert swallow enough of their own blood to be drunk to damnation.

"Certes," says Father Grégoire, "he could not as a Christian baron do
less; for the lord who lets another seigneur oppress his villeins is no
lord; and if he had failed to resent such an insult none of his vassals
would have obeyed him."

That same day one of Conon's squires rode to Foretvert. He bore a
"cartel," a bunch of fur plucked from his master's pelisson.[71] He
was only a young squire, but carried his head high. There was some
danger in being such a messenger. The squire had to be as insolent as
possible without actually provoking Foretvert to violate the protection
due to a herald. Into the great hall of the offending seigneur strode
said squire, carrying a bough of pine in his left hand, the bunch of
fur in the right. His coming had been anticipated. The greetings, as
he was led up to the dais where the viscount presided, were cold and
ceremonious. Then the squire straightened his slim form and shook out
his long mantle.

"Sire Viscount, my master, the Baron of St. Aliquis, demands of you
satisfaction. If you do not make good the wrongs you have done to him
and his, I loyally defy you in his name."

And down he flung the cartel.

"It is fitting," returned the viscount, mockingly, "a mere boy should
be a squire for a lad. Tell your very youthful master that I will soon
teach him a lesson in the art of war."

So with a few more such exchanges the squire rode homeward. Meantime
at St. Aliquis things were stirring. The great bell on the donjon was
ringing. Zealous hands were already affixing the raw hides to the
projecting wooden hoardings upon the battlements. All the storehouses
for weapons in the bailey were being opened for a distribution of arms.
From the armory forge came a mighty clangor of tightening rivets. The
destrers must have caught the news, they stamped so furiously in the
stables. In the great hall Conon sat with Adela (a wise head in martial
matters), Sire Eustace, and the other knights in serious debate.

[Sidenote: Mustering the Vassals]

Simultaneously, messengers were pricking away to all the little
villages and to the fortalices of the vassals. To the villeins they
cried: "The baron proclaims war with Foretvert. Bring your cattle
and movables near to the castle for protection." To the vassals they
announced, "Come with all the men you are bound in duty to lead,
seven days from to-day, to St. Aliquis, armed and provisioned for
service; and hereof fail not or we burn you." This right to burn the
dwellings of vassals who failed to obey the summons to the ban was one
of long standing in feudal lands. Other messengers proclaimed the
ban by blowing the trumpet at every crossroads in the barony. To have
disobeyed this call would have been the depth of feudal depravity. None
of the vassals ventured to hesitate. On the contrary, most of them,
like good liegemen, affected to show joy at this chance to follow their
seigneur, crying at once, "My horse! My horse!" and ordering out all
their retainers.

The abbot of the monastery now, as duty bound, visited both leaders
and vainly tried to negotiate peace. He met with courteous thanks
and prompt refusals. While he was thus squaring with his conscience,
Conon was notifying all his outlying relatives. He was also sending
to several powerful barons who had received armed assistance from St.
Aliquis in the past, and who were now tactfully reminded of this fact.
He likewise sent an especially acceptable messenger to his suzerain
the duke, to convince the latter that Foretvert was entirely wrong,
and that the duke had better not interfere. Thanks to this energy
and diplomacy, by the end of the week the whole countryside had been
roused, the peasants had driven most of their cattle so close to
St. Aliquis castle that they could be protected, and many villeins,
deserting their hovels, were camping in the open (it being fine summer
weather) in the space between the barbican and bailey. As for Conon,
with pride he mustered his "array"--one hundred knights or battle
worthy squires; two hundred sergeants--horsemen of non noble birth;
and some seven hundred footmen--villeins with long knives, pikes,
arbalists, big axes, etc.--of no great value in open battle, but sure
to have their place in other work ahead.

From Foretvert reports came in of similar preparation. But the viscount
had quarreled with some of his relations. He had broken a promise he
once made to help a certain sire in a feud. His immediate vassals
responded to his call, but they felt that their lord ought to have
consulted them ere provoking St. Aliquis so grossly. In a word, their
zeal was not of the greatest.

Nevertheless, the viscount, an impetuous and self-confident man, having
hastily assembled his forces, the very day the week of intermission
ended invaded Conon's territory. He expected to find his enemy's
peasants still in the fields and the St. Aliquis retainers in the
process of mustering. To his amazement, he discovered that the villages
were almost empty and most of the cattle driven away. Nevertheless, he
foolishly allowed his men to scatter in order to ravage everything left
at their mercy. Soon hayricks were burning, standing crops were being
trampled down, and the thatch on the forsaken huts was blazing. Here
and there troopers were driving before their spears oafish peasants who
had lingered too long. The hands of these wretches were tied behind
their backs. Beside them trudged their weeping wives and children.
Every sheep, pig, and chicken discoverable was, of course, seized.[72]
The ravagers soon had enough booty to load their horses to such a
degree that one of Foretvert's more experienced knights warned him his
men were becoming dangerously encumbered in case of an encounter.

[Sidenote: A Passage at Arms]

The viscount laughed at these fears, yet was about to sound trumpets
to recall the foraging parties; when, lo! down a wood road, through a
forest that had been imperfectly scouted, came charging the whole St.
Aliquis levy, with Conon's great banner racing on ahead. Half of the
viscount's men were dispersed; the other half barely got into a kind
of order when their enemies were upon them, thrusting, slashing, and
laying about like fiends. Such being the case, Foretvert had cause to
bless the Virgin that he got safely from the field. He only did so
because his squire most gallantly stabbed the horse of Sire Eustace
just as he was closing with the viscount. The squire himself was
brained by the seneschal's mace an instant later. Five of the Foretvert
knights were slain outright, despite their armor. Four more were pulled
from their horses and dragged off as prisoners for ransom.

Of the foraging parties, the leaders got home by putting their horses
at speed, but the miserable footmen were intercepted by scores. Many of
these were slain while dropping their sinful booty. About forty were
taken prisoners, but, being only villeins (from whom no ransom was to
be expected), Conon promptly hanged ten as a warning against further
ravaging of his lands, and took the other thirty back to his castle to
be hanged later in case this first hint should not prove effective.[73]

This unusually decisive engagement ought, in the opinion of many, to
have ended the war. Conon now invaded the Foretvert domains and with
proper precautions sent out _his_ ravaging parties, who soon taught
their foes a lesson as to how to devastate a countryside. But the
viscount, although sorely shaken and deserted now by many, arrogantly
refused to make those concessions which Conon declared "his honor
required ere he could think of peace." The war thus promised not to
terminate until, by incessant raids and counter-raids, the peasants of
both seigneuries had been brought to the edge of starvation.

The viscount, of course, reckoned that at the end of their ordinary
"forty days' service" Conon's vassals and allies would leave him.
Most feudal levies were wont thus to melt away, after a very short
campaign, and leave their leader bereft of almost all save his
immediate retainers. Foretvert could then regather his men and resume
the contest. But the saints so ordered it that Conon had been a
thrifty seigneur as well as a popular suzerain and neighbor. He now
offered his allies and vassals good deniers if they would serve until
the autumn rains. He also hired the services of some fifty horsemen
and two hundred footmen, led from Lorraine by an iron-handed soldier
of fortune, Ritter Rainulf of the Moselle, who would put his German
mercenaries at the beck of about any baron offering good silver.
Mercenaries did not serve for "forty days," but for as many months as
they received steady wages--a great advantage.

Conon likewise hired a base-born fellow, Maître Jerôme. The knights
complained that the baron gave him too great pay and confidence, but
Maître Jerôme had been one of the king's best engineers in the siege of
the great castle, Château Gaillard, on the Seine, when Philip Augustus
took that supposedly impregnable fortress from John of England in 1204.
Now the castle of Foretvert itself was almost as strong as St. Aliquis,
and no siege thereof was worth considering. But the viscount had a
smaller fortalice, Tourfière, which lay closer to Conon's lands and was
not so formidable.

[Sidenote: Siege of a Castle]

Tourfière consisted merely of a single curtain of walls around the
courtyard of a central keep, with, of course, a palisaded barbican
before the gate. There was a moat, but not deep, and flooded only in
wet weather, and the foundations of this stronghold did not rest,
apparently, on solid rock--a matter upon which Maître Jerôme laid great
stress after a discreet reconnaissance. Suddenly, to the amazement of
many, Conon with all his forces appeared before Tourfière and summoned
its castellan, Sire Gauthier, the viscount's nephew, to surrender--a
demand refused with derision.

Sire Gauthier commanded some twenty knights, squires or sergeants, also
at least ninety armed villeins--a sufficient force, it seemed, for a
small castle, especially as the women in the place could drop stones,
throw down burning pitch hoops, pour boiling water, and help twist
back the casting engines. The defenders thus prepared to resist with
energy, confident that Conon could not keep his heterogeneous levies
together much longer and that the siege would break up ignominiously.
But, despite his villein blood, Maître Jerôme ordered the siege in
a marvelously skillful manner. No chess player could have moved his
pieces better than did he. First he persuaded the baron to resist his
impulse to attempt the walls by a sudden rush with scaling ladders,
pointing out that Gauthier, besides his arbalists, had four great
trenchbuts (stone-hurlers worked by counterweights) and also two
catapults, giant bows mounted on standards and able to send a heavy
arrow clean through a man in full armor.

"We must take Tourfière by the crowbar and spade, and not by the sword,
fair Seigneur," said Jerôme, smilingly; whereupon a great levy of
Conon's serfs began cutting timber and building a palisade all around
the besieged castle, to stop sorties or succoring parties. Meantime
Jerôme was directing the making of trenchbuts and catapults for the
besiegers. With these they soon smashed the wooden hoardings which had
protected the battlements, making it impossible for the garrison to
mount the walls, save at a few places or in great emergencies, lest
they be picked off by the attackers' arbalists. The trenchbuts also
cast small kegs of "Greek fire" (a compound of pitch, sulphur, and
naphtha) inside the castle court. These terrible fire balls could not
be quenched by water, but only by sand. By desperate efforts, indeed,
the defenders prevented decisive harm, but some of the buildings in the
courtyard were burned and Sire Gauthier's men became wearied in their
efforts to fend off disaster.

[Illustration: A CATAPULT

A sort of sling which one tightened with the aid of a windlass and
which threw heavy projectiles.]

In bravado the defenders took two prisoners and hanged them on the
highest tower. Conon retaliated by immediately hanging four prisoners
just out of bowshot of the castle, and causing his largest trenchbut
to fling a dead horse clear over the battlements and into the court.
Meantime a remarkable energy of the assailants, just outside their
palisades, was observable by Sire Gauthier. The castellan took counsel
with his most experienced men, for the besiegers seemed shaping very
many timbers.

[Sidenote: Siege Engines and Towers]

His advisers were divided in opinion. Some said that Conon was planning
to build a _beffroi_. This was a most ambitious undertaking ordinarily
used only in great sieges. A _beffroi_ was a movable tower built of
heavy timbers and raised to at least the height of the wall attacked.
Its front was covered by rawhides to repel arrows and fire-balls. It
was worked forward on rollers or clumsy wheels until close to the
hostile parapet. Then, when almost touching, a swinging bridge from
the summit was flung across to the wall, a host of assailants swarmed
up a ladder in the rear and over the bridge to the battlements. The
defenders then needed all their valor to keep their castle from speedy


(From Viollet-Le-Duc); the moat has been filled up, the tower covered
with skins to protect it from fire and rolled up to the wall.]

Others in the garrison, however, derided the idea that a _beffroi_ was
projected. It would be winter ere such a complicated structure could
be completed. They said that the baron was preparing battering rams
and a "cat." The battering ram was simply a heavy timber with a metal
head, swung by chains from a kind of wooden trestle. Set up close under
a wall it was pulled back and forth by ropes, and by repeated blows
knocked down the masonry. The "cat" was a long, narrow, tent-shaped
structure of heavy timbers covered with hides or iron to turn missiles
from the parapets. One end of this was built out until it came into
contact with the walls, when skillful miners under its protection
quarried their way through the masonry with pickaxes.

[Illustration: A MANTELET IN WOOD]

These methods were easier to prepare than the _beffroi_, although not
so effective. The defenders felt sure they would be used when the
attackers were seen making _mantelets_, large wooden shields mounted
on small wheels, to protect the crossbowmen when they crept up to
clear the walls--a needful preliminary to advancing either the cat or
the ram. Their certainty increased when one night, by a sudden rush,
Conon's men stormed through the weak palisade of the barbican and,
forcing their way near to the walls, began filling up the moat with
_fascines_--bundles of fagots. By using his trenchbuts and catapults
to best advantage, Sire Gauthier felt confident, however, that he had
prevented them from leveling the moat sufficiently to make a firm
foundation for siege engines. The Tourfière men, therefore, shouted
arrogantly: "Take your time, St. Aliquis hirelings! Your 'Madame Cat'
will never gnaw our rats."[74]

Presently, after a couple of weeks, the besiegers were seen in great
activity, as if arraying themselves for an assault. Gauthier was
convinced they were about, in desperation, to try to scale his walls
with ladders. Then of a sudden a panic-stricken sergeant ran up to his
watchtower. Wafts of smoke were escaping near the foundations of the
curtain wall near the gate!

[Sidenote: Undermining the Wall]

Gauthier instantly realized what had happened, but it was too late.
Under an elaborate feint with other preparations, Maître Jerôme had
taken advantage of the soft ground beneath the castle and had driven a
mine, beginning at a safe distance in the rear and cunningly concealing
the entrance and the earth excavated until it was fairly under a vital
section of the wall. Then a large chamber had been cleared and wooden
posts soaked with tallow had been put under the masonry to keep it
from falling on the miners. As the last of them retreated, a torch
was set to the woodwork, the whole chamber having been crammed with
inflammables. Presently the fire ate away the posts. With a thundering
crash a vital section of the wall collapsed.


At the top of the wall the scaffolding can be seen (theoretical figure
from Viollet-Le-Duc).]

The besieged had not realized the situation in time to drive a
countermine or to erect a second wall inside the danger point. The
moment the St. Aliquis men saw the wall topple they rushed forward.
The defenders met them bravely in the breach and there was bloody
swordplay, but the thrust of numbers was irresistible. Gauthier and
part of his men fled, indeed, to the donjon and barred the entrance,
but they were utterly demoralized. All the women and children, packed
into the tower, were shrilly lamenting the dead and were otherwise
frantic. Most of the provisions had been in a storehouse outside the
donjon. The end, therefore, was certain. At the end of the next day the
garrison in the donjon surrendered on promise of life and limb for all,
and courteous treatment for the knights.

The storming of Tourfière ended the war. Conon might, indeed, have
ruined Foretvert utterly, but now the duke intervened. It was not
for his interests to have any vassal rendered unfit to meet his
feudal obligations. Conon, however, was able to exact very high
terms. For evacuating Tourfière he obtained the cession of a village
whose peasants paid very large dues, and two of the viscount's best
vassals also transferred their homage to St. Aliquis. The contending
parties swore to peace upon the most precious relics at the abbey, and
exchanged the kiss of amity. Henceforth Foretvert, a sadder and wiser
seigneur, has been outwardly friendly with his powerful neighbor and
even came as a sulky guest to Alienor's wedding.


[67] Primogeniture did not exist on the Continent as in England. The
elder son was entitled to the largest share of the estate, but by no
means to the whole.

[68] They became formal law by about 1260, in the days of Louis IX.

[69] French opinion, of course, condemned this count, not for being a
traitor to his country, but for breach of fealty to his personal lord.

[70] The terrible oath of Henry II of England and other great

[71] Later custom would probably have sent a fur-trimmed glove.

[72] Such plunderings were common enough, though the best knightly
sentiment was against participating directly in them. Says a bard,
Geraud de Borneil, "O fie on the knight who drives off a flock of
bleating sheep--and then appears before a lady!"

[73] These prisoners were lucky if they finally escaped without at
least mutilation. To "give your captives (of villein blood) the empty
sleeve or the wooden leg" seems to have been direfully common in feudal

[74] Similar taunts were delivered at the well-known siege of
Carcasonne in 1240.

Chapter XV: A Great Feudal Battle--Bouvines.

So ended the feud between St. Aliquis and Foretvert--a less
exhausting and more decisive baronial war than were many, and causing
correspondingly less misery to the helpless peasants. But it has also
been Conon's fortune to fight in a really great battle, one that will
hereafter be set down among the most famous engagements in the annals
of France.

It is a sunny afternoon. Young François and Anseau have wearied of
hunting frogs beside the outer moat. Under the garden trees, Sire
Eustace, tough old warrior, is meditating over a pot of hippocras.
They demand of him once more the story of "the battle." For them there
is only one battle--Bouvines. The seneschal, ever the slave of his
youthful masters, after suitable urgings, begins.

"Now you must know, my fair damoisieux, that all this took place six
years since, in the year 1214, upon the seven-and-twentieth day of
July. For our sins it was extremely hot that season, so that all of
us have, I trust, obtained some remission from purgatory. God grant
that next time we have a great battle it be in the pleasant spring or
autumn, though otherwise the saints showed to us French a great mercy.
But now to commence.

"That year King John of England, having, by his evil rule and folly
lost nearly all his Anjou and Norman lands to our good King Philip,
sent large money and skillful ambassadors into Flanders and Germany
to stir up trouble. The great counts of Flanders and Boulogne nursed
grievances against their liege lord our king, and to them joined many
other seigneurs of those parts, notably the Dukes of Brabant and
Limburg, the Count of Holland, and chiefest of all the German Emperor
Otto IV himself, who came with a huge levy of Saxons. With those rode
the English Earl of Salisbury with a great band of Flemish mercenaries
who took King John's ill-gained penny. Never since Duke Charles Martel
smote back the Paynym had so terrible a host menaced our gentle France;
and when at last, in July, the whole array under Emperor Otto came
together at Valenciennes to take the road to Paris, even brave knights
trembled for the king and kingdom.

"Never had the call for the royal ban and rear ban gone out more
urgently than that summer. The king's messenger came to St. Aliquis
with the 'brief of summons' bidding Messire Conon ride with every man
and lad that could stride a horse or trudge with a spear; and so went
the command through all North France. But in the south country John was
making a formidable diversion from his remaining dominions in Gascony,
and we of the Languedoil lands had to meet the northern shock alone.

"When Messire your Father received the summons, there was even greater
furbishing than when old Foretvert defied us. Sire Conon had in the
abbot and wrote his last wishes, arranged that if he fell he should
be buried in the abbey church by the altar where St. Bernard had once
said mass, and he left to the monks five hundred livres in return for
perpetual masses for his soul. The remainder of us made vows according
to ability. I say nothing of the parting, or how your mother bravely
promised to guard the castle.

[Sidenote: Mobilization of Feudal Army]

"So the ban was answered all through the land, and the king's great
host came together. Never again shall I see so fine a mustering of
knights as gathered at Peronne. It far surpassed any tournament. Every
hour the banners came in, to the sound of tabors, horns, and drums.
There was an enormous baggage train, so that I believe there were more
mules than horses, for many barons brought their great tents, with many
coffers of extra arms and fine clothing. In the rear were gathered a
second array of jongleurs, peddlers and very evil women, whom not all
the commands of the king, somehow, could disperse. Verily in that army
there were twice as many mouths to fill as there were men to fight;
likewise, short as was the campaign, there was much sickness, thanks to
bad food, bad water, and, so certain even averred, to overmuch filth.
The comfort was that in Otto's camp matters were, if anything, much

"In any case those tumultuous days of assemblage were soon at an end.
Tidings came that the Germans and Flemings were advancing, and on the
twenty-fifth of July we marched into Tournai on the edge of Flanders.
Messire Conon, who was at the royal council-tent, told me that the
king's barons debated as to the purpose of the enemy. Would he offer
fair battle in the plain near Cambrai, as we much desired, or would
he strive to slip past our army and go straight toward Paris? I have
been told of books concerning the ancient Roman captains, Julius
Cæsar and his peers, and it would seem as if to them the moving of
armies had been a business of deep sagacity, advancing your columns by
careful rules, somewhat as you move your men on a gaming board. No one,
however, is so sage as that to-day, and I think it was either mere
fortune or (speaking as a Christian) the kind St. Denis, who guards our
beautiful France, that brought the hosts together when and where they
presently came.

"It was at break of day on that seven-and-twentieth of July that we
quitted Tournai, intending to pass the little river Marque, to get to
the town of Bouvines and thereby to be covered by certain marshes so
we might be protected from surprise, and yet be able to strike the
foe's rear if he should take the road to Paris. But Otto and his lords,
swollen with their German and Fleming pride and confident in their
great host of infantry, were determined to attack, and so kept hard
after us. It is only nine miles from Tournai to Bouvines, but our long
trains of baggage crawled along like snails. Therefore it was almost
noon when the sumpter mules and the infantry had crossed the bridge.
We of the cavalry were still on the nearer side, covering the march,
when our scouts came racing in. 'The Germans! The Germans!' And there
assuredly, over the rolling slopes of the cornfields beyond Bouvines,
we saw the long lines of horsemen flying in a great dust cloud.

"Now there was with the king the Bishop Garin of Senlis. He was an old
knight hospitaler, one of those holy brethren who, despite churchly
vows, rejoice to fight in just causes, and Bishop Garin at once clapped
spurs to his destrer to reconnoiter. Soon he dashed back, having
discovered quite enough. He found our Lord Philip sitting under an
ash tree close to the bridge eating dinner, with many great nobles,
Messire Conon among them, sitting on the grass. 'Tidings, fair Sire!'
cried Garin. 'The Germans will fight. Their knights are in panoply, and
behind them march the infantry!'

[Sidenote: Battle Array at Bouvines]

"It was no pleasant moment for the king. His own infantry were beyond
the river, but his cavalry were on this side. He could not get his
horsemen across the single bridge without grievous loss; but there was,
perchance, still time to bring back the foot. Therefore, with what
speed we might, every man of us fell into the array, and some brave
sergeants of Champagne made such charges upon Otto's vanguard that,
though outnumbered and pressed back, they delayed the foe until our
men could take their places and present a gallant front. As for the
attackers, when they saw that we were ready to do battle, like prudent
men they halted and arrayed their own lines. So for an hour both sides
waited, just out of bowshot, many of us very nervous and cursing the
delay--the more as the sun beat down pitilessly--although the more
pious confessed hastily to the priests, who were always moving up and
down the files, or at least we said our _mea culpas_ for our sins.

"Presently you could see the whole array of the enemy spread out like
some fair picture on a long tapestry. On their right, facing our
Counts of Ponthieu and Dreux, were the mercenaries under Salisbury,
and the men of that foul traitor Boulogne. On their left were the long
lines of Flemish horsemen over against our cavaliers of Champagne and
Burgundy. But we from Quelqueparte, with so many other companies, were
in the center battle where flew King Philip's great oriflamme, a mighty
scarlet banner of samite, surrounded by chosen cavaliers. We horsemen
were in the rear. In front of us spread the French footmen--the
burgher levies of the towns who answered the king's summons. 'Shame
that burghers should stand before knights!' cried some of us; but the
King and Bishop Garin, who seemed to know everything, understood their
business, as you will see.

"It is told that just before the hosts charged King Philip prayed
aloud before his bodyguard: 'Lord, I am but a man, but I am also a
king. Thine it is to guard the king. Thou wilt lose nothing thereby.
Wherever thou wouldst go, I will follow thee!' Also I heard that close
behind the king there stood, as long as he might, the royal chaplain,
William the Breton, who all through the battle, with another clerk,
kept singing psalms such as 'Blessed be the Lord my strength, who
teacheth my hands to war and my fingers to fight.' But Bishop Garin
sang no psalms. Up and down the lines of horsemen he rode, thundering:
'Extend yourselves, lest the enemy outflank you. One knight should not
make another his shield!' So he put all our knights in the first line
of the cavalry. In the rear lines he put the mounted sergeants. We had
perhaps two thousand knights and five thousand sergeants. Our infantry
were over five-and-twenty thousand, but the foe had even more footmen
than we, though their horse was a little inferior. Thus the battle was
very fair, two lines of men and horses a mile and a half long, and the
fields smooth and open enough for a jousting. There never was better
place for an honorable battle.

"After we had sat in our saddles a long time, thinking of our sins
and admiring in a fearsome way the splendor of the great press of
the foe opposite, a party of our sergeants suddenly charged out on
our right against the Flemings. Their attack was too weak, and the
Flemings drove them back and charged in return, their leaders crying,
'Think on your ladies!' as if in a courteous mêlée. Whereat, nothing
loath, our Burgundian and Champagnois knights dashed out on them, and
long engaged in an uncertain battle, every cavalier selecting a foe
and riding against him. Here one side prevailed and here another, and
some warriors even dropped to the rear to recover breath and tighten
harness, then spurred back to the charge. For a little while we of the
center watched them thus; then nearer things engrossed us.

[Sidenote: Defeat of the French Infantry]

"I have told you that King Philip and his footmen, as well as many of
our knights, held the center battle. Facing them was the dense array of
Flemish and German infantry, with Emperor Otto himself, accompanied by
chosen horsemen, in their rear, and we could see in the middle press
the great imperial banner, a silken dragon, white and green, raised
upon a pole capped with a golden eagle. It was not borne by a cavalier
but flew from a tall car drawn by four horses. As we gazed at this vast
hostile array, lo! the whole mass seemed surging forward against our
infantry. Never was there a sight like it, spear points, hauberks, and
helmets all flashing in the sun. The ground shook with the trample of
thousands of feet. Countless war horns sounded, and we heard the deep
'_Hoch! Hoch!_' of the German infantry coming down on us like thunder.

"Then the emperor's great masses struck our footmen from the communes.
Doubtless our poor knaves meant bravely, and always had plenty of
courage when defending their walls, but never would France and King
Philip have been saved by townsmen. Soon we saw all those base-born
infantry breaking toward the rear, and for a moment our skies looked
black. But, 'Open the ranks,' called Messire Conon and our other
leaders, 'and let the villeins run through.' So we opened the lines
in the cavalry and let these timid friends escape. Then came a last
tightening of buckles and pushing down of helms. Right before us,
thousands upon thousands, were surging the emperor's infantry. All
together we raised the glad '_Montjoie St. Denis!_'[75] the royal
battle cry of France. Whereupon followed such a coursing as never in
all my life I can hope again to see. With our eyes on Otto's great
banner, straight into that press of Germans and Flemings we French
cavaliers rode like mad, the knights in front and all the squires and
good sergeants raging behind us. The horses knew their hour. They flew
at speed with no touch of spur. Though I am blessed with all the joys
of paradise, never, after ten thousand years of bliss, shall I forget
the wondrous rapture I felt when we struck that hostile line!"

(Sire Eustace's eyes are gleaming now like sparks of fire. François and
Anseau are hardly breathing as he speaks).

[Sidenote: Charge of the French Knights]

"Through that caitiff infantry we went as a hot knife cleaves through
cheese. I had the St. Aliquis banner, and kept close behind Messire
Conon with all our men hallooing and smiting behind. _Hé!_ what chance
had those villein footmen against _gentle_ Frenchmen, who all had known
horses and lance since they ceased from mother's milk? So one and all
we charged, and, like castles rising out of the plain, soon you could
see here, there, and yonder the banners and squadrons of our cavaliers
on their tall horses, looming above the snarling, striking footmen, who
closed in all around them, and yet could not keep our knights from
charging forward, always forward.

"After that, all the battle was broken up. For when Emperor Otto and
his knights saw their infantry being cut down like sheep, they also
charged, giving us the honest joy of crossing swords with men of
nobility. So for a long time it was horse to horse and man to man. You
have heard the jongleurs tell of the great deeds done. But as for us
of St. Aliquis, just as we were close to hewing our way clear through
the whole German line, lo! a great shouting rose on our left--"The
King! The King!" And we saw the royal standard being tossed up and
down, as in distress, by Sire Wado de Montigny, who bore it. Then back
we charged, with many cavaliers more--just in time. For King Philip,
while attacking gallantly like any other knight, had been separated
from most of his friends, and a swarm of knavish Flemish pikemen had
striven to drag him from his horse. His good armor turned their pikes,
yet a soldier caught the hook of a halberd in the chain mail round his
throat and pulled him to the ground. But the king sprang up as briskly
as a young squire, and all the French knights at hand spurred to his
aid. Then it was that Sire Peter Tristen leaped from his own horse and
mounted his lord upon it; and Messire Conon, being among the very first
to ride up and scatter or trample the Flemings, later received no small
praise and thanks.

"Therefore, in that part of the field God prospered us; and then came
the signal mercy when Emperor Otto fled the field. For as our knights
charged and his cavaliers gave way, our men slew Otto's horse, and when
he fell they almost seized the emperor. However, his Saxons, selling
their lives right dearly, got him another horse. But herein was the
German emperor different from our good French king. For when Philip was
remounted again he raised once more his clear '_Montjoie St. Denis!_'
and pressed the charge; but Otto (nigh out of his wits, perhaps, and
somewhat wounded) fled from the field with only three knights, leaving
his great banner and all his brave vassals to their fate; and they say
he never drew rein till he reached Valenciennes.

[Sidenote: Rout of the Germans and Flemings]

"The German knights, though deserted, still fought bravely, but the
Netherlanders and Flemings soon were fleeing in droves. Besides, on the
two wings of the conflict we Frenchmen were already proving victorious
and from right and left our knights were charging in to help the
center, cutting their way so far to the rear that when at last the
German cavaliers knew that all was lost, and now began to flee, they
often found themselves surrounded and were pulled from their horses and
so made captive.

"Thus ended the day's work, save on the right wing of the enemy. Here
had fought the great rebel Reginald of Boulogne, who knew there was
naught left for him save victory or ruin. He formed some seven hundred
Brabantine infantry into a circle. With their pikes and axes they beat
off for long the charges of our cavaliers. From behind this living
wall Boulogne, with a few brave knights, time and again charged out,
performing high deeds of valor, and then, as it were, retreating into
their fortress to get breath. But now that the remainder of the field
was cleared, King Philip brought up his whole power of cavalry. He
formed three thousand of us into three great columns of mounted men
and, charging in on every side, by sheer weight we broke the Brabantine
circle down. So we dragged the Count of Boulogne from his horse,
fighting to the last, and the king holds him close prisoner unto this

"This was the last mêlée of a battle the like whereof has not been in
France these many years. Of course, the slaughter of the footmen was
great, some thousands of both ours and theirs. The field was a sorry
sight that evening and the groans of the dying rang in my ears, for
all that we were so happy. But it pleased the saints that, thanks to
good armor, we cavaliers got off quite safely. I have heard that 'only
three French knights were slain,' although I am sure that number is
too few. Of the Germans and Flemings they say one hundred and seventy
knights were killed outright; but better still, we took five German
counts, twenty-five barons, and some hundred and six lesser knights
as prisoners. It was the ransom of that Baron of Imgerfels whom we
unhorsed which presently went far to pay for your aunt's wedding and
uncle's knighting.

"As for the manner in which we all returned to Paris joyous as the
angels, and how the church bells rang and all the fat burghers hung
the streets with tapestry, and with the clergy and scholars in
the university we had seven days of illuminations, feastings, and
rejoicings, which is a story repeated every day. But there will never
be another Bouvines."

So spoke the seneschal. If we would comment on his narrative, we would
say that Philip manifestly conquered because his very unepiscopal
chief of staff, Bishop Garin, drew up his army with greater skill than
Otto's leaders arranged the German-Fleming host, and also because when
at last the hosts engaged in a series of innumerable duels, the French
knights on the average proved superior. King Philip, after the fight
was started, showed himself a valiant cavalier personally, but hardly
figured as a commander. Otto contributed to shake the morale of his
men by premature flight, but his great host of footmen were almost
worthless, despite their pikes and halberds, against the terrific shock
of the French cavalry, charging on perfectly smooth ground, where
mailed horsemen could fight at their best. Missile weapons played no
part. When the English yew bow shall appear, the situation may change.
Till then the mounted knight, in all his ponderous armor, charging with
lance at rest or with his great sword dancing in his hands, will appear
as the monarch of the battlefields. Bouvines has marked the apogée of
the feudal cavalry.


When a trouvère stopped in a château, the lord, his family, and his
people assembled in the great hall; the trouvère recited some long
poem, accompanying himself on a musical instrument, assisted by
jugglers who entertained the audience while the poet rested.]


[75] This famous battle cry of French royalty probably meant "_Follow
the banner of St. Denis!_" Its exact origin, however is obscure.

In feudal battles, armies often used merely the names of their leaders,
"_Burgundy!_" "_Coucy!_" "_Bourbon!_" etc. But many regions had a
special war cry. Thus the Normans cried "_Dex ais!_" the Bretons,
"_Malo! Malo!_" the Angevins "_Valée!_" Imperialists were likely to cry
"_Rome!_" and Crusaders "_Holy Sepulcher!_" To "cry one's ensign" was a
great object in all mediæval battles.

Chapter XVI: The Life of the Peasants.

Thus have been seen Messire Conon and his familiars in their pleasures,
feasts, and wars. The gentle folk seem to monopolize all the life of
the barony. Yet at best they number scarce one in a hundred of all the
Christians who dwell therein. Assuredly the poor and humble seem much
less interesting and command less attention. They have no splendors, no
picturesque fêtes or feuds. A life of monotonous poverty seldom detains
the chronicler; nevertheless, it is time to visit the village of huts
so often seen spreading beyond the bridge to the west of the castle.

The St. Aliquis peasants are told that they have naught whereof to
complain. They have a kindly seigneur who "renders justice." Since the
Foretvert feud, no war has ravaged them. The saints of late have sent
neither short crops nor pestilence. To repine against their lot is
ingratitude toward God.

There is abundant class consciousness in the Feudal Ages. Clerks,
knights, peasants--every man knows to which of the three great
categories of humanity he belongs, and acts accordingly.

A monkish preacher[76] pictures the world as a vast body whereof the
clerics are the eyes, for they show to all men the way to safety; the
noble knights the hands and arms, for God orders them to protect the
Church and the weak and to promote peace and justice; finally the
common people (_minores_) form the lower parts of the body--it is their
business to nourish the eyes and limbs. More bluntly still, as long ago
as about A.D. 1000, Bishop Adelberon of Laon had divided mankind into
two great divisions--first, the clergy who prayed and the seigneurs who
fought; second, the toilers; adding that "to furnish all with gold,
food, and raiment--such is the obligation of the servile class."

Since these classes are clearly ordained of Heaven, to rebel against
one's status is manifestly questioning the justice of Providence--a
damnable impiety.

Few of the St. Aliquis peasants ever dream of being anything but
villeins. They regard gentlefolk somewhat as good Christians regard
angels--as beings of another sphere. All they hope for is kindly
treatment and modest prosperity within the limits providentially
assigned them. Therefore, they are not too unhappy.

If we go up and down France we shall find the rural population
decidedly dense.[77] One little village usually follows another closely
and every collection of huts swarms with human bipeds. There are,
indeed, vast forests and marshes which might with better management
be put under the plow, but the extent of arable land is great. Heaven
surely loves the peasants, it has made so many of them. Seemingly their
number is limited merely by the question of food supply.

[Sidenote: Danger of Great Famines]

If the condition of the peasantry often seems bad, it is comforting to
know that for the last two centuries it has been improving. Not for
many years have matters in the St. Aliquis region been as they were in
some parts of France during the terrible famine of 1030-32. At that
time we are told that the poor devoured grass, roots and even white
clay. Their faces were pale, their bodies lean, their stomachs bloated,
"their voices thin and piping like the voice of birds." Wolves came out
of forests and fed on children. Strangers and travelers were liable
to be waylaid in solitary spots and killed simply that they might be
eaten. Near Macon a "hermit" at last was seized who had lured wayfarers
to share the hospitality of his cell. The skulls of forty-eight victims
were there discovered, after which they burned the wretch alive.


(Twelfth century), from a window in the cathedral of Chartres.]

You can go on multiplying stories about famines--how human flesh at
times was sold in markets; how starving children were lured by the
offers of a bit of food to places where ghouls could kill and feast on
them; how a measure of corn rose to sixty sous in gold; and how even
the very rich "lost their color." These days, thanks be to the saints,
seem disappearing; yet the danger of pinching hard times is still a
real one, even in fortunate St. Aliquis.[78]

The peasants of Messire Conon are free. The serfs of the barony had
been manumitted about a hundred years earlier, by a baron who (after
an extremely iniquitous life) was admonished on his deathbed by his
confessor that he must do something extraordinary for the salvation of
his soul.[79] As a result the St. Aliquis peasants were no longer bound
to the soil and could quit the seigneury--as serfs assuredly could not
do. They could also marry any women they wished without asking their
lord's consent or paying him a fee. They could bequeath their goods
without having him sequester an outrageous part. All this, of course,
improved their status, yet they were still subject to numerous imposts
in money and kind, and to various forms of forced labor. Although they
had now the legal right to quit the barony, only with the greatest
difficulty could they sell their little farms and chattels thereon, so
they could take a decent share of their possessions elsewhere; and if
they wandered to distant parts, the local authorities were likely to
call them "masterless men" and assume that if they had forsaken their
old lord they must somehow be criminals.

[Sidenote: Exploitation of Villeins]

Nevertheless, it is much better to be a free peasant than a serf. The
majority of the French lower classes are now becoming free, although
in other Christian lands, notably Germany, serfage will prevail for a
weary day hereafter.

But even though one becomes free, he is a villein still. The taint
of ignoble blood clings like a shirt of pitch, even after achieving
prosperity and wealth. Knightly opinion is expressed by that great
troubadour, Bertran de Born: "I love to see the rich churl in distress
if he dares to strive with nobles. I love to see him beg his bread in

Even a well-disposed lord looks on a peasant largely as a source of
income. In time of peace the taxes and forced labor squeezed out of
him yield that which presently turns into destrers, silvered hauberks,
furs, hawks, fair dames' luxuries, dowries, adubbements, tourneys.
In time of war he exists to be pillaged and massacred, in order to
impoverish his master by ruining the latter's revenues. The burghers of
the towns are a little more respected. Their industrial products are
needful. They can better protect themselves. But the richest syndic of
a commune cannot really hold up his head socially with the unknighted
bachelor who drags out life in a tumble-down manor house.

At every turn the peasant finds himself exploited. He must pay a direct
tax supposedly proportioned to the size and yield of his farm. That is
only the beginning. When his wife has bread to bake, it must be taken
to the lord's oven. One loaf in so many goes as the fee. The flour
must be ground up in the lord's mill--again for a fee. The grapes
must be pressed out in the lord's winepress. The sheep must be driven
into the lord's sheepfold every night, that he may get the manure.
Every dispute must be arbitrated before the lord's provost or the great
man himself--more fees. In short, the whole régime aims to compel the
peasant to go to his seigneur for everything he needs, so that he will
have extremely little business to transact away from the seigneury.
Doubtless it is a convenience often to find things commonly needful
always at hand. There is a certain return for many of the exactions.
But the seigneur does not act out of benevolence. If the peasants wish,
for example, to set up their own ovens, they must pay the seigneur the
equivalent of the baker's fees of which he is deprived. If they then
wish to bake their own bread, he is now quite indifferent.

Besides the imposts and numerous fees (_banalités_) the peasants owe
the _corvées_, payments by labor. A large part of every seigneury
is "domain land"--for the lord's own personal use. The peasants are
obliged to give a certain number of days to keep this plowed and
tilled, mow the meadows, bring in the hay, dress the vines. They
must also see that the castle has its firewood and fodder; clean
out the moat; help keep the fortifications in repair; and assist on
many extraordinary occasions.[80] For this they get no pay, although
they may be given their rations during the days of labor. In time of
war they do almost everything from helping to defend the castle to
marching on offensive campaigns as part of the ban--serving, as we have
seen, as grooms, baggage attendants, diggers, and engineers, and also
as the despised, but sometimes useful, infantry pikemen.

[Sidenote: Oppressive Seigneurial Officers]

Such are the burdens of the St. Aliquis peasants. They burn holy
candles of thankfulness, however, that Baron Conon does not multiply
their troubles by intrusting the collection of his imposts and the
administration of his forced labor to outrageous officers. Sire
Macaire, the provost, is harsh toward real offenders and strict
in exacting the last _sol_ or sheaf in just debts, but he is no
blackmailer, as is Foretvert's general factotum. In old Baron Garnier's
day, of course, there had been a provost who not merely levied
abominable imposts, diverting a share thereof toward his own pocket,
but who would accuse poor men falsely of theft and then take bribes for
condoning their alleged offenses, all the time that he was dividing the
profits of real bandits whom he protected.

Even more obnoxious can be the forester who controls the hunting
preserves and grazing grounds. He decides how the peasants' pigs may be
turned out in the oak forests, how and when firewood may be cut, and he
battles incessantly with the multitudinous poachers. A few years ago
even Conon was deceived by a fellow in his employ, one Maître Crispin.
He was "a very handsome man with fine carriage and well armed with bow
and sword." No one could _congé_ more gracefully to Madame Adela, or
do more to help messire to discover a great boar, but all the while he
was filling his own chest. For example, he seized lame Georges' oxen on
the pretext that he had cut three oaks and a birch in the seigneur's
forest--yet he would forget the crime if Georges could find him one
hundred sous! Fortunately Sire Macaire discovered the evil ways of his
lieutenant, and Conon, exceedingly incensed, had the smooth Crispin
turned over to Maître Denis and his halter after abrupt formalities.
The present forester, taught by example, is more honest, although of
course, all the real poachers curse him.

[Illustration: PEASANTS AT WORK

From a manuscript of the thirteenth century (Bibliothèque nationale).]

A great part of the peasant's time is spent neither in working nor in
resting, but in walking. Few are so lucky as to have all their land
in a single compact plot. Even a rather poor peasant has his farm
scattered in several tiny holdings, possibly at the four quarters of
the neighborhood. When a peasant dies, his children all divide the
paternal estate, and if a separate piece of ground cannot be provided
for each heir, some lots must be subdivided smaller still. The St.
Aliquis lands thus present a curious sight--innumerable little parcels
scattered everywhere, each carefully fenced off and each growing its
own separate crops. Meantime their owners begin in the morning toiling
with their heavy mattocks, on one of their holdings, then on to the
next, and so on until sundown. Thus they trudge several miles, and yet
are seldom far from their village, whither they must all return at

[Sidenote: Primitive Agricultural Methods]

Men of more fortunate days will be astonished when they survey the
agricultural methods of even the least stupid peasants. Everything is
according to traditions--"so it was with our fathers." In the abbey
library there are some Latin books about agriculture. They deal with
conditions in ancient Italy, however, not feudal France. The most
benevolent monk hardly dreamed of examining his Cato or Columella to
learn how to better the lot of the peasantry, though in fairness it
should be said that the abbey farms enjoy on the whole a much superior
cultivation. Not all peasants can own plows; they borrow or hire from
their neighbors, or break the ground with the clumsy mattocks. What
plows exist have only wooden plowshares. The wheat in St. Aliquis is
beaten out by flails, although a little farther south it is trodden out
by cattle. The soil is often impoverished, and it is usual to leave
one-third fallow all the time to recuperate. Such a thing as "rotation
of crops" is still a matter of vague talk save on some of the monastery

Under these circumstances, even in the best of years, there is not much
surplus of food. A short crop means misery. Men pessimistically expect
a famine on the average of one in every four years. If there has not
been one of late in St. Aliquis, it is because the saints are rich
in mercy. "In 1197 a countless throng died of hunger," significantly
wrote a chronicler in Rheims. Naturally, the villeins seldom get enough
ahead to be able to learn the practices of thrift. If the year has
been good, with an extra supply of corn in the barns, and plenty of
pigs and chickens fattening, the winter will be spent in gorging and
idleness. By spring the old crop is exhausted almost to the seed corn;
then perhaps the new crop will be a failure. The next winter these same
peasants may be glad to make a pottage of dead leaves.

Lame Georges, who had his oxen sequestered, is, despite his
misfortunes, one of the most prosperous peasants in the village. He
limps because in his youth a retainer of Baron Garnier's twisted one
of his feet while trying to extort money. Georges is really only
forty-five years old, but to see his gray head, gnarled face, and bent
back you would think him sixty. His wife Jeanne is four years younger
than he, but looks as aged as her husband. "Old Jeanne," the children
call her. The pair have been blessed with at least fifteen children,
but four of these died in childbirth, and five more before they could
grow up. The other six are, all but the youngest, married already and
Jeanne has been a grandmother for several years.

Georges' house stands near the center of the village. To reach it
you pick your way down a lane usually deep in mud. In front of each
fenced-in cottage there is an enormous dungheap, beloved by the hens
and pigs, which roam about freely. Georges' one-story dwelling is an
irregularly built, rambling structure of wood, wattles, and thatch, all
of dirty brown. This "manse" stretches away in four parts. The rearmost
contains the corn cribs, the next mows for hay and straw, then the
cattle sheds; and nearest, and smallest, the house for the family.

[Sidenote: A Peasant's House]

Pushing back the heavy door, after lifting the wooden latch, one enters
a single large room; the timbers and walls thereof are completely
blackened by soot. There is really only one apartment. Here everything
in the household life seems to go on. The floor is of earth pounded
hard. Upon it are playing several very dirty, half-naked children,
come over to visit "grandmother," and just now they are chasing two
squealing little pigs under the great oak table near the center. One
makes no account of a duck leading her goslings in at the door in hopes
of scraps from the dinner. A hen is setting on eggs in a box near the
great fireplace.

Jeanne has just kindled a lively fire of vine branches and dry billets.
She is proud that her house contains many convenient articles not
found with all the neighbors. By the fireplace is an iron pot hanger,
a shovel, large fire tongs, a copper kettle, and a meat hook. Next to
the fireplace is an oven, in case she does not wish to use that at
the castle and yet will pay the baron's fee. On the other side of the
fireplace is an enormous bed, piled with a real mountain of feather
mattresses--we do not discuss their immunity from vermin. In this one
bed a goodly fraction of Georges' entire family, male and female, old
and young, have been able to sleep; of course, with their heads usually
pointing in opposite directions. If a stranger chances to spend the
night, it will be hospitable to ask him to make "one more" in that
selfsame bed!

If the goodman takes us about his establishment we shall find that,
in addition to various stools and benches, he owns a ladder, a mortar
and pestle for braying corn, a mallet, some crudely shaped nails, a
gimlet, a very imperfect saw, fishing lines, hooks, and a basket. He
is fortunate enough also to own a plow, and, in addition, a scythe, an
iron spade, a mattock, a pair of large shears, a handy knife, and a
sharpening stone. He has replaced the stolen oxen with another pair and
owns a two-wheeled wagon with a harness of thongs and ropes. Besides
the oxen, there are three milch cows in his barn, and he has a hennery
and pigpen. The place seems also to abound with long, lean cats, very
wild, who gain a living by hunting the numerous rats and mice which
lurk in the dense thatch of the roofs.

Georges himself wears a blouse of dirt-colored cloth, or sometimes
of sheepskin, fastened by a leathern belt. In cold weather he has a
mantle of thick woolen homespun, now also dirt color, to his knees. He
has a pair of very heavy leathern boots, although not seldom he goes
on short walks barefoot. The lower part of his body is covered by a
pair of loose woolen trousers which once were blue. Very seldom, save
in storms, does he wear any headdress; then he produces a kind of cap
of the same dirty woolen as his coat. As for gloves, he never wears
them except when hedging. Jeanne's costume is much the same, with
a few changes to make it suitable for women. In her chest she has,
however, a green bliaut of Flanders wool made somewhat in imitation
of those she has seen at the castle, and it even is beautified with
red and purple embroidery. This bliaut she wears with pride on great
festival days, and in it, despite the envious hopes of her daughters
and daughters-in-law, she expects at last to be buried.


Restored by Viollet-Le-Duc, from the manuscript of Herrade of

[Sidenote: Very Poor Peasants]

Georges' house is considerably better than many others. Some of his
neighbors live in mere cabins that are barely weather tight. They are
made of crossed laths stuffed with straw or grass, and have no chimney.
The smoke from the hearth escapes through a small hole in the roof
(where the thatch is very liable to take fire) or merely through the
door. None of these houses has glass windows. Georges fastens his few
openings with wooden shutters, but poor Alard near by has to close his
apertures by stuffing them up with straw, if it is too cold to leave
them open. Alard, too, is without a bed. His family sleep on thin
pallets of straw laid on the ground, with a few ragged blankets. There
are plenty of peasants who have not even the straw.

[Illustration: PEASANT SHOES

Twelfth century (abbey church of Vézelay)]

[Illustration: A REAPER

From the doorway of the cathedral of Amiens.]

Alard inevitably has no cows, no oxen or cart, no plow, and only a few
rude tools. He and his are barely able to satisfy the provost's men by
grinding field labor, and have still enough grain laid up to carry them
till the next harvest. If it is a little too dry, a little too wet, if,
in short, any one of a number of untoward things happen, by next spring
he, with his bent and bony wife and his five lean children, will all be
standing at the castle or abbey gate with so many other mendicants to
cry their "Bread! For the love of Christ, a little bread!"

The peasants marry as early as do the nobility. Of the moral condition
of many of them it is best to say little. Good Father Étienne, the
parish priest, spends much of his time first in baptizing infants of
unacknowledged paternity, and then in running down their presumptive
fathers and forcing the latter to provide for their children's upkeep.
But a girl can often indulge in amazing indiscretions and later find
some self-respecting peasant willing to marry her.

Every girl looks forward to her marriage as the climax of life. If she
hopes to find a husband in the coming year, she will dance around a
bonfire, then cast some pins into a bubbling fountain. If these are
thrown to the surface it is a sign the right swain will come along.
When drawing water from a well, if she can throw into it an egg cracked
upon the head of some companion, she can see in the water the image
of her future husband. As for the young men, when one of them decides
he wishes to marry a certain girl, he often comes to her parents,
presenting a leathern bottle of wine. If they drink of the same his
suit is accepted. However, if he is uncertain of his reception by the
maiden herself, he invites himself to dinner at her home. If at the end
she serves him with a dish of walnuts, it is a clear token that he is
rejected. He had better slink away.


From a manuscript of the Bibliothèque nationale (Bordier et Charton).]

On the wedding day, if the bride has always been sage and modest, the
neighbors present her with a white hen, but her mother gives her a
piece of fine cloth, to make a gala dress which will serve ultimately
for a shroud. At the ceremony itself the great question is, "How will
the wedding ring slip on?" If easily the bride will be docile. If it
goes on tightly she will rule her husband!

[Illustration: A PLOW

Restored by Viollet-Le-Duc, from a manuscript of the thirteenth century
at the Seminary of Soissons.]

[Sidenote: Hard Toil and Ignorance]

The peasants need every kind of public and private holiday. On ordinary
days toil begins at gray dawn and usually continues until dusk.
There are no eight-hour laws; even the "nooning" is short, although
sometimes there is time taken out in hot weather for a siesta during
the afternoon. The women labor in the fields as hard as do the men.
Children begin weeding, digging, and carrying when very little. Their
help is so important that many peasants look on large families as
assets of so much unpaid field labor, rather than as liabilities which
they must clothe and feed until the children reach maturity. Education
is almost unknown. One or two very bright boys from the village somehow
have been caught by the churchmen and trained for the priesthood.
There is even a story of a lad born in a neighboring seigneury who
thus rose to be a bishop! But such cases are very exceptional. In the
whole village by St. Aliquis, Father Étienne is the only person who
understands the mysteries of reading and writing, except two assistants
of the provost, who have to keep accounts for the baron.

It is very hard for great folk to understand such teachings of the
Church as that "all men are brethren." "Doubtless it is true," Adela
and Alienor have often told each other, that "God created man in His
own image," but how is it possible that God should have the image of
most of the villeins on the seigneury? Are not so many of them like
the peasant described in the epic "Garin"? "He had enormous hands and
massive limbs. His eyes were separated from each other by a hand's
breadth. His shoulders were large, his chest deep, his hair bristling,
and his face black as a coal. He went six months without bathing.
Nothing but rain water had ever touched his face."

The manners of these people are equally repulsive. Countless ballads as
well as monks' sermons and treatises represent your typical villein as
incessantly discontented, scolding about the weather, which is always
too wet or too dry, treating his wife like an animal, hauling her about
by the hair. Lately at the castle a jongleur told this anecdote: "A
certain peasant showered his wife with blows on principle. 'She must
have some occupation,' said he, 'while I work in the field. If she is
idle she will think of evil things. If I beat her she will weep the
whole day through, and so will pass the time. Then when I return in the
evening she will be more tender.'" According to other stories, however,
many peasants are clever, aggressive, and insolent--well able to care
for themselves.

[Sidenote: Filthy Habits of Peasants]

The castle folk and the burghers are none too careful in sanitary
matters, but even to them the peasants are disgustingly filthy. They
relate in Pontdebois this story: "Once a villein, leading some
donkeys, went down the lane of the perfumer's shops. Instantly he
fainted at the unaccustomed odor. They brought him to, however, by
holding a shovel full of manure under his nose." Another story (told
at the monastery) has it that the devil has refused to receive more
villeins into hell because they smell so vilely!

In the village you soon find many typical peasant characters, and
nearly all of them are bad. There is the surly fellow who will not even
tell a traveler the way. There is the malcontent villein who mutters
enviously whenever he sees a knight riding out hawking; there is the
mad fool who reviles God, saints, Church, and nobility; there is the
talkative villein who is always arguing bad causes before the provost's
court and inciting his neighbors to senseless litigation, there is the
honest simpleton who wandered up to Pontdebois and got his pockets
picked while gaping at the sculptures on the portal of the cathedral;
finally, there are the misers, the petty speculators in grain (who pray
for a famine), and all the tribe of poachers. Certainly there are also
a great number of hard-working, honest folk who bow respectfully when
Messire Conon rides by and who pay their taxes without grumbling. Such
give prosperity to the seigneury; but it is the rascals who ever thrust
themselves into prominence.

The St. Aliquis villeins seem doltish and dirty enough, but they
are nothing to those existing in Flanders. Some monks have recently
returned thence after doing business for their order. They tell with
horror that in summertime Flemish peasants are seen around their
villages, taking their ease, with no more clothes on than when they
were born. When the monks remonstrated, the rough answer was: "How is
this your business? You make no laws for us." It is pitiful (say the
monks) that any seigneur should tolerate such things on his fief, for
the peasants are such sodden creatures they cannot of themselves be
expected to know better.

If the knights exploit the peasants, the clergy do so hardly less. It
is notoriously hard for the bishop's tithe collector to secure the
quota of pigs, hens, eggs, wheat, vegetables, etc., which everybody
knows that the villein owes to the Church after or upon the same time
he satisfies the collectors for the baron. Indeed, certain impious
villeins complain, "The tithe is worse than the imposts and the
_corvées_." The monkish preachers have to be constantly threatening
these sinners who pay their tithes slowly. The Church tithe is the
property of God. "It is the tax you owe to God, a sign of his universal
dominion." Those who withhold it not merely imperil their souls, but
God will send them "drought and famine," punishing them alike in this
world and the next.

Villeins too often wickedly insist on working on Sundays and holy days.
The peasants complain there are so many saints' days that it is hard
to keep track of them, but if only they would go to Church on Sundays
when the priest announces the next holy days they could avoid this sin.
Worse still are the peasants who, when they see their fellows going
dutifully to mass, hide under the hedges, then slip away to rob the
unguarded orchards.

[Sidenote: Gross Oppression by Knights]

It seems certain, therefore, that God has no such love for villeins as
he has for gentle knights and their dames. The knights display their
superiority by always reminding their peasants of their condition. With
some barons, to flog their villein for most trifling offenses is about
as common as for them to eat their dinners. Even Conon has plenty of
use for his riding whip. Unless the blows are very brutal the average
peasant takes this as all in the day's work. He merely trades out his
own blows upon his wife and children. Indeed, it is commonly said
that most villeins are so numb mentally they never can comprehend the
simplest orders unless they are driven home with stripes. In time of
war the fate of the peasants is, as we have seen, far worse than this.
Whatever a feud means to the contending parties, to their villeins it
means houses and crops burned, fruit trees girdled, young girls dragged
off to a life of infamy, and probably the massacre of many peasants in
cold blood. One of the reasons the nobles delight so in war is because
it is seldom that they have to endure its real anguish and horror;
but in the churches the non-nobles pray, "_Grant us to peace_" quite
as fervently as they beseech, "Save us from famine"--and with equal

The monkish preachers who make a business of scolding sometimes
denounce high-born oppressors of the villeins. One monk thus cries out,
"All that the peasant amasses in one year of stubborn toil, the noble
devours in an hour. Not content with his lawful revenues, he despoils
them by illicit exactions. As wolves devour carrion while the crows
croak overhead, awaiting their share of the feast, so when knights
pillage their subjects the provosts (their agents) and others of the
hellish crew rejoice at the prospect of devouring the remainder." Or
again: "Ye nobles are ravening wolves; therefore shall ye howl in
hell," for you "despoil your subjects and live on the blood and sweat
of the poor." (Jacques of Vitry.) Nevertheless, the selfsame preachers
accuse the peasants of the cardinal sins of avarice and of shunning
labor. Only rarely are the villeins comforted by being told that if
they work faithfully and bring up a proper family they are morally on
equality "with a cleric who chants all day in a church."

On the St. Aliquis fiefs, and, indeed, on many others, these grosser
abuses do not obtain, but nowhere are the villeins exempt from one evil
which they must meet with dumb resignation--the seigneurial hunts.[81]
Conon and his guests never hesitate at going with horses and hawks or
hounds straight across plowed and seeded fields or even over standing
grain. This is the lord's absolute right, and protest is impossible.
The hunters, too, are entitled, if far from home, to stop at the
peasants' huts and demand food and fodder, perhaps for a large party.
If payment is made, it is merely out of charity. Greater evils still
may come from the depredations of the wild game, if the fields are
close to the hunting preserves. Villeins cannot harm any deer nibbling
the young sprouts. They can only scare them away--and the cunning
creatures soon grow daring. A wild boar can root up a dozen little farm
plots before the baron can find leisure to chase him down. Upon some
fiefs the peasants can arrange to pay an extra fee to their lord, in
return for which he keeps only rabbits near their fields; but the hunt
of a single rabbit, if the flying wretch doubles in among the corn, may
ruin a family.

On the other hand, the penalties for poaching, for "killing messire's
game," are terrible. It is probably safer on St. Aliquis'--as on any
other fief--to risk killing a traveler than killing a fawn or even a
hare. The law is pitilessly enforced by the foresters. Maître Denis
will tell you he has hanged more stout fellows for poaching than for
any other two crimes put together.

[Sidenote: Futile Peasant Revolts]

Do the villeins ever revolt? Sometimes, when they are driven to
desperation by extreme misery; when they find a clever leader; when
circumstances are peculiarly favorable. Then may come the sudden
burning of manor houses and small fortalices; the massacre of their
inmates; and other brutish deeds of tardy retaliation. The rebels are
likely to boast, as did some insurgent peasants in Normandy in the
eleventh century: "We have been weak and insane to bend our necks for
so long. For we are strong-handed men, and solider and stouter limbed
than the nobles will ever be. For everyone of them there are a hundred
of us!"

Such revolts always have a single end. The ignorant peasants submit to
no discipline. They cannot use the knight's weapons if they capture
them. They cannot organize. If they seize a castle, the liquor in the
cellars lays them out helpless through a week of orgy. The seigneurs
instantly rally and with their great horses hunt down the rebels as
creatures worse than wolves. The vengeance then taken on the insurgents
is such that every ear that hears thereof must tingle. Perhaps along
a league of roadway a corpse will be swinging from every tree. Such
measures effectively discourage rebellion save under most exceptional
circumstances. Even with atrocious seigneurs it is usually best to bow
to the will of God and merely to pray for deliverance.

Georges' and Alard's mental horizons can be imagined. They have on rare
occasions been as far as Pontdebois, although some of their neighbors
have passed a lifetime without even that privilege. They have only the
most limited, one might say only the most animal, hopes and fears.
Their ideas of such things as the king's court, Paris, and the various
Christian and Infidel lands are a jumble of absurd notions. "Religion"
means a few prayers, a few saints' stories, as told in the church,
the miracle plays at Christmas, and a fear lest by failing in proper
respect to monks and priests they will be eternally tormented in worse
torture chambers than old Baron Garnier's.

The villeins, of course, have their own rustic holidays, full of rough
sports--wrestling, throwing weights, archery, and also cockfighting
and bull baiting. The best of entertainment is when two blindfolded
men, each carrying a cudgel, try to kill a goose or pig let loose in
an inclosure. The whole village roars to see them belabor each other.
During the wedding festivities, to show their dutiful esteem for
Alienor and Olivier, the peasants had arranged a special ceremony in
their honor. Four blindfolded men were led about the neighborhood,
preceded by two men, one playing an oboe, the other carrying a red
banner whereon a pig was painted. After this noisy merrymaking a real
pig was produced, and before an august company of most of the castle
folk the four champions "attacked the pig." They hit one another so
hard, that one was picked up almost dead. The pig became the property
of the villein who had managed to pound the life out of the creature
just as in mercy Alienor was about to beg that the contest end.

Despite grievances and grumblings, the average peasants are loyal,
somewhat after the manner of dumb dogs, to their seigneurs. Conon and
Adela command the real affection of their villeins because of acts of
charity, but even Baron Garnier had been treated with an astonishing
faithfulness. Many a knight has owed his life or honor to humble
dependents whom he has not treated so well as his horses or hounds.
It is the toiling thousands in the little thatched huts that make
possible the wedding feasts, the adubbements, the tourneys, and the
spectacular battles. Some day the exploitation will cease--but not in
the thirteenth century.


[76] This cleric, Jacques of Vitry, may have written a few years later
than the presumable date of this narrative, but it represents entirely
the orthodox viewpoint of A.D. 1220.

[77] It has been estimated that the rural population of France in the
thirteenth century was almost as great as in the twentieth. There was
probably a decided falling off, in the fourteenth century, thanks to
the Black Death (1348) and the ravages of the Hundred Years' War.

[78] By 1220 these wholesale famines were really becoming matters
of tradition, thanks to better transportation and better methods
of agriculture. Very lean years, almost ruinous to the peasantry,
remained, however, as extremely grim possibilities.

[79] In Brittany, and, somewhat less generally in Normandy, most of the
peasants at this time were free. In Champagne and central France there
were still so many serfs that very possibly the peasants of St. Aliquis
were more fortunate than the majority of the villeins on neighboring
baronies. The advantages of the free peasants over the serfs have,
however, been somewhat exaggerated.

[80] The list of curious _corvées_ required of peasants on various
seigneuries is a long one. On one fief they were expected to beat
the water of the castle moat to stop the noise of the frogs whenever
the mistress was sick. Or on certain specified occasions they had to
perform some absurd service: to hop on one leg, to kiss the latch
of the castle gate, go through some drunken horseplay in the lord's
presence, or sing a broad song in the presence of his lady.

[81] See page 67.

Chapter XVII: Charity. Care of the Sick. Funerals.

Even upon a well-ordered seigneury the number of the poor, disabled,
and generally miserable is great. Despite the contempt displayed by the
great for the lowly, the Feudal Age is not lacking in pretty abundant
charity or rather in almsgiving. The haughtiest cavalier feels it
his duty to scatter copper obols when he goes among the poor, though
doubtless he tells his squire to fling the coins merely to "satisfy
this hungry rabble." Among the virtues of Conon and Adela is the fact
that they throw the money with their own gentle hands. This somehow
adds to the donative's value.

The present season is prosperous at St. Aliquis. Furthermore, there has
just been such an open house at the castle that one would expect even
the most luckless to be satiated for a while. Nevertheless, the very
day after the guests have departed Adela is informed that there are
more than thirty people before the drawbridge, chanting their "Alms!
For the sake of Christ, alms!" The baroness, suppressing a sigh, quits
her maids, to whom she is just assigning their weaving, and goes to the
bailey. With her attends lay-brother Gensenius, an assistant to Father
Grégoire, who acts as castle almoner. The crowd contains many familiar
faces. Yonder old man on one leg, the blind woman led by a little girl,
the lad with a withered arm, the woman disfigured by goiter, the widow
whose husband was slain in a brawl, leaving her with eight children,
the harmless idiot--all these Adela immediately recognizes. But the
excitement of the fêtes has attracted others whom she and Brother
Gensenius scan closely. This melancholy fellow on crutches possibly
can run very fast if he sees that the provost's men are after him.
His companion, who seems covered with sores and who claims to be on
a pilgrimage to a healing shrine, is clearly a scamp and malingerer.
Right before the baroness a strange woman falls down foaming at the
mouth, as if she had epilepsy. Gensenius shakes his crafty head. "She
is the same impostor," he whispers, "who tried her trick with a bit of
soap yesterday in the village."

So the sheep gradually are separated from the goats. Some of the
charlatans are chased away. Some of those who receive loaves of bread
and broken meat are perhaps no more deserving than the rejected. But
dare one really be too critical? After all, the reason why great folk
give to beggars is to cancel sins. If the beggars are undeserving, that
hardly diminishes the credit with the saints for Conon and Adela. It
would be calamitous if there were suddenly to be no poor, worthy or
unworthy, for how then, by parting with some of their abundance, could
the rich buy peace for their souls? Fortunately, however, there is no
such danger. Our Lord has directly said, "The poor ye have always with
you," a most comforting word of Scripture. Poverty, then, is a blessed
institution even for the fortunate in this world; it enables them to
procure entrance to heaven by acts of charity. As for persons who are
needy, of course, if they bear their lot with Christian resignation
they accumulate a blessed stock of indulgence which will cut short
their durance in purgatory.

[Sidenote: Physical Severity of Mediaeval Life]

The morning dole is a regular feature at St. Aliquis, as at every
other castle and monastery. The amount of food given away is really
very great. But there is next to no attempt on the part of the average
seigneury really to remedy this mendicancy--to devise honest work
within the capacities of the blind or the lame; to give systematic
relief to the widow; to put the idiot lad in some decent institution.
Every premium is placed upon the idlers, the impostors, and the
low-browed rogues who prefer anything to honest toil. In the times
of real famine, even, the temptation to cease prematurely struggling
against hard times and to lapse into beggardom is very dangerous.
Despite, therefore, much genuine kindness on the part of many donors,
charity in the Feudal Age is allowed more than ordinarily to cover a
multitude of sins--alike those of the givers and the receivers. Upon
the St. Aliquis barony there is an astonishing number of unabashed
drones and parasites.

These miserable folk, however, have some excuse. Conditions of life in
the Feudal Age, even for the cavaliers, are very severe. Men and women
begin the duties of life young, mature young, grow old young. Henry II
of Anjou and England was only forty-seven when they began to call him
"old." Philip Augustus was only fifteen when he was capable of assuming
the actual duties of a responsible monarch. Many a baron is gray headed
at forty. When he is fifty his sons may often be intriguing to supplant
their superannuated father. If this is true of the nobility, what of
the toiling peasantry? We have seen how Georges and Jeanne are aged
before their time.

Grinding toil by weakening the body, of course, leaves it exposed to
many ordinary diseases. But certainly conditions in castle and village
open the doors to extraordinary plagues as well. The age is happily
ignorant of sanitary precautions which more sophisticated mortals will
consider a matter of course. The peasants "almost live on the manure
heap." The clergy (though not themselves so uncleanly) seldom preach the
virtues of bathing; indeed, their discourses on "despising the body"
apparently discourage the practice. It is hard to keep meat any length
of time unless it is salted, and the vast amounts of salt meat consumed
everywhere are direct promoters of scurvy and gangrene. We have seen
that nearly all the clothing worn close to the body is woolen. This
retains filth, is hard to wash, and irritates the skin, another cause
for frequent dermal diseases--scrofula, the itch, and things even worse.

[Illustration: A LEPER

Holding in his hand the bones with which these unfortunates were
compelled to signal their approach from a distance. From a window in
the cathedral of Bourges (thirteenth century).]

[Sidenote: Fearful Plagues and Mortality]

Leprosy is a terrible scourge. Its nature is misunderstood. Often
severe but curable cases of eczema are confounded therewith, and
harmless victims are condemned to a death in life--perpetual banishment
to filthy cabins in the woods. Cholera and smallpox every now and
then break out in a neighborhood, and they are almost always fatal.
Nothing really can be done to check them except to pray to the saints.
Such diseases are (say the best informed) communicated "in the air";
consequently any ordinary isolation is useless. On the whole, they
ravage the villages more than they do the castles, though hardly
because the castle folk are able to take more effective physic. Yet
often enough a baron and his entire family may be swept away. Very
seldom is it suggested that pure water, cleanliness, and rational
schemes of isolation can accomplish much to defeat the apparent desire
of heaven to devastate an entire duchy.

Other diseases are fearfully common. The sufferers from nervous
complaints make up small armies. The general terrors and wars of the
times, the brooding fears of the devil, hell, and the eternal torment,
the spectacle of the fearful punishments, and, on the other hand, the
sheer ennui of life in many castles and in certain ill-ruled convents,
drive men and women out of their wits. Such sufferers are lucky if they
are treated with kindness and are not, as being "possessed of devils,"
clapped in a dungeon.

Finally, it should be said that lucky is the mother who does not have
one-third to one-half of all her offspring die in the act of birth.
Every entrance of a babe into the world is a dice throwing with death,
even if the mid-wife is clever. Once born, the children are likely to
be so injured in the initiatory process that they will be physically
imperfect or dangerously weakened. This is true even in the royal
families; how much more true in the peasant huts! It is not surprising
that the average man of the Feudal Ages can give and sustain hard
blows. Only the strongest have been able to survive the ordeals of
birth and childhood.

To fight these dangers, one must invoke both human and divine aid.
Good Christians usually feel that the healing saints avail more than
do physicians or wise women. If you have indigestion, invoke St.
Christopher; if dropsy, St. Eutropius; if fever, St. Petronila; for
the pest, St. Roch; for insanity, St. Mathurin; for kidney complaint,
St. René; for cramps, St. Crampan--and so with many other ills.
Nevertheless, one need not trust solely to prayers. Only great people,
however, employ regular physicians (_mires_). Villeins commonly have
in a "good woman," much better than a sorcerer. The breath of an ass
drives poison from a body. The touch of a dead man's tooth cures
toothache. If you have a nosebleed, seize the nose with two straws
shaped like a cross. If the itch troubles you, roll yourself naked in a
field of oats. Georges, the peasant, will tell you that such remedies
seldom fail.

A local professor of the healing art is Maître Denis, the executioner.
Since he knows so well how to mutilate bodies, he ought to be able to
understand the converse process of curing them. He has wide reputation
as a healer of broken bones, and he often sells his patients a panacea
for multifarious ills--"the fat of a man just hung."

There is at least this to be said for the peasants: the science of
_their_ healers will agree almost as much with that of later physicians
as does that of the contemporary "physicians" themselves. The Church
has not given any too great encouragement to medicine. The mighty St.
Ambrose has said that the proper healing is by prayers and vigils. Only
clerics of the inferior orders are allowed to study medical science,
and the dissection of dead bodies is decidedly discountenanced.[82]

At the castle the ordinary functionary to abate bodily ills is Maître
Louis, the baron's barber. When not scraping chins, he was very likely
giving the castle folk their monthly bleedings, without which it is
very hard to keep one's health. The bleedings take place, if possible,
in the great hall near the fire, and are undergone regularly by both
sexes. When the St. Aliquis forces are called to war, Maître Louis goes
with them as barber-surgeon, and he really has considerable skill in
setting fractures and cauterizing and salving wounds, as well as with a
few powerful drugs--mostly purgatives--which probably help those of his
patients who have the strongest constitutions to recover.

[Sidenote: Professional Physicians]

When one of the baron's own family is seriously sick, it is usual to
send to Pontdebois for a professional physician. About two years ago
Conon himself fell into a fever. They brought to him Maître Payen, who
claimed to have learned his art as _mire_ by travel among the schools
of medicine--at Salerno in Sicily, at Montpellier in the Languedoc
country, and even at Cordova among the Infidels, although the baron
swore angrily (after he was gone) that he had never been nearer any of
these places than Paris.


Restored by Viollet-Le-Duc, from a manuscript in the Bibliothèque

Maître Payen was sprucely dressed half as a priest, half as a rich
burgher. He wore elegant furs. He talked very learnedly of "febrifuges"
and "humors," and kept repeating, "Thus says Avincenna, the prince of
Spanish physicians," or, "Thus says Albucasis, the infallible follower
of Avincenna." If Conon had suffered from some easily discoverable
malady, probably Maître Payen could have suggested a fairly efficient
means of cure. He was not without shrewdness, and in his chest was
a whole arsenal of herbs and drugs. He had also efficient salves,
although he had never heard the word "antiseptic." But the baron had
picked up one of those maladies which baffled easy diagnosis. Maître
Payen, therefore, fussed about, clearly betraying his bewilderment,
then struck a professional attitude and announced oracularly, "The
obstruction to health is in the liver."

"Nay," groaned the baron, "it is in the head that I feel so wretched."

"That is foolish," retorted the _mire_, crushingly: "Beware of
that word 'obstruction,' because you do not understand what it

He next muttered certain cabalistic words; said that the baron should
be glad that his liver was affected, because that was the seat of
honor, and that upon recovery his honor would be enlarged. The spleen
was the seat of laughter, while the lungs fanned the heart. Payen then
talked of remedies. Perhaps the urine of a dog would be best, or the
blood of a hegoat; but these were only villein remedies. Messire, the
patient, was a great noble and needed noble remedies, suitable for his
rank. He would therefore (since the liver was affected) give him the
dried and pulverized liver of a toad. And so he left his medicines,
took a gold piece, and departed.

That night Conon was delirious, but Adela, who, like every mistress of
a castle, had perforce learned much of nursing, applied cold cloths to
his body, while Father Grégoire prayed to the saints. The next morning,
because of the cloths, the saints, or toad's liver, the fever abated.
Perhaps it had merely run its natural course. After the baron recovered
he would curse terribly at mention of Maître Payen. He would be ready
enough to cry "amen!" to the saying of the monk Guy of Provins, "they
(the physicians) kill numbers of the sick, and exhaust themselves to
find maladies for everybody. Woe to him who falls into their power! I
prefer a capon to all their mixtures!" The monk concedes, indeed, that
certain physicians are useful, but that it is because of the confidence
which they inspire rather than thanks to their medicines that they
effect cures.

[Sidenote: Healing Relics and Processions]

When next Conon falls sick, he vows that he will trust simply to Maître
Louis or even to Maître Denis, although he may consent to send for
a Lazarist monk, a member of the great monastic order which makes a
specialty of healing the sick. For although these truly noble monks
(who combine worldly wisdom with an equal amount of piety) treat
especially leprosy, they are gradually turning their attention to
diseases in general. If he cannot get a Lazarist, he will be likely to
hire in an astrologer to discover a remedy by consulting the stars; or
Father Grégoire may organize a "healing procession" of all the monks,
clerks, and pious laymen whom he can muster. With solemnity they will
carry the whole stock of saints' relics in the neighborhood to the
sick seigneur, and lay them devoutly upon his abdomen. This remedy was
tried in Paris some time ago to cure Prince Louis, the king's heir,
and he recovered promptly. Similar assistance is available for a great
seigneur like Conon.

Not always, indeed, will even the saints' relics avail. When the time
had come for the good Lady Odelina, Conon's mother, they postponed
extreme unction to the final moment, because after that ceremony the
sick person has really no right to get well. The hair falls out and
the natural heat is diminished. The moment breath quitted the noble
dame's body, the servants ran furiously through the castle, emptying
every vessel of water lest the departing soul should be drowned
therein. The dead body was also watched carefully until burial, lest
the devil should replace it in its coffin with a black cat, and
likewise lest a dog or cat should run over the coffin and change the
corpse into a vampire. Conon and Adela are not convinced of these
notions, but do not dispute them with the servitors.


From an English manuscript (Schultz).]

Next the body was carefully embalmed. The heart was removed, to be
buried at a nunnery whereof Lady Odelina had been the patroness. A
waxen death mask was made of the face, and the body was laid out on a
handsome bed with black hangings. A temporary altar was set up in the
apartment that masses might be said there, and one or two of Conon's
vassals or squires remained on guard night and day, fully armed, while
round the bed blazed two or three scores of tall candles.

[Sidenote: Funeral Customs]

The interment took place in the abbey church, in the transept where
rested so many of the St. Aliquis stock. They laid upon the Lady
Odelina's breast a silver cross engraved with the words of absolution;
and in the heavy stone casket also were buried four small earthen pots,
each of which had contained some of the incense burned during the
funeral ceremony. Finally, when the rites were over, Conon employed a
cunning sculptor to make a life-size marble effigy of his mother, to
rest upon the slab covering her tomb--an effigy which, by the dignity
and genuine peace of form and face, was long to express how truly noble
had been his gracious mother.

Common folk cannot have marble caskets and effigies, but even poor
peasants are graced with decidedly elaborate funerals. When a person of
the least consequence in the village dies, a crier goes down all the
lanes, ringing a bell and calling out the name of the deceased, adding,
"Pray God for the dead." Peasants of quality are likely to be laid away
in plaster coffins, although the poorest class of villeins are wrapped
only in rags and tossed into shallow pits.

Still worse is the fate of those who die excommunicated by the Church
or of suicides. These unfortunates cannot even be buried in holy
ground. Their bodies are often exposed, to be torn by the dogs and
crows. Sometimes, however, a hardened sinner repents sufficiently on
his deathbed to be restored to the graces of religion. But in this case
his body is frequently burned, all laden with iron or brazen fetters.
The idea is thus to mortify the body, even after the breath of life has
departed, and so to abate those fires in purgatory assuredly awaiting
for all save great saints, who can pass straight to heaven, or the
numerous reprobates whose guilt requires not temporary, but eternal


[82] As a result of this attitude, such a distinguished and genuinely
learned scholar as Albert the Great is said to have confounded tendons
and nerves.

[83] A mediæval medical treatise deliberately advises the use of
this argument to silence patients when the physicians cannot make a
diagnosis, yet must say something.

Chapter XVIII: Popular Religion. Pilgrimages. Superstitions. Relic

All the folk of St. Aliquis are Christians. Nobody, far and wide,
except a few Jews in Pontdebois, openly dissents from the Catholic
religion, denies the validity of the creeds, or refuses a certain
outward conformity to the Church practices. The age is not greatly
interested in improving the general moral and social condition of the
common people. The common people even are not always interested in this
themselves. Each peasant prays for "just treatment" and for good luck.
Otherwise, castle and village alike accept as a kind of natural law
the immutability of society. God has established the various orders
and gradations. All that one can ask is that each man shall accept the
condition assigned to him and live in it efficiently and happily.

[Sidenote: Religious Attitude of Knights]

Conon, like every other knight, has no temptation to unbelief. The
doctors of the Church know all about religion, just as the king's
falconers know all about hawking. It is sensible to trust the expert.
If you ask idle questions, you merely risk your soul, as do the
followers of Mahound, the false prophet. The baron frequently denounces
the arrogance and covetousness of the clergy and resists their
pretentions, but he nevertheless trusts them to supply him with the
Sacraments and bless his death and burial so that his soul may pass
promptly through purgatory into paradise--where existence presumably
is one grand admixture of a marriage feast in a fine garden and of a
magnificent tournament. Plenty of knights are lax and blasphemous, but
they hardly are deliberately unbelieving.[84] Good knights ought to
hear mass every morning; venerate holy objects and places; hate Jews
and Saracens; worship the Virgin and the saints; also keep most of the
major fasts and other special occasions of the Church. Conon does all
these things. He is "a good Christian." But he is exempted from any
serious thinking for himself upon mysterious matters.


The one who is near the altar is wearing a chasuble and the second and
third are clad in the dalmatica, or deacon's gown. The second carries
the consecrated wafer and the third a sort of fan. (From a manuscript
in the Bibliothèque nationale.)]

When Conon prays in the morning, if not hurried he lies down with his
head turned toward the east, and his arms stretched out like a cross.
He recites the favors which God has shown him in the past, beseeches
Heaven to continue favorable. Often he adds a Credo and a certain
paraphrase of the Lord's Prayer then very common--"Our Father, who
desirest that we all be saved, grant that we acquire Thy love even as
have the angels who do thy pleasure on high; and give us our daily
bread--for the soul the Holy Sacrament, and for the body its needful
sustenance." Yet if his mood is not unusually humble and contrite,
he is likely to conclude patronizingly, "And I confide also in the
strength of my heart, which thou hast bestowed, in my good sword and my
fleet horse, yet especially in Thee!"

Many a cavalier breaks into blasphemies when things go wrong. Such men
are like William Rufus of England, who cried, "God shall never see me a
good man--I have suffered too much at His hands!" Or Henry II, who, on
learning that his son Henry had revolted, cried aloud, "Since Thou, O
God, hast taken away from me that which I prized the most, Thou shalt
not have what Thou prizest most in me--my soul." And even Conon, once
when hard beset, had exclaimed, like a certain crusading lord: "What
king, O Lord, ever deserted thus his men? Who _now_ will trust in or
fight for thee?"

Nevertheless, one should deal mercifully with such sinful words, for,
after all, is not the world very evil and the temptation to rail at God
extremely great? It is true that things are not as they were in the
year A.D. 1000, when even the wisest felt very sure the Last Day was
at hand. Eclipses, comets and famines had then seemed foreshadowing
this. People crowded the churches in agony, expecting to hear the Seven
Trumpets announce Antichrist. Repeatedly since then, when the years
have been calamitous, monks and old wives have stirred multitudes by
vehement predictions that the plagues of the Apocalypse and the other
preliminaries to the millennium are not to be delayed. As late as A.D.
1200 the monk Rigord, at the abbey of St. Denis, wrote: "The world
is ill; it grows so old that it relapses into infancy. Common report
has it that Antichrist has been born at Babylon and that the Day of
Judgement is nigh."

[Sidenote: A Fearful Excommunication]

Fears like this restrain even reckless seigneurs and sodden peasants
from proceeding to inconceivable crimes. The agonies of the damned will
be so dreadful! The preachers understand very well that it is of little
use to try to restrain the wicked by talking of "the love and mercy
of God." If King Philip had only used love and mercy upon his vassals
he would be now a king without a kingdom. It is the dread of the
eternal burning which apparently keeps a large part of all Christendom
tolerably obedient to the more essential mandates of morality and of
the Church.

When a great criminal deliberately defies the Church there is a
ceremony which makes even the righteous inquire as to their own
salvation. A few months ago a certain impious baron robbed a parish
church of a chalice. Instantly at Pontdebois the bishop took action.
The great bell of the cathedral tolled as for a funeral; and such it
was, though of the soul, far more precious than merely the body. The
bishop appeared in the chancel with all his clergy. Each cleric held
a lighted candle. The building was hung with black tapestry. Amid a
terrible hush the bishop announced the name of the offending knight to
the crowded nave, then proclaimed in loud voice: "Let him be cursed in
the city and cursed in the field; cursed in his granery, his harvest,
and his children; as Dathan and Abiram were swallowed up by the gaping
earth, so may hell swallow him; and even as to-day we quench these
torches in our hands, so may the light of his life be quenched for all
eternity, unless he do repent!" Whereat all the priests dashed their
torches to the pavement and trampled them out. One could almost see
that sacrilegious baron writhing in the flames of Gehenna.

After a scene like this there is no reinstatement for the sinner save
by some great act of penance and mortification. An excommunicated
person is next door to an outlaw. He may find sundry companions in
crime, but most people will shun him as they would a leper. This
particular baron, after vain boasts and defiance, at last was so
conscience-torn and forsaken that he made an abject peace with the
bishop. First, he gave ruinously costly gifts to the cathedral; then he
presented himself barefoot and in the robe of a pilgrim at the chancel.
He prostrated himself and for a day and a night remained in prayer
before the high altar, eating and drinking nothing. After that he knelt
again while some three-score clerics and monks present each smote him
with a rod, he crying aloud, "Just are Thy judgments, O Lord!" after
every blow. Not till all this was accomplished did the bishop raise
him, pronounce the absolution, and give him the kiss of peace. It was
very dreadful.[85]

For lesser offenses against the Church there are lesser but effective
penalties. In Pontdebois there was once a religious procession in
Lent. A certain woman marched therein with pretended devoutness, but
then went home and in defiance of the fast-time dined upon some mutton
and ham. The odor escaped into the street. The woman was seized, and
the bishop condemned her to walk through the town with her quarter of
mutton on the spit over her shoulder, the ham slung round her neck, and
with a ribald crowd, of course, trailing behind. After that penance the
fasts were well kept in Pontdebois.

[Sidenote: Festive Side of Popular Religion]

Yet one must not think of the religion of this Feudal Age as in
general sad. On the contrary (by one of those abrupt contrasts now
grown familiar) clergy and people get vast joy, not to say amusement,
even out of the sacred ordinances. "Men go gayly along the road to
salvation." For example, the great pilgrimages (pardons) are often
festive reunions with merchants chaffering and jongleurs playing or
doing their tricks while the whole company proceeds to some shrine.

Even in the church building solemnity is not always maintained. The
choir, indeed, belongs pretty strictly to worship, but in the nave all
sorts of secular proceedings can go on, even the meetings of malcontent
factions and of rioters. The church bells ring for markets, for
musters, or for peaceful gatherings almost as often as they ring for
the holy services. As for the sacred festivals, good bishops complain
that they are so numerous that the secular element intrudes utterly,
and disfigures them with idleness and carousing. The peasants may go to
early mass; after that they will drink, chatter, sing, dance (in a very
riotous fashion), and join in wrestlings, races, and archery contests
until nightfall.

Besides these ordinary abuses of holy things, every parish seems
to have its own special Reign of Folly, although the name of the
celebration varies from place to place. Even the younger clergy
participate in such mock ceremonies. In Pontdebois the subdeacons
elect a Pope of Buffoons, give him a silver tiara, and enthrone him
with much dignity, electing at the same time several "cardinals" to
help direct his revels. There are noisy processions, cavalcades, and
even scandalous parodies of some of the most sacred services of the
Church. The mock pope issues "bulls" enjoining all kinds of horseplay,
and actually strikes a kind of lead money with such legends as "Live
merrily and rejoice," or, "Fools are sometimes wise." It seems next
to impossible to confine such proceedings to the streets, the market
place and the church porch, although decent bishops fight against
intrusions into the holy building. The canons of the cathedral have
finally induced the junior clergy and the lay rabble to refrain from
the more extreme parodies and from such pranks as stealing the church
bells by giving the "Pope" and all his noisy rout a grand dinner. Pious
churchmen groan on such days, but they comfort themselves by saying
that these proceedings make religion popular and give an outlet for
"the flesh," which if restrained too much, will succumb before even
worse temptations of the devil.

In St. Aliquis village the parish priest actually participates in a
ceremony equally calculated to astonish another age. On a certain
Sunday the folk celebrate the virtues of the ass which bore our Lord
and the Holy Virgin when St. Joseph fled with them into Egypt. The
peasants take the best ass in the neighborhood, caparison it gayly, and
lead it through the streets to the church, all the children running
along, waving flower wands and shouting, with the older folk almost
equally demonstrative. At the holy portal the priest meets them and
announces in Latin "This is a day of mirth. Let all sour lookers get
themselves hence. Away with envy! Those who celebrate the Festival of
the Ass desire jollity!"

[Sidenote: Mass of the Ass]

Then the ass is led straight up into the chancel and tethered to the
altar rail. A solemn Prose, half Latin, half French, is chanted,
setting forth the virtues of the faithful, stolid beast which enabled
our Lord to escape the wicked Herod. Ever and anon the cantor stops
and all the crowded church rings with the refrain, "_He! haw! sire
ass--he! haw!_" everybody trying to pull down his nose and bray as
lustily as possible. Finally, when the ass has been led decorously back
to his stall, the choristers, with many friends, indulge in a bountiful
repast. This Festival of the Ass is celebrated in very many French
cities and villages.

One must also comprehend that certain saints are the particular patrons
of given regions. St. Martin is a potent saint through all France,
but St. Denis is the especial guardian of the royal domains; St.
Nicholas of Lorraine, St. Andre of Burgundy, and of course St. George
of England. St. Michael, too, may assist French knights sooner than
he will foreigners. There are also many local saints of incalculable
sacredness in their own small regions, yet hardly heard of elsewhere.
Thus, if you travel very far, you are likely to lose all trace of good
St. Aliquis, and, indeed, peevish visitors have suggested that he has
never been canonized at Rome or properly accepted by the Catholic
Church. For all that, he is venerated locally, perhaps with greater
fervor than any other holy one, saving always our Blessed Lady herself.

There is no saint with whom it is possible to compare the Virgin. She
is the "Lady of Heaven," the "Queen of the Holy City," the "_Dame
débonnaire_." God the Father and God the Son seem perhaps to be
inaccessible celestial emperors, but the Holy Virgin, who understands
the needs of toiling men, will transmit their pleas and exert her vast
influence in their behalf. Therefore, on her statues she is dressed
like a feudal queen with rich stuffs, a crown glittering with jewels,
and she bears a royal scepter and an orb of the world. All the saints
are her vassals and do her liege homage.

There is another set of joyous celebrations legitimate and uplifting.
At Christmas time, on _Noël_ eve the good folk will install a heifer,
an ox, and an ass in the parish church "to warm the holy babe with
their breath." Torches are lighted everywhere and fires are lit upon
the hills. Groups of people march about dressed like shepherds bound
for the Christchild's manger and led by pipes and viols, while all sing

    "Good sirs, now hark ye!--
    From far lands come we,
      For it is Noël."

Then in the church are sung long responses, telling the story of
Christmas in the vernacular and interspersed with comments by the
animals in Latin, because (as says the hymn)

    All the beasts in other days
    Spoke French less well than Latin.

So the cock crows out his satisfaction, the goat bleats, the calf
bellows, the ox lows, the ass brays. It is all done simply, reverently,
and for the benefit of simple, loving souls.

In Pontdebois, however, they have a more elaborate performance. Twelve
clerks, representing six Jews and six pagans, present themselves in
the cathedral choir, declaring they wish to examine the evidence that
the babe newly born is truly the Redeemer. Whereat appear in stately
sequence all the prophets who have forewarned the coming of Christ,
besides Moses with his horn, Balaam with his ass, the three Hebrew
children of the fiery furnace, the pagan sybils, and the twelve
apostles. Each responds with canticles in sonorous Latin, until the
twelve doubters declare themselves satisfied and fall down to worship
the Infant King.

[Sidenote: Mystery Plays]

At Easter there are other mystery plays telling the story of the divine
Passion and of the Resurrection; and still others come at intervals
through the year. Some of the participants are priests, but many others
laymen, both men and women.[86] All the more important episodes in
the Bible are acted out with considerable detail and with much comedy
interspersed. The crowds howl with glee when Ananias, like a shrewd
Jew, chaffers for the sale of his field, or when hideous devils leap up
from hell to seize Herodias's daughter the instant she has accomplished
her wicked will with John the Baptist. There is no attempt to represent
ancient times. Herod is dressed like a feudal duke, and before him is
carried a crucifix. The numerous devils are always black; the angels
wear blue, red, and white; "God" appears wearing a papal tiara; and the
"souls of the dead" appear covered with veils--white for the saved,
red or black for the damned. It is a source of great delight for the
people to take part in these plays, and even the great folk are not
above joining in them. One need not comment on how completely such
proceedings impress the imaginations of the unlearned with the stories
of the Old and New Testaments. The Bible can be _read_ only by the few,
but an essential part of it is _seen_ and reasonably comprehended by
the many.

So much for ordinary religious beliefs and occasions. But there are
plenty of people who find their sins are so terrible that they must
resort to some great penances, often consuming the remainder of
their lives, in order to propitiate Heaven. Besides the monks and
the nuns dwelling in convents, there exist a great many hermits and
"religious solitaries," who abide in little huts in the woods, perhaps
maintaining a tiny chapel for travelers, and being fed on the offerings
of forest rangers and peasants. Not all these hermits live, however,
in genuine solitude. Right in St. Aliquis village there is something
everywhere common--a female recluse.

Many years ago, a certain peasant woman, Elise, murdered her husband.
She was promptly condemned to the gallows, but Baron Garnier, with
unusual mercy, pardoned her on condition "that she be shut up within
a small house in the cemetery, that she might there do penance and so
end her days." A stone hut was accordingly built, and the unhappy woman
conducted thither with a regular procession, two priests blessing the
hut and giving Elise a kind of consecration. She was put inside. Every
aperture was then built up except a narrow chink to admit air, a little
light, and a small dole of food from her relatives.

Elise has been vegetating in this hut for now twenty years--living
in filth and darkness, but talking most piously to visitors standing
outside. Seemingly, she does little except to mutter almost incessant
prayers. Already her crime is forgotten. The peasants speak of her
as "that holy woman" and even wonder whether, after she dies in her
cell--for she will never leave it--she cannot be enrolled among the
saints. There are many other much more innocent recluses, male and
female, who have been walled up voluntarily--either out of piety or of
sheer love of idleness, possibly because of both.

[Sidenote: Recluses and Pilgrims]

Nevertheless, ordinarily the best way to discharge the load of a guilty
conscience is by pilgrimage. Confessors often impose this means of
penance upon penitents, as the best way of winning the divine mercy.
Since death is about the only judicial penalty for great crimes, a
penance of pilgrimage for six, ten, or twelve years--going from shrine
to shrine all over Christendom--is really a substitute for a term of
imprisonment. Pilgrims of this pronounced type are required to go
barefoot, with head shaved, to quit their families and wives, and to
fast continually--that is, never to touch meat more than once a day.

Even exalted nobles thus spend the remainder of a lifetime expiating
their iniquities. Everyone has heard of Count Fulk the Black of Anjou,
who heaped up misdeeds even to the murdering of his wife. Then at last
he realized the awful peril to his soul. Three times he made the long
pilgrimage to Jerusalem, the third time letting himself be dragged upon
a hurdle through the streets of the Sacred City, while two varlets
smote him with whips.

Such great criminals often carry passports issued by bishops,
certifying that they are expiating by pilgrimage specified evil
deeds--and requesting Christian folk to give them lodging, food, and
assistance. These penitents, if knights, are likely to wear chains upon
their wrists and neck, forged of their own armor, as witnesses at once
of their social position and their genuine repentance.

Most pilgrims, however, have no such fearful things weighing down their
souls. They are simply ordinary erring men who are moved by a genuine
piety, possibly admixed with a willingness to find excuse for "seeing
the world." Every day they appear at the gate of St. Aliquis castle to
ask a share in the supper and a bed on the rushes in the hall, and they
are respectfully treated, although Conon sometimes complains that their
trailing robes of brown wool, heavy staffs, and sacks slung at belt are
merely the disguises for so many wandering rogues. Unwashed and unkempt
though many of them are, it never does to repulse them, lest you lose
the Scriptural blessing for those who received strangers and so "have
entertained angels unawares."

Pilgrims, too, are good newsmongers. They supply you with tidings
from Italy, Germany, Spain, or even the Holy Land. They will carry
letters also to foreign parts and transmit verbal messages to kinsmen.
They do not always travel alone, but by twos, fives, or even tens.
Recently at Dunkirk, where the peasants revolted, the bishop laid upon
twenty-five of their leaders the penance that they should spend a year
going about in a body to different holy places and joining in religious
processions "in twenty-six churches," wearing no clothing save their
trousers, going barefoot, and carrying the rods with which they had
been disciplined.

Innumerable are the shrines where sinners can profit their souls by a
visit. Every important abbey claims to be a pilgrimage resort, and the
monks will tell of remarkable miracles wrought by all the saints whose
relics they chance to treasure. Probably there are more than a thousand
such places whose claims have been somewhat recognized by the Church.
Many of these shrines have some famous image of the Madonna, frequently
brought from the East by Crusaders, but often very old and, to carnal
thinking, ugly, perhaps only a "black virgin," a clumsy doll carved of
wood. This matters not, provided it is holy and efficacious. "Our Lady
of the Fountain" at Samour, "Our Lady of the Osier" near Grenoble, "Our
Lady of Good Hope" at Valenciennes, Our Lady of Chartres, of Liesse, of
Rocamadour, of Auray, of Puy--these are merely examples.

[Sidenote: Favorite Pilgrim Shrines]

The greater the distance the pilgrim must go, the greater his merit
ordinarily. Happy the pilgrim who can venerate the bones of an actual
apostle, as at Rome. Happiest of all is he who can go to Jerusalem
and pray at the Holy Sepulcher. Nevertheless, God has provided very
efficacious shrines nearer home. Right at Paris there are the seats of
St. Génevieve and the great St. Denis. You can pay your devout homage
at Tours to the puissant St. Martin, the ideal of pious warriors. In
Normandy, where Mont St. Michel looks across the sands to the tumbling
ocean, one can pray best to the mighty archangel nearest to God. It
avails much, also, to visit St. Martial of Limoges, St. Sernin of
Toulouse, and more still to visit Spain and at Compostella beseech the
intercession of St. James the Apostle.


Assuredly, however, Rome is best (always barring Jerusalem), and on the
way thither the pilgrim can lighten his spiritual load by visiting many
excellent Italian shrines--such as "Our Guardian Lady" at Genoa, and,
at Lucca, "Our Lady of the Rose." In the city of St. Peter itself, time
fails to enumerate the three hundred churches worthy of a devout visit.
Besides the majestic cathedral of the Prince of the Apostles and the
tomb of St. Paul, even the most hurried pilgrim will not fail to repair
to St. Maria Maggiore, where is the actual manger in which Christ was
born; and St. John Lateran, where are the holy stairs Christ ascended
while wearing the crown of thorns; St. Peter in Montorio, where Peter
himself was crucified, St. Lawrence Without the Walls, where the
blessed martyrs St. Stephen and St. Lawrence are buried; not to mention
others. A man must be a master criminal if he cannot deliver his soul
by suitable visits to these invaluable shrines in Rome.

As is well known, the blessed saints both in this life and after death
wrought many miracles through their relics. These wonders continue
to-day, although the iniquities of mankind render them infrequent.
Every now and then Heaven still permits some holy man to work undoubted
miracles. Thus only recently it is said that when the venerable abbot
of St. Germer preached the Fourth Crusade in England, he need only
bless a fountain, lo! its waters made the dumb speak, the blind see,
and the sick recover. Once (so a pilgrim related in the castle only the
other day) when this abbot reached a village which wanted a supply of
water, he gathered all the folk in the church. Right in the presence of
the people he smote a stone with his staff and water flowed forth--not
merely potable, but healing for all maladies.

God also speaks to us in dreams as he did to Pharaoh and
Nebuchadnezzar. He caused St. Thomas à Becket to visit the late king
Louis VII and warn him to make a pilgrimage to St. Thomas's new shrine
of Canterbury to pray for the recovery of his son Philip, later
"Augustus." Henry II of England was Louis' foe, but the king made the
solemn pilgrimage unimpeded, and the crown prince duly recovered.

[Sidenote: Omens, Spirits and Monsters]

Omens of calamity, too, appear often, although it is not always clear
whether sent from God or the devil. A few years ago the wolves in
the forest near the monastery of St. Aliquis howled steadily all
through the day of the feast of St. Honore. "A clear sign of trouble,"
announced the prior; and four days later the feud began betwixt Conon
and Foretvert, which convulsed the whole countryside. Many a man is
warned to prepare for death by seeing a will-o-the-wisp in the marshes,
a shooting star, or a vulture hovering above his house. If thirteen
people chance to sit at one table, or if one chances to dream of a
physician, it is proof positive some one in the house is about to die.
The same is true if a man inadvertently puts on a clean white shirt on
Friday; while if the left eye of a dead man will not close promptly
the deceased will soon have company in purgatory. Any woman, also,
who thoughtlessly washes her clothes in lye during the holy week is
not long for this world. It is needless to explain how sinister are
eclipses and comets. In July, 1198, there was a great comet visible.
Sage people wagged their heads with melancholy satisfaction when
Richard the Lion Hearted died very soon after.

Time will fail to list all the strange beings, neither human, angel,
nor exactly devil, that Providence permits to infest the world. These
creatures possess no souls, and when they perish are gone like cattle,
although they live long and are very hard to kill. Probably they are
more numerous in wild and solitary places, yet towns and crowded
castles are not free from them. Thus there are _fées_ (fairies) good
and bad--creatures relatively like human beings; undines in the waters,
who by their perfidious beauty lure unwary knights to destruction;
ogres who lie in wait to devour small children; ghouls who disinter
the dead and gnaw their bones; vampires who rise every night from the
tombs and suck the blood; wolf-men (humans turned into beasts) who
attack lonely travelers; dracs, who carry off little children to their
subterranean realms; will-of-the-wisps in the marshes, who are the
souls of unbaptized dead infants; also many rather friendly spirits
such as the _soleves_, who sometimes overnight do a weary laborer's
work for him. It needs much knowledge to tell the good spirits from the
bad--to know, _e.g._, whether you are dealing with a goblin who will
only display harmless antics, or an _estrie_, a real imp of darkness,
who may hug you like a bear, to suffocation.

The Church does not forbid the belief in these creatures, nor of such
pagan monsters as giants, pygmies, cyclops, satyrs, tritons, sirens,
etc., although it plainly teaches us that they are only ministers of
the devil. The existence of the devil is as certain as that of the
Holy Trinity. As has been said already, the fear of falling into his
clutches has often a more excellent effect upon the sinner than the
love of God. Countless legends and sculptures in the cathedrals tell
all about the master-fiend. The monk in his convent, the peasant in his
hut, yes (for all his brave words and his long sword), the baron in his
castle, all tremble lest they meet him.

The devil produces all kinds of misery, and he can actually take
possession of the living bodies of men. It is affirmed that once, not
far from St. Aliquis, a knight was sitting peaceably at table when
suddenly the devil entered into him. The fiend spoke through the poor
man's mouth. He raved and uttered blasphemies. The priest brought his
book of exorcisms. When he recited them, the devil screamed horribly.
Yet for some days he resisted the holy formulas, and then departed,
leaving his victim utterly exhausted.


From Capefigue's _Histoire de Philippe-Auguste_]

[Sidenote: Bargains with the Devil]

It is much worse when you make a direct pact with the devil. Some
time ago, it is affirmed, there was a young scholar at Paris. He was
much troubled because he progressed slowly in his studies. Then Satan
visited him, saying: "Do me homage. I will make you excel in wisdom!"
He gave the youth a stone, asserting that, "So long as you hold this
stone in your hand you will know everything." Soon the lad astonished
the schools by his erudition, but, on falling sick, confessed his
crime, threw away his stone, and at once forgot all his learning.
Speedily he died. At once the devils began to torture his soul, but God
promptly sent an angel ordering them "to let alone this soul which you
have tormented." Immediately the soul flew back into the body, which
sprang to life even as the Paris students were celebrating the funeral
service. The revived scholar, however, at once entered a convent and
took no more chances with carnal studies.

Very many people, however, have compounded with the devil and been
less fortunate. The fiend apparently will not come unless one is in a
desperate plight and willing to promise everything. Then usually the
unhappy mortal must deny the Christian faith, repudiate the saints,
utter blasphemies, and, it is even asserted, kiss the arch fiend upon
the buttocks. Next a horrid oath must be taken, standing inside of
three magic circles and burning incense. After that the devil will, it
is true, give his votary great worldly prosperity and especially riches
through a long life, but in the end the fiend never fails to claim
his soul for an eternal possession. It is even said that Satan made
such a bargain with the great ecclesiastic Gerbert, who became Pope
Sylvester II. He was very wise[87] or very wicked, probably both; and
in the opinion of many he rose to be Pope by the aid of "a hierarchy
of demons and a brass idol which uttered oracles." But on the day of
his death (A.D. 1002) Satan demanded his own; and whenever a pope lies
near his end the bones of Sylvester II rattle in the tomb. The Church
discredits this scandalous story, but it is widely believed.

Since the recent trial of a witch and a wizard before the bishop at
Pontdebois, the folk near St. Aliquis have gained a much more precise
knowledge of the black art. Magicians usually begin their ceremonies
by creating a magic smoke of various inflammables and spices, also by
burning such fiend-compelling ingredients as the brain of an eagle,
the blood of a black cat, and plenty of hellebore. The smoke thus
created is so dense and foul that uninitiated customers are readily
convinced there are demons rising in the vapor and talking to the
wizard. Thanks to such assistance, the magician, and his even more
sinful wife, the witch, were able to instruct how to find a pot of
gold and how to rob the house of a rich Jew, but especially they could
prepare philters--some of them intended to inspire love and others
hatred. Wives could buy fearful compounds made of substances from "the
three domains of nature"--the entrails of animals, scales of fishes,
parings of nails, human blood, pulverized load-stone, and such powerful
drugs as mandragora--which, if duly brewed and beaten up together, then
put in an unfaithful husband's goblet, would win back his affection.
Other such potions, a little changed, however, would make sworn lovers

[Sidenote: Methods of Witchcraft]

These dealers in the black art at Pontdebois could also sell magic
rings which had power over demons, thereby protecting the wearer from
sudden death, illness, or dangers of travel, and enabling him to drive
good bargains. The witch and wizard also possessed, undoubtedly, the
"evil eye"--which, if resolutely fixed on an ox or sheep, would cause
it to perish and was almost as dangerous to human beings. However, the
twain were presently ruined (thus showing how fickle a protector is
the devil) because a certain silly nobleman got them to "overcast" a
knightly enemy against whom he lacked the courage to press an honorable
war. After the wizard had burned much incense, the witch had proceeded
to shape a puppet of virgin wax as much like the victim as possible.
Then, with a shameless parody of the baptismal service, she christened
the doll with the name of her patron's enemy. Next the wizard placed
the livers of swallows under the armpits and upon the place where the
heart of the puppet ought to be. Finally, he and his wife pierced the
wax image with red-hot needles, then cast it into a blazing fire,
chanting all the while cabalistic words--probably beseeching the
special help of the devil.[88]

Inevitably, soon after this the knight thus assailed would have
sickened and died had not, by the mercy of God, the whole proceeding
been discovered. The knight was saved by the powerful exorcisms of the
bishop. The wizard--after proper tortures to get confession--was buried
alive. His wife, the witch, was burned. The foolish cavalier who had
plotted murder saved his life, for he had powerful relatives, but was
condemned to go on a pilgrimage to Rome. Certain fatuous women who had
bought love philters were publicly rebuked in the church and spent an
unhappy afternoon in the pillory. Good Christians hope that it will be
a long day before the black art is again practiced so iniquitously in
this part of France.

Nevertheless, there are some forms of divining which the Church counts
as innocent. Any time you desire you can consult the holy books.
With proper prayer and circumspection you should open the Bible at
random and note the tenor of the first passage that meets your eye.
Is it favorable to your condition, or unfavorable? The pious Simon de
Montfort thus consulted the "sacred lots" ere taking the cross for the
Albigensian crusade. Chapters of canons use this method to see what
the omens are concerning a candidate for a bishopric. According to
jongleurs' tales, even popes thus seek for an oracle ere taking any
important step in the government of the Church, although these stories
are wisely doubted. A more precise method of augury is the "_Sortes
Apostolorum_." Fifty-six sentences (expressing sentiments good or bad)
are written on parchment; a string is attached to each and allowed to
protrude while the sentences are covered up. You say a prayer, seize a
string at random, then follow it down to read its sentiment. In this
way the saints and not the devil will reveal the future to you.

Undoubtedly the peasants carry their belief in bad omens or unlucky
actions too far. Conon and Adela laugh heartily at some of their
notions. To avoid bad luck, Georges, when weaning a calf, always pulls
it away from its mother by the tail backward. He never begins plowing
until he has walked thrice around the plow with a lighted candle.
Jeanne never spins or sews on Thursdays or Fridays, lest she make the
Virgin weep. In the springtime a bone from the head of a mare should be
set out in the garden to drive off the caterpillars. Time fails to list
these rustic beliefs; besides, they vary from village to village. But
what peasant has not as many thereof as he has hairs in his head?

[Sidenote: Universal Adoration of Relics]

There is one pious matter shared in alike by great and humble and
highly approved by the Church, although the wiser ecclesiastics
deprecate some of its excesses--the worship of holy relics.

Saints' relics abound. Where is the monastery, church, or even castle
without them? Sometimes they rest in golden caskets in the very place
where the holy personages departed this life. Sometimes they have been
brought from Rome or Palestine by pious pilgrims; very often they come
as gifts. The direct purchase of relics is somewhat sacrilegious,
but you can present a king, duke, or great ecclesiastic with a good
relic just as you give him some hawks or ermine skins--as a reward for
favors past or expected. The Pope is always sending desirable relics
to bishops and abbots whom he wishes to honor; and, as all know, after
the Latins sacked Constantinople in 1204 there was hardly a shrine in
all France which did not get the skull, a few ribs, or even the entire
body of some Eastern saint. The booty in relics in fact, was almost as
important as that of gold and jewels.

Possessing relics is most desirable. Prayers said near them have
extra efficacy. Oaths taken upon their caskets are doubly binding,
but sometimes the holy objects are surreptitiously removed when the
pledge is being given; it is then no perjury to break the promise. In
dealing with slippery individuals one must, therefore, beware. On the
other hand, who is ignorant of the manner in which William the Norman
inveigled Harold the Anglo-Saxon into taking a great oath of fealty?
The slow-witted Englishman swore to the pact, believing the casket on
which he rested his hands contained relics of very inferior worthies,
who could never punish him if he perjured himself; but the instant the
words were said the priests opened the sacred box, showing it full of
the bones of the most powerful saints imaginable. Harold turned pale
with horror, realizing how he had been trapped. When later he broke his
oath, beyond a doubt it was these angered saints who wrought his death
at Hastings.

Good relics also imply a source of income, provided that they are
properly advertised so as to make the church or abbey possessing them a
pilgrimage resort. Sometimes, indeed, one fears lest overzealous monks
exaggerate the miracles wrought by the relics at their abbey church.
The tale runs that when the Abbey of St. Vanne was deeply in debt, the
abbot asserted: "Our debts will all be paid with the red tunic of St.
Vanne (a relic). I never doubt it."

The monks at St. Aliquis are proud of their collection, although by no
means the largest in the region. They have two teeth of the prophet
Amos; hairs of St. Martin and St. Leonard; finger-nail parings of the
martyrs of the Theban legion; bits of the robe of St. Bernard; finger
bones of Saints Saturnin, Sebastian, and of the Patriarch Jacob; a
fifth rib of St. Amond; a skull of one of the Holy Innocents; a chip
of the stone on which Christ stood when He ascended to heaven; the jaw
bone of St. Sixtus; some of the hay from the manger of Bethlehem; and,
last but not least, a fair-sized splinter of the true Cross. The mere
adoration of such things cancels many grievous years in purgatory.

It is advantageous to the whole region to have such a collection. If
there is need of rain, the relics can be carried in procession around
the thirsty country and relief is sure to follow. If there is a public
assembly, the holy relics can be brought in before the contending
knights or burghers--wise counsels will ensue. If you are going on a
journey, a visit to a shrine with such relics almost guarantees a safe
return. We have already seen how Conon (as did other knights) kept
certain relics always in his sword hilt, to confirm his oaths and to
lend efficacy to his actions.

[Sidenote: Contests Over Relics]

The enormous value of such sacred things often makes them the booty
of thieves. Thus in 1219 a band of robbers stole the remains of St.
Leocadia from the Abbey of Vic, and when pursued cast the holy bones
into the Aisne, whence they were rescued with serious difficulty.
We need not multiply records of similar crimes. Profligate noblemen
will sometimes seize and keep very sacred relics in their castles, as
talismans against long-delayed justice.

Not less miraculous is the manner in which the relics have been
preserved when less sacred objects have been lost. This is, indeed, a
divine mystery, not lightly to be inquired into. When, however, two
identical relics of the same saint are displayed in France, how are
worldly questionings to be silenced? For surely the holy men of old
had only one head and two arms apiece. Not long since, the monks of
St. Étienne exhibited a skull of St. Denis. But the monks of St. Denis
claimed _they_ had the skull of their own patron saint already. What
lack of charity ensued! The backbiting did not cease till the great
Pope Innocent III tactfully silenced the controversy without actually
deciding which relic was the more authentic. Many say that such relics
can miraculously duplicate themselves--so that _all_ are equally
genuine; and undoubtedly God has worked far greater wonders than this.

Nevertheless, such is the sinfulness of men that spurious relics are
often imposed upon the faithful. Good churchmen do zealous work in
exposing these sacrilegious frauds. Not long since, Father Grégoire had
Conon give a terrific flogging to a pretended pilgrim who was trying
to sell the credulous peasants "a bit of the sail of St. Peter's boat
and a feather of the Angel Gabriel." It is more serious when a spurious
shrine is set up. Near Lyons recently the peasant women insisted in
venerating "the tomb of St. Guinefort." It was discovered to be only
the spot where a lady had buried a favorite greyhound. In another
case, many years ago, the great St. Martin found near Tours a chapel
where the people worshiped a supposed martyr. The saint stood on the
sepulcher and prayed, "Reveal unto me who is really here!" Soon a dark
form arose and the specter confessed to Martin: "I am a robber. My soul
is in hell, but my body is in this sepulcher." The saint, therefore,
destroyed the chapel, and saved many from wasting their prayers and

It is a dangerous business, however, to be over-skeptical concerning
popular relics. Even great churchmen, such as the late Bishop
of Orléans, are liable to be mobbed if they call an alleged and
much-venerated skull of St. Génevieve "the head of some old woman"--as
once did that astute prelate. Nevertheless, the authorities try to
do their duty. Pope Innocent III has issued a formal warning to the
French clergy against accepting spurious relics, and the monks of every
monastery never hesitate to dispute the authenticity of almost every
kind of a relic provided only it is deposited in a neighboring and
rival abbey!

[Sidenote: "Translations" of Relics]

If, however, relics are genuine, it is impossible to exaggerate their
desirability. They are produced on numerous holidays; and often a
special holiday is proclaimed when they are "translated." Then you
may see the relics of some saint being carried through the streets of
a village or town, the holy objects themselves borne in their golden
boxes under a canopy, accompanied by all the local clergy, with perhaps
the barons and the duke of the entire region being allowed to assist
the highest prelates in carrying or at least in escorting the sacred

Thus has been explained certain features of the religion of the
laity, humble and exalted. At length we can approach one of those
great institutions which have built up the strength of Catholic
Christianity. A league from the castle lies the other great center for
the countryside--the monastery of St. Aliquis.


[84] In the well-known romance of _Aucassin and Nicolette_, Aucassin
complains that if he cannot have his beloved he cares not to go to
paradise. "For there go those aged priests, and those old cripples
and the maimed, who, all day long and all night long, cough before
the altars ... who are naked and barefoot and full of sores.... _But
to hell will I go!_ For to hell go the fair clerks and the great
warriors.... And there go the fair and courteous ladies, who have
friends, two or three together with their wedded lords!" This was
blasphemous enough, but it was not atheistical.

[85] This was very much like the penance imposed on Henry II after the
murder of Thomas à Becket at Canterbury.

[86] These plays might be guild or even civic affairs, with the secular
element predominating among the actors.

[87] His real "wisdom" probably lay in a superior knowledge of

[88] This wizard and witch evidently used almost exactly the same means
to "overcast" their victim as did Robert of Artois' wizard, when (in
1328) that great nobleman tried to destroy his aunt Mahaut.

Chapter XIX: The Monastery of St. Aliquis[89]: Buildings. Organization.
An Ill-Ruled Abbey.

The great St. Bernard has written thus of the convent: "Good is it for
us to dwell there--where man lives more purely, falls more rarely,
rises more quickly, treads more cautiously, rests more securely,
dies more happily, is absolved more easily, and is rewarded more

Every now and then they say in the castle of St. Aliquis: "Such
and such a cavalier has become a monk!" Then there are cries of
astonishment and probably slurring remarks, but even Conon in his heart
wonders, "Has he not, after all, chosen the better part?" at the very
moment when he storms about the "greedy monks" before his sons. The
monastery is the great interrogation point thrust before the castle.
The castle says: "The hunt, the tourney, the excitement of feudal war
are the things for man. Who truly knows about the hereafter?" The
monastery replies: "There is a kingdom not of this world, where baron
and villein must spend the æons. Prepare ye for it!" Very probably the
monastery is right.


At the left of the structure the building for guests and in front of
it the church; beyond the two cloisters the buildings reserved for
the monks; in the foreground the gardens of the abbey and the outside

The monastery of St. Aliquis has existed for centuries. It is a
Benedictine monastery--that is to say, its rule (system of government
and discipline) comes from the famous St. Benedict of Nursia, who lived
in Italy in the sixth century. Many new orders of monks have been
founded since then, but none more holy than the Benedictines when they
really live up to the ideals of their founder. Barons of St. Aliquis
and other rich people have endowed the monastery from time to time with
ample lands. It is a passing wealthy institution.

Ignorant folk of other ages may think of a monastery as a collection
of idlers meditating on heaven and living on charity. Such groups
once perhaps existed in Eastern lands, but never in a Benedictine
monastery. Each is the scene of a very busy life. Many industries are
carried on. The monks are almost self-supporting. The monastery, in
fact, contributes more to the economic life of the region than does the
castle; and Abbot Victor, its head, is hardly less important, even in
a worldly sense, than Messire Conon, with whom, happily, he is now on
cordial terms.

[Sidenote: The Abbey Buildings]

The monastery, however, is an establishment distinctly set off by
itself. It is in the world, but not of it. As you travel from the
castle, you presently enter fields unusually well cultivated. These
are part of the abbey lands. Then you come to a small village,
comparatively clean and well built, where the lay servitors of the
monks live with their families. Then straight ahead there rises a
strong battlemented wall of wide circuit surrounded by a water-filled
moat. Beyond this wall appear the spires and pinnacles of pretentious
buildings. The wall is needed to stand off attacks of bands of godless
men who dream even of plundering convents. There are a drawbridge,
portcullis, and strong gate. Inside you are within a little world. The
center is not the donjon, but the new monastery church, an elegant
pointed-arch structure almost equal to a small cathedral. Grouped
around it are numerous buildings--usually long, high, and narrow.
These are the dormitories, the refectory, the cloisters for the monks'
walks and study, as well as many less handsome barns, storehouses
and workhouses. There is a good-sized garden where rare herbs and
flowers are tended with loving care, and an orchard where fruit trees
are grafted with unusual skill. One even sees a slaughterhouse in a
convenient corner, a tannery (at a safe distance from the garden!) and
a building where the monks' garments can be spun and woven out of flax
and wool produced on the abbey lands. The monks of St. Aliquis are,
therefore, anything but droning hermits.

Some monasteries really comprise small towns. The famous establishment
at Cluny harbors four hundred monks; that at Clairvaux, seven hundred;
that at Vezelay, eight hundred. St. Aliquis is content with one hundred
and fifty brethren, but that number (plus the lay servitors) is enough
for a busy community. As has been said, the focus for its entire life
is the abbey church. Without a church building a monastery is almost
impossible. The choir is constantly needed for the recitation of the
canonical hours; many altars are required so that the monks who are in
holy orders may celebrate mass frequently; while the great processions
around the nave are part of the routine, especially on Sundays.
Abbot Victor, like all his predecessors, is straining every nerve to
gather funds to beautify his church. In it are deposited invaluable
saints' relics. It is hard, however, to convince the laity that they
are extremely sacred unless they are lodged in a splendid edifice.
The monks of rival monasteries are always comparing their churches
enviously. Victor has set his heart upon widening the transepts and
putting in a new rose window. If only a certain pious heiress in
Champagne would be called to heaven!


[Sidenote: The Abbey Cloisters]

In the choir is a long array of stalls, one for each monk in order of
seniority. The abbot sits in a chair of state on the southern side; the
prior, his chief lieutenant, faces him on the north. Connected with one
transept of the church is the cloister. It is a rectangular court. Its
four walks are roofed in, the walls nearest the court being pierced
with open arcades. The pillars upholding these arcades are beautifully
carved with floreated capitals, each separate pillar forming an
individual work of art, lovingly executed, and differing slightly from
its neighbors. The three walks of the cloister which do not touch the
church adjoin very needful buildings--the chapter house, where the
brethren congregate, the refectory on the side opposite the church,
and the dormitory. The walk nearest the church is where the monks are
supposed to spend the time allotted for pious meditation. It faces the
south, and the great structure behind cuts off the chilling winds. It
is, therefore, a pleasant place in cold weather. On the inner side of
this part of the cloister are many little alcoves let into the massive
walls; here monks can study or even converse without annoying others.

Looking down upon the cloister court is a remarkable object. If
holy brethren did not possess it, the peasants would declare it was
possessed by a devil, although these mechanisms are now becoming more
common. It has a dial marking the twelve hours, and by an ingenious
system of pulleys and weights indicates when it is noon or midnight
without reference to the shifting of shadows or movement of the stars.
It even has bells that ring every hour--a great convenience.[90] The
monks are almost as proud of this device as of some of their less
important saints' relics.

The books which consume so much of the monks' time are kept in
cupboards in the cloister alcoves, since this is not a Cistercian
monastery, which always has a separate library. From the cloister one
is naturally led to the chapter house. Almost as much care has been
taken with this large oblong chamber as with the church. The ceiling
is beautifully groined and vaulted. The abbot sits on a raised seat at
the east end, with all his officers at right or left. The remainder of
the brethren are on stone benches ranged around the walls, while in
the center of the floor stands a desk, whence the daily "lection" is
read from the lives of the martyrs, or the chapter (hence the name of
the room) from St. Benedict's holy Rule--a document only a little less
authoritative with the monks than the actual Scriptures.


Then come other rooms. The cloisters are _supposed_ to be extremely
quiet for study and meditation. But sinful flesh requires an outlet.
Go then to the parlor (the place of _parle_), a good-sized room where
merchants can bring their wares. The subprior can discuss the sickness
of certain pigs on the farms, and the saints know how much personal
gossip can be tossed about. Next is the dormitory, a large open
apartment with the beds of the monks standing against the walls between
the numerous windows, so that the feet of the sleepers point in two
long rows toward the center line of the room. A quiet place, but at
night, with several score of brethren all snoring together, what repose
is left for the stranger? In any case, there is very little privacy,
for few of the monks have separate bedrooms.

[Sidenote: Refectory, Kitchens and Infirmary]

Close by the cloister is the refectory--an aisleless hall with a wooden
roof. Across the east end is a high table for the officers--the whole
place resembling the great hall in a castle. Most of the brethren sit
at very long tables running up and down the apartment; and near the
high table is a still higher pulpit mounted by a winding stair. Here
a monk will droningly read a Latin homily while his associates are
expected to eat and hearken in silence.

The kitchen with its great fireplaces adjoins the refectory. At the
entrance to the dining hall, just as in the castle, there is the
lavatory, a great stone basin with many taps, convenient for washing
the hands. Since some brethren are sure to be sick, there is a separate
infirmary, a well-arranged suite with places for sleeping, dining, and
even a little chapel for those too feeble to get to the church.[91]
The abbot has lodgings of his own where he can entertain distinguished
visitors, although he is expected to mingle freely with his fellow
monks and not to assume solitary grandeur. The less exalted guests are
put in a special _hospitium_ in the court. The monastery never turns
away any decently behaving wayfarer; but the guest master, a canny old
religious, naturally provides better quarters and supper for those
likely to put a denier in the alms box than for those who may have just
fled the provost.

This is a bare summary of the important buildings of the
establishment. If St. Aliquis had been a Cistercian convent, following
the rule of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, its structures would have been
extremely plain--no mosaics, stained glass, silken hangings, or floral
carvings in the church; nor anything else calculated to distract the
monks from thinking upon the heavenly mysteries. Said he, austerely:
"Works of art are idols which lead away from God, and are good at best
to edify feeble souls and the worldly." Bernard was a mighty saint, but
all do not follow this hard doctrine. The monks of St. Aliquis, for
their own part, are sure that the Heavenly Ones are rejoiced every time
they add a new stone leaf to the unfading foliage about the cloister
arches, or carve the story of David and Jonathan upon the great walnut
back to the prior's seat in the chapter house.


From a manuscript in the Bibliothèque nationale. He is clad in a frock,
a robe supplied with ample sleeves and a cowl.]

The monks of St. Aliquis, being Benedictines, are "black monks." If
they had been Cistercians they would have been "white monks"--that
is, with white frocks and cowls. The cowl is a cumbersome garment
enveloping the whole body, but it is worn only at ceremonies.
Ordinarily the monks wear black scapularies, covering head and body
less completely. They also have short mantle-style capes. New outer
garments are issued to them every year, new day shoes every eighteen
months, new boots once in five years, and a new pair of woolen
shirts once in four years. They are also granted both a thin and a
thick tunic, a fur-lined coat for cold weather, also undershirt and
drawers--in short, no silly luxuries, but no absurd austerities.

[Sidenote: The Abbot: Center of Monastic Life]

The control of the whole community rests with the abbot. Under the
monastic rule and vows the monks owe him implicit obedience. If he
is a practical, efficient man, the whole establishment is happy and
prosperous; if the reverse, it is soon in debt, the property is
wasted, the monks live evilly or desert; and the whole place often
is ruined. Abbeys resemble seigneuries--they are either growing or
dwindling. Many church canons forbid abbots to abuse their office, to
live luxuriously, to waste the abbey property, or to take important
steps without consulting the older monks, but such decrees are hard
to enforce. Fortunately, the head of St. Aliquis--Abbot Victor, is a
moderate, kindly, yet withal a worldly wise man. He was the younger
son of a petty noble and was thrust into the monastery somewhat
because his worldly heritage would have been very small. The monastic
life, however, agreed with him. He became popular with the brethren
of peasant stock, yet never let them forget that his parents had been
gentle. As prior he knew how to deal with Conon and other seigneurs.
When the old leader died, there had been one cry from all the monks
assembled in the chapter house. "Let Victor be our abbot!" Since then,
despite inevitable grumblings, he has ruled acceptably, avoiding
alike Cistercian severity and that lax rule which has made certain
monasteries the hatching nests of scandal.

Victor wears on ceremonial occasions a miter with gold fringe, although
it cannot be adorned with pearls like a bishop's. He has also
handsome gloves (especial emblems of his office), a crozer (a pastoral
staff), and a ring. His administration is aided by a whole corps of
officers. First of all is the prior, named by the abbot and the abbot's
chief lieutenant, who is his superior's deputy and general man of
affairs.[92] Next the subprior, the third in command; then the third
and fourth priors, known as _circatores_ because they have to make
frequent circuits of inspection; while below them come the _precentor_,
in charge of the singing and chanting; the _sacristan_, responsible
for the bells, lights, and ornaments of the church; and all the heads
of the kitchen, storehouses, infirmary, and monastery finances. There
is also the garnerer--a sagacious monk who collects the grain due from
the abbey lands and either sells it profitably or turns it over to the
storekeeper (_celerer_).

[Sidenote: Routine of the Monks' Day]

The activities of the monks are multifarious, but everything is really
subordinate to the duty of chanting the holy offices in the church.
The brethren go to bed, even in wintertime, at sunset. Then by the
light of cressets, bowls of oil with floating wicks, they rise at
midnight, put on their clothes, sit down on stone seats at either end
of the dormitory, and next file in silent procession to the great, dark
church. There they chant a long service, with the organ rumbling under
the gloomy vaulting--a service made still longer by the prayers for the
dead. As solemnly as before they file back to the dormitory and sleep
until daybreak in winter, until actual sunrise in summer; whereupon
they all rise again, go to the church, and chant Prime. Tierce follows
about 9 A.M.; Sext at noon; Nones at 3 P.M.; and Vespers at about
sundown. This continues every day through a long life. No wonder the
monks all know by heart their offices for the day and night as given in
the breviary.

After Prime a meeting is held in the chapter house. A section is read
from the Rule, the abbot or priors call off the work for each monk,
individual complaints can be uttered, and corrections and public
reproofs are given by the officers. At the Tierce service mass is
said; then the morning work goes on until the Sext, after which the
first regular meal is eaten, although some bread soaked with wine is
allowed earlier to the weaker brethren. Talking during the meal is
discouraged, but there is nevertheless much whispering while the reader
(allowed to eat earlier) tries to center attention upon the pulpit.
The brethren then rise and sing grace, ending up with the "Miserere,"
which is chanted in procession marching through the cloister. Everybody
thereupon retires to the dormitory and enjoys a siesta until it is time
for Nones. Work is next resumed until Vespers just before supper. After
supper there is another meeting in the chapter house, with more reading
from a pious book. Then once more to the church to chant Complines;
after that (since St. Aliquis is a well-ordered monastery) all the
monks are compelled to go straight to bed and do not sit up for carnal
chatter. All the doors of the establishment are securely locked. The
officers make the rounds to see that every monk is safe on his cot--and
so the whole brotherhood settles for the night.

Life in the monastery thus has a strict routine which soon becomes a
perfect habit with most of the inmates. Of course, monks working in the
fields are not required to come in for all the daytime offices--they
can drop their tools when the great bell rings and pray in silence
reverently standing. In nunneries about the same divisions of time
are applied, although chaplains have to come in to say mass. The one
thing impressing every visitor to a well-ruled monastery is the intense
sense of order as compared with the tumult and coarse informality
characteristic of even the better castle. To a certain type of mind
this regularity is indescribably fascinating apart from any question of
its advantages in religion.

To ask how the different brethren of St. Aliquis come to enter its
portals is to ask as many individual questions. The abbot is typical
of many companions, who were placed there because worldly prospects
were small and because they were decently urged by their relatives.
Sometimes the pressure was not mild. There are a few brethren who seem
discontented men without vocation, chafing against irrevocable vows
taken practically under compulsion, and yearning to be back in the
world. There is also one coarse, scar-visaged old man who was a robber
knight. "Tonsure or the scaffold?" so the duke had put the question.
To such a person the monastery is nothing but an honorable prison.
There are, however, two or three other elderly ex-cavaliers here for a
better reason--they have been overwhelmed with a consciousness of their
crimes and are genuinely anxious to redeem their souls. A considerable
proportion of the monks are gentle, although the majority are
non-nobles. If of the latter class, however, they have been subjected
to searching scrutiny before entrance, to make sure they will be useful
members of the community. If they are mere clownish peasants, they are
often taken only as _conversi_ (lay brethren), who learn a few prayers,
but spend most of their time on the abbey farms and who do not sleep
in the dormitory.

[Sidenote: Reasons for Becoming Monks]

The greater number of the monks have apparently joined voluntarily
in early manhood--because they are repelled by the confusion and
grubbing hardships of the world, because they have a hankering for an
intellectual life, and because they are genuinely anxious to deliver
their souls. After a round of fêtes, tournaments, and forays, many
a young knight has suddenly turned from them all, announced to his
companions: "What profit? Where will I spend eternity?" said farewell
to his beloved destrer, and knocked at the convent door. Sometimes he
has sickened too late of his choice. More often in this new world of
chants, solemn offices, books, honest toil, gently spoken words, and
quietness he has discovered a satisfaction not possessed by his brother
who is still messire the seigneur.

In the monastery there are, however, certain very young boys, who it is
to be hoped will prove contented with their profession. Their parents
or guardians have taken them to the abbot, and in their ward's behalf
have uttered vows that bind the helpless children forever. "I offer
this my son (reads the formula) to the Omnipotent God and to the Virgin
Mary for the salvation of my soul and the souls of my parents.... And
so shall he remain in this holy life all his days until his final
breath." Earnestly do the wiser brethren pray that these practically
orphaned boys do not become a source of sorrow to themselves and of
discord to the community in future years.[93]

St. Aliquis is a well-ordered monastery. Its monks, however,
point with some pharisaical satisfaction at certain neighboring
establishments. It is well said that "ten are the abuses in the
cloister--costly living, choice food, noise in the cloister, strife
in the chapter, disorder in the choir, a neglectful discipline,
disobedient youths, lazy old men, headstrong monks, and worldly
officers." It is alleged that all these evils and worse ones have
existed in the monastery of St. Ausonne, five leagues away. This
community had an excellent name for sanctity until twenty years
ago. Then a foolish abbot admitted too many "younger sons" who were
being forced in by their relatives. The duke, likewise, imprudently
pardoned a whole gang of highwaymen on condition that "they should
turn religious." Also, several self-seeking cavaliers deliberately
entered the order, in sinful expectation that family influence could
procure their election as abbots or bishops--posts of great worldly
consequence. Thus it was that our old enemy, Satan, entered into St.
Ausonne. All accounts are that he still refuses to be ejected.

[Sidenote: A Disorderly Monastery]

The evil tidings of this convent presently spread to Rome; and the Holy
Father, deeply grieved, ordered the Bishop of Pontdebois to visit the
establishment and restore discipline.[94] It was well that he took a
troop of armed sergeants with him, or he would have been stoned by the
furious inmates. The monks of St. Aliquis lift their hands in horror
at the least of the stories told about his discoveries. Part of the
bishop's report reads like this: "Brother Regnaud is accused of great
uncleanness of life. Bartholomée, a cantor's assistant, often gets
drunk and then does not get up for the matins service. Roger, the
third prior, frequents taverns. Jean, the fourth prior, is an habitual
tippler. Morell, another cantor's assistant, is given to striking and
evil speaking. Firmin, in charge of the abbey lands, does the like,

These charges, however, are mere details. The real sorrow is that from
the abbot down the whole organization of St. Ausonne has fallen utterly
away from the monastic ideal of a "school for the Lord's service" (to
quote St. Benedict). The abbot has been not merely very worldly, but
very miserly. Recently a jongleur sought hospitality at St. Ausonne.
The monks offered him merely black bread and water, although their
own supper was far more sumptuous than the "two cooked dishes and
half a pint of wine" allowed by the Benedictine rule. On leaving the
abbey, the minstrel met the abbot returning from pushing his political
fortunes at Paris. He profusely thanked the prelate for his monks'
noble hospitality, because they had given him choice wine, rich dishes,
and finally presented him with good shoes and a belt. The abbot
returned home in a rage and caused his guest master to be flogged for
squandering the monastery property. The minstrel, of course, spread the
tale of his revenge, and so indirectly prompted the visitation of the

In fine, the bishop reported that from St. Ausonne many monks ranged
the country "with wandering feet"--as mere religious vagabonds, levying
alms upon the peasantry, and sometimes bearing letters from their abbot
allowing them to quit the cloister at pleasure. The abbot himself,
defying the canons, would have elaborate hunting parties with hawks
and hounds. The Church law merely permitted monks to kill rabbits and
crows dangerous to the crops; but the bishop actually found a kennel
of great dogs and a sheaf of boar spears within the holy compound.
The dietary at St. Ausonne was fit for a castle. Venison was served
on Friday, and the amount of wine consumed was astounding. Women are
never supposed to set foot within the inner precincts of a monastery,
but, to spare the Church further scandal, one conceals what the bishop
discovered to be the practice at this establishment.

The St. Ausonne monks, too, have cast reproaches upon their more
honest brethren elsewhere. One of them, after visiting the St. Aliquis
convent, is discovered to have complained: "One cannot talk in the
refectory; and all night they 'bray' the offices in the church. The
meals are very poor; they give us beans and unshelled eggs. The wine
is too thin and too mixed with cows' drink (water). No--never will
I get drunk on _that_ wine. At St. Aliquis it is better to die than
to live!"[95] Another brother seems to have drifted round the duchy,
visiting the more disorderly seigneurs, becoming their boon companion,
cozening their women, and boasting that his ideal of life was "a big
salmon at dinner time and sitting by a fountain with a friendly dame."

With such monks sheer sacrilege in performing the sacred offices was
possible. The story goes that at the morning office they were all very
drowsy. Soon their heads would fall on the service books at the close
of every line. The choir boys were expected to keep up the chant; but
the latter, impious young mortals, soon learned how to begin quiet
games the moment the last monk had fallen asleep. Then when the proper
time has expired the boys would all call out loudly "Let us bless the
Lord!" "Thanks be to God!" the monks would respond, awakening with a
start; and then everybody would go comfortably away.

[Sidenote: Discipline of Unruly Monks]

The report of the bishop will probably produce one of two orders from
Rome--either the Holy Father will appoint a new abbot strictly enjoined
to rule the convent with a rod of iron and to restore discipline, or
the whole establishment will be broken up as hopeless and its inmates
distributed around among other and stricter monasteries. Cases as bad
as St. Ausonne's are rare, but they breed infinite scandal and provide
outrageous tales for the jongleurs. So long as monasticism exists there
will be institutions afflicted with idleness and luxury--"the lust of
the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life." Doubtless
no monastery is exempt from evil thoughts and evil deeds, yet it is
pitiful that the saints allow such institutions as St. Ausonne to exist
to bring into contempt the tens of thousands of monks who are trying to
serve God with sincerity.


[89] In these chapters the terms "monastery," "abbey" and "convent" are
used synonymously. Of course, the term "convent" (from "conventus," or
"meeting") might also be used for "nunnery." A "priory" was usually a
smaller type of institution, ruled by a prior and not an abbot (see p.
322 note) and dependent on some greater "abbey."

[90] Clocks run wholly by weights were known as early as Charlemagne's
time, and the famous "magician" Pope Sylvester II (see p. 303) studied
their mechanism. By the thirteenth century they were slowly coming into
general use. Of course, at first they had only one hand--showing merely
the hours.

[91] By its very nature, a monastery would contain a disproportionately
large number of doddering old men, or sick and helpless individuals.
"_Stagnarii_" or "_stationarii_" they are significantly called.
Besides, a monk was supposed to be bled for his health four or five
times a year. While recovering from this operation he could stay in the

The Church usually rejected candidates for regular priesthood who
labored under serious physical disabilities. The monasteries had to be
less arbitrary. Thus they probably obtained more than their share of
blind, semi-invalids, purblind, halt, deaf, etc. In 1161, at an abbey
near Boulogne, there are said to have been so many lame, one-eyed, or
one-armed monks that the abbot refused to admit any more defectives for
thirty years. This was probably an extreme case.

For similar reasons many women, unmarriageable through physical
defects, seem to have been placed in nunneries.

[92] In monasteries affiliated with the great abbey of Cluny the
highest officer was the prior; the only abbot for the entire group of
establishments was at Cluny. Various other small dependent monasteries
had merely a prior, supposedly dependent on the abbot at a superior

[93] While such children would be sometimes presented out of motives
of genuine piety, to save their own souls or to redeem those of their
relatives, often they were thrust into the convent merely to dispose
of unwelcome heirs or to avoid the cost of rearing them. Wise abbots
would, of course, sift out such cases carefully.

[94] Bishops theoretically had themselves the right of inspection
unless a monastery had a direct papal charter; but in any case the
monks would probably resist episcopal interference vigorously unless
the Pope gave the bishop specific orders to intervene.

[95] These complaints are identical with those actually made by a
worldly monk who visited the venerable abbey of Cluny.

Chapter XX: The Monastery of St. Aliquis: The Activities of Its
Inmates. Monastic Learning.

After a monk has taken the great vow "renouncing my parents, my
brothers, my friends, my possessions, and the vain and empty glory of
this world ... and renouncing also my own will for the will of God,
and accepting all the hardships of the monastic life," how is he to
be employed? For, as St. Benedict with great sagacity has written,
"_Idleness is the enemy of the soul_." The ancient hermits devoted
their entire time to contemplation, hoping for visions of angels; but
it is recorded too often that they had only visions of the devil.
"Therefore," continues the holy Rule, "at fixed times the brothers
ought to be employed with manual labor, and again at fixed times in
sacred reading." Thus, in general, the monks of St. Aliquis are busied
with two great things, _work_ in the fields and _study_, with the
copying or actual writing of profitable books.

[Sidenote: Bequests to Monasteries]

The monastery being passing rich, its administration constitutes a
great worldly care. Ever since the institution came into existence,
about the time that Heribert rendered the region fairly safe by
erecting his fortress, the monks have been adding to their property.
Church foundations never die. Mortmain prevents them from crumbling.
Income is obtainable from many sources, but probably the best lands
have come to the abbey through the reception of new members. Few
novices are received unless they make a grant of their entire
possessions to the institution, and, while most younger sons and
peasants have little enough to give, every now and then the abbey
receives a person of considerable wealth. Besides such acquisitions,
there is no better way for laymen to cancel arrears with the recording
angel than by gifts of land or money to an abbey. Some of these gifts
come during lifetime, sometimes on one's deathbed. Noblemen complain
that the monks thus defraud them of their possessions. "When a man lies
down to die," bewails the epic poem "Hervis de Metz," "he thinks not of
his sons. He summons the black monks of St. Benedict and gives them his
lands, his revenues, his ovens, and his mills. The men of this age are
impoverished and the clerics daily grow richer." Often, too, a person
when on his deathbed will actually "take the habit" and be enrolled as
a monk, thus, of course, conveying to the abbey all his possessions.
This, we are told, is "the sweetest way for a human conscience to
settle its case with God."

Property thus comes to an abbey from every direction. No gifts are
refused as "tainted money." Giving to Heaven is invariably a pious
deed, and ordinarily justifies whatever oblique means were used to
get the donation. So the monks of St. Aliquis have been accumulating
tillage lands, meadows, vineyards, and often the rentals for lands held
by others. These rentals are payable in wheat, barley, oats, cattle and
also in pasture rights. Some donations are given unconditionally, some
strictly on condition that the income be used in providing alms for the
poor, lodgings and comforts for the sick, or saying special masses for
the repose of the soul of the benefactor. Abbot Victor has therefore to
supervise many farms, forests, mills, etc., scattered for many miles
about. He also receives the tithe (church tax) for five or six parish
churches in the region, on condition that he appoint their priests and
support them out of part of this income.

For these lands the abbot owes feudal service, and over them he
exercises feudal suzerainty, possessing, therefore, an overlord and
also vassals, just as did the nobles who held these same fiefs before
they passed to the abbey. He is, accordingly, a regular seigneur,
receiving and doing homage, bound to do justice to his vassals, and
able to call them to arms whenever the secular need arises. By church
law he cannot, of course, lead them in person to battle, but has to
accept Conon as his advocate; and it is as advocate (or, as called
elsewhere, _vidame_) of the abbey of St. Aliquis, able to lead its
numerous retainers into the field and act in military matters as the
abbot's very self-sufficient lieutenant and champion, that the baron
owes much of his own importance.[96] For example, he gets one third
of all the fees payable to the abbey for enforcing justice among its
dependents, and when he is himself in a feud he will sometimes attempt
to call out the abbot's vassals to follow his personal banner, even if
the quarrel is of not the least concern to the monks.

Nevertheless, such an overpowerful champion is usually necessary to
a monastery. Despite the fear of excommunication, unscrupulous lords
frequently seize upon abbey lands or even pillage the sacred buildings,
trusting to smooth over matters later by a gift or a pilgrimage. The
temptation presented by a rich, helpless monastery is sometimes almost

[Sidenote: Monastic Industries and Almsgiving]

In nonmilitary matters, however, the monks control everything. They
direct the agriculture of hundreds of peasants. They maintain real
industries, manufacturing far more in the way of church ornaments,
vestments, elegant woolen tapestries, elaborate book covers, musical
instruments, enameled reliquaries, as well as carvings in wood, bronze,
and silver, than they can possibly use for their own church. All this
surplus is sold, and the third prior has just returned from Pontdebois
to report his success in disposing of a fine bishop's throne, which
Brother Octavian, who has great skill with his chisel, has spent three
whole years in making. The monks also maintain a school primarily for
lads who expect to become clerics, but which is open also to the sons
of nobles, and, indeed, of such peasants as can see any use in letting
hulking boys who do not expect to enter the Church learn Latin and
struggle with pothooks and hangers.

The monks, too, have another great care and expense--the distribution
of alms, even more lavishly than at the castle. The porter is bound
always to keep small loaves of bread in his lodge, ready to give to the
itinerant poor. Every night swarms of travelers, high and low, have to
be lodged and fed by the guest master, with none turned away unless he
demands quarters a second night--when questions will be asked.[97] In
bad years the monasteries are somehow expected to feed the wretched by
thousands. All this means a great drain upon the income, even if the
monks themselves live sparely.

There is often another heavy demand made on the abbot's revenues.
Having so many and such varied parcels of land, he is almost always
involved in costly lawsuits--with rival church establishments claiming
the property, with the heirs of donors who refuse to give up their
expected heritages, with creditors or debtors in the abbey's commercial
transactions and with self-seeking neighboring seigneurs. "He who
has land has trouble" is an old proverb to which Victor cheerfully
subscribes. He is not so litigious as many abbots; but his time seems
consumed with carnal matters which profit not the soul.

The activities in a large, well-ordered monastery are ample enough to
give scope to the individual genius of about all the brethren, although
every abbey is likely to have its own special interests. Some South
French monasteries make and export rare cordials and healing drugs.
Others boast of their horticulture, the breeding of cattle, or the
manufacture of various kinds of elegant articles, as already noted.
However, the mere cultivation of the fields, where the brethren toil
side by side with the lay helpers, although also acting as overseers,
consumes the energies of much of the convent. The remainder of the time
of most monks is devoted to forms of learning. The great establishment
of Cluny sets the proper example. There every brother, at least while
he is young, must practice humility by digging, pulling weeds, shelling
beans, and making bread. But this work is largely for discipline.[98]
If he has the least inclination he will soon be encouraged to devote
himself to copying manuscripts, studying books, perfecting himself in
Latin, and finally, in actually writing original Latin works himself.

[Sidenote: Manuscript Copying and Study]

All day long, save at the times for chanting the offices, the older
brethren and many of the younger are in the little alcoves round the
cloister, conning or copying huge volumes of parchment or vellum,
or whispering together over some learned problem. All the formal
literature is in Latin. It was, until recently, something of a disgrace
to prove oneself unclerkly by using the vulgar tongue, "Romance" being
accounted fit only for worldly noblemen and jongleurs.[99]


Restored by Viollet-Le-Duc from a thirteenth-century manuscript. At
the left of the writing table is placed an inkstand; near the seat is
a circular lectern which holds the chandelier and can be turned at the
will of the reader.]

At St. Aliquis, as in every convent, monks still are wont to argue
among themselves, "How far is it safe to study pagan rather than
Christian writers?" Undoubtedly Horace, Ovid, and Livy are a delight
to any student who can read Latin. What wealth of new ideas! What
marvelous vigor of language! What vistas of a strange, wonderful world
are opened to the imagination! Unfortunately, however, all these
authors died worshiping demons; their souls are in hell, or at least
in limbo, its uppermost and least painful compartment. Did not Pope
Gregory I write to a bishop who was fond of classical studies, "It
behooves not that a mouth consecrated to the praise of God should
open for those of Jupiter"? Did not Odilon, abbot of Cluny, renounce
his beloved Virgil (the most favored of all heathen writers) after a
warning dream, beholding therein a wondrous antique vase, which as he
reached to grasp it, proved full of writhing serpents? Nevertheless,
the pagan authors are so seductive that the monks persist in studying
them, although always with a guilty feeling that "stolen waters are
sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant."

In the monastery school advanced instruction is given to the younger
monks, as well as to the very few laymen who have been through the
primary instruction in the _trivium_--grammar, rhetoric, and dialectics
(the art of reasoning) all taught, of course, in Latin. Apt pupils are
then encouraged to continue under one or two monks of superior learning
in the _quadrivium_--astronomy, arithmetic, geometry, and music.
Systematic instruction is hardly ever given in anything else, although
odds and ends of certain other sciences can be absorbed around St.

[Sidenote: Books of Learning]

The fundamental textbooks are Donatus's grammar for instruction in
Latin, and then for almost everything savoring of real learning, Latin
translations of Master Aristotle. For a long time the monks have had
to content themselves with the logical Works of the famous Grecian,
explaining the processes of argumentation, but by 1200 they can enjoy
the enormous advantage of using Latin versions of the Physics, the
Metaphysics, and the Ethics--the great works of The Master of Those
Who Know (to quote Dante, writing eighty years later). Some of these
books have come directly from the Greek, but others have been distorted
by passing through an Arabic version that in turn has been made over
into Latin. There are also various Arabic commentaries of considerable
value. Curious it doubtless is that Heaven, who has denied salvation
alike to Greek and to Moslem, should suffer unbelievers to possess a
worldly wisdom surpassing that of good Christians, but the Bible truly
says, "The children of this world are in their generation wiser than
the children of light." On all secular matters, indeed, Aristotle is
a final authority. "Thus says Aristotle" is the best way to silence
every hostile argument. Only very rarely can a man hope by his own
cogitations to overthrow the dicta of this wonderful sage of Athens.

A great deal of the monkish student's time is taken up with abstract
problems of philology and logic. Nevertheless, the abbey contains many
parchments widening to one's knowledge of the world. For example, you
can read in Vincent de Beauvais's _Mirror of Nature_ a minute account
of the universe and all things within it. You can learn the astonishing
fact that the world is a kind of globe suspended at the center of the
cosmos. Many other wonderful things are described--as, for example,
lead can be transmuted into gold, and all kinds of wonders which defy
ordinary experience, but which are not to be doubted, since God can,
of course, do anything. Or one can turn to Hugues de St. Victor's
treatise _On Beasts and Other Things_ and learn all about the habits of
animals--concerning how stags can live nine hundred years and how the
dove "with her right eye contemplates herself, and with her left eye
God." There are books also on medicine, parts of which contain sober
wisdom, worthy of attention by the murderous physicians, but elsewhere
giving such directions as that since autumn is "the melancholy season,"
people should then eat more heartily than in summer and should refrain
from love affairs.

As for the more abstract sciences, in music the monks know the four
principal and the four secondary sounds--the _do_, _re_, _mi_, of the
scales, the seven modulations and the five strings of the viol. In
geometry they can, with the aid of a stick, "lying on the ground find
the height of walls and towers." In arithmetic they can multiply and
divide with great facility and keep accounts like a king's treasurer.
In astronomy they understand the motion of the planets and their
qualities--Saturn, which is "proud, wise, and ambitious," and Mars,
"malevolent and bad, provoking strife and battles," and how the sun is
hung in the midst of the planets, three above and three below, and much
more similar wisdom; although one must proceed carefully in astronomy,
for its connection with astrology is close, and from astrology to the
black art is not a long journey.

[Sidenote: Scientific Studies and Chronicle Writing]

The good monks have perhaps made their best progress in botany and
geology. Some of the brethren have gathered collections of curious
minerals, of herbs, and also of dried bird and animal skins; although
the interest seems to be in the healing qualities of various substances
rather than in the nature of the things themselves. Thus it is certain
that figs are good for wounds and broken bones; aloes stops hair from
falling; the root of mandrake will make women love you; and plenty of
sage in a garden somehow protects the owner from premature death. As
for geology, that consists of the collecting and arranging of curious
stones. It is of course settled in Genesis that the world was made in
a very few days. The infidel Avincenna has indeed advanced the theory
that mountains are caused by the upheaval of the earth's crust and by
action of water. One must hesitate, however, about believing this. It
seems hardly compatible with Holy Writ.

On the other hand, the books on animals unhesitatingly tell about
remarkable creatures which are mentioned in Aristotle or in Pliny or
by the Arabs. Unicorns, phoenixes, and dragons are well understood,
likewise sea monsters, as, for example, great krakens, which drag
down ships with their tentacles, sirens or mermaids, and finally "sea
bishops" (probably a kind of seal) which piously "bless" their human
victims before devouring them.

Besides the study of these older books, the monks are writing certain
books themselves. The most important is the great chronicle, begun some
years ago by the learned Brother Emeri. It commences with the creation
of the world and Adam and Eve, tells about the Greeks and Romans and
Charlemagne and his heirs, and then in much greater detail gives the
recent history of the Duchy of Quelqueparte, the happenings at the
abbey, and also much about the barons of St. Aliquis. Emeri is now
dead, but the chronicle is continued from year to year. It is really
a compendium of varied learning. From it, for example, you learn all
about the wars of Julius Cæsar, the Crusades, the great lawsuit of ten
years ago over some of the abbey lands, the feud between Conon and
Foretvert, and how in 1216 a two-headed calf was born on a neighboring
barony, and in 1217 a meteor struck near Pontdebois.

The Latin in this chronicle is, on the whole, very good, sometimes
almost equal to Livy's, and the story is embellished by constant
citations not merely of Virgil and Horace, but of Homer and Plato. One
would suppose from this that the authors were familiar with Greek.
Such, however, is by no means the case. All the quotations from Greek
authors and many of their Latin ones are taken from commonplace books.
Nevertheless, the narrative seems the more elegant for this borrowed
learning. The monks are proud of their chronicle and never fail to
boast how much more complete, accurate, and erudite it is than similar
works compiled at the rival institutions.

When the monks are not actually studying, they are often copying. St.
Aliquis has more than two hundred volumes in its library. Parchment
is very expensive, but very durable. When the abbot sees his way to
procure material for another volume, he is likely to send to some
friendly convent to borrow a book which his monks do not yet possess.
Then some of the most skillful brethren are put to work making a copy,
if possible more beautiful than the original. In from six months to a
year the work will probably be finished, although, if a duplicate is
to be made of a work already on hand, there will be less haste and the
process may extend over years.[100]

Copying is an excellent means of propitiating Heaven. St. Bernard said
emphatically, "Every word which you write is a blow which smites the
devil," and Cassiodorus, much earlier, asserted: "By the exercise of
the mind upon the Holy Scriptures you convey to those who read a kind
of moral instruction. You preach with the hand, converting the hand
into an organ of speech--thus, as it were, fighting the arch-fiend with
pen and ink."

Parchment, we have said, is a costly article. To provide a single book
scores of sheep must die. A new style of writing material, however, is
just coming into vogue. Paper, a substance made of linen cloth, now
is being produced in small quantities in France, although, as usual,
it seems to have been an invention of the Arab Infidels. Some day,
perhaps, paper will become so plentiful and cheap that books can be
multiplied in vast numbers, but as yet practically everything has to
be on parchment, which is certainly far less destructible than paper,
whatever the cost.[101]

[Sidenote: Elegant Manuscripts and Binding]

In the cloister alcoves a dozen copyists are pursuing their task
with infinite patience. Their question is not "how fast?" but "how
well?"--for they are performing "a work unto God." As a rule, they
write their sheets in two columns, making their characters either in
roundish minuscule or in squarer Gothic. The initials are in bright
colors--some with a background of gold. Here and there may be painted
in a brilliant miniature illustration. The work of the best copyists
is beautifully legible. The scribes put their heart and soul into
their productions. They expect the volumes will be memorials to their
faithfulness and piety scores of years after they are departed.

When the sheets are completed, the book is bound in leather much the
same as in other ages, although sometimes the sides are of wood. In
any case, there are likely to be metal clasps and bosses of brass upon
the covers. A few of the most precious volumes are adorned with plates
of silver or carved ivory. So year by year the library grows. It need
not be remarked that every copy is _read_ and _reread_ with devoted
thoroughness. What the learning of the Feudal Age, therefore, lacks in
breadth is somewhat compensated for by intensity. The older and more
studious monks know almost by heart _all_ the facts in their entire
collection. The younger brethren revere them as carrying in their
own heads practically everything significant in the way of worldly

Thus we catch some glimpse of the superficial and material side of a
typical monastic establishment. Into its spiritual and intellectual
atmosphere we cannot find time to penetrate. Our present duty is to
"return to the world" and to examine the oft-mentioned but as yet
unvisited Good Town of Pontdebois.


[96] Abbots and their advocates were continually having friction over
their respective prerogatives. If Victor and Conon got along in fair
harmony, they were somewhat exceptional both as prelate and as seigneur.

[97] See also p. 319.

[98] A great abbey like Cluny would have so many lay servitors that
it could dispense with manual labor by the monks, save where personal
aptitude was lacking for anything else.

[99] The result was that French was able to develop as a very forceful,
expressive language, unspoiled by pedantry, before many serious books
were written in the vernacular. The same was somewhat true also of
English, German, and other modern tongues.

[100] This would be especially true of copies of the Bible, of which
every abbey would have at least one example; and additional specimens
would be prepared very deliberately with the intention of making the
new work just as beautiful and permanent as possible.

[101] The introduction of paper was, of course, absolutely necessary,
if the invention of printing were to have any real value.

[102] It is perhaps proper to say that Dante (1265-1321), a person, of
course, of remarkable intellect, was able to master the _entire fund_
of learned information and science available in his time. This was not
true of the next great mediæval scholar, Petrarch (1304-71). By his
period the supply of human knowledge had become too vast for any one
brain. Petrarch had to become a specialist.

Chapter XXI: The Good Town of Pontdebois: Aspect and Organization.

As the summer advances, Conon, his baroness, and his familiars make
their annual visit to the great fair always held at this time at
Pontdebois. Practically nothing except wheat, cattle, and a few like
staples are ordinarily bought and sold in or around St. Aliquis. Of
course, a messenger can be sent to the town for articles that are
urgently needed, but, as a rule, the baron's family saves up all its
important purchases until the fair, when many desirable things not
ordinarily to be had in the city are put on sale. This present season
the fair seems the more important because on account of the expensive
fêtes Conon cannot afford to visit Paris and must make his purchases
nearer home.

It is only a few leagues to Pontdebois, but messire travels with a
considerable retinue--at least twenty men at arms well equipped,
besides body servants for himself and his wife, and a long string of
sumpter beasts to bring back the desired commodities, for the castle
must really stock itself for the year. The baron hardly fears an attack
by robbers so near to his own castle and to a friendly town, but he
takes no chances. The best of seigneurs disclaim any responsibility
for the fate of travelers who proceed by night, and one sire who
controls some miles of the way has possibly a quiet understanding with
certain outlaws that they may lurk in his forests and watch the roads
without too much questioning, provided they refrain from outrages
upon important people and make him liberal presents at Christmas and
Easter.[103] In any case, a number of merchants, packmen, and other
humble travelers who had gone safely as far as St. Aliquis, are glad to
complete the journey in the baron's formidable company. Conon in turn
gladly protects them; it adds to his prestige to approach Pontdebois
with a great following.

The roads are no worse than elsewhere, yet they are abominable; trails
and muddy ruts they seem most of the year, ordinarily passable only
for horses and mules, although in the summer rude two-wheeled carts
can bump along them. To cross the streams you must, in some places,
depend on fords very dangerous in the springtime. One unfordable
river, entering the Claire, is indeed crossed by a rude wooden
bridge. The building of bridges is fostered by the Church. A great
indulgence was proclaimed by the bishop some years ago when this bridge
was constructed as a pious work, especially useful for pilgrims.
Unfortunately, no one is responsible for its upkeep. It is falling
into disrepair, and already is so tottering that as men pass over it
they repeat those formulas, "commending their souls to God," which the
Church provides for use whenever one is attempting unstable bridges.

[Sidenote: Travelers and Inns]

On the journey you meet many humble travelers obliged to trudge
weary miles. There is a poor peasant seeking a farm now on a distant
seigneury. He has a donkey to carry some of his household gear and one
of the children. His wife is painfully carrying the youngest infant.
The poor man himself staggers under a great sack. Travelers of more
consequence ride horseback, with a large mail or leathern portmanteau
tied on their beast's crupper. Their burdens are heavy because one
often has to spend the night in abominable quarters, and consequently
must, if possible, carry flint, steel, and tinder for making a fire,
some kind of bedding, and very often a tent. Along the road, too, are
any quantity of beggars, real or pretended cripples and other deformed
persons, wandering about and living on charity; or blind men with
staffs and dogs. The beggars' disguise is a favorite one for robbers.
The wretches, too, who whine their, "Alms, Messire! Alms!" and hold
up a wrist minus the hand, or point to where an eye has been gouged
out, probably have suffered just punishments for crimes, although some
of them may have mutilated themselves merely in order to work on the
sympathies of the gullible.

As the party approaches Pontdebois the houses become better and closer
together, and just outside the gate is a group of taverns, available
for those who prefer to carouse or lodge without rather than within
the city walls. Conon is on terms of hospitality with a rich burgher
who has found the baron's favor profitable, and he leads his company
promptly inside the gates, but many of the humbler travelers turn off
to these taverns. Adela gives an aristocratic sniff of disdain as they
ride past such places. They are assuredly very dirty, and from them
proceeds the smell of stale wine and poor cooking. The owners, smooth,
smirking men, stand by the road as travelers come in sight and begin to
praise their hostelries. "Within," one of them is calling out, "are all
manner of comforts, painted chambers, and soft beds packed high with
white straw under soft feather mattresses. Here is your hostel for love
affairs. When you retire you will fall asleep on pillows of violets,
after you have washed out your mouth and rinsed your hands with rose

His victims, however, will find themselves in a dirty public dining
room, where men and women alike are drinking and dicing around the
bare oaken tables. At night the guests will sleep in the few chambers,
bed wedged by bed, or perhaps two in a bed, upon feathers anything but
vermin-proof. In the rear of most inns, too, there is a garden where
guests are urged to carouse with the unsavory females who haunt the
establishments. The visitors will be lucky if they can get safely away
without being made stupidly drunken and then robbed, or having the
innkeeper seize their baggage or even their clothes on the pretense
that they have not paid their reckoning.

Leaving these taverns at one side, the St. Aliquis company rides
straight onward. Before it the spires and walls of Pontdebois are
rising. The circuit of gray curtain walls and turrets reaches down to
the Claire, on which barges are swinging, and across which stretches
the solid wooden bridge which gives the Good Town its name. Above the
walls you can see the gabled roofs of the more pretentious houses, the
great round donjon, the civic watchtower, and, above all else, the
soaring fabric and stately mass of the cathedral with the scaffolding
still around its unfinished towers. Several smaller parish churches are
also visible. The baron's company is obliged to halt at the gate, such
is the influx and efflux of rickety carts, sumpter beasts, and persons
thrusting across the drawbridge. "Way, good people," Conon's squires
cry. "Way for Messire of St. Aliquis!" and at last, not without a
cracking of whips to make these mechanic crowds know their betters, the
party forces a path down the narrow streets.

[Sidenote: Entering a City]

A visit to Pontdebois is no real novelty to the castle folk, yet they
always experience a sense of bustle and vastness upon entering. Here
are eight thousand, indeed, some assert ten thousand, people, all
living together in a single community.[104] How confused even the
saints must be when they peer from heaven and try to number this swarm
of young and old, rich and poor, masters and apprentices, packed in
behind one set of walls! To tell the truth, the circuit of Pontdebois
is not very great; to render the walls as defensible as possible
and to save expense, the fortifications have been made to inclose
the smallest circumference that will answer. As a result, the land
inside is precious. Houses are wedged closely together. Streets are
extraordinarily narrow. People can hardly stir without colliding with
others, and about the only real breathing spaces are the market place
and some open ground around the cathedral. Behind the bishop's palace,
also, there is a small walled-in garden. Otherwise, it appears almost
as if not one green thing could grow in Pontdebois. The contrast with
the open country whence the travelers have just come is therefore

Even the best of the streets are dark, tortuous, and filthy. There is
almost no paving.[105] The waste water of the houses is flung from the
windows. Horrid offal is thus cast out, as well as the blood and refuse
from the numerous slaughterhouses. Pigs are privileged as scavengers,
even in the market place. The streets are the darker because the second
stories of the houses project considerably over the first, the third
over the second, and also the fourth and fifth (which often exist)
over those lower. Consequently, there is almost a roof formed over the
lanes, cutting off rain, light and air. In the upper stories, neighbors
not merely can gossip, but can actually shake hands with their friends
across the street. All the thoroughfares, too, are amazingly crooked,
as if everybody had once built his house where it pleased him, and
afterward some kind of a bypath around it had been created! At night
these twisting avenues are dark as pitch. No one can get about without
a lantern, and even with one it were better, if possible, to stay at
home. To prevent the easy flight of thieves, it is common to stretch
many heavy chains across the streets at night. Notwithstanding,
footpads often lurk in the covert of black corners.

Pontdebois has few quiet residence sections. It is a community of
almost nothing but little shops and little industries--the two being
often combined under one roof. The shops generally open directly
into the streets, with their stalls intruding on the public way like
Oriental bazaars. The streets, in fact, seem to be almost the property
of the merchants. Foot passengers can barely find a passage. Carts
cannot traverse the town during business hours, and Conon's company on
horseback might have found itself absolutely blocked had it not chanced
to arrive almost precisely at noon, when the hum and bustle very
suddenly cease and the worthy folk of Pontdebois forsake their counters
and benches to enjoy hearty dinners.

[Sidenote: A Rich Burgher's House]

As it is, they reach the market place just as the city hangman has
finished a necessary ceremony. One Lambert, a master woolen weaver,
had been caught selling adulterated and dishonestly woven cloth,
contrary to the statutes of his guild. The hangman has solemnly burned
the offending bolts of cloth before a jeering crowd of apprentices,
while Lambert's offense has been cried out with loud voice. The man is
disgraced and ruined. He will have to become again a mere wage earner,
or quit the city outright. His misfortune is the choice news of the
hour. The smell of the burning cloth is still in the air when Conon's
party rides by the pillory and halts at the house of the rich Othon
Bouchaut, who is ready to receive them.

Maître Othon is one of the principal burghers. He has grown rich by
importing wares from Venice, Constantinople, and the lands of the
Infidels. It is scandalous (say some nobles) how he, villein born, with
hands only accustomed to hold a purse or a pen, is able to talk to a
great seigneur without groveling as every good peasant ought. He and
his wife even wear gold lace, pearls, and costly stuffs on fête days,
as if they were nobles; and they are said actually to have broken the
law forbidding non-nobles to wear furs. Very deplorable, but what can
be done? Othon is so rich that he can stir up trouble even for the
duke. Nothing remains but to speak him fair and accept his hospitality.

This powerful merchant's house is in the marketplace. It rises five
stories high, and is built of beams filled in with laths, mortar, and
stucco. On the ground floor are storerooms for costly Oriental goods,
and desks where the master's clerks seem forever busy with complicated
accounts. On the next are the rooms for the family, and, although
without the spacious magnificence of the great hall at St. Aliquis,
Adela remarks a little enviously that her host's wife enjoys many
comforts and luxuries hardly known in the castle. The upper stories are
full of small chambers for Othon's family, his clerks, and the younger
apprentices who are learning his business. Before the front door swings
the ensign of the house--a gilded mortar (in token of the powdered
spices which the owner sells). The houses of Pontdebois have no
numbers. The ensigns serve to identify them. One of Othon's neighbors
lives at the "Crouching Cat," another at the "Tin Pot," another at the
"Silver Fish," and so on all through the town.

The house of Othon also appears to be quite new, as do many others.
This, however, is a doubtful sign of good fortune. Only a few years ago
much of Pontdebois was burned down. The narrow streets, the thatched
roofs, the absence of any means of checking a blaze save a line of
buckets hastily organized, make great fires a standing menace to every
city.[106] Othon complains that at any moment he may be reduced almost
to beggary by the carelessness of some wretched scullery maid or tavern
apprentice. He will also say that somehow in the pent-up city there is
greater danger of the plague than in the country castles or even in
the villages with their dungheaps. A dozen years ago Pontdebois lost
a quarter of its population by an outbreak which spared neither rich
nor poor, before which physicians and religious processions seemed
alike helpless, and which demoralized the community before the saints
mercifully halted the devastation.

[Sidenote: The Communal Donjon]

There are only a few stone houses in Pontdebois. Even the best houses
of the citizens are usually of wood and mortar. Not yet have risen
those magnificent stone city halls which later will be the glory
of North France and Flanders. But on one side of the market place
rises the communal donjon. The Good Town is like a seigneur (indeed,
somewhat it _is_ a seigneur placed in commission): it has its walls and
therefore its strong citadel. The donjon forms a high, solid, square
tower dominating the public square. At its summit there is always a
watchman ready, at first danger of fire or attack, to boom the alarm
bell. The tower itself is large enough to have good-sized rooms in its
base. Nearest the ground is the council chamber where the worshipful
echevins can deliberate. Above that is the archive room, where the
elaborate town records are kept. Directly under the council chamber,
however, is the prison, where general offenders are mewed up no more
comfortably than in the abysses of St. Aliquis.

The soul of the communal donjon, however, hovers around its bells.
There in the dark tower hang shrill Jacqueline, loud Carolus, and,
deepest and mightiest of all, Holy Trinity, and several others. A peal
of powerful bells pertains to every free town. Of course, they ring
lustily and merrily on holidays; indeed, strangers to the city think
they are rung too often for repose.[107] But if they all begin leaping
and thundering together, that is probably a sign for a mass meeting
of the citizens in the open plaza before the donjon. The magistrates
may wish to harangue the populace from the balcony, just above the
council room, descanting upon some public danger or deliver a peaceful
explanation of some new municipal ordinance. In any case, a commune
without its donjon and bells is like a ship without its rudder, and
if ever Pontdebois succumbs to superior power, the first step of the
conqueror will probably be to "take away the bells"--that will be the
same thing as annulling the city liberties.

Pontdebois has been a Good Town with a charter of privileges for about
a hundred years. As early as Charlemagne's day a village existed upon
the site. The location proved good for trade, but the inhabitants,
despite success in commerce and industry and increasing numbers, were
for a long time mere villeins dependent upon the lord bishop of the
town and region, and with no more rights than the peasants of the
fields had. However, in dealing with men who were steadily becoming
richer, and who were picking up strange ideas by foreign intercourse,
it proved much harder to keep them content with their station than it
did the run of villeins. Besides, the dukes of Quelqueparte, although
very loath to grant privileges to their own villeins, were not averse
to having privileges given to the subjects of such independent and
unreliable vassals as the bishops of Pontdebois. Consequently, when
the townspeople about A.D. 1100 began raising the cry, "Commune!
Commune!" in the episcopal presence, the bishop could not look to his
suzerain for much support. Indeed, it was being realized by intelligent
seigneurs that granting a charter to a town often meant a great
increase of wealth, so that if the lord's fiscal rights were carefully
safeguarded, he was actually the gainer by an apparent cession of part
of his authority. The upshot was that about A.D. 1110, when a certain
bishop needed a large purse to cover his travel to the Holy Land, for a
round sum the townsfolk bought from him a charter--a precious document
which practically raised them out of the status of villeins and
protected them against those executions and tyrannies which the run of
peasants had to accept resignedly, as they did bad winters.

[Sidenote: Charter of a Commune]

This charter read in part much as follows: "I, Henri, by the grace of
God Bishop of Pontdebois, make known to all present and to come, that
I have established the undermentioned rules for the inhabitants of my
town of Pontdebois. Every male inhabitant of said town shall pay me
every year twelve deniers and a bushel of oats as the price of his
dwelling; and if he desires to hold land outside the walls four deniers
per year for each acre. The houses, vines, and fields may be sold and
alienated at the pleasure of the holder. The dwellers in this town
shall go neither to the _ost_ (feudal levy) nor on any other expedition
unless I lead the same in person. They are allowed six echevins to
administer the ordinary business of the town and to assist my provost
in his duties. I especially decree that no seigneur shall withdraw from
this town any inhabitants for any reason, unless they are actually 'his
men' or owe him arrears in taxes, etc."[108]

After securing this charter, the men of Pontdebois began to hold up
their heads in a manner grievous to the neighboring nobles, and even
more grievous to the wealthy clergy, for prince-bishops were often
the original suzerains of the towns, and their authority was the most
seriously curtailed.[109] The books are full of the wrath of the
ecclesiastics over the changed situation. "'Commune!' a name new and
detestable!" pungently wrote Abbot Guibert of Nogent, even when the
movement was young; while Bishop Ives of Chartres assured everybody
that "compacts (with city folk) are binding on no one: they are
contrary to the canon law and the decision of the holy fathers." Even
as recently as 1213 a synod at Paris has denounced communes as the
creations of "usurers and exactors" who have set up "diabolical usages,
tending to overthrow the jurisdiction of the Church."

However righteous the anger of these holy men, it has proved vain.
The communes ever wax stronger, and annually some new seigneur is
compelled to sell a charter or even to grant one for nothing. The kings
watch complacently a movement which weakens their unruly feudatories.
Sometimes the townsfolk have grown insolent and tried to defend their
privileges by sheer violence. Once there was a very tyrannous bishop
of Laon. He foolishly tried to cancel a charter granted the city, and
boasted: "What can you expect these people to do by their commotions?
If my negro boy John were to seize the most terrible of them by the
nose, the fellow would not even growl. What they yesterday called a
'commune' I have forced them to give up--at least as long as I live!"
The next day the yell, "Commune! Commune!" rang in the streets. A mob
sacked the episcopal palace and found the bishop hiding in a cask at
the bottom of the cellar. The howling populace dragged him into the
street and killed him with a hatchet. Then, to add to this sacrilege
upon an anointed bishop, they plundered most of the nobles who chanced
to be in the town. After such deeds it is no wonder that the king went
to Laon and re-established order with a strong hand. Nevertheless, some
years later, a new charter was granted the town, and the succeeding
bishops have had to walk warily, despite inward groanings.

[Sidenote: Rule by Echevins and Rich Merchants]

Fortunately, Pontdebois has been spared these convulsions. As a rule
the local prelates have been reasonable and conciliatory. The bishop
is still called "suzerain." He receives the fixed tax provided in the
original agreement. He has jurisdiction over the citizens in spiritual
matters, which include heresy, blasphemy, insults, and assaults upon
priests and outrages to churches. Likewise much of what might be
called "probate litigation"--touching the validity of marriages and
children, and consequently the wills and property rights affected
thereby. However, in most secular particulars the citizens have pretty
complete control. They levy numerous imposts, direct taxes, tolls, and
market dues; they enroll a militia to defend the walls and to take the
field under their own officers and banner when the general levy of the
region is called out; they pass many local ordinances; and they name
their own magistrates who administer "high justice." They can even wage
local wars if they have a grievance against neighboring barons, being
themselves a kind of collective seigneur. The one thing they _cannot_
do is to coin money; that is a privilege carefully reserved to the king
and to the superior nobility.

Practically all these powers are exercised by the six echevins, with
a higher dignitary, the mayor (_maire_), at their head.[110] There is
little real democracy, however, in Pontdebois. The richer merchants,
like Othon, and the more prosperous masters form practically an
oligarchy, excluding the poor artisans and apprentices from any
share in municipal affairs save that of paying taxes and listening to
edicts by the magistrates. The same officers are re-elected year after
year. They use the town money much as they see fit, refusing public
reckoning and blandly announcing that "they render their accounts to
one another." There are, therefore, certain discontented fellows who
even murmur, "We 'free burghers' are worse taxed and oppressed than are
Baron Conon's villeins at St. Aliquis."

Nevertheless, there is often a great desire to become even a passive
citizen of Pontdebois. If you can live there unmolested for "a year and
a day," you escape the jurisdiction of the lord on whose estate you
have been a villein. You are protected against those outrages which
are possible on even the best seigneuries. Most of all, you gain a
chance to become something more than a clodhopping plowman. Perhaps
your grandchildren at least will become wealthy and powerful enough to
receive a baron as their guest, even as does the rich Othon.

So one may wander about the twisting streets of Pontdebois until
nightfall, when the loud horns blow curfew--"cover fires." After that,
the streets are deserted save for the occasional watchman rattling his
iron-shod staff and calling through the darkness, "Pray for the dead!"


[103] Another abuse would be to levy a heavy toll on all travelers
passing a castle, irrespective of whether there was any legal license
to demand the same.

[104] If Pontdebois really had as many as eight thousand permanent
inhabitants, it was no mean community in feudal times. Many a city
would have only two or three thousand, or even less. A place of ten
thousand or more would rank as the most important center for a wide
region. There were few of such size in France.

[105] Even in Paris at this time the only paving was on the streets
leading directly to the city gates. The remainder continued to be a
mere slough, a choice breeding place for those contagious diseases
against which precautions were assumed to be useless and to which men
were bound to submit as to "the will of God." Supplications to some
healing saint, like St. Firman or St. Antoine, usually seemed more
efficacious than any real sanitary precautions.

[106] Rouen had six severe fires between 1200 and 1225, and yet was
not exceptionally unfortunate. If a city were close to a river, it was
liable also to very serious freshets. Of course, every place was in
fairly constant danger of being stormed, sacked, and burned down in war.

[107] Modern travelers are to this day impressed by the amount of
bellringing which goes on in such unspoiled mediæval-built Flemish
towns as Bruges.

[108] Of course, no two communal charters were ever alike, although
many were run in a common mold. Many towns received not a full charter,
but "rights of burgessy"--_e.g._, guaranties against various common
forms of oppression, although the laws were still actually administered
by officers named by the seigneur.

[109] Bishops often had their cathedral and episcopal seat at the
largest place in their dioceses--the very places most likely to demand

[110] The echevins were often known instead as "jurés" and their
numbers were frequently much greater than six. The mayors might be
called "provosts" or "rewards."

Chapter XXII: Industry and Trade in Pontdebois. The Great Fair.

The St. Aliquis folk have come to Pontdebois largely to attend the
great fair soon to open, but the more ordinary articles they will
purchase can be found on sale on any week day. The city is a beehive of
industry. Notwithstanding much talk about commerce in the Feudal Ages,
the means of communication and transport are so bad that it is only
the luxuries--not the essentials--that can be exported very far. It
takes thirty days in good weather to travel from Paris to Marseilles.
It takes sometimes a week to go from Pontdebois to Paris; and there is
no larger industrial city much nearer than Paris. The result is that
almost everything ordinarily needed in a château, village, or even in a
monastery, which cannot be made upon the spot, is manufactured and sold
in this Good Town.

Industrial life, however, seems to exist on a very small scale. There
are no real factories. An establishment employing more than four or
five persons, including the proprietor, is rare. Much commoner are
petty workshops conducted by the owner alone or aided by only one
youthful apprentice. This multiplicity of extremely small plants gives
Pontdebois a show of bustle and activity which its actual population
does not warrant.

When you do business in a town, simply name your desires and you can
be directed to a little winding street containing all the shops of a
given industry. There is the Glass Workers' Street, the Tanners' Row,
the Butchers' Lane, the Parchment Makers' Street (frequented by monkish
commissioners from the abbeys), the Goldsmiths' Lane, etc.

[Illustration: CLOTH MERCHANTS

From a bas-relief in the cathedral of Rheims (thirteenth century).]

[Sidenote: Shopkeepers Crying their Wares]

As a rule the goods are made up in the rear of the shop and are sold
over a small counter directly upon the street, where the customer
stands while he drives his bargain. Written signs and price cards
are practically unknown. The moment a possible purchaser comes in
sight, all the attendants near the front of the shops begin a terrific
uproar, each trying to bawl down his neighbor, praising his own wares
and almost dragging in the visitor to inspect them. Trade etiquette
permits shopkeepers to shout out the most derogatory things about
their rivals. Father Grégoire, wishing to buy some shoes, is almost
demoralized by the clamor, although this is by no means his first visit
to Pontdebois. As he enters the Shoemakers' Lane it seems as if all the
ill-favored apprentices are crowding around him. One plucks his cape.
"Here, good Father! Exactly what you want!" "Hearken not to the thief,"
shouts another; "try on our shoes and name your own price!" A third
tries to push him into yet another stall. "Good sirs," cries Grégoire,
in dismay, "for God's sake treat me gently or I'll buy no shoes at
all!" Only reluctantly do they let him make his choice, then conclude a
bargain unmolested by outsiders. In the fish, bread, and wine markets
the scenes can be even more riotous, while the phrases used by the
hucksters in crying their wares are peculiar and picturesque.

As always in trade, it is well that "the buyer should beware"; fixed
prices are really unknown and inferior goods are inordinately praised.
Nevertheless, the city and guild authorities try hard to protect
purchasers from misrepresentation. The officers are always making
unannounced rounds of inspection to see how the guild ordinances are
being obeyed.[111] The fate of the rascally woolen maker has been
noted. Heavy fines have also been imposed lately upon a rope maker who
put linen in a hemp cord, and a cutler who put silver ornaments in a
bone knife handle. This, however, was not to protect purchasers, but
because they had gone outside the line of work permitted to members of
their guild and trenched upon another set of craftsmen. Indeed, a very
short residence in Pontdebois makes one aware that within the chartered
commune the question is not, as in strictly feudal dominions, "Whose
'man' is he?" but "To what guild does he belong?" Everything apparently
revolves around the trade and craft guilds.

Some of these guilds, like that of the butchers, are alleged to be much
older than the granting of the charter; but it is undeniable that the
organizations have multiplied and grown in power since that precious
document was obtained.[112] Each special industry goes to the seigneur
(in this city to the bishop) for a special grant of privileges and
for a fee he will usually satisfy the petitioners, especially as they
desire the privileges mainly to protect them against their fellow
craftsmen, not against himself. In Paris there are more than three
hundred and fifty separate professions; in Pontdebois they are much
fewer, yet the number seems high. Many guilds have only a few members
apiece, but even the smallest is mortally jealous of its prerogatives.
One "mystery" makes men's shoes, another women's, another children's.
Some time ago the last mentioned sold some alleged "children's shoes"
which seemed very large! Result--a bitter law suit brought by the
women's shoemakers. Christian charity among the guildsmen has not been
restored yet. In Paris they say that the tailors are pushing a case
against the old-clothes dealers because the latter "repair their
garments so completely as to make them practically new." There will
soon be handsome fees for the kings' judges, if for nobody else.[113]

[Sidenote: Division and Regulations of Guilds]

Such friction arises, of course, because each guild is granted a strict
monopoly of trade within certain prescribed limits. A saddle maker from
a strange city who started a shop without being admitted to the proper
guild would soon find his shop closed, his products burned, and his
own feet in the stocks by the town donjon. The guilds are supposed to
be under strict regulations, however, in return for these privileges.
Their conditions of labor are laid down, as are the hours and days of
working. The precise quality of their products is fixed, and sometimes
even the size of the articles and the selling price. Night work, as
a rule, is forbidden, because one cannot then see to produce perfect
goods, although carpenters are allowed to make coffins after sunset.
On days before festivals everyone must close by 3 P.M., and on feast
days only pastry shops (selling cakes and sweetmeats) are allowed to be
open. Violaters are subject to a fine, which goes partly to the guild
corporation, partly to the town treasury; and these fines form a good
part of the municipal revenue.

The guilds are not labor unions. The controlling members are all
masters--the employers of labor, although usually doing business
on a very small scale. A guild is also a religious and benevolent
institution. Every corporation has its patron saint, with a special
chapel in some church where a priest is engaged to say masses for the
souls of deceased members.[114] If a member falls into misfortune
his guild is expected to succor him and especially, if he dies, to
look after his widow and assist his orphans to learn their father's
craft. Each organization also has its own banner, very splendid, hung
ordinarily beside the guild's altar, but in the civic processions
proudly carried by one of the syndics, the craft's officers. To be a
syndic in an influential guild is the ordinary ambition of about every
young industrialist. It means the acme of power and dignity attainable,
short of being elected echevin.

The road to full guild membership is a fairly difficult one, yet it
can be traversed by lads of good morals and legitimate birth if they
have application and intelligence. A master can have from one to three
apprentices and also his own son, if he has one who desires to learn
the trade. The apprentices serve from three to twelve years.


From a bas-relief in the cathedral of Rheims.]

[Sidenote: Apprentices, Hired Workers and Masters]

The more difficult the craft the longer the service; thus it takes a
ten-year apprenticeship to become a qualified jeweler. The lads thus
"bound out" cannot ordinarily quit their master under any circumstances
before the proper time. If they run away they can be haled back and
roundly punished. They are usually knocked about plentifully, are none
too well clothed, sleep in cold garrets, are fed on the leavings from
the master's table, and can seldom call a moment their own except on
holidays. Their master may give them a little pocket money, but no
regular wages. On the other hand, he is bound to teach them his trade
and to protect them against evil influences. Often enough, of course,
matters end by the favorite apprentice marrying his master's daughter
and practically taking over the establishment.

At the end of the apprenticeship the young industrialist becomes a
hired worker, perhaps in his old master's shop, perhaps somewhere
else.[115] He is engaged and paid by the week, and often changes
employers many times while in this stage of his career. The guild
protects him against gross exploitation, but his hours are long--from
5 A.M. to 7 P.M. during the summer months. Finally, if he has led a
moral life, proved a good workman, and accumulated a small capital, he
may apply to the syndics for admission as a full master himself. A kind
of examination takes place. If, for example, he has been a weaver he
must produce an extremely good bolt of cloth and show skill in actually
making and adjusting the parts of his loom. This ordeal passed, he
pays a fee (divisible between the city and the guild) and undergoes an
initiation, full of horseplay and absurd allegory. Thus a candidate for
the position of baker must solemnly present a "new pot full of walnuts
and wafers" to the chief syndic; and upon the latter's accepting the
contents, the candidate deliberately "breaks the pot against the
wall"--a proclamation that he is now a full member of the guild. The
last act is of course a grand feast--the whole fraternity guzzling down
tankard after tankard at the expense of the new "brother."

There is one quarter of the town which the St. Aliquis visitors hardly
dare to enter. Thrust away in miserable hovels wedged against one angle
of the walls live the "accursed race"--the Jews. Here are dark-haired,
dark-eyed people with Oriental physiognomies. They are exceedingly
obsequious to Christians, but the latter do not trust them. These
bearded men with earrings, these women with bright kerchiefs of Eastern
stuffs, all seem to be conducting little shops where can be bought the
cheapest furniture, household utensils, and particularly old clothes in
Pontdebois. In this quarter, too, is a small stone building which Conon
and his followers wonder that the echevins suffer to exist--a very
ancient synagogue, for the Jewish colony is as old as the town. The few
Christians who have periled their souls by venturing inside say the
windows are very small and that the dark, grimy interior is lighted by
dim lamps. Here also are strange ancient books written in a character
which no Gentile can interpret, but by whispered report containing
fearful blasphemies against the Catholic faith.

[Sidenote: The Jews and Money Lending]

Why are such folk permitted in Pontdebois? Maître Othon has to explain
that if God has consigned these Jews to eternal damnation he has
permitted many of them while in this world to possess inordinate
riches. Some of the most abject-looking of these persons, who are
compelled by law to wear a saffron circle on their breasts, can
actually find moneys sufficient to pay the costs of a duke's campaign.
Every great seigneur has "his Jew," and the king has "the royal Jew"
who will loan him money when no Christian will do so in order to wage
his wars or to push more peaceful undertakings. The Jews are indeed
hard to do without because the Church strictly forbids the loaning of
money on usury, yet somehow it seems very difficult to borrow large
sums simply upon the prospect of the bare repayment of the same.
The Jews, with no fear for their souls, do not hesitate to lend on
interest, sometimes graspingly demanding forty, fifty and even sixty
per cent.[116] This is outrageous, but ofttimes money must be had,
and what if no Christian will lend? There are certain worthy men,
especially Lombards of North Italy, who say that it were well if the
Church allowed lending at reasonable interest, and they are beginning
to make loans accordingly. This suggestion, however, savors of heresy.
In the meantime the Jews continue despised, maltreated, and mobbed
every Good Friday, but nevertheless almost indispensable.


The great object which brings so many visitors to Pontdebois is the
annual fair held every August in the field by the river, just south
of the town. Then can be purchased many articles so unusual that they
are not regularly on sale in the city shops, or even at the more
general market which is held in the square before the donjon upon each
Thursday. The Pontdebois fair cannot, indeed, compete in extensiveness
with the Rouen or Dijon fairs, the famous Lendit fair (near St. Denis
and Paris), nor, above all, with the great Champagne fairs at Troyes
and elsewhere, for these are the best places for buying and selling in
all France. Nevertheless one must not despise a fair which attracts
nearly all the good folk of Quelqueparte who are intent on gains or

In some respects the fair has many features like the tourney at St.
Aliquis. Long files of travelers on beasts or on foot are approaching,
innumerable tents are flaunting bright pennons, and the same jongleurs
who swarmed to make music or to exhibit tricks at Conon's festival
are coming hither also. But the travelers are not, as a rule, knights
in bright armor, but soberly clad merchants. Their attendants lead,
not high-stepping destrers, but heavily laden sumpter mules; the
tents are not given over to gallant feasting and gentle intrigues,
but to vigorous chaffering for that thing which all knights affect to
despise--good money. Therefore, although the bustle seems the same, the
results are very different.

There is a special complication at these fairs. In what kind of money
shall we pay? The royal coinage is supposed to circulate everywhere
and to represent the standard, but the king's power cannot suppress
a whole swarm of local coinages. There are deniers of Anjou, Maine,
Rouen, Touraine, Toulouse, Poitou, Bordeaux, and many other districts
besides the good royal coins from Paris; also a plentiful circulation
of Constantinople bezants, Venetian zechins, German groats, and English
silver shillings, in addition to many outlandish infidel coins of very
debatable value. To add to the trouble, there are varying standards for
weights and measures. You have to make sure as to which one is used in
every purchase.[117]


In the center of the picture, a commoner and his wife going to make
more purchases; at the right, in front of a shop, cloth merchants and
their customers; a shop boy on his knees unpacks the cloth, another
carries the bales; at the left, a beggar; another establishment of
a draper; a group of people having their money weighed by the money
changer; farther back, a lord and his servants going through the crowd;
at the left a parade of mountebanks; at the right, other shops; and in
the background the walls, houses, church, etc.]

[Sidenote: Heavy Tolls On Commerce]

The "royal foot" is a pretty general measure, but sometimes it is split
into ten, sometimes into twelve, inches. Still worse is the pound
weight. A Paris pound divides into sixteen ounces, but that of Lyons
into fourteen, that of Marseilles into only thirteen. Clearly one needs
time, patience, and a level head to trade happily at this fair!

When you consider the number of tolls levied everywhere upon
commerce--a fee on about every load that crosses a bridge, traverses a
stretch of river or highway, passes a castle, etc.--the wonder grows
that it seems worth while to transport goods at all. The fees are
small, but how they multiply even on a short journey! Along the Loire
between Roanne and Nantes are about seventy-four places where something
must be paid. Things are as bad by land. Clergy and knights are usually
exempt, but merchants have to travel almost with one hand in their
pockets to satisfy the collectors of the local seigneurs. The result
is that almost nothing is brought from a distance which is not fairly
portable and for which there is a demand not readily met by the local

Nevertheless, a good fair is a profitable asset to an intelligent
seigneur. The present fair was instituted seventy years ago by an
unusually enterprising lord bishop. He induced the barons of the region
to agree to treat visitors to the fair reasonably and to give them
protection against robbers. He also established strict regulations
to secure for every trader fair play when disposing of his wares,
commissioned sergeants to patrol the grounds, and set up a competent
provost's court right among the tents, so that persons falling into a
dispute could get a quick decision without expensive litigation.[118]
In return he laid a small tax on every article sold. The arrangement
worked well. Succeeding bishops have been wise enough to realize
that contented merchants are more profitable than those that have
been plundered. "Hare! Hare!" cry the prelate's sergeants on the
first day--announcing the opening--and then for about two weeks the
trafficking, bargain driving, amusements, and thimble rigging will

[Sidenote: Numerous Commodities at Fairs]

The time of a fair is carefully calculated. Many merchants spend all
the warmer months journeying with their wares from one fair to another.
Many of the traders at Pontdebois have spent half of June at Lendit,
where "everything is for sale, from carts and horses to fine tapestries
and silver cups." The wares at this present fair are almost equally
extensive, although the selection may be a little less choice. Besides
all kinds of French products, there are booths displaying wonderful
silks from Syria, or possibly only from Venice; there are blazing
Saracen carpets woven in Persia or even remoter lands, while local
dyers and fullers can stock up with Eastern dyestuffs--lovely red from
Damascus, indigo from Jerusalem, and many other colors. You can get
beautiful glass vessels made in Syria or imitated from Oriental models
in Venice. The monks will buy a quantity of the new paper while they
purchase their year's supply of parchment; and Adela will authorize
the St. Aliquis cook to obtain many deniers' worth of precious
spices--pepper, cinnamon, clove, and the rest essential for seasoning
all kinds of dishes, even if their cost is very dear. The spices are
sold by a swarthy, hawk-visaged Oriental who speaks French in quaint
gutturals, is uncouthly dressed, yet is hardly a Jew. It is whispered
he is a downright miscreant--_i.e._, an outrageous Infidel, possibly
not even a Mohammedan. Perhaps he is native to those lands close to the
rising place of the sun whence come the spices. Ought one to deal with
such people? Nevertheless, the spices are desirable and he sells them
cheaper than anybody else. There are many other unfamiliar characters
at the fair, including a negro mountebank, quite a few Germans from the
Rhenish trading cities, and a scattering of so-called Italians, mostly
money changers and venders of luxuries, who, however, seem to be really
Jews that are concealing their unpopular religion for the sake of gain.

After the fair commences, many articles are on sale daily; but
others are exhibited only for a short time. Thus, following the
custom at Troyes, for the first day or two cloths are displayed in
special variety; after that leather goods and furs; then various bulk
commodities, such as salt, medicinal drugs, herbs, raw wool, flax,
etc.; next comes the excitement of a horse and cattle market, when
Conon will be induced to buy for his oldest son a palfrey and for his
farms a blooded bull;[119] and after that various general articles will
hold the right of way.


The Pontdebois masters are required to close their shops and do all
their business at the fair grounds in order that there may be no unjust
competition with the visiting traders. Indeed, all business outside
the fair grounds is strictly forbidden in order to prevent fraudulent
transactions which the bishop's officers cannot suppress. Thus, besides
the costly imported wares, you can get anything you ordinarily want
from the curriers, shoemakers, coppersmiths, hardware, linen, and
garment venders, and the dealers in fish, grain, and even bread.

All this means a chaffering, chattering, and ofttimes a quarreling,
which makes one ask, "Have the days of the Tower of Babel returned?"
The sergeants are always flying about on foot or horseback among the
winding avenues of tents and booths, and frequently drag off some
vagabond for the pillory. They even seize a cut-purse red-handed and
soon give the idlers the brutal pleasure of watching a hanging. There
are a couple of tents where notaries are ready with wax and parchments
to draw up and seal contracts and bargains. Flemish merchants are
negotiating with their Bordeaux compeers to send the latter next year
a consignment of solid linseys; while a Mayence wine dealer is trying
to prove to a seigneur how much his cellars would be improved by a few
tuns of Rheingold, shipped in to mellow after the next vintage.

[Sidenote: Professional Entertainers at Fairs]

Along with all this honest traffic proceed the amusements worthy and
unworthy. There are several exhibitors of trick dogs and performing
bears. In a cage there is a creature called a "lion," though it is
certainly a sick, spiritless, and mangy one; there are also male
and female rope dancers and acrobats, professional story tellers,
professors of white magic, and, of course, jongleurs of varying quality
sawing their viols, or reciting romances and merry _fabliaux_--clever
tales, though often indescribably coarse. There are, in addition (let
the sinful truth be told) perfect swarms of brazen women of an evil
kind; and there is enough heady wine being consumed to fill a brook
into the Claire. The sergeants continually have to separate drunkards
who get to fighting, and to roll their "full brothers"--more completely
overcome--into safe places where they can sleep off their liquor
unkicked by horses and uncrushed by constantly passing carts.

This bustle continues two weeks. By that time everybody who has come
primarily to buy has spent all his money. If he has come to sell,
presumably he is satisfied. The drunkards are at last sad and sober.
"Hare! Hare!" cry the sergeants on the evening of the last day. The
fair is over. The next morning the foreign merchants pack their wares,
strike their tents, and wander off to another market fifty miles
distant, while the Pontdebois traders and industrialists resume their
normal activity. They have stocked up with necessary raw materials for
the year, they have absorbed many new ideas as to how they can make
better wares or trade to more advantage; yet probably most of them are
grumbling against "those Germans and Flemings and Jews whom the bishop
turns loose on us. Blessed saints! how much money they have taken out
of the neighborhood!" But the bishop, when his provost reports the tax
receipts, is extraordinarily well satisfied.


[111] These regulations for a long period were of marked value for
insuring a high grade of workmanship according to traditional methods,
but later they became a most serious impediment to any improvements
in industrial processes. Originality, new designs, and labor-saving
devices were practically prohibited, and some industries were destined
to remain almost stagnant down to the French Revolution.

[112] Among the oldest traceable guilds in Paris were the Master
Chandlers and Oilmen, who received royal privileges in 1061. The
butchers, tanners, shoemakers, drapers, furriers, and purse makers,
were other old Parisian guilds.

[113] The fullers were always suing the weavers. Could the latter, if
they wished, dye the cloth which they themselves had woven? Bakers
were always at law with keepers of small cookshops who baked their own
bread, etc.

[114] Certain saints would naturally be the patrons of certain
particular crafts--_e.g._, St. Joseph of the carpenters, St. Peter of
the fishmongers, etc.

[115] A master could not employ more than one or two paid workers, lest
he build up too big a business and ruin his competitors. The guild
system seems deliberately contrived to perpetuate the existence of a
great number of _very small_ industries.

[116] The extreme difficulty of collecting loans made to powerful
seigneurs went far to explain these astonishing rates of interest. The
chances of an unfriended Jew being unable to collect any part of his
loan were extremely great. As a rule his hopes lay in becoming the
indispensable man of business and financier of a king or other great
lord who would support him in recovering principal and interest from
lesser debtors, in return for great favors to himself. Thus Richard
I of England is alleged to have made the Jews settled in his realm
furnish nearly _one third_ of his entire revenues, as recompense for
allowing them to use his courts to collect from their private debtors.

[117] Mediæval coinages varied to such an extreme extent that it is
almost impossible to make correct general statements about their modern
values. In the time of Philip Augustus, probably the North French money
table was something like this:

1 pound (livre)--2 marks--20 (earlier 24) sous--240 deniers--4760 obols.

A sou, merely a money of account, was equal to about 20 modern francs
($3.86 gold), and the denier, a regular coin, to about one franc (19.3
cents, gold). The copper obols were thus worth about one cent. But
money in the Feudal Age had a purchasing power equal to at least ten
times what it is to-day, and attempts at close estimating are decidedly

[118] The courts of Champagne took particular pains to assure merchants
of honest treatment and protection, and their fairs were unusually
successful. Champagne, of course, by its central location between the
Seine and the Rhine, the Midi and Flemish lands, was exceedingly well
placed to attract merchants.

[119] Frequently, however, the cattle markets might be held at special
seasons entirely apart from the general fairs.

Chapter XXIII: The Lord Bishop. The Canons. The Parish Clergy.

After Conon and his baroness have soiled their gentle blood by
discreet trafficking at the Pontdebois fair, the seigneur must needs
pay a ceremonious call upon the lord bishop. He might indeed have
accepted lodgings at the episcopal palace, but it is well not to be
put under too many obligations even to so conciliatory a prelate as
Bishop Nivelon. Between the lay and ecclesiastical lords there are
compliments, but little affection. Both unite in despising the villein
and distrusting the monks, but there the harmony often ends.

The lord bishop occupies almost the apex of the ecclesiastical power,
barring only the Pope and his cardinals; and all the lay world ought to
honor the clergy. A familiar story illustrates the recognition due even
to the humbler churchmen. Once St. Martin was asked to sup with the
emperor. He was offered the cup before it was passed to the sovereign.
This was a great honor. He was supposed merely to touch the vessel to
his lips, then hand it on to his Majesty. Instead, to the surprise yet
admiration of all, he gave it to a poor priest standing behind him,
thereby teaching the plain lesson that a servant of God, even of the
lowest rank, deserves honor above the highest secular potentate.

The clergy is divided into two great sections--the religious (the
monks) and the secular clergy who are "in the world" and have the "cure
of souls." The parish priests belong, of course, to this second class.
They celebrate mass and administer the sacraments and consolations of
religion. They are possibly reckoned by the laity a little less holy
than the monks, but their power is incalculable. At their head in each
diocese (ecclesiastical province) is the bishop. Since the wealth
of the Church embraces at least one fifth of all the real estate of
France[120] and the control of this vast property is largely vested in
the bishops, it is easy to see what holding such an office implies.
There is no seigneur in Quelqueparte so rich as Bishop Nivelon, barring
only the duke himself--and the duke would justly hesitate, quite apart
from feelings of piety, to force a quarrel with so great a spiritual


Restored by Viollet-Le-Duc, from an ivory in the Louvre.]

[Sidenote: Activities and Privileges of Clergy]

It will be hard for other ages to realize the part that is played
by the Church in the feudal centuries. The clergy are far more than
spiritual guides. They are directors of education and maintain about
all there is of intellectual life, science, and learning. They help
the weak secular authorities to preserve law and order. They supply
practically all the teachers, lawyers, and professional nonfeudal
judges in Christendom, and very many of the physicians. As already
stated, that multitude of legal cases known as "probate," involving the
disposal of wide estates, often go directly to the Church Courts.

If an ordinary man appears interested in literary matters, he is
frequently set down as a "clerk," even if he does not openly claim to
have received holy orders. It is indeed very desirable legally for a
common person (not a privileged noble) to be barely literate. If he can
do this and is arrested on any charge, he can often "plead his clergy."
The test is not to produce a certificate showing that he is a priest or
monk, but to be able to read a few lines from the Bible or other sacred
book. If he can read these fateful "neck verses," he may sometimes
escape a speedy interview with the hangman. He is then ordinarily
handed over to the bishop or the bishop's official (judicial officer)
and tried according to the merciful and scientific canon law, which,
whatever the offense, will seldom or never order the death penalty,
save for heresy.[121] The worst to be feared is a long imprisonment in
the uncomfortable dungeon under the bishop's palace.

With conditions like this, what wonder if very worldly elements keep
intruding into the secular clergy. Many a baron's son balances in
his mind--which is better, the seigneur's "cap of presence" or the
bishop's miter? The bishop, indeed, cannot marry; but the Church is
not always very stern in dealing with other forms of social enjoyment.
Sometimes a powerful reforming Pope will make the prelates affect a
monkish austerity--but the next Pope may prove too busy to be insistent
concerning "sins of the flesh." A great fraction of all the bishops are
the sons of noble houses. Merely becoming tonsured has not made them
into saints. They are the children of fighting sires, and they bring
into the Church much of the turbulence of their fathers and brothers in
the castles.


From an enameled plaque representing Ulger, bishop of Angers
(1125-1149). He wears the albe, the dalmatica, the chasuble, the amice,
and the miter. He blesses with the right hand, an attitude in which
bishops are often represented.]

[Sidenote: Election of Bishops]

Certainly, men of humble birth can become prelates. It is one of
the glories of the Church that, thanks to her, the children of poor
villeins can receive the homage of the great in this world. Pope
Sylvester II was the son of a mere shepherd of Aurillac. Suger, the
mighty abbot of St. Denis and vice gerent for Louis VI, was the son
of an actual serf. Pope Hadrian IV, the only Englishman who has ever
mounted the throne of St. Peter, seems to have had an origin hardly
more exalted. All this shows what fortune can sometimes await bright
and lucky boys who enter betimes the convent schools instead of
following the plow.[122] But Heaven seldom reverses the natural order.
As a rule, when a noble enters the church, family influence and the
social prestige of his caste will get behind him. He is far more likely
to be elected bishop and to enjoy the seats of glory than are his
fellow clerics, learned and devout, who have no such backing.

Nivelon of Pontdebois is an example of the average bishop of the
superior kind. He was the second son of a sire of moderate means.
Family influence secured him, while fairly young, the appointment
as canon at the cathedral. The old bishop conveniently happened to
die at a time when both the duke and his suzerain, the king, thought
well of the young canon and were anxious to conciliate his relatives.
Nivelon, too, had displayed sufficient grasp on business affairs, along
with real piety, to make men say that he would prove a worthy "prince
spiritual." The canons (with whom the choice nominally lay) made haste
to elect him after a broad hint from both the duke and the king.
Confirmation was obtained from Rome after negotiations and possibly
some money transfers.[123] Since then Nivelon has ruled his diocese
well. He has been neither a great theologian nor a man of letters, as
are certain contemporaneous bishops, nor a self-seeking politician and
a mitered warrior like others. There have been no scandalous luxuries
at his palace, and he has never neglected his duties--which none can
deny are numerous.

There is plenty of excuse for Nivelon if he allows religious tasks
to be swamped by secular ones. He apparently differs largely from a
seigneur in that his interests and obligations are more complex. On his
direct domains are parish churches, abbeys, farms, peasant villages,
and forests which he must rule by his officials and provosts just as
Conon rules St. Aliquis. He has many noble fiefs which owe him homage
and regular feudal duties in peace and war. His knightly vassals wait
on him, as do regular lieges, and are bound on state occasions to carry
him through his cathedral city seated on his episcopal throne. He does
not himself do ordinary homage to the king, but he must take to him a
solemn oath of fealty, and assist with armed levies on proper summons.
There are many clergy around his palace, but also a regular baronial
household--seneschal, steward, chamberlain, marshal, and equerry,
though not, as with the laxer prelates, a master of the hawks.

So much for Monseigneur Nivelon's temporal side; but, since he is a
self-respecting prelate, his ecclesiastical office is no sinecure.
He has to ordain and control all the parish priests (curés), and
spends much of his time inspecting the rural churches and listening
to complaints against offending priests, suspending and punishing the
guilty. Indeed, his days are consumed by a curious mixture of duties.
Just before Conon ceremoniously calls upon him he has been listening
first to a complaint from a castellan about the need of new trenchbuts
for the defense of a small castle pertaining to the bishopric, and then
to the report of his "official" concerning a disorderly priest accused
of blaspheming the Trinity while in his cups in a tavern.

[Sidenote: Ecclesiastical Duties of Bishops]

Once a year Nivelon has to hold a synod in the choir of his cathedral.
All the nonmonastic clergy of the diocese are supposed to be present,
and he has to preach before them, stating home truths about Christian
conduct and administering public reprimands and discipline. Often
his routine is interrupted by the commands of the king that he, as a
well-versed man of the world, shall come to Paris to give counsel,
or even go to England or Flanders as the royal ambassador. If the
king does not demand his time, the Pope is likely to be using him to
investigate some disorderly abbey,[124] or as arbiter between two
wrangling fellow ecclesiastics. It would be lucky if a summons did
not presently come, ordering the bishop to take the very tedious and
expensive journey to Rome to assist at some council (such as the
Lateran Council of 1215) or be party to some long-drawn litigation.


From the tomb of Evrard de Frouilloy, bishop of Amiens, died in 1229
and was buried in the cathedral of that city. He wears beneath the
albe, the chasuble.]

A conscientious bishop can, indeed, be no idler. If he has any spare
time he can always spend it sitting as judge in cases which if he is
compelled to be absent he deputes to his official. The canon law is far
more scientific than local customs. Nivelon, or his deputy, has also
a clear understanding of issues which will leave even so well-meaning
a seigneur as Conon hopelessly befuddled. The Church courts refuse
to settle cases by duels. As a rule, too, they discourage ordeals,
despite the alleged intervention of God therein. Trials in the
bishop's court betake of inquests based on firm evidence taken before
experienced judges. The result is that many honest suitors try to
get their cases before the Church tribunals--and, as stated, the
jurisdiction of the Church is very wide. A bishop, therefore, if he
wishes, can put in almost his whole time playing the Solomon; or,
if he prefer, he can almost always find the estates of the diocese
enmeshed in financial problems which it will tax his best energies to

All these things Nivelon is supposed to do or must get done. What
wonder (considering mortal frailty) that many men who seek the
episcopate for temporal advantage often bring their great office
into contempt? It is true that sometimes very worldly young clerics,
when once elected, are sobered by their responsibilities and become
admirable prelates. There is a story of a college of canons which
decided to elect to the vacant bishopric a fellow member "who was
excellent in mother wit," but who, when they sought him to tell of
his honor, was actually dicing in a tavern. Forth they dragged him,
"weeping and struggling," to the cathedral, and thrust him into the
episcopal chair. Once enthroned, however, he proved sober and capable,
thus proving how, despite his original sins, "the free gift of virtue
which had come upon him (by consecration) shaped the possibilities of
an excellent nature."

[Sidenote: Evil and Luxurious Prelates]

This is all very well, but the sacred honor does not always work
such reformation. The monks never conceal the faults of the rival
branch of the clergy. A monkish preacher has lately declaimed: "The
bishops surpass as wolves and foxes. They bribe and flatter in order
to extort. Instead of being protectors of the Church, they are its
ravishers." Or again, "Jesus wore hair cloth; they silken vestments.
They care not for souls, but for falcons; not for the poor, but for
hunting dogs. The churches from being holy places have become market
places and haunts for brigands." Most of this is mere rhetoric,
and such sweeping generalizations are unjust. If the majority of
bishops are not ascetics, neither are they rapacious libertines.
Nevertheless, even as one ill-ruled abbey brings contempt on many
austere establishments, so a few faithless bishops bring scandal on the
whole episcopate. Some years ago Pope Innocent III had to denounce a
South French bishop as "serving no other God but money, and having a
purse in place of a heart." This wretch was charged with selling Church
offices, or leaving them vacant in order to seize their incomes, while
the monks and canons under him (says the Pope) "were laying aside the
habit, taking wives, living by usury, and becoming lawyers, jongleurs,
or doctors."[125]

Acts like these have forced the Council of Paris in 1212 to forbid
bishops to wear laymen's garments or luxurious furs; to use decorated
saddles or golden horse bits, to play games of chance, to go hunting,
to swear or let their servants swear, to hear matins while still in
bed, or excommunicate innocent people out of mere petulance. Bishops,
too, are not supposed to bear arms, but we have seen how they sometimes
compromise on "bloodless" heavy maces. Nivelon occasionally lets a
secular advocate or vidame lead his feudal levy, but at times he will
ride in person. A bishop, of course, was King Philip's chief of staff
at Bouvines,[126] although in excuse it should be said he had been the
member of a military monastic order; but Bishop Odo of Bayeux fought
at Hastings (1066) before any such authorized champions of the Church
existed. One need not multiply examples. That bishops shall genuinely
refrain from warfare is really a "pious wish" not easily in this sinful
world to be granted.

A bishop can, however, justify this assertion of the Church militant.
He must fight to maintain the rights of the bishopric against the
encroaching nobility. Around the royal domain conditions are reasonably
secure, but here in Quelqueparte, as elsewhere in the average feudal
principalities, it is useless to ask the suzerain to do very much to
defend his local bishop, the two are so likely to be very unfriendly
themselves. Anathemas cannot check the more reckless seigneurs. In
1208 the Bishop of Verdun was killed in a riot by a lance thrust, and
in this very year 1220 the Bishop of Puy (in the south of France) has
been slain by noblemen whom he had excommunicated. The murderers have
doubtless lost their souls, but this fact does not recall the dead!
Jongleurs (who echo baronial prejudices) are always making fun of
bishops, in their epics alleging that they lead scandalous lives and
are extraordinarily avaricious, even when summoned to contribute for
a war against the Infidels. The truth is, the bishops, being often
recruited from the nobility, frequently keep all their old fighting
spirit. The bishop opposes a neighboring viscount, just as the viscount
will oppose his other neighbor, a baron. Frequently enough the war
between a bishop and a lay seigneur differs in no respect from a
normal feud between two seigneurs who have never been touched by
tonsure and chrism.

[Sidenote: Friction with Abbots and Barons]

There are other frictions less bloody, but even more distressing to the
Church. If there is an exempt abbey in the diocese--independent of the
bishop and taking orders from only the Pope--the abbot and the bishop
are often anything but "brethren." Each is continually complaining
about the other to the Vatican. However, even if the local abbey is not
directly under the Pope, its head is likely to defy the bishop as much
as possible. Abbots are always trying to put themselves on equality
with bishops and intriguing at Rome for the right to wear episcopal
sandals, a miter, etc. So the strength of the Church is wasted, to
the great joy of the devil. It is counted a sign that the Bishop of
Pontdebois and the Abbot of St. Aliquis are both superior prelates,
that their relations are reasonably harmonious.

However, it is with the nobles that Nivelon has his main troubles.
One of the reasons why Conon wishes to see the bishop is to complain
of how certain St. Aliquis peasants are being induced to settle on
the Church lands. Villeins somehow feel that they are better treated
by a bishop or abbot than by the most benevolent of seigneurs. "There
is good living under the cross," runs the proverb. Also, the baron
wishes to urge the bishop not to excommunicate a fellow noble who is
at issue with the prelate over some hunting rights. It is all very
well for the bishop to devote to the evil one and the eternal fire a
really sacrilegious criminal. The fact remains that many nobles allege
that they are excommunicated, and unless reinstated lose their very
hopes of heaven, merely because they have differed from great churchmen
as to extremely secular property questions. The fearful ceremony of
excommunication is liable to fall into contempt except when used in
the most undoubted cases. A resolute baron, sure of his cause, can defy
the anathema and, if his followers stand by him, may hold out until he
forces a compromise.

If the struggle is bitter, however, the bishop has another weapon.
He can put the offending seigneur's lands and castles under the
Interdict. Doubtless it is a harsh thing to deny all religious services
and sacraments, save the last unction to the dying, to thousands of
innocent persons merely because their lord persists in some worldly
policy. Yet this is done frequently, and is, of course, of great
efficacy in getting pious people, and especially the womenfolk, to
put pressure upon their seigneur to come to terms with the Church.
Sometimes an "intermittent" interdict is established. Thus, for a long
time the Count and the Bishop of Auxerre were at enmity. The count, a
hardened scoffer, was no wise troubled by excommunication. Then the
bishop ordained that as soon as the count entered the city of Auxerre
all the offices of religion, except baptism and last unction, should
be suspended. The moment he and his men departed the church bells rang
and religious life resumed. The instant he returned there was more
bell ringing--whereat the churches were closed. The count did not dare
to stay very long in the city, because of popular murmurs; yet he and
the bishop kept up this unedifying war for fifteen years until the
Pope induced the king to induce the count to submit to the Church by a
humiliating penance.

Excommunication and interdict are thus weapons which a lord spiritual
can use against a lord temporal, to supplement crossbows and lances.
Unfortunately they have fewer terrors against foes which all bishops,
including Nivelon, have within their own household--the chapters of
canons at the cathedrals.

[Sidenote: A Chapter of Canons]

To be a canon is almost equal to enjoying the perquisites of some less
valuable bishopric without the grievous cares of the episcopal office.
The chapter of canons constitutes the privileged body of ecclesiastics
who maintain the worship at the cathedral.

As you go through Pontdebois you see the great gray mass of the new
episcopal church rising ahead of you. Presently a solid wall is
reached, protected by a gate and towers. This is the cathedral "close,"
a separate compound next to the majestic church and communicating with
it by a special entrance. Within this close one passes under strictly
ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Here is a pretentious residence, the
bishop's palace, and a pleasant garden, and here is also a group of
smaller houses--the habitations of the canons. These last form the
chapter of canons who enjoy as a corporate body a quantity of lands,
seigneurial rights, officers, and goodly income quite separate from the
bishops. Supposedly they are controlled by a Rule, but it is a rule far
less severe than that of most monks.

The chapter here, as elsewhere, is largely recruited from the local
noble houses. Church law nominally forbids it, but the fact remains
that many, if not most, canons are practically nominated, whenever
there is a vacancy in the chapter, by this or that powerful seigneur.
To get a relative a prebend (income from endowment) as canon is often
equivalent to providing for life for a kinsman to whom you might
otherwise have to cede a castle. It is well understood that since years
ago a baron of St. Aliquis endowed with large gifts a certain prebend,
his successors have the naming of its occupants, as often as it falls
vacant. After Conon has visited the bishop, he will pay a friendly
call on "his canon," not without a certain desire to verify the reports
that this elderly cleric is in poor health and not long for the present
world. If such rumors are correct, the baron must consider whether
a certain remote cousin feels summoned to endure the hardships of a
religious life, and what substantial favors this ambitious cousin and
his father could give Conon for the privilege.

A canon who performs _all_ his duties is hardly idle. He is supposed to
take part in the incessant and often extraordinarily elaborate services
at every cathedral. He should possess a good physical presence, and
intone the offices with elegance and precision. Every week day he has
to chant through five services, and on Sunday through nine. On certain
great feasts and holidays there are still more. Anthems, responses,
psalms, prayers, hymns, also public processions should keep him turning
leaves of the ponderous ordinaries and manuals until he knows every
chant therein by heart.

[Sidenote: Worldliness of Canons]

It is possible, however, to find substitutes in all the less important
services. There are plenty of humbly born poor priests hovering around
every cathedral, glad of a pittance to act as the lordly canon's
deputies. A worldly minded canon therefore does not feel this duty of
chanting to be very arduous. Of course, if he is absent too often,
or from very important ceremonies, there is comment, scandal, and a
reprimand from the bishop; but a wise bishop does not interfere with
his canons except on grave provocation. They form an independent
corporation with well-intrenched privileges. Their head, the dean, is
entirely conscious that he is the second cleric in the diocese and
that he need not look to the bishop for dignity and glory. The bishop
himself has been to a certain extent chosen by these very canons. It
will depend considerably upon their attitude toward him whether his
dying moments are not embittered by the knowledge that his dearest
enemy is not to be elected his successor. Finally, a chapter of canons
can make a bishop's life a Gehenna by filing complaints against him
with the archbishop (always glad to interfere), or directly at Rome.
When men say that Nivelon has got along tolerably with his chapter as
well as with his neighboring abbot and seigneurs, they prove again that
he is an unusually tactful prelate.

It is a fine thing, therefore, to be one of the dozen-odd canons,
young or old, who inhabit the sacred close at Pontdebois. They can be
identified by their special costume, the loose surplice of linen with
wide sleeves covering the cassock, and by the "amice," a headdress of
thick black stuff with a flat top and terminating on each corner in a
kind of horn.

Baron Conon points out to his sons these well-fed men of florid
complexion, contented and portly, moving with slow dignity about the
cathedral close. "How would you enjoy being a canon?" he asks of small
Anseau, his youngest boy. "There are no better dinners than those in
the chapter refectory; and remember that your brother will have to get
the castle."

Anseau shakes his head and scowls: "I might be a monk, yes," he
rejoined; "monks save their souls and go to heaven--but a canon--ugh!
They must weary God by their idleness. François may have St. Aliquis;
but let him give me a good destrer and good armor. I will seek my
fortune and win new lands."

"The saints bless your words," cries his father, "there spoke a true
St. Aliquis! And remember this: When cavalier or jongleur rails hardest
against worthless churchmen, it is not bishop, priest, or monk whom
half the time they have in their pates, but slothful canons. Yet I
must see the Revered Father Flavien, and learn if his cough _is_ really
as bad as they say!"

Nivelon secures peace by letting his canons largely alone--to their
great content. Fortunately, the good laymen of Quelqueparte do not
depend entirely upon their spiritual administrations. The "cure of
souls" rests with the parish priests. These are scattered all through
the diocese. Their management takes up a large part of the bishop's
crowded time.


He wears an albe, the dalmatica, the amice, the stole, and the maniple.
From a statue in the cathedral of Chartres.]

[Sidenote: Appointment of Parish Priests]

Every church requires at least one priest in residence to say mass
and afford religious comfort to the laity. If competent bishops
could always have appointed this clergy, much sorrow would have been
eliminated. Unfortunately, the bishop can only name a fraction.
Practically every noncathedral church has its patron, the heir or
beneficiary of the wealthy personage who once endowed the local
establishment. This patron may be the bishop himself, but often the
honor may be enjoyed by an abbey, or a chapter of canons, or, in a
majority of cases, by some very secular seigneur. Conon will say. "I
hold the patronage of eight churches," just as he will say, "I hold
St. Aliquis castle." The patron is entitled to a share of the tithe
(tax for religious purposes) and other income of the parish, before
turning the remainder over to the officiating priest. He can, in
addition, "present to the living"--that is, name the new curé for
the parish upon every vacancy. The bishop is supposed, indeed, to
confirm the candidate, and should not do so without investigation as
to the other's fitness, but he will hesitate to offend the patron by
refusal to proceed with the ceremony unless the impediment is gross and
patent. The candidate is asked to decline a Latin noun, to conjugate
a simple verb, to chant a few familiar psalms with fair voice--that
is probably about all the test for learning. To make matters worse,
if the candidate fears his own bishop, he can go to another diocese
and probably get a licence from a less exacting prelate. A bishop is
obliged to honor the certificate issued by his equal. He can seldom
then refuse after that to invest the priest with the parish.

The last stage of scandal comes when the patron actually takes money
for presenting a candidate. This is, of course, a terrible crime
against the Church: it is simony--after the fashion of the accursed
Simon Magnus, who was guilty of trying to purchase "the gift of
God with money." Nivelon has just had to induct into a parish an
ill-taught, worldly fellow, the son of a rich peasant, who somehow
persuaded the Viscount of Foretvert that he was fit to have the
spiritual conduct of five hundred Christians. The bishop has heard
ugly rumors about "two hundred deniers," yet for lack of real proof is
helpless. It is feared these scandals are frequent, but many times, if
candidate and seigneur are willing to imperil their souls, what can be

As a rule, however, conscientious patrons name well-reputed lads from
their barony, the sons of thrifty peasants or of petty nobles, who have
been to the school attached to a convent or cathedral, and who have
developed an aptitude for saying masses rather than for plowing or
fighting. The favor is bestowed rather as a reward for faithful service
by the youth's family or to insure the same in the future, than for
any direct money consideration. To be a parish priest is not a very
high honor. After the patron has taken his share of the tithe, and the
bishop another share, the curé is likely to be left with barely enough
income to put him among the better class of peasants.

Yet, after all, he is now caught up into the great body politic of
the Church. The latter will not let him starve. It will give him a
decent old age. It will protect him against those gross cruelties
which seigneurs may inflict on any peasant. It will make him the most
important individual in the average village--often the only person
therein understanding the mysteries of parchments. If he is a worthy
man, his influence as counselor, friend, and arbiter will be almost
boundless. He will receive a personal respect almost equal to that due
to a cavalier. Finally, there is always the chance that he may win some
magnate's favor, and by good luck or merit rise to greater things.
Father Grégoire, Conon's chaplain, although nominally only a poor
priest, is probably more influential in St. Aliquis than Sire Eustace,
the seneschal--Conon sometimes complains good naturedly that he is
more powerful than Conon himself. So then, apart from any desire for
strictly religious leadership, it is no bad thing for a lad of humble
origin to be appointed parish priest.

[Sidenote: Evil and Faithful Priests]

If, however, to receive a parish means not a holy trust, but a sordid
opportunity, what a chance for making the fiends rejoice! Every
jongleur, when he runs out of more legitimate stories, chatters about
godless priests. Charges against the parish clergy are the small
coin of filthy gossip--how they violate their vows of celibacy in
a shameless manner; how they frequent taverns, take part in low
brawls, drink "up to their throats," and lie torpid in the fields; how
they fight with their parishioners; how they sell strong drink like
tapsters; how they play dice, gamble and often cheat their opponents,

Another set of charges is that if their means admit, they wear armor
like nobles, or dress like foppish laymen, and ride out with hawks or
dogs. More familiar still are the accusations of extreme covetousness;
of the outrageous exaction of fees for administering the sacraments,
even to the dying; of performing shameless marriages for money; of
refusing burial services until they have been bribed; and, in short, of
converting themselves into financial harpies.

All this is undeniable. Yet it must be remembered that the number
of parish clergy is very great, and the proportion of evildoers is
(considering their manner of appointment) no more than might be
expected. Many of the parish priests are true ministers of God who
counsel the simple, persuade the erring, comfort the sorrowing, and
leave the world better than they found it. A few, too, spend their
leisure in genuine pursuit of learning, like that Father Lambert
of Ardes (in Flanders) who is deeply read in old Latin authors
and Christian fathers and who has composed an excellent local
chronicle--worthy to rank with the best produced in the monasteries.

Taken, therefore, at large, despite much dross, the men of the Church
do not cast away their great opportunity. If alms and charity relieve
the wretched, if letters and science have a genuine power, if the world
retains other ideals than those of the tourney, the feud, and the
foray, if villeins are taught that they, too, are men with immortal
souls no less than are the barons, the glory belongs surely not to
the castle, but to the monastery and to the parish. And when a good
churchman dies, especially, of course, if he has been an effective and
benignant bishop, all the region knows its loss. When the late Bishop
of Auxerre departed, it was written, "It would be impossible to tell
how great was the mourning throughout the entire city, and with what
groaning and lamentations sorrow was shown by all who followed his
funeral." While of the great and good Bishop Maurice of Paris, builder
of Notre Dame, it was recorded, when he passed in 1196, that "he was
a vessel of affluence, a fertile olive tree in the house of the Lord.
He shone by his knowledge, his preaching, his many alms, and his good

Like every other institution, the Church of the Feudal Age is entitled
to be judged by its best and not by its worst.


[120] _One third_ of the real estate of Germany was alleged to
have belonged to the church. Of course, much of this belonged to
monasteries, to the endowments of canons (cathedral clergy), or of the
parish priests, etc., but the bishops assuredly enjoyed or at least
controlled the lion's share.

[121] In the case of heretics, the Church did not execute the offenders
by its own officers. It merely "relaxed" them to secular officials,
who at once put the old civil laws against misbelievers in force. Of
course, the Church could not secure the immunity of traitors and great
criminals, yet even those were usually treated more tenderly if they
could claim ecclesiastical jurisdiction.

[122] One could go on multiplying such cases. For example, Maurice of
Sully, who was bishop of Paris under Philip Augustus, was the son of
a poor peasant. He managed his diocese admirably and bequeathed not
merely considerable wealth to his relatives, but large properties to
two abbeys and also funds for poor relief.

[123] The question of the technical relations at this time of both
Papacy and royalty to the appointment and investiture of French bishops
is one that must be left for more detailed and learned volumes.

[124] Some abbeys would be directly under the bishop and liable to
visitation and discipline by him at any time. Others would be supposed
to be directly under the authority of the Pope (see p. 326) but the
Vatican would often send orders to a competent bishop to investigate
and act on charges against them.

[125] Manasses (a great cleric, chancellor of the chapter of Amiens)
caused himself to be represented on his seal not holding a pious book,
as was usual, but in hunting costume on horseback, a bird on his wrist
and a dog following. He was evidently a worldly noble "who had the
tastes of his class and led a noble's life."

[126] See p. 244.

Chapter XXIV: The Cathedral and Its Builders.

Baron Conon and Adela had still another duty ere they returned to St.
Aliquis. They were fain to go with their sons, and each burn a tall
candle before the altar of Our Lady in the cathedral. All dwellers
near Pontdebois are intensely proud of their great church. It has been
building now these forty years. At last it is fairly complete, although
the left tower has still to be carried up to the belfry, and very many
niches lack the sculptured saints presently to occupy them. A worthy
cathedral, like a worthy character, is growing continually. Probably
the Feudal Age will end before Notre Dame de Pontdebois is completed as
its pious designers have intended.[127]

The cathedral is the center for a large group of buildings whereof
most are in the noble pointed (Gothic) style of architecture. As just
explained, in the sacred close there is the bishop's palace and the
houses of the canons; there are also a cloister for promenading, a
school (much like that at the monastery), a room for a library, and
a synodal hall for meetings of the canons and where the bishop can
conduct litigation. There is, in addition, a hospital for sick clerics.
The whole forms a little world sequestered from the uproar and sordid
bustle of the marts and workshops of Pontdebois. As you enter the
cathedral compound, exterior cares are suddenly left behind you--a
great sense of peace is realized. One hears the wind softly whistling
through the soaring tracery of the massive right tower. There is a
whirring flutter of doves from their homes under the flying buttresses.
Through a section opened in the floral tracery of a great window comes
the rumbling of an organ and the deep Gregorian chant of some hymn
from the psalter. Utter contrast it all is either to the hammering and
chaffering of the city, or the equally worldly clatter of the castle
court! The vast tower pointing upward speaks even to the thoughtless,
"Fortress and city, trade and tourney endure only for the instant--the
things of the Spirit abide forever."

The cathedral, by its vast and soaring bulk, completely dwarfs the
comparatively small and mean houses of the town. They are of thatch
and wood. It is of stone. They lack even a tawdry magnificence. The
cathedral could gaze with contempt on royal palaces. This fact teaches
even more clearly than words the enormous place occupied by the
Church in the Feudal Age. It is not by its literature and learning
(though these are not to be despised), but _by its sacred architecture
and sculpture_ that the spirit of this era displays its power and
originality. In contemplating so magnificent a fabric, it is best
to remember that it is the work of men of ardent faith, profoundly
convinced that in the church building there dwells continually upon the
high altar God himself, invisible but ever present. Squalid dwellings
may suffice for man, but not for the Creator. And since God actually
takes his abode in such an edifice, every art must contribute to its
splendor. Architects, sculptors, painters, jewelers, all perform their
best, each rendering his homage to the Eternal. The cathedral,
therefore, sums up all that is noblest in the art of the time when it
is erected.


From the restoration of M. Hoffbauer. At the left the Petit-Pont and
the buildings of the archbishop's palace, destroyed in 1831; the
cathedral, of which the choir and the south transept were finished only
at this date; behind the cathedral, on the ground occupied to-day by a
public garden, was the church of Saint-Denis du Pas, built previous to
the cathedral and destroyed in 1813.]

Since the nave of such a church often can be used for secular mass
meetings without fear of impiety, and since a whole countryside
will claim the right to throng the edifice on great festival days,
a cathedral has to be far larger than an ancient pagan temple.[128]
It must possess an interior meet for elaborate processions, stopping
often at each of twenty-odd altars lining its walls. To erect a
building like this is an undertaking in which a whole countryside can
be asked to join. About forty years ago the old cathedral, built in
the ancient Romanesque (round-arched) style with a wooden roof, was
falling into disrepair, and the new pointed, stone-vaulted architecture
was developing through all France. People from regions round made
remarks about the "impiety" of the clergy and folk near Pontdebois
in "dishonoring heaven." Various prelates taunted the ruling Bishop
Thibaut with his mean cathedral. This Thibaut, however, had been
an energetic as well as a devout man. By prudent administration of
the diocese he had saved considerable money. He next persuaded his
canons to curtail their luxuries and to contribute generously. Means,
too, were taken to lure money from the faithful. The holy relics
were exhibited. Indulgence from purgatory was promised to donors.
Conscience-stricken barons were urged to atone for their crimes by
liberal gifts to the new enterprise. Civic pride and excited piety won
the deniers from the Pontdebois trade and industrial masters. A rich
countess left a notable legacy on condition that the canons should
always pray for her soul on the anniversary of her death. So between
coaxing and religious feeling a goodly fund was collected--and, as was
wisely said, "the new cathedral has saved many souls"--meaning that
many sinful people were happily moved to redeeming acts of generosity.
There were even gifts, it is said, from brigands and evil women,
likewise a good many less debatable presents in kind, as when a baron
gave both the necessary oak and the pay of the carvers for making the
magnificent choir stalls, besides presenting the great stained-glass
rose window. Whatever the source, no donation was denied, the bishop
counting it fortunate if even the booty of thieves could be turned to
the glory of God.

[Sidenote: Building the Cathedral]

Bishop Thibaut found a skillful architect, a Norman, half cleric, half
layman, who had assisted on one of the great churches at Rouen. The
plans this man drew up were very elaborate, but he did not live to see
them more than half executed. Even if workmen and money failed not,
it was dangerous to rush the erection of the great piers, buttresses,
and vaulted ceilings. At Auxerre, where they tried to hasten the work,
much of the choir suddenly collapsed "like a crash of thunder," though
Heaven mercifully prevented the loss of life. At Noyon they began to
build in 1152. Their cathedral was nearly finished by 1200. Notre Dame
de Paris was begun in 1163, and the choir was fairly completed by 1177;
but the great towers and façade certainly cannot be finished before
1225. Rheims was begun in 1211, but undoubtedly even the work on the
choir cannot be ended under thirty years from that date. If Pontdebois
is reasonably complete after forty years of effort it is therefore
being built more expeditiously than the average cathedral. Indeed,
many wiseacres shake their heads. "Too much haste," they mutter; "when
one builds for God and in order to last till His Judgment Day, it is
very sinful to hurry."

First the choir was finished with all energy possible, for here the
canons must constantly chant their offices. The nave, which was more
for popular gatherings, waited till later. There was great rejoicing
when at last the main portal was so far completed that a very fine and
tenderly carved statue of Christ could be set above the same. "_Our
beautiful God!_" the people lovingly call the image; and from that
time, year by year, the work went forward, every member or ornament
that was added seeming to suggest something additional, as if the
achieving of perfection were to be a work for eternity.

[Sidenote: Cathedral a Natural Growth]

To erect the main structure of his cathedral, Thibaut had called in a
traveling fraternity of workmen, the Lodging-House Keepers of the Good
God, who obeyed the Master of the Work--_i.e._, an architect. They
would stay for years in one place, recruiting new members as old ones
died, then moving elsewhere when no longer needed. This fraternity
erected the main structure of the building; then Thibaut passed away,
money failed, and enthusiasm somewhat lapsed. However, twenty years
later, a new fraternity were put to work on the façade and towers. This
was more delicate work, involving a great deal of skillful carving.
They were obliged to stop again before completion had been attained.
Probably a score of years hence, still another such fraternity will
raise the second tower. Meantime, every year, a few skillful craftsmen,
sustained by donations, add a statue here and a gargoyle yonder, put
richly painted glass into another window, or complete the intricate
carving around the railing to the pulpit stairs. Now and then there
is a special exhibition of relics to attract worshipers and their
alms.[129] One of the results is that the style of the different parts
of the cathedral differs subtly according to the respective periods of
their construction. There is not a contradiction, but only a pleasing
variety. One feels that _the cathedral is something living_. It has
come into being, not by arbitrary creation, but by a natural growth;
like a mighty, comfort-spreading tree.


As we wander about this glorious fabric, with its hundreds of
statues,[130] its blazing windows, its vaulted roof which hangs its
massive weight of stone so safely above our heads, all attempts at
detailed description become futile. Let them be left for other books
and other moods. Later generations doubtless will record at great
length that about the middle of the twelfth century a great activity
in church building, as a surpassing work of Christian piety, began to
manifest itself especially in northern France. This activity was not
to spend itself for more than a hundred years.[131] It absorbed much
of the best thought and energy of the time. In addition, it developed
a genuinely new type of architecture, a real innovation upon those
models traceable back to the pagan Greek. We come to the reign of the
pointed arch which adapts itself to endless curves and varieties. We
have, too, the grouped columns which uphold the groins of the lofty
vaulting, their members radiating outward like the boughs of a stately
forest. These columns and piers can be made amazingly light, thanks to
the daring use of flying buttresses, an invention not merely of great
utility, but of great beauty. Thanks also to these grouped pillars,
groins, and buttresses, the walls between the bays (intervals between
the columns) are in no wise needed to uphold the roof of stone; and as
a result these bays can be filled up with thin curtain walls crowned
above with enormous windows which are filled with a delicate tracery
and a stained glass that throws down upon the pavement of the church
all the rainbow tints of heaven. Each bay is likely to contain a
separate chapel or at least an altar to some particular saint. Over
the portal, where the main entrance gives access to the long nave,
radiates the mighty rose window, the final triumph of the glass and
tracery. And so through all the vast structure--huge in proportions,
yet, as it were, a harmonious mass of fair carving and jewel work,
until (even as says Holy Writ) "the whole body fitly joined together,
and compacted by that which every joint supplyeth, according to the
effectual working in every part, maketh increase of the body unto the
edifying of itself in love."

[Sidenote: Magnificent Dimensions of Cathedrals]

So the apostle of the making of a Christian man, so, too, of the
making of the august church. And after saying this, what profit to add
that this cathedral has a length of about four hundred feet, that the
ceiling of the nave rises at least one hundred feet above the pavement,
that the rose window is nearly forty feet in diameter, that the higher
tower is much more than two hundred?[132] Numbers are for sordid
traffic, they are not for a work wrought out of a passionate love of
man toward God.

We cannot stay to linger over the symbolism which they tell us is in
every part of the church; how the "Communion of Saints" is proclaimed
by the chapels clustering around the choir and nave; how the delicate
spire which rises at the center of the transepts teaches that
"vanquishing earthly desire we should also ascend in heart and mind";
how the triple breadth of the nave and two aisles, likewise the triple
stretch of the choir, transepts and nave, proclaim the Holy Trinity;
and how the serried armies of piers and columns announce the Prophets
and Apostles who uphold the fabric of the Church; while font, altar,
crucifix, and crosses innumerable attest the earthly pilgrimage and
redeeming passion of Jesus Christ.

But the cathedral is more than a great collection of allegories.
Everywhere in stained glass, and still more in the multitudinous
images, is told the Bible story. The characters are not clothed in
Hebraic fashion. "Baron Abraham" and "Sire David" appear in ring mail
like doughty cavaliers. The history of the good warrior Judas Maccabæus
perhaps is told in greater detail than that of prophets like Isaiah and
Jeremiah. But very few important stories are omitted, and, above all,
the great pageant of the life of Jesus is worked out in loving detail.
The child, who is brought time and again to visit the cathedral, knows
almost every essential Bible narrative, albeit he may never learn to
read even French, much less to con the Latin of the Vulgate. Likewise,
in the cathedral rest the tombs of brave seigneurs and worthy bishops,
each covered either with an effigy showing his armor and his beloved
hunting dogs couched at his feet, or in his pontificals; and the tombs
also of noble women, sculptured as richly clad, who have made life
beautiful by their worthy living, and who now rest securely until God's
great Judgment. So the cathedral is both a temple for the hopes of the
present, and an inspiration from the remote and nearer past.[133]

[Sidenote: Stained Glass and Sculptures]

After he had prayed beside his father and mother, little Anseau stole
away from the altar and wandered timidly about the church. In a corner
of a transept he found a stone craftsman completing a small image of
St. Elizabeth to adorn some niche. The sculptor was polishing the back
of the statue no less carefully than the front. "Why such trouble?"
asked the boy curiously. "No one can see the back." "Ah, my fair
damoiseau," replied the other, smiling, "no man, of course; _but God
can see_. This is for the Cathedral; and is God 'no one'?"

The next day, having spent all their money and become wearied of the
mechanic bustle of Pontdebois, Baron Conon and his company rode back to
St. Aliquis. After they had traveled for miles, the great mass of the
cathedral was still visible behind them.

The Feudal Age has produced very much that is evil--it has also
produced the Gothic church and its builders. By which ought the epoch
be judged?

Seven hundred years afterward the donjon of St. Aliquis is an
ivy-covered ruin. Vanished is the monastery; vanished, too, the
peasants' huts. In the smoky industrial city on the site of Pontdebois
not one ancient stone seems left upon another. But, hold! Soaring high
above ugly roof and factory chimney, with its airy pinnacles denouncing
a life of materialism and doubt, visited by admiring pilgrims from
beyond the Sea of Darkness, the great fabric of the gray cathedral


[127] Few or no cathedrals were _really_ completed at any time, in the
sense that all the details of their design were brought to perfection.

[128] For example, Notre Dame de Paris covered four times the floor
area of the Parthenon at Athens (a decidedly large Greek temple) with
its nave thrice as high as the older building. Of course, a Greek
temple was primarily for housing a holy image; the great sacrifices and
the throng of worshippers would be outside the edifice in the open,
unlike a Christian church.

[129] One device was to take an extra-precious relic and intrust it to
monks, who would place it in a cart and drive through a wide region
haranguing the faithful and holding out a purse for them to fill. At
Rouen one of the cathedral towers was known as the "Butter Tower,"
because it was largely built with money given for permission to eat
butter in Lent.

[130] At Rheims, prior to the German bombardment of 1914, there were
more than two thousand statues.

[131] During this period there were built in France some eighty
cathedrals and more than five hundred large and superior churches in
this Gothic style.

[132] Such figures would indicate that Pontdebois Cathedral was
somewhat smaller than Notre Dame de Paris. It could rank up well among
the great churches of France, yet not at all in the first class.

[133] St. John of Damascus, writing in the Orient in the eighth
century, gave what amounted to the standard justification of holy
images and pictures in churches and for the veneration of the same:

"I am too poor to possess books, I have no leisure for reading. I enter
the church choked with the cares of the world; the glowing colors
attract my sight like a flowery meadow; and the glory of God steals
imperceptibly into my soul. I gaze on the fortitude of the martyr and
the crown with which he is rewarded, and the fire of holy emulation is
kindled within me. I fall down and worship God _through_ the martyr;
and I receive salvation."



  Abbey, see Monastery.

  Abbot, election and powers of, 321, 322.
    sometimes profligate, 327.

  Adubbement, see Knighthood.

  Advocates, of monasteries, 332.

  Alexander, romances of, 180.

  Alms, collected at feasts, 129; see Charity.

  Apprentices, 362.

  Arbalists, 190.

  Architecture, military, improved by Crusader, 18.

  Aristotle, authority of, 336.

  Armor, 191 ff.

  Assembleur, a literary, 143.


  Backgammon, 52.

  Bailey of Castle, 22.
    buildings and scene inside, 26.

  Baillis, seigneurial officers, 10 nt.

  _Banalités_, 258.

  Banner, of baronial castle, 33.

  Baptism, customs at, 81.

  Barbican, 21.

  Baronial family, of superior type, 14.

  Baron, usual rights of, 7.
    cruel and outrageous, 8, 9, 152.
    typical feuds and neighbors, 13.
    superior type of, 153.

  Baronial feuds, 224 ff.

  Barony, composition and government of, 10, 11.

  Bath, before adubbement, 202.

  Battle cries, 248.

  Battle, Bouvines, typical of Feudal warfare, 241 ff.
    mobilization for, 243.
    preliminaries of, 244.
    array of the armies, 245.
    engagement of the infantry, 247, 248.
    the battle cries, 248 nt.
    charge of French cavalry, 248, 249.
    flight of Otto IV, 250.
    rout of Germans and Flemings, 251.
    tactics and strategy employed, 251, 252.

  Beards, shaved by noblemen, 95.

  Beds, great feather, 39.

  Bedrooms, furniture of, 38 ff.

  Beer, 121.

  Beffroi, in sieges, 237.

  Bells, of communal donjon, 351.

  Bertran de Born, war songs by, 176.

  Betrothals, 105.

  Beverages, 120, 121.

  Bill of fare, at feasts, 128.
    on fast days, 129.

  Billiards, game of, 57.

  Birth, customs at, 81.

  Bishop, 373 ff.
    honors of, 373.
    wealth and power of, 374.
    desirability of office, 376.
    how elected, 377.
    vast secular duties, 378.
    employed by king or pope, 379.
    wrote ecclesiastical duties, 380.
    worldly types of, 380, 381.
    forbidden secular luxuries, 381.
    participates in warfare, 382.
    friction with abbots and barons, 383.
    abuse right to excommunicate, 383, 384.
    interdict by, 384.
    relations with canons, 385 ff.
    relations with parish priests, 388 ff.

  Bishops, visit disorderly monasteries, 326.

  Books, elegant copies of, 341.

  Brandy, 121.

  Bread, varieties of, 118.

  Bride, costume of, 107.

  Bridegroom, costume of, 108.

  Bridges, state of, 344.

  Bridge tolls, baronial, 12.

  Buffet of knighthood, 204, 205.


  Camps, in feudal warfare, 243.

  Canons, elect bishops, 377, 380.
    nature of office, 385.
    duties of, 386.
    worldly and gross, 387.

  Carpets of rushes, and "Saracen," 37.

  Cartel of defiance, 229.

  Carver, at feast, 127.

  Castle, position of between rivers, 4.
    built to resist Vikings, 5.
    famous specimens of, 18.
    siege of, 234 ff.

  Castle, of St. Aliquis, original plan of, 16.
    primitive tower of, 17;
    disadvantages of early type, 18.
    rebuilt on improved model, 19.
    palisade before, 20.
    barbican outer barrier, 21.
    lists before bailey, 21.
    bailey, gates and porters, 22.
    walls and parapet, 23.
    great difficulty of attacking, 24.
    scene in the bailey, 26.
    buildings in the bailey, 26, 27.
    cookhouse in bailey, 28.
    inner ward of, 28.
    inner gate, 29.
    main court yard of, 29.
    donjon of, 30.
    halls of, 30 ff.
    prison under donjon, 33.
    summit of great tower, 33.
    watchman on tower, 34.
    palais, main residential building, 34, 35.
    furniture in hall and chambers, 36 ff.

  Castle building, era of, 6.

  Castle folk, one huge family, 46.
    intimate relations between, 47, 48.
    organization of, 48.

  "Cat," siege engine, 237.

  Cats, 84.

  Cathedral, numerous uses of, 393.
    express the best spirit of the age, 394.
    erection a regional undertaking, 396.
    initial stages of building, 397.
    fraternity of builders, 398.
    building a natural growth, 399.
    use of arches, columns and buttresses, 400.
    stately dimensions required, 401.
    magnificent stained glass, 402.
    every part a work of piety, 403.

  Chambers, of baronial castle, 36.

  Chansons de geste, 138 ff., 142.

  Charity, 275 ff.
    motives for, 276.
    alms very customary, 277.
    given by monasteries, 333.

  Charter, communal, 352, 353.

  Checkers, game of, 52.

  Cheese, varieties of, 119.

  Chess, in great acceptance, 54.
    history of game, 55.
    chessmen, 56.

  Children, rearing of, 80 ff.
    early education of, 82.

  Christmas celebrations and plays, 294.

  Church, endeavors to regulate marriages, 101, 102.
    resists divorces, 102.
    vast wealth of, 374 nt.
    See Bishop, Abbey, Monastery, Canons, Priests, etc.

  City, entrance to, 346.
    crowded streets, 347.
    lack of air and sanitation, 348.
    population of, 347 nt.
    great burghers of, 349.
    burgher mansion, 349.
    danger from fires, 350.
    the civic donjons, 351.
    communal charger, 352.
    See Commune.

  Cleanliness, personal, among upper classes, 42.
    lack of, in woolen clothing, 89.

  Clergy, legal privileges of, 159, 375.
    see Bishop, Canons, Priests, Monks.

  Clerk, see clergy, Church, etc.

  Cloisters, of abbey, 317.

  Clothing, of peasants, 264.

  Coinage, confusion in, 366.

  Commerce, see Shops, Industries, Fairs.

  Commune, charter of, 352, 353.
    privileges of inhabitants, 353.
    clergy rail at Commune, 354.
    communal insurrections, 354.
    jurisdiction of bishop, 355.
    rule by echevins and rich merchants, 355, 356.

  Corvées, 258.

  Courtesy, training in, 184.

  Cowls, 320.

  Clothing, male and female, 88 ff.
    materials used, 89.
    garments of noblemen, 90.
    headdress for men, 91.
    garments of noblewomen, 91.
    use of silks and furs, 92.
    rapid changes in fashions, 93.
    dress of lower classes, 94.
    headdress of women, 95.
    conspicuous costumes to indicate evil characters, 98.

  Cookery and foods, 113 ff.
    implements in cookhouse, 114.
    meat frequently boiled, 114.
    game especially desired, 114, 115.
    butcher's meat, 115.
    poultry, 116.
    fish, 117.
    soups, 117.
    meat pies, 117.

  Cookhouse, in a castle, 28.

  Cosmetics, use of by women, 97.

  Cross bows, 190.

  Crusades, on wane in XIII century, 3.
    improve military architecture, 18.


  Dais, in castle hall, 36.

  Damoiseau, 185.

  Dances, varieties of, 133.

  Dancing, passion for, 84, 85.

  Dean, of canons, 386.

  Devil, belief in, 302.
    assists wizards and witches, 303.

  Dice, games with, 52.
    sinfulness of, 53, 54.

  Dinners, menu at castle in ordinary days, 49.

  Divining, 306.

  Divorces, resisted by Church, 102.

  Dogs, very desirable for hunting, 64.

  Donjon, of castle, 30 ff.
    of a commune, 351.

  Dinner customs, 122 ff.
    See Feast.

  Drawbridges, of castle, 22, 28.

  Dress, see Clothing.


  Echevins, in commune, 355.

  Economic self-sufficiency, of a well-ruled barony, 46.

  Education, of young nobleman, 176 ff.
    ideals inculcated, 178.
    training in letters, 179.
    reading of romances, 180.
    training in riding, fencing and hawking, 181.
    maxims inculcated, 181, 182.
    placed out as squire, 182.
    training as squire, 182-184.
    taught jousting, 183.
    learns "courtesy," 184.
    good side of training, 186.
    premium on prodigality, 186, 187.
    demanding knighthood, 187.

  Effeminate knights, 188.

  Emancipation, of villeins, 256.

  Ensigns, before city houses, 350.

  Epics, North French, 142, 143.

  Excommunication, of a lawless baron, 9.
    a public declaration of, 289.
    abuse of, by bishops, 383, 384.

  Executions, varieties of, 170 ff, 173.
    beheading honorable penalty, 173.
    hanging, usual method, 173,174.
    ceremonies at gallows, 174, 175.


  Fairs, 365 ff.
    attended by great multitudes, 366.
    very profitable to founders, 368.
    numerous commodities on sale, 369.
    regulation of traffic, 370.
    amusements at, 371.

  Falconry, see Hawking.

  Family life in a castle, 70.

  Famines, among peasantry, 255.

  Fealty, oath of, 157.

  Feast, formal, arrangement of guests, 126.
    beginning of dinner, 126.
    serving the meats, 127.
    typical bill of fare, 128.
    on a fast day, 129.
    closing ceremonies, 130.
    vast plenty and carousing, 130, 131.

  Feudal civilization, reaches climax in XIII century, 2.

  Feudalism, 146 ff.
    nature of, 147.
    absence of true gradations in, 148.
    duties of fief holders, 149.
    military service usually essential, 150.
    arrogance of many barons, 151, 152.
    outrageous baronial tyrants, 152.
    better types of barons, 153.
    how fiefs are expanded, 154.
    accession to a barony, 154, 155.
    doing homage, 156.
    oath of fealty, 157.
    vassalage honorable, 158.

  Feuds, baronial, 224 ff.
    frequency of, 225.
    waged within families, 225.
    limitations upon baronial, 226.
    pitched battles infrequent, 226.
    absence of strategy, 227.
    great valor of warriors, 228.
    origins of a typical feud, 229.
    delivering the "cartel," 229.
    assembling the vassals, 230.
    a baronial "array," 231.
    ravaging of noncombatants, 232.
    a petty battle, 233.
    use of mercenaries, 234.
    siege of a castle, 235 ff.

  Fiefs, varieties of, 147.
    duties of fief holders, 149.

  Fish, demand for, 117.
    use of, 129.

  Flowers, garden, 68, 69.

  Foods, see Cookery.

  Foresters, seigneurial, 259.

  France, in full mediæval bloom in XIII century, 2.

  French, rise of as literary language, 141.

  Frescoes, in castle, 35.

  Friendship, tokens of, 106.

  Fruit trees, 68, 69.

  Funeral customs, 284 ff.
    caskets and interments, 285.

  Furniture, of castle halls, 36, 37.
    of bedrooms, 38 ff.

  Furs, wearing of, 92.


  Gambling, with dice, 53, 54.

  Game, wild, cannot be killed by peasants, 67.
    greatly desired at feasts, 114.
    varieties of game birds, 116.

  Game Laws, oppressive, 272.

  Games and amusements, 51 ff.

  Garden of a castle, 67 ff.
    frequent place for gatherings, 68.
    herbs and vegetables in, 68.
    constant demand for flowers, 69.

  Generosity, virtues of nobles, 186.

  Gifts, constantly exchanged among nobles, 187.

  Girls, noble, education of young, 83 ff.
    are devoted to hawks and dancing, 84.

  Glass, used for windows in castle, 35.

  Guilds, 360 ff.
    great subdivisions of, 360.
    friction between, 360, 361.
    regulations of, 361.
    management of, by syndics, 362.
    apprentices, 362.
    hired workers, 363.
    masters in guilds, 363.


  Handwashing before meals, 125.

  Hangmen, 166 ff.
    burns dishonest cloth, 349.

  Hair, customs of wearing, 95.
    false hair used by women, 97.

  Halls of castle, 30 ff.
    very murky in donjon, 32.
    more elegant in palais, 35.

  Hauberks, 191.

  Hawking, vast delight in, 57.
    hawks always exhibited, 58.
    varieties of hawks and falcons, 59.
    complicated art of "Falconry," 59.
    training of hawks, 60.
    good falconers precious, 60.
    professional jargon of, 61.
    prayers over hawks, 61.
    excellent sport with, 62.

  Heralds, at tourneys, 212 ff.

  Hermits, 296.

  "Herodias's daughter," dance of, 136, 137.

  Homage, ceremony of, 156.

  Hospitality, baronial, 43 ff.
    ceremony of receiving guests, 44.

  Heiresses, given in marriage by suzerain, 102.

  Helmets, 192.

  Horses, indispensable in war, 196.
    varieties of, 197.
    trappings of, 198.
    presentation to new knights, 205.

  Hot cockles, game of, 52.

  Houses, of peasants, 263.
    huts of the very poor, 265.
    dwelling of rich burghers, 344.
    seldom of stone, 351.

  Hunting, serious business, 63.
    many wild animals, 63.
    equipment of hunters, 64.
    dogs essential for, 64.
    chasing down a great boar, 64 ff.
    return from the hunt, 66, 67.
    hunting across peasants' lands, 67.


  "Immunity," possessed by barons, 7 nt.

  Imposts, on peasants, 258.

  Infantry, in battle, 245, 247, 248.

  Inns, 345, 346.

  Industries, in towns, 357 ff.
    trades in special streets, 358.
    shopkeepers, 359.
    regulation by officials, 359.
    See Guilds.

  Interest, on money, taken by Jews, 365.

  Interdict, 384.

  Isabella, Queen, forced by her barons to change husbands, 100.


  Jews, in cities, 364, 365.

  Jongleurs, 132 ff.
    varieties of, 133.
    trick performers, 134.
    depraved montebanks, 135.
    jongleurs in great demand, 136.
    troupes of, 136, 137.
    a superior type of jongleur, 138.
    gives a recitation, 139 ff.

  Jousting, training in, 184.
    See Tourneys.

  Justice, administration of, 159 ff.
    no equality before the law, 159, 160.
    judicial powers of a baron, 160.
    "low justice" pertains to petty nobles, 161.
    laws enforced by the provosts, 161, 162.
    formal assizes, 162.
    ordeal by battle, 162.
    checks upon such ordeals, 163.
    summary treatment of villeins, 164.
    types of peasant litigation, 165.
    fate of condemned bandits, 165 ff.


  King, seeks as many vassals as possible, 12.

  Knighthood, who can demand, 187.
    by whom bestowed, 200.
    nature of an adubbement, 200, 201.
    vigil at arms, 201, 202.
    dressing the candidates, 203.
    ceremony of adubbement, 204.
    presentation of horses, 205.
    exercises of new knights, 206.

  Knights, effeminate types of, 188.


  Lances, 195.

  Last Day, fear of, 288.

  Lighting of halls and bedrooms, 39.

  Lists, before castle, 21.

  Lovers, presents between, 106.


  Manners, for young ladies, 71 ff.

  Marriage ceremony, 109, 110.

  Marriage, 98 ff.
    usual reasons for marriages, 99.
    ages for, 99.
    heiresses compelled to marry, 100.
    very sudden marriages, 101.
    attempts of Church to regulate, 101-102.
    young girls wedded to aged barons, 103.
    negotiation of a marriage treaty, 103, 104.
    desirable qualities in a bridegroom, 104.
    betrothal ceremonies, 105.
    intercourse of betrothed couple, 105, 106.
    preparation for wedding, 106.
    wedding proceedings, 107 ff.
    customs of peasants, 266.

  Marshall, of a castle, 48.

  "Mass of the Ass," 292.

  Masters, in guilds, 363.

  Mealtimes and dinner customs, 42, 122.

  Meats, abundance and varieties of at feasts, 128.

  Medical Art, 280 ff.
    conducted by executioners and barkers, 280, 281.
    use of bleedings, 281.
    professional physicians, 281 ff.
    their jargon, 282.
    healing relics and processions, 283.

  Mêlée, climax to tourneys, 221.

  Mercenaries, use of, 234.

  Merchants, see Shops, Fairs, etc.

  Mining, in sieges, 239.

  Minstrels, see Jongleurs.

  Miracles, belief in, 300.

  Moats of castle, 22, 28.

  Mobilization, for battle, 242, 243.

  Monastery, 312 ff.
    Benedictine foundations, 314.
    land and buildings, 314, 315.
    abbey church, 316.
    cloisters, 317.
    dormitory, 318.
    refectory, 319.
    adornments of buildings, 320.
    costume of monks, 320, 321.
    discipline and organization, 321.
    duties and occupations of monks, 322, 323.
    persons becoming monks, 324.
    a disorderly monastery, 326.
    specimen abuses, 327.
    struggle against idleness in, 330.
    bequests to, 331.
    secular "advocates" of, 332.
    agriculture and industries in, 333.
    almsgiving by, 333.
    manual labor by monks, 334.
    copying of books, 335.
    study of pagan authors, 335.
    curriculum of study, 336.
    authority of Aristotle, 336.
    scientific works, 337.
    study of botany and geology, 338.
    writing chronicles, 339.
    piety of book copying, 340.
    beautiful manuscripts, 341.

  Monasticism, see Monastery and Monks.

  Money, hardly necessary on an average barony, 46.
    varieties of coinage, 366.

  Monks, many sick or infirm, 319 nt.
    costume of, 320.
    discipline of, 321 ff.
    persons becoming monks, 324.
    See Monastery.

  Montebanks, 135.

  _Montjoie St. Denis_, 248 nt.

  Morality, of castle life, 77-78.

  Music, delight in, 132.

  Mystery plays, 294, 295.


  Needlework, by castle women, 80.

  Night, closing castle for, 49.

  Nightdresses, not used in feudal ages, 42.

  Nobles, employed around a castle, 48.


  Omens, belief in, 300, 301.

  Ordeal, by battle, 162.
    by fire, 170, 171.

  Oriflamme, royal standard, 245.

  Otto IV, see Battle, Bouvines.


  Palisade, before a castle, 20.

  Passions, hot and childish in feudal ages, 47, 48.

  Patrons, of parish churches, 388, 389.

  Peasants, forbidden to kill game, 67.
    inferior weapons of, 189.
    life of, 253 ff.
    always considered inferior, 254.
    population dense, 254.
    in danger from famines, 255.
    frequently emancipated from serfdom, 256.
    status of free "villeins," 257.
    constantly exploited, 258.
    lands much divided, 259.
    primitive agricultural methods, 261.
    calamity of short crops, 261, 262.
    a peasant family, 262.
    its house and furniture, 263.
    clothing of peasants, 264.
    very poor peasants, 265.
    villein marriage customs, 266.
    long hours of toil, 267.
    lack of education, 267, 268.
    filthy habits, 269.
    sullen and impious characters, 270.
    gross oppression by knights, 271.
    severe game laws, 272.
    futile peasant revolts, 273.
    popular village sports, 274.

  Pellison, 90, 91.

  Penance, public, 290.

  Philip Augustus, see Battle, Bouvines.

  Physicians, see Medical Art.

  Pilgrimage, as penance, 297.
    shrines frequented, 298.
    sacredness of Rome, 299.

  Pillory, 171.

  Pleasures, usual, of a baron, 43.

  Pork, demand for, 115.

  Porters of castle, 22.

  Poultry, 116.

  Priests, parish, 388 ff.
    how appointed, 388, 389.
    scandalous appointments, 389, 390.
    status of, in villages, 390.
    charges against, 391.
    many faithful and learned, 391, 392.

  Prior, of abbey, 322.

  Prison, sometimes under donjon, 33.
    treatment of inmates, 168, 169.
    fearful dungeons in, 169.

  Privacy, absence of in baronial castle, 36.

  Provosts, 8, 10.
    enforce law on barony, 161 ff, 259.


  _Quadrivium_, 336.

  _Quintain_, 185.


  Ragman's roll, 51.

  Ransoms, sought in tourneys, 220.

  Recluses, 296.

  Reign of Folly, 291.

  Relics, holy, used for healing, 282, 283.
    saints, 307 ff.
    collections of, 308.
    great value of, 309.
    often spurious, 310.
    "translations" of, 311.

  Religion, popular, 286 ff.
    attitude of knights, 287.
    fear of Last Day, 288.
    Excommunications, 289.
    public penance, 290.
    festive side of religion, 291.
    "Reign of Folly," 291.
    Mass of the Ass, 292.
    Worship of the Virgin, 293.
    Christmas celebrations, 294.
    mystery plays, 295.
    hermits and recluses, 296.
    pilgrims, 297 ff.
    belief in spirits, 301 ff.

  Rings, customs with, 95, 96.

  Rising, early hour for, 41.

  Roads, evil state of, 344.

  Roland, Chanson de, 138.
    ordeal by battle in, 162.

  Romances, North French, 142, 143.
    read by young nobles, 180.

  Roman Law, returning to vogue, 160.

  Rome, resort for pilgrims, 299.

  Routine of the day, for a baron, 43.

  Rushes for carpets in castle halls, 37.


  Sanitation, lacking in castle cookhouses, 28.
    not sufficiently guarded even by nobility, 42.

  Scientific studies, in monasteries, 337 ff.

  Seigneurial officers, 259.

  Self-sufficiency of a well-ruled barony, 46.

  Seneschal, of a castle, 48.

  Serfdom, 256.

  Service, personal, honorable for nobles, 48.

  Servants, abundant in castles, 85.
    organization and duties of, 86.

  Service, at table, 123.

  Shields, 193.

  Shopkeepers, 358, 359.

  Shoes, 90.

  Shrines, sought by pilgrims, 298.

  Sickness, frequent in Middle Ages, 277.
    leprosy and other plagues, 278.
    great losses in childbirth, 279.
    healing saints, 279, 280.
    mediæval medicine, 280 ff.

  Siege of a castle, 234 ff.
    varieties of siege engines, 236, 237.
    the beffroi, 237.
    mantelets, 238.
    undermining a wall, 239.

  Silks, for apparel, 92.

  _Sortes Apostolorum_, 306.

  Soups, 117.

  Spirits, supernatural, belief in, 301.

  Squires, taught to serve at table, 123.
    training and duties of, 182-184.

  Subinfeudation, 12.

  Superstitions, of peasants, 306.
    See Witchcraft, Devil, etc.

  Surcoat, introduction of, 93.

  Suzerains, see Feudualism.

  Swords, 194.

  Syndics, of guilds, 362.

  Syria, famous castles in, 19.


  Tables, at dinner, 124.

  Tapestries, in castles, 37, 38.

  Taverns, 345.

  Tennis, game of, 57.

  Thirteenth Century: height of the Middle Ages, 2.

  Tilting, see Tourneys.

  Times for meals, 42.

  Tolls, on commerce, 367.

  Tortures, 165 ff.
    vainly discouraged by Pope Nicholas I, 166.
    methods of, 167 ff.

  Tolls, at a baron's bridge, 12.

  Towers of castle, 23.

  Trade, in towns, 358 ff.
    See Fairs.

  Travelers, usually welcomed at castles, 44.

  Travel, 343-345.

  Trenchers, at feast, 127.

  Tristan and Ysolt, story of, 139.

  _Trivium_, 336.

  Trojan War, romances of, 179.

  Troubadour songs, 144, 145.

  Tourneys, 208 ff.
    "crying" the tourney, 208.
    people attracted to them, 209.
    early tourneys were battles, 209, 210.
    denounced by Church, 210.
    arrangements for, 210, 211.
    lists and lodges, 211.
    opening ceremonies, 212.
    procession of jousters, 213.
    armor and bizarre costumes worn, 214.
    jousting by pairs, 215.
    art of lance-breaking, 216.
    a bloody duel, 217.
    defending a barrier, 218, 219.
    dueling for ransoms, 220.
    the mêlée, 221, 222.
    vast expense of tourneys, 223.

  Trouvéres, 142 ff.

  Tyranny, of outrageous barons, 8, 9.


  Vassals, can have two or more seigneurs, 11.
    desire to hold from the king, 12.
    summons of, to war, 230.
    see Feudalism, Homage, etc.

  Vegetables, 68, 118.

  Vigil before knighthood, 202.

  Vikings, castles built to resist them, 5.

  Villeins, subject to summary justice, 164.
    See Peasants.

  Virgin, The, popular worship of, 293.


  Walls of castle, 23.

  Wars, nobles delight in, 176.
    almost incessant, 224.
    varieties of, 225.
    See Feuds.

  Watchman, on castle tower, 34.

  Weapons, give superiority to nobles, 189.
    arms preferred by them, 189, 190.
    missile weapons non-noble, 191.
    armor, 191 ff.
    hauberks and helmets, 192.
    shields, 193.
    swords, 194.
    lances, 195.

  Wedding proceedings, 106 ff.
    bridal procession, 109.
    ceremony at church, 109, 110.
    presents at wedding, 110.
    great feast at wedding, 111.

  Windows, glass in castle, 35.
    stained glass in churches, 402.

  Wine, 120.

  Witchcraft, 303 ff.
    casting a spell, 305.
    lawful forms of divining, 306.

  Witches, 303-305.

  Wizards, 303-305.

  Women, noble, praised for beauty by minstrels, 70.
    types of female beauty, 71.
    taught good manners, 72, 73.
    married off against their will, 74.
    can be harshly treated, 74, 75.
    sometimes grossly neglected, 76.
    often extremely coarse, 77.
    alleged shortcomings of, 78.
    accomplishments of, 79.
    manage children and household, 80 ff.

  Woolens, generally used for garments, 89.

_Books of Art and Artcraft_


Volume I--_Ancient Art_ _Translated from the French by Walter Pach_

No History of Art fills the place of this one. It shows art to be the
expression of the race, not an individual expression of the artist. It
tells _why_ and _how_ man constructs works of art. _Nearly 200 unusual
and beautiful illustrations selected by the author._


A history of embroidery from the quill and beadwork of the American
Indians to the artistic achievement of the present. A book to delight
the collector and to serve as a guide for the art student, designer,
and practical worker. _32 pages of illustrations--some in full color._


By Elizabeth Boyle O'Reilly

The Boston _Herald_ writes: "It is a monumental work, of living
interest alike to the erudite devotee of the arts and to the person who
simply enjoys, in books or his travels, the wonderful and beautiful
things that have come from the hand of man ... the story of the French
cathedrals against a human background--of the great men and women of
the time." _With 31 illustrations in tint._


By John D. Whiting

For artists who wish to sell their work, for publishers and advertisers
who buy it, and for those responsible for mechanical reproduction. It
will give the artist a full knowledge of trade requirements. It will
teach the art buyer what to look for and provide against in originals.
It will help the photo-engraver and photographer to eliminate defects
in mechanical reproduction. _The author illustrates his points in 25
page plates, many in full color._


Franklin Square New York

_Humor and Drama_

By Distinguished Authors


By Booth Tarkington and Harry Leon Wilson

The scene takes place in Italy, and the American humor shows up
brilliantly against the foreign background. _Illustrated._

MONNA VANNA By Maurice Maeterlinck

One of the Belgian poet's most powerful dramas. The scenes are laid at
Pisa, Italy, at the end of the fifteenth century. _Portrait._

L'AIGLON By Edmond Rostand

This, the only English edition published of the story of the great
Napoleon's unfortunate son, was translated by Louis N. Parker. It is
illustrated with pictures of Miss Maude Adams in the character of the
Duke of Reichstadt. _Illustrated._


By William Dean Howells

A farcical scene on an outgoing steamer, when two sweethearts can find
neither time nor place for tender farewells. Readers who like brilliant
conversation, unrestrained fun, and amusing character portrayal will
find in these farces a rich treat. _Illustrated._


  By William Dean Howells

This volume contains in compact form four of Howells's most popular
farces, which have been both read and acted with complete enjoyment and
success. The farces in this volume are: The Garroters, Five-o'Clock
Tea, The Mouse-Trap, A Likely Story. _Illustrated._


Franklin Square New York

       *       *       *       *       *


 Minor punctuation errors repaired.

 Italic text is denoted by _underscores_

The image "Listening to a Trouvère in a Château of the Thirteenth
Century" is shown in the list of Illustrations as "Facing p. 140" It is
actually placed between p251 and p252 in the original. The position in
the original has been retained, but its placement may be a printer's

 p60 "along with hugh goshawks" replaced with
     "along with huge goshawks"

 p73 "she will peversely do these very things" replace with
     "she will perversely do these very things"

 p91 "simplifications here and elaborations elsewere" replaced with
     "simplifications here and elaborations elsewhere"

     "oramented with gold embroideries" replaced with
     "ornamented with gold embroideries"

 p94 "veils common in the succeeding age" replaced with
     "veils common in the suceeding age"

 p100 "the crown of Jersualem became vacant" replaced with
      "the crown of Jerusalem became vacant"

 p106 "praising his finacée's beauty." replaced with
      "praising his fiancée's beauty."

 p143 "another entertainer than Maitre Edmond" replaced with
      "another entertainer than Maître Edmond"

 p148 "as our forefathers sent the old Carrolingians." replaced with
      "as our forefathers sent the old Carolingians."

 p153 "for his suzerian the duke" replaced with
      "for his suzerain the duke"

 p156 "as Father Grégorie says, pithily" replaced with
      "as Father Grégoire says, pithily"

 Footnote 55: "feel that they had sinnned beyond pardon." replaced with
              "feel that they had sinned beyond pardon."

 p206 "montionless for an instant" replaced with
      "motionless for an instant"

 p207 "he is knighted and can speak for hmself" replaced with
      "he is knighted and can speak for himself"

 p212 "sendel and samite," replaced with
      "sendal and samite,"

 p213 "They do down one side" replaced with
      "They go down one side"

      "This process will keep up though the games." replaced with
      "This process will keep up through the games."

 p235 "said Jerome, smilingly" replaced with
      "said Jerôme, smilingly"

 p268 "Father Etienne is the only person" replaced with
      "Father Étienne is the only person"

 p292 "bishops fight against instrusions" replaced with
      "bishops fight against intrusions"

 p319 "too feeble to to get to the church." replaced with
      "too feeble to get to the church."

 p371 "while the Pointdebois traders" replaced with
      "while the Pontdebois traders"

 p378 "differs largely from a seigneur n that" replaced with
      "differs largely from a seigneur in that"

 p384 "the Church by a humiliating penace" replaced with
      "the Church by a humiliating penance"

 p394 "by the Church in the Fuedal Age" replaced with
      "by the Church in the Feudal Age"

 Footnote 128 "and the throng of worshipers" replaced with
              "and the throng of worshippers"

 p405 "Advocates, of monastries" replaced with
      "Advocates, of monasteries"

 p413 "Suzerains, see Feudualism" replaced with
      "Suzerains, see Feudalism"

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Life on a Mediaeval Barony - A Picture of a Typical Feudal Community in the Thirteenth Century" ***

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