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Title: The Merrie Tales of Jacques Tournebroche
 - And Child Life in Town and Country
Author: France, Anatole
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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 - And Child Life in Town and Country" ***

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THE MERRIE TALES OF JACQUES TOURNEBROCHE

AND CHILD LIFE IN TOWN AND COUNTRY

By Anatole France

John Lane Company, MCMXIX

Copyright 1909

John Lane Company



THE MERRIE TALES OF JACQUES TOURNEBROCHE



OLIVIER’S BRAG

[Illustration: 016]

The Emperor Charlemagne and his twelve peers, having taken the palmer’s
staff at Saint-Denis, made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. They prostrated
themselves before the tomb of Our Lord, and sat in the thirteen chairs
of the great hall wherein Jesus Christ and his Apostles met together
to celebrate the blessed sacrifice of the Mass. Then they fared to
Constantinople, being fain to see King Hugo, who was renowned for his
magnificence.

The King welcomed them in his Palace, where, beneath a golden dome,
birds of ruby, wrought with a wondrous art, sat and sang in bushes of
emerald.

He seated the Emperor of France and the twelve Counts about a table
loaded with stags, boars, cranes, wild geese, and peacocks, served in
pepper. And he offered his guests, in ox-horns, the wines of Greece and
Asia to drink. Charlemagne and his companions quaffed all these wines
in honour of the King and his daughter, the Princess Helen. After supper
Hugo led them to the chamber where they were to sleep. Now this chamber
was circular, and a column, springing in the midst thereof, carried the
vaulted roof. Nothing could be finer to look upon. Against the walls,
which were hung with gold and purple, twelve beds were ranged, while
another greater than the rest stood beside the pillar.

Charlemagne lay in this, and the Counts stretched themselves round about
him on the others. The wine they had drunk ran hot in their veins, and
their brains were afire. They could not sleep, and fell to making brags
instead, and laying of wagers, as is the way of the knights of France,
each striving to outdo the other in warranting himself to do some
doughty deed for to manifest his prowess. The Emperor opened the game.
He said:

“Let them fetch me, a-horseback and fully armed, the best knight King
Hugo hath. I will lift my sword and bring it down upon him in such wise
it shall cleave helm and hauberk, saddle and steed, and the blade shall
delve a foot deep underground.”

Guillaume d’Orange spake up after the Emperor and made the second brag.

“I will take,” said he, “a ball of iron sixty men can scarce lift, and
hurl it so mightily against the Palace wall that it shall beat down
sixty fathoms’ length thereof.”

Ogier, the Dane, spake next.

“Ye see yon proud pillar which bears up the vault. To-morrow will I tear
it down and break it like a straw.”

After which Renaud de Montauban cried with an oath:

“‘Od’s life! Count Ogier, whiles you overset the pillar, I will clap the
dome on my shoulders and hale it down to the seashore.”

Gérard de Rousillon it was made the fifth brag.

He boasted he would uproot single-handed, in one hour, all the trees in
the Royal pleasaunce.

Aimer took up his parable when Gérard was done.

“I have a magic hat,” said he, “made of a sea-calf’s skin, which renders
me invisible. I will set it on my head, and to-morrow, whenas King Hugo
is seated at meat, I will eat up his fish and drink down his wine, I
will tweak his nose and buffet his ears. Not knowing whom or what
to blame, he will clap all his serving-men in gaol and scourge them
sore,--and we shall laugh.”

“For me,” declared Huon de Bordeaux, whose turn it was, “for me, I am
so nimble I will trip up to the King and cut off his beard and eyebrows
without his knowing aught about the matter. ‘T is a piece of sport I
will show you to-morrow. And I shall have no need of a sea-calf hat
either!”

Doolin de Mayence made his brag too. He promised to eat up in one
hour all the figs and all the oranges and all the lemons in the King’s
orchards.

Next the Due Naisme said in this wise:

“By my faith! _I_ will go into the banquet hall, I will catch up flagons
and cups of gold and fling them so high they will never light down again
save to tumble into the moon.”

Bernard de Brabant then lifted his great voice:

“I will do better yet,” he roared. “Ye know the river that flows by
Constantinople is broad and deep, for it is come nigh its mouth by then,
after traversing Egypt, Babylon, and the Earthly Paradise. Well, I will
turn it from its bed and make it flood the Great Square of the City.”

Gérard de Viane said:

“Put a dozen knights in line of array. And I will tumble all the twelve
on their noses, only by the wind of my sword.”

It was the Count Roland laid the twelfth wager, in the fashion
following:

“I will take my horn, I will go forth of the city and I will blow such a
blast all the gates of the town will drop from their hinges.”

Olivier alone had said no word yet. He was young and courteous, and the
Emperor loved him dearly.

“Olivier, my son,” he asked, “will you not make your brag like the rest
of us?”

“Right willingly, sire,” Olivier replied.

“Do you know the name of Hercules of Greece?”

“Yea, I have heard some discourse of him,” said Charlemagne. “He was an
idol of the misbelievers, like the false god Mahound.”

“Not so, sire,” said Olivier. “Hercules of Greece was a knight among
the Pagans and King of a Pagan kingdom. He was a gallant champion and
stoutly framed in all his limbs. Visiting the Court of a certain Emperor
who had fifty daughters, virgins, he wedded them all on one and the same
night, and that so well and throughly that next morning they all avowed
themselves well-contented women and with naught left to learn. He had
not slighted ever a one of them. Well, sire, an you will, I will lay my
wager to do after the fashion of Hercules of Greece.”

“Nay, beware, Olivier, my son,” cried the Emperor, “beware what you do;
the thing would be a sin. I felt sure this King Hercules was a Saracen!”

“Sire,” returned Olivier, “know this--I warrant me to show in the same
space of time the selfsame prowess with one virgin that Herailes of
Greece did with fifty. And the maid shall be none other but the Princess
Helen, King Hugo’s daughter.”

“Good and well,” agreed Charlemagne; “that will be to deal honestly and
as a good Christian should. But you were in the wrong, my son, to drag
the fifty virgins of King Hercules into your business, wherein, the
Devil fly away with me else, I can see but one to be concerned.”

“Sire,” answered Olivier mildly, “there is but one of a truth. But she
shall win such satisfaction of me that, an I number the tokens of my
love, you will to-morrow see fifty crosses scored on the wall, and that
is _my_ brag.”

The Count Olivier was yet speaking when lo! the column which bare the
vault opened. The pillar was hollow and contrived in such sort that
a man could lie hid therein at his ease to see and hear everything.
Charlemagne and the twelve Counts had never a notion of this; so they
were sore surprised to behold the King of Constantinople step forth. He
was white with anger and his eyes flashed fire.

He said in a terrible voice:

“So this is how ye show your gratitude for the hospitality I offer you.
Ye are ill-mannered guests. For a whole hour have ye been insulting me
with your bragging wagers. Well, know this,--you, Sir Emperor, and ye,
his knights; if to-morrow ye do not all of you make good your boasts, I
will have your heads cut off.”

Having said his say, he stepped back within the pillar, which shut to
again closely behind him. For a while the twelve paladins were dumb
with wonder and consternation. The Emperor was the first to break the
silence.

“Comrades,” he said, “‘tis true we have bragged too freely. Mayhap we
have spoken things better unsaid. We have drunk overmuch wine, and have
shown unwisdom. The chiefest fault is mine; I am your Emperor, and I
gave you the bad example. I will devise with you to-morrow of the means
whereby we may save us from this perilous pass; meantime, it behoves us
to get to sleep. I wish you a good night. God have you in his keeping!”

A moment later the Emperor and the twelve peers were snoring under their
coverlets of silk and cloth of gold.

They awoke on the morrow, their minds still distraught and deeming the
thing was but a nightmare. But anon soldiers came to lead them to the
Palace, that they might make good their brags before the King’s face.

“Come,” cried the Emperor, “come; and let us pray God and His Holy
Mother. By Our Lady’s help shall we easily make good our brags.”

He marched in front with a more than human majesty of port. Arriving
anon at the King’s Palace, Charlemagne, Naisme, Aimer, Huon, Doolin,
Guillaume, Ogier, Bernard, Renaud, the two Gérards, and Roland fell on
their knees and, joining their hands in prayer, made this supplication
to the Holy Virgin:

“Lady, which art in Paradise, look on us now in our extremity; for love
of the Realm of the Lilies, which is thine own, protect the Emperor of
France and his twelve peers, and give them the puissance to make good
their brags.”

Thereafter they rose up comforted and fulfilled of bright courage and
gallant confidence, for they knew that Our Lady would answer their
prayer.

King Hugo, seated on a golden throne, accosted them, saying:

“The hour is come to make good your brags. But an if ye fail so to do, I
will have your heads cut off. Begone therefore, straightway, escorted by
my men-at-arms, each one of you to the place meet for the doing of the
fine things ye have insolently boasted ye will accomplish.”

At this order they separated and went divers ways, each followed by a
little troop of armed men. Whiles some returned to the hall where they
had passed the night, others betook them to the gardens and orchards.
Bernard de Brabant made for the river, Roland hied him to the ramparts,
and all marched valiantly. Only Olivier and Charlemagne tarried in the
Palace, waiting, the one for the knight that he had sworn to cleave in
twain, the other for the maiden he was to wed.

But in very brief while a fearful sound arose, awful as the last trump
that shall proclaim to mankind the end of the world. It reached the
Great Hall of the Palace, set the birds of ruby trembling on their
emerald perches and shook King Hugo on his throne of gold.

‘Twas a noise of walls crumbling into ruin and floods roaring, and
high above the din blared out an ear-splitting trumpet blast. Meanwhile
messengers had come hurrying in from all quarters of the city, and
thrown themselves trembling at the King’s feet, bearing strange and
terrible tidings.

“Sire,” said one, “sixty fathoms’ length of the city walls is fallen in
at one crash.”

“Sire,” cried another, “the pillar which bare up your vaulted hall is
broken down, and the dome thereof we have seen walking like a tortoise
toward the sea.”

“Sire,” faltered a third, “the river, with its ships and its fishes,
is pouring through the streets, and will soon be beating against your
Palace walls.”

King Hugo, white with terror, muttered:

“By my faith! these men are wizards.”

“Well, Sir King,” Charlemagne addressed him with a smile on his lips,
“the Knight I wait for is long of coming.”

The King sent for him, and he came. He was a knight of stately stature
and well armed. The good Emperor clave him in twain, as he had said.

Now while these things were a-doing, Olivier thought to himself:

“The intervention of Our Most Blessed Lady is plain to see in these
marvels; and I am rejoiced to behold the manifest tokens she vouchsafes
of her love for the Realm of France. Not in vain have the Emperor and
his companions implored the succour of the Holy Virgin, Mother of God.
Alas! _I_ shall pay for all the rest, and have my head cut off. For I
cannot well ask the Virgin Mary to help me make good _my_ brag. ‘Tis
an enterprise of a sort wherein ‘twould be indiscreet to crave the
interference of Her who is the _Lily of Purity_, the _Tower of Ivory_,
the _Guarded Door_ and the _Fenced Orchard-Close_. And, lacking aid from
on high, I am sore afraid I may not do so much as I have said.”

Thus ran Olivier’s thoughts, when King Hugo roughly accosted him with
the words:

“‘T is now your turn, Count, to fulfil your promise.”

“Sire,” replied Olivier, “I am waiting with great impatience for the
Princess your daughter. For you must needs do me the priceless grace of
giving me her hand.”

“That is but fair,” said King Hugo. “I will therefore bid her come to
you and a chaplain with her for to celebrate the marriage.”

At church, during the ceremony, Olivier reflected:

“The maid is sweet and comely as ever a man could desire, and too fain
am I to clip her in my arms to regret the brag I have made.”

That evening, after supper, the Princess Helen and the Count Olivier
were escorted by twelve ladies and twelve knights to a chamber, wherein
the twain were left alone together.

There they passed the night, and on the morrow guards came and led them
both before King Hugo. He was on his throne, surrounded by his knights.
Near by stood Charlemagne and the peers.

“Well, Count Olivier,” demanded the King, “is your brag made good?”

Olivier held his peace, and already was King Hugo rejoiced at heart
to think his new son-in-law’s head must fall. For of all the brags and
boasts, it was Olivier’s had angered him worst.

“Answer,” he stormed. “Do you dare to tell me your brag is
accomplished?”

Thereupon the Princess Helen, blushing and smiling, spake with eyes
downcast and in a faint voice, yet clear withal, and said,--“Yea!”

Right glad were Charlemagne and the peers to hear the Princess say this
word.

“Well, well,” said Hugo, “these Frenchmen have God and the Devil
o’ their side. It was fated I should cut off none of these knights’
heads.... Come hither, son-in-law,”--and he stretched forth his hand to
Olivier, who kissed it.

The Emperor Charlemagne embraced the Princess and said to her:

“Helen, I hold you for my daughter and my son’s wife. You will go along
with us to France, and you will live at our Court.”

Then, as his lips lay on the Princess’s cheek, he rounded softly in her
ear:

“You spake as a loving-hearted woman should. But tell me this in closest
confidence,--Did you speak the truth?”

She answered:

“Sire, Olivier is a gallant man and a courteous. He was so full of
pretty ways and dainty devices for to distract my mind, _I_ never
thought of counting. Nor yet did _he_ keep score. Needs therefore must I
hold him quit of his promise.”

King Hugo made great rejoicings for his daughter’s nuptials. Thereafter
Charlemagne and his twelve peers returned back to France, taking with
them the Princess Helen.



THE MIRACLE OF THE MAGPIE

[Illustration: 034]



I

LENT, of the year 1429, presented a strange marvel of the Calendar, a
conjunction that moved the admiration not only of the common crowd
of the Faithful, but eke of Clerks, well learned in Arithmetic. For
Astronomy, mother of the Calendar, was Christian in those days. In 1429
Good Friday fell on the Feast of the Annunciation, so that one and the
same day combined the commemoration of the two several mysteries which
did commence and consummate the redemption of mankind, and in wondrous
wise superimposed one on top of the other, Jesus conceived in the
Virgin’s womb and Jesus dying on the Cross. This Friday, whereon the
mystery of joy came so to coincide exactly with the mystery of sorrow,
was named the “Grand Friday,” and was kept holy with solemn Feasts on
Mount Anis, in the Church of the Annunciation. For many years, by gift
of the Popes of Rome, the sanctuary of Mount Anis had possessed the
privilege of the plenary indulgences of a great jubilee, and the
late-deceased Bishop of Le Puy, Élie de Le-strange, had gotten Pope
Martin to restore this _pardon_. It was a favour of the sort the Popes
scarce ever refused, when asked in due and proper form.

The _pardon_ of the Grand Friday drew a great crowd of pilgrims and
traders to Le Puy-en-Velay. As early as mid February folk from distant
lands set out thither in cold and wind and rain. For the most part
they fared on foot, staff in hand. Whenever they could, these pilgrims
travelled in companies, to the end they might not be robbed and held to
ransom by the armed bands that infested the country parts, and by the
barons who exacted toll on the confines of their lands. Inasmuch as
the mountain districts were especially dangerous, they tarried in the
neighbouring towns, Clermont, Issoire, Brioude, Lyons, Issingeaux,
Alais, till they were gathered in a great host, and then went forth on
their road in the snow. During Holy Week a strange multitude thronged
the hilly streets of Le Puy,--pedlars from Languedoc and Provence and
Catalonia, leading their mules laded with leather goods, oil, wool, webs
of cloth, or wines of Spain in goat-skins; lords a-horseback and ladies
in wains, artisans and traders pacing on their mules, with wife or
daughter perched behind, Then came the poor pilgrim folk, limping along,
halting and hobbling, stick in hand and bag on back, panting up the
stiff climb. Last were the flocks of oxen and sheep being driven to the
slaughterhouses.

Now, leant against the wall of the Bishop’s palace, stood Florent
Guillaume, looking as long and dry and black as an espalier vine in
winter, and devoured pilgrims and cattle with his eyes.

“Look,” he called to Marguerite the lace-maker, “look at yonder fine
heads of bestial.”

And Marguerite, squatted beside her bobbins, called back:

“Yea, fine beasts, and fat withal!”

Both the twain were very bare and scant of the goods of this world, and
even then were feeling bitterly the pinch of hunger. And folk said
it came of their own fault. At that very moment Pierre Grandmange the
tripe-seller was saying as much, where he stood in his tripe-shop,
pointing a finger at them. “‘T would be sinful,” he was crying, “to give
an alms to such good-for-nothing varlets.” The tripe-seller would fain
have been very charitable, but he feared to lose his soul by giving to
evil-livers, and all the fat citizens of Le Puy had the selfsame
scruples.

To say truth, we must needs allow that, in the heyday of her hot youth,
Marguerite the lace-maker had not matched St. Lucy in purity, St. Agatha
in constancy, and St. Catherine in staidness. As for Florent Guillaume,
he had been the best scrivener in the city. For years he had not had his
equal for engrossing the Hours of Our Lady of Le Puy. But he had been
over fond of merrymakings and junketings. Now his hand had lost its
cunning, and his eye its clearness; he could no more trace the letters
on the parchment with the needful steadiness of touch. Even so, he might
have won his livelihood by teaching apprentices in his shop at the
sign of the Image of Our Lady, under the choir buttresses of _The
Annunciation_, for he was a fellow of good counsel and experience. But
having had the ill fortune to borrow of Maître Jacquet Coquedouille the
sum of six livres ten sous, and having paid him back at divers terms
eighty livres two sous, he had found himself at the last to owe yet
six livres two sous to the account of his creditor, which account was
approved correct by the judges, for Jacquet Coquedouille was a sound
arithmetician. This was the reason why the scrivenry of Florent
Guillaume, under the choir buttresses of _The Annunciation_, was sold,
on Saturday the fifth day of March, being the Feast of St. Theophilus,
to the profit of Maître Jacquet Coquedouille. Since that time the poor
penman had never a place to call his own. But by the good help of Jean
Magne the bell-ringer and with the protection of Our Lady, whose Hours
he had aforetime written, Florent Guillaume found a perch o’ nights in
the steeple of the Cathedral.

The scrivener and the lace-maker had much ado to live. Marguerite only
kept body and soul together by chance and charity, for she had long lost
her good looks and she hated the lace-making. They helped each other.
Folks said so by way of reproach; they had been better advised to
account it to them for righteousness. Florent Guillaume was a learned
clerk. Well knowing every word of the history of the beautiful Black
Virgin of Le Puy and the ordering of the ceremonies of the great
_pardon_, he had conceived the notion he might serve as guide to the
pilgrims, deeming he would surely light on someone compassionate enough
to pay him a supper in guerdon of his fine stories. But the first folk
he had offered his services to had bidden him begone because his ragged
coat bespoke neither good guidance nor clerkly wit; so he had come back,
downhearted and crestfallen, to the Bishop’s wall, where he had his
bit of sunshine and his kind gossip Marguerite. “They reckon,” he said
bitterly, “I am not learned enough to number them the relics and recount
the miracles of Our Lady. Do they think my wits have escaped away
through the holes in my gaberdine?”

“‘Tis not the wits,” replied Marguerite, “escape by the holes in a
body’s clothes, but the good natural heat. I am sore a-cold. And it
is but too true that, man and woman, they judge us by our dress. The
gallants would find me comely enough yet if I was accoutred like my Lady
the Comtesse de Clermont.”

Meanwhile, all the length of the street in front of them the pilgrims
were elbowing and fighting their way to the Sanctuary, where they were
to win pardon for their sins.

“They will surely suffocate anon,” said Marguerite. “Twenty-two years
agone, on the Grand Friday, two hundred persons died stifled under the
porch of _The Annunciation_. God have their souls in keeping! Ay, those
were the good times, when I was young!”

“‘Tis very true indeed, that year you tell of, two hundred pilgrims
crushed each other to death and departed from this world to the other.
And next day was never a sign to be seen of aught untoward.”

As he so spake, Florent Guillaume noted a pilgrim, a very fat man, who
was not hurrying to get him assoiled with the same hot haste as the
rest, but kept rolling his wide eyes to right and left with a look of
distress and fear. Florent Guillaume stepped up to him and louted low.

“Messire,” he accosted him, “one may see at a glance you are a sensible
man and an experienced; you do not rush blindly to the _pardon_ like a
sheep to the slaughter. The rest of the folk go helter-skelter thither,
the nose of one under the tail of the other; but you follow a wiser
fashion. Grant me the boon to be your guide, and you will not repent
your bargain.”

The pilgrim, who proved to be a gentleman of Limoges, answered in the
patois of his countryside, that he had no use for a scurvy beggarman and
could very well find his own way to _The Annunciation_ for to receive
pardon for his faults. And therewith he set his face resolutely to the
hill. But Florent Guillaume cast himself at his feet, and tearing at his
hair:

“Stop! stop! messire,” he cried; “i’ God’s name and by all the Saints,
I warn you go no farther! ‘T will be your death, and you are not the man
we could see perish without grief and dolour. A few steps more and you
are a dead man! They are suffocating up yonder. Already full six hundred
pilgrims have given up the ghost. And this is but a small beginning! Do
you not know, messire, that twenty-two years agone, in the year of grace
one thousand four hundred and seven, on the selfsame day and at the
selfsame hour, under yonder porch, nine thousand six hundred and
thirty-eight persons, without reckoning women and children, trampled
each other underfoot and perished miserably? An you met the same fate,
I should never smile again. To see you is to love you, messire; to know
you is to conceive a sudden and overmastering desire to serve you.”

The Limousin gentleman had halted in no small surprise and turned
pale to hear such discourse and see the fellow tearing out his hair in
fistfuls. In his terror he was for turning back the way he had come. But
Florent Guillaume, on his knees in the mud, held him back by the skirt
of his jacket.

“Never go that way, messire! not that way. You might meet Jacquet
Coquedouille, and you would be all in an instant turned into stone.
Better encounter the basilisk than Jacquet Coquedouille. I will tell you
what you must do if, like the wise and prudent man your face proclaims
you to be, you would live long and make your peace with God. Hearken
to me; I am a scholar, a Bachelor. To-day the holy relics will be borne
through the streets and crossways of the city. You will find great
solace in touching the carven shrines which enclose the cornelian cup
wherefrom the child Jesus drank, one of the wine-jars of the Marriage at
Cana, the cloth of the Last Supper, and the holy foreskin. If you take
my advice, we will go wait for them, under cover, at a cookshop I wot
of, before which they will pass without fail.”

Then, in a wheedling voice, without loosing his hold of the pilgrim’s
jacket, he pointed to the lace-maker and said:

“Messire, you must give six sous to yonder worthy woman, that she may go
buy us wine, for she knows where good liquor is to be gotten.”

The Limousin gentleman, who was a simple soul after all, went where he
was led, and Florent Guillaume supped on the leg and wing of a goose,
the bones whereof he put in his pocket as a present for Madame Ysabeau,
his fellow lodger in the timbers of the steeple,--to wit, Jean Magne the
bell-ringer’s magpie.

He found her that night perched on the beam where she was used to roost,
beside the hole in the wall which was her storeroom wherein she hoarded
walnuts and hazel-nuts, almonds and beech-nuts. She had awoke at the
noise of his coming and flapped her wings; so he greeted her very
courteously, addressing her in these obliging terms:

“Magpie most pious, lady recluse, bird of the cloister, Margot of the
Nunnery, sable-frocked Abbess, Church fowl of the lustrous coat, all
hail!”

Then offering her the goose bones nicely folded in a cabbage leaf:

“Lady,” he said, “I bring you here the scraps remaining of a good dinner
a gentleman from Limoges gave me. His countrymen are radish eaters; but
I have taught this one to prefer an Anis goose to all the radishes in
the Limousin.”

Next day and the rest of the week Florent Guillaume,--for he could never
light on his fat friend again nor yet any other good pilgrim with a
well-lined travelling wallet,--fasted _a solis ortu usque ad occasum_,
from rising sun to dewy eve. Marguerite the lace-maker did likewise.
This was very meet and right, seeing the time was Holy Week.



II.

[Illustration: 046]

Now on Holy Easter Day, Maître Jacquet Coquedouille, a notable citizen
of the place, was peeping through a hole in a shutter of his house and
watching the countless throng of pilgrims passing down the steep street.
They were wending homewards, happy to have won their pardon; and the
sight of them greatly magnified his veneration for the Black Virgin. For
he deemed a lady so much sought after must needs be a puissant dame.
He was old, and his only hope lay in God’s mercy. Yet was he but
ill-assured of his eternal salvation, for he remembered how many a time
he had ruthlessly fleeced the widow and the orphan. Moreover, he had
robbed Florent Guillaume of his scrivenry at the sign of Our Lady. He
was used to lend at high interest on sound security. Yet could no man
infer he was a usurer, forasmuch as he was a Christian, and it was only
the Jews practised usury,--the Jews, and, if you will, the Lombards and
the men of Cahors.

Now Jacquet Coquedouille went about the matter quite otherwise than the
Jews. He never said, like Jacob, Ephraim, and Manasses, “I am lending
you money.” What he did say was, “I am putting money into your business
to help your trafficking,” a different thing altogether. For usury and
lending upon interest were forbidden by the Church, but trafficking was
lawful and permitted.

And yet at the thought how he had brought many Christian folk to poverty
and despair, Jacquet Coquedouille felt the pangs of remorse, as he
pictured the sword of Divine Justice hanging over his head. So on this
holy Easter Day he was fain to secure him against the Last Judgment
by winning the protection of Our Lady. He thought to himself she would
plead for him at the judgment seat of her divine Son, if only he gave
her a handsome fee. So he went to the great chest where he kept his
gold, and, after making sure the chamber door was shut fast, he opened
the chest, which was full of angels, flor-ins, esterlings, nobles, gold
crowns, gold ducats, and golden sous, and all the coins ever struck by
Christian or Saracen. He extracted with a sigh of regret twelve
deniers of fine gold and laid them on the table, which was crowded
with balances, files, scissors, gold-scales, and account books. After
shutting his chest again and triple-locking it, he numbered the deniers,
renumbered them, gazed long at them with looks of affection, and
addressed them in words so soft and sweet, so affable and ingratiating,
so gentle and courteous, it seemed rather the music of the spheres than
human speech.

“Oh, little angels!” sighed the good old man. “Oh, my dear little
angels! Oh, my pretty gold sheep, with the fine, precious fleece!”

And taking the pieces between his fingers with as much reverence as it
had been the body of Our Lord, he put them in the balance and made sure
they were of the full weight,--or very near, albeit a trifle clipped
already by the Lombards and the Jews, through whose hands they had
passed. After which he spoke to them yet more graciously than before:

“Oh, my pretty sheep, my sweet, pretty lambs, there, let me shear you!
‘T will do you no hurt at all.”

Then, seizing his great scissors, he clipped off shreds of gold here and
there, as he was used to clip every piece of money before parting with
it. And he gathered the clippings carefully in a wooden bowl that was
already half full of bits of gold. He was ready to give twelve angels
to the Holy Virgin; but he felt no way bound to depart from his use and
wont. This done, he went to the aumry where his pledges lay, and drew
out a little blue purse, broidered with silver, which a dame of the
petty trading sort had left with him in her distress. He remembered that
blue and white are Our Lady’s colours.

That day and the next he did nothing further. But in the night, betwixt
Monday and Tuesday, he had cramps, and dreamt the devils were pulling
him by the feet. This he took for a warning of God and our Blessed Lady,
tarried within doors pondering the matter all the day, and then toward
evening went to lay his offering at the feet of the Black Virgin.



III

[Illustration: 051]

THAT same day, as night was closing in, Florent Guillaume thought
ruefully of returning to his airy bedchamber. He had fasted the livelong
day, sore against the grain, holding that a good Christian ought not to
fast in the glorious Resurrection week. Before mounting to his bed in
the steeple, he went to offer a pious prayer to the Lady of Le Puy. She
was still there in the midst of the Church at the spot where she had
offered herself on the Grand Friday to the veneration of the Faithful.
Small and black, crowned with jewels, in a mantle blazing with gold and
precious stones and pearls, she held on her knees the Child Jesus, who
was as black as his mother and passed his head through a slit in her
cloak. It was the miraculous image which St. Louis had received as a
gift from the Soldan of Egypt and had carried with his own hands to the
Church of Anis.

All the pilgrims were gone now, and the Church was dark and empty. The
last offerings of the Faithful were spread at the feet of the beautiful
Black Virgin, displayed on a table lit with wax tapers. You could see
amongst the rest a head, hearts, hands, feet, a woman’s breasts of
silver, a little boat of gold, eggs, loaves, Aurillac cheeses, and in
a bowl full of deniers, sous, and groats, a little blue purse broidered
with silver. Over against the table, in a huge chair, dozed the priest
who guarded the offerings.

Florent Guillaume dropped on his knees before the holy image, and said
over to himself this pious prayer:

“Lady, an it be true that the holy prophet Jeremias, having beheld thee
with the eyes of faith ere ever thou wast conceived, carved with his
hands out of cedar-wood in thy likeness the holy image before which I
am at this present kneeling; an it be true that afterward King Ptolemy,
instructed of the miracles wrought by this same holy image, took it
from the Jewish priests, bare it to Egypt and set it up, covered
with precious stones, in the temple of the idols; an it be true that
Nebuchadnezzar, conqueror of the Egyptians, seized it in his turn and
had it laid amongst his treasure, where the Saracens found it when they
captured Babylon; an it be true that the Soldan loved it in his heart
above all things, and was used to adore it at the least once every day;
an it be true that the said Soldan had never given it to our saintly
King Louis, but that his wife, who was a Saracen dame, yet prized
chivalry and knightly prowess, resolved to make it a gift to the best
knight and worthiest champion of all Christendom; in a word, an this
image be miraculous, as I do firmly credit, have it do a miracle, Lady,
in favour of the poor clerk who hath many a time writ thy praises on
the vellum of the service books. He hath sanctified his sinful hands by
engrossing in a fair writing, with great red capitals at the beginning
of each clause, ‘the fifteen joys of Our Lady,’ in the vulgar tongue
and in rhyme, for the comforting of the afflicted. ‘Tis pious work this.
Think of it, Lady, and heed not his sins. Give him somewhat to eat.
‘Twill both do me much profit, and bring thee great honour, for the
miracle will appear no mean one to all them that know the world. Thou
hast this day gotten gold, eggs, cheeses, and a little blue purse
broidered with silver. Lady, I grudge thee none of the gifts that have
been made thee. Thou dost well deserve them, yea, and more than they. I
do not so much as ask thee to make them give me back what a thief hath
robbed me of, a thief by name Jacquet Coque-douille, one of the most
honoured citizens of this thy town of Le Puy. No, all I ask of thee
is not to let me die of hunger. And if thou grant me this boon, I will
indite a full and fair history of thine holy image here present.”

So prayed Florent Guillaume. The soft murmur of his petition was
answered only by the deep-chested, placid snore of the sleeping priest.
The poor scrivener rose from his knees, stepped noiselessly adown the
nave, for he was grown so light his footfall could scarce be heard, and,
fasting as he was, climbed the tower stairs that had as many steps as
there are days in the year.

Meanwhile Madame Ysabeau, slipping under the cloister gate, entered
her Church. The pilgrims had driven her away, for she loved peace and
solitude. The bird came forward cautiously, putting one foot slowly
in front of the other, then stopped and craned her neck, casting a
suspicious look to right and left. Then giving a graceful little jump
and shaking out her tail feathers, she hopped up to the Black Madonna.
Then she stood stock still a few moments, scrutinising the sleeping
watchman and questioning the darkness and silence with eyes and ears
alert. At last with a mighty flutter of wings she alighted on the table
of offerings.



IV

[Illustration: 056]

MEANWHILE Florent Guillaume had settled himself for the night in the
steeple. It was bitter cold. The wind came blowing in through the
luffer-boards and fluted and organed among the bells to rejoice the
heart of the cats and owls. And this was not the only objection to
the lodging. Since the earthquake of 1427, which had shaken the whole
church, the spire was dropping to pieces stone by stone and threatened
to collapse altogether in the first storm. Our Lady suffered this
dilapidation because of the people’s sins.

Presently Florent Guillaume fell asleep, which is a token of his
innocency of heart. What dreams he dreamt is clean forgot, except that
he had a vision in his sleep of a lady of consummate beauty who came and
kissed him on the mouth. But when his lips opened to return her salute,
he swallowed two or three woodlice that were walking over his face and
by their tickling had deluded his sleeping senses into the agreeable
fancy. He awoke, and hearing a noise of wings beating above his head, he
thought it was a devil, as was very natural for him to opine, seeing how
the evil spirits flock in countless swarms to torment mankind, and above
all at night time. But the moon just then breaking through the clouds,
he recognised Madame Ysabeau and saw she was busy with her beak pushing
into a crack in the wall that served her for storehouse a blue purse
broidered with silver. He let her do as she list; but when she had left
her hoard, he clambered onto a beam, took the purse, opened it, and saw
it contained twelve good gold deniers, which he clapped in his belt,
giving thanks to the incomparable Black Virgin of Le Puy. For he was a
clerk and versed in the Scriptures, and he remembered how the Lord fed
his prophet Elias by a raven; whence he inferred that the Holy Mother
of God had sent by a magpie twelve deniers to her poor penman, Florent
Guillaume.

On the morrow Florent and Marguerite the lace-maker ate a dish of
tripe,--a treat they had craved for many a long year.

So ends the Miracle of the Magpie. May he who tells the tale live, as he
would fain live, in good and gentle peace, and all good hap befall such
folk as shall read the same.



BROTHER JOCONDE

[Illustration: 062]

THE Parisians were far from loving the English and found it hard to put
up with them. When, after the obsequies of the late King Charles VI, the
Duke of Bedford had the sword of the King of France borne before him,
the people murmured. But what cannot be cured must be endured. Besides,
though the capital hated the English, it loved the Burgundians. What
more natural for citizen folk, and especially for money-changers and
traders, than to admire Duke Philip, a prince of seemly presence and the
richest nobleman in Christendom. As for the “little King of Bourges,”
 a sorry-looking mortal and very poor, strongly suspected, moreover, of
foul murder at the Bridge of Montereau, what had he about him to please
folk withal? Scorn was the sentiment felt for him, and horror and
loathing for his partisans. For ten years now had these been riding and
raiding around the walls, pillaging and holding to ransom. No doubt the
English and Burgun-dians did much the same; when, in the month of
August, 1423, Duke Philip came to Paris, his men-at-arms had ravaged all
the country about. And they were friends and allies of course; but after
all they only came and went. The Armagnacs, on the contrary, were always
in the field, stealing whatever they could lay their hands upon, firing
farmsteads and churches, killing women and children, deflowering virgins
and nuns, hanging men by the thumbs. In 1420 they threw themselves like
devils let loose on the village of Champigny and burnt up altogether
oats, wheat, lambs, cows, oxen, children, and women. They did the like
and worse at Croissy. A very great clerk of the University declared they
wrought all wickedness that can be wrought and conceived, and that more
Christian folk had been martyred at their hands than ever Maximian or
Diocletian did to death.

At the news that these accursed Armagnacs were at the gates of Compiègne
and occupying the neighbouring castles and their lands, the folk of
Paris were sore afraid. They believed that the Dauphin’s soldiers had
sworn, if they entered Paris, to slay whomsoever they found there. They
affirmed openly that Messire Charles de Valois had given up to his men’s
mercy town and townsmen, great and small, of every rank and condition,
men and women, and that he proposed to drive the plough over the site of
the city. The inhabitants mostly believed the tale; so they set the St.
Andrew’s cross on their coats, in token that they were of the party of
the Burgundians. Their hatred was doubled, and their fears with it, when
they learned that Brother Richard and the Maid Jeanne were at the head
of King Charles’ army. They knew nothing of the Maid save from the
rumour of the victories she was reported to have won at Orleans. But
they deemed she had vanquished the English by the Devil’s aid, by means
of spells and enchantments.

The Masters of the University all said: “A creature in shape of a woman
is with the Armagnacs. What it is, God knows!”

For Brother Richard, they knew him well. He had come to Paris before,
and they had hearkened reverently to his sermons. He had even persuaded
them to renounce those games of chance for which they had been used
to forget meat and drink and the services of the Church. Now, at the
tidings that Brother Richard was on foray with the Armagnacs and
winning over for them by his well-hung tongue good towns like Troyes in
Champagne, they called down on him the curse of God and his Saints. They
tore out of their hats the leaden medals inscribed with the holy name
of Jesus, which the good Brother had given them, and to show in what
detestation they held him, resumed dice, bowls, draughts, and all other
games they had renounced at his exhortation.

The city was strongly fortified, for in the days when King Jean was a
prisoner of the English, the citizens of Paris, seeing the enemy in the
heart of the Kingdom, had feared a siege and had hastened to put the
walls in a state of defence. They had surrounded the place with moats
and counter-moats. The moats, on the left bank of the river, were dug
at the foot of the walls forming the old circle of fortification. But
on the right bank there were faubourgs, both extensive and well built,
outside the walls and almost touching them. The new moats enclosed a
part of these, and the Dauphin Charles, King Jean’s son, afterward had
a wall built along the line of them. Nevertheless there was some feeling
of insecurity, for the Cathedral Chapter took measures to put the relics
and treasure out of reach of the enemy.

Meantime, on Sunday, August 21st, a Cordelier, by name Brother Joconde,
entered the town. He had made pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and was said,
like Brother Vincent Ferrier and Brother Bernardino of Sienna, to
have enjoyed by the abounding grace of God many revelations anent the
forthcoming end of the world. He gave out that he would preach his first
sermon to the Parisians on Tuesday following, St. Bartholomew’s day, in
the Cloister of “The Innocents.” On the eve of that day more than six
thousand persons spent the night in the Cloister. At the foot of the
platform wherefrom he was to preach, the women sat squatted on their
heels, and amongst them Guillaumette Dyonis, who was blind from birth.
She was the child of an artisan who had been killed by the Burgundians
in the woods of Boulogne-la-Grande. Her mother had been carried off by
a Burgundian man-at-arms, and none knew what had become of her.
Guillaumette was fifteen or sixteen years of age. She lived at “The
Innocents” on what she made by spinning wool, at which trade there was
not a better worker to be found in all the town. She went and came in
the streets without the help of any and knew everything as well as those
who can see. As she lived a good and holy life and fasted often, she
was favoured with visions. In especial she had been accorded notable
revelations by the Apostle St. John concerning the troubles that then
beset the Kingdom of France. Now, as she was reciting her Hours at the
foot of the platform, under the great Dance of Death, a woman called
Simone la Bardine, who was seated on the ground beside her, asked her if
the good Brother was not coming soon.

Guillaumette Dyonis could not see the tailed gown of green and the
horned wimple which Simone la Bardine wore; yet she knew by instinct the
woman was no honest dame. She felt a natural aversion for light women
and the sort the soldiers called their sweethearts or “doxies,” but it
had been revealed to her that we should hold such in great pity and
deal compassionately with them. Wherefore she answered Simone la Bardine
gently:

“The good Father will come soon, please God. And we shall have no reason
to regret having waited, for he is eloquent in prayer and his sermons
turn the folk to devotion more even than those of Brother Richard, who
spake in these Cloisters in the springtime. He knows more than any man
living of the times that shall come and shall show us strange portents.
I trow we shall gain great profit of his words.”

“God grant it,” sighed Simone la Bardine. “But are you not very sorry to
be blind?”

“No. I wait to see God.”

Simone la Bardine made her mantle into a cushion, and said:

“Life is all ups and downs. I live at the top of the Rue Saint-Antoine.
‘T is the finest part of the city and the merriest, for the best
hostelries are in the Place Baudet and thereabout. Before the Wars there
was aye abundance there of hot cakes and fresh herrings and Auxerre
wine by the tun. With the English famine entered the town. Now is there
neither bread in the bin nor firewood on the hearth. One after other the
Armagnacs and the Burgundians have drunk up all the wine, and there is
naught left in the cellar but a little thin, sour cider and sloe-juice.
Knights armed for the tourney, pilgrims with their cockleshells
and staves, traders with their chests full of knives and little
service-books, where are they gone? They never come now to seek a
lodging and good living in the Rue Saint-Antoine. But the wolves quit
covert in the forests and prowl of nights in the faubourgs and devour
little children.”

“Put your trust in God,” Guillaumette Dyonis answered her.

“Amen!” returned Simone la Bardine. “But I have not told you the worst.
On the Thursday before St, John’s day, at three after midnight, two
Englishmen came knocking at my door. Not knowing but they had come to
rob me or break up my chests and coffers out of mischief, or do some
other devilment, I shouted to them from my window to go their ways, that
I did not know them and I was not going to open the door. But they only
hammered louder, swearing they were going to break in the door and
come in and cut off my nose and ears. To stop their uproar I emptied a
crockful of water on their heads; but the crock slipped out of my hands
and broke on the back of one fellow’s neck so unchancily that it felled
him. His comrade called up the watch. I was haled to the Châtelet and
clapped in prison, where I was very hardly handled, and only escaped by
paying a heavy sum of money. I found my house pillaged from cellar to
attic. From that day my affairs have gone from bad to worse, and I have
naught in the wide world but the clothes I stand up in. In very despair
I have come hither to hear the good Father, who they say abounds in
comforting words.”

“God, who loves you,” said Guillaumctte Dyonis, “has moved you in all
this.”

Then a great silence fell on the crowd as Brother Joconde appeared. His
eyes flashed like lightning. When he opened his lips, his voice pealed
out like thunder.

“I have come from Jerusalem,” he began; “and to prove it, see in this
wallet are roses of Jericho, a branch of the olive under which Our
Saviour sweated drops of blood, and a handful of the earth of Calvary.”

He gave a long narrative of his pilgrimage. And he added:

“In Syria I met Jews travelling in companies; I asked them whither they
were bound, and they told me: ‘We are flocking in crowds to Babylon,
because in very deed the Messiah is born among men, and will restore
us our heritage, and stablish us again in the Land of Promise.’ So said
these Jews of Syria. Now the Scriptures teach us that he they call the
Messiah is, in truth, Antichrist, of whom it is said he must be born at
Babylon, chief city of the kingdom of Persia, be reared at Bethsaida,
and dwell in his youth at Chorazin. That is why Our Lord said: ‘Woe unto
thee, Chor-azin! Woe unto thee, Bethsaida!’

“The year that is at hand,” went on Brother Joconde, “will bring the
greatest marvels that have ever been beheld.

“The times are at hand. He is born, the man of sin, the son of
perdition, the wicked man, the beast from out the abyss, the abomination
of desolation. He comes from the tribe of Dan, of which it is written:
‘Dan shall be a serpent in the way, an adder in the path.’

“Brethren, soon shall ye see returning to this earth the Prophets Elias
and Enoch, Moses, Jeremias, and St. John Evangelist. And lo! the day of
wrath is dawning, the day which ‘solvet sæclum in favilla, teste David
et Sibylla.’ Wherefore now is the time to repent and do penance and
renounce the false delights of this world.”

At the good Brother’s word bosoms heaved with remorse and deep-drawn
sighs were heard. Not a few, both men and women, were near fainting when
the preacher cried:

“I read in your souls that ye keep mandrakes at home, which will bring
you to hell fire.”

It was true. Many Parisians paid heavily to the old witch-wives, who
profess unholy knowledge, for to buy mandrakes, and were used to keep
them treasured in a chest. These magic roots have the likeness of
a little man, hideously ugly and misshapen in a weird and diabolic
fashion. They would dress them out magnificently, in fine linen and
silks, and the mannikins brought them riches, chief source of all the
ills of this world.

Next Brother Joconde thundered against women’s extravagant attire.

“Leave off,” he bade them, “your horns and your tails! Are ye not shamed
so to bedizen yourselves like she-devils? Light bonfires, I say, in the
public streets, and cast therein and burn your damnable head-gear,--pads
and rolls, erections of leather and whalebone, wherewith ye stiffen out
the front of your hoods.”

He ended by exhorting them with so much zeal and loving-kindness not to
lose their souls, but put themselves in the grace of God, that all who
heard him wept hot tears. And Simone la Bardine wept more abundantly
than any.

When, finally, coming down from his platform, Brother Joconde crossed
the cloister and graveyard, the people fell on their knees as he went
by. The women gave him their little ones to bless, or besought him to
touch medals and rosaries for them. Some plucked threads from his gown,
thinking to get healing by putting them, like relics of the Saints, on
the places where they were afflicted. Guillaumette Dyonis followed the
good Father as easily as if she saw him with her bodily eyes. Simone
la Bardine trailed behind her, sobbing. She had pulled off her horned
wimple and tied a kerchief round her head.

Thus they marched, the three of them, along the streets, where men and
women, who had been at the preaching, were kindling fires before their
doors to cast therein head-gear and mandrake roots. But on reaching
the river bank, Brother Joconde sat down under an elm, and Guillaumette
Dyonis came up to him and said:

“Father, it hath been revealed to me in vision that you are come to this
Kingdom to restore the same to good peace and concord. I have had myself
many revelations concerning the peace of the Kingdom.”

Next Simone la Bardine took up her parable and said:

“Brother Joconde, I lived once in a fine house in the Rue Saint-Antoine,
near by the Place Baudet, which is the fairest quarter of Paris, and the
wealthiest. I had a matted chamber, mantles of cloth of gold, and
gowns trimmed with miniver, enough to fill three great chests; I had a
feather-bed, a dresser loaded with pewter, and a little book wherein you
saw in pictures the story of Our Lord. But since the wars and pillagings
that devastate the Kingdom, I have lost everything. The gallants never
come now to take their pleasure in the Place Baudet. But the wolves come
there instead to devour little children. The Burgundians and the English
are as bad as the Armagnacs. Would you have me go with you?”

The Monk gazed a while in silence at the two women; and deeming it
was Jesus Christ himself had led them to him, he received them for his
Penitents, and thereafter the twain followed him wherever he went. Every
day he preached to the people, now at “The Innocents,” now at the Porte
Saint-Honoré, or at the Halles. But he never went outside the Walls, by
reason of the Armagnacs, who were raiding all the countryside round the
city.

His words led many souls to a better life; and at the fourth sermon he
preached in Paris, he received for Penitents Jeannette Chastenier, wife
of a merchant-draper on the Pont-au-Change, and another woman, by name
Opportune Jadoin, who nursed the sick at the Hôtel-Dieu and was no
longer very young. He admitted likewise into his company a gardener of
the Ville-l’Evêque, a lad of about sixteen, Robin by name, who bare on
his feet and hands the stigmata of the crucifixion, and was shaken by
a sore trembling of all his limbs. He often saw the Holy Virgin in
corporeal presence, and heard her speech and savoured the divine odours
of her glorified body. She had entrusted him with a message for the
Regent of England and for the Duke of Burgundy. Meantime the army of
Messire Charles of Valois entered the town of Saint-Denis. And no man
durst from that day go out of Paris to harvest the fields or gather
aught from the market-gardens which covered the plain to the northward
of the city. Instantly famine prices ruled, and the inhabitants began to
suffer cruelly. And they were further exasperated because they believed
themselves betrayed. It was openly said that certain folk, and in
especial certain men of Religion, suborned by Messire Charles of Valois,
were watching for the best time to stir up trouble and bring in the
enemy in an hour of panic and confusion. Haunted by this fear, which
was not perhaps altogether baseless, the citizens who kept guard of the
ramparts showed scant mercy to any men of evil looks whom they found
loitering near the Gates and whom they might suspect, on the most
trivial evidence, of making signals to the Armagnacs. On Thursday,
September 8th, the good people of Paris awoke without any fear of being
attacked before the next day. This day, September 8th, was the Feast of
the Nativity of the Virgin, and it was an established custom with the
two factions that tore the Kingdom in twain to keep holy the feast-days
of Our Lord and His Blessed Mother.

Yet at this holy season the Parisians, on coming forth from Mass, learnt
that, notwithstanding the sacredness of the day, the Armagnacs had
appeared before the Porte Saint-Honoré and had set fire to the outwork
which defended its approach. It was further reported that Messire
Charles of Valois was posted, for the time being, along with Brother
Richard and the Maid Jeanne, in the Hog Market without the Walls. The
same afternoon, through all the city, on either side the bridges, shouts
of fear arose--“Save yourselves! fly, the enemy are come in, all is
lost!” The cries were heard even inside the Churches, where pious folks
were singing Vespers. These came flying out in terror and ran to their
houses to take refuge behind barred doors.

Now the men who went about raising these cries were emissaries of
Messire Charles of Valois. In fact, at that very time, the Company of
the Maréchal de Rais was making assault on the Walls near by the Porte
Saint-Honoré. The Armagnacs had brought up in carts great bundles of
faggots and wattled hurdles to fill up the moats, and above six hundred
scaling-ladders for storming the ramparts. The Maid Jeanne, who was
nowise as the Burgundians believed, but lived a pious life and guarded
her chastity, set foot to ground, and was the first down into a dry
moat, which for that cause was easy to cross. But thereupon they found
themselves exposed to the arrows and cross-bolts that rained down thick
and fast from the Walls. Then they had in front of them a second moat.
Wherefore were the Maid and her men-at-arms sore hampered. Jeanne
sounded the great moat with her lance and shouted to throw in faggots.

Inside the town could be heard the roar of cannon, and all along the
streets the citizens were running, half accoutred, to their posts on
the ramparts, knocking over as they went the brats playing about in the
gutters. The chains were drawn across the roadways, and barricades were
begun. Tribulation and tumult filled all the place.

But neither the Brother Joconde nor his Penitents saw aught of it,
forasmuch as they took heed only of eternal things, and deemed the vain
agitation of men to be but a foolish game. They marched through the
streets singing the “Veni creator spiritus,” and crying out: “Pray, for
the times are at hand.”

Thus they made their way in good array down the Rue Saint-Antoine, which
was densely crowded with men, women, and children. Coming presently to
the Place Baudet, Brother Joconde pushed through the throng and mounted
a great stone that stood at the door of the Hôtel de la Truie, which
Messire Florimont Lecocq, the master of the house, used to help him
mount his mule. This Messire Florimont Lecocq was Sergeant at the
Châtelet Prison and a partisan of the English.

So, standing on the great stone, Brother Joconde preached to the people.
“Sow ye,” he cried, “sow ye, good folk; sow abundantly of beans, for He
which is to come will come quickly.”

By the beans they were to sow, the good Brother signified the charitable
works it behoved them accomplish before Our Lord should come, in the
clouds of heaven, to judge both the quick and the dead. And it was
urgent to sow these works without tarrying, for that the harvest would
be soon. Guillaumette Dyonis, Simone la Bardine, Jeanne Chastenier,
Opportune Jadoin, and Robin the gardener, stood in a ring about the
Preacher, and cried “Amen!”

But the citizens, who thronged behind in a great crowd, pricked up their
ears and bent their brows, thinking the Monk was foretelling the entry
of Charles of Valois into his good town of Paris, over which he was
fain--at any rate, so they believed--to drive the ploughshare.

Meanwhile the good Brother went on with his soul-awakening discourse.

“Oh! ye men of Paris, ye are worse than the Pagans of old Rome.”

Just then the mangonels firing from the Porte Saint-Denis mingled their
thunder with Brother Joconde’s voice and shook the bystanders’
hearts within them. Some one in the press cried out, “Death! death to
traitors!” All this time Messire Florimont Lecocq was within-doors doing
on his armour. He now came forth at the noise, before he had buckled his
leg-pieces. Seeing the Monk standing on his mounting-block, he asked:
“What is this good Father saying?” And a chorus of voices answered:
“Telling us that Messire Charles of Valois is going to enter the city,”
 while others cried:

“He is against the folk of Paris,” and others again:

“He would fain cozen and betray us, like the Brother Richard, who at
this very time is riding with our enemies.”

But Brother Joconde made answer: “There be neither Armagnacs, nor
Burgundians, nor French, nor English, but only the sons of light and
the sons of darkness. Ye are lewd fellows and your women wantons.”

“Go to, thou apostate! thou sorcerer! thou traitor!” yelled Messire
Florimont Lecocq,--and lugging out his sword, he plunged it in the good
Brother’s bosom.

With pale lips and faltering voice, the man of God still managed to say:

“Pray, fast, do penance, and ye shall be forgiven, my brethren...”

Then his voice choked, as the blood poured from his mouth, and he fell
on the stones. Two knights, Sir John Stewart and Sir George Morris,
threw themselves on the body and pierced it with more than a hundred
dagger thrusts, vociferating:

“Long life to King Henry! Long life to my Lord the Duke of Bedford! Down
with the Dauphin! Down with the mad Maid of the Armagnacs! Up, up! To
the Gates, to the Gates!”

Therewith they ran to the Walls, drawing off with them Messire Florimont
and the crowd of citizens.

Meanwhile the holy women and the gardener tarried about the bleeding
corse. Simone la Bardine lay prostrate on the ground, kissing the good
Brother’s feet and wiping away his blood with her unbound hair.

But Guillaumette Dyonis, standing up with her arms lifted to heaven,
cried in a voice as clear as the sound of bells:

“My sisters, Jeanne, Opportune and Simone, and you, my brother, Robin
the gardener, let us be going, for the times are at hand. The soul
of this good Father holds me by the hand, and it will lead me aright.
Wherefore ye must follow along with me. And we will say to those who are
making cruel war upon each other: ‘Kiss and make peace. And if ye must
needs use your arms, take up the cross and go forth all together to
fight the Saracens.’ Come! my sisters and my brother.”

Jeanne Chastenier picked up the shaft of an arrow from the ground, brake
it, and made a cross, which she laid on good Brother Joconde’s bosom.
Then these holy women, and the gardener with them, followed after
Guillaumette Dyonis, who led them by the streets and squares and alleys
as if her eyes had seen the light of day. They reached the foot of the
rampart, and by the stairway of a tower that was left unguarded, they
mounted onto the curtain-wall. There had been no time to furnish it with
its hoardings of wood; so they went along in the open. They proceeded
toward the Porte Saint-Honoré, by this time enveloped in clouds of dust
and smoke. It was there the Maréchal de Rais and his men were making
assault. Their bolts flew thick and fast against the ramparts, and they
were hurling faggots into the water of the great moat. On the hog’s-back
parting the great moat from the little, stood the Maid, crying: “Yield,
yield you to the King of France.” The English had abandoned the top
of the wall in terror, leaving their dead and wounded behind them.
Guillaumette Dyonis walked first, her head high and her left arm
extended before her, while with her right hand she kept signing herself
reverently. Simone la Bardine followed close on her heels. Then came
Jeanne Chastenier and Opportune Jadoin. Robin the gardener brought
up the rear, his body all shaking with his infirmity, and showing
the divine stigmata on his hands. They were singing canticles as they
walked.

And Guillaumette, turning now toward the city and now toward the open
country, cried: “Brethren, embrace ye one another. Live in peace
and harmony. Take the iron of your spearheads and forge it into
ploughshares!”

Scarce had she spoken ere a shower of arrows, some from the parapet-way
where a Company of Citizens was defiling, some from the hog’s-back
where the Armagnac men-at-arms were massed, flew in her direction, and
therewith a storm of insults:

“Wanton! traitress! witch!”

Meanwhile she went on exhorting the two sides to stablish the Kingdom
of Jesus Christ upon earth and to live in innocency and brotherly love,
till a cross-bow bolt struck her in the throat and she staggered and
fell backward.

It was which could laugh the louder at this, Armagnacs or Burgundians.
Drawing her gown over her feet, she lay still and made no other stir,
but gave up her soul, sighing the name of Jesus. Her eyes, which
remained open, glowed like two opals.

Short while after the death of Guillaumette Dyonis the men of Paris
returned in great force to man their Wall, and defended their city right
valorously. Jeanne the Maid was wounded by a cross-bow bolt in the leg,
and Messire Charles of Valois’ men-at-arms fell back upon the Chapelle
Saint-Denis. What became of Jeanne Chastenier and Opportune Jadoin no
one knows. They were never heard of more. Simone la Bardine and Robin
the gardener were taken the same day by the citizens on guard at the
Walls and handed over to the Bishop’s officer, who duly brought them
before the Courts. The Church adjudged Simone heretic, and condemned
her for salutary penance to the bread of suffering and the water of
affliction. Robin was convicted of sorcery, and, persevering in his
error, was burned alive in the Place du Parvis.



FIVE FAIR LADIES OF PICARDY, OF POITOU, OF TOURAINE, OF LYONS, AND OF PARIS

[Illustration: 090]

ONE day the Capuchin, Brother Jean Chavaray, meeting my good master the
Abbé Coign-ard in the cloister of “The Innocents,” fell into talk
with him of the Brother Olivier Maillard, whose sermons, edifying and
macaronic, he had lately been reading.

“There are good bits to be found in these sermons,” said the Capuchin,
“notably the tale of the five ladies and the go-between...” You will
readily understand that Brother Olivier, who lived in the reign of
Louis XI and whose language smacks of the coarseness of that age, uses a
different word. But our century demands a certain politeness and decency
in speech; wherefore I employ the term I have, to wit, _go-between_.

“You mean,” replied my good master, “to signify by the expression a
woman who is so obliging as to play intermediary in matters of love
and love-making. The Latin has several names for her,--as _lena,
conciliatrix_, also _internuntia libidinum_, ambassadress of naughty
desires. These prudish dames perform the best of services; but
seeing they busy themselves therein for money, we distrust their
disinterestedness. Call yours a _procuress_, good Father, and have done
with it; ‘t is a word in common use, and has a not unseemly sound.”

“So I will, Monsieur l’Abbé,” assented Brother Jean Chavaray. “Only
don’t say _mine_, I pray, but the Brother Olivier’s. A procuress then,
who lived on the Pont des Tournelles, was visited one day by a knight,
who put a ring into her hands. ‘It is of fine gold,’ he told her, ‘and
hath a balass ruby mounted in the bezel. An you know any dames of good
estate, go say to the most comely of them that the ring is hers if she
is willing to come to see me and do at my pleasure.’

“The procuress knew, by having seen them at Mass, five ladies of an
excellent beauty,--natives the first of Picardy, the second of Poitou,
the third of Touraine, another from the good city of Lyons, and the last
a Parisian, all dwelling in the Cite or its near neighbourhood.

“She knocked first at the Picard lady’s door. A maid opened, but her
mistress refused to have one word to say to her visitor. She was an
honest woman.

“The procuress went next to see the lady of Poitiers and solicit her
favours for the gallant knight. This dame answered her:

“‘Prithee, go tell him who sent you that he is come to the wrong house,
and that I am not the woman he takes me for.’

“She too is an honest woman; yet less honest than the first, in that she
tried to appear more so.

“The procuress then went to see the lady from Tours, made the same offer
to her as to the other, and showed her the ring.

“‘I’ faith,’ said the lady, ‘but the ring is right lovely.’

“‘’T is yours, an you will have it.’

“‘I will not have it at the price you set on it. My husband might catch
me, and I should be doing him a grief he doth not deserve.’

“This lady of Touraine is a harlot, I trow, at bottom of her heart.

“The procuress left her and went straight to the dame of Lyons, who
cried:

“‘Alack! my good friend, my husband is a jealous wight, and he would cut
the nose off my face to hinder me winning any more rings at this pretty
tilting.’

“This dame of Lyons, I tell you, is a worthless good-for-naught.

“Last of all the procuress hurried to the Parisian’s. She was a hussy,
and answered brazenly:

“‘My husband goes Wednesday to his vineyards; tell the good sir who sent
you I will come that day and see him.’

“Such, according to Brother Olivier, from Picardy to Paris, are the
degrees from good to evil amongst women. What think you of the matter,
Monsieur Coignard?”

To which my good master made answer:

“‘T is a shrewd matter to consider the acts and impulses of these petty
creatures in their relations with Eternal Justice. I have no lights
thereanent. But methinks the Lyons dame who feared having her nose cut
off was a more good-for-nothing baggage than the Parisian who was afraid
of nothing.”

“I am far, very far, from allowing it,” replied Brother Jean Chavaray.
“A woman who fears her husband may come to fear hell fire. Her
Confessor, it may be, will bring her to do penance and give alms. For,
after all, that is the end we must come at. But what can a poor Capuchin
hope to get of a woman whom _nothing_ terrifies?”



A GOOD LESSON WELL LEARNT

[Illustration: 098]

IN the days of King Louis XI there lived at Paris, in a matted chamber,
a citizen dame called Violante, who was comely and well-liking in all
her person. She had so bright a face that Master Jacques Tribouillard,
doctor in law and a renowned cosmographer, who was often a visitor at
her house, was used to tell her:

“Seeing you, madame, I deem credible and even hold it proven, what
Cucurbitus Piger lays down in one of his scholia on Strabo, to wit, that
the famous city and university of Paris was of old known by the name of
Lutetia or Leucecia, or some such like word coming from _Leukê_, that
is to say, ‘the white,’ forasmuch as the ladies of the same had bosoms
white as snow,--yet not so clear and bright and white as is your own,
madame.”

To which Violante would say in answer:

“‘T is enough for me if my bosom is not fit to fright folks, like some
I wot of. And, if I show it, why, ‘tis to follow the fashion. I have not
the hardihood to do otherwise than the rest of the world.”

Now Madame Violante had been wedded, in the flower of her youth, to an
Advocate of the Parlement, a man of a harsh temper and sorely set on the
arraignment and punishing of unfortunate prisoners. For the rest, he
was of sickly habit and a weakling, of such a sort he seemed more fit to
give pain to folks outside his doors than pleasure to his wife within.
The old fellow thought more of his blue bags than of his better
half, though these were far otherwise shapen, being bulgy and fat and
formless. But the lawyer spent his nights over them.

Madame Violante was too reasonable a woman to love a husband that was
so unlovable. Master Jacques Tribouillard upheld she was a good wife,
as steadfastly and surely confirmed and stablished in conjugal virtue
as Lucretia the Roman. And for proof he alleged that he had altogether
failed to turn her aside from the path of honour. The judicious observed
a prudent silence on the point, holding that what is hid will only be
made manifest at the last Judgment Day. They noted how the lady was over
fond of gewgaws and laces and wore in company and at church gowns of
velvet and silk and cloth of gold, purfled with miniver; but they were
too fair-minded folk to decide whether, damning as she did Christian
men who saw her so comely and so finely dressed to the torments of vain
longing, she was not damning her own soul too with one of them. In a
word, they were well ready to stake Madame Violante’s virtue on the toss
of a coin, cross or pile,--which is greatly to the honour of that fair
lady.

The truth is her Confessor, Brother Jean Turelure, was for ever
upbraiding her.

“Think you, madame,” he would ask her, “that the blessed St. Catherine
won heaven by leading such a life as yours, baring her bosom and sending
to Genoa for lace ruffles?”

But he was a great preacher, very severe on human weaknesses, who could
condone naught and thought he had done everything when he had inspired
terror. He threatened her with hell fire for having washed her face with
ass’s milk.

As a fact, no one could say if she had given her old husband a meet and
proper head-dress, and Messire Philippe de Coetquis used to warn the
honest dame in a merry vein:

“See to it, I say! He is bald, he will catch his death of cold!”

Messire Philippe de Coetquis was a knight of gallant bearing, as
handsome as the knave of hearts in the noble game of cards. He had first
encountered Madame Violante one evening at a ball, and after dancing
with her far into the night, had carried her home on his crupper, while
the Advocate splashed his way through the mud and mire of the kennels
by the dancing light of the torches his four tipsy lackeys bore. In the
course of these merry doings, a-foot and on horseback, Messire Philippe
de Coetquis had formed a shrewd notion that Madame Violante had a limber
waist and a full, firm bosom of her own, and there and then had been
smit by her charms.

He was a frank and guileless wight and made bold to tell her outright
what he would have of her,--to wit, to hold her naked in his two arms.

To which she would make answer:

“Messire Philippe, you know not what you say. I am a virtuous wife,”--

Or another time:

“Messire Philippe, come back again tomorrow,--”

And when he came next day she would ask innocently:

“Nay, where is the hurry?”

These never-ending postponements caused the Chevalier no little distress
and chagrin. He was ready to believe, with Master Tribouillard, that
Madame Violante was indeed a Lucretia, so true is it that all men are
alike in fatuous self-conceit! And we are bound to say she had not so
much as suffered him to kiss her mouth,--only a pretty diversion after
all and a bit of wanton playfulness.

Things were in this case when Brother Jean Turelure was called to Venice
by the General of his Order, to preach to sundry Turks lately converted
to the true Faith.

Before setting forth, the good Brother went to take leave of his fair
Penitent, and upbraided her with more than usual sternness for living
a dissolute life. He exhorted her urgently to repent and pressed her to
wear a hair-shirt next her skin,--an incomparable remedy against naughty
cravings and a sovran medicine for natures over prone to the sins of the
flesh.

She besought him: “Good Brother, never ask too much of me.”

But he would not hearken, and threatened her with the pains of hell if
she did not amend her ways. Then he told her he would gladly execute any
commissions she might be pleased to entrust him with. He was in hopes
she would beg him to bring her back some consecrated medal, a rosary,
or, better still, a little of the soil of the Holy Sepulchre which the
Turks carry from Jerusalem together with dried roses, and which the
Italian monks sell.

But Madame Violante preferred a quite other request:

“Good Brother, dear Brother, as you are going to Venice, where such
cunning workmen in this sort are to be found, I pray you bring me back a
Venetian mirror, the clearest and truest can be gotten.”

Brother Jean Turelure promised to content her wish.

While her Confessor was abroad, Madame Violante led the same life as
before. And when Messire Philippe pressed her: “Were it not well to take
our pleasure together?” she would answer: “Nay! ‘t is too hot. Look at
the weathercock if the wind will not change anon.” And the good folk
who watched her ways were in despair of her ever giving a proper pair
of horns to her crabbed old husband. “‘T is a sin and a shame!” they
declared.

On his return from Italy Brother Jean Turelure presented himself before
Madame Violante and told her he had brought what she desired.

“Look, madame,” he said, and drew from under his gown a death’s-head.

“Here, madame, is your mirror. This death’s-head was given me for that
of the prettiest woman in all Venice. She was what you are, and you will
be much like her anon.”

Madame Violante, mastering her surprise and horror, answered the good
Father in a well-assured voice that she understood the lesson he would
teach her and she would not fail to profit thereby.

“I shall aye have present in my mind, good Brother, the mirror you
have brought me from Venice, wherein I see my likeness not as I am at
present, but as doubtless I soon shall be. I promise you to govern my
behaviour by this salutary thought.”

Brother Jean Turelure was far from expecting such pious words. He
expressed some satisfaction.

“So, madame,” he murmured, “you see yourself the need of altering your
ways. You promise me henceforth to govern your behaviour by the thought
this fleshless skull hath brought home to you. Will you not make the
same promise to God as you have to me?”

She asked if indeed she must, and he assured her it behoved her so to
do.

“Well, I will give this promise then,” she declared.

“Madame, this is very well. There is no going back on your word now.”

“I shall not go back on it, never fear.”

Having won this binding promise, Brother Jean Turelure left the place,
radiant with satisfaction. And as he went from the house, he cried out
loud in the street:

“Here is a good work done! By Our Lord God’s good help, I have turned
and set in the way toward the gate of Paradise a lady, who, albeit not
sinning precisely in the way of fornication spoken of by the Prophet,
yet was wont to employ for men’s temptation the clay whereof the Creator
had kneaded her that she might serve and adore him withal. She will
forsake these naughty habits to adopt a better life. I have throughly
changed her. Praise be to God!”

Hardly had the good Brother gone down the stairs when Messire Philippe
de Coetquis ran up them and scratched at Madame Violante’s door. She
welcomed him with a beaming smile, and led him into a closet, furnished
with carpets and cushions galore, wherein he had never been admitted
before. From this he augured well. He offered her sweetmeats he had in a
box.

“Here be sugar-plums to suck, madame; they are sweet and sugared, but
not so sweet as your lips.”

To which the lady retorted he was a vain, silly fop to make boast of a
fruit he had never tasted.

He answered her meetly, kissing her forthwith on the mouth.

She manifested scarce any annoyance and said only she was an honest
woman and a true wife. He congratulated her and advised her not to lock
up this jewel of hers in such close keeping that no man could enjoy it.
“For, of a surety,” he swore, “you will be robbed of it, and that right
soon.”

“Try then,” said she, cuffing him daintily over the ears with her pretty
pink palms.

But he was master by this time to take whatsoever he wished of her. She
kept protesting with little cries:

“I won’t have it. Fie! fie on you, messire! You must not do it. Oh!
sweetheart... oh! my love... my life! You are killing me!”

Anon, when she had done sighing and dying, she said sweetly:

“Messire Philippe, never flatter yourself you have mastered me by force
or guile. You have had of me what you craved, but ‘t was of mine own
free will, and I only resisted so much as was needful that I might yield
me as I liked best. Sweetheart, I am yours. If, for all your handsome
face, which I loved from the first, and despite the tenderness of
your wooing, I did not before grant you what you have just won with my
consent, ‘t was because I had no true understanding of things. I had
no thought of the flight of time and the shortness of life and love;
plunged in a soft languor of indolence, I reaped no harvest of my youth
and beauty. However, the good Brother Jean Turelure hath given me a
profitable lesson. He hath taught me the preciousness of the hours. But
now he showed me a death’s-head, saying: ‘Suchlike you will be soon.’
This taught me we must be quick to enjoy the pleasures of love and make
the most of the little space of time reserved to us for that end.”

These words and the caresses wherewith Madame Violante seconded them
persuaded Messire Philippe to turn the time to good account, to set to
work afresh to his own honour and profit and the pleasure and glory
of his mistress, and to multiply the sure proofs of prowess which it
behoves every good and loyal servant to give on suchlike an occasion.

After which, she was ready to cry quits. Taking him by the hand, she
guided him back to the door, kissed him daintily on the eyes, and asked:

“Sweetheart Philippe, is it not well done to follow the precepts of the
good Brother Jean Turelure?”



SATAN’S TONGUE-PIE

[Illustration: 112]

SATAN lay in his bed with the flaming curtains. The physicians and
apothecaries of Hell, finding their patient had a white tongue, inferred
he was suffering from a weakness of the stomach and prescribed a diet at
once light and nourishing.

Satan swore he had no appetite for aught but a certain earthly
dish, which women excel in making when they meet in company, to wit,
tongue-pie.

The doctors agreed there was nothing could better suit His Majesty’s
stomach.

In an hour’s time the dish was set before the King; but he found it
insipid and tasteless.

He sent for his Head Cook and asked him where the pie came from.

“From Paris, sire. It is quite fresh; ‘twas baked this very morning,
in the Marais Quarter, by a dozen gossips gathered round the bed at a
woman’s lying-in.”

“Ah! now I know the reason it is so flavourless,” returned the Prince of
Darkness. “You have not been to the best cooks for dishes of the sort.
Citizens’ wives, they do their best; but they lack delicacy, they lack
the fine touch of genius. Women of the people are clumsier still. For a
real good tongue-pie a Nunnery is the place to go to. There’s nobody to
match these old maids of Religion for a pretty skill in compounding all
the needful ingredients,--fine spices of rancour, thyme of backbiting,
fennel of insinuation, bay-leaf of calumny.”

This parable is taken from a sermon of the good Father Gillotin
Landoulle, a poor, unworthy Capuchin.



CONCERNING AN HORRIBLE PICTURE

[Illustration: 116]

     THE WHICH WAS SHOWED IN A TEMPLE AND OF SUNDRY LIMNINGS OF A
     RIGHT PACIFIC AND AMOROUS SORT THE WHICH THE SAGE PHILEMON
     HAD HANGED IN HIS LIBRARIE AND OF A NOBLE PORTRAITURE OF THE
     POET HOMER THE WHICH THE AFORESAID PHILEMON DID PRIZE ABOVE
     ALL OTHER LIMNINGS

PHILEMON was used to confess how, in the fire of his callow youth
and fine flower of his lustie springal days, he had been stung with
murderous frenzie at view of a certaine picture of Apelles, the which
in those times was showed in a temple. And the said picture did present
Alexander the Great laying on right shrewdly at Darius, king of the
Indians, whiles round about these twain, soldiers and captains were
a-slaying one another with a savage furie and in divers strange
fashions. And the said work was right cunningly wrought and in very
close mimicrie of nature. And none, an they were in the hot and lustie
season of their life, could cast a look thereon without being stirred
incontinent to be striking and killing poor harmlesse folk for the sole
sake of donning so rich an harnesse and bestriding such high-stepping
chargers as did these good codpieces in their battle,--for that young
blood doth aye take pleasure in horseflesh and the practise of arms.
This had the aforesaid Philemon proven in his day. And he was used to
say how ever after ‘twas his wont to turn aside his eyen of set purpose
from suchlike pictures of wars and bloodshed, and that he did so
heartily loathe these cruelties as that he could not abear to behold
them even set forth in counterfeit presentment.

And he was used to say that any honest and prudent wight must needs be
sore offended and scandalized by all this appalling array of armour
and bucklers and the horde of warriors Homer calls _Corythaioloi_
(glancing-helmed) by reason of the terrifying hideousness of their
head-gear, and that the portrayal of these same fighting fellows was
in very truth unseemly, as contrarie to good and peaceable manners,
immodest, no thing in the world being more shameful then homicide, and
eke lascivious, as alluring folk to cruelty, the which is the worst of
all allurements. For to entice to pleasant dalliaunce is a far lesse
heinous fault.

And the aforesaid Philemon was used to say that it was honest, decent,
of good ensample and entirely modest to show by painting, chiselling, or
any other fine artifice the scenes of the Golden Age, to wit maidens and
young men interlacing limbs in accord with the craving of kindly Nature,
or other the like delectable fancy, as of a Nymph lying laughing in the
grass. And on her ripe smiling mouth a Faun is crushing a purple grape.

And he was used to say that belike the Golden Age had never flourished
save only in the fond imagining of the poets, and that our first
forebears of human kind, being yet barbarous and silly folk, had known
naught at all thereof; but that, an the said age could not credibly be
deemed to have been at the beginning of the world, we might well wish
it should be at the end, and that meanwhiles it was a gracious boon to
offer us a likeness of the same in pictured image.

And like as it is (so he would say) obscene,--‘t is the word Virgil
writes of dogs wallowing in the mud and mire,--to depict murderers,
whoreson men-at arms, fighting-men, conquering heroes and plundering
thieves, wreaking their foul and wicked will, yea! and poor devils
licking the dust and swallowing the same in great mouthfuls, and one
unhappie wretch that hath been felled to the earth and is striving to
get to his feet againe, but is pinned down by an horse’s hoof pressing
on his chops, and another that looketh piteously about him for that his
pennon hath been shorn from him and his hand with it,--so is it of right
subtile and so to say heavenly art to exhibit prettie blandishments,
caresses, frolickings, beauties and delights, and the loves of the
Nymphs and Fauns in the woods. And he would have it there was none
offence in these naked bodies, clothed upon enow with their owne grace
and comeliness.

And he had in his closet, this same Philemon aforesaid, a very
marvellous painting, wherein was limned a young Faun in act to filch
away with a craftie hand a light cloth did cover the belly of a sleeping
Nymph. ‘T was plain to see he was full fain of his freak and seemed to
be saying: The body of this young goddess is so sweet and refreshing
as that the fountaine springing in the shade of the woods is not more
delightsome. How I do love to look upon you, soft sweet lap, and prettie
white thighs, and shady cavern at once terrifying and entrancing! And
over the heads of the twain did hover winged Cupids and watched them
laughingly, whiles fair dames and their gallants, their brows wreathen
with flowers, footed it on the lush grass.

And he had, the aforesaid Philemon, yet other limnings of cunning
craftsmanship in his closet. And he did prize very high the portraiture
of a good doctor a-sitting in his cabinet writing at a table by
candle-light. The said cabinet was fully furnished with globes, gnomons,
and astrolabes, proper for meting the movements of the orbs of heaven,
the which is a right praiseworthy task and one that doth lift the spirit
to sublime thoughts and the exceeding pure love of Venus Urania.

And there was hanging from the joists of the said cabinet a great
serpent and crocodile, forasmuch as they be rarities and very needful
for the due understanding of anatomy. And he had likewise, the
said doctor, amid his belongings, the books of the most excellent
philosophers of Antiquity and eke the treatises of Hippocrates. And he
was an ensample to young men which should be fain, by hard swinking, to
stuff their pates with as much high learning and occult lore as he had
under his own bonnet.

And he had, the aforesaid Philemon, painted on a panel that shined like
a polished mirror a portraiture of Homer in the guise of an old blind
man, his beard white as the flowers of the hawthorn and his temples
bound about with the fillets sacred to the god Apollo, which had loved
him above all other men. And, to look at that good old man, you deemed
verily his lips were presently to ope and break into words of mélodie.



MADEMOISELLE DE DOUCINE’S NEW YEAR’S PRESENT

[Illustration: 124]

ON January 1st, in the forenoon, the good M. Chanterelle sallied out on
foot from his hôtel in the Faubourg Saint-Marcel. He felt the cold and
was a poor walker; so it was a real penance to him to face the chilly
air and the bleak streets which were full of half-melted snow. He had
refused to take his coach by way of mortifying the flesh, having grown
very solicitous since his illness about the salvation of his soul. He
lived in retirement, aloof from all society and company, and paid no
visits save to his niece, Mademoiselle de Doucine, a little girl of
seven.

Leaning on his walking-cane, he made his way painfully to the Rue
Saint-Honoré and entered the shop of Madame Pinson at the sign of the
_Panier Fleuri_. Here was displayed an abundant stock of children’s toys
to tempt customers seeking presents for this New Year’s Day of 1696.
You could scarce move for the host of mechanical figures of dancers and
tipplers, birds in the bush that clapped their wings and sang, cabinets
full of wax puppets, soldiers in white and blue ranged in battle array,
and dolls dressed some as fine ladies, others as servant wenches, for
the inequality of stations, established by God himself among mankind,
appeared even in these innocent mannikins.

M. Chanterelle chose a doll. The one he selected was dressed like the
Princess of Savoy on her arrival in France, on November 4th. The head
was a mass of bows and ribbons; she wore a very stiff corsage, covered
with gold filigrees, and a brocade petticoat with an overskirt caught up
by pearl clasps.

M. Chanterelle smiled to think of the delight such a lovely doll would
give Mademoiselle de Doucine, and when Madame Pinson handed him
the Princess of Savoy wrapped up in silk paper, a gleam of sensuous
satisfaction flitted over his kind face, pinched as it was with illness,
pale with fasting and haggard with the fear of hell.

He thanked Madame Pinson courteously, clapped the Princess under his arm
and walked away, dragging his leg painfully, towards the house where he
knew Mademoiselle de Doucine was waiting for him to attend her morning
levée.

At the corner of the Rue de l’ Arbre-Sec, he met M. Spon, whose great
nose dived almost into his lace cravat.

“Good morning, Monsieur Spon,” he greeted him. “I wish you a happy New
Year, and I pray God everything may turn out according to your wishes.”

“Oh! my good sir, don’t say that,” cried M. Spon. “‘T is often for our
chastisement that God grants our wishes. _Et tribuit eis petittonem
eorum_.”

“‘Tis very true,” returned M. Chanterelle, “we do not know our own best
interests. I am an example myself, as I stand before you. I thought at
first that the complaint I have suffered from for the last two years was
a curse; but I see now it is a blessing, since it has removed me from
the abominable life I was leading at the play-houses and in society.
This complaint, which tortures my limbs and is like to turn my brain, is
a signal token of God’s goodness toward me. But, sir, will you not do
me the favour to accompany me as far as the Rue du Roule, whither I am
bound, to carry a New Year’s gift to my niece Mademoiselle de Doucine?”

At the words M. Spon threw up his arms and gave a great cry of horror.

“What!” he exclaimed. “Can it be M. Chanterelle I hear say such
things,--and not some profligate libertine? Is it possible, sir, that
living as you do a religious and retired life, I see you all in a moment
plunge into the vices of the day?”

“Alack! I did not think I was plunging into vice,” faltered M.
Chanterelle, trembling all over. “But I sorely lack a lamp of guidance.
Is it so great a sin then to offer a doll to Mademoiselle de Doucine?”

“Yes, a great and terrible sin,” replied M. Spon. “And what you are
offering this innocent child to-day is meeter to be called an idol,
a devilish simulacrum, than a doll. Are you not aware, sir, that the
custom of New Year’s gifts is a foul superstition and a hideous survival
of Paganism?”

“No, I did not know that,” said M. Chanterelle.

“Let me tell you, then,” resumed M. Spon, “that this custom descends
from the Romans, who seeing something divine in all beginnings, held
the beginning of the year holy also. Hence, to act as they did is to
do idolatry. You make New Year’s offerings, sir, in imitation of the
worshippers of the God Janus. Be consistent, and like them consecrate to
Juno the first day of every month.”

M. Chanterelle, hardly able to keep his feet, begged M. Spon to give him
his arm, and while they moved on, M. Spon proceeded in the same vein:

“Is it because the Astrologers have fixed on the first of January
for the beginning of the year that you deem yourself obliged to make
presents on that day? Pray, what call have you to revive at that precise
date the affection of your friends. Was their love dying then with
the dying year? And will it be so much worth the having when you have
reanimated it by dint of cajolements and baneful gifts?”

“Sir,” returned the good M. Chanterelle, leaning on M. Spon’s arm and
trying hard to make his tottering steps keep pace with his impetuous
companion’s, “sir, before my sickness, I was only a miserable sinner,
taking no heed but to treat my friends with civility and govern my
behaviour by the principles of honesty and honour. Providence hath
deigned to rescue me from this abyss, and I direct my conduct since my
conversion by the admonitions the Director of my conscience gives me.
But I have been so light-minded and thoughtless as not to seek his
advice on this question of New Year’s gifts. What you tell me of them,
sir, with the authority of a man alike admirable for sober living and
sound doctrine, amazes and confounds me.”

“Nay! that is indeed what I mean to do,” resumed M. Spon,--“to confound
you, and to illumine you, not indeed by my own lights, which burn
feebly, but by those of a great Doctor. Sit you down on that wayside
post.”

And pushing M. Chanterelle into the archway of a carriage gate, where
he made himself as easy as circumstances allowed, M. Spon drew from his
pocket a little parchment-bound book, which he opened, and after hunting
through the pages, lighted on a passage which he proceeded to read
out loud amid a gaping circle of chimney-sweeps, chamber-maids, and
scullions who had collected at the resounding tones of his voice:

“‘We who hold in abhorrence the festivals of the Jews, and who would
deem strange and outlandish their Sabbaths and New Moons and other Holy
Days erst loved of the Almighty, we deal familiarly with the Saturnalia
and the Calends of January, with the Matronalia and the Feast of the
Winter Solstice; New Year’s gifts and foolish presents fill all our
thoughts; merrymakings and junketings are in every house. The Heathens
guard their religion better; they are heedful to observe none of our
Feasts, for fear of being taken for Christians, while we never hesitate
to make ourselves look like Heathens by celebrating their Ceremonial
Days.’

“You hear what I say,” went on M. Spon. “‘T is Tertullian speaks in this
wise and from the depths of Africa displays before your eyes, sir, the
odiousness of your behaviour. He it is upbraids you, declaring how ‘New
Year’s gifts and foolish presents fill all your thoughts. You keep
holy the feasts of the Heathen.’ I have not the honour to know your
Confessor. But I shudder, sir, to think of the way he neglects his duty
toward you. Tell me this, can you rest assured that at the day of your
death, when you come to stand before God, he will be at your side, to
take upon him the sins he hath suffered you to fall into?”

After haranguing in this sort, he put back his book in his pocket and
marched off with angry strides, followed at a distance by the astonished
chimney-sweeps and scullions.

The good M. Chanterelle was left sitting alone on his post with the
Princess of Savoy, and thinking how he was risking the eternal pains of
hell fire for giving a doll to Mademoiselle de Doucine, his niece, he
fell to pondering the unfathomable mysteries of Religion.

His legs, which had been tottery for several months, refused to carry
him, and he felt as unhappy as ever a well-meaning man possibly can in
this world.

He had been sitting stranded in this distressful mood on his post for
some minutes when a Capuchin friar stepped up and addressed him:

“Sir, will you not give New Year’s presents to the Little Brethren who
are poor, for the love of God?”

“Why! what! good Father,” M. Chan-terelle burst out, “you are a man of
religion, and you ask me for New Year’s gifts?”

“Sir,” replied the Capuchin, “the good St. Francis bade his sons make
merry with all simplicity. Give the Capuchins wherewith to make a good
meal this day, that they may endure with cheerfulness the abstinence and
fasting they must observe all the rest of the year,--barring, of course,
Sundays and Feast Days.”

M. Chanterelle gazed at the holy man with wonder:

“Are you not afraid, Father, that this custom of New Year’s gifts is
baneful to the soul?”

“No, I am not afraid.”

“The custom comes to us from the Pagans.”

“The Pagans sometimes followed good customs. God was pleased to suffer
some faint rays of his light to pierce the darkness of the Gentiles.
Sir, if you refuse to give _us_ presents, never refuse a boon to our
poor little ones. We have a home for foundlings. With this poor crown I
shall buy each child a little paper windmill and a cake. They will owe
you the only pleasure perhaps of all their life; for they are not fated
to have much joy in the world. Their laughter will go up to heaven; when
children laugh, they praise the Lord.”

M. Chanterelle laid his well-filled purse in the poor friar’s palm and
got him down from his post, saying over softly to himself the word he
had just heard:

“When children laugh, they praise the Lord.”

Then his soul was comforted and he marched off with a firmer step to
carry the Princess of Savoy to Mademoiselle de Doucine, his niece.



MADEMOISELLE ROXANE

[Illustration: 136]

MY good master, M. l’Abbé Coignard, had taken me with him to sup
with one of his old fellow-students, who lodged in a garret in the Rue
Gît-le-Cour. Our host, a Premonstratensian Father of much learning and
a fine Theologian, had fallen out with the Prior of his House for having
writ a little book relating the calamities of Mam’zelle Fanchon. The end
of it was he turned tavern-keeper at The Hague. He was now returned to
France and living precariously by the sermons he composed, which were
full of high argument and eloquence. After supper he had read us these
same calamities of Mam’zelle Fanchon, source of his own, and the reading
had kept us there till a late hour. At last I found myself without-doors
with my good master, under a wondrous fine summer’s night, which made
me straightway comprehend the verity of the ancient fables regarding the
loves of Diana and feel how natural it is to employ in soft dalliance
the silent, silvery hours of night. I said as much to M. l’Abbé
Coignard, who retorted that love is to blame for many and great ills.

“Tournebroche, my son,” he asked me, “have you not just heard from the
mouth of yonder good Monk how, for having loved a recruiting sergeant,
a clerk of M. Gaulot’s mercer at the sign of the Truie-qui-file, and the
younger son of M. le Lieutenant-Criminel Leblanc, Mam’zelle Fanchon was
clapped in hospital? Would you wish to be any of these,--sergeant or
clerk or limb of the law?”

I answered I would indeed. My good master thanked me for my candid
avowal, and quoted some verses of Lucretius to persuade me that love is
contrary to the tranquillity of a truly philosophical soul.

Thus discoursing, we were come to the round-point of the Pont-Neuf.
Leaning our elbows on the parapet, we looked over at the great tower of
the Châtelet, which stood out black in the moonlight.

“There might be much to say,” sighed my good master, “on this justice of
the civilized nations, the punishments whereof in retaliation are often
more cruel than the crime itself I cannot believe that these tortures
and penalties that men inflict on their fellows are necessary for the
safeguarding of States, seeing how from time to time one and another
legal cruelty is done away with without hurt to the commonweal. And I
hold it likely that the severities they still maintain are no whit more
useful than those they have abolished. But men are cruel. Come away,
Tournebroche, my dear lad; it grieves me to think how unhappy prisoners
are even now lying awake behind those walls in anguish and despair. I
know they have done faultily, but this doth not hinder me from pitying
them. Which of us is without offence?”

We went on our way. The bridge was deserted save for a beggarman and
woman, who met on the causeway. The pair drew stealthily into one of the
recesses over the piers, where they lurked together on the door-step
of a hucksters booth. They seemed well enough content, both of them, to
mingle their joint wretchedness, and when we went by were thinking
of quite other things than craving our charity. Nevertheless my good
master, who was the most compassionate of men, threw them a half
farthing, the last piece of money left in his breeches pocket.

“They will pick up our obol,” he said, “when they have come back to the
consciousness of their misery. I pray they may not quarrel then over
fiercely for possession of the coin.”

We passed on without further rencounter till on the Quai des Oiseleurs
we espied a young damsel striding along with a notable air of
resolution. Hastening our pace to get a nearer view, we saw she had a
slim waist and fair hair in which the moonbeams played prettily. She was
dressed like a citizen’s wife or daughter.

“There goes a pretty girl,” said the Abbé; “how comes it she is out of
doors alone at this hour of night?”

“Truly,” I agreed, “‘tis not the sort one generally encounters on the
bridges after curfew.”

Our surprise was changed to alarm when we saw her go down to the river
bank by a little stairway the sailors use. We ran towards her; but she
did not seem to hear us. She halted at the edge; the stream was running
high, and the dull roar of the swollen waters could be heard some
way off. She stood a moment motionless, her head thrown back and arms
hanging, in an attitude of despair. Then, bending her graceful neck, she
put her two hands over her face and kept it hid behind her fingers for
some seconds. Next moment she suddenly grasped her skirts and dragged
them forward with the gesture a woman always uses when she is going to
jump. My good master and I came up with her just as she was taking the
fatal leap, and we hauled her forcibly backward. She struggled to get
free of our arms; and as the bank was all slimy and slippery with ooze
deposited by the receding waters (for the river was already beginning
to fall), M. l’Abbé Coignard came very near being dragged in too. I was
losing my foothold myself. But as luck would have it, my feet lighted on
a root which held me up as I crouched there with my arms round the best
of masters and this despairing young thing. Presently, coming to the
end of her strength and courage, she fell back on M. l’Abbé Coignard’s
breast, and we managed all three to scramble to the top of the bank
again. He helped her up daintily, with a certain easy grace that was
always his. Then he led the way to a great beech-tree at the foot of
which was a wooden bench, on which he seated her.

Taking his place beside her:

“Mademoiselle,” he said gently, “you need have no fear. Say nothing just
yet, but be assured it is a friend sits by you.”

Next, turning to me, my master went on:

“Tournebroche, my son, we may congratulate ourselves on having brought
this strange adventure to a good end. But I have left my hat down yonder
on the river bank; albeit it has lost pretty near all its lace and is
thread-bare with long service, it was still good to guard my old head,
sorely tried by years and labours, against sun and rain. Go see, my son,
if it may still be found where I dropped it. And if you discover it,
bring it me, I beg,--likewise one of my shoe buckles, which I see I have
lost. For my part I will stay by this damsel we have rescued and watch
over her slumber.”

I ran back to the spot we had just quitted and was lucky enough to find
my good master’s hat. The buckle I could not espy anywhere. True, I did
not take any very excessive pains to hunt for it, having never all my
life seen my good master with more than one shoe buckle. When I returned
to the tree, I found the damsel still in the same state, sitting quite
motionless with her head leant against the trunk of the beech. I noticed
now that she was of a very perfect beauty. She wore a silk mantle
trimmed with lace, very neat and proper, and on her feet light shoes,
the buckles of which caught the moonbeams.

I could not have enough of examining her. Suddenly she opened her
drooping lids, and casting a look that was still misty at M. Coignard
and me, she began in a feeble voice, but with the tone and accent, I
thought, of a person of gentility:

“I am not ungrateful, sirs, for the service you have done me from
feelings of humanity; but I cannot truthfully tell you I am glad, for
the life to which you have restored me is a curse, a hateful, cruel
torment.”

At these sad words my good master, whose face wore a look of compassion,
smiled softly, for he could not really think life was to be for ever
hateful to so young and pretty a creature.

“My child,” he told her, “things strike us in a totally different light
according as they are near at hand or far off. It is no time for you to
despair. Such as I am, and brought to this sorry plight by the buffets
of time and fortune, I yet make shift to endure a life wherein my
pleasures are to translate Greek and dine sometimes with sundry very
worthy friends. Look at me, mademoiselle, and say,--would you consent to
live in the same conditions as I?”

She looked him over; her eyes almost laughed, and she shook her head.
Then, resuming her melancholy and mournfulness, she faltered:

“There is not in all the world so unhappy a being as I am.”

“Mademoiselle,” returned my good master, “I am discreet both by calling
and temperament; I will not seek to force your confidence. But your
looks betray you; any one can see you are sick of disappointed love.
Well, ‘t is not an incurable complaint. I have had it myself, and I have
lived many a long year since then.”

He took her hand, gave her a thousand tokens of his sympathy, and went
on in these terms:

“There is only one thing I regret for the moment,--that I cannot offer
you a refuge for the night, or what is left of it. My present lodging
is in an old château a long way from here, where I am busy translating a
Greek book along with young Master Tournebroche whom you see here.”

My master spoke the truth. We were living at the time with M. d’Astarac,
at the Château des Sablons, in the village of Neuilly, and were in the
pay of a great alchemist, who died later under tragic circumstances.

“At the same time, mademoiselle,” my master added, “if you should know
of any place where you think you could go, I shall be happy to escort
you thither.”

To which the girl answered she appreciated all his kindness, that she
lived with a kinswoman, to whose house she could count on being admitted
at any hour; but that she had rather not return before daylight. She was
fain, she said, not to disturb quiet folks’ sleep, and dreaded moreover
to have her grief too painfully renewed by the sight of her old,
familiar surroundings.

As she spoke thus, the tears rained down from her eyes. My good master
bade her:

“Mademoiselle, give me your handkerchief, if you please, and I will wipe
your eyes. Then I will take you to wait for daybreak under the archways
of the Halles, where we can sit in comfort under shelter from the night
dews.”

The girl smiled through her tears.

“I do not like,” she said, “to give you so much trouble. Go your way,
sir, and rest assured you take my best thanks with you.”

For all that she laid her hand on the arm my good master offered her,
and we set out, all the three of us, for the Halles. The night had
turned much cooler. In the sky, which was beginning to assume a milky
hue, the stars were growing paler and fainter. We could hear the first
of the market-gardeners’ carts rumbling along to the Halles, drawn by a
slow-stepping horse, half asleep in the shafts. Arrived at the archways,
we chose a place in the recess of a porch distinguished by an image of
St. Nicholas, and established ourselves all three on a stone step, on
which M. l’Abbé Coignard took the precaution of spreading his cloak
before he let his young charge sit down.

Thereupon my good master fell to discoursing on divers subjects,
choosing merry and enlivening themes of set purpose to drive away the
gloomy thoughts that might assail our companion’s mind. He told her he
accounted this rencounter the most fortunate he had ever chanced on all
his life, and that he should ever cherish a fond recollection of one who
had so deeply touched him,--all this, however, without ever asking to
know her name and story.

My good master thought no doubt that the unknown would presently tell
him what he refrained from asking. She broke into a fresh flood of
weeping, heaved a deep sigh and said:

“I should be churlish, sir, to reward your kindness with silence. I am
not afraid to trust myself in your hands. My name is Sophie T------. You
have guessed the truth; ‘tis the betrayal of a lover I was too fondly
attached to has brought me to despair. If you deem my grief excessive,
that is because you do not know how great was my assurance, how blind my
infatuation, and you cannot realize how enchanting was the paradise I
have lost.”

Then, raising her lovely eyes to our faces, she went on:

“Sirs, I am not such a woman as your meeting me thus at night time might
lead you to suppose. My father was a merchant. He went, in the way of
trade, to America, and was lost on his way home in a shipwreck, he
and his merchandise with him. My mother was so overwhelmed by these
calamities that she fell into a decline and died, leaving me, while
still a child, to the charge of an aunt, who brought me up. I was a
good girl till the hour I met the man whose love was to afford me
indescribable delights, ending in the despair wherein you now see me
plunged.”

So saying, Sophie hid her face in her handkerchief. Presently she
resumed with a sigh:

“His worldly rank was so far above my own I could never expect to be
his except in secret. I flattered myself he would be faithful to me. He
swore he loved me, and easily overcame my scruples. My aunt was aware
of our feelings for one another, and raised no obstacles, for two
reasons,--because her affection for me made her indulgent, and because
my dear lover’s high position impressed her imagination. I lived a year
of perfect happiness only equalled by the wretchedness I now endure.
This morning he came to see me at my aunt’s, with whom I live. I was
haunted by dark forebodings. As I dressed my hair but an hour or so
before, I had broken a mirror he had given me. The sight of him only
increased my misgivings, for I noticed instantly that his face wore an
unaccustomed look of constraint... Oh! sir, was ever woman so unhappy as
I?...”

Her eyes filled again with tears; but she kept them back under her
lids, and was able to finish her tale, which my good master deemed as
touching, but by no means so unique, as she did herself.

“He informed me coldly, though not without signs of embarrassment,
that his father having bought him a Company, he was leaving to join the
colours. First, however, he said, his family required him to plight his
troth to the daughter of an Intendant of Finances; the connection
was advantageous to his fortune and would bring him means adequate to
support his rank and make a figure in the world. And the traitor, never
deigning to notice my pale looks, added in his soft, caressing voice
which had made me so many vows of affection, that his new obligations
would prevent his seeing me again, at least for some while. He assured
me further that he was still my friend and begged me to accept a sum of
money in memory of the days we had passed together.

“And with the words he held out a purse to me.

“I am telling you the truth, sirs, when I assure you I had always
refused to listen to the offers he repeated again and again, to give me
fine clothes, furniture, plate, an establishment, and to take me away
from my aunt’s, where I lived in very narrow circumstances, and settle
me in a most elegant little mansion he had in the Rue di Roule. My wish
was that we should be united only by the ties of affection, and I was
proud to have of his gift nothing but a few jewels whose sole value came
from the fact of his being the donor. My gorge rose at the sight of the
purse he offered me, and the insult gave me strength to banish from my
presence the impostor whom in one moment I had learnt to know and to
despise. He faced my angry looks unabashed, and assured me with the
utmost unconcern that I could know nothing of the paramount obligations
that fill the existence of a man of quality, adding that he hoped
eventually, when I looked at things quietly, I should come to see his
behaviour in a better light. Then, returning the purse to his pocket,
he declared he would readily find a way of putting the contents at my
disposal in such a manner as to make it impossible for me to refuse his
liberality. Thus leaving me with the odious, the intolerable implication
that he was going to make full amends by these sordid means, he made for
the door to which I pointed without a word. When he was gone, I felt a
calmness of mind that surprised myself. It arose from the resolution I
had formed to die. I dressed with some care, wrote a letter to my aunt
asking her forgiveness for the pain I was about to cause her by my
death, and went out into the streets. There I roamed about all the
afternoon and evening and a part of the night, moving from busy
thoroughfare to deserted lane without a trace of fatigue, postponing
the execution of my purpose to make it more sure and certain under the
favouring conditions of darkness and solitude. Possibly too I found a
certain weak pleasure in dallying with the thought of dying and tasting
the mournful satisfaction of my coming release from my troubles. At two
o’clock in the morning, I went down to the river’s brink. Sirs, you know
the rest,--you snatched me from a watery grave. I thank you for your
goodness,--though I am sorry you saved my life. The world is full of
forsaken women. I did not wish to add another to the number.”

Sophie then fell silent and began weeping afresh. My good master took
her hand with the greatest delicacy.

“My child,” he said, “I have listened with a tender interest to the
story of your life, and I own ‘tis a sad tale. But I am happy to discern
that your case is curable. Not only was your lover unworthy of the
favours you showed him and has proved himself on trial a selfish,
cruel-hearted libertine, but I see plainly your love for him was only
an impulse of the senses and the effect of your own sensibility, the
particular object of which mattered far less than you imagine. What
there was rare and excellent in the liaison came from you. Well then,
nothing is lost, since the source still remains. Your eyes, which have
thrown a glamour of the fairest hues over, I doubt not, a very ordinary
individual, will not cease to go on shedding abroad elsewhere the same
bright rays of charming self-delusion.”

My good master said more in the same strain, dropping from his lips the
finest words ever heard anent the tribulations of the senses and the
errors lovers are prone to. But, as he talked on, Sophie, who for some
while had let her pretty head droop on the shoulder of this best of men,
fell softly asleep. When M. l’Abbé Coignard saw his young friend
was wrapped in a sound slumber, he congratulated himself on having
discoursed in a vein so meet to afford repose and peace to a suffering
soul.

“It must be allowed,” he chuckled, “my sermons have a beneficent
effect.”

Not to disturb Mademoiselle’s slumbers, he took a thousand pretty
precautions, amongst others constraining himself to talk on
uninterruptedly, not unreasonably apprehensive that a sudden silence
might awake her.

“Tournebroche, my son,” he said, turning to me, “look, all her sorrows
are vanished away with the consciousness she had of them. You must see
they were all of the imagination and resided in her own thought.
You must understand likewise they sprang from a certain pride and
overweening conceit that goes along with love and makes it very
exacting. For, in truth, if only we loved in humbleness of spirit and
forgetfulness of self, or merely with a simple heart, we should be
content with what is vouchsafed us and should not straightway cry
treason when some slight is put on us. And if some power of loving were
left us still, after our lover had deserted us, we should await the
issue in calmness of mind to make what use of it God should please to
grant.”

But the day was just breaking by this time, and the song of the birds
grew so loud it drowned my good master’s voice. He made no complaint on
this score.

“Hearken,” he said, “to the sparrows. They make love more wisely than
men do.”

Sophie awoke in the white light of dawn, and I admired her lovely eyes,
which fatigue and grief had ringed with a delicate pearly-grey.
She seemed somewhat reconciled to life, and did not refuse a cup of
chocolate which my good master made her drink at Mathurine’s door, the
pretty chocolate-seller of the Halles.

But as the poor child came into more complete possession of her wits,
she began to trouble about sundry practical difficulties she had not
thought of till then.

“What will my aunt say? And whatever can I tell her?” she asked
distractedly.

The aunt lived just opposite Saint-Eustache, less than a hundred yards
from Mathurine’s archway. Thither we escorted her niece; and M.
l’Abbé Coignard, who had quite a venerable look, though one shoe _was_
unbuckled, accompanied the fair Sophie to the door of her aunt’s lodging
and pitched that lady a fine tale:

“I had the happy fortune,” he informed her, “to encounter your good
niece at the very moment when she was assailed by four footpads armed
with pistols, and I shouted for the watch so lustily that the thieves
took to their heels in a panic. But they were not quick enough to
escape the sergeants who, by the rarest chance, ran up in answer to my
outcries. They arrested the villains after a desperate tussle. I took my
share of the rough and tumble, and I thought at first I had lost my hat
in the fray. When all was over, we were all taken, your niece, the four
footpads and myself, before his Honour the Lieutenant-Criminel, who
treated us with much consideration and detained us till daylight in his
cabinet, taking down our evidence.” The aunt answered drily:

“I thank you, sir, for having saved my niece from a peril which, to say
the truth, is not the risk a girl of her age need fear the most, when
she is out alone at night in the streets of Paris.”

My good master made no answer to this; but Mademoiselle Sophie spoke up
and said in a voice of deep feeling:

“I do assure you, Aunt, Monsieur l’Abbé saved my life.”

*****

Some years after this singular adventure, my master made the fatal
journey to Lyons from which he never returned. He was foully murdered,
and I had the ineffable grief of seeing him expire in my arms. The
incidents of his death have no connexion with the matter I speak of
here. I have taken pains to record them elsewhere; they are indeed
memorable, and will never, I think, be forgotten. I may add that this
journey was in all ways unfortunate, for after losing the best of
masters on the road, I was likewise forsaken by a mistress who loved me,
but did not love me alone, and whose loss nearly broke my heart, coming
after that of my good master. It is a mistake to suppose that a man
who has received one cruel blow grows callous to succeeding strokes
of calamity. Far otherwise; he suffers agonies from the smallest
contrarieties. I returned to Paris in a state of dejection almost beyond
belief.

Well, one evening, by way of enlivening my spirits, I went to the
Comédie, where they were playing _Bajazet_, one of Racine’s excellent
pieces. I was particularly struck by the charm and beauty, no less than
the originality and talent, of the actress who took the part of Roxane.
She expressed with a delightful naturalness the passion animating that
character, and I shuddered as I heard her declaim in accents that were
harmonious and yet terrible the line:

     Écoutez  Bajazet, je sens que je vous aime.{*}

     * “Hearken, Bajazet, I feel I love you.”

I never wearied of gazing at her all the time she occupied the stage,
and admiring the beauty of her eyes that gleamed below a brow as pure
as marble and crowned by powdered locks all spangled with pearls. Her
slender waist too, which her hoop showed off to perfection, did not
fail to make a vivid impression on my heart. I had the better leisure to
scrutinize these adorable charms as she happened to face in my direction
to deliver several important portions of her rôle. And the more I
looked, the more I felt convinced I had seen her before, though I found
it impossible to recall anything connected with our previous meeting. My
neighbour in the theatre, who was a constant frequenter of the Comédie,
told me the beautiful actress was Mademoiselle B------, the idol of the
pit. He added that she was as great a favourite in society as on the
boards, that M. le Duc de La ------ had made her the fashion and that
she was on the highroad to eclipse Mademoiselle Lecouvreur.

I was just leaving my seat after the performance when a “femme de
chambre” handed me a note in which I found written in pencil the words:

“_Mademoiselle Roxane is waiting for you in her coach at the theatre
door_.”

I could not believe the missive was intended for me; and I asked the
abigail who had delivered it if she was not mistaken in the recipient.

“If I _am_ mistaken,” she replied confidently, “then you cannot be
Monsieur de Tournebroche, that is all.”

I ran to the coach which stood waiting in front of the House, and inside
I recognized Mademoiselle B------, her head muffled in a black satin
hood.

She beckoned to me to get in, and when I was seated beside her:

“Do you not,” she asked me, “recognize Sophie, whom you rescued from
drowning on the banks of the Seine?”

“What! you! Sophie--Roxane--Mademoiselle B------, is it possible?--”

My confusion was extreme, but she appeared to view it without annoyance.

“I saw you,” she went on, “in one corner of the pit. I knew you
instantly and played for you. Say, did I play well? I am so glad to see
you again!--”

She asked me news of M. l’Abbé Coignard, and when I told her my good
master had just perished miserably, she burst into tears.

She was good enough to inform me of the chief events of her life:

“My aunt,” she said, “used to mend her laces for Madame de Saint-Remi,
who, as you must know, is an admirable actress. A short while after the
night when you did me such yeoman service, I went to her house to take
home some pieces of lace. The lady told me I had a face that interested
her. She then asked me to read some verses, and concluded I was not
without wits. She had me trained. I made my first appearance at the
Comédie last year. I interpret passions I have felt myself, and the
public credits me with some talent. M. le Duc de La ------ exhibits a
very dear friendship for me, and I think he will never cause me pain and
disappointment, because I have learnt to ask of men only what they can
give. At this moment he is expecting me at supper. I must not break my
word.”

But, reading my vexation in my eyes, she added:

“However, I have told my people to go the longest way round and to drive
slowly.”





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