Abbildungen der Seite


Ἔλθε Κύπρι

χρυσίαισιν ἐν κυλίκεσσιν ἁβρῶς
συμμεμιγμένον θαλίαισι νέκταρ


On, Love! the dearest theme of all,
The oldest of the world's old stories,
No fairer fate can e'er befall

A poet than to sing thy glories.
And, as Anacreon confest,

In verses full of power and passion, His lyre would always praise love best, The world has follow'd in the fashion.

Old Horace, in the classic days,

Sang sweetest of Love's fatal arrow; Catullus wrote an ode in praise

Of Lesbia, and her pretty sparrow; Beranger sang of his Lisette;

And Burns to Mary brimm'd the chalice; There's Beatrice-Dante's pet;

The Laureate's Adeline, and Alice. And still to Love the lyre is strung,

Still Eros rules our modern measures; There's not a maiden's name unsung,

No phase of Love's eternal pleasures. Love beckons in the painter's dream, Makes music in the poet's metre, O'er youth and age he rules supreme: be sweeter?

Can any other sway

And still the songs of all the world

Shall celebrate Love's endless blisses;

While on a neck a tress is curl'd,

And while a red lip pouts for kisses.

In verse, by any poet plann'd,

The praise of Love the sweetest line is, Until Fate takes the pen in hand,

And on the page of life writes "Finis."








So, out of the crowd and shadow, those two passed through the sunlight of the empty court; till, under the outer archway, Fitzwarenne halted and spoke, looking earnestly into his follower's eyes

"Honest Will, I pray thou mayst never repent having cast in thy lot with mine. Hearken now-if thou be minded to say farewell to thy father, or any other, do so quickly; I will tarry at the cross-roads till thou come; mine own leavetakings are well-nigh said, and I shall not draw free breath till Bever is a league behind us; but cumber not thyself with change of garment, and such like. Here is gold enow for both our furniture, if we win safe to Southwark; till we know whither we wend, and with whom, 'tis hard to tell what we may need."

"I thank thee, messire," the other answered, gruffly: "I care for leavetakings no more than thou. If Gaffer Lanyon be vexed by the news he will hear this day, he will drink another pottle or two tonight, and to-morrow 'twill be all one; and should Cicely, the tanner's daughter, be moved to shed some few tears, there are fools enow left in Bever hamlet to dry the jilt's blue eyes. I wot well that London is thy mark; so let us forward, as soon as thou wilt. The roads are heavy with the late rains: yet thou and I have compassed harder journeys, than shall bring us this night to Tunbridge town."

"Then do thou set on forthwith," Ralph said. "I have yet another errand to do here; and I would speak a word to my fostermother, whose cottage lies not a bowshot out of the way. I will overtake thee before thou comest to these cross-roads."

Lanyon nodded his head, and went forth without further question;

[ocr errors]

while the other turned aside into a vaulted passage leading to the base-court, where the sleuthbrache was kennelled.

Fay was lying outstretched in a broad bar of sunlight that fell within the sweep of her chain. She was still looking somewhat sullen and grim; but, at the sound of her master's steps, she lifted her head, and greeted him with a low whine of pleasure; she was quite conscious of having done amiss, and longed to show penitence in her own way.

Ralph knelt down by his favourite and caressed her; murmuring in her ear the while

"Thou mayst not bear me company; and for one of thy temper homes are hard to find. Lo! I come to do thee the last good office. The halter-did he say? Nay-cold steel whenever our time shall come; but no cord for me or mine. Brave Fay, staunch Fay-kiss me once more."

Slowly and half-reluctantly, as though she understood the words, and guessed what was a-coming, the great bloodhound reared herself, till her tawny jowl and black muzzle rested against his shoulder and cheek. Ralph's eyes were not misty now, but glistening wet; yet he faltered not in his purpose a whit. With his left hand thrown around Fay's neck, he felt for the pulse of her heart, whilst his right drew the dagger stealthily from its sheath, and drove it home-so surely that, without a howl or moan, the brache slid down out of his grasp, and, after a single convulsion, lay stone-still. No drop of blood followed, till Ralph very gently and heedfully drew forth the blade; then, despite his care, some three or four heavy gouts spirted on his wrist, leaving broad dark stains on the green sleeve of his hanseline.

And these things were so quickly done, that the foremost of those who just then came streaming forth out of the great hall, barely caught the flutter of Ralph Fitzwarenne's short mantle, as it vanished under the arch of the barbican.

Over the youth's interview with his foster-mother we here need not linger in truth, though fond even to foolishness, on one side at least, it was soon ended. Long before Will Lanyon had fully gathered his sluggish wits out of the maze into which they had wandered, he had been overtaken by the other; and the two strode on swiftly side by side, each with hunting-pole in hand.

They might have gone some league or so, when a sharp turn in the road brought them face to face with three travellers, one of whom was

mounted, whilst the other two followed afoot. At sight of these Fitzwarenne halted, looking to the right and to the left, as though he would fain have avoided the meeting. But the banks on either side rose steep and woody, and there was scarcely foothold on the slippery clay; so he waited, with brows clouded and overcast, till the others drew near.

The foremost personage has been painted before. It was no other than Hildebrand, some time Sub-prior of Haultvaux-now, its mitred Abbot. Twenty years had worked little change in his keen face and lean frame; only some deep lines had grown into furrows, and the strong black hair round the tonsure had waxed thin and iron-grey; but the braced lips were resolute, and the glance restless as ever. The very mule under him was characteristic of the man. Not a sleek pampered ambler-such an one as hath been affected by all saintly dignitaries since the days when Jewish rulers rode upon white assesbut a gaunt, sinewy beast, with a red, vicious eye, whose rough action would have suited none but hardened bones-a beast that would have tired down many knightly coursers between sunrise and sundown; and its long stride-though the pace was scarce beyond a swift walksorely tried the wind and limb of the two sturdy lay-brethren who, with frocks girt up knee high, followed closely as they might. On high and solemn occasions few surpassed the Abbot of Haultvaux in pomp or parade; but, when boune on his own affairs, he cared for none of such vanities; and now, in his simple riding-garb, he looked rather like some staid franklin, than a spiritual peer.

Lanyon made low obeisance as the Abbot drew nigh; but Ralph barely touched his cap, as he stood aside out of the narrow roadway. Yet the churchman spoke with his wonted cool courtesy; never noticing, as it seemed, the irreverence of the youth's salute.

"We give thee good-morrow, fair son. On whose business art thou and honest Will Lanyon faring forth? On pleasure ye can hardly be bent; since 'tis no weather yet for wrestling-match or quintain-play; and thou hast with thee neither hawk nor hound. Nevertheless, thou wilt be home ere nightfall, we wot. Wilt thou save us time and trouble by delivering to our good friend, Sir Oliver Dynevor, a brief message which we will presently teach thee? For we have far to ride and much to do ere even-song."

Fitzwarenne looked full in the speaker's face-always with the same lowering on his own.

"I am forth on mine own business," he answered, "and for junket

ing, I have had little heart of late. Also, it will be long ere I hollo again to hawk or hound. But your lordship must seek some other messenger to Bever than Lanyon or myself; for thither do I return no more; neither will he, I think, for many a month to come."

"Is it even so ?" the Abbot said, bending his brows. "Truly; we boded no good of the stubborn temper we have noted in thee of late. Hath some unhappy brawl-Sancta Maria! what mean those dark stains on thy sleeve ?"

"There hath been no brawl," the other replied: "only the clatter of some shrill shrewish tongues; and my doublet is stained with no redder blood than that of a trusty sleuthhound, whom I slew but now to save her from the halter. Also, I go forth with Sir Simon Dynevor's good leave-if that may advantage me-and we parted, not in anger. But, I marvel that your reverence's mind should cumber itself with my matters. We, too, have far to go ere we sleep, and under your favour, we have dallied here too long."


'Nay, then, we detain thee not. Draw nearer, my son, and bow thine head. Though it were more seemly for thee to crave, than for us to proffer it, thou shalt not lack our blessing."

And, as the Abbot spoke, he stretched forth his right hand. Then Ralph Fitzwarenne drew himself yet more erect; whilst through the darkness of his face flashed out enmity, open and defiant.

"Some six times," he said, in a low, bitter voice, "have I come to Haultvaux, since I knew evil from good-always in Simon Dynevor's company, or on his errands-but I never broke bread nor drank water there. I would liever bear the burden of mine own sins, than have them lightened by thee. Do I not know how and where the plot was hatched that robbed my mother of her good name, and me of my birthright? 'Twas not for naught, that the landmarks were shifted in that same year. Marry-seeing the manner of man he was, and how he was outwitted at the last-'tis wonder that my grandsire should rest quiet in his grave. Lord Abbot, I owe thine order a shrewd turn; maybe, I shall repay something thereof ere I die. Albeit, the heaviest accompt may never be cleared-the accompt betwixt me and thee!"

The lay-brethren crossed themselves in devout horror, and Will Lanyon's ruddy cheek paled: it seemed as though all three expected that such blasphemy would draw down some instant manifestation of Heaven's wrath. But the Abbot's countenance betrayed neither anger nor surprise; and his lip curled in a cold, disdainful smile.

« ZurückWeiter »