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In all great sorrows and agonies-even in the tortures of the damned, if Dante saw aright-something of the grotesque mingles. If one's heart were in the work, there would be no fitter subject for caricature, than a face blurred and deformed by weeping. Many would scarce have refrained a smile, had they watched the painful effort that it cost the Free Companion to form character after character, with his stiff, unpractised fingers. His brows ached and throbbed from very weariness, long before the work was complete: but it was done at last; and the letter, rendered from the Norman-French, ran thus :—
Dear Lady and Wile,
When first thine honourable father, now at rest, unfolded to me his designs concerning us twain, E did earnestly object mine own unwor. thiness-saying that one of my nurture and training, to say nought of my years, was no fitting mate for so delicate a dame. When my lord wared urgent, and would in no wise be gainsaid, E required of him a promise, that on thine inclinations should be put no force; binding myself to accept denial in all patience and humility. So E departed on my journey, hoping no more for favourable answer at my return, than for any other bounteous miracle. When I came hither, my good lord straightly affirmed, that, having not at all strained his authority or unduly swayed thy will, he had found thee nothing loath, but rather well-disposed towards such espousal. On this relying, E spake, a::d was answered. The error was grievous doubtless, yet sure E am it was not wrought wittingly. Wherefore E pray thee lay not heavy blame either on thy father's memory or mine, for when thou shalt peruse these words, E shall be even as he. Much has been made clear to me since this forenoon, when I chanced to overhear converse betwirt thee and the Sieur de Marsan. Not of aforethought, as thou wilt well believe, did X play the spy. E sat a musing in the tourelle by which ye two halted, and the first words so struck my spirits, that for awhile E was like one in a trance, who with eyes and ears open cannot stir finger. Some bitter truths E heard, yet E heard also that Messire Gualtier under sore temptation, how sare, dear, none know better than E, hath borne himself in chaste and loyal fashion, neither failing in reverence due to thee, rar contriving against mine honour. Wherefore E hold him blameless, and E here aver that, if at fitting season thou shouldst deign to grace him with thine hand, ye need never be kept apart for conscience-sake or mine. En proof whereof X commit thee to that esquire his escort to-morrow without doubt or fear.
For me, my time must needs be shart. Bu Guesclin, the Constable, underlieth my cartel, and he will answer it ere long perchance in his proper person. E purpose to hold this place a outrance, and when it shall be forced to take no quarter, so E am not like to trouble thee more. The good merchant, who will deliver thee this letter, in whom also my lord thy father greatly trusted, hath monies enow to provide for thine honour.
able maintenance till, either as widow or wife—thou art brought back hither.
Ma douce amie, for thy duteous kindness, which hath made my life of late blessed beyond my deserts, may God requite thec, and keep thee ever in his holy guard. And so E bid thee heartily farewell.
Thy loving husband and true servitor till death,
The letter was duly addressed and sealed, and then wrapped in an outer square of parchment; in the within side of which the knight, made shift to trace a few more lines with his cramped fingers. After adding the superscription, he closed the packet, carefully thrusting it into the breast of his doublet.
This was so long a doing, that it was past midnight when he sought his sleeping chamber. Despite his great weight and size, the Free Companion could tread lightly as a girl when he chose; and he entered so softly that Odille's slumbers were not broken. She looked exceeding fair-fairer, Ralph thought, than he had ever seen her; with her head nestling on her arm, whilst the rich dark hair half shaded one flushed cheek. There was a half smile on her lips; though a tear or two, clinging to her long eye-lashes, showed that her dreams had not been joyous. Setting down the lamp he carried, and still treading very softly, Ralph drew nearer and nearer till he knelt down by the couch; and so remained-resting his chin on his clasped hand, and gazing on his wife's face with a terrible earnestness in his eyes. Under such a steadfast gaze sleepers are said often to wake; but Odille never even stirred uneasily. For any sign of life he showed beyond the gleaming of his haggard eyes, her husband might have been one of the figures that kneel under the canopies of tombs.
In that strange fashion, was passed the very last night that those two would ever spend together. At length grey light stole in through the ill-closed window curtains. As Ralph arose shaking himself, with something like a groan, Odille awoke. Even as she did so, her husband's lips were laid lightly on her brow.
"It is full time to rise, belle amie. Thou seest I am afoot already. Loath though I be to part with thee, even for a brief season, I would fain see thee in saddle. Thou hast a long journey before thee, and the days shorten fast."
Just then, by one of those vague impulses in which surely some prescience mingles, Odille's heart was drawn nearer to her husband than
it had ever been, with remorseful tenderness. Her arm stole round his neck, as she whispered :
"Blessed Saint Ursula! How pale thou art! If this parting irks thee so, why dost thou send me forth? Trust me, I too am loath to go; though of a surety we shall meet soon."
"It is but the dawn-light"—he said-" that maketh me look wan; and a little weariness beside. Seek not to turn me from my purpose, sweetheart. All is ordered wisely. And fear not: we shall meet-in God's good time."
The cheery tones waxed very solemn, in the utterance of those last words: in after years, Odille knew right well why.
By this time all the household was astir; and during the bustle of departure, those two were not alone again together. The pack-horses stood loaded; and most of the escort were already mustered in the courtyard as Sir Ralph drew Lanyon aside, and gave into his charge the sealed packet with directions as to its safe delivery.
"Thou mayest tell Sir John Felton how it stands with us here ”— he went on carelessly. "We fought side by side at Poitiers! and I did him a shrewd turn, when I dragged him from under his destrere in the mellay. 'Tis a chance if he remembers this; moreover, his own hands are too full to send help so far afield, even for a stake better worth saving than an old freebooter's bones. Be watchful and wary, after thy fashion; and trust me, I will keep faith with thee."
As the knight turned away, he came face to face with De Marsan. The esquire's countenance was more downcast than usual; and very pale-save for a scarlet spot on either cheek-bone. In all his movements there was a nervous feverish haste; and under the other's steady eyes his own sank, if they did not quail.
"Fare thou well for the nonce, Messire Gualtier"-Brakespeare said "many things may happen ere thou and I foregather again. Lo! I deliver to thy keeping the most precious thing I own; feeling well assured that thou wilt quit thyself of the trust, worthily as thou hast done heretofore-at cost of how much soever of thine own peril or pain."
And he held out his hand, which the other took, and-answering never a word-saluted reverently, with lips that struck cold like a corpse's.
Just then the Lady Odille came down with her maidens, busked for the journey. The courtyard was full to overflowing; for not only the escort, but all the garrison not on actual duty, were gathered there; but
Ralph took his wife in his arms before them all, and held her for some seconds closely embraced. Then he kissed her on her forehead; and on her eyes, from which tears were streaming. His countenance was so calm that never an one there--not even the woman pressed against his heart-guessed how near that heart was to breaking. Then he lifted her into the saddle; settling her riding-skirt carefully-as he used to do in the old hawking days; and, still keeping silence, took the bridle of the jennet, and led it forth through the arch of the barbican, and over the outer drawbridge. There he stopped and kissed his wife once more— this time only on the left hand, that hung listlessly down: saying softly-"God be with thee, sweetheart"—and so let her pass on.
Then the escort filed out two abreast; Lanyon and three others spurring to the front, as soon as they were past the drawbridge, to form an advanced guard; De Marsan bringing up the extreme rear. At the turning of the descent, where it plunged into the woodland, the Lady Odille turned in her saddle, and looked back. She saw dimly, through tears, her husband standing statue-like on the very same spot where she had left him-just within the square shadow cast forward by the barbican walls. She waved her kerchief twice or thrice: but her adieu was seemingly unnoticed; for there came back no answering sign.
Many times thereafter-in night or day dreams-the lady saw that stately figure, with crossed arms, and head slightly bent as though in thought or in sorrow. But in life, or substance, she saw him never any
Peace bath her Victories.
WRITTEN RECENTLY AT PARIS.
To people wastes, to supplement the sun,
To plant the olive where the wild-brier grew,
The youth of aged cities to renew ;—
To raise the drooping artist's head, to breathe
This is to give our darkling earth a star,
To stand amidst the passions of the hour
Storm-lash'd, resounding fierce from shore to shore ;
To build on hatred nothing; to be just,
Judging of men and nations as they are-
To draw the nations in a silken bond
On to their highest exercise of good;
The sea of Egypt, all whose waves are blood;