He was a minstrel — in his mood
Was wisdom mix’d with folly;
A tame companion to the good,
But wild and fierce among the rude,
And jovial with the jolly.
The events of the preceding day had been of a nature so interesting, and latterly so harassing, that the Constable felt weary as after a severely contested battle-field, and slept soundly until the earliest beams of dawn saluted him through the opening of the tent. It was then that, with a mingled feeling of pain and satisfaction, he began to review the change which had taken place in his condition since the preceding morning. He had then risen an ardent bridegroom, anxious to find favour in the eyes of his fair bride, and scrupulous about his dress and appointments, as if he had been as young in years as in hopes and wishes. This was over, and he had now before him the painful task of leaving his betrothed for a term of years, even before wedlock had united them indissolubly, and of reflecting that she was exposed to all the dangers which assail female constancy in a situation thus critical. When the immediate anxiety for his nephew was removed, he was tempted to think that he had been something hasty in listening to the arguments of the Archbishop, and in believing that Damian’s death or recovery depended upon his own accomplishing, to the letter, and without delay, his vow for the Holy Land. “How many princes and kings,” he thought to himself, “have assumed the Cross, and delayed or renounced it, yet lived and died in wealth and honour, without sustaining such a visitation as that with which Baldwin threatened me; and in what case or particular did such men deserve more indulgence than I? But the die is now cast, and it signifies little to inquire whether my obedience to the mandates of the Church has saved the life of my nephew, or whether I have not fallen, as laymen are wont to fall, whenever there is an encounter of wits betwixt them and those of the spirituality. I would to God it may prove otherwise, since, girding on my sword as Heaven’s champion, I might the better expect Heaven’s protection for her whom I must unhappily leave behind me.”
As these reflections passed through his mind, he heard the warders at the entrance of his tent challenge some one whose footsteps were heard approaching it. The person stopped on their challenge, and presently after was heard the sound of a rote, (a small species of lute,) the strings of which were managed by means of a small wheel. After a short prelude, a manly voice, of good compass, sung verses, which, translated into modern language, might run nearly thus:
“Soldier, wake — the day is peeping:,
Honour ne’er was won in sleeping,
Never when the sunbeams still
Lay unreflected on the hill:
’Tis when they are glinted back
From axe and armour, spear and jack,
That they promise future story
Many a page of deathless glory.
Shields that are the foe man’s terror,
Ever are the morning’s mirror.
“Arm and up — the morning beam
Hath call’d the rustic to his team,
Hath call’d the falc’ner to the lake,
Hath call’d the huntsman to the brake;
The early student ponders o’er
His dusty tomes of ancient lore.
Soldier, wake — thy harvest, fame;
Thy study, conquest; war, thy game.
Shield, that would be foeman’s terror,
Still should gleam the morning’s mirror.
“Poor hire repays the rustic’s pain;
More paltry still the sportsman’s gain;
Vainest of all, the student’s theme
End in gome metaphysic dream.
Yet each is up, and each has toil’d
Since first the peep of dawn has smiled;
And each is eagerer in his aim
Than he who barters life for fame.
Up, up, and arm thee, son of terror!
Be thy bright shield the morning’s mirror.”
When the song was finished, the Constable heard some talking without, and presently Philip Guarine entered the pavilion to tell that a person, come hither as he said by the Constable’s appointment, waited permission to speak with him.
“By my appointment?” said De Lacy; “admit him immediately.”
The messenger of the preceding evening entered the tent, holding in one hand his small cap and feather, in the other the rote on which he had been just playing. His attire was fantastic, consisting of more than one inner dress of various colours, all of the brightest and richest dyes, and disposed so as to contrast with each other — the upper garment was a very short Norman cloak, in bright green. An embroidered girdle sustained, in lieu of offensive weapons, an inkhorn with its appurtenances on the one side, on the other a knife for the purposes of the table. His hair was cut in imitation of the clerical tonsure, which was designed to intimate that he had arrived to a certain rank in his profession; for the Joyous Science, as the profession of minstrelsy was termed, had its various ranks, like the degrees in the church and in chivalry. The features and the manners of the man seemed to be at variance with his profession and habit; for, as the latter was gay and fantastic, the former had a cast of gravity, and almost of sternness, which, unless when kindled by the enthusiasm of his poetical and musical exertions, seemed rather to indicate deep reflection, than the thoughtless vivacity of observation which characterized most of his brethren. His countenance, though not handsome, had therefore something in it striking and impressive, even from its very contrast with the particoloured hues and fluttering shape of his vestments; and the Constable felt something inclined to patronize him, as he said, “Good-morrow, friend, and I thank thee for thy morning greeting; it was well sung and well meant, for when we call forth any one to bethink him how time passes, we do him the credit of supposing that he can employ to advantage that flitting treasure.”
The man, who had listened in silence, seemed to pause and make an effort ere he replied, “My intentions, at least, were good, when I ventured to disturb my lord thus early; and I am glad to learn that my boldness hath not been evil received at his hand.”
“True,” said the Constable, “you had a boon to ask of me. Be speedy, and say thy request — my leisure is short.”
“It is for permission to follow you to the Holy Land, my lord,” said the man.
“Thou hast asked what I can hardly grant, my friend,” answered De Lacy —“Thou art a minstrel, art thou not?”
“An unworthy graduate of the Gay Science, my lord,” said the musician; “yet let me say for myself, that I will not yield to the king of minstrels, Geoffrey Rudel, though the King of England hath given him four manors for one song. I would be willing to contend with him in romance, lay, or fable, were the judge to be King Henry himself.”
“You have your own good word, doubtless,” said De Lacy; “nevertheless, Sir Minstrel, thou goest not with me. The Crusade has been already too much encumbered by men of thy idle profession; and if thou dost add to the number, it shall not be under my protection. I am too old to be charmed by thy art, charm thou never so wisely.”
“He that is young enough to seek for, and to win, the love of beauty,” said the minstrel, but in a submissive tone, as if fearing his freedom might give offence, “should not term himself too old to feel the charms of minstrelsy.”
The Constable smiled, not insensible to the flattery which assigned to him the character of a younger gallant. “Thou art a jester,” he said, “I warrant me, in addition to thy other qualities.”
“No,” replied the minstrel, “it is a branch of our profession which I have for some time renounced — my fortunes have put me out of tune for jesting.”
“Nay, comrade,” said the Constable, “if thou hast been hardly dealt within the world, and canst comply with the rules of a family so strictly ordered as mine, it is possible we may agree together better than I thought. What is thy name and country? thy speech, methinks, sounds somewhat foreign.”
“I am an Armorican, my lord, from the merry shores of Morbihan; and hence my tongue hath some touch of my country speech. My name is Renault Vidal.”
“Such being the case, Renault,” said the Constable, “thou shalt follow me, and I will give orders to the master of my household to have thee attired something according to thy function, but in more orderly guise than thou now appearest in. Dost thou understand the use of a weapon?”
“Indifferently, my lord,” said the Armorican; at the same time taking a sword from the wall, he drew, and made a pass with it so close to the Constable’s body as he sat on the couch, that he started up, crying, “Villain, forbear!”
“La you! noble sir,” replied Vidal, lowering with all submission the point of his weapon —“I have already given you a proof of sleight which has alarmed even your experience — I have an hundred other besides.”
“It may be so,” said De Lacy, somewhat ashamed at having shown himself moved by the sudden and lively action of the juggler; “but I love not jesting with edge-tools, and have too much to do with sword and sword-blows in earnest, to toy with them; so I pray you let us have no more of this, but call me my squire and my chamberlain, for I am about to array me and go to mass.”
The religious duties of the morning performed, it was the Constable’s intention to visit the Lady Abbess, and communicate, with the necessary precautions and qualifications, the altered relations in which he was placed towards her niece, by the resolution he had been compelled to adopt, of departing for the Crusade before accomplishing his marriage, in the terms of the precontract already entered into. He was conscious that it would be difficult to reconcile the good lady to this change of measures, and he delayed some time ere he could think of the best mode of communicating and softening the unpleasant intelligence. An interval was also spent in a visit to his nephew, whose state of convalescence continued to be as favourable, as if in truth it had been a miraculous consequence of the Constable’s having complied with the advice of the Archbishop.
From the lodging of Damian, the Constable proceeded to the convent of the Benedictine Abbess. But she had been already made acquainted with the circumstances which he came to communicate, by a still earlier visit from the Archbishop Baldwin himself. The Primate had undertaken the office of mediator on this occasion, conscious that his success of the evening before must have placed the Constable in a delicate situation with the relations of his betrothed bride, and willing, by his countenance and authority, to reconcile the disputes which might ensue. Perhaps he had better have left Hugo de Lacy to plead his own cause; for the Abbess, though she listened to the communication with all the respect due to the highest dignitary of the English Church, drew consequences from the Constable’s change of resolution which the Primate had not expected. She ventured to oppose no obstacle to De Lacy’s accomplishment of his vows, but strongly argued that the contract with her niece should be entirely set aside, and each, party left at liberty to form a new choice.
It was in vain that the Archbishop endeavoured to dazzle the Abbess with the future honours to be won by the Constable in the Holy Land; the splendour of which would attach not to his lady alone, but to all in the remotest degree allied to or connected with her. All his eloquence was to no purpose, though upon so favourite a topic he exerted it to the utmost. The Abbess, it is true, remained silent for a moment after his arguments had been exhausted, but it was only to consider how she should intimate in a suitable and reverent manner, that children, the usual attendants of a happy union, and the existence of which she looked to for the continuation of the house of her father and brother, could not be hoped for with any probability, unless the precontract was followed by marriage, and the residence of the married parties in the same country. She therefore insisted, that the Constable having altered his intentions in this most important particular, the fiancailles should be entirely abrogated and set aside; and she demanded of the Primate, as an act of justice, that, as he had interfered to prevent the bridegroom’s execution of his original purpose, he should now assist with his influence wholly to dissolve an engagement which had been thus materially innovated upon.
The Primate, who was sensible he had himself occasioned De Lacy’s breach of contract, felt himself bound in honour and reputation to prevent consequences so disagreeable to his friend, as the dissolution of an engagement in which his interest and inclinations were alike concerned. He reproved the Lady Abbess for the carnal and secular views which she, a dignitary of the church, entertained upon the subject of matrimony, and concerning the interest of her house. He even upbraided her with selfishly preferring the continuation of the line of Berenger to the recovery of the Holy Sepulchre, and denounced to her that Heaven would be avenged of the shortsighted and merely human policy, which postponed the interests of Christendom to those of an individual family.
After this severe homily, the Prelate took his departure, leaving the Abbess highly incensed, though she prudently forbore returning any irreverent answer to his paternal admonition.
In this humour the venerable lady was found by the Constable himself, when with some embarrassment, he proceeded to explain to her the necessity of his present departure for Palestine.
She received the communication with sullen dignity; her ample black robe and scapular seeming, as it were, to swell out in yet prouder folds as she listened to the reasons and the emergencies which compelled the Constable of Chester to defer the marriage which he avowed was the dearest wish of his heart, until after his return from the Crusade, for which he was about to set forth.
“Methinks,” replied the Abbess, with much coldness, “if this communication is meant for earnest — and it were no fit business — I myself no fit person — for jesting with — methinks the Constable’s resolution should have been proclaimed to us yesterday before the fiancailles had united his troth with that of Eveline Berenger, under expectations very different from those which he now announces.”
“On the word of a knight and a gentleman, reverend lady,” said the Constable, “I had not then the slightest thought that I should be called upon to take a step no less distressing to me, than, as I see with pain, it is unpleasing to you.”
“I can scarcely conceive,” replied the Abbess, “the cogent reasons, which, existing as they must have done yesterday, have nevertheless delayed their operation until today.”
“I own,” said De Lacy, reluctantly, “that I entertained too ready hopes of obtaining a remission from my vow, which my Lord of Canterbury hath, in his zeal for Heaven’s service, deemed it necessary to refuse me.”
“At least, then,” said the Abbess, veiling her resentment under the appearance of extreme coldness, “your lordship will do us the justice to place us in the same situation in which we stood yesterday morning; and, by joining with my niece and her friends in desiring the abrogation of a marriage contract, entered into with very different views from those which you now entertain, put a young person in that state of liberty of which she is at present deprived by her contract with you.”
“Ah, madam!” said the Constable, “what do you ask of me? and in a tone how cold and indifferent do you demand me to resign hopes, the dearest which my bosom ever entertained since the life-blood warmed it!”
“I am unacquainted with language belonging to such feelings, my lord,” replied the Abbess; “but methinks the prospects which could be so easily adjourned for years, might, by a little, and a very little, farther self-control, be altogether abandoned.”
Hugo de Lacy paced the room in agitation, nor did he answer until after a considerable pause. “If your niece, madam, shares the sentiments which you have expressed, I could not, indeed, with justice to her, or perhaps to myself, desire to retain that interest in her, which our solemn espousals have given me. But I must know my doom from her own lips; and if it is as severe as that which your expressions lead me to fear, I will go to Palestine the better soldier of Heaven, that I shall have little left on earth that can interest me.”
The Abbess, without farther answer, called on her Praecentrix, and desired her to command her niece’s attendance immediately. The Praecentrix bowed reverently, and withdrew.
“May I presume to inquire,” said De Lacy, “whether the Lady Eveline hath been possessed of the circumstances which have occasioned this unhappy alteration in my purpose?”
“I have communicated the whole to her from point to point,” said the Abbess, “even as it was explained to me this morning by my Lord of Canterbury, (for with him I have already spoken upon the subject,) and confirmed but now by your lordship’s own mouth.”
“I am little obliged to the Archbishop,” said the Constable, “for having forestalled my excuses in the quarter where it was most important for me that they should be accurately stated, and favourably received.”
“That,” said the Abbess, “is but an item of the account betwixt you and the Prelate — it concerns not us.”
“Dare I venture to hope,” continued De Lacy, without taking offence at the dryness of the Abbess’s manner, “that Lady Eveline has heard this most unhappy change of circumstances without emotion — I would say, without displeasure?”
“She is the daughter of a Berenger, my lord,” answered the Abbess, “and it is our custom to punish a breach of faith or to contemn it — never to grieve over it. What my niece may do in this case, I know not. I am a woman of religion, sequestered from the world, and would advise peace and Christian forgiveness, with a proper sense of contempt for the unworthy treatment which she has received. She has followers and vassals, and friends, doubtless, and advisers, who may not, in blinded zeal for worldly honour, recommend to her to sit down slightly with this injury, but desire she should rather appeal to the King, or to the arms of her father’s followers, unless her liberty is restored to her by the surrender of the contract into which she has been enticed. — But she comes, to answer for herself.”
Eveline entered at the moment, leaning on Rose’s arm. She had laid aside mourning since the ceremony of the fiancailles, and was dressed in a kirtle of white, with an upper robe of pale blue. Her head was covered with a veil of white gauze, so thin, as to float about her like the misty cloud usually painted around the countenance of a seraph. But the face of Eveline, though in beauty not unworthy one of that angelic order, was at present far from resembling that of a seraph in tranquillity of expression. Her limbs trembled, her cheeks were pale, the tinge of red around the eyelids expressed recent tears; yet amidst these natural signs of distress and uncertainty, there was an air of profound resignation — a resolution to discharge her duty in every emergence reigning in the solemn expression of her eye and eyebrow, and showing her prepared to govern the agitation which she could not entirely subdue. And so well were these opposing qualities of timidity and resolution mingled on her cheek, that Eveline, in the utmost pride of her beauty, never looked more fascinating than at that instant; and Hugo de Lacy, hitherto rather an unimpassioned lover, stood in her presence with feelings as if all the exaggerations of romance were realized, and his mistress were a being of a higher sphere, from whose doom he was to receive happiness or misery, life or death.
It was under the influence of such a feeling, that the warrior dropped on one knee before Eveline, took the hand which she rather resigned than gave to him, pressed it to his lips fervently, and, ere he parted with it, moistened it with one of the few tears which he was ever known to shed. But, although surprised, and carried out of his character by a sudden impulse, he regained his composure on observing that the Abbess regarded his humiliation, if it can be so termed, with an air of triumph; and he entered on his defence before Eveline with a manly earnestness, not devoid of fervour, nor free from agitation, yet made in a tone of firmness and pride, which seemed assumed to meet and control that of the offended Abbess.
“Lady,” he said, addressing Eveline, “you have heard from the venerable Abbess in what unhappy position I have been placed since yesterday by the rigour of the Archbishop — perhaps I should rather say by his just though severe interpretation of my engagement in the Crusade. I cannot doubt that all this has been stated with accurate truth by the venerable lady; but as I must no longer call her my friend, let me fear whether she has done me justice in her commentary upon the unhappy necessity which must presently compel me to leave my country, and with my country to forego — at best to postpone — the fairest hopes which man ever entertained. The venerable lady hath upbraided me, that being myself the cause that the execution of yesterday’s contract is postponed, I would fain keep it suspended over your head for an indefinite term of years. No one resigns willingly such rights as yesterday gave me; and, let me speak a boastful word, sooner than yield them up to man of woman born, I would hold a fair field against all comers, with grinded sword and sharp spear, from sunrise to sunset, for three days’ space. But what I would retain at the price of a thousand lives, I am willing to renounce if it would cost you a single sigh. If, therefore, you think you cannot remain happy as the betrothed of De Lacy, you may command my assistance to have the contract annulled, and make some more fortunate man happy.”
He would have gone on, but felt the danger of being overpowered again by those feelings of tenderness so new to his steady nature, that he blushed to give way to them.
Eveline remained silent. The Abbess took the word. “Kinswoman,” she said, “you hear that the generosity — or the justice — of the Constable of Chester, proposes, in consequence of his departure upon a distant and perilous expedition, to cancel a contract entered into upon the specific and precise understanding that he was to remain in England for its fulfilment. You cannot, methinks, hesitate to accept of the freedom which he offers you, with thanks for his bounty. For my part, I will reserve mine own, until I shall see that your joint application is sufficient to win to your purpose his Grace of Canterbury, who may again interfere with the actions of his friend the Lord Constable, over whom he has already exerted so much influence — for the weal, doubtless, of his spiritual concerns.”
“If it is meant by your words, venerable lady,” said the Constable, “that I have any purpose of sheltering myself behind the Prelate’s authority, to avoid doing that which I proclaim my readiness, though not my willingness, to do, I can only say, that you are the first who has doubted the faith of Hugo de Lacy.”— And while the proud Baron thus addressed a female and a recluse, he could not prevent his eye from sparkling, and his cheek from flushing.
“My gracious and venerable kinswoman,” said Eveline, summoning together her resolution, “and you, my kind lord, be not offended if I pray you not to increase by groundless suspicions and hasty resentments your difficulties and mine. My lord, the obligations which I lie under to you are such as I can never discharge, since they comprehend fortune, life, and honour. Know that, in my anguish of mind, when besieged by the Welsh in my castle of the Garde Doloureuse, I vowed to the Virgin, that (my honour safe) I would place myself at the disposal of him whom our Lady should employ as her instrument to relieve me from yonder hour of agony. In giving me a deliverer, she gave me a master; nor could I desire a more noble one than Hugo de Lacy.”
“God forbid, lady,” said the Constable, speaking eagerly, as if he was afraid his resolution should fail ere he could get the renunciation uttered, “that I should, by such a tie, to which you subjected yourself in the extremity of your distress, bind you to any resolution in my favour which can put force on your own inclinations!”
The Abbess herself could not help expressing her applause of this sentiment, declaring it was spoken like a Norman gentleman; but at the same time, her eyes, turned towards her niece, seemed to exhort her to beware how she declined to profit by the candour of De Lacy.
But Eveline proceeded, with her eyes fixed on the ground, and a slight colour overspreading her face, to state her own sentiments, without listening to the suggestions of any one. “I will own, noble sir,” she said, “that when your valour had rescued me from approaching destruction, I could have wished — honouring and respecting you, as I had done your late friend, my excellent father — that you could have accepted a daughter’s service from me. I do not pretend entirely to have surmounted these sentiments, although I have combated them, as being unworthy of me, and ungrateful to you. But, from the moment you were pleased to honour me by a claim on this poor hand, I have studiously examined my sentiments towards you, and taught myself so far to make them coincide with my duty, that I may call myself assured that De Lacy would not find in Eveline Berenger an indifferent, far less an unworthy bride. In this, sir, you may boldly confide, whether the union you have sought for takes place instantly, or is delayed till a longer season. Still farther, I must acknowledge that the postponement of these nuptials will be more agreeable to me than their immediate accomplishment. I am at present very young, and totally inexperienced. Two or three years will, I trust, render me yet more worthy the regard of a man of honour.”
At this declaration in his favour, however cold and qualified, De Lacy had as much difficulty to restrain his transports as formerly to moderate his agitation.
“Angel of bounty and of kindness!” he said, kneeling once more, and again possessing himself of her hand, “perhaps I ought in honour to resign voluntarily those hopes which you decline to ravish from me forcibly. But who could be capable of such unrelenting magnanimity? — Let me hope that my devoted attachment — that which you shall hear of me when at a distance — that which you shall know of me when near you — may give to your sentiments a more tender warmth than they now express; and, in the meanwhile, blame me not that I accept your plighted faith anew, under the conditions which you attach to it. I am conscious my wooing has been too late in life to expect the animated returns proper to youthful passion — Blame me not if I remain satisfied with those calmer sentiments which make life happy, though they cannot make possession rapturous. Your hand remains In my grasp, but it acknowledges not my pressure — Can it be that it refuses to ratify what your lips have said?”
“Never, noble De Lacy!” said Eveline, with more animation than she had yet expressed; and it appeared that the tone was at length sufficiently encouraging, since her lover was emboldened to take the lips themselves for guarantee.
It was with an air of pride, mingled with respect, that, after having received this pledge of fidelity, he turned to conciliate and to appease the offended Abbess. “I trust, venerable mother,” he said, “that you will resume your former kind thoughts of me, which I am aware were only interrupted by your tender anxiety for the interest of her who should be dearest to us both. Let me hope that I may leave this fair flower under protection of the honoured lady who is her nest in blood, happy and secure as she must ever be, while listening to your counsels, and residing within these sacred walls.”
But the Abbess was too deeply displeased to be propitiated by a compliment, which perhaps it had been better policy to have delayed till a calmer season. “My lord,” she said, “and you, fair kinswoman, you ought needs to be aware how little my counsels — not frequently given where they are unwillingly listened to — can be of avail to those embarked in worldly affairs. I am a woman dedicated to religion, to solitude, and seclusion — to the service, in brief, of Our Lady and Saint Benedict. I have been already censured by my superior because I have, for love of you, fair niece, mixed more deeply in secular affairs than became the head of a convent of recluses — I will merit no farther blame on such an account; nor can you expect it of me. My brother’s daughter, unfettered by worldly ties, had been the welcome sharer of my poor solicitude. But this house is too mean for the residence of the vowed bride of a mighty baron; nor do I, in my lowliness and inexperience, feel fitness to exercise over such an one that authority, which must belong to me over every one whom this roof protects. The grave tenor of our devotions, and the serener contemplation to which the females of this house are devoted,” continued the Abbess, with increasing heat and vehemence, “shall not, for the sake of my worldly connections, be disturbed by the intrusion of one whose thoughts must needs be on the worldly toys of love and marriage.”
“I do indeed believe, reverend mother,” said the Constable, in his turn giving way to displeasure, “that a richly-dowered maiden, unwedded, and unlikely to wed, were a fitter and more welcome inmate to the convent, than one who cannot be separated from the world, and whose wealth is not likely to increase the House’s revenues.”
The Constable did the Abbess great injury in this hasty insinuation, and it only went to confirm her purpose of rejecting all charge of her niece during his absence. She was in truth as disinterested as haughty; and her only reason for anger against her niece was, that her advice had not been adopted without hesitation, although the matter regarded Eveline’s happiness exclusively.
The ill-timed reflection of the Constable confirmed her in the resolution which she had already, and hastily adopted. “May Heaven forgive you, Sir Knight,” she replied, “your injurious thoughts of His servants! It is indeed time, for your soul’s sake, that you do penance in the Holy Land, having such rash judgments to repent of. — For you, my niece, you cannot want that hospitality, which, without verifying, or seeming to verify, unjust suspicions, I cannot now grant to you, while you have, in your kinswoman of Baldringham, a secular relation, whose nearness of blood approaches mine, and who may open her gates to you without incurring the unworthy censure, that she means to enrich herself at your cost.”
The Constable saw the deadly paleness which, came over Eveline’s cheek at this proposal, and, without knowing the cause of her repugnance, he hastened to relieve her from the apprehensions which she seemed evidently to entertain. “No, reverend mother,” he said, “since you so harshly reject the care of your kinswoman, she shall not be a burden to any of her other relatives. While Hugo de Lacy hath six gallant castles, and many a manor besides, to maintain fire upon their hearths, his betrothed bride shall burden no one with her society, who may regard it as otherwise than a great honour; and methinks I were much poorer than Heaven hath made me, could I not furnish friends and followers sufficient to serve, obey, and protect her.”
“No, my lord,” said Eveline, recovering from the dejection into which she had been thrown by the unkindness of her relative; “since some unhappy destiny separates me from the protection of my father’s sister, to whom I could so securely have resigned myself, I will neither apply for shelter to any more distant relation, nor accept of that which you, my lord, so generously offer; since my doing so might excite harsh, and, I am sure, undeserved reproaches, against her by whom I was driven to choose a less advisable dwelling-place. I have made my resolution. I have, it is true, only one friend left, but she is a powerful one, and is able to protect me against the particular evil fate which seems to follow me, as well as against the ordinary evils of human life.”
“The Queen, I suppose?” said the Abbess, interrupting her impatiently.
“The Queen of Heaven! venerable kinswoman,” answered Eveline; “our Lady of the Garde Doloureuse, ever gracious to our house, and so lately my especial guardian and protectress. Methinks, since the vowed votaress of the Virgin rejects me, it is to her holy patroness whom I ought to apply for succour.”
The venerable dame, taken somewhat at unawares by this answer, pronounced the interjection “Umph!” in a tone better befitting a Lollard or an Iconoclast, than a Catholic Abbess, and a daughter of the House of Berenger. Truth is, the Lady Abbess’s hereditary devotion to the Lady of the Garde Doloureuse was much decayed since she had known the full merits of another gifted image, the property of her own convent.
Recollecting herself, however, she remained silent, while the Constable alleged the vicinity of the Welsh, as what might possibly again render the abode of his betrothed bride at the Garde Doloureuse as perilous as she had on a former occasion found it. To this Eveline replied, by reminding him of the great strength of her native fortress — the various sieges which it had withstood — and the important circumstance, that, upon the late occasion, it was only endangered, because, in compliance with a point of honour, her father Raymond had sallied out with the garrison, and fought at disadvantage a battle under the walls. She farther suggested, that it was easy for the Constable to name, from among his own vassals or hers, a seneschal of such approved prudence and valour, as might ensure the safety of the place, and of its lady.
Ere De Lacy could reply to her arguments the Abbess rose, and, pleading her total inability to give counsel in secular affairs, and the rules of her order, which called her, as she said, with a heightened colour and raised voice, “to the simple and peaceful discharge of her conventual duties,” she left the betrothed parties in the locutory, or parlour, without any company, save Rose, who prudently remained at some distance.
The issue of their private conference seemed agreeable to both; and when Eveline told Rose that they were to return presently to the Garde Doloureuse, under a sufficient escort, and were to remain there during the period of the Crusade, it was in a tone of heartfelt satisfaction, which her follower had not heard her make use of for many days. She spoke also highly in praise of the kind acquiescence of the Constable in her wishes, and of his whole conduct, with a warmth of gratitude approaching to a more tender feeling.
“And yet, my dearest lady,” said Rose, “if you will speak unfeignedly, you must, I am convinced, allow that you look upon this interval of years, interposed betwixt your contract and your marriage, rather as a respite than in any other light.”
“I confess it,” said Eveline, “nor have I concealed from, my future lord that such are my feelings, ungracious as they may seem. But it is my youth, Rose, my extreme youth, which makes me fear the duties of De Lacy’s wife. Then those evil auguries hang strangely about me. Devoted to evil by one kinswoman, expelled almost from the roof of another, I seem to myself, at present, a creature who must carry distress with her, pass where she will. This evil hour, and, what is more, the apprehensions of it, will give way to time. When I shall have attained the age of twenty, Rose, I shall be a full-grown woman, with all the soul of a Berenger strong within me, to overcome those doubts and tremors which agitate the girl of seventeen.”
“Ah! my sweet mistress,” answered Rose, “may God and our Lady of the Garde Doloureuse guide all for the best! — But I would that this contract had not taken place, or, having taken place, that it could have been fulfilled by your immediate union.”
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00