Blessed Mary, mother dear,
To a maiden bend thine ear,
Virgin undefiled, to thee
A wretched virgin bends the knee.
HYMN TO THE VIRGIN.
The daughter of the slaughtered Raymond had descended from the elevated station whence she had beheld the field of battle, in the agony of grief natural to a child whose eyes have beheld the death of an honoured and beloved father. But her station, and the principles of chivalry in which she had been trained up, did not permit any prolonged or needless indulgence of inactive sorrow. In raising the young and beautiful of the female sex to the rank of princesses, or rather goddesses, the spirit of that singular system exacted from them, in requital, a tone of character, and a line of conduct, superior and something contradictory to that of natural or merely human feeling. Its heroines frequently resembled portraits shown by an artificial light — strong and luminous, and which placed in high relief the objects on which it was turned; but having still something of adventitious splendour, which, compared with that of the natural day, seemed glaring and exaggerated.
It was not permitted to the orphan of the Garde Doloureuse, the daughter of a line of heroes, whose stem was to be found in the race of Thor, Balder, Odin, and other deified warriors of the North, whose beauty was the theme of a hundred minstrels, and her eyes the leading star of half the chivalry of the warlike marches of Wales, to mourn her sire with the ineffectual tears of a village maiden. Young as she was, and horrible as was the incident which she had but that instant witnessed, it was not altogether so appalling to her as to a maiden whose eye had not been accustomed to the rough, and often fatal sports of chivalry, and whose residence had not been among scenes and men where war and death had been the unceasing theme of every tongue, whose imagination had not been familiarized with wild and bloody events, or, finally, who had not been trained up to consider an honourable “death under shield,” as that of a field of battle was termed, as a more desirable termination to the life of a warrior, than that lingering and unhonoured fate which comes slowly on, to conclude the listless and helpless inactivity of prolonged old age. Eveline, while she wept for her father, felt her bosom glow when she recollected that he died in the blaze of his fame, and amidst heaps of his slaughtered enemies; and when she thought of the exigencies of her own situation, it was with the determination to defend her own liberty, and to avenge her father’s death, by every means which Heaven had left within her power.
The aids of religion were not forgotten; and according to the custom of the times, and the doctrines of the Roman church, she endeavoured to propitiate the favour of Heaven by vows as well as prayers. In a small crypt, or oratory, adjoining to the chapel, was hung over an altar-piece, on which a lamp constantly burned, a small picture of the Virgin Mary, revered as a household and peculiar deity by the family of Berenger, one of whose ancestors had brought it from the Holy Land, whither he had gone upon pilgrimage. It was of the period of the Lower Empire, a Grecian painting, not unlike those which in Catholic countries are often imputed to the Evangelist Luke. The crypt in which it was placed was accounted a shrine of uncommon sanctity — nay, supposed to have displayed miraculous powers; and Eveline, by the daily garland of flowers which she offered before the painting, and by the constant prayers with which they were accompanied, had constituted herself the peculiar votaress of Our Lady of the Garde Doloureuse, for so the picture was named.
Now, apart from others, alone, and in secrecy, sinking in the extremity of her sorrow before the shrine of her patroness, she besought the protection of kindred purity for the defence of her freedom and honour, and invoked vengeance on the wild and treacherous chieftain who had slain her father, and was now beleaguering her place of strength. Not only did she vow a large donative in lands to the shrine of the protectress whose aid she implored; but the oath passed her lips, (even though they faltered, and though something within her remonstrated against the vow,) that whatsoever favoured knight Our Lady of the Garde Doloureuse might employ for her rescue, should obtain from her in guerdon whatever boon she might honourably grant, were it that of her virgin hand at the holy altar. Taught as she was to believe, by the assurances of many a knight, that such a surrender was the highest boon which Heaven could bestow, she felt as discharging a debt of gratitude when she placed herself entirely at the disposal of the pure and blessed patroness in whose aid she confided. Perhaps there lurked in this devotion some earthly hope of which she was herself scarce conscious, and which reconciled her to the indefinite sacrifice thus freely offered. The Virgin, (this flattering hope might insinuate,) kindest and most benevolent of patronesses, will use compassionately the power resigned to her, and he will be the favoured champion of Maria, upon whom her votaress would most willingly confer favour.
But if there was such a hope, as something selfish will often mingle with our noblest and purest emotions, it arose unconscious of Eveline herself, who, in the full assurance of implicit faith, and fixing on the representative of her adoration, eyes in which the most earnest supplication, the most humble confidence, struggled with unbidden tears, was perhaps more beautiful than when, young as she was, she was selected to bestow the prize of chivalry in the lists of Chester. It was no wonder that, in such a moment of high excitation, when prostrated in devotion before a being of whose power to protect her, and to make her protection assured by a visible sign, she doubted nothing, the Lady Eveline conceived she saw with her own eyes the acceptance of her vow. As she gazed on the picture with an over-strained eye, and an imagination heated with enthusiasm, the expression seemed to alter from the hard outline, fashioned by the Greek painter; the eyes appeared to become animated, and to return with looks of compassion the suppliant entreaties of the votaress, and the mouth visibly arranged itself into a smile of inexpressible sweetness. It even seemed to her that the head made a gentle inclination.
Overpowered by supernatural awe at appearances, of which her faith permitted her not to question the reality, the Lady Eveline folded her arms on her bosom, and prostrated her forehead on the pavement, as the posture most fitting to listen to divine communication.
But her vision went not so far; there was neither sound nor voice, and when, after stealing her eyes all around the crypt in which she knelt, she again raised them to the figure of Our Lady, the features seemed to be in the form in which the limner had sketched them, saving that, to Eveline’s imagination, they still retained an august and yet gracious expression, which she had not before remarked upon the countenance. With awful reverence, almost amounting to fear, yet comforted, and even elated, with the visitation she had witnessed, the maiden repeated again and again the orisons which she thought most grateful to the ear of her benefactress; and rising at length, retired backwards, as from the presence of a sovereign, until she attained the outer chapel.
Here one or two females still knelt before the saints which the walls and niches presented for adoration; but the rest of the terrified suppliants, too anxious to prolong their devotions, had dispersed through the castle to learn tidings of their friends, and to obtain some refreshment, or at least some place of repose for themselves and their families.
Bowing her head, and muttering an ave to each saint as she passed his image, (for impending danger makes men observant of the rites of devotion,) the Lady Eveline had almost reached the door of the chapel, when a man-at-arms, as he seemed, entered hastily; and, with a louder voice than suited the holy place, unless when need was most urgent, demanded the Lady Eveline. Impressed with the feelings of veneration which the late scene had produced, she was about to rebuke his military rudeness, when he spoke again, and in anxious haste, “Daughter, we are betrayed!” and though the form, and the coat-of-mail which covered it, were those of a soldier, the voice was that of Father Aldrovand, who, eager and anxious at the same time, disengaged himself from the mail hood, and showed his countenance.
“Father,” she said, “what means this? Have you forgotten the confidence in Heaven which you are wont to recommend, that you bear other arms than your order assigns to you?”
“It may come to that ere long,” said Father Aldrovand; “for I was a soldier ere I was a monk. But now I have donn’d this harness to discover treachery, not to resist force. Ah! my beloved daughter — we are dreadfully beset — foemen without — traitors within! — The false Fleming, Wilkin Flammock, is treating for the surrender of the castle!”
“Who dares say so?” said a veiled female, who had been kneeling unnoticed in a sequestered corner of the chapel, but who now started up and came boldly betwixt Lady Eveline and the monk.
“Go hence, thou saucy minion,” said the monk, surprised at this bold interruption; “this concerns not thee.”
“But it doth concern me,” said the damsel, throwing back her veil, and discovering the juvenile countenance of Rose, the daughter of Wilkin Flammock, her eyes sparkling, and her cheeks blushing with anger, the vehemence of which made a singular contrast with the very fair complexion, and almost infantine features of the speaker, whose whole form and figure was that of a girl who has scarce emerged from childhood, and indeed whose general manners were as gentle and bashful as they now seemed bold, impassioned, and undaunted. —“Doth it not concern me,” she said, “that my father’s honest name should be tainted with treason? Doth it not concern the stream when the fountain is troubled? It doth concern me, and I will know the author of the calumny.”
“Damsel,” said Eveline, “restrain thy useless passion; the good father, though he cannot intentionally calumniate thy father, speaks, it may be, from false report.”
“As I am an unworthy priest,” said the father, “I speak from the report of my own ears. Upon the oath of my order, myself heard this Wilkin Flammock chaffering with the Welshman for the surrender of the Garde Doloureuse. By help of this hauberk and mail hood, I gained admittance to a conference where he thought there were no English ears. They spoke Flemish too, but I knew the jargon of old.”
“The Flemish,” said the angry maiden, whose headstrong passion led her to speak first in answer to the last insult offered, “is no jargon like your piebald English, half Norman, half Saxon, but a noble Gothic tongue, spoken by the brave warriors who fought against the Roman Kaisars, when Britain bent the neck to them — and as for this he has said of Wilkin Flammock,” she continued, collecting her ideas into more order as she went on, “believe it not, my dearest lady; but, as you value the honour of your own noble father, confide, as in the Evangelists, in the honesty of mine!” This she spoke with an imploring tone of voice, mingled with sobs, as if her heart had been breaking.
Eveline endeavoured to soothe her attendant. “Rose,” she said, “in this evil time suspicions will light on the best men, and misunderstandings will arise among the best friends. — Let us hear the good father state what he hath to charge upon your parent. Fear not but that Wilkin shall be heard in his defence. Thou wert wont to be quiet and reasonable.”
“I am neither quiet nor reasonable on this matter,” said Rose, with redoubled indignation; “and it is ill of you, lady, to listen to the falsehoods of that reverend mummer, who is neither true priest nor true soldier. But I will fetch one who shall confront him either in casque or cowl.” So saying, she went hastily out of the chapel, while the monk, after some pedantic circumlocution, acquainted the Lady Eveline with what he had overheard betwixt Jorworth and Wilkin; and proposed to her to draw together the few English who were in the castle, and take possession of the innermost square tower; a keep which, as usual in Gothic fortresses of the Norman period, was situated so as to make considerable defence, even after the exterior works of the castle, which it commanded, were in the hand of the enemy.
“Father,” said Eveline, still confident in the vision she had lately witnessed, “this were good counsel in extremity; but otherwise, it were to create the very evil we fear, by seating our garrison at odds amongst themselves. I have a strong, and not unwarranted confidence, good father, in our blessed Lady of the Garde Doloureuse, that we shall attain at once vengeance on our barbarous enemies, and escape from our present jeopardy; and I call you to witness the vow I have made, that to him whom Our Lady should employ to work us succour, I will refuse nothing, were it my father’s inheritance, or the hand of his daughter.”
“Ave Maria! Ave Regina Coeli!” said the priest; “on a rock more sure you could not have founded your trust. — But, daughter,” he continued after the proper ejaculation had been made, “have you never heard, even by a hint, that there was a treaty for your hand betwixt our much honoured lord, of whom we are cruelly bereft, (may God assoilzie his soul!) and the great house of Lacy?”
“Something I may have heard,” said Eveline, dropping her eyes, while a slight tinge suffused her cheek; “but I refer me to the disposal of our Lady of Succour and Consolation.”
As she spoke, Rose entered the chapel with the same vivacity she had shown in leaving it, leading by the hand her father, whose sluggish though firm step, vacant countenance, and heavy demeanour, formed the strongest contrast to the rapidity of her motions, and the anxious animation of her address. Her task of dragging him forward might have reminded the spectator of some of those ancient monuments, on which a small cherub, singularly inadequate to the task, is often represented as hoisting upward towards the empyrean the fleshy bulk of some ponderous tenant of the tomb, whose disproportioned weight bids fair to render ineffectual the benevolent and spirited exertions of its fluttering guide and assistant.
“Roschen — my child — what grieves thee?” said the Netherlander, as he yielded to his daughter’s violence with a smile, which, being on the countenance of a father, had more of expression and feeling than those which seemed to have made their constant dwelling upon his lips.
“Here stands my father,” said the impatient maiden; “impeach him with treason, who can or dare! There stands Wilkin Flammock, son of Dieterick, the Cramer of Antwerp — let those accuse him to his face who slandered him behind his back!”
“Speak, Father Aldrovand,” said the Lady Eveline; “we are young in our lordship, and, alas! the duty hath descended upon us in an evil hour; yet we will, so may God and Our Lady help us, hear and judge of your accusation to the utmost of our power.”
“This Wilkin Flammock,” said the monk, “however bold he hath made himself in villany, dares not deny that I heard him with my own ears treat for the surrender of the castle.”
“Strike him, father!” said the indignant Rose — “strike the disguised mummer! The steel hauberk may be struck, though not the monk’s frock — strike him, or tell him that he lies foully!”
“Peace, Roschen, thou art mad,” said her father, angrily; “the monk hath more truth than sense about him, and I would his ears had been farther off when he thrust them into what concerned him not.”
Rose’s countenance fell when she heard her father bluntly avow the treasonable communication of which she had thought him incapable — she dropt the hand by which she had dragged him into the chapel, and stared on the Lady Eveline, with eyes which seemed starting from their sockets, and a countenance from which the blood, with which it was so lately highly coloured, had retreated to garrison the heart.
Eveline looked upon the culprit with a countenance in which sweetness and dignity were mingled with sorrow. “Wilkin,” she said, “I could not have believed this. What! on the very day of thy confiding benefactor’s death, canst thou have been tampering with his murderers, to deliver up the castle, and betray thy trust! — But I will not upbraid thee — I deprive thee of the trust reposed in so unworthy a person, and appoint thee to be kept in ward in the western tower, till God send us relief; when, it may be, thy daughter’s merits shall atone for thy offences, and save farther punishment. — See that our commands be presently obeyed.”
“Yes — yes — yes!” exclaimed Rose, hurrying one word on the other as fast and vehemently as she could articulate —“Let us go — let us go to the darkest dungeon — darkness befits us better than light.”
The monk, on the other hand, perceiving that the Fleming made no motion to obey the mandate of arrest, came forward, in a manner more suiting his ancient profession, and present disguise, than his spiritual character; and with the words, “I attach thee, Wilkin Flammock, of acknowledged treason to your liege lady,” would have laid hand upon him, had not the Fleming stepped back and warned him off, with a menacing and determined gesture, while he said — “Ye are mad! — all of you English are mad when the moon is full, and my silly girl hath caught the malady. — Lady, your honoured father gave me a charge, which I propose to execute to the best for all parties, and you cannot, being a minor, deprive me of it at your idle pleasure. — Father Aldrovand, a monk makes no lawful arrests. — Daughter Roschen, hold your peace and dry your eyes — you are a fool.”
“I am, I am,” said Rose, drying her eyes and regaining her elasticity of manner —“I am indeed a fool, and worse than a fool, for a moment to doubt my father’s probity. — Confide in him, dearest lady; he is wise though he is grave, and kind though he is plain and homely in his speech. Should he prove false he will fare the worse! for I will plunge myself from the pinnacle of the Warder’s Tower to the bottom of the moat, and he shall lose his own daughter for betraying his master’s.”
“This is all frenzy,” said the monk —“Who trusts avowed traitors? — Here, Normans, English, to the rescue of your liege lady — Bows and bills — bows and bills!”
“You may spare your throat for your next homily, good father,” said the Netherlander, “or call in good Flemish, since you understand it, for to no other language will those within hearing reply.”
He then approached the Lady Eveline with a real or affected air of clumsy kindness, and something as nearly approaching to courtesy as his manners and features could assume. He bade her good-night, and assuring her that he would act for the best, left the chapel. The monk was about to break forth into revilings, but Eveline, with more prudence, checked his zeal.
“I cannot,” she said, “but hope that this man’s intentions are honest —”
“Now, God’s blessing on you, lady, for that very word!” said Rose, eagerly interrupting her, and kissing her hand.
“But if unhappily they are doubtful,” continued Eveline, “it is not by reproach that we can bring him to a better purpose. Good father, give an eye to the preparations for resistance, and see nought omitted that our means furnish for the defence of the castle.”
“Fear nothing, my dearest daughter,” said Aldrovand; “there are still some English hearts amongst us, and we will rather kill and eat the Flemings themselves, than surrender the castle.”
“That were food as dangerous to come by as bear’s venison, father,” answered Rose, bitterly, still on fire with the idea that the monk treated her nation with suspicion and contumely.
On these terms they separated — the women to indulge their fears and sorrows in private grief, or alleviate them by private devotion; the monk to try to discover what were the real purposes of Wilkin Flammock, and to counteract them if possible, should they seem to indicate treachery. His eye, however, though sharpened by strong suspicion, saw nothing to strengthen his fears, excepting that the Fleming had, with considerable military skill, placed the principal posts of the castle in the charge of his own countrymen which must make any attempt to dispossess him of his present authority both difficult and dangerous. The monk at length retired, summoned by the duties of the evening service, and with the determination to be stirring with the light the next morning.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00