Page images
[ocr errors]

"Where is the sound of chapel bell Ringing its summons through the dell, Bidding their lord's retainers all To prayer, within the castle wall ? * Dire desolation is around! No prancing steed, no baying hound, Nor hooded hawk, await the hand That gave caress or reprimand. "Yet thou, of all in this drear spot So long forsaken and forgot, Thou, cold unsympathizing stone, Dost number sunny hours, alone! • Yes, thou may'st mock at human hearts So often pierced with sorrow's darts ! No cloud so light, but leaves, I trow, Some track of sadness on the browWhile blackest storms may dim thy face But of their gloom shall leave no trace ! O Dial, sure I envy thee Thy bright and happy memory!' I woke, to find the sun had set Though rosy hues were ling’ring yet Upon the far horizon's breast, The soft attendants of his rest. Homeward I turned, while in my car That dial's tones I seemed to hear, For sure, a lesson I might learn Ev'n from a stone so taciturn. I too had known sweet sunny hours When all my path was strewn with flow'rs, Till tempests came, and swept them by, And I had longed that I might die ! Henceforth, I'll strive not to repine Though storms may brood, the sun will shine Nor think his face is hid for aye, Because he smiles not ev'ry day. This motto then shall be my guide Through 'Life's long day,' whate'er betide, Bravely I'll breast each cloud that lours, And NUMBER + NONE + But SUNNY + HOURS. +

A. L. C.




The Queen was coming! No sooner had the first note of surrender been sounded from the towers of Meaux, than Henry had sent intelligence to England that the way was open for the safe arrival of his much-loved wife; and at length, on a sunny day in May, tidings were received that she had landed in France, under the escort of the Duke of Bedford.

Vincennes, in the midst of its noble forest, was the place fixed for the meeting of the royal pair; and never did a happier or more brilliant cavalcade traverse those woodlands than that with which Henry rode to the appointed spot.

All the winter, the King had heeded appearances as little as of old when roughing it with Hotspur in Wales; but now his dress was of the most royal. On his head was a small green velvet cap, encircled by a crown in embroidery; bis robe was of scarlet silk, and over it was thrown a mantle of dark green samite, thickly powdered with tiny embroidered white antelopes; the Garter was on his knee, the George on his neck. It was a kingly garb, and well became the tall slight person, and fair noble features. During those tedious months, he had looked wan, haggard, and care-worn ; but the lines of anxiety were all effaced, his lustrous blue eyes shone and danced like Easter suns, liis complexion rivalled the fresh delicate tints of the blossoms in the orchards; and when, with a shyness for which he laughed at himself, he halted to brush away any trace of dust that might offend the eye of his dainty Kate,' and gaily asked his brother King if he were sufficiently pranked out for a lady's bower, James, thinking he had never seen him so handsome, replied,

* Like a young bridegroom—nay, more like a young suitor.'

“You're jealous, Jamie, afraid of being outshone. 'Tis your own fault, man; none can ever tell whether you be in festal trim or not.'

For King James's taste was for sober, well-blending hues; and as he never lapsed into Henry's carelessness, his state apparel was not very apparently dissimilar from his ordinary dress, being generally of dark rich crimson, blue, or russet, with the St. Andrew's cross in white silk on his breast, or else the ruddy lion, but never conspicuously; and the sombre hues always seemed particularly well to suit his auburn colouring.

Malcolm, in scarlet and gold, was a far gayer figure, and quite conscious of the change in his own appearance—how much taller, ruddier, and browner he had become; how much better he held himself both in riding and walking; and how much awkwardness and embarrassment he had lost. No wonder Esclairmonde had despised the sickly, timid, monkish school-boy; and if she had then shown him any sort of grace or preference, what would she think of the princely young squire he could now show her, who had seen service, had proved his valour, and was only not a knight because of King Henry's unkindness and King James's punctilio—at any rate, no child to be brow-beaten and silenced with folly about cloistral dedication ; but a youth who had taken his place in the world, and could allege that his inspiration had come through her bright eyes.

Would she be there? That was the chief anxiety, for it was not certain that either she or her mistress would risk themselves on the Continent; and Catherine had given no intimation as to who would be in her suite--so that, as Henry had merrily observed, he was the only one in the whole party who was not in suspense, except indeed Salisbury, who had sent his commands to his little daughter to come out with the Queen.

'She is come! cried Henry. “Beforehand with us, after all;' and he spurred his horse on as he saw the banner raised, and the escort around the gate; and in a few seconds more he and his companions had hurried through the court, where the ladies had scarcely dismounted, and hastened into the hall, breaking into the seneschal's solemn reception of the Queen.

My Kate, my fairest! Mine eyes have been hungry for a sight of thee.' And Catherine, in her horned head-gear and flutter of spangled veil, was almost swallowed up in his hearty embrace; and the fervency of his great love so far warmed her, that she clung to him, and tenderly said, 'My Lord, it is long since I saw you.'

* Thou wert before me! Ah! forgive thy tardy knight,' he continued, gazing at her really enhanced beauty as if he had eyes for no one else, even while with lip and hand, kiss, grasp, and word, he greeted her companions, of whom Jaqueline of Hainault and John of Bedford were the most prominent.

And the babe? where is he? then cried he. Let me have him to hold up to my brave fellows in the court !'

• The Prince of Wales ?' said Catherine. "You never spake of my bringing him.'

'If I spake not, it was because I doubted not for a moment that you would keep him with you. Nay, verily it is not in sooth that you left him. You are merely sporting with me.'

* Truly, Sir,' said Catherine, "I never guessed that you would clog yourself with a babe in the cradle, and I deemed him more safely nursed at Windsor.'

'If it be for his safety! Yet a soldier's boy should thrive among soldiers,' said the King, evidently much disappointed, and proceeding to eager inquiries as to the appearance and progress of his child ; to which the Queen replied with a certain languor, as though she had no very intimate personal knowledge of her little son.

Other eyes were meanwhile eagerly scanning the bright confusion of veils and wimples ; and Malcolm had just made out the tall head and dark locks under a long almost shrouding white veil far away in the background behind the Countess of Hainault, when the Duke of Bedford came up with a frown of consternation on bis always anxious face, and drawing King James into a window, said, "What have you been doing to him!' to which James, without hearing the question, replied, “Where is she?

Joan? At home. It was the Queen's will. Of that another time. But what means this?' and he signed towards his brother. "Never saw I man so changed.'

Had you seen him at Christmas you might have said so,' replied James ; 'but now I see naught amiss ; I had been thinking I had never seen him so fair and comely.'

'I tell you, James,' said Bedford, contracting his brows till they almost met over his arched nose, 'I tell you, his look brings back to me my mother's, the last time she greeted my fatber!

* To your fantasy, not your memory, Jobp! You were a mere babe at her death.'

Of five years,' said Bedford. "That face—that cough—have brought all back—ay, the yearning look when my father was absent, and the pure rosy fairness that Harry and Tom cited so fiercely against one who would have told them how sick to death she was. I mind me too, that when our grandame of Hereford made us motherless children over to our grandsire of Lancaster, it was with a warning that Harry had the tender lungs of the Bohuns, and needed care. One deadly sickness he had at Kenilworth, when my father was ridden for post-baste. My mind misgave me throughout this weary siege ; but his service held me fast at home, and I trusted that you would watch over him.'

"A man like him is ill to guide,' said James ; 'but he is more himself now than he had been for months, and a few weeks' quiet with bis wife will restore him. But what is this?' be proceeded in his turn; "why is the Lady Joan not here?'

• How can I tell? It was no fault of mine. I even got a prim warning that it became me not to meddle about her ladies, and I doubted what slanders you might hear if I were seen asking your Nightingale for a token.'

* Have you none! Good John, I know you have.'

John smiled his ironical smile, produced from the pouch at his girdle a small packet bound with rose-coloured silk, and said, "The Nightingale hath a plume, you see, and saith moreover that her knight hath done bis devoir passably, but that she yet looks to see him send some captive giant to her feet. So, Sir Knight, I hope your poor dwarf bath acquitted him well in your chivalrous jargon.'

James smiled and coloured with pleasure; the fantastic message was not devoid of reality in the days when young imaginative spirits tried to hide the prose of war and policy in a bright mist of romantic fancy; nor was he ashamed to bend his manly head in reverence to, and even press to his lips, his lady's first love-letter, in the very sight of the satirical though sympathizing Bedford, of whom he eagerly asked of the fair Joan's health and welfare, and whether she were flouted by Queen Catherine ?

“No more than is the meed of her beauty,' said Bedford. 'Sister Kate likes not worship at any sbrine save one. Look at our suite : our knights-yea, our very grooms are picked for their comeliness; to wit that great feather-pated oaf of a Welshman, Owen Tudor there; while dames and demoiselles, tire-women and all, are as near akin as may be to Sir Gawain's loathly lady.'

'Not at least the fair Luxemburg. Did not I see her stately mien ?'

‘She is none of the Queen's, and moreover, she stands aloof, so that the women forgive her gifts! There is that cough of Harry's again! He is the shadow of the man he was; I would I knew if this were the step-dame's doing.'

Nay, John, when you talk to me of Harry's cough, and of nightwatches and flooded camps, I hearken ; but when your wits run wool-gathering after that poor woman, making waxen images stuck full

You are in the right on't, James,' said Henry, who had come up to them while he was speaking. 'John will never get sorceries out of his head. I have thought it over, and will not be led into oppressing my father's widow any more. I cannot spend this Pentecost cheerily till I know she is set free and restored to her manors; and I shall write to Humfrey and the Council to that effect.'

And as John shrugged his shoulders, Henry gaily added, "Thou seest what comes of a winter spent with this unbeliever Jamie; and truly I found the thought of unright to my father's widow was a worse pin in my heart than ever she is like to thrust there.'

Thus then it was, that in the overflowing joy and good-will of his heart, and mayhap with the presentiment which rendered him willing to be at peace with all his kindred, Henry forgave and released his step-mother, Joan of Navarre, whom common rumour termed the Witch Queen, and whom he had certainly little reason to love, whether it were true or not that she had attempted to weave spells against him. In fact, there were few of the new-comers from England who did not, like Bedford, impute the transparency of Henry's hands, and the hollowness of his brightly-tinted cheek, to some form of sorcery.

Meantime, Esclairmonde de Luxemburg, more beautiful than ever under a still simpler dress, had greeted Malcolm with her wonted kindness, adding with a smile, that he was so much grown and embrowned, that she should not have known him but for the sweet Scottish voice wbich he, like his King, possessed.

* You do me too much grace in commending aught that is mine,

« PreviousContinue »