« PreviousContinue »
The Bishop held up his hands. He had never beard of such lunacy; and it angered him, as such purposes are wont to anger worldly-hearted
That a lady of Luxembourg should have such vulgar tastes as to wish to be a Béguine was bad enough; but that Netherlandish wealth should be devoted to support the factious poor of Paris was preposterous. Neither the Duke of Burgundy, nor her uncle of St. Pol, would allow a sou to pass out of their grasp for so absurd a purpose; the Pope would give no license-above all to a vain girl, who had helped a wife to run away from her husband—for new religious houses; and, unless Esclairmonde was prepared to be landless, penniless, and the scorn of everyone, for her wild behaviour, she must submit, bon gré mal gré, to become the wife of the Scottish prince.
'Landless and penniless then will I be, Monseigneur,' said Esclairmonde. Was not poverty the bride of St. Francis ?'
The Bishop made a growl of contempt; but recollecting himself, and his respect for the saint, began to argue that what was possible for a man, a mere merchant's son, an inspired saint besides, was not possible to a damsel of high degree, and that it was mere presumption, vanity, and obstinacy, in her to appeal to such a precedent.
There was something in this that struck Esclairmonde, for she was conscious of a certain satisfaction in her plan of being the first to introduce a Béguinage at Paris, and that she was to a certain degree proud of her years of constancy to her high purpose ; and she looked just so far abashed, that the uncle saw his advantage, and discoursed on the danger of attempting to be better than other people, and of trying to vapour in spiritual heights, to all of which she attempted no reply ; till at last he broke up the interview by saying, “There then, child ; all will be well. I see you are coming to a better mind.'
'I hope I am, Monseigneur,' she replied, with lofty meekness; but scarcely such as you mean.'
Alice Montagu's indignation knew no bounds. What! was this noble votaress to be forced, not only to resign the glory of being the foundress of a new order of beneficence, but to be married, just like everybody else, and to that wretched little coward ? ‘Boëmond of Burgundy was better than that, for he at least was a man!
No, no, Alice,' said Esclairmonde, with a shudder; "anyone rather than the Burgundian ! It is shame even to compare the Scot !'
• He may not be so evil in himself,' said Alice; 'but with a brave man you have only his own sins, while a coward has all those other people may frighten him into.'
• He bore himself manfully in battle,' said the fair Fleming in reproof.
But Alice answered with the scorn that sits so qu ly on the gentle daughter of a bold race, “Ay, where he would have been more afraid to run than to stand.'
“You are hard on the Scot,' said Esclairmonde. Maybe it is because the Nevils of Raby are Borderers,' she added, smiling; and as Alice likewise smiled and blushed, “Now, if it were not for this madness, I could like the youth. I would fain have had him for a brother that I could take care of.'
• But what will you do, Esclairmonde ?
* Trust,' said she, sighing. Maybe, my pride ought to be broken; and I may have to lay aside all my hopes and plans, and become a mere serving sister, to learn true humility. Anyhow, I verily trust to my Heavenly Spouse to guard me for Himself. If the Duke of Burgundy still maintains Boëmond's suit, then in the dissension I see an escape.'
“And my father will defend you; and so will Sir Richard,' said Alice, with complacent certainty in their full efficiency. “And King Harry will interfere; and we will have your hospital; ay, we will. How can you talk so lightly of abandoning it?'
'I only would know what is human pride, and what God's will,' sighed Esclairmonde.
The Duke arrived with his two sisters, his wife being left at home in bad health, and took up his abode at the Hotel de Bourgogne, whence he came at once to pay his respects to the King of England; the poor King of France, at the Hotel de St. Pol, being quite neglected.
Esclairmonde and Alice stood at a window, and watched the arrival of the magnificent cavalcade, attended by a multitude, ecstatically shouting, ‘Noël! Noël! Long live Philippe le Bon! Blessings on the mighty Duke! While seated on a tall charger, whose great dappled head, jewelled and beplumed, could alone be seen amid his sweeping housings, bowing right and left, waving his embroidered gloved hand in courtesy, was seen the stately Duke, in the prime of life, handsome faced, brilliantly coloured, dazzlingly arrayed in gemmed robes, so that Alice drew a long breath of wonder, and exclaimed, “This Duke is a goodly man-he looks like the emperor of us all !'
But when he had entered the hall, conducted by John of Bedford and Edmund of March, had made his obeisance to Henry, and had been presented by him to King James, Alice standing close behind her queen, recollected that she had once heard Esclairmonde say, “Till I came to England, I deemed chivalry a mere gaudy illusion.'
Duke Philippe would not bear close inspection ; the striking features and full red lips, that had made so effective an appearance in the gay procession seen from a distance, seemed harsh, haughty, and sensual near at hand, and when brought into close contact with the strange bright stern purity, now refined into hectic transparency, of King Henry's face, the grand and melancholy majesty of the royal Stewart's, or even the spare, keen, irregular visage of John of Bedford. And while his robes were infinitely more costly than-and his ornaments tenfold outnumbered-all that the three island princes wore, yet no critical eye could take him for their superior, even though his tone in addressing an inferior was elaborately affable and condescending, and theirs was always the frankness of an equal. Where they gave the sense of pure gold, he seemed like some ruder metal gilt and decorated; as if theirs were reality, his the imitation; theirs the truth, his the display.
But in reality his birth was as princely as theirs ; and no monarch in Europe, not even Henry, equalled him in material resources; he was idolized by the Parisians ; and Henry was aware that France had been made over to England more by his revenge for his father's murder at Montereau, than by the victory at Agincourt. Therefore the King endured his grand talk about our arms and our intentions ; and for Malcolm's sake, James submitted to a sort of patronage, as if meant to imply that if Philippe the Magnificent chose to espouse the cause of a captive king, his ransom would be the merest trifle.
When Henry bade him to the Pentecostal banquet, 'when kings keep state,' he graciously accepted the invitation for himself and his two sisters, Marguerite, widow of the second short-lived dauphin, and Anne, still unmarried; but when Henry further explained his plan of feasting merely with the orderly, and apportioning the food in real alms, the Duke by no means approved.
• Feed those miserables ! he said. One gains nothing thereby! They make no noise ; whereas if you affront the others, who know how to cry out, they will revile you like dogs!'
'I will not be a slave to the rascaille,' said IIenry.
“Ah, my fair Lord, you, a victor, may dispense with these cares ; but for a poor little prince like me, it is better to reign on men's hearts than their necks.'
• In the hearts of honest men-on the necks of knaves,' said Henry.
Philippe shrugged his shoulders. He was wise in his own generation; for he had all the audible voices in Paris on his side, while the cavils at Henry's economy have descended to the present time.
‘Do you see your rival, Sir ?' said the voice of the Bishop of Therouenne in Malcolm's ear, just as the Duke had begun to rise to take leave; and he pointed out a knight of some thirty years, glittering with gay devices from head to foot, and showing a bold proud visage, exaggerating the harshness of the Burgundian lineaments.
Malcolm shuddered, and murmured, 'Such a pearl to such a hog!
And meanwhile, King James, stepping forward, intimated to the Duke that he would be glad of an interview with him.
Philippe made some ostentation of his numerous engagements with men of Church and State ; but ended by inviting the King of Scotland to sup with him that evening, if his Grace would forgive travellers' fare and a simple reception.
Thither, accordingly, James repaired on foot, attended only by Sir Nigel and Malcolm, with a few archers of the royal guard, in case torches should be wanted on the way home.
How magnificent were the surroundings of the great Duke, it would be wearisome to tell. The retainers in the court of the hotel looked, as
James said, as if honest steel and good cloth were reckoned as churls, and as if this were the very land of Cockaigne, as Sir Richard Whittington had dreamt it. Neither he nor St. Andrew himself would know their own saltire made in cloth of silver, the very metal to tarnish!'
Sir Nigel had to tell their rank, ere the porters admitted the small company: but the seneschal marshalled them forward in full state. And James never looked more the king than when, in simple crimson robe, the pure white cross on his breast, his auburn hair parted back from his noble brow, he stood towering above all heads, passively receiving the Duke of Burgundy's elaborate courtesies and greetings, nor seeminy to note the lavish display of gold and silver, meant to amaze the poorest king in Europe.
Exceeding was the politeness shewn to him-even to the omission of the seneschal's tasting each dish presented to the Duke, a recognition of the presence of a sovereign, that the two Scots scarcely understood enough for gratitude.
Malcolm was the best off of the two at the supper; for James had of course to be cavalier to the sickly fretful-looking Dauphiness, while Malcolm fell to the lot of the Lady Anne, who though not beautiful, had a kindly hearty countenance and manner, and won his heart by asking whether the Demoiselle de Luxemburg were still in the suite of Madame of Hainault; and then it appeared that she had been her convent mate and warmest friend and admirer in their girlish days at Dijon, and was now longing to see her. Was she as much set as ever on being a nun?
Meantime, the Duke was pompously making way for the King of Scots to enter his cabinet, where—with a gold cup before each, a dish of comfits and a stoup of wine between them—their interview was to take place.
* These dainties accord with a matter of ladies' love,' said James, as the Duke handed him a sugar heart transfixed by an arrow.
• Good, good,' said Philippe. «The alliance is noble; and our crowns and influence might be a good check in the north to your mighty neighbour ; nor would I be hard as to her dowry. Send me five score yearly of such knaves as came with Buchan, and I could fight the devil himself. A morning gift might be specified for the name of the thingbut we understand one another.'
'I am not certain of that, Sir,' said James, smiling; though I see you mean me kindly.'
'Nay, now,' continued Philippe, 'I know how to honour royalty, even in durance ; nor will I even press Madame la Dauphine on you instead of Anne, though it were better for us all if she could have her wish and become a queen, and you would have her jointure-if you or anyone else can get it.'
Stay, my Lord Duke,' said James, with dignity, 'I spake not of myself, deeming that it was well known that my troth is plighted.'
"How?' said Burgundy, amazed, but not offended. Methought the House of Somerset was a mere bastard slip, with which even King Henry with all his insolence could not expect you to wed in earnest. However, we may keep our intentions secret awhile; and then with your lances and my resources, English displeasure need concern you little.'
James, who had learned self-control in captivity, began politely to express himself highly honoured and obliged.
Do not mention it. Royal blood thus shamefully oppressed, must command the aid of all that is chivalrous. Speak, and your ransom is at your service.
The hot blood rushed into James's cheek at this tone of condescension; but he answered, with courteous haughtiness, ‘Of myself, Sir Duke, there is no question. My ransom waits England's willingness to accept it; and my hand is not free, even for the prize you have the goodness to offer. I came not to speak of myself.'
Not to make suit for my sister, nor my intercession !' exclaimed Philippe.
'I make suit to no man,' said James; then recollecting himself, if I did so, no readier friend than the Duke of Burgundy could be found. I did in effect come to propose an alliance between one of my own house and a fair vassal of yours.'
‘Ha! the runaway jade of Luxemburg ! cried Burgundy; "the most headstrong girl who lives! She dared to plead her foolish vows against my brother Boëmond, fled with that other hoyden of Hainault, and now defies me by coming here. I'll have her, and make her over to Boëmond to tame her pride, were she in the great Satan's camp instead of King Henry's.'
And this is the mirror of chivalry! thought James. But he persevered in his explanation of his arrangement for permitting the estates of Esclairmonde de Luxemburg to be purchased from her and her husband, should that husband be Malcolm Stewart of Glenuskie; and he soon found that these terms would be as acceptable to the Duke as they had already proved to her guardian, Monseigneur de Thérouenne. Money was nothing to Philippe ; but his policy was to absorb the little seignoralties that lay so thick in these border lands of the Empire; and what he desired above all, was to keep them from either passing into the hands of the Church, or from consolidating into some powerful principality, as would have been the case had Esclairmonde either entered a convent, or married young Waleran de Luxemburg, her cousin. Therefore he had striven to force on her bis half-brother, who would certainly never unite any inheritance to hers; but he much preferred the purchase of her Hainault lands; and had no compunction in throwing over Boëmond, except for a certain lurking desire that the lady's contumacy should be chastised by a lord who would beat her well into subjection. He would willingly have made a great show of generosity, and have laid James under an obligation; and yet by the