James Branch Cabell.

Chivalry online

. (page 14 of 14)
Online LibraryJames Branch CabellChivalry → online text (page 14 of 14)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

is the agony, the enduring agony." She stayed motionless for an
interval. "God, God! let me not fail!" Katharine breathed; and then:
"O fair sweet friend, I am about to commit a vile action, but it is for
the sake of France that I love next to God. As Judith gave her body to
Holofernes, I crucify my heart for France's welfare." Very calmly she
struck upon the gong.

If she could have found any reproach in his eyes during the ensuing
silence, she could have borne it; but there was only love. And with
all that, he smiled as one knowing the upshot of the matter.

A man-at-arms came into the room. "Germain - " Katharine said, and then
again, "Germain - " She gave a swallowing motion and was silent. When
she spoke it was with crisp distinctness. "Germain, fetch a harp.
Messire Alain here is about to play for me."

At the man's departure she said: "I am very pitiably weak. Need you
have dragged my soul, too, in the dust? God heard my prayer, and you
have forced me to deny His favor, as Peter denied Christ. My dear, be
very kind to me, for I come to you naked of honor." She fell at the
King's feet, embracing his knees. "My master, be very kind to me, for
there remains only your love."

He raised her to his breast. "Love is enough," he said.

Next day the English entered Troyes and in the cathedral church these
two were betrothed. Henry was there magnificent in a curious suit of
burnished armor; in place of his helmet-plume he wore a fox-brush
ornamented with jewels, which unusual ornament afforded great matter of
remark among the busy bodies of both armies.


The Epilogue

"_Et je fais scavoir a tous lecteurs de ce Livret que les
chases que je dis avoir vues et sues sont enregistres icy, afin
que vous pouviez les regarder selon vostre ban sens, s'il vous


The Epilogue

_A son Livret_

Intrepidly depart, my little book, into the presence of that most
illustrious lady who bade me compile you. Bow down before her judgment
patiently. And if her sentence be that of death I counsel you to
grieve not at what cannot be avoided.

But, if by any miracle that glorious, strong fortress of the weak
consider it advisable, pass thence to every man who may desire to
purchase you, and live out your little hour among these very credulous
persons; and at your appointed season die and be forgotten. For thus
only may you share your betters' fate, and be at one with those famed
comedies of Greek Menander and all the poignant songs of Sappho. _Et
quid Pandoniae_ - thus, little book, I charge you poultice your
more-merited oblivion - _quid Pandoniae restat nisi nomen Athenae_?

Yet even in your brief existence you may chance to meet with those who
will affirm that the stories you narrate are not verily true and
erroneously protest too many assertions which are only fables. To
these you will reply that I, your maker, was in my youth the quite
unworthy servant of the most high and noble lady, Dame Jehane, and in
this period, at and about her house of Havering-Bower, conversed in my
own person with Dame Katharine, then happily remarried to a private
gentleman of Wales; and so obtained the matter of the ninth story and
of the tenth authentically. You will say also that Messire de
Montbrison afforded me the main matter of the sixth and seventh
stories; and that, moreover, I once journeyed to Caer Idion and talked
for some two hours with Richard Holland (whom I found a very old and
garrulous and cheery person), and got of him the matter of the eighth
tale in this dizain, together with much information as concerns the
sixth and the seventh. And you will add that the matter of the fourth
and fifth tales was in every detail related to me by my most
illustrious mistress, Madame Isabella of Portugal, who had it from her
mother, an equally veracious and immaculate lady, and one that was in
youth Dame Philippa's most dear associate. For the rest you must
admit, unwillingly, the first three stories in this book to be a
thought less solidly confirmed; although (as you will say) even in
these I have not ever deviated from what was at odd times narrated to
me by the aforementioned persons, and have always endeavored honestly
to piece together that which they told me.

[Illustration: "NICOLAS: A SON LIVRET" _Painting by Howard Pyle_]

Also, my little book, you will encounter more malignant people who will
jeer at you, and say that you and I have cheated them of your
purchase-money. To these you will reply, with Plutarch, _Non mi aurum
posco, nec mi pretium_. Secondly you will say that, of necessity, the
tailor cuts the coat according to his cloth; and that he cannot
undertake to robe an Ephialtes or a towering Orion suitably when the
resources of his shop amount at most to three scant yards of cambric.
Indeed had I the power to make you better, my little book, I would have
done it. A good conscience is a continual feast, and I summon all
heaven to be my witness that had I been Homer you had awed the world,
another Iliad. I lament the improbability of your doing this as
heartily as any person living; yet Heaven willed it; and it is in
consequence to Heaven these same cavillers should now complain if they
insist upon considering themselves to be aggrieved.

So to such impious people do you make no answer at all, unless indeed
you should elect to answer them by repetition of this trivial song
which I now make for you, my little book, at your departure from me.
And the song runs in this fashion:

_Depart, depart, my book! and live and die
Dependent on the idle fantasy
Of men who cannot view you, quite, as I._

_For I am fond, and willingly mistake
My book to be the book I meant to make,
And cannot judge you, for that phantom's sake._

_Yet pardon me if I have wrought too ill
In making you, that never spared the will
To shape you perfectly, and lacked the skill._

_Ah, had I but the power, my book, then I
Had wrought in you some wizardry so high
That no man but had listened...!_

_They pass by,
And shrug - as we, who know that unto us
It has been granted never to fare thus,
And never to be strong and glorious._

_Is it denied me to perpetuate
What so much loving labor did create? -
I hear Oblivion tap upon the gate,
And acquiesce, not all disconsolate._

_For I have got such recompense
Of that high-hearted excellence
Which the contented craftsman knows,
Alone, that to loved labor goes,
And daily doth the work he chose,
And counts all else impertinence!_


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 14

Online LibraryJames Branch CabellChivalry → online text (page 14 of 14)