M. E. (Mary Elizabeth) Braddon.

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had gone back to London, and had seen the solicitor again, and
had made his enquiries in every likely and unlikely direction, but
he had learned nothing. The London lawyer did not know the
name of the vessel in which Arnold had booked his passage to
New York. His client had told him nothing, except that he had
made up his mind to go to America, and that he wanted his affairs
administered in his absence. The household at the Grange was to
suffer no alteration, and when Arnold came he was to be master.

' Until your return 1 ' the lawyer had said to him,


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'My return is an event of the remote future,* Oswald had
replied ; ^ I may never return.*

Arnold went to Liverpool, and the result of his researches there
convinced him that Oswald had not left that port in any vessel bound
for America, imless he had sailed under an assumed name. From
Liverpool he went to Cork — ^from Cork he went by water to
Bristol — ^from Bristol westward to Plymouth ; and the most search-
ing enquiries at these places resulted as his enquiries had resulted
at Liverpool. There was no trace of Oswald Pentreath's pas-
sage to America to be found in any shipping office. He went back
to the Grange sorely depressed, for his brother's fate was beginning
to assume a hue of mystery which gave room for the darkest fears.

His conversation with Joshua Haggard had told him nothing
more than he had already learned from Naomi. The minister
had rec«ived him with a chilling reserve which held him at arm's
length. The frank outspoken sailor wondered that his brother
could have written to him so warmly in praise of such a man.

He called on Joshua the day after his return from his round of

^ This is a bad business, Mr. Haggard,' he began, plunging at
once into the subject nearest his heart ; ' I have found out enough
to feel very sure that my brother has not gone to America.'

Joshua's grave countenance betrayed no surprise. ' Why, the
fellow is not a man but a machine,' Arnold thought indignantly.

' You don't seem to understand what a serious question thijj
is,' said Arnold. ' If my brother did not go to wAjnerica last
August, what has become of him ? '

' That is a question that I cannot be expected to answer. Captain
Pentreath. We are all in God's hands. In life or in death He
deals with us as seemeth best to Him. He may have appointed your
brother for an evil end. You had best be content to leave all to Him.'

* Do you mean that if my brother has come to an evil end,
I am to let his murderer go scot-free ? ' cried Arnold, indignantly.

* Do you think that I shall fold my hands and wait for Provi-
dence to avenge my brother ? Why, if I did, God would have the
right to ask of me as he did of Cain, " Where is thy brother ?" You
do not know how dearly we two loved each other, Mr. Haggard.'

* " Vengeance is mine, I will repay," ' quoted Joshua solemnly ;

* be sure that if your brother has been murdered, an idea I do not
for a moment entertain, his assassin has suffered or will suffer as
heavy a punishment as any vengeance of yours could inflict.'

' May God make conscience an imdying worm to feed upon his
soul ! ' said Arnold. * But it shall be my business to bring his body
to the gallows.'

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Joshua heard him in silence. He sat with folded hands, and a
countenance as mysterious in its solemn thoughtfulness as the
head of Memnon.

* Come, Mr. Haggard, you must be able to give me some help
in this matter, if you choose,' urged Arnold passionately ; ' my
brother was your daughter's lover — her affianced husband, till you,
for some motive of your own, forbade their marriage. There is a
story underlying that act of yours — a story that might cast some
light upon my poor brother's fate. You must have had strong
reasons for such a step. A man of your principles would hardly be
governed by caprice. Tell me honestly, as one who has a right to
ask, what that reason was.'

* I can give you no details upon that point,' answered Joshua,
after some moments of profound thought, 'but I will tell you
broadly that I had reason to disapprove of your brother's conduct
in relation to another woman. I had reason to know that his
heart had gone away from my daughter. He would have kept his
promise, and married her, and would have believed that he was
acting as a man of honour ; but he would have lied at God's altar,
and his marriage would have offended Heaven.'

* You believe that my brother's heart had gone astray?'

* I know it.'

' Then, for heaven's sake, tell me all you know. This love affair
may throw light upon his after conduct — may give us the clue to
his present whereabouts. There would be a false delicacy — an
absolute cruelty — in hiding anything from me — from me, his
brother, who am distracted by the most hideous apprehensions.'

* I can tell you nothing more,' answered Joshua, with a stem
resoluteness which chilled Arnold to the heart. * I am withholding
no knowledge which could help you in the smallest degree. Your
brother sinned — and is gone. You must be content to know no
more than that.'

* I will not be content,' cried the jgailor, vehemently. ' You
are juggling with me — ^you, a preacher of God's Word, who ought
to be truthful as the day. But I forgot — the prophets were dark of
speech, and God taught His chosen people by dreams and allegories,
and you seek to imitate those mysterious ways. Have you no
human pity — as a man and a Christian — for a brother's grief for
a lost brotiier ? You could tell me something that would make
this mystery clear ; and you lock your lips, and abandon me to
the agony of imcertainty. My brother respected, admired — nay,
loved you, Mr. Haggard.'

This wrung a sigh Iropa a breast which Arnold had deepi^

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^I tell you I am withholding nothing that could give you com-
fort,' said Joshua, looking downward with fixed and gloomy brow.
' I deplore your brother's fate, and the mystery which surrounds
it. Yet for your sake — ^for the sake of my daughter who loved
him — I say, May the veil never be lifted ! '


' Because I fear he came to a bad end.'

' You must have some reason for that fear. You know some-
thing,' exclaimed Arnold, breathlessly.

' I am guided by my knowledge of his character — of his con-
dition of mind last summer.'

'You think he destroyed himself? '


Arnold bowed his face upon his clasped hands; his strong frame
was shaken by the agony of that momemt. To have stayed away
from his brother all the days of his youth — to come home full of
hope and pleasure — and to be told this ! The cup was bitter.

When Arnold looked up, Joshua Haggard was gone.

He stayed in the empty room, looking out into the windy
March street — ^where one old woman was tightening a three-
cornered shawl across her skinny shoulders — ^with eyes that saw
not, and thinking over Joshua's words.

What did they mean ? How much, or how little ? Was this
idea of Oswald's suicide a mere speculation on the minister's part,
or had he sound evidence on which to found his conclusions ?

' It is too bad of him to leave me in the dark,' mused Arnold.

* I have a right to know everything that can be said or thought
about my brother. He is a hard-hearted scoimdrel. These over-
pious men are adamant. And yet he saved my brother's life at
the risk of his own. Oswald told me the story, and the fishermen
here are never tired of talking about it. Don't let me forget that.
The man is better than his speech. And he tells me he is keep-
ing nothing back. But to think that my brother took his own
life — ^that he was wretched enough to find the coward's last release
from diflBculty I I will not believe it.'

He rose to depart ; but before he got to the door, Naomi came
in, and they stood face to face, both startled, both agitated by this
sudden meeting, natural as it was.

* Oh, Naomi, I want you,' cried the sailor, taking both her
hands, and looking into the pale face with beseeching earnestness.

* I want you to advise, to comfort, to enlighten me. I have been
talking to your father, and he has almost broken my heart. Tell
me, for pity's sake, the truth, dear, as sister to brother. Say that
you do not believe Oswald killed himself.'

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* Killed himself?' she echoed, growing very white. *No.
Who says so — ^who thinks so ? '

< Your father.'

' My father says that — ^my father believes that ? *

' Yes, dear. He told me so five minutes ago. Only say that
you don't believe it.'

^ I do not ! ' she answered with flashing eyes. ' I know that he
was unhappy, but I cannot believe — I will not believe — ^that he
could be so weak — so guilty. No, there was no such thought in
his mind. He had made his plans for beginning a new life ; he
had taken his passage for America.'

* You know that from himself? ' cried Arnold eagerly.
Naomi bowed her head in assent.

* God bless you, sister ! ' said the Bailor. * You have comforted
me more than I can say. You knew him — ^you loved him.'

* With all my heait and soul — too much for duty, or peace, or

' And you think he really did go to America ? '

Naomi's troubled face took a still deeper shadow.

' I know he meant to go ; he may not have gone after all.'

* Yet it was strange that he should not have left by the coach,
after telling Nicholas that he meant to go that way. Very strange
that he should leave those trunks behind him after packing them.'

' He may have changed his mind at the last. He was troubled
in mind, and might be careless about things which people in an
ordinary state of mind would consider important.'

' True, my dear. How clearly you see everything. Yes, that
was so. And he sailed from some small port, perhaps — or from
the other side of the Channel, Havre or Brest. The fact that I
cannot trace him is worth nothing. We will wait and hope, Naomi ;
hope for your husband and my brother's return.'

^For our brother's return,' answered Naomi, with a tender
gravity. ' He can never again be more to me than a brother :
and to the end of my life I shall love him with a sister's love.'

' Poor fellow I ' said Arnold dreamily ; * he threw away a jewel
above all price when he lost you.'

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The north of France was the birth country and chief seat of
epic poetry in the middle ages. The chanson de geate, the roTnan^
the fabliauy bear witness to consummate grace of narrative
diction. Even the lyrical effusions of the trouvirea frequently
take the form of the monologue or dialogue. The poet loves to
hide his own personality under the mask of a fictitious character.
This is different with the troubadour, the poet of Southern France.
He is the lyrical singer par excMence, speaking in his own un-
disguised person, and of his own subjective passion. His canzo
is the song of love, and even in his sirventes — that is, a song of
political or personal satire — he often breaks off abruptly, * for now,'
he says, naively, ' I must sing the praise of my lady.' In a poetry
so thoroughly imbued with one prevailing passion, and in the civi-
lisation of which this poetry is the utterance, woman naturally oc-
cupied a most important place. But to define this place is a
matter of some diflBculty. The poems of the troubadours them-
selves give us but scanty information in this respect. We there
hear a great deal of the incomparable charms of Provenfal ladies ;
their lovingkindness is extolled, or their cruelty complained of.
But in a few cases only are we enabled to realise from generali-
ties of this kind an individual human being with individual pas-
sions or caprices. It would, indeed, be impossible even to de-
cipher the niunerous senhals or nicknames under which the
poets were obliged to hide the real names of their lady-loves from
the watchfulness of evil tongues and cruel husbands, but for the
aid of the Provenjal biographies of the old troubadours, which
in most cases offer a welcome clue to the identity of these pseudo-
nymous flames.

It is by this means that we hear of the beautiful ladies of
Provence — such as the three sisters, Maenz of Montignac, Elise of
Montfort, and Maria of Ventadom — praised in impassioned song
by Bertran de Bom, Gaucelm Faidit, and other troubadours ; and of
that lovely lady with an unlovely name Iioba, ( she-wolf) of Penau-

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tier, who turned the fantastic brain of Peire Vidal, and sent him
into the wilderness clad in a wolfs skin — a practical pun on the
name of his mistress. From such hints as may be found in these
biographies and other contemporary sources, I have tried to form
a tangible idea of a Provenjal lady of the twelfth or thirteenth
century; of her position in society ; and, most of all, of her decisive
influence on the poetry of the troubadours. Does the reader care
to know ?

What was the type of the lady of Provence of whom so much
has been said in verse and prose ? Was she a demure, well-con-
ducted person, clad in sober colours, mending stockings and cutting
bread-and-butter for the children ; a model housewife, in fact, such
as might be found in a best-possible world of Mrs. Lynn Linton's
devising ? Or was she, on the other hand, a progressive-minded
female, despising the frivolities of society, and thirsting for medical
degrees and the franchise, or whatever may have been the mediaeval
equivalents of these much-desired prerogatives ? I fear that even
Margarida de Rossilho, * the lady most praised of her time for all
that is praiseworthy and noble and coiuteous,' would have fallen
far short of these divergent ideals of our latter days. Her main
purpose of existence was — shocking though it may sound — alto-
gether not practical, but ornamental. It was her choice and her
duty to wield in a society only just emerging from barbarism tlie
fw)ftening* influence to which we owe the phenomenon of a highly
finished literature and of an astonishing degree of social refine-
ment at the very outset of the mediaeval epoch. Whether this
result was altogether unworthy of woman's mission in the history
of civilisation graver judges must decide.

There is extant, dating from about the middle of the thirteenth
century, a curious poem in rhymed couplets entitled, *L'essenhamen
de la donzela que fe N' Amanieus des Escas com apela dieu d'amors ; *
Anglice : * Instruction to a yoimg lady, composed by Sir Amanieu
des Escas, called Q-od of Love.' In this treatise we are sup-
plied with a minute account of the accomplishments expected
from a well-educated young lady, and of the bad habits most pre-
judicial to her character. The poet is supposed to be addressing
a noble damsel living at the court of some great baron, as a sort
of 'lady-help' to his wife; this being a not unusual, and un-
doubtedly a most efficient, method of polite education in Provence.
The young lady has accosted Amanieu on a lonely walk, asking for
his advice in matters fashionable. This the poet at first refuses to
tender ; alleging that ' you (the damsel) have' ten times as much
sense as I, and that is the truth.' But, after his modest scruples
ftre once overcome, he launches forth into a flood of good counsel.

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He systematically begins with enforcing the good old doctrine of
'early to rise;' touches delicately on the mysteries of the morning
toilet, such as lacing, washing of arms, hands, and head, which, he
sententiously adds, ought to go before the first-mentioned process ;
and, after briefly referring to the especial care required for teeth and
nails, he leaves the dressing-room for the church, where a quiet,
undemonstrative attitude is recommended ; the illicit use of eyes
and tongue being mentioned amongst the temptations peculiarly
to be avoided. Directions of similar minuteness assist the yoimg
lady at the dinner-table; the cases in which it would be good
taste, and those in which it would be the reverse, to invite persons
to a share of the dishes within her reach are specified ; and the
rules as to carving, washing one's hands before and after dinner,
and similar matters, leave nothing to be desired. 'Always temper
your wine with water, so that it may not do you harm,' is another
maxim of undeniable wisdom.

After dinner follows the time of polite conversation in the Bola
(drawing-room), the arbour, or on the battlements of the castle ;
and now the teachings of Amanieu become more and more
animated, and are enlivened occasionally by practical illustrations
of great piquancy. ' And if at this season,' he says, ' a gentleman
takes you aside, and wishes to talk of courtship to you, do not
show a strange or sullen behaviour, but defend yourself with
pleasant and pretty repartees. And if his talk annoys you, and
makes you uneasy, I advise you to ask him questions, for instance :
" Which ladies do you think are more handsome, those of Grascony
or England? and more courteous, and faithful, and good?" And
if he says those of Gascony, answer without hesitation: "Sir,
by your leave, English ladies are more courteous than those of any
other country." But if he prefers those of England, tell him Crascon
ladies are much better behaved ; and thus carry on the discussion,
and call your companions to you to decide the questions.' I defy
any modem professor of deportment to indicate a more gracefiJ
and appropriate way of giving a harmless turn to a conversation,
or cutting short an awkward tete-a-tite.

And the same sense of tact and social ease pervades the re-
mainder of the poem, which consists chiefly of valuable hints how
to accept and how to refuse an oflfer of marriage without giving
more encouragement or more oflTence than necessary. Upon the
whole, it must be admitted that ' Amanieu des Escas, called God
of Love,' although undoubtedly a pedant, is the least objectionable
and tedious pedant that ever preached * the graces ' from the days
of Thomasin of Zerclaere to those of Lord Chesterfield. But the
important point for us is the enormous weight attached to these

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rules of etiquette in the education of the Provenpal lady. Again
and again the advantages of cortesia, avinensa, and whatever the
numerous other terms for a graceful, courteous behaviour may be,
are emphasised : ' even the enemy of all your friends ought to find
you civil-spoken,' the poet exclaims in a fit of polite enthusiasm.
However exaggerated and one-sided this point of view may appear
to the reader, he ought to remember that in primitive societies the
code of ethics can be enforced alone by the power of custom ; the
derivation, indeed, of our word ' morality ' from the Latin mores is
by no means a mere etymological coincidence.

Prepared by an education such as I have tried to sketch in the
above, the lady generally contracted a marriage at an early age ;
the choice of a husband being in most cases determined by her
parents, or her feudal overlord. In the higher classes of society —
and these alone concern us here — her own inclination was taken
into little account. Her position at the head of a great baron's
family was by no means an easy one. She had to soften the coarse
habits and words of the warlike nobles ; and, on the other hand,
to curb the amorous boldness of the gay troubadours who thronged
the courts of the great barons. The difficulties and temptations
of such a situation were great, and further increased by the perfect
liberty which, in ancient as in modem France, married ladies seem
to have enjoyed. Indirect, but none the less conclusive, evidence
establishes this point beyond doubt. We hear, for instance, of
ladies travelling about the coimtry without attendance ; like the
pretty wives of Sir Guari and Sir Bernart, whom Coimt William of
Poitiers deceived by actiug a deaf-and-dumb pilgrim. Even the
duena, as a regular institution at least, seems to have been unknown
in Provence. There certainly were jealous husbands who tried to pro-
tect their wives from gallant intrusion by watchfulness and strict
confinement. The husband of the lovely Flamenca, in the charming
romance of that name, is an example of such fruitless care. But
his fate could not invite imitation ; and the universal horror ex-
pressed by all gallant knights and ladies at this fictitious instance
and at some real instances of similar cruelty sufficiently proves
the high degree of personal freedom enjoyed by the ladies of
Southern France.

That this freedom was frequently abused is, unfortunately, no
matter of doubt. France is not, and never has been, a prosperous
climate for the growth of wedded happiness. The heroines of all
the love-stories connected with the history of the troubadours are,
indeed, with not a single exception that I am aware of, married
ladies. This fact is certainly of deep significance, but its import-
ance ought not to be overrated. We must remember that the

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troubadours and their biographers were by nature and profession
inclined to magnify the force and extension of the grande passion.
Frequently they may, and in some cases we positively know that
they did, mistdce gracious condescension for responsive passion ;
and to accept all their statements au pied de la lettre would be
about as advisable as to judge the institution of marriage in modem
France solely by the works of Flaubert and Ernest Feydeau. In
many cases, however, the perfect innocence of the relations
between the troubadour and the lady he celebrates is fully ac-
knowledged by all parties. It was the privilege of high-bom and
high-minded women to protect and favour poetry, and to receive
in return the troubadour's homage. It is in this beautiful character,
of an admirer and patroness of the literature of her country, that I
wish first to consider the lady of Provence. In the choice of an
individual instance of the relation alluded to, I have been guided
by a feeling of historic, not to say poetic, justice.

History and fiction have \ied with each other in painting the
picture of Eleanor, wife of Henry II. of England, in the darkest
colours. The former convicts her of faithlessness to two husbands,
and of conspiracy with her own sons against their father ; the latter
charges her with the murder of Sosamond Clifford. Any redeem-
ing feature in such a character ought to be welcome to the believer
in human nature. Her connection with Beraart de Ventadour,
one of the sweetest and purest of troubadours, is such a feature.
The poet came to her court in sorrow. The lady he loved had been
torn from him, and it was by her own desire that he left her and
the country where she dwelt. He now turned to Eleanor for
comfort and sympathy, and his hope was not disappointed. The
old Provencal biography of Beraart is provokingly laconic with
regard to the subject. 'He went to the Duchess of Normandy,' it
says, * who was young and of great worth, and knew how to appre-
ciate worth and honour, and he said much in her praise. And she
admired the canzos and verses of Bemart. And she received him
very well, and bade him welcome. And he stayed at her court a
long time, and became enamoured of her and she of him, and he
composed many beautiful songs of her. And while he was with
her King Henry of England made her his wife, and took her away
from Normandy with him. And from that time Bemart remained
sad and wofu].'

This statement is incorrect in more than one respect, and may
be cited as an instance of the desire on the part of the ancient
biographers to give a dramatic, and at the same time an erotic,
turn to the stories of their heroes. The allegation of the poet's
prolonged courtship of the Duchess of Normandy being intermpted

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by the lady^s marriage with Henry is self-contradictory, for the
simple reason that she became Duchess of Normandy and took u{)
her residence in that country in consequence of this identical
marriage, which took place in the same year of her separation from
Louis VIL of France. Moreover, all the songs known to us as
having been addressed by the poet to Eleanor, are written after
Henr/s accession to the English throne. One of these songs, in
which Bemart calls himself *a Norman or Englishman for the

Online LibraryM. E. (Mary Elizabeth) BraddonBelgravia → online text (page 33 of 53)