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while the Dauphin Louis stood by, half-interested and amused, halfmocking. He was really fond of his uncle, though in a contemptuous superior sort of manner, despising his religious and honourable scruples as mere simplicity of mind.
René of Anjou has been hardly dealt with, as is often the case with princes, upright, religious, and chivalrous beyond the average of their time; yet without the strength or the genius to enforce their rights and opinions, and therefore thrust aside. After his early unsuccessful wars, his lands of Provence and Lorraine were islands of peace, prosperity, and progress, and withal he was an extremely able artist, musician, and poet, striving to revive the old troubadour spirit of Provence, and everywhere casting about him an atmosphere of refinement and kindliness.
The hall of his ‘hôtel' at Nanci was a beautiful place, with all the gorgeous grace of the fifteenth century, and here his guests assembled for supper soon after their arrival, all being placed as much as possible according to rank. Eleanor found herself between a deaf old Church dignitary and Duke Sigismund, on whose other side was Yolande, the Infanta, as the Provençals called the daughters of René; while Jean found the Dauphin on one side of her, and a great French Duke on the other. Louis amused himself with compliments and questions that sometimes nettled her, sometimes pleased her, giving her a sense that he might admire her beauty, but was playing on her simplicity, and trying to make her betray the destitution of her home, and her purpose in coming.
Eleanor, on the other hand, found her Cavalier more simple than herself. In fact, he properly belonged to the Infanta, but she paid no attention to him, nor did the Bishop try to speak to the Scottish Princess. Sigismund's French was very lame, and Eleanor's not perfect, but she had a natural turn for languages, and had, in the convent, picked up some German, which in those days had many likenesses to her own broad Scotch. They made one another out, between the two languages, with signs, smiles, and laughter, and whereas the subleties along the table represented the entire story of Sir Gamain and his Loathly Lady, she contrived to explain the story to him, greatly to his edification; and they went on to King Arthur, and he did his best to narrate the German reading of Sir Parzival. The difficulties engrossed them till the rose water was brought in silver bowls to wash their fingers, on which Sigismund, after observing and imitating the two ladies, remarked that they had no such Schwärmerei in Deutschland, and Yolande looked as if she could well believe it, while Elleen, though ignorant of the meaning of his word, laughed and said they had as little in Scotland.
There was still an hour of daylight to come, and moon-rise would not be far off, so that the hosts proposed to adjourn to the garden, where fresh music awaited them.
King René was an ardent gardener, his love of flowers was viewed
as one of his weaknesses, only worthy of an old Abbot, but he went his own way, and the space within the walls of his castle at Nanci was lovely with bright spring flowers, blossoming trees, and green walks, where, as Lady Suffolk said, her grandfather could have mused all day and all night long, to the sound of the nightingales.
But what the sisters valued it for was that they could ramble away together to a stone bench under the wall, and there sit at perfect ease and pour out their hearts to one another. Margaret, indeed, seemed to bask in their presence, and held them as they leant against her as if to convince herself of their reality, and yet she said that they knew not what they did when they put the sea between themselves and Scotland, nor how sick the heart could be for its bonnie hills.
O gin I could see a mountain top again, I feel as though I could lay me down and die content. What garred ye come daundering to
these weary flats of France?'
Ah, sister, Scotland is not what you mind it when our blessed father lived!
And they told her how their lives had been spent in being hurried from one prison castle to another.
Prison castles be not wanting here,' replied Margaret, with a sigh. Then, as Elleen held up a hand in delight at the trill of a neighbouring nightingale, she cried, 'What is yon sing-song, sea-saw, gurgling bird to our own bonnie laverock, soaring away to the sky, without making such a wark of tuning his pipes, and never thinking himself too dainty and tender for a wholesome frost or two! So Jamie sent you off to seek for husbands here, did he? Couldna ye put up with a leal Scot like Glenuskie there.'
'There were too many of them,' said Jean.
'And not ower leal either,' said Eleanor.
'Lealty is a rare plant ony gate,' sighed Margaret, and where sae little is recked of our Scots royalty, mayhap ye'll find that tocherless lasses be less sought for than at hame. Didna I see thec, Elleen, clavering with that muckle Archduke that nane can talk with?'
'Aye,' said Eleanor.
'He is come here a courting Madame Yolande, with her father's good will, for Alsace and Tyrol be his, mountains that might be in our ain Hielands, they tell me.'
'Methought,' said Eleanor, she scunnered from him, as Jeanie does at-shall I say whom?'
'And reason gude,' said Margaret. 'She has a joe of her ain, County Ferrand de Vaudémont, that is the heir male of the line, and a gallant laddie. At the great joust the morn, methinks ye'll see what may well be sung by minstrels, and can scarce fail to touch the heart of a true troubadour as is my good uncle René.'
Margaret became quite animated, and her sisters pressed her to tell them if she knew of any secret; but she playfully shook her head, and said that if she did know, she would not mar the romaunt that
before them. 'Nay,' said Eleanor, we have a May I tell, Jeanie ? '
'Who recks?' replied Jean, with a little toss of her head. Thus Eleanor proceeded to tell her sister what--since the adventure of the goose—had gone far beyond a guess as to the tall, red haired young man at arms who had ridden close behind David Drummond.
'Douglas, Douglas, tender and true,' exclaimed Margaret. He loves you so as to follow for weeks, nay, months, in this guise without word or look? O Jeanie, Jeanie, happy lassie, did ye but ken it. Nay, put not on that scornful moue. It sorts you not weel, my bairn! He is of degree befitting a Stewart, and even were he notoh, sisters, sisters, better to wed with a leal loving soul in ane high peel-tower than to bear a broken heart to a throne!' and she fell into a convulsive fit of choked and bitter weeping, which terrified her sisters.
At the sound of a lute, apparently being brought nearer, accompanied with footsteps, she hastily recovered herself, and rose to her feet, while a smile broke out over her face, as the musician, a slender, graceful figure, appeared on the path in the moonlight. 'Answering the nightingales, Maître Alain,' she said.
was to be played out romaunt of our own.
'This is the court of nightingales, Madame,' he replied. It is presumption to endeavour to rival them, even though the heart be torn like that of Philomel.' Wherewith he touched his lute, and began to sing from his famous idyll
'En ce plaisant lieu solitaire
Où un doux ventelet venoit,
De bel et joyeux en esté,
Again, as Eleanor heard the sweet strains, and saw the long shadows of the trees, and the light of the rising moon, it was like the attainment of her dreamland; and Margaret proceeded to make known to her sisters Maître Alain Chartier, the prince of song, adding: ‘Thou, too, wast a songster, sister Elleen, even while almost a babe. Dost sing as of old?'
I have brought my father's harp,' said Eleanor. 'Ah! I must hear it,' she cried, with effusion. be his voice again.'
The harp. It will
Out here! Ever
'Madame! Madame! Madame la Dauphine. reckless of dew-aye, and of waur than dew.'
These last words were added in Scotch, as a tall dark-cloaked figure appeared on the scene from between the trees. Margaret laughel with a little annoyance in her tone, as she said, 'Ever my shadow, good Madame! Ever wearying yourself with care! Here, sisters, here is my trusty and well-beloved Dame de Ste. Petronille, who takes such care of me, that she dogs my footsteps like a messan.'
'And reason gude,' replied the lady. Here is the muckle hall all alight, and this King René, as they call him, twanging on his lute, and but that the Seigneur Dauphin is talking to the English Lord on some question of Gascon boundaries, we should have him speiring for you. I saw the eye of him roaming after you as it was.'
His eye seeking me!' cried Margaret, springing up from her languid attitude with a tone like exultation in her voice, such as evoked a low sigh from the old dame, as all began to move towards the castle. She was the widow of a Scot adventurer who had won lands and honours in France; and she was now attached to the service of the Dauphiness-not as her chief lady, that post was held by an old French countess-but still close enough to her to act as her guardian and monitor whenever it was possible to deal with her.
The old lady, in great delight at meeting a compatriot, poured out her confidences to Dame Lilias of Glenuskie. Infinitely grieved and annoyed was she next day when, early as were the ordinary hours of the Court of Nanci, it proved that the Dauphiness had called up her sisters an hour before, and taken them across the chace which surrounded the castle to hear mass at a convent of Benedictine nuns.
It was perfectly safe, though only her two sisters, Annis, a tirewoman, and a a page followed the Dauphiness, for the grounds were enclosed, and King René's domains were far better ruled and peaceful than those of the princes who despised him. It was an exquisite spring morning, with grass silvery with dew, and enamelled with flowers, birds singing ecstatically on every branch, squirrels here and there racing up a trunk. Margaret was in joyous spirits and almost danced between her sisters. Eleanor was amazed at the luxuriant beauty of the scene, and could not admire enough. Jean, though at first a little cross at the early summons, could not but be infected with their delight, and the three laughed and frolicked together with almost childish glee in the delight of their content.
The great gentle-eyed, long-horned kine were being driven in at the convent yard to be milked by the lay Sisters; at another entrance, peasants, beggars, and sick were congregating, the bell from the lace-worked spire rang out, and the Dauphiness led the way to the gateway, where, at her knock on the iron-studded door, a lay Sister looked through the wicket.
'Good Sister, here are some early pilgrims to the shrine of St. Scolastique,' she began.
To the other gate,' said the portress hastily.
Margaret's face twinkled with fun. I wad fain take a turn with the beggar crew,' she said to her sisters in Scotch; but it might cause too great an outcry, if I were kenned. Commend me to the Mère St. Antoine,' she added in French, and tell her that the Dauphiness would fain hear mass with her.'
The portress cast an anxious doubtful glance, but being apparently convinced, cried out for pardon, while hastily unlocking her door, and sending a message to the Abbess.
As they entered the cloistered quadrangle, the nuns in black procession were on their way to mass, but turned aside to receive their visitors. Margaret knelt for a moment for the blessing and kiss of the Abbess, then greeted the nun, whom she had mentioned, but begged for no further ceremony, and then was led into church.
It was a brief festival mass, and was not really over before she, with a restlessness of which her sister began to be conscious, began to rise and make her way out. A nun followed and entreated her to stay and break her fast, but she would accept nothing save a draught of milk, which she swallowed hastily, and with signs of impatience as her sisters took their turn.
She walked quickly rather as one guilty of an escapade, again surprising her sisters, who fancied the liberty of a married princess illimitable.
Jean even ventured to ask her why she went so fast, 'Would the King of France be displeased?'
'He! Poor gude sire Charles! He heeds not what one does, good or bad; no, not the murdering of his minion before his eyes,' said Margaret, half laughing.
Thy husband, would he be angered?' pressed on Jean.
'My husband? Oh, no, it is not in the depth and greatness of his thoughts to find fault with his poor worm,' said Margaret, a strange look, half of exultation, half of pain, on her face. Ah! Jeanie woman, none kens in sooth how great and wise my Dauphin is, nor how far he sees beyond all men around him, so that he cannot choose but scorn them and make them his tools. When he has the power, he will do more for this poor realm of France than any king before him.' 'As our father would have done for Scotland,' said Eleanor. Then he tells thee of his plans?'
'Me!' said Margaret, with the suffering look returning, 'how should he talk to me, the muckle uncouth wife that I am, kenning nought but a wheen ballants and romaunts—not even able to give him the heir for whom he longs,' and she wrung her hands together ; 'how can I be aught but a pain and grief to him!'
'Nay, but thou lovest him?' said Jean, over simply.
'Lassie!' exclaimed Margaret hotly, 'what thinkest thou I am made of? How should a wife not love her man, the wisest, canniest prince in Christendom, too? Love him? I worship him, as the trouvères say, with all my heart, and wad lay down my life if I could win one kind blink of his eye, and yet—and yet-such a creature am I that I am ever wittingly or unwittingly transgressing these weary rules, and garring him think me a fool, or others report me such,' clenching her hands again.
'Madame de Ste. Petronille?' asked Jean.