« AnteriorContinuar »
Palestine, the handsome, the gay, the fearless. And he charged me to see his brother, the learned Baron of Chillingwater, should my life be spared to penetrate so far as this, and to tell him that when Sir Edgar came home, it should be with the honours befitting a knight of the ancient house of Chilling."
The lady-mother leaned her head upon her hand. Her perplexity and abstraction were great.
“ The brave Sir Edgar also charged me with a word to the fair daughter of the house, the Lady Ellana, I bethink me he called her."
“ Peace, man!” interrupted the baroness fiercely; and the harper bowed his head to the ground, and was silent.
“ Are you very poor?” she asked, at length; "are you in distress?"
“Scarcely in distress, good my lady, but few can be poorer. Save my harp, I have nothing. Not a coin in the whole world, not a change of raiment do I possess. And thankful to our blessed Lady am I, when.my minstrelsy obtains for me a sustaining meal: at the stately castle, or the humble hut, I am alike grateful for it.”
“ This must be a precarious mode of existence,” rejoined the baroness. “ If you consent to do me a trifling service, I will bestow upon you what will ensure you full meals for twelve months to come.”
“I would do anything for that," uttered the minstrel, eagerly raising his half-famished looks.
And that night it was told, all over the castle, that Sir Edgar de Chilling had lost his life in the Holy Land.
"And so," cried the Baroness of Chillingwater to her daughter, as they sat alone some time during the period of the mourning for Sir Edgar, “our kinsman seeks a bride in the Norman house of Fitzosborne. It is as I prophesied.”
“ Madam, what mean you ?" inquired the Lady Ellana, hastily.
“ Are my words incomprehensible, daughter? The Baron of Chillingwater, your cousin and my nephew, brings home the Lady Millicent Fitzosborne. A lovely Norman, but portionless. But the head of the De Chillings requires not a dowry with his wife. Thou hast been a very fool, Ellana."
Perhaps the Lady Ellana thought so, for she bent her head over the tapestry she was working, and answered not.
* Think of the home you enjoy here ; look from the turret windows, and scan the rich domain ; remember the life of gaiety that you have passed; and then picture the existence we must drag on in some obscure retreat, in a convent, mayhap, when by the baron's marriage we are turned from here. Thou hast been a bitter fool, Ellana.”
And ere many days had elapsed, it was known, in the household, that, not Millicent Fitzosborne was to be the bride of the young baron, but the Lady Ellana de Chilling.
IV. THE Lady Ellana stood before her mirror on her bridal morning, brightly blushing at the lovely form, enshrined in all its veils and laces, that was reflected there.
Her favourite attendant handed her her gloves; but, before she put them on, she drew from one of the fingers of her left hand a stoneless ring. Her mother had once marvelled at her wearing an old broken jewel, but the young lady replied that she chose to wear it, for it was a charm. A blush, far deeper than any her vain feelings bad conjured up, rose to her cheeks now, as she dropped the stoneless ring into her jewel-bag. It was the first time it had left her finger.
6This is a joyous morning, my lady,” whispered the attendant, speaking with the privilege of a faithful and valued servant. “I did once fear that you were waiting for Sir Edgar, who, noble though in qualities he was, was not in a position to win the Lady Ellana de Chilling."
“He was my dear cousin,” exclaimed the lady. “And you, Bertha, need not have brought up his name to excite sad thoughts to-day. We shall never see him more.”
“Do not make sure of that, lady,” exclaimed the woman, significantly. “What do you mean?” cried the startled girl.
“ I have said more than I ought,” murmured the woman. “I think my tongue has run mad this morning.”
But it was not a vain excuse that could satisfy the Lady Ellana. Now, she used passionate entreaty; now, imperious command; and the servingwoman at length disclosed all she knew. The minstrel, it appeared, had partaken too freely of the baron's good ale ere leaving the castle; and had disclosed to Mistress Bertha, who had closeted herself with him to learn full particulars about her favourite Sir Edgar, that the knight was no more dead than she was.
“Did you tell my mother of this ?” gasped the Lady Ellana.
Bertha's private opinion was, that the lady-mother knew it all without her telling, and so she hinted to her young mistress. She had attempted to tell her, she observed, but had been stopped by a torrent of passion on the part of the baroness, who forbade her ever to allude to the subject
“Do you think Sir Edgar is dead or alive ?” asked the Lady Ellana, every nerve in her body shaking.
"I truly believe that Sir Edgar is alive," answered the tire-woman.
The Lady Ellana swept, in her flowing bridal attire, and with her face white as ashes, into an inner room, where she was alone. What was to be her course ? Should she fling off these rich clothes, these sparkling jewels, and go and proclaim to the baron, and his lofty guests, that she was already a wife? “He may be dead," she argued to herself, in agony
this dreadful fear may be but a drunken dream of that gabbling minstrel's. Or, if not dead-he is in the thick of the battle-field, and may never return hither.”
Manners and morals, in those early times, were infinitely less exalted than they are now; nevertheless, the Lady Ellana sinned deeply, so they said afterwards, when she went down, that day, as the young, unwedded maiden Ellana de Chilling, and knelt at the altar, and vowed to be unto the baron a true and faithful wife.
LONG were the wedding festivities kept up-for weeks. The baron held open house: noble guests crowded in the spacious chambers, inferior visitors revelled in the servants' hall. But one evening a guest, different from any the castle had yet received, rattled over the lowered drawbridge, followed by his squire and other retainers. His horse was caparisoned sumptuously, and his armour was that, only worn by knights of noble degree. It was the brave Sir Edgar de Chilling
« Our Lady be good to us!" screamed one of the ancient servitors, trembling violently as he recognised the badge of the young knight. “ Is it the apparition of your noble self, Sir Edgar, or did you not fall, as we heard, in the wars ?”
“Fall in the wars!" echoed Sir Edgar, with his own cheery laugh. “ If I fell in them, my good Stephen, I rose again. How is the baron, my noble brother ? and—and the Lady Ellana ? You seem to be in the height of revelry here."
" All are well, good Sir Edgar. And for the sound of revelry that you hear, the festivities held in honour of our lord's marriage are not yet over.”
“Ah, ah!" laughed the knight; “so my good brother has mated, has he! And pray with whom ?”
“With none other than the fairest flower in the land, the Lady Ellana," returned the servitor.
“Pooh, pooh, old man, you are growing deaf and childish," interrupted Sir Edgar, with his old impetuosity. “ I asked,” he continued, raising his voice, “with whom it is that my brother has wedded.”
“Gramercy, good Sir Knight, I heard your question," replied the servitor, deprecatingly. “My lord has wedded his cousin, the Lady Ellana de Chilling."
Sir Edgar stood speechless for an instant, and then strode on. The youthful Baroness of Chillingwater, lovely in her costly white robes and her flowing ringlets, was the centre of a knot of guests, when he entered. He threw back his helmet and advanced to her, his handsome features white with agitation. She gave a shrill scream, and made as if she would have rushed away, but he held her with an iron grasp.
“My brave brother ! my lost brother!” uttered the baron, advancing to embrace him. “Our Lady be praised for this! We mourned you dead."
“Edgar de Chilling alive !" stammered the lady-mother. “Sir Edgar de Chilling! Sir Edgar de Chilling !" reiterated the guests; and nothing but rejoicing and confusion reigned around.
Sir Edgar raised his arm to command silence, and there was that in his rigid face which hushed the clamour instantaneously. “I have come home, as you see,” he spoke, "alive and well. Of my deserts and my honours I can leave others to speak—they are widely known. And I have come home to claim my wife.”
“If you mean the late Lady Ellana de Chilling,” uttered the baronessmother, beside herself with passion, "you are too late, and your bold speech, Sir Edgar, becomes you not. My daughter is the Baroness of Chillingwater."
“ Your daughter, madam,” he answered, calm with concentrated indignation, “is the Lady Ellana de Chilling, and my wife.”
“ Peace, peace, boy !” uttered the lady-mother, contemptuously; “ your brain is hot with folly. Ere you went to the wars, you may have induced my child to exchange love-vows with you—inexperienced as she
was! But how dare you presume to insult the Baroness of Chillingwater by calling her WIFE ?”
“And how dare you presume to deny my right?" retorted Sir Edgar, his fiery indignation mastering him. “ You are the first that ever doubted the word of a De Chilling. Your daughter, madam, became my wife in the sight of God, kneeling in His presence, at His holy altar; and my wife she is, so long as we both shall live. Stand forth, wretched woman," he continued, throwing the young baroness into the circle—“stand forth, guilty bride of two husbands, and own, before high Heaven, whose wife you really are!"
With a half scream, half moan of pain, the Lady Ellana, the instant she was released, darted from the hall. She might have been seen speeding along the terraces outside, like one possessed, her dark hair flowing behind her. Her face, in its shame, was never raised from its cowering position, and the dreadful words, that had made public her crime, rang in her ears, "guilty wife of two husbands !” And they brothers! She could never more hold up that once proud face, never more hold it up again, on earth.
The commotion that ensued in-doors was terrific. A fierce quarrel took place between the baron and his brother; the lady-mother playing her part in it, and loading Sir Edgar with sundry opprobrious epithets. The guests espoused the cause, some on one side, some on the other, as it was common for guests in those fierce periods to do; and, altogether, it was a considerable time before the Lady Ellana was sought for. They searched in her own apartments, as Baroness of Chillingwater; they searched in those formerly occupied by her; finally, they searched the castle from turret to basement; and they could not find her. But when they came to visit the grounds, and some looked in the Holy Well, there lay the ill-fated Lady Ellana, her drowned body contrasting horribly with her rich white garments and sparkling jewels, and her unhappy soul winging its shadowy flight to purgatory—so, at least, her confessor asserted.
And never, from that hour, was the spot again called the Holy Well -how can that be holy whose waters have been polluted? But, in time, it acquired the name of the “Lady's Well," and, as such, is it known unto the present day.
Wretchedness and ruin fell upon the Castle of Chillingwater. A reconciliation was effected between the brothers, but the baron retired at once into the neighbouring monastery, devoting his young years to the ascetic duties of a monk ; and Sir Edgar de Chilling returned to the holy wars, and lost his life in Palestine. The lady-mother, whose haughty pride nothing could subdue, remained in the castle, imperiously swaying there until her death. It was then left uninhabited, to go to rack and ruin, and during the civil war, in the time of the first Edward, it was razed to the ground.
GOSSIP FROM FLORENCE.
A LETTER ADDRESSED TO THE EDITOR OF THE
“ NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE."
WHILE you, good Mr. Editor, together with every native of “La perfide Albion,” are warming yourselves over huge fires of smutty coal, or shivering in the cold, moist, foggy streets of London, where Phaebus rarely indulges you by even a glimpse of his cheerful countenance, and your vision is constantly circumscribed by the lamp-post on the opposite side of the way, little do you dream how we are enjoying ourselves in the lovely "City of Flowers”—where perennial summer reigns-sweet, poetic, middle-age Florence !
I must insist on telling you all we are about, in the amiable intention of making you utterly miserable and discontented in your boasted city of the modern Babylon, and by the time I have done giving you the last gossip from the Tuscan capital, if you have not a fit of envious spleen, it will not be my fault. London indeed! I wouldn't be there if you gave me a palace in Belgrave-square, unlimited credit at Howell and James's, and an opera-box to boot-not I. So here goes for the sunny south—List, O list!”
This same 2nd of November is a glorious day; the sun streams out in all the power of July, and as one traverses the Lung 'Arno, beats down in such thumping rays, one trembles, and contemplates a coup de soleil. All around is bathed in the glorious, radiant light; the blue sky above, azure as a canopy of turquoise, unbroken by a single cloud. The antique, richly-tinted houses, bordering the river, stand out in the clear light with a distinctness, professionally speaking, only to be compared to stereotype : the tile roofs, of that deep colour peculiar to southern climes, project over the white walls, and the bright green jalousies making the only perceptible shade on the huge façade of those huge palazzos once glorious feudal fortresses-each furnished with its lofty tower, but now, alas ! mostly in this quarter converted into hotels or lodgings, with glaring boards stretching across, announcing them as being of “ Les Isles Britanniques,” or “Del Nuovo York.”
'How I love this beautiful Lung 'Arno, quaint and confined as it seems, and yet so grand when viewed from a distance. The yellow-muddy Arno (which, after once seeing, one can never rave or be enthusiastical about again, spite of the shades of Dante, Cellini, and Milton, who all loved its banks) is now, nevertheless, a noble stream, as, swollen by the late rains, it rushes in huge waves through the bridges, threatening destruction to the graceful arches of the classical Ponte della Trinità.
The Lung 'Arno would, if perfect, be the most beautiful promenade in the world ; but, spite of all its suggestive charms, how can one like to gaze on the backs of the opposite houses, with all the hideous excrescences, mis-shapen windows, and deformed projections, thereto belonging? If each side corresponded, and the opposite bank were adorned with the same magnificent mansions, and furnished with a street and pavé similar to the one on which I am now standing, it would, I repeat,