Изображения страниц

took up the instrument, and began to adjust its strings, by passing her fingers over them, and screwing the wooden pins by which they were fastened.

Whilst thus occupied, she chanced to cast her eyes through the lattice ; when, perceiving a small troop of men approaching towards the castle, at full gallop, on horseback, she hastily dropped the virginal, and rising up

“ Courage, Lady,” she exclaimed, clapping her hands joyfully together,—“ Courage! they come!"

" Where ?— who?-Who comes?” enquired Jeanne, starting from the stool which, being lower than that of her companion, enabled her not, whilst occupying it, to look over the sill of the lattice—" Where ?"

“There!” replied the maiden, pointing toward them;—“the bringers of good news!"

They both bent forward, and continued silently looking at the small band of cavaliers, whose persons grew more and more distinct at every succeeding instant. Now the trampling of the horses' hoofs begin to be heard ;-now

they approach so near as to be almost within call ;—and now, suddenly turning round one of the salient angles of the fortifications, they enter a small grove of trees planted near it, and are lost from view.

“ The banner was torn, and their shields and cuirasses hewed to pieces !” said the Countess, violently grasping her young friend by the arm.

“ And no great marvel either, Lady.-Methinks they wended not to Nantes for pastime; they have had hard duty there, and now return thence, quick and happy messengers of good tidings."

“Of good or bad!"-sighed forth the Countess.

Now was there heard a noise as of loud knocking at the castle's outermost gate. Jeanne turned round, intending to go down to meet them, but checking herself,—“ No, no," she said, “ I will not—I dare not :-go you, dear Emily ; descend into the corridor; look forth from the loop-hole there, and then come quickly back to tell me in what guise these men return."

Ere the words had past her lips, the trampling of hoofs was again heard, and a clanking of

armour, as of cavaliers descending from their horses on the stony pavement; and before Emily could reach the loop-hole to look forth from it, she perceived the Seigneur Amauri de Clisson,

[merged small][ocr errors]

Coming along the corridor towards her; she sprang forward to meet him,—then paused to look silently in his face, and read that which she desired to know, yet feared to ask.

“ Poor comfort bring we, Lady! Nantes is ta'en-the Duke a prisoner.”

All was said.-She was answered: and turning round, she drooped her head upon her bosom, and paced silently along by the side of the Chevalier, until they both arrived in the presence of the Countess.

Ah, Sire !” exclaimed the latter, " with the air of one who would have it be believed she anticipated only good news, -and did not note that the fallen countenance of both Emily and the Knight foreboded evil —“I do rejoice to see you, I have long expected a messenger

from Nantes, and now, behold one here! What good tidings bring you ?" she continued, her voice growing less and less articulate at each word she uttered.

De Clisson shook his head mournfully: “ Bad, bad indeed, lady, most mournful,— treachery hath been abroad. De Leon sacrificed the garrison to revenge.”

“And your Lord, de Montfort, my husband ?" -gasped forth the Countess, interrupting him.

De Clisson drooped his head, but returned no answer.

“Speak, vassal!—by thy allegiance, I do command thee-Speak!" she continued, in a tone of voice which terror rendered awful :

“ Is a captive, Lady !".

She sank back upon the stool, and clasping both hands together upon her knees before her, drooped her head to meet them on her lap.

She seemed to suffer anguish unutterable ;tears rolled after tears upon her cheek, and every now and then a sigh, vainly attemptedand therefore the more agonizing—to be repressed, broke forth: whilst neither de Clisson,

nor even Emily herself, dared offer comfort: lest their words should waken a still deeper sense of woe, and ripen misery into madness.

At length there seemed to be a slight intermission of grief, and Emily, seizing the opportunity, ventured to approach and gently lay her hand upon the shoulder of the Countess, who no sooner felt the touch than looking up

Lend me thine arm, maiden!

Emily obeyed, and, supported by her, Jeanne arose.

“ You have seen me weep,” she said, addressing herself to de Clisson ; " but the tears I shed will be the last which shall bedew these eyes:I was then a woman, now I will enact the man.Haste, maiden!” she continued, turning towards Emily, “go bid the women bring my boy hither, I have need of him.-De Clisson! hie you into the armoury, and choose me thence a casque, and spear, and corselet, and gleaves, and gauntlets, and all the other appurtenances of a warrior. And, hark !” she added, smiling as she cast her eyes over her majestic, but delicate form, “ see that I be not over-sized,- for though, as

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »