IT was well known to all the inmates of the abbey of St. Servais that the abbot was ill, and it was whispered under the arcades of the great cloister and around the wooden tables of the refectory that his illness was unto death, — whisperings which were repeated by the guests in the hospitium and their servants in the monastery stables. It was known also that the monk Hugo, physician to the brotherhood, had exhausted to no purpose the herbs in the physic garden adjoining the dispensary, and that the abbot, who felt himself rapidly failing, had determined, as a last resort and without further delay, to have recourse to the blessed relics of St. Servais.
Many of those gathered about the refectory tables looked to see on this occasion the complete refutation of certain heresies which Hugo had brought from Salerno, touching the efficacy of herbs and potions apart from all intercession of God, invocation of the martyrs, or sprinkling of holy waters. On the other hand, without doubting the power of the martyrs to change the counsels of God, but remembering rather that to all men it is appointed once to die, the entire community were much disturbed by sundry signs and wonders foreshadowing the abbot’s end ; and the recollection of these marvels filled their thoughts to the exclusion of the sober words which fell from the lips of the reader as they finished their noonday meal. Indeed, but an hour before, Lehun, the cellarer who drew the wine in the vaults below the larder, having fixed his light, as was his custom, in the iron ring of the pier between the casks, was suddenly enveloped in darkness, although no draught of air nor any other cause whatsoever could be assigned for the extinction of the torch. Thrice had he relighted it, and thrice was it extinguished in the same manner, as those with him also testified. Moreover, on the precedingday, one of the swallows having their nests within the west portal entered the church at the hour of morning vigil, and, after circling the nave at the height of the vaultings, passed suddenly within the veil of the sanctuary, extinguishing with its wings the light burning before the high altar. But most wonderful of all, before the abbot was seriously ill, being but slightly indisposed, and taking his repasts, for that reason, in his own house, while the two brothers who waited on him were serving his table, darkness filled the room where he ate, it being the sixth hour and the sun without shining brightly. Such were the marvels which agitated the minds of the monks, as the reader closed the volume on the pulpit at the sound of the chapel bell, and they rose from the refectory benches.
Meanwhile, the abbot slept on the stone seat in the convent orchard. Thither he had caused himself and his pillows to be carried, and there, to all appearance unconscious of the agitation of which he was the cause, wrapped in his long robe, he dozed, and woke, and dozed again.
No sound disturbed him. It was the hour between the noon repast and nones, when, stretched on their narrow beds, the monks were given over to meditation and prayer. At the extreme eastern end of the inner precinct, on the very brow of the steep hill overlooking Maestricht, the orchard was removed from the clamor of the great western court without the abbey close, while the noises of the town were at this distance blended in indistinguishable murmurs. In the valley below, the river crept lazily in the bed it had won from the hills. The sun filled this valley with a lucent flood of misty light. It trembled on the hilltops, whose summits emerged as islands from an amber sea ; it overflowed the dim horizon, where the river shone like a mirror suspended in midair. This was the abbot’s favorite seat, under the scattered trees whose fruits gleamed in spots of flame-like brightness, and whose boughs overhung the frail wooden crosses which served to mark for scarce a year the sleeping-places of the dead. It were no wonder if to his weakened sense the breath of the tasseled laburnum exhaled a celestial sweetness, or that the dark verdure of the almondtrees and the scant leafage of the peachrows appeared radiant with the light that knows neither waxing nor waning. Perchance, dozing among the graves, he mistook the chant which came faintly from the church over the orchard wall for the choir of the world to which he seemed hastening so fast. But as the solemn sounds drew nearer, first in the pillared aisle, then louder under the porch of the parvis, the abbot opened his eyes, listening attentively; and when the orchard gate creaked on its iron hinges, he raised himself on his pillows, and turned his head to the entering procession.
The hour of last appeal had come. The monks had laid aside their frocks, for the labor of the afternoon was suspended, and clad in their church robes they filed through the narrow door, filling the inclosure from the wall to the crest of the hill. One might have thought the occupants of the scattered graves had shaken off their heavy sleep, and stood each beside the bed where he had so long slumbered in silence, to welcome to his place their dying abbot. Four of the brethren lifted the sick man upon a litter; then, resuming the chant, which floated away over the cliff to the city below, the procession slowly retraced its steps.
The great bell in the tower of St. Gabriel, which rang only when the holy relics were exhibited, had already given its warning, and the abbey gates had long been thronged with the sick and the poor. Mothers whose love no deformity of nature could weaken brought their misshapen offspring in their arms ; cripples had toiled up the rocky road on their crutches ; the blind man, led by the child, held fast to the little hand in the press of the crowd; and one, a mother, had brought her dead babe, hidden in the warmth of her bosom. All these wretched beings, animated by so many hopes, fearful of delay, eager to be nearest the shrine, crowding the leper whose contact they feared, forgetting in their passionate desire the very compassion they invoked, filled the passage from the inner gate to the church, and fought their way up the steps of the porch with a desperate expectation. Those who were fortunate enough to have reached the screen which, just within the door, separated the public from the body of the church, clutching fast the rail to hold their place or withstand the pressure of the throng behind, peered anxiously between the openings of the barrier, their haggard faces pressed against its latticed panels and their lips trembling with rapid prayers.
Within the railing, to and fro before these hungry eyes, paced Friedgis, the abbey porter. His head was tonsured, but in place of the monkish habit he wore a short tunic, girded at the waist by a cord from which hung a bunch of ponderous keys. From time to time he threatened some more daring one of the crowd, who, either pushed from behind or desirous of bettering his position, would have climbed the screen but for the porter’s forbidding eye. An old man, whose thin legs trembled under his palsied body, gazed pitifully upon the broad chest, the strong, supple shoulders, the firm, elastic limbs, as they passed back and forth before him, envious of all that beauty which announced the power to execute the desires of the will. The mother with her dead babe sought to attract the porter’s eye as it glanced over the surging crowd, in some vague hope of coming nearer to the screen; and a woman whose flushed face contrasted strangely with the pale, sunken cheeks of the mother peered eagerly over the latter’s shoulder. Whole of body, her sore was of the heart; for her lover had deserted her, and she had come to summon the aid of the saint to her fading comeliness, and to invoke that vengeance upon another which we so often secretly desire in claiming pity for ourselves.
On the stone floor, between the feet of those in the first row, crouched a girl of extraordinary beauty. The people called her Passe Rose. It was neither ill of body nor ache of heart, but only a burning curiosity, that had brought her to the shrine of the martyr. At break of day she had been first at the gate, waiting the hour when the public were to be admitted ; and profiting by the momentary absence of the porter, gone in search of the hospitaler, to announce the arrival of merchants having cloth to exchange for the potus dulcissimus of the abbey, she had stolen through the door in their train, hoping to find some place where she might hide till the opening of the gates, and thus enter the church with the first of the multitude. But finding no shelter, she was discovered by the porter on his return, and, seized like a child in his arms, amid the laughter of the merchants and the jeers of their servants, had been thrust without the gate. Notwithstanding this rebuff she had succeeded in reaching the screen, where, treasuring up the insult in her wounded heart, she muttered a curse under her breath whenever her assailant came within sight of her flashing eyes.
Heedless of all these emotions, Friedgis gave hardly a glance to the multitude. If he had cast Passe Rose rudely out the monastery gate, it was because the Prior Sergius, when instructing him in the duties of his office, had dwelt long upon this particular, affirming with much emphasis “ that as neither David, nor Solomon, nor Adam himself, the perfect work of God, had escaped the caress or deceit of woman, so might one as easily hope to bear coals in his bosom without scorching his vestment as to do what had not been in their power,” — instructions which Friedgis had not scrupled to carry out with the disdainful rigor of the Saxon slave who despised the strange conditions of life to which fate had subjected him.
Doubtless the Abbot Rainal, had he not fallen sick immediately on his return from the Saxon campaign on which he had accompanied the king, would have endeavored to bring Friedgis to a more loving service ; for every serf of the domain, whether of those who belonged to the land when the king bestowed it upon the abbot, or of the Saxon captives whom the king had distributed among his vassals, knew that the welfare of his soul was the abbot’s chief concern. But the Prior Sergius was more easily satisfied on this point, and, having administered baptism to all according to the canons, scrupled little to enlist the body in God’s service, whether the mind were willing or not, — a service which Friedgis, notwithstanding his contempt for a monkish life, executed as porter none the less zealously, and with such impartiality that had it been forbidden the brethren to leave the abbey close he would have thrown the transgressor over the wall with as little compunction as he had ejected the maiden.
Now it happened that when the side door was opened, and the chant of the entering procession began to fill the arches, Friedgis stood in front of Passe Rose, hiding from her all that was taking place. For some time she bore patiently with this obstruction of her view, thinking the porter would change his place before the service was over. The minutes passed, and still he did not move. When at last the monks began to chant the Kyrie Eleison her patience was exhausted, and after having in vain essayed to reach him with her silver bodkin, furious lest she should miss the moment when the reliquary should be exposed, she spat venomously upon his bare legs. Turning with the rapidity of a panther, Friedgis recognized his assailant, and before she could divine his intention, leaping the rail, he had seized her in his arms, and was bearing her through the press as easily as a ship’s prow divides the water. Locked in his grasp of iron, she could not utter a sound, though her nails were deep in his bosom, and, before she realized what was taking place, she found herself once more without the walls, and the gate barred behind her.
While yet panting for breath the gate was reopened, and to her surprise Friedgis appeared again. The frail bodkin was still in her tightly closed fingers, and she clutched it closer, resolved to break it in her enemy’s heart; but as he drew nearer she recognized in his hand her necklace of gold, which had become loosened in her struggles.
“ Whence hadst thou this ? ” he asked, holding it out to her. She extended her hand to take it, speechless with rage. “Answer,” said Friedgis, with a gesture of impatience.
“ Give it me ; it is mine,” she said, breathless.
“Answer,” repeated Friedgis, advancing a step menacingly.
“ Thief ! brigand ! ” gasped Passe Rose, clasping her bodkin.
Seeing that he could effect nothing by violence, and fearful of remaining longer absent from his post, Friedgis resorted to persuasion.
“ If thou answerest truly, thou shalt return,” he insisted coaxingly.
“ It is too late,” she replied, tears of sullen rage filling her eyes.
“ Nay, come,” he said briefly.
She followed him, trembling with anger and joy, through the gate to the steps of the porch, crowded with those unable to penetrate within the church.
“ Hold firmly,” he said, lifting her to his shoulder.
“ And the necklace, dear porter ? ” she whispered in his ear, encircling his neck with her arms.
“If thou wilt come to-night, and knock thrice at the small north gate, I will give it thee,” said Friedgis.
“ By St. Martin, I will come ! ” answered the girl quickly.
“ Good. Hold fast,” he replied ; and, forcing his passage to the screen, he deposited her in the place whence he had so rudely torn her.
Careless of the wondering glances of her neighbors, she scanned eagerly the scene before her. The office was finished. The abbot’s litter reposed at the foot of the choir stair; beyond, between the parted curtains, stood the reliquary, in front of the altar.
Whatever the record contained in the annals of the monastery of St. Servais, or in what manner soever the relics of its patron saint are therein connected with the wonderful recovery of its abbot, this is what happened : —
Having been transported into the church, whether from the coolness of the air or because the fever approached its natural term, or whether from the virtue of the herbs of Brother Hugo or the sight of the Prior Sergius, who intrigued to be his successor, the worthy abbot felt at the same time both an abatement of his fever and a ravishingsense of slumber; so that even before the reliquary had been brought from the crypt below the choir, the chant of the brotherhood, echoing above his head, between the narrow walls of the clerestory, seemed like the soothing song of a mother, and the voice of the celebrant died utterly away to his hearing. When he awoke, the light reflected from the yellow sandstone walls was gone, and for a long time he searched his memory to explain the star shining so close beside him in the night; till at last, his eyes becoming accustomed to the darkness, he perceived the star to be the lamp of holy oil, and that two brothers watched and prayed near his litter. Remembering then all that had occurred, and recognizing by his refreshment the miracle that had been done, having offered thanks to God, he called to the monk nearest him. The monk, thinking the abbot beyond even the succor of St. Servais, shook with terror at seeing his lips move, so that when the abbot bade him summon the porter to assist in carrying him to his own room, the monk’s knees sank under him and refused their support; whereupon his companion, who had also heard the abbot’s request, hastened in his stead to the passage which led to the porter’s lodging. It was by this passage that Friedgis entered the church to ring the bell for the daily offices. Muttering a prayer as he went, Brother Dominic — for that was his name — hurried down the corridor, and, being in haste, opened the porter’s door precipitately, expecting to find the room dark and Friedgis in the sound sleep of midnight.
If from Passe Rose, who, faithful to her promise, sat on the edge of the low cot, the apparition of the pale face in its black hood called forth a suppressed shriek of terror, the sight of a woman of such loveliness in the chamber of the porter caused the monk a surprise greater than the devil himself could have effected ; and before Passe Rose had finished her cry he was flying down the passage, pursued by its echoes.
Now, however opportune for the abbot had been his appeal to the compassion of St. Servais, his return to consciousness was exceedingly ill-timed both for Friedgis and Passe Rose; for the latter had not recovered her jewel, nor the former learned how she had obtained it. Passe Rose, indeed, had but just come when the appearance of Brother Dominic in the corridor caused her to spring to the door by which she had entered. This door opened into the walk between the church and the hospitium, next to the small gate by which access was had to the abbey close without passing through the great courtyard. Unable to move its heavy bolt, the girl sank upon the floor, convulsed with terror, her eyes fixed upon the spot where the monk had stood.
Friedgis, more concerned for the information he desired than for the consequences of the monk’s discovery, in vain endeavored to allay her fear. “ Come,” he entreated, kneeling beside her and drawing the necklace from his pouch. “ What dost thou fear ? See, here is thy collar. Tell me who gave it thee.” But terror had taken away Passe Rose’s power of speech. She had even forgotten her jewel, and continued to gaze at the passage as if she still saw the livid face of the monk looking at her from its dark recesses. “ I tell thee they shall not harm thee,” said Friedgis, closing the passage door and turning its heavy key. " Fear nothing. I will crack them one by one, like fagots, over my knee.
See,” he repeated, pressing the necklace into her hand, “ here is thy collar.”
“ Let me go,” implored the eyes of Passe Rose.
“ On my faith thou shalt go. Look.” The porter drew back the bolt. “ Only tell me first.”
As he spoke, footsteps were heard in the corridor. They did not escape the quick ear of the girl, to whom they imparted the energy of a fresh fear. " Save me ! save me ! ” she cried, springing from the floor, and throwing herself upon the porter’s neck.
“ I will save thee ; I will carry thee out myself,” said Friedgis disdainfully, endeavoring to unlock the girl’s arms. “ See, we are going.” And renouncing all hope of calming her, he lifted her in his arms. “ Only tell me where I may find thee. Whisper it in my ear.” But while he spoke the arms about his neck relaxed their hold, the head on his shoulder fell back, and the body slid from his grasp. Passe Rose had swooned.
Holding his burden as best he could with one arm, Friedgis sought to open the door by which the girl had come, and while his hand was on the latch the grating of a bolt was heard in the walk without. He threw his shoulder against the oaken frame.
The door was barred fast on the outer side.
Passe Rose, when any one asked whence she came or who were her parents, lifted her eyebrows as if to say, What difference does that make ? But when she chose to be communicative she had good listeners, whether her tale was grave or gay. Her family had fled from the vicinity of Toulon to escape the pest, which, however, overtook both her father and her mother before they reached the confines of Provence. She next appeared with a company of mountebanks and dancers at Chasseneuil, where the king was assembling his vassals to invade Spain. Fluttering like a rose-leaf in the storm, Passe Rose was swept along in the throng gathering from Burgundy, Bavaria, Lombardy, and Austrasia to follow the banners of Karle beyond the Pyrenees, and reached Chasseneuil in season to dance before Queen Hildegarde at the Easter fêtes, — a performance of which she boasted proudly, and which she assigned to her sixth year. For while Passe Rose knew very well, by counting her rosy fingers, that eighteen and six make twenty-four, this fact taught her no fear and hinted no caution. Life was to her no cup of doubtful flavor, gingerly drunk with an eye on the bottom, but an ocean, over whose sparkling expanse she smiled, her lips at the rim, drinking alike the sweet and the bitter, with that thirst out of whose fullness spring courage and joy.
It would appear that after Roncevaux she followed the army northward on its way to quell the Saxon insurrection, but abandoned both it and her mountebanks at the Rhine. It is even possible that she passed into Italy, but this is doubtful, for to follow the itinerary of Passe Rose by her descriptions would be to travel over the known world. Certain it is, however, that she came to the fair of St. Denis with a company of Frankish merchants, at an age when her mere presence was their fortune ; for whether it were pearls or perfumes, Egyptian linen and paper, oil or wine, buyers were plenty within the sound of her laughter and the glance of her eye.
When the fair was over, and the merchants were about to set out for England for purchases of tin and wool, either because they treated her ill, or because she had no desire to travel so far, or perhaps for graver reasons, — for of this matter she would give no account, — Passe Rose fled secretly in the night; and going a long way in a thick wood without finding any shelter, she lay down beside a wooden cross near the road, where, after saying all the prayers she had ever heard, she fell asleep.
Now Werdric, a gold-beater of Maestricht, returning from the fair with two donkeys and a servant, was hastening home to his wife Jeanne, whom he loved above everything else in the world, and with whom he lived in perfect happiness, except — for they had no children, a lack which both sorely lamented. It was all in vain that Jeanne fasted, and that Werdric made a golden image exciting the envy of all who saw it, and which he gave to the church of St. Sebastian ; so that, being now old, he thought no more about it, but Jeanne still prayed and fasted. Passing through the wood in the early morning, Werdric was astonished to see so fair a girl sleeping alone in such a place, and descend ing from his donkey he awoke her, ask ing where was her home, and if she would go thither with him.
“ Willingly,” said Passe Rose.
“ And where may it be ? ” asked Werdric.
“It is where thou art going,” said Passe Rose.
Thinking that she spoke of some village or hamlet to which they would soon come, he set her upon the servant’s donkey and pursued his way, marveling at her dress, which had silver lacing-cords and a hood lined with vair.
“ How far may thy home be ? ” presently asked Passe Rose.
Then Werdric remembered the fasts and prayers of Jeanne, and deemed that God had answered them, — a fact of which Jeanne made no doubt when he told her how he had found the young girl alone and asleep by the roadside, under the cross.
Perhaps it was because she fared so much better with the gold-beater and his wife than with either the merchants or the dancers that Passe Rose remained with the former to this day. For Jeanne gave her a chamber above the shop, having a small turret in the corner overhanging the street, through whose window of horn one might see in both directions all who passed by or stopped below for affairs of trade. In the chamber was a bed with curtains, a prie-dieu chair with cushions on which were stamped a design of the sun, and a box for clothes, of which Passe Rose was very fond, although she had none to put into it except when she was in her bed, — a want, however, which Jeanne soon supplied. For there was nothing the goodwife would not have given her, even to a name. This name — Theodora — came to her thought in the middle of the night ; but the girl would have none of it, and declared her name was Passe Rose. Perhaps this name recalled some vague memories of Provence. Certain it is that when she passed by, it was as a breath from the land of orange, and olive, and rosemary. The hues of the Southern Sea were in her eyes and under the rose-brown flush of her skin ; the sound of its waves was in the ripple of her laughter ; and the odor of samphire, myrtle, and lentisk, glistening wet in its spray, in her hair.
Nothing would persuade Mother Jeanne, as she might now in good truth call herself, that all this was not the gift of God; and when Passe Rose told strange stories or related wild adventures, Jeanne, with a faith undisturbed by such prattle and nonsense, smiled.
It is needless to say that many who passed the goldsmith’s shop were fain to gather this rose, and that many a gallant would have given his life for one of its petals, — “ So they say,” laughed Passe Rose, knowing also that when the rose drops its petals, then it begins to fade. In a way she loved them all, at once and by turns, and so impartially that one would as soon think to be angry with the sun, which shines upon all, as with her. At all events, she was truthful and sincere. She hated when she hated vigorously and well, and laughed when she laughed from her red lips to her sandaled feet. If she spat on Friedgis’s bare leg, it was because she desired ardently to see the shrine of the blessed St. Servais ; and if she whispered softly in his ear, it was because she wished very much for her collar of gold. She wounded pride and she flattered self-love, just as the rain disappoints and the sun cheers, as it were in the very course of nature, with a naturalness and good faith so complete as to disarm all complaint. If selfishness had gotten hold of Passe Rose ! — ah, that would have been a different matter. Does any one call the sun selfish, even when he hides his face ? When a lover tired her, Aïe! aïe ! aïe! said Passe Rose, and, like the sun, went to shine elsewhere.
But the love of Jeanne Passe Rose requited. Thus, for a whole year she hoarded every copper denier in her chest, till one morning she set out with three silver sous in her crimson purse, to buy the marten’s fur which she knew the dame desired for the border of her dress. On her way she met Adelhaïde, sister to Robert, Count of Tours, master of the hunt and of the king’s stables; and this lady was attired so richly and had so great a retinue with her that at the sight of such splendor the three silver sous of Passe Rose seemed to her of no value. But after Adelhaïde had passed by, Passe Rose laughed, pressing the pieces together in her hand, and having gotten, by fair words or a fair face, the worth of four sous for three, ran home singing. On her part, the good wife did all in the power of love to spoil Passe Rose; but the latter possessed too sturdy a nature to be far diverted from her own course, — sturdy and willowy, like a young ash in the wood, which sways to the wind, but grows straight upward without bend or flaw.
If one should contrast the safe and quiet life which Passe Rose now enjoyed with the troublous period of her early years, it might be thought that she had determined to close the chapter of her wandering existence, and to order the remainder of her days in sobriety. For with all the pleasures of roving, hunger and cold and harsh words had not been wanting ; and like one who, fleeing down a narrow street pursued by enemies, suddenly perceives an open door, and, entering quickly, closes it upon all disquietude, so Passe Rose had left all pursuing ills at the place where the goldsmith had found her. Such, however, is human nature that no sooner are former evils passed away than those which are present call to mind the pleasures which disappeared with them, filling the heart with regrets and sighs. Passe Rose was not discontented, but in her new condition new hopes and ambitions assailed her. She had put aside her mountebank’s dress even to the armlets of Greek coin whose jingle made once such pleasing music in her ears; and with the garments which Jeanne gave her she had put on the disdain for her former companions which every good citizen felt, however eagerly they might flock to witness jugglers’ magic or feats of dancers’ skill. Only, while Jeanne despised their mode of life and did not hesitate to call them children of Satan, Passe Rose despised their condition. As to their mode of life, it pleased her well, for liberty was its motto ; and this liberty itself, as well as the love of it, she carried in with her to her retreat when she closed the door. But whatever the plans she cherished or the hopes she nourished, her laugh was as merry and her hand as ready as ever. There was no menial labor she scorned to do, nor any courtly service she hesitated to demand. Jeanne herself scarce knew when to wonder most: whether when, in the kitchen, Passe Rose made savory pasties of cream and pounded almonds and pistachios, or when, having put on her favorite dress, fastened close about the waist and wrists, she went out to take the air. For being the gift of God, how should she know the best flour was of the second grinding, or that jelly of apple was the better for rosewater, which on the other hand impaired the flavor of quince ? Moreover, Passe Rose brought from God knows where new inventions : comfit of purslane, marchpane of honey and the white of eggs, and frumenty with poppy seeds. “ Who ever heard of fennel in cheese ! ” Jeanne exclaimed ; or, “ Balm of mint in the soup, indeed! ” she cried, opening wide her eyes. But Werdric smacked his lips, declaring such cheese and such broth were never tasted in Maestricht before.
As for the manner in which Passe Rose wore her apparel, it was not strange that Jeanne wondered ; for however simple it was, whether because of her girlish beauty or her unconsciousness, the Lady Adelhaïde herself was not so agreeable to the sight. So that while the knowledge Passe Rose had of household affairs caused Jeanne surprise, her knowledge of the art of dressing caused Jeanne fear. For it was neither right nor safe that the daughter of a goldsmith, selling at retail for the worth of two sous, should have a finer mien than the sister of the master of the king’s horse. Be that as it may, it is sure that Passe Rose, unworthy as she thought the condition from which she had escaped, saw none above her to which she might not attain. If the sunlight is not altogether free, yet if the king’s window be open it will enter without leave. Had not the slave Ingonda become Clother’s wife ? Had not Haribert of Paris raised Merofleda, the daughter of a wool-comber and Theodehilda, the shepherdess, to his throne ? And did not Hilperic, king of Neustria, choose Fredegonda from among the women of the royal service, and marry her with the ring and denarius, according to the laws of the Franks, thus making her his queen ? So Passe Rose, when she walked abroad, without fixing her eyes upon any individual star, saw them all, none the less, and the songs which related these events lingered in her ear longer than the chantings of the monks of St. Servais, which sometimes floated down from the abbey hill among the busy people of Maestricht. Yet for all her shortcomings Jeanne’s love for her grew with the years, and although accurate comparisons are impossible in view of the uncertainty surrounding her previous career, it is quite likely that Passe Rose herself improved vastly. It is so much easier to begin a new life with new friends and fresh faces.
So curiously in this world are trifles linked to things of moment that if Passe Rose had not known somewhat of cookery she would never have been imprisoned with Friedgis in the abbey of St. Servais. For it happened one morning, as she watched the spit turning before the fire, that she said to Jeanne : —
“ In my country there grows an herb, in the wet places of the wood, very fit to serve with roasts and all kinds of sauces.”
“ What is its name ? ” asked Jeanne, at that very moment preparing the basting.
“ I know not its name,” replied Passe Rose, " but I know it well when I see it; and if thou likest, to-morrow we will search for it in the wood beyond the river.”
And although Jeanne had great fear of the wood fays, she promised to go the following day, after exacting from Passe Rose the pledge that she would not trouble the pools, should they chance to come upon a wood spring. So in the early morning they set out, with an osier basket for the herb and a vial of blessed water for the fays.
Nothing was sweeter to Passe Rose than freedom. When the gate was passed and the walls of the town were behind her, she was as one who has recovered her patrimony. The sunlight entered at every pore ; the rills running under the cresses by the roadside and the flowers distilling perfumes in the shade whispered to her, “We are yours; ” and she, seeing everything, hearing everything, answered with a familiar nod or smile all these signs and tokens, like a proprietor going over his estates. Jeanne must needs stop to inquire of every fowler they met the price of his starlings, and whether the quail were yet full fledged; of the fisherman at the river-bank whether any pike had been taken in his net, and what barbels would fetch a pound; and of the miller, whose water-wheel was midway on the bridge, what was the grinding-tax this year. " At last! ” cried Passe Rose, when all these obstacles were passed. “ Mother of God, defend us! ” sighed Jeanne, thinking of the fays. Indeed, at the border of the forest Jeanne declared she could go no farther, that breath failed her, that the clouds boded rain, — in short, that she was no longer young and able to walk such a distance, but would wait in the open field till Passe Rose should return. So the latter, who neither lacked breath nor feared the rain, and would not be dissuaded, went into the wood alone. When she returned her basket was empty, her cheeks flushed with flame, and about her neck was a collar of gold.
It is certainly strange that Passe Rose, who when she danced before Queen Hildegarde neither felt abashed nor was confused, should stammer and cast down her eyes before Jeanne, who was nothing but a little wrinkled old woman, with a vial of blessed water in her pouch. But so it was, and at the questions which assailed her she faltered and turned away, till at last she declared boldly that the collar was given her by a fay. Having made this assertion, her tongue was loosed and hesitancy disappeared: for the first step it is that costs ; only let this be taken, necessity and invention will manage the rest.
She told Jeanne that after searching far and wide she came to a spring which trickled over a mossy stone into a pool, and that while she sought the herb about the water’s edge she saw a golden comb (Oh, Passe Rose!) lying among the wet leaves of an ivy branch. No sooner had she taken it in her hand than she heard wailing and sobbing, and, lookingup, saw the fay, with no other garment than a veil, clasped about the waist by a girdle of gold, wringing its hands, and beseeching her to yield up the comb. “ Then said I,” continued Passe Rose, “ ' If I give thee the comb, thou wilt bewitch me with thy breath.’ ‘Nay,’ replied she, unloosing her belt; ‘ only give me my comb, and thou shalt have my girdle, which is a charm against all fairy power so long as thou hast it clasped on thy neck.’ ” (Oh, Passe Rose! ) "'Give me first the belt, then,’ said I. So she gave it, and when I had fastened it I put back the comb between the leaves and ran. For this reason am I hot, and my power of speech is gone.”
This and much more of the same sort she told and repeated to Jeanne, till, like one who sees a patch of shadow afar on the plain, and at one moment thinks it a tower, and at the next is ready to swear it to be a tree, she began to waver in her own mind between the false and the real, almost ready to put faith in her own words. But this was not at all the tale she told to Friedgis; for just as the sun sometimes shines fiercely on the tower till every line and angle of its stones stands out among the trees, and sometimes with mists and shadows confuses tower and trees together, so Passe Rose disclosed to Friedgis what she had concealed from Jeanne; and as sometimes, shining neither fiercely nor faintly, but obliquely, the sun shoots a slanting ray which illumines but a part of the tower, and leaves the rest in the trees’ shadow, so it were best to follow Passe Rose herself into the wood, lest, trusting only to what she revealed to Friedgis, some doubt should still linger as to what there transpired.
Albeit the great forest lying between Maestrieht and Aix was well known to be the abode of fays (which were none other than Frankish princesses who had refused the religion of Christ), besides dwarfs even more venomous, and although the spirit of Fastrada, the wicked queen who had bewitched the heart of Karle, wandered here nightly in search of her magic ring, and although it was neither Saturday nor Sunday, evil days for all evil spirits, yet Passe Rose entered the gloomy shadow of the trees fearlessly. For a long time she sought faithfully for the herb among slender stems and powdery leaves, in the dark places where the wood-lilies delight to grow, under the junipers and pines whose resinous breath the violets love, in wet patches of woolly moss wherein her feet sank to the cross-bandage of her sandals ; lifting every leaf which might hide her quest, turning aside for no vine which barred her way, till, discouraged in her search, she gave it over altogether, and began to fill her basket with beechnuts, and seek for the late strawberries nodding among feathery shoots of grass and mould of last year’s leaves.
While thus engaged she heard the faint blast of a horn, and, setting down her basket, listened. Presently she heard it again, nearer this time, and now its mellow echoes were lost in the quick, short bark of hounds. Passe Rose began to listen in good earnest, half rising to her knees and sitting back on her heels, her lips parted as if they could assist her ears to locate the place whence the sounds came. The intermittent cry of the dogs became more distinct, the blast of the horn was mingled with the shouts of men, and in the pauses came the sharp snap of a dead branch or the crash of young summer trees, till the beat of her heart grew loud and fast in her ears, like the muffled sound of the grouse’s wing when he calls to his mate from the thick copse. Tales of the fierce urus and savage boar rose to her mind, and, overturning her basket of nuts, she sprang to ber feet, seeing already in every dark thicket the cruel tusk or foaming mouth of some desperate beast, and bewildered by the gathering storm of sounds. So near were they now, and on every side, that if she had stopped to weigh the evidence she would not have been able to take a single step; but fear got the better of reason, and not knowing whither she went, holding fast, in her terror, to her empty basket, she fled between bush and tree wherever an open space beckoned her.
Whether because St. Martin, upon whom she called only on grave matters, was otherwise occupied, and St. Servais liked not to be thought second even to St. Martin himself, Passe Rose, invoking the aid of each alternately, thought herself abandoned by both ; for at the very instant that a crash in the thicket before her drained the last drop of blood from her heart and all remaining strength from her limbs, her feet caught in a trailing vine, and she fell headlong. But as often, when the saints abandon us, we discover some hidden power of our own, so Passe Rose, caught like a sheep by the fleece in a thorn-bush, and expecting nothing but certain death, bethought herself suddenly of the knife she carried to loosen the roots of the herbs, and, grasping it tightly in her hand, closed her fingers about the haft with the nervous determination of one brought to bay. Great, then, was her surprise, on lifting her bead from the ferns and stems where she had fallen, to see a youth, mounted on a black horse, and gazing at her with a surprise equal to her own.
This youth was no other than Gui of Tours, son of Robert, Count of Tours, and master of the king’s hunt. This, indeed, Passe Rose did not know, but certain other things she discovered in less time than they can be told, namely: that he was of middle height, neither too heavy nor too slender, sitting well on his horse, and light of foot; that the hand which held the rein could hurl a spear adroitly and lance a javelin far; and that neither peril, nor thirst, nor hunger could turn his step aside from what his heart desired. All this she saw while the youth was dismounting from his horse and approaching her.
“ Art thou hurt ? ” he inquired eagerly.
“Nay,” she replied, regaining her feet, and shaking the leaves and mould from her dress as a bird shakes the dew from its wings.
“ Surely thou art hurt,” he repeated, stooping to look into her downcast eyes, for her cheeks were flushed with running and her bosom heaved.
“ Nay; give me my basket, and let me go.”
Such liquid eyes he had not seen nor heard such soft Roman speech since he marched against Arigisus, through the orchards of Campania.
“ Go thou shalt, and where thou wilt, but I with thee; for if the stag turns there will be need of my spear.”
“ Thou wilt lose the hunt,” objected Passe Rose, recovering her composure, and fixing upon him her brown eyes. His were an honest blue, and his skin fresh as an apple, without speck or flaw.
“ I will not leave thee so for all the stags in France!” exclaimed the youth hotly.
“ Set me, then, on thy horse,” laughed Passe Rose, “ for I think my ankle is sprained.”
Alarm had died out of her eyes and confusion from her voice, but the flush that disappeared from her cheek seemed to rise on his. He called the horse to his side, and, holding the stirrup till her foot was secure, would have lifted her to the saddle; but she, grasping with one hand his lancewood spear, sprang lightly to her seat, while the horse, docile enough before, feeling now a rider on his back, and hearing the noise of the hunt drifting away, began to chafe and tremble.
“ Never fear,” said Passe Rose assuringly. “ Only do thou hold the bridle, for the branches are low.”
Urged forward by the impatience of the horse, the youth had all he could do to check its speed and guide its way through the thick wood, while Passe Rose, bending now this way, now that, to avoid the branches, smiled whenever he turned to look at her winsome face and lissome form.
Mastering at length the confusion which tied his tongue, “ What is thy name ? ” he asked.
“ Passe Rose. And thine ? ”
Either her question was so sudden or her name so strange that he stammered over his own in reply; and then there was silence till the wood began to open, the sunlight to enter more freely, and between the trees appeared the fields of grain.
It was then that Passe Rose bethought herself of Jeanne, and sliding from the saddle to the ground said, “ My mother is here waiting, and the way is clear. Give me my basket, and I will give thee thy spear;” and holding it out in her hand, “ I thank thee much,” she added.
“ Where shall I find thee again ? ” asked Gui, recovering his speech at the thought of seeing her no more.
“ It is very hard, — the world is so wide,” laughed Passe Rose.
“Every bee that roves in the wood has somewhere a nest" —
“Which he hides lest the wild bear steal the comb,” interrupted Passe Rose.
“I am no wild bear for thee,” the youth retorted impetuously, unclasping at the same time the bracelet he wore on his arm. “ But if ever thou hast need of the bear’s claws, send me this token, and by the faith of Gui of Tours ” —
“ It is too large,” interrupted Passe Rose again, looking from her arm to the band of gold.
“ For thine arm, indeed, but see ! ” and passing the collar about her neck, he essayed to fasten the clasp at her throat.
Now it was impossible to fasten this clasp while looking into Passe Rose’s eyes, and for this reason, doubtless, Passe Rose, losing patience at his clumsy fingers, pushed them aside, and clasped it deftly with her own ; so that while the king’s captain, the point of whose spear could find the heart of the stag in flight, was marveling that the clasp would not hold, the eyes into which he looked disappeared, and Passe Rose herself vanished with the rapidity of a startled deer.
Unknown to herself, the account which Passe Rose gave to Jeanne of the acquisition of her collar had made such an impression upon her mind that on recovering from her swoon in the porter’s cell, being still afraid but not yet remembering why, conscious that somethinghad transpired but not yet recollecting what, she murmured, “ This had not happened had my collar not been lost.” Then seeing it was Friedgis, and not Jeanne, who bent above her, a faint blush rose to her cheek and a smile passed through her eyes. Whether she smiled at mistaking Friedgis for Jeanne and blushed at repeating a lie to no purpose, or blushed to find herself alone with Friedgis and smiled at being entrapped in her own invention, there is no way to know; for immediately on raising her head from the couch on which she lay, the room began to swim once more, and, falling back again, both the smile and the blush vanished.
“ It is better to lie still,” said Friedgis, watching her. “ There is nothing to fear.”
Passe Rose, finding that by obeying this injunction she could open her eyes without dizziness, lay still, examining Friedgis attentively.
“ I was not afraid,” she said presently.
“ I was only startled,” she added, continuing her examination.
With the return of her strength came the pangs of curiosity. A hundred thoughts and questions succeeded each other. Who is he ? Whence does he come ? What grave eyes he has ! How blue the veins on his arms, — and what arms ! What can he wish with my collar ? What does he think of me ? Are there no women in Saxony ? And although these arms had handled her roughly, the eyes imparted a sense of security. A feeling of confidence, mingled with a desire to strike a spark from the steel, possessed her. She had seen many of the Saxon prisoners dispersed in bands throughout the kingdom, and in spite of his shaven head had guessed his nationality aright.
Thus they gazed at one another in silence. For the first time the Saxon looked into the eyes of the South, — limpid, eloquent, idolatrous. Frisia had none such among its fens and snows, under its sad northern sky. Had the blood returning to her cheeks burst its channels, that it should suffuse itself, like the violet lustre of the sea, under the transparent, skin ?
Rising from his seat, Friedgis took a cup from a sort of embrasure in the thick walls, and filled it from a black jar, “ Drink,” he said, offering it to her.
“Great northern wolf!” said Passe Rose to herself, sitting up on the edge of the couch, and looking over the rim of the cup as she drank, “ what kind eyes thou hast! ”
“ Hast thou my collar ? ” she asked, returning the cup. “I must go.”
He took it from his tunic and handed it to her, draining at a draught the hydromel left in the cup, while she fastened the collar about her neck.
Having adjusted the collar and shaken out her dress, Passe Rose went to the door.
“ Thou canst not pass that way,” said he ; “ it is barred on the other side.” He looked to see the color die out of her cheek again ; but Passe Rose only opened wide her eyes as the remembrance of what had taken place returned, and, resuming her seat on the couch, looked gravely into his face.
“What is to be done?” she asked energetically.
For an answer Friedgis moved aside a wooden bench in the corner of the room, and, lying on his back upon the floor, pushed with his feet one of the large stones forming the outer wall. The stone, from which the adjoining cement, had been loosened, receded slowly, and suddenly fell with a dull sound on the ground without, leaving a black hole through which the night air entered.
“ Is it far ? ” asked Passe Rose, who needed no explanation of this proceeding.
“ The height of a man.”
“ Do thou go first,” she said, peering on her knees through the opening, and hearing indeed the rustle of the leaves without.
Sitting on the floor in front of her, Friedgis made no reply to this proposition. His eyes were fixed upon the necklace, and Passe Rose saw plainly that she had first to answer some questions. To this, however, she offered no remonstrance, merely sliding from her knees into a sitting posture, and leaning her head against the wall. She had no intention of repeating the story of the golden comb, much as she prided herself upon the sharpness of the bargain she drove with the fay; but she did meditate between the truth and some new invention, better suited to the occasion.
“ What is that to thee ? ” she said, answering his look.
Friedgis seemed to hesitate between prudence and desire.
“ Is it thine, perchance ? ” asked Passe Rose ironically, urging him gently on.
He looked at her distrustfully for a moment; then rose to his feet, walking slowly to and fro in the narrow room without paying any heed to her, as if turning over some serious question in his mind. The feeble flame floating on the oil scarce reached Passe Rose. One would not have seen her at all but for a gleam which flashed now and then in the corner, from the polished surface of the jewel, when she moved. She knew that she had only to wait; but it taxed her patience sorely that a man should dally and turn like a sluggish stream in the meadow, which is sure after all to come to the sea. For Passe Rose made up her mind without delay, — like a mountain brook that leaps straight out from the crest of wood, and shoots the cliff at a single bound.
Suddenly, when near her, the Saxon stopped.
“ Hast thou seen the sea ? ” he asked abruptly.
She nodded assent.
“ But thou knowest not its boundaries. Beyond Strandt there is the sea. Beyond Fossetisland — the sea. Beyond Anglia — still the sea. Will the keel which follows the north wind along the sands of Frisia return again to its haven in the Elbe, like a swallow following the lake’s margin ? Surely its waves have space enough wherein to sport. Wherefore, then, are they so greedy, that they should call to the winds, saying, ' Come ! here is a green land glad with flocks : let us devour it ’ ? Then the winds gather the mist maidens, the waves hurl themselves upon the coast, the rivers, beaten back, overflow, the fields become a marsh, the flowers swim, the trees rock, and the sea, rejoicing in their fall, covers all things.”
Passe Rose from her corner regarded him. with increasing interest. What had this to do with her collar ? Moreover, the sea which she knew did not behave in this manner.
“ It is thus thy people have wasted Saxony. Is the bridge of heaven so small that they cannot breathe, — that they must creep from the Rohr to the Weser, and overflow the Weser to the Elbe ? The grass which the flocks cropped is soaked with blood, the plains smoke, the altars of the gods are thrown down. Of what avail the gods, if they do not hear ! Henceforth they are nothing to me. Does Frey a listen ? Does Odin see ? ”
“ Peste,” thought Passe Rose, carried away by this eloquence, “it is true.”
“If I return thither, who will say to me ‘ Brother,’ or ‘ Friend’ ? The people are scattered as leaves, the sword is broken, and Frankish women wear the jewels of the Saxon maidens.”
“ I am no Frank! ” exclaimed Passe Rose indignantly, and coloring under his gaze. “ My collar is no spoil, but a free gift. If it is thine ” — She unclasped it quickly, and held it out to him.
“ Tell me whence thou hast it,” replied Friedgis disdainfully, “ that I may find her to whom it belonged.”
Passe Rose had to all appearances anticipated this refusal, for she was already refastening the collar about her neck. Her fingers proved as clumsy as those of Gui in the wood, and thus occupied she had time to reflect upon her answer. Living with the goldsmith, who had examined the fay’s girdle and pronounced it of Greek workmanship, she had devised a very natural explanation of the manner in which it came into her possession ; but being of a generous nature, which opened readily at the sight of misfortune, and having a devouring curiosity to reach the bottom of all mysteries, she put this temptation aside, and answered honestly that she had found it in the wood of Hesbaye. Thereupon she related how she had gone thither to gather herbs on a day when the king hunted; and how one of those who followed the hunt, being thrown from his horse, which fell in a thorn thicket, had left the collar on the ground, it having doubtless been loosed by the fall ; and that she, hastening homeward from the place where she lay concealed, had seen it glistening among the leaves. On finishing her tale. Passe Rose leaned back against the wall in the shadow.
Friedgis looked at her no longer; disappointment had succeeded the interest with which he had first listened, and he turned away.
“ Is the maid of thy kin ? ” asked Passe Rose, watching him.
He turned again, and their eyes met.
“ Aïe ! ” she cried, leaning forward and clapping her hands ; “ maid or wife, thou lovest her well.” The Saxon frowned, but Passe Rose saw only the color which rose to his cheek. “ Was she also made prisoner with thee ? ” she asked eagerly. “ Where sawest thou her last ? ”
“ At Ehresberg, where the spoil was divided.” He had sat down on the edge of the bed, and covered his face with his hands.
“ At Ehresberg ? ” repeated Passe Rose. “Ay,” — prolonging the word with a sympathetic sigh, and nodding in token that she understood everything. “And then—ye were scattered as leaves.” Suddenly her face kindled. “ Wouldst thou know where the maid is ? ” She had risen to her feet, and touched him on the shoulder. He lifted his head, looking at her incredulously. “ Listen. There is a blind woman who sits in the porch of the church of St. Sebastian, of whom the people say that she hath power to see what those who have eyes cannot discover, and that for a copper piece she will tell in good Latin speech whatever one desires to know. Tell me only the maid’s name, for I have two silver sous in my chest ” —
He hesitated, and the eager expression on her face changed to one of disappointment, the red lips pouted disdainfully, and, shrugging her shoulders, she was about to turn away, when Friedgis seized her by the arm.
“ Stay ! Her name is Rothilde.”
“ Rothilde ? ” repeated Passe Rose softly under her breath ; then turning full upon him her large eyes, “ I like thee well,” she said, with a candor so sincere that the Saxon’s heart warmed towards her. “ Thy hand is heavy, and thou shoulderedst me yesterday as I were a miller’s sack, but I believe thee as I would not the prior himself, and as sure as my name is Passe Rose I will not fail thee. Look ! ” she exclaimed, drawing a small dagger from her bosom. “ When I came for the collar I said, ' I will have mine own, though it be in the wolf’s den.’ Take it; with thee I have no use for it; keep it till I come again.”
Friedgis looked at her in amazement. There was not a trace of coquetry in her manner.
“ Thou art not afraid.”
“ True,” she replied, replacing the dagger in her dress, as she recollected the lonely road from the abbey to the town. “ Give me now thy cord.”
“ There is no need. Hold my hand, and thy feet will touch the ground.”
“ But the stone,” said Passe Rose.
He loosed the cord from his waist, and without further delay the girl slid, feet foremost, through the opening, holding fast to his hand.
“For whom didst thou make this hole?” she asked, as she was about to disappear.
“ The wolf has two holes to his den,” replied Friedgis.
Passe Rose laughed. “ Let go thy claws,—my feet touch,”—and he loosed her hands.
She secured the rope about the stone that he might draw it up in its place, and while thus occupied imitated softly the note of the cuckoo.
“ Didst thou hear the cuckoo calling in the wood ? ” she whispered, standing tiptoe on the stone. “ Listen for it again in three days’ time. But stay thou here. They have shaved thy head ; the next time they will slit thine ears. Farewell.”
Then he heard the sound of her feet running on the road.
Arthur Sherburne Hardy.