VIII.

EXCEPT the shepherds, who passed the summer nights abroad with the flocks, Friedgis, of all the abbey inmates, possessed most time to brood over his condition. The laborers returned from the fields to finish their evening tasks and seek their guerdon of sleep ; the monks, whose minutely regulated day left small loop-hole for indolence, lay down without divesting themselves of hose or tunic; but Friedgis, when night came, was neither overcome with labor nor concerned with spiritual tasks. Indeed, the prior, in assigning him to the care of the hospitaler, had greatly endangered the latter’s soul. For, having now a slave to assist him, this functionary committed to Friedgis all the menial share of his duties, and passed the time thus ransomed in his little garden, which he dearly loved, or in pretended offices for the guests. It is probable that the abbot, had he not fallen sick, would have perceived the temptations which thus assailed the almoner, — who, for that matter, was free of guile, liking only to sit on a bench in the sun twirling his thumbs, or to watch the savory growing in the plot without the vestibule. As for the prior, he was remarkable for seeing everything and observing nothing, a trait which endeared him to many.

Waiting the visit of Passe Rose with a sombre impatience, long before complines Friedgis had brought the materials for the morning baking of sacramental bread to the small room adjoining the sacristy, and, having prepared the oil for lighting the church, when the service was over and the priests had put off their vestments, closed the sacristy and retired to his own chamber. Barring the door behind him, and hiding the lamp in the embrasure, he withdrew carefully the stone from the wall, and, lying down on the floor, listened for the cuckoo’s call.

It were a curious, were it not an invariable fact, that of all the representations within the reach of memory those which afflict us are ever uppermost. The heart treasures its losses, and remembers best what it regrets. His eyes wide open, Friedgis stared into the darkness, for the light was so feeble that the walls of his room were barely visible. Without the aperture could be heard the plaintive sound of the wind ; within, the flicker of the flame set gigantic shadows in motion ; and imagination, roused by a subtle contagion, responded to these sense impressions, making the wind voices and moving shadows the creatures of its own invention. The walls of his narrow chamber receded altogether from the dreamer’s sight. He was no longer lying on the stone floor, but under the swaying branches of lofty trees, through which the stars shone, — as when, a summer ago, defiling through the great Hercynian forest, the army of Karle, with its captives, had halted for the night at the springs of the Lippe. Northward, the slopes of the Teutoburger Wald, whence Hermann had burst upon the legions of Varus, were studded with camp-fires ; from the heights southward they flared on the distant towers of Paderborn, whither the king had gone to celebrate the feast of the Nativity of the Virgin; and in the valley between, where the bulk of the army lay encamped, thickly clustered along the river they formed a confused glare, which traversed the plain of sombre forest like the Milky Way above, ablaze with light and fringed with solitary stars.

The road, which, ascending the valley of the Alme, debouched on the plains of Sindfeld, had been thronged for days with fugitives. From the tower windows of Ehresberg, where, a score or more years before, the king had pillaged, the heathen temple of Irminsul and overthrown its idol, the young Queen Liutgarde could see the hands of foot-sore exiles which, under Frankish escort, were being dispersed through Austrasia, Neustria, and Burgundy, — remnants of a people whose spirit fourteen ruthless campaigns had not broken. Despairing of destroying this nationality with fire and the sword, the king wished now to dissolve it by scattering its fragments throughout the Empire. The great roads leading to the Rhine were encumbered with soldiery returning to their homes, and colonists who passed on their way those whom they dispossessed. Paderborn was given over to rejoicing. Anthems of thanksgiving succeeded the solemn masses of the spring, when the favor of Heaven had been implored upon the expedition. Those whom the clergy had then forbidden to indulge in meat or wine now feasted without restraint, and instead of paying their deniers into the treasury of the Church divided the spoils abandoned them from the share of their chiefs. The arrival of couriers from Pannonia, announcing the successful opening of the war against the Avars, contributed to the general joy ; and the beloved daughters of the king, then in the splendor of their beauty, had hastened from Mainz to welcome their victorious father.

As the night waned the noises of the camp had gradually ceased. The horseman had tethered his steed; the footsoldier had taken off his leathern corselet and hemlet of bronze; and the captive, lying down with the oxen released from the yoke, among his own flocks, dreamed of the pastures of Bardengaw he should see no more. Having wasted the land of the Saxons from Frisia to the Elbe, this vast army, encumbered with hostages and booty, like some wild animal gorged with blood and heavy with drowsiness, had stretched itself upon the ground to sleep.

Through the midst of this slumbering host moved a monk, clad in the black robe of the Benedictines. The flickering fires, leaping momentarily into life, scarce lighted his face, thin with fasting and worn by the fatigues of the march, but the flame of a tireless zeal burned in his eyes. Passing like a shadow between the tents of the guards, among the sleeping forms of the Franks, alone, he still pursued his mission of warning and comfort among those whom the king had torn from their native land to transplant to Frankish soil. For him there was no truce of peace, no night of rest. In the midst of these blood-stained warriors overcome with toils, he was the incarnation of that sleepless spirit of holy love, so strangely blended with the fury of a war which had laid a province in ashes in the name of the all-blessed Christ; and in the stillness of the night, when the clang of armor was hushed and the sword was in its sheath, it seemed as if this divine spirit walked abroad in his person on its errand of ministering grace.

In an open space, made in the thick wood by the spreading branches of an oak, a girl lay asleep. The smouldering fire, stirred at times by the wind into flame, threw its red light upon her face; then, subsiding with the breeze, left it to the darkness. Daughter of an Anglian chief slain on the banks of the Weser, her dress, though soiled by the dust of the march, betokened her rank. A fringe of gold bordered the tunic, whose girdle was embroidered with silk and pearls. A gold collar engraved with Eastern characters, loot from the Huns of the Danube, encircled her neck, and an agraffe of enameled bronze fastened the cloak over her breast. Her yellow hair, whose braids had become loosened, fell unconfined over her shoulders, and a child lay asleep on her knees. Homeless and alone like herself, lost in the confusion of the camp, it had crept to her side at nightfall, and, touched with pity, she had wrapped it in the fold of her cloak. At a little distance, stretched at full length in the shadow, Freidgis watched the sleeper, lifting his head at every sound. So vivid now was his memory of the scene that, lying on his chamber floor, he drew his garment closer, as if the night air still chilled the wound which, then unhealed, burned under the tunic of otter-skin torn open on his breast. A soldier, stupid with wine, stumbled to the river to quench his thirst, and returned to his couch of leaves. The child opened its eyes ; then, reassured by the girl’s presence, fell asleep again.

Suddenly from out the shadows along the river-bank a tall form emerged into the firelight. The long hair escaping from the gorget indicated one of noble blood, and the helmet bore the crest of the king’s guard. Followed by two men-at-arms, the Frank advanced into the open space, when he stopped, casting a quick look about him ; then, motioning his companions to remain within call, approached softly over the turf of moss and stooped above the prostrate form of the sleeper, as if to assure himself that it was she whom he sought. The collar of gold shone as the flame leaped, but it was not its glitter which tempted the eye of the Frank. Friedgis, unobserved, raised himself upon his hands. His arms trembled ; his lips were parted ; his eye, seeking eagerly some weapon, glistened. The chain which had supported his shield hung broken about his neck; all else had been lost in the fight. As the Frank, signing to his followers to approach, laid his hand upon the woman’s shoulder, the monk, coming out of the gloom of the wood, confronted him. Surprised, the warrior retreated a step then, drawing himself up haughtily, waited till the monk should pass.

“ Robert, Count of Tours,” said the latter, “ what errand of the king doest thou here ? ”

There was a cold irony in the monk’s voice which brought the blood of shame and ill-suppressed anger to the soldier’s face.

“ And thou, shaven head, whose cursed race the king has banished from the camp, have a care for thy hood ! ” and, loosing his sword from its belt, he laid his hand on the hilt.

Undismayed, the monk stood between the captive and her assailant. Friedgis, crouching on his elbows in the shadow, watched and listened.

“ Stand aside, dog of a priest! The maid is mine.”

“ She is God’s,” replied the monk calmly.

“ I will send him thee in her stead,” answered the count with an oath, drawing the blade from his cloak. But something of authority in the voice and mien of his opponent restrained his arm. “ Who stands between me and mine ? ” he asked hoarsely before he struck.

“ I ! ” said the monk, stepping forward into the light and throwing back his hood.

It was Rainal, friend and counselor of Karle.

Here in the night of the forest the two great powers of the age stood face to face. Force, insatiate and brutal, wandering over the Empire like a Fury with the torch of destruction, — driving the laborer from his field, the patrician from his villa, the king from his throne, and pursuing its victims to the foot of the altar, — and that perilous power of the priest, whose only authority was a moral one, received from an invisible Prince, whose riches excited envy, whose censure awoke wrath, and who, alone, defenseless, on the steps of the altar wet with the blood of the feeble, represented the principles of charity and justice amid the ruins of society.

Roused by the voices from dreams of the Weser, where her kindred had fallen and her Saxon home still smoked, the girl raised her head. Her assailant, trembling with a passion foiled, but fearful of the power he had evoked, quailed before the calm gaze of the priest. The naked sword in his grasp quivered like the hound in leash, but the strength of the hand on the haft was gone, and with a look of hate promising revenge the Frankish noble slunk away.

“ Daughter, thy name ? ” asked the priest gently in her own tongue.

“ Rothilde,” she replied in a dull voice, lifting her eyes to his face.

“ Rothilde,” he repeated, drawing from his robe a silver flask enriched with gems, and laying his hand on her shining hair, “ I baptize thee in the name of the one God, invisible, glorious, and eternal, and of his ever-blessed Son, and of the Holy Ghost, three in one Godhead of all power and perfection, reigning the same forever.”

Immovable, her bead thrown back, her eyes remained fixed upon the priest with the impassive look of the barbarian, indifferent to her captor and her fate. An expression of profound discouragement passed over Rainal’s face. How often had these words of blessed benediction fallen fruitless from his lips, lost in the night of the heathen mind as the sparks which rose from the fire in short spiral flights were lost in the darkness overhead !

“The kings of Babylon carried their captives of old to a land of false gods, but ye are the captives of the true God. Through humiliation he opens the way of repentance, and in sorrow discovers the gates of life.” Saying which, sighing, he made the sign of the cross above her head, and disappeared.

The sound of his footfall had not ceased when Friedgis, rising softly to his feet, stole to the girl’s side. The latter turned her head at his approach, and smiled. Night after night during the long march she had closed her eyes in the consciousness of protection, and his presence now seemed to excite in her no surprise. Neither understood the conversation they had heard, nor knew the speakers. Neither needed to. The language and the forms of passion and charity are known of all.

“ Some water,” she whispered as he bent over her.

He went to the bank, gathered the cool water in the hollow of his hands, and offered it to her with a look of mingled solicitude and love. She drank eagerly, touching her lips to his hands. Taking the child from her lap, and laying it in a grassy hollow between the roots of the tree, he made a pillow of her cloak; and, as if soothed by his presence, unable to contend with fatigue, she laid her head upon it without a word, and closed her eyes. The smile still lingered on her face ; it was a beautiful one, although the mouth was too round and small, the nose too pointed, the features too irregular; nevertheless it possessed that which charms the eye because it first gains the heart. Something of timidity, of sweetness, something of the irresponsibility and childishness with which certain natures defy time and invoke forbearance, was to he seen in her limpid but shrinking blue eye, in her fugitive smile, even in her attitudes and gestures. For a long time Friedgis sat looking into this face. The fire had gone out. The breeze had wandered away. The only sounds were the slumbrous flow of the river and the low breathing of the sleeper. More softly even than he came he returned at length to his place in the shadow. He also was overcome with weariness and the heavy summer night. For days he had walked beside her cart, shielding her from insult and sharing with her his food; for many a night he had watched while she slept. . . .

Suddenly there was the blast of a horn mingled with the neighing of steeds and the cries of hoarse voices. He woke with a start. The east was flushed with red, and the morning light filled the wood. The child was crying at the foot of the tree, but the girl was gone.

With the same quick cry which had burst from his lips on the banks of the Lippe, Friedgis started from his dream. There were neither horses, nor men, nor morning sun. He stood trembling in his narrow room. The lamp burned feebly in the embrasure, and the sound of the horn was the song of the cuckoo without the abbey wall.

IX.

For a moment Friedgis stood still, listening.

“ He does not hear,” thought Passe Rose, impatient, without, and again the cuckoo’s late summer cry sounded plaintively, close under the wall.

Extinguishing the taper and drawing the bolt noiselessly, Friedgis crossed the inner court by the great gate through which Gui had entered, to the small door in the north wall. Pausing again to listen, but hearing no sound, he opened it cautiously the width of his body. The night was dark, and he could see nothing.

“ Is it thou ? ” whispered Passe Rose.

“ Enter,” said Friedgis, drawing back.

“ Nay; come thou out,” replied Passe Rose decisively.

Friedgis stepped over the stone sill, closing the gate softly behind him. Not yet accustomed to the darkness, he stood peering about him.

“ Here — where are thine eyes ? Hush! ” said Passe Rose, as a twig snapped under his foot. u Thou wilt have all the dogs in the yard a-baying. Follow me.”

The dim outlines of her form moved before him down the path leading to the fish-ponds, where was a wooden bench at the edge of the water.

“ They say Ashes have no ears,” she whispered, pulling him by the skirt to the seat beside her. “ How fares the abbot ? Hath the demon returned to vex him ? ” Unable to discern her face, Friedgis heard her laughing. “ In my country,” pursued she, “ the little children have a pastime called ‘ the devil and the saints.’ At a signal, one, being the devil, issues from a bush and seeks to catch the others, who run from tree to tree. These trees are the holy altars. There being more who play than there are trees, some soul is always lost. When the chase is hot and the devil runs well, it is very amusing. I have a mind to play this game yonder,” nodding in the direction of the abbey. “ What thinkest thou, — would they run or no, if I looked in at the dormitory door ? If thou couldst but have seen the monk who set out for Immaburg this morning ! He bad a rare chance. The selfsame devil appeared to him by the roadside. By good luck I was there at the very instant.” And Passe Rose was seized with uncontrollable laughter.

“ One would say she is crazy,” thought Friedgis. “ Dost thou wander over the country both by day and by night? ” he asked mockingly.

“ By St. Martin ! ” rejoined Passe Rose angrily, “ what is that to thee ? Came I here for my pleasure ? I had best minded mine own business, and left thine to thee.” She rose quickly, as if going away, but Friedgis, remaining silent, heard her soon returning. “ Are there sorceresses among thy people, father bear ? ” she asked, sitting down again beside him. “ It is strange,” she pursued, as if soliloquizing, — “ certainly it is strange. Thou canst not see me who am under thy nose, yet this woman, albeit blind, perceives at a distance of twenty thousand paces.” A star, appearing between the clouds, glistened in the pond. Passe Rose went to the water’s edge and leaned over the low bank. “ How deep it looks ! ” she said ; “ nevertheless the bottom is but the length of my arm.” And as the clouds broke away Friedgis saw her, in the starlight, probing the water with a branch of willow. Indicating the depth by her finger, she held up the branch that he might see. “ There are many things that cannot be explained,” she said, shaking her head.

“Look,” she whispered, after a silence, throwing back her cloak from her throat, “ the collar is gone. Canst thou see ? I once knew a Greek who worked in gold. He pretended to have made earrings for the Empress Irene, so delicately designed ” — and Passe Rose half closed her eyes in a manner peculiar to her — “ that one could not see the hook because of doves with spread wings. In truth he worked well, though he was a boaster. His bands were like mine, and his hair was perfumed. He asserted that his nation once governed the world,” she said, with a scornful laugh. “What was I saying ? — ah, yes. There are many things which cannot be explained.” She moved the stick to and fro, watching the ripple rock the stars.

Approaching her suddenly with an abrupt exclamation of impatience, Friedgis tore the branch from her hand and threw it into the water. “What hast thou to tell me? ” he said threateningly.

“ They that wear soft clothing dwell in kings’ houses,” said Passe Rose.

“ In truth she is mad,” thought he, looking down into her eyes.

“In kings’ houses,” repeated Passe Rose significantly.

“ Or foolish,” he said to himself, turning away.

“ Sit thee down here, by me. No ? Well, then, have thine own way. In a strange land one mistrusts every one. That is not just. We are like other people, — the same as thine, — some are good, some are bad.” Then, seeing he was indeed going, she called aloud to him. “ Thou dost not trust me ; but if I told thee the maid was found ” — she let fall the words slowly one by one — “ at Aix — in the king’s household — Ah ! ” she cried, as he turned, his eyes glistening, “ at last! ”

“At Aix?” echoed Friedgis doubtfully.

“ Near by,” said Passe Rose, indicating the direction with her head, “ near by. “But in the king’s household — ah, in the king’s household, near is far, like the star in the pond. I see very well thou dost not believe me,” she continued. observing his face ; “ nevertheless it is true. The gospels said in the king’s household.”

“ The gospels ? ” he said after her, advancing a step.

“ Ay, the gospels ; knowest thou not what are the gospels ? ” said Passe Rose disdainfully leaning over the water and recapturing the branch. “ The gospels lie on the holy altars. There are the psalms, which are quite another thing; also the gospels, — they are altogether different. It is not easy to explain. But have no fear, I speak truly ; a clerk in the church of St. Sebastian read me the words plainly, — in kings’ houses. Wait, we shall see.” Observing, however, that these words made little impression upon him, she dropped another spark upon his duller sense. “ Certainly it is strange. Thy collar follows thee from Ehresberg to the shrine of St. Servais, and thou wilt not seek its owner though I tell thee she is under thy hand at Aix. It is wonderful that after being lost at Ehresberg, where the spoil was divided, — scattered like beads spilled upon the ground, — thy collar should be found in a great wood like that of Hesbaye. That truly is hard to understand,” and Passe Rose nodded her head slowly. “ Aix is so near.”

While the girl was speaking Friedgis had sat down on the bench. “ Why not tell me all thou knowest ? ” he said, searching her face wistfully.

“ Dear Saxon,” laughed Passe Rose, leaping to her feet and seating herself beside him, “ thou hast such thirst thou wouldst empty the cup at a draught. Have patience. Do the cruets in thy country empty themselves at one turning ? Wait, I will tell thee all,—for that am I come. And if I tell thee, it is because I trust thee indeed. I have a friend among the stars,” she continued in a confiding tone. “ Didst thou see the youth who came to inquire after the abbot’s health ? It is he who lost the collar in the wood, and it is he who will seek the maid among the queen’s household. For me he will catch the wind in a net. He hath thy collar now, and will wear it in the eyes of all. Will not the maid recognize her own? Tell me, is she fair, — fairer than I ?

‘ Oh, as candles to a star,
Others to my lady are ! ’ ”

she sang, lifting her eyes and clasping her hands mockingly, after the manner of lovers. An angry frown appeared on his face, and in a twinkling her manner changed. “ Tell me first truly all thou knowest, and I swear to thee that of all the maids in France I will put my finger on the one thou seekest. What happened at Ehresberg ? Who took her from thee ? ” The confidence of the girl’s manner possessed an irresistible fascination, and Friedgis began to relate what had taken place on the banks of the Lippe. So graphic were his narrative and gestures that Passe Rose, watching every word as it fell from his lips, seemed to see the actors in their places reënacting their parts before her eyes ; and when the Frank, about to lay his hand on the sleeping girl, was disturbed by the monk, “ Seigneur,” she cried, divining what was to follow, “ it was the abbot.”

“The abbot!” exclaimed Friedgis, with a gesture towards the monastery.

“ Ay, he was with the king in Saxony. Sawest thou his face ? ”

Friedgis shook his head. “ Not well; his back was turned.”

“ Hast thou not seen him since his return ? ” she asked eagerly.

“ Nay, as thou knowest, he came but lately. Thou rememberest the day. I was yonder in the tower ringing the bells, and saw the slaves going out to greet him, bearing boughs and chanting, and the young girls strewing flowers. He was already ill, and hath not appeared since. Believest thou the monk of the wood was he ? ”

Passe Rose nodded. “ And the other — the soldier?”

“ Him I saw well. Moreover, the monk named him. Knowest thou one among the king’s leaders called Robert of Tours ? ”

Passe Rose drew herself up quickly, as if not believing her ears.

“ Robert of Tours ? ” she repeated mechanically, her eyes dilating.

“So he named him.”

Clasping her hands behind her head, Passe Rose had the manner of one going over the list of her acquaintances, as if knowing every lord of the kingdom as well as she knew her ten fingers. But her heart was beating fast. “ Robert of Tours,” talking to herself, as it were; and then, quickly, “ Well, afterwards ? ”

“ When they were gone,” continued Friedgis, “ I fell asleep. My wound bled. For days I had not closed an eye — it may be that I swooned. In the morning she was gone,” and he described his fruitless search in the confusion of the camp.

The organization of the army had been dissolved in a night. The German auxiliaries had been dismissed ; the king’s vassals, having feasted together in Paderborn till break of day, released from service, were gathering their followers in troops, and each, with his share of booty and convoy of captives, sought his own domain. The air was filled with sounds of lowing cattle, of axles creaking under their loads; the blast of horns and hoarser shouts of command echoed through the wood, above whose tree-tops columns of dust marked the windings of the road. Friedgis told how, frenzied with excitement and apprehension, he ran from place to place, questioning those who understood him not, jeered at for a madman, cursed for refusal to obey; till at last, faint from his bleeding wound and incapable of further resistance, he was tripped by an archer, and bound, trembling as a child, to the cross-bar of a baggage wagon, amid the laughter of the soldiery. “ If thou sayest truly that she is found — though it were in the king’s own chamber ” — A spasm of grief and anger contracted his muscles, and he walked slowly into the shadow, beyond the girl’s searching gaze.

Passe Rose had been more occupied with her own thoughts than with the Saxon’s tale, but hearing his retreating footsteps, and believing that he was indeed going, an exclamation of impatience escaped her, and. leaping to her feet, she ran after him. “ Whither now?” she said, standing in his path. “ To Aix ? Truly — I believe . . . Aix, Aix ” — she cried, unable to find words with which to measure his folly. “ As well seek the star in the pond ! ” She took him by the arm and led him back to the seat. For some minutes they sat beside each other in silence. A fragmentary sentence escaped now and then the girl’s lips, as if she were endeavoring to reason with her companion while her own thought was elsewhere. “ Plunge thine arm in to the shoulder — that were a child’s folly ! Patience.” Her eyes, fixed on the star shining in the pond, shone also. “ Have patience,” she repeated abstractedly; and again, persuasively, “ Have patience.” Some deeper emotion drove her hurrying thought before it; her eyes dilated, as if fascinated by expanding horizons. With a rapid gesture she passed her hand over her forehead, brushing hack her hair. “ I know what thou thinkest. When I came for the collar, thou saidst, A girl who has lost her jewel, a fool seeking stars in the pond ! Look at me, — I have wasted twenty summers. The Queen Hildegarde was alive then, — twenty summers lost! Hast thou seen the late seed shoot up in the harvest moon ? All the summer it sleeps, and now it stirs and pushes, opening its eye in a single summer night, to see its fellows grown and the season gone. Twenty seasons the blood stirred in my veins, and I knew it not. I slept like the seed, in the moss underfoot. Suddenly I opened my eyes : it was in the wood of Hesbaye. When I told thee I found the collar there, I lied ; he gave it me. Till then I slept, ate, slept; played, like a child, with the stars in the pond. But now ! ” She stood up, and stretched out her hands passionately to the sky with a short, exulting laugh. “ Being awake, do they think me content to comb wool and make jelly of quince, — life being short and twenty seasons gone ? By the saints ! I would like to know one thing : how happens it that one star shines in the sky, and its fellow in the pond ? We will see, — we will see.”

11 A king’s captain, — that is not much,” said Friedgis derisively.

She answered him with a quick glance of contempt, and turned away her head, with a scornful movement of her shoulders. Then sitting down beside him and looking up into his face, “ Knowest thou not, dear porter, that were he the abbot’s swineherd ” — She paused. “ Said I not there were some things hard to understand ? So thou seekest thy maid Rothilde. Is it her jewels that thou covetest ? Nay, nay, nay ” — Her voice died away and her eyes filled with dreams. “ Let him pass over this body with the wheels of his car — if he will — if he will ” —

“ What is that to me ? ” said Friedgis, observing her attentively.

“ What is that to thee ? ” she repeated, breaking away from her thought with an effort. “ Seigneur! it signifies that I wish thee well. When the heart is full, then it has the most room. Reason now a little. The king’s captain — Peste ! the name escapes me,” she cried, beating her head with her hand : “it hath so long a Latin sound ; yet I know it well. Surely thou knowest.”

Friedgis shook his head.

“ He does not know,” thought Passe Rose. “ Never mind,” she said aloud. “ He will come again shortly, and hath promised to bring me word. Wait, and at the first chance observe the abbot. He is sure now to recover his health. I have the devil which tormented him safe in hand. Hark ! ” she whispered, grasping his arm.

The sound of footsteps was heard on the path near the gate. Friedgis pulled the girl into the shadow, where, shielded from view, they saw the prior emerge upon the walk bordering the pond.

“Would I were a devil indeed,” muttered Passe Rose under her breath. “ I would plague Lis soul willingly.”

With a gesture of silence, Friedgis covered her mouth with his palm.

The prior stood for a moment looking at the stars reflected in the basin; then walked slowly along the bank, like one who thinks himself alone,

“ Quick ! get thee gone,” whispered Passe Rose. “ He saw nothing. Farewell, but speak not to the abbot till I see thee again.” And pushing Friedgis by the shoulder, without waiting his reply, she turned in the direction the prior had taken. He had stopped at the outlet of the pond, where a thin sheet of water flowed over a culvert of stone. His hood was thrown back, and his pale face shone in the starlight against the black background of verdure. “ Here is one not easily frightened by such demons as I,” thought Passe Rose.

As she stole cautiously by, the cry of the cuckoo sounded down the road. “By St. Martin! the wood is full of birds,” she said to herself, sinking down behind a bush. “ Never heard I a cuckoo with so clear a song in the month of winds.” Crouching behind the leaves, she distinguished footsteps on the road, and presently low voices in earnest conversation. She endeavored to part the screen of branches, hut every motion resulted in such rustling that she was forced to sit still, through fear of betraying her presence. By dint of straining her ears she made out two voices besides the prior’s ; and hearing at intervals a metallic clank, “ One is armed,” she said. For a full hour, cramped in posture and wet with dew, Passe Rose fretted and chafed at being able neither to hear a word nor see a face. At last the voices ceased, steps were heard retreating down the road; then the gate was fastened, and everything was still.

“ May the saints keep my bones from the ague,” she muttered, stretching her stiffened limbs and issuing from her hiding-place. The thought of her prolonged absence caused her to hasten, but as she gained the road a small parchment scroll caught her eye. She picked it up quickly, and while hurrying down the hill, her ear alert for those who preceded her, opened the roll sufficiently to perceive that its inner surface was covered with writing.

“ Perhaps these are the new characters of which the clerk in the church of St. Sebastian spoke,” she said, thrusting the parchment in her bosom with the dagger and the key.

While she lay concealed, the moon had risen, — not yet so high, however, but that its beams, grazing the hill’s crest, threw long shadows down the descending slope, on which the girl glided till she reached the level below. Here the plain was flooded with light, and as she hesitated on the edge of the forest the flutter of a wood-dove above her head caused her to start. “ There is no woman in Maastricht, having this place to cross at night,” she said to herself, setting boldly forth, “ who would not thank the saints for so comforting a moon.” Her eyes were abroad to scan the smallest moving thing, but nothing was astir, and her thoughts were quickly occupied by the events of the day. “ So, Robert of Tours, armed, and with two followers at thy back, thy sword becomes limp as a hempen strand at the sight of the abbot’s face ! Had I been in the maid’s stead — a monk’s eye is no better than a maid’s ” — and hers glittered sharper than her dagger’s point. Then came Gui of Tours, leading the horse on which she rode in the wood of Hesbaye, or riding at the head of the troop across the market-place, or following close behind her, through the alders beside the foaming brook, driving away all power to deal with the plans half formed in her busy brain. For, intrigued as she was by the visitors whom the prior received at midnight, and whose parchment burned in her bosom ; perplexed, too, at the thought of the demon, whose evil practices were, perhaps, already recited to the king; and alarmed, above all, at what might follow upon her lover’s search for the Saxon maiden, — with all these thoughts her will was as limp to cope as the Frank’s sword. In truth she was eager only to gain her quiet room, to give herself over to the dreams which border sleep, content to put over for the morrow all devices and plans; for all day long she had sipped a cup which never before had touched her lips, and never had Gui of Tours himself, after the banquet, more need of sleep to steady the pulse and clear the brain than she.

As she turned the corner into the street without the garden wall, a glimmer of light from her own window shone full in her face. Feeble though it was because of the moon, and blurred by the pane of horn, nevertheless there it twinkled, beyond dispute, like a wicked, winking eye, and Passe Rose stopped short, one hand on her beating heart, the other clasping the key. An overmastering presentiment, beyond the warrant of reason, seized her like a hand that clutches the throat and cannot be loosed. The quick defense of innocenee falsely accused, the hot explanation of malign appearances, questions which tore her heart and looks which struck at pride, a sickening apprehension and rallying rush of bravery, were all pressed into the second she paused dismayed at the sight of the glimmering lamp in her chamber turret; and innocent as she declared herself to be, the key in her fingers, stolen from its peg on the kitchen wall, was heavier on her conscience than in her hand. Being free of all guile, certainly it were hard to enter the key warily in the grating lock, like a thief or a culprit that may not look up for shame. But this she had no need to do, for the gate was ajar, and within stood the hoy rubbing the wonder out of his eyes, and the two maids (who loved her not overmuch), with looks fitter than words to rouse wrath, and under the kitchen eaves Jeanne herself, stupefied with the dread of harm rather than the thought of evil.

Passe Rose had certainly thrown her arms about Jeanne’s neck and told her the whole story, even to the fay’s girdle, but for the scorn on the maids’ faces, which hardened her temper, and turned her hearing from gentleness to boldness and defiance. Perhaps Jeanne guessed as much, for with a gesture she bade them and the hoy retire. But before a word could be spoken Werdric came down the chamber stair, with the lamp in his hand.

For a moment the three stood silent in the full light of the moon.

It were strange indeed, were it not so common, that in one breathless second feeling can gather such headway that neither love nor reason can stay its course, though we know its end is folly, and desire nothing less than to follow its lead. The barriers which oppose its vent do but concentrate its power, and so it was that the very pleading of Jeanne’s face and the challenge of innocence in Passe Rose’s eye gathered Werdric’s anger into one terrible word.

“ Strumpet ! ” he said, not believing his own ears.

A quick cry escaped Jeanne’s heart, but Passe Rose only shivered, — so the bare flesh recoils under the first lash of the scourge. The blood ebbed from her cheeks, but the fire leaped to her eyes, and she made a step toward Werdric that seemed to dare him to strike again.

“ Strumpet ! ” he repeated, goaded now by madness and the defiance of her eye.

The word came like a blow full in the face, but the girl neither spoke nor stirred. She stood for a moment like one dazed ; then hung the key mechanically on its peg, and went slowly up the stair.

Jeanne sprang to follow her, but Werdric, sullen and ashamed, closed the door. “ Shame ! ” cried Jeanne, all a-tremhle, and clutching his arm. Then, all strength deserting her, she sank at his feet, tears of old age running free as a child’s. “ Who’d a thought it,” she moaned between her sobs, rocking to and fro, — “ the gift of God — who’d a thought it — from thee.”

The moon traveled slowly across the turret window-pane, and its light began to blend with the coming dawn, and still Passe Rose sat on the bed’s edge. Gone were the dream spirits that hide under maidens’ pillows; a cruel word was written across the floor on the spot where her eyes were fixed, and every pulse of the blood hurled it afresh in her aching ears. Now indeed might the garden sparrows have flown fearlessly to her shoulders, so like she seemed to the statue in the church porch, whose dull eyes stare always at the same place, and whose raiment of stone never yields to the breeze.

At last she rose, and in an absent way, as it were, unwound the veil from her head and shoulders, and unfastened her dress, broidered by Jeanne’s own fingers, — the dress whose close-fitting sleeves leaving hare the lower arm, and girdle clasping her waist, was her especial delight and pride. She gave no heed to its broidered hem, nor to the clasp Werdric himself had wrought for her, and going to her chest lifted its heavy lid. There at the bottom lay the robe in which Werdric had found her in the wood. The edge was frayed and the color faded, and but one lacingcord remained in the sleeves. As she lifted it from the chest, the silver sous clicked together in the purse which fell from its folds. She put on the dress, ill-fitting now as it was; then, stooping, loosed her sandals, for shoes she had none when she came. Having closed the lid, she opened the purse, and took therefrom one copper piece, the amount she had with her when she fled from the merchants at St. Denis’s fair, and thrust it, with the dagger about which was rolled the prior’s parchment, into her bodice. All this she did quickly, without deliberation ; yet will not even the young shoot let go the soil without a wrench, and so Passe Rose, before she turned to go, struggled with tears, and kissed the golden sun blazoned on her pillow, hiding there her head. The purse was still in her hand when she rose, and an image of Mary the Blessed Mother looked down upon her as she lifted her head. A spasm of anger and pride drove the tears from her eyes, and she hurled the purse at the image in sudden scorn, as the words of the Saxon came to mind: “ Of what avail the gods, since they do not hear ! Henceforth they are nothing to me,” and went down the kitchen stair.

It was unlucky for all that Jeanne, after sobbing the whole night through, had fallen asleep in the gray of morning, and that Werdrie only was astir ; for had Jeanne been there the girl had never crossed the garden unhindered. In vain had Werdrie sought to justify the heat of his temper ; but his pride was stubborn, and the greater one’s own the less one allows for that of another. He had risen from bed to escape the presence of Jeanne, and was placing the fagots upon the hearth when Passe Rose came down the stair. He saw the dress she wore, and knew its import well, but the words of command he summoned failed him when he saw her face, for the spirit of the girl lorded his. She passed where he stood, paying him no more heed than the bundle of fagots in his hand, and his eyes followed her hare feet down the path and through the arch, gazing with a stupid stare at the place where she disappeared.

It was then that Jeanne, whose sleep was light, came from her room ; and, although forbidden by Werdrie to hold any converse with the girl, unable longer to restrain her desire, stole timidly up Passe Rose’s stair. Before she had gained the chamber above, Werdrie sprang to the gate. His heart was full of remorse, and he could not hide the issue of Jeanne’s quest to that empty room. The street was vacant and still. He ran to the market-place. No one was yet abroad, save the rickety crone in the porch of the church of St. Sebastian, wondering to see a man at that hour running hither and thither, tearing his hair.

The wood of Plesbaye was still dark when Passe Rose left the high-road to follow the wood-cutters’ path into its friendly screen. The little birds, shaking the night dew from their feathers in the branches above, called to her as she passed, turning their heads sidewise, but she paid them no heed. A hare loped down the path, paused a bowshot beyond her, then, dropping its ears, plunged through the briers. Still Passe Rose went on, with only one thought in her mind : never again to pass Werdrie’s door, nor hear the sound of his voice. The path narrowed like a meadow rill, till, lost in the thicket, all ways seemed alike.

The day passed, the night came ; still she went on. The night! Do you know what night is in the wood ? Without, among the cabins on the plain, it approaches slowly, with manifold signs. The sun’s edge becomes visible through the haze, touches the pine-tops on the horizon, blazes awhile between their branches, then disappears, as a beacon fire expires on the mountain. But it is not yet night. Saffron streamers shoot to the zenith; a cloud lies athwart them, like a lance dipped in blood ; above, the wool-white clouds begin to glow; higher still a fleecy film of vapor throbs with rose. These are its heralds. In a moment they will float black as funeral garments upon the opal sky. And yet it is not night. A single star opens its eye ; as at a signal, one by one, hundred by hundred, thousand by thousand, the hosts of heaven come forth. Now the lights twinkling in the cabins are extinguished, the tired lie down to sleep, and it is night. But in the forest there is no sun, no sky, no star. The light flees from its depths without warning, and swiftly, noiselessly, like the leap of the leopard, night is there. It enwraps the tall trees as the dead are enwrapped in their grave-clothes. High up only, the topmost leaves are free to flutter a little, so thick is the darkness. And oh, the sounds below ! more ominous than the plain’s silence — that stealthy footfall in the dry moss, that snapping twig, that rustle of leaves where no wind is. Here one is observed, yet sees nothing. Nay, look ! two shining lights where no light is, — for the glow-worm is afar in the ploughed field, the firefly is abroad among the wheat-heads. These are the wood-stars that shine in the thicket, whether of timid doe or panther ready to spring, God knows! but the heart bounds, and the ear strains to catch the breath of the nostrils. Fly — but how, in this jungle ? A nightbird fans the face with his wing. Oh for the clue that he follows ! Hark ! far off, hurling the living apart, a dead tree crashes, pauses, and falls in thunder. Wrap thy garment about thee, Passe Rose ; draw it tightly over thy head and shut out this night; for to wait and watch and listen are beyond the endurance of reason. Hark again! is it the wind ? — for within one cannot tell what is taking place without. It comes from afar, like a murmur of meadow waters; then nearer, a roar as of surf on the shore. The rain overhead ! but below, for a long time all is still, as in the sea depths, till at last the bending branches drip, and every terrifying sound is drowned in a low, monotonous patter. Now dream, Passe Rose, if thou canst, while the wakeful ear is lulled to slumber. Surely this is the rain on the roof of thatch; thou art safe within the mud walls of the cabin ; the night thrush sings in the bush, and the blessed stars look down upon thee.

Arthur Sherburne Hardy.