« НазадПродовжити »
THE WAGER OF BATTLE.
A TALE OF THE FEUDAL AGES.
BY W. GILMORE SIMMS, AUTHOR OF "GUY RIVERS, " " THE TEMASSEE,"
," “RICHARD WURDIS," &c.
sation. I was conscious that I had been dreaming, The analysis of the dreaming faculty has never and that I had seen a crowd of persons, either in long yet been made. The nearest approach to it is in our procession, or engaged in some great state cereown time, and by the doctors of Phrenology. The i monial. But of the particulars—the place, the parties, suggestion of a plurality of mental attributes, and of the purpose, or the period, I had not the most distant their independence, one of the other, affords a key recollection. I was conscious, however, of an ex. to some of the difficulties of the subject, without cited pulse, and of a seeling so restless, as made me, altogether enabling us to penetrate the sanctuary. for a moment, fancy that I had fever. Such, howMany difficulties remain to be overcome, if we rely ever, was not the case. I rose, threw on my robe de upon the ordinary modes of thinking. My own chambre, and went to the window. The moon was notion is, simply, that the condition of sleep is one in her meridian; the whole landscape was flickering which by no means affects the mental nature. I think with the light silvery haze with which she carpeted it probable that the mind, accustomed to exercise, her pathway. From the glossy surface of the orange thinks on, however deep may be the sleep of the leaves immediately beneath the window, glinted a physical man; that the highest exercise of the think thousand diamond-like points of inexpressible bright. ing faculty—that which involves the imagination- ness; while over all the fields was spread a fleecy is, perhaps, never more acutely free to work out its softness, that was doubly pure and delicate in contact problems, than when unembarrassed by the cares and with the sombre foliage of the great forest, to the anxieties of the temperament and form; and that very foot of which it stretched. There was nothing , dreaming is neither more nor less than habitual in the scene before me that was not at once gentle thought, apart from the ordinary restraints of hu- and beautiful; nothing which, by the most remote manity, of which the memory, at waking, retains a connection, could possibly suggest an idea of darkmore or less distinct consciousness. This thought ness or of terror. I gazed upon the scene only for a may or may not have been engendered by the topics few moments. The night was cold, and a sudden which have impressed or interested us during the shivering chillness which it sent through all my frame, day; but this is not necessary, nor is it inevitable. counseled me to get back 10 bed with all possible We dream precisely as we think, with suggestions expedition. I did so, but was not successful in arising to the mind in sleep, spontaneously, as they wooing the return of those slumbers which had been do continually when awake, without any special so unusually banished from mine eyes. For more provocation; and our dreams, in all probability, did than an hour I lay tossing and dissatisfied, with my not our memory fail us at awaking, would possess thoughts flitting from subject to subject with all the that coherence, proportion and mutual relation of caprice of an April butterfly. When I again slept, parts, which the ordinary use of the ratiocinative however, I was again conscious of a crowd. A mulfaculties requires. I have no sort of doubt that the titude of objects passed in prolonged bodies before sleep of the physical man may be perfect, even while my sight. Troops of glitter ng forms then occupied the mind is at work, in a high state of activity, and the canvas, one succeeding to the other regularly, even excitement in its mighty store-house. The eye but without any individuality of object or distinct may be shut, the ear closed, the tongue sealed, the feature. But I could catch at intervals a bright flash, laste inappreciative, and the nerves of touch locked as of a plume or jewel, of particular size and splendor, up in the fast embrace of unconsciousness, while leading me to the conviction that what I beheld was thought, fancy, imagination, comparison and cansality, the progress of some great state ceremonial, or the are all busy in the most keen inquiries, and in the most triumphal march of some well-appointed army. But wonderful creations. But my purpose is not now to whether the processio i moved under the eagles of insist upon these phenomena, and my speculations are the Roman, the horse-tails of the Ottoman, or the only meant properly to introduce a vision of my own; lion banner of England, it was impossible to ascerone of those wild, strange, foreign fancies which some- tain. I could distinguish none of the ensigns of times so unexpectedly people and employ our slum- batile. The movements were all slow and regular. bers—coherent, seemingly, in all its parts, yet as There was nothing of strive or hurry-none of the utterly remote as can well be imagined from the clamor of invasion or exultation of victory. The lopics of daily experience and customary reflection. spectacle passed on with a measured pomp, as if it
belonged to some sad and gloomy rite, where the I had probably been asleep a couple of hours, when splendor rather increased the solemnity to which it I was awakened with some oppressive mental sen- was simply tributary.
to pursue it. Each of these avenues bad its decora. The scene changed even as I gazed. The crowd tions, similarly elaborate and ornale with the rest of had disappeared. The vast multitude was gone from the interior. Vines and Powers, stars and wreaths, sight, and mine eye, which had strained after the crosses and circles—with such variety of form and last of their retreating shadows, now dropped its lids color as the kaleidoscope only might produce in emuon vacancy. Soon, however, instead of the great lation of the fancy–were all present, but symmetriwaste of space and sky, which left me without place cally duplicated, so as to produce an equal corresof rest for sight, I beheld the interior of a vast and pondence on each side, figure answering to figure. magnificent hall, most like the interior of some lofiy But these decorations were made tributary to other cathedral. The style of the building was arabesque, objects. Numerous niches opened to the sight, as at once richly and elaborately wrought, and sombre. you penetrated the mighty avenue, in which stood The pointed arches, reached by half-moon involu- noble and comnianding forms ;-statues of knights in tions, with the complex carvings and decorations of armor; of princes; great men who had swayed nacornice, column and ceiling, at once carried me back lions; heroes, who had encountered dragons for the to those wondrous specimens which ihe art of the safety of the race; and sainily persons, who had Saracen has left rather for our admiration than called down blessings from heaven upon the nalion rivalry. The apartment was surrounded by a double in the hour of its danger and its sear. The greater row of columns; slender shafts, which seemed rather number of these stood erect as when in life; but the antennæ of graceful plants than bulks and bodies some sat, some reclined, and others knelt; but all, of stone and marble, rising for near thirty feet in save for the hue of the marble in which they were height, then gradually spreading in numerous carya. wrought—so exquisite was the art which they had tides, resembling twisted and unfolding serpents, to employed-would have seemed to be living even the support of the vast roof. All appearance of bulk, then. Around the apariment which I have been deof cumbrousness, even of strength, seemed lost in scribing, were double aisles, or rather avenues, the elaborate delicacy with which these antennæ formed by sister columns, corresponding in workstretcbed themselves from side to side, uniting the manship and style, if not in size, with those wbich several arches in spans of the most airy lightness and sustained the dome. These were deep and sepul. beauty. The great dome for which they furnished chral in shadow, but withal very attractive and love-, the adequate support, rose too high in the but par- ly places; retreats of shade, and silence, and solemn tial light which filled the hall, to enable me to gather beauty; autumnal walks, where the heart which more than an imperfect idea of its character and had been wounded by the shafts and sorrows of the workmanship. But of its great height the very in- world, might fly, and be secure; and where the capacity to define its character afforded me a suffi- form, wandering lonely among the long shadows of cient notion. Where the light yielded the desired grove and pillar, and in the presence of noble and opportunity, I found the flowery beauty of the archi- holy images of past worth and virtue, might still tecture, on every hand, to be alike inimitable. To maintain the erect stature which belongs to elevated describe it would be impossible. A thousand ex. fancies, to purest purposes, and great designs forever quisite points of light, the slenderest beams, seemed working in the soul. to depend, like so many icicles, from arch and eleva- But it would be idle to attempt to convey, unless tion-to fringe the several entrances and windows— by generalities, any definite idea of the vast and to hang from every beam and rafter; and over all, magnificent theatre, or of that singular and sombre to cast an appearance so perfectly aerial, as to make beauty with which I now found myself surrounded. me doubtful, at moments, whether the immense in- Enough, that, while I was absorbed, with my whole terior which I saw them span, with the massive but imagination deeply excited by the architectural grandusky ceiling which they were intended to sustain, deur which I surveyed, I had grown heedless of the were not, in fact, a little world of wood, with the progress of events among certain human actors-if blue sky dimly overhead, a realm of vines and I may be thus permitted to designate the creatures flowers, with polished woodland shafts, lavishly and of a vision—which had meanwhile taken their places artfully accumulated in the open air, so as to pro- in little groups in a portion of the ample area. duce, in an imperfect light, a delusive appearance of While mine eyes had been uplisted in the contemplaarchitectural weight, magnificence and majesty. An tion of things inanimate, it appears that a human immense avenue, formed of columns thus embraced action was in progress on a portion of the scene beand bound together by the most elaborate and fan- low. I was suddenly aroused by a stir and bustle, tastic carvings, linked vines, boughs, flowers and followed by a faint murmur, as of applauding voices, serpents, opened before me, conducting the eye which at length reached my ears, and diverted my through far vistas of the same description, thus con- gaze from the remote and lofty, to the rich tesselated firming the impression of cathedral avenues of forest. pavement of the apartment. If the mere splendor of The eye, beguiled along these passages, wandered the structure had so fastened upon my imagination, into others quite as interminable, with frequent what can I say of the scene which now commanded glimpses into lateral ranges quite as wonderful and my attention! There was the pomp of courts, the ample, until the dim perspective was shut, not be pride of majesty, the glory of armor, the grace and cause of the termination of the passage, but be charm of aristocratic beauty, in all her plumage, to cause of the painful inability in the sight any further make me forgetful of all other display. I now beheld
groups of noble persons, clad in courtly dresses, in taken. A stir ensued among the spectators. The knightly armor, sable and purple, with a profusion of crowd divided before an outer door, and those more gold and jewels, rich scarfs, and plumes of surpassing distant bent forward, looking in this direction with an splendor. Other groups présented me with a most eager anxiety which none seemed disposed to conimposing vision of that gorgeous church, whose ceal. They were not long kept in suspense. A sudden mitred prelates could place their feet upon the necks unfolding of the great valves of the entrance followof mightiest princes, and sway, for good or evil, the ed, when a rush was made from without. The tread destinies of conflicting nations. There were priests of heavy footsteps, the waving of tall plumes, and a clad in flowing garments, courtiers in silks, and murmur from the multitude, announced the presence noblest dames, who had swayed in courts from im- of other parties for whom the action of the drama memorial time. Their long and rustling trains were was kept in abeyance. The crowd opened from upborne by damsels and pages, lovely enough, and right to lefi, and one of the company stood alone, richly enough arrayed, to be apt ministers in the with every eye of the vast assemblage fixed curivery courts of Love himself. A chair of state, mas. ously upon his person. sive, and richly draped in purple and gold, with golden insignia, over which hung the jeweled tiara
CHAPTER III. of sovereignty, was raised upon a dais some five
And well, apart from every consideration yet to be feet above the level of the crowd. This was filled developed, might they gaze upon the princely form by a tall and slender person, to whom all made obei- that now stood erect, and with something approachsance as to an imperial master. He was habited in ing to defiance in his air and manner, in the centre sable, a single jewel upon his brow, bearing up a
of the vast assemblage. He was habited in chain massive shock of feathers as black and glossy as if armor, the admirable work, in all probability, of the wrought out of sparkling coal. The air of majesty shops of Milan. This, though painted or stained in his action, the habitual command upon his brow, thoroughly black, yet threw out a glossy lustre of left me in no doubt of his sovereign state, even had incredible brighiness. Upon his breast, as if the love the obeisance of the multitude been wanting. But token of some noble damsel, a broad scarf of the he looked not as if long destined to hold sway in most delicate blue was seen to float. A cap of velmortal provinces. His person was meagre, as if vet, with a double loop in front, bearing a very large wasted by disease. His cheeks were pale and hol- brilliant, from which rose a bunch of sable plumes, low; while a peculiar brightness of the eyes shone in was discarded from his brows the moment that he painful contrast with the pale and ghastly color of his stood within the royal presence. He stood for a face. Behind his chair stood one who evidently held brief space, seeming to survey the scene, then adthe position of a favorite and trusted counselor. Ivanced with a bold and somewhat rapid step, as if a He was magnificently habited, with a profusion of natural spirit of fearlessness had been stimulated into jewels, which nevertheless added but little to the eagerness by a consciousness of wrong and a just noble air and exquisite symmetry of his person. At feeling of indignation. His face was scarcely less intervals he could be seen to bend over to the ear of noble than his form and manner, but it was marked the prince, as if whispering him in secret. This by angry passions—was red and swollen—and as he show of intimacy, if pleasing to his superior, was yet passed onward to the foot of the throne, he glanced evidently of different effect upon many others in the fiercely on either hand, as if seeking for an enemy. assembly. The costume of the place was that of the In spite of the fearlessness of his progress, I could Norman sway in England, before the Saxons had
now perceive that he was under constraint and in quite succeeded,—through the jealousy entertained duresse. A strong body of halberdiers closed upon by the kings, of their nobles,—in obtaining a share his course, and evidently stood prepared and watchof those indulgences which finally paved the way to ful of his every movement. As he approached the their recognition by the conquerors. Yet, even in throne, the several groups gave way before him, and this respect of costume, I was conscious of some dis- he stood, with unobstructed vision, in the immediate crepancies. Some of the habits worn were decidedly presence of the monarch. For an instant he remainSpanish; but as these were mingled with others ed erect, with a mien unsubdued and almost haughty, which bore conclusive proof of the presence of the while a low murmur-as I fancied, of indignationwearers in the wars of the Crusades, it was not im
rose in various portions of the hall. The face of the probable that they had been adopted as things of fancy, king himself seemed suddenly flushed, and a lively from a free communion of the parties with knights play of the muscles of his countenance led me to of Spain wbom they had encountered in the Holy Land. believe that he was about to give utterance to his
But I was not long permitted to bestow my regards anger; but, at this moment, the stranger sunk graceon a subject so subordinate as dress. The scene was fully but proudly upon his knee, and, bending his evidently no mere spectacle. Important and adverse forehead, with a studied humility in his prostration, interests were depending-wild passions were at disarmed, if it had been felt, the indignation of his work, and the action of a very vivid drama was sovereign. This done, he rose to his feet with a about to open upon me. A sudden blast of a trumpet manly ease, and stood silent, in an attitude of expecpenetrated the hall. I say blast, though the sounds tation, but with a calm, martial erectness, as rigid as were faint as if subdued by distance. But the note if cut from the inflexible rock. itself, and the instrument could not have been mis
The king spoke, but the words were inaudible to
my ears. There was a murmur from various parts conscience free from remorse and self-reproach. His of the assembly. Several voices followed that of the eyes were of a mild, but holily expressive blue; monarch, but of these I could not comprehend the and, beneath their rather thin white brows, were purport. I could only judge of the character of what declarative of more than human benevolence. His was said by its startling effect upon the stranger. If forehead was very large and lofty, of great breadih excited before, he seemed to be almost maddened and compass, in the regions of ideality and sublimity,
His eyes followed the murmuring voices as well as causality; while his hair, thick still, and from side to side of the assembly, with a fearful depending from behind his head in numerous waving flashing energy, which made them dilale, as if en curls, was, like his beard, of the most silvery whitedangering the limits of their reddened sockets. A ness. This was spread, massively, upon his breast, like feverish and impatient fury threw his form into which it covered almost to the waist. His comspasmodic action. His figure seemed to rise and plexion was very pale, but of a clear whiteness, and swell, towering above the rest. His arms were harmonized sweetly with the antique beauty and stretched in the direction of the assailing voices. power of his head. His costume differed in style, His clenched fist first seemed to threaten the speakers texture and stuff, entirely from that which prevailed with instant violence. Unintimidated by the pre- in the assembly. A loose white robe, which extendsence in which he stood, his appearance was that ofed from his shoulders to the ground, was bound a subject, not only too strong for his superior, but about his body by a belt of plain Spanish leather, 100 confident and presumptuous for his own self- and worn with a grace and nobleness perfectly masubjection, even in the moment of greatest peril 10 jestical. His feet were clothed in Jewish sandals. himself.
But there was nothing proud or haughty in his maHe resumed his composure at last, and the murmur jesty. On the contrary, it was in contrast with the ceased around him. There was deep silence, and evident humility in his eye and gesture, that his the eyes of the stranger were fixed rigidly upon those dignity of bearing betrayed itself. This seemed 10 of his prince. The latter was evidently moved. His be as much the fruit of pure and elevated thoughts, hand was extended-something he spoke which I calm and resigned, as of that superior physical oragain lost; but, strange to say, the reply of the stran- ganization which made this aged man tower as greatly ger came sharply and distinctly to my ear.
above the rest, in person, as he certainly did in air “Swear! Why should I swear? Should I call and manner. upon the Holy Evangel as my witness, when I see He advanced, as he appeared, to the foot of the not my accuser ? Let him appear. Let him look throne, gracefully sunk before it, then rising, stood me in the face, if there be lord or knight in this in quiet, as awaiting the royal command to speak. assembly so bold, and tell me that I am guilty of this His appearance seemed to fill the assembly with treason. Sire! I challenge my accuser. I have no eager curiosity. A sudden hush prevailed as he other answer to the charge!"
approached, the natural result of that awe whích
great superiority usually inspires in the breast of CHAPTER IV.
ignorance. There was but one face among the The lips of the King moved. The nobleman who spectators that seemed to betray no curiosity as he stood behind his throne, and whom I conceived to came in sight. This was that of the accused. With be his favorite, bent down and received his orders; the first coming of the ancient man, I had instincthen disappeared behind one of the columns whose tively fixed my gaze upon the countenance of the richly decorated, but slender shafts, rose up directly nobleman. I could easily discern that his lips were behind him, like some graceful stems of the forest, compressed as if by sudden effort, while his usually over which the wildering vine, and the gaudy para- florid features were covered with a momentary palesite clambers with an embrace that kills. But a few ness. This emotion, with the utter absence of that moments elapsed when the favorite re-appeared. air of curiosity which marked every other visage, He was accompanied by a person, whose peculiar struck me, at once, as somewhat significant of guilt. form and aspect will deserve especial description. “Behold thy accuser!” exclaimed the sovereign.
In that hall, in the presence of princes, surrounded “He! the bookworm !-lhe dreamer !--the madby knights and nobles of the proudest in the land, man!-sorcerer to the vulgar, but less than dotard to the person newly come—though seemingly neither the wise! Does your majesty look to a star-gazer knight nor noble, was one of the most lofty in his car. for such evidence as will degrade with shame the riage, and most imposing and impressive in his look nobles of your realm? Sire!-if no sorcerer, this and manner. He was not only taller than the race old man is verily distraught! He is lunatic or vileof men in general, but he was obviously taller than a madman, or a bought servitor of Satan!” any in that select circle by which he was surrounded. The venerable man thus scornfully denounced, Nor did his features misbeseem his person. These stood, meanwhile, looking sorrowful and subdued, were singularly noble, and of Italian cast and cha- but calm and unruffled, at the foot of the dais. His racter. His face was large, and of the most perfect eye rested a moment upon the speaker, then turned, oval. Though that of a man who had probably as if to listen to that speech, with which the favorite, seen and suffered under sixty winters, it still bore behind the throne of the monarch, appeared to reply the proofs of a beauty once remarkable. It still to the language of the accused. This I did not hear, retained a youthful freshness, which spoke for a nor yet that which the sovereign addressed to the same person. But the import might be divined by, of other parties, that all around appeared fully imthe answer of the accused.
pressed with the most perfect conviction that his “And I say, your majesty, that what he bath alleged accusation was justly made. A short but painful is false-all a false and bilier falsehood, devised by silence followed his narration, which seemed, for an cunning and malice to work out the purposes of instant, to confound the guilty noble. The sad counhate. My word against his--my gauntlet against the tenance of the monarch deepened to severity, while world. I defy him to the proof! I defy all my ac- a smile of triumph and exultation rose to that of the cusers!”
favorite behind his throne. At this sight the accused “ And he shall have the truth, your majesty;" was person recovered all his audacity. With half-choking the firm, clear answer with which the venerable utterance, and features kindling with fury rather than man responded 10 this defiance. His tones rang faltering with fear, he demanded, through the assembly like those of a sweet bell in the “Am I to be heard, your majesty ?" wilderness.—"My life, Sire, is sworn to the truth! A wave of the monarch's hand gave him the deI can speak no other language! That I have said sired permission, and his reply burst forth like a nothing falsely of this lord, I invoke the attestation torrent. He gave the lie to his accuser, whom he of the Lord of all. I have had his sacred volume denounced as an impostor, as one who was the creabrought into this presence. You shall know, Sire, iure of his and the king's enemies, and tam pering, what I believe, by what I swear!”
himself, with the sovereign's life while pretending to He made a sign, even wbile he spoke, to a little minister to his ailments. He ridiculed, with bittergirl whom I had not before seen, but who had evi- ness and scorn, the notion that any faith should be dently followed him into the assembly. She now given to the statements, though even offered on oath, approached, bearing in her hands one of those finely of one whom he affirmed to be an unbeliever and a illuminated manuscripts of an early day of Christian Jew; and, as if to crown his defense with a seal no history in Europe, which are now worth their weight less impressive than that of his accuser, he advanced in gold. I could just perceive, as he opened the mas- to the fooi of the throne, grasped the sacred volume sive volume, by its heavy metallic clasps, that the from the bands by which it was upheld, and kneeling, characters were strange, and readiy conjectured them with his lips pressed upon the opened pages, he imto be Hebrew. The work, from what he said, and precated upon himself, if his denial were not the the use to which he applied it, I assumed to be the truth, all the treasured wrath and thunder in the stores Holy Scriptures. He received it reverently from the of Heaven! child, placed it deliberately upon one of the steps of the The accuser heard, with uplifted hands and looks dais, then knelt before it, his venerable head for a of holy horror, the wild and terrible invocation. moment, being bowed to the very floor. Then raising Almost unconsciously his lips paried with the comhis eyes, but without rising from his position, he ment, placed one hand upon this volume, raised the other "God have mercy upon your soul, my lord, for to heaven, and, with a deep and solemn voice, called you have spoken a most awful perjury!" upon God and the Holy Evangelists, to witness that The king looked bewildered, the favorite bebind what he had spoken, and was about to speak, was him dissatisfied, and the whole audience apparently "the truth, and the truth only-spoken with no malice stunned by equal incertitude and excitement. The -no wicked or evil intent-and rather to defeat and eyes of all parties fluctuated between the accused and prevent the evil designs of the person he accused.” the accuser. They stood but a few paces asunder. In this posture, and thus affirming, he proceeded to The former looked like a man who only with a great declare that “the accused had applied to him for a struggle succeeded iu controlling his fury. The latter potent poison which should have the power of usurp- stood sorrowful, but calm. The little girl who had ing life slowly, and without producing any of those brought in the holy volume stood before him, with striking effects upon the outward man, as would in- one of his hands resting upon her head. Her feaduce suspicion of criminal practice.” He added, with tures greatly resembled his own. She looked terother particulars, that “the accused had invited him, rified; her eyes fastened ever upon the face of her under certain temptations, which had been succeeded father's enemy with a countenance of equal curiosity by threats, to become one of a party to his designs, and suspicion. Some conversation, the sense of the victim of which was to be his majesty then sitting which did not reach me, now ensued between the upon the throne."
king and two of his counselors, to which his favorite
was a party. The former again addressed the accuser. CHAPTER V.
“Have you any other testimony but that which you Such was the tenor of the asseverations which he yourself offer of the truth of your accusation. made, fortified by numerous details, all tending “None, your majesty. I have no witness of my strongly to confirm the truth of his accusations, his truth but God, and it is not for vain man to prescribe own testimony once being relied on.
to him at what seasons his testimony should be someibing so noble in this man's action, so delicate, given. In bringing this accusation, my purpose was so impressive, so simple, yet so grand; and the par- not the destruction of the criminal, but the safety of liculars which he gave were all so probably arrayed, my sovereign; and I am the more happy that no 80 well put together, and so seemingly in confirma conviction can now follow from my charge, as from tion of other circumstances drawn from the testimony the dreadful oath which he has just taken, he places