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HUSBAND AND WIFE
'What an old-fashioned damsel it is!' said lord Herbert when Dorothy had left the room.
'She has led a lonely life,' answered lady Margaret, 'and has read a many old-fashioned books.'
'She seems a right companion for thee, Peggy, and I am glad of it, for I shall be much from thee--more and more, I fear, till this bitter weather be gone by.'
'Alas, Ned! hast thou not been more than much from me already? Thou wilt certainly be killed, though thou hast not yet a scratch on thy blessed body. I would it were over and all well!'
'So would I--and heartily, dear heart! In very truth I love fighting as little as thou. But it is a thing that hath to be done, though small honour will ever be mine therefrom, I greatly fear me. It is one of those affairs in which liking goes farther than goodwill, and as I say, I love it not, only to do my duty. Hence doubtless it comes that no luck attends me. God knows I fear nothing a man ought not to fear--he is my witness--but what good service of arms have I yet rendered my king? It is but thy face, Peggy, that draws the smile from me. My heart is heavy. See how my rascally Welsh yielded before Gloucester, when the rogue Waller stole a march upon them--and I must be from thence! Had I but been there instead of at Oxford, thinkest thou they would have laid down their arms nor struck a single blow? I like not killing, but I can kill, and I can be killed. Thou knowest, sweet wife, thy Ned would not run.'
'Holy mother!' exclaimed lady Margaret.
'But I have no good luck at fighting,' he went on. 'And how again at Monmouth, the hare-hearts with which I had thought to garrison the place fled at the bare advent of that same parliament beagle, Waller! By St. George! it were easier to make an engine that should mow down a thousand brave men with one sweep of a scythe-and I could make it-than to put courage into the heart of one runaway rascal. It makes me mad to think how they have disgraced me!'
'But Monmouth is thine own again, Herbert!'
'Yes-thanks to the love they bear my father, not to my generalship! Thy husband is a poor soldier, Peggy: he cannot make soldiers.'
'Then why not leave the field to others, and labour at thy engines, love? If thou wilt, I tell thee what-I will doff my gown, and in wrapper and petticoat help thee, sweet. I will to it with bare arms like thine own.'
'Thou wouldst like Una make a sunshine in the shady place, Margaret. But no. Poor soldier as I am, I will do my best, even where good fortune fails me, and glory awaits not my coming. Thou knowest that at fourteen days' warning I brought four thousand foot and eight hundred horse again to the siege of Gloucester. It would ill befit my father's son to spare what he can when he is pouring out his wealth like water at the feet of his king. No, wife; the king shall not find me wanting, for in serving my king, I serve my God; and if I should fail, it may hold that an honest failure comes nigh enough a victory to be set down in the chronicles of the high countries. But in truth it presses on me sorely, and I am troubled at heart that I should be so given over to failure.'
'Never heed it, my lord. The sun comes out clear at last maugre all the region fogs.'
'Thanks, sweet heart! Things do look up a little in the main, and if the king had but a dozen more such friends as my lord marquis, they would soon be well. Why, my dove of comfort, wouldst thou believe it?-I did this day, as I rode home to seek thy fair face, I did count up what sums he hath already spent for his liege; and indeed I could not recollect them all, but I summed up, of pounds already spent by him on his majesty's behalf, well towards a hundred and fifty thousand! And thou knowest the good man, that while he giveth generously like the great Giver, he giveth not carelessly, but hath respect to what he spendeth.'
'Thy father, Ned, is loyalty and generosity incarnate. If thou be but half so good a husband as thy father is a subject, I am a happy woman.'
'What! know'st thou not yet thy husband, Peggy?'
'In good soberness, though, Ned, surely the saints in heaven will never let such devotion fail of its end.'
'My father is but one, and the king's foes are many. So are his friends-but they are lukewarm compared to my father-the rich ones of them, I mean. Would to God I had not lost those seven great troop-horses that the pudding-fisted clothiers of Gloucester did rob me of! I need them sorely now. I bought them with mine own-or rather with thine, sweet heart. I had been saving up the money for a carcanet for thy fair neck.'
'So my neck be fair in thine eyes, my lord, it may go bare and be well clad. I should, in sad earnest, be jealous of the pretty stones didst thou give my neck one look the more for their presence. Here! thou may'st sell these the next time thou goest London-wards.'
As she spoke, she put up her hand to unclasp her necklace of large pearls, but he laid his hand upon it, saying,
'Nay, Margaret, there is no need. My father is like the father in the parable: he hath enough and to spare. I did mean to have the money of him again, only as the vaunted horses never came, but were swallowed up of Gloucester, as Jonah of the whale, and have not yet been cast up again, I could not bring my tongue to ask him for it; and so thy neck is bare of emeralds, my dove.'
'Back and sides go bare, go bare,'
sang lady Margaret with a merry laugh;
'Both foot and hand go cold;'
here she paused for a moment, and looked down with a shining thoughtfulness; then sang out clear and loud, with bold alteration of bishop Stills' drinking song,
'But, heart, God send thee love enough, Of the new that will never be old.'
'Amen, my dove!'said lord Herbert.
'Thou art in doleful dumps, Ned. If we had but a masque for thee, or a play, or even some jugglers with their balls!'
'Puh, Peggy! thou art masque and play both in one; and for thy jugglers, I trust I can juggle better at my own hand than any troop of them from furthest India. Sing me a song, sweet heart.'
'I will, my love,' answered lady Margaret.
Rising, she went to the harpsichord, and sang, in sweet unaffected style, one of the songs of her native country, a merry ditty, with a breathing of sadness in the refrain of it, like a twilight wind in a bed of bulrushes.
'Thanks, my love,' said lord Herbert, when she had finished. 'But I would I could tell its hidden purport; for I am one of those who think music none the worse for carrying with it an air of such sound as speaks to the brain as well as the heart.'
Lady Margaret gave a playful sigh.
'Thou hast one fault, my Edward--thou art a stranger to the tongue in which, through my old nurse's tales, I learned the language of love. I cannot call it my mother-tongue, but it is my love-tongue. Why, when thou art from me, I am loving thee in Irish all day long, and thou never knowest what my heart says to thee! It is a sad lack in thy all-completeness, dear heart. But, I bethink me, thy new cousin did sing a fair song in thy own tongue the other day, the which if thou canst understand one straw better than my Irish, I will learn it for thy sake, though truly it is Greek to me. I will send for her. Shall I?'
As she spoke she rose and rang the bell on the table, and a little page, in waiting in the antechamber, appeared, whom she sent to desire the attendance of mistress Dorothy Vaughan.
'Come, child,' said her mistress as she entered, 'I would have thee sing to my lord the song that wandering harper taught thee.'
'Madam, I have learned of no wandering harper: your ladyship means mistress Amanda's Welsh song! shall I call her?' said Dorothy, disappointed.
'I mean thee, and thy song, thou green linnet!' rejoined lady Margaret. 'What song was it of which I said to thee that the singer deserved, for his very song's sake, that whereof he made his moan? Whence thou hadst it, from harper or bagpiper, I care not.'
'Excuse me, madam, but why should I sing that you love not to hear?'
'It is not I would hear it, child, but I would have my lord hear it. I would fain prove to him that there are songs in plain English, as he calls it, that have as little import, even to an English ear, as the plain truth-speaking Irish ditties which he will not understand. I say "WILL not," because our bards tell us that Irish was the language of Adam and Eve while yet in Paradise, and therefore he could by instinct understand it an' he would, even as the chickens understand their mother-tongue.'
'I will sing it at your desire, madam; but I fear the worse fault will lie in the singing.'
She seated herself at the harpsichord, and sang the following song with much feeling and simplicity. The refrain of the song, if it may be so called, instead of closing each stanza, preluded it.
O fair, O sweet, when I do look on thee, In whom all joys so well agree, Heart and soul do sing in me. This you hear is not my tongue, Which once said what I conceived, For it was of use bereaved, With a cruel answer stung. No, though tongue to roof be cleaved, Fearing lest he chastis'd be, Heart and soul do sing in me.
O fair, O sweet, &c. Just accord all music makes: In thee just accord excelleth, Where each part in such peace dwelleth, One of other beauty takes. Since then truth to all minds telleth That in thee lives harmony, Heart and soul do sing in me.
O fair, O sweet, &c. They that heaven have known, do say That whoso that grace obtaineth To see what fair sight there reigneth, Forced is to sing alway; So then, since that heaven remaineth In thy face, I plainly see, Heart and soul do sing in me.
O fair, O sweet, &c. Sweet, think not I am at ease, For because my chief part singeth; This song from death's sorrow springeth, As to Swan in last disease; For no dumbness nor death bringeth Stay to true love's melody: Heart and soul do sing in me.
'There!' cried lady Margaret, with a merry laugh. 'What says the English song to my English husband?'
'It says much, Margaret,' returned lord Herbert, who had been listening intently; 'it tells me to love you for ever.-What poet is he who wrote the song, mistress Dorothy? He is not of our day-that I can tell but too plainly. It is a good song, and saith much.'
'I found it near the end of the book called "The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia,"' replied Dorothy.
'And I knew it not! Methought I had read all that man of men ever wrote,' said lord Herbert. 'But I may have read it, and let it slip. But now that, by the help of the music and thy singing, cousin Dorothy, I am come to understand it, truly I shall forget it no more. Where got'st thou the music, pray?'
'It says in the book it was fitted to a certain Spanish tune, the name of which I knew not, and yet know not how to pronounce; but I had the look of the words in my head, and when I came upon some Spanish songs in an old chest at home, and, turning them over, saw those words, I knew I had found the tune to sir Philip's verses.'
'Tell me then, my lord, why you are pleased with the song,' said lady Margaret, very quietly.
'Come, mistress Dorothy,' said lord Herbert, 'repeat the song to my lady, slowly, line by line, and she will want no exposition thereon.'
When Dorothy had done as he requested, lady Margaret put her arm round her husband's neck, laid her cheek to his, and said,
'I am a goose, Ned. It is a fair and sweet song. I thank you, Dorothy. You shall sing it to me another time when my lord is away, and I shall love to think my lord was ill content with me when I called it a foolish thing. But my Irish was a good song too, my lord.'
'Thy singing of it proves it, sweet heart.--But come, my fair minstrel, thou hast earned a good guerdon: what shall I give thee in return for thy song?'
'A boon, a boon, my lord!' cried Dorothy.
'It is thine ere thou ask it,' returned his lordship, merrily following up the old-fashioned phrase with like formality.
'I must then tell my lord what hath been in my foolish mind ever since my lady took me to the keep, and I saw his marvellous array of engines. I would glady understand them, my lord. Who can fail to delight in such inventions as bring about that which before seemed impossible?'
Here came a little sigh with the thought of her old companion Richard, and the things they had together contrived. Already, on the mist of gathering time, a halo had begun to glimmer about his head, puritan, fanatic, blasphemer even, as she had called him.
Lord Herbert marked the soundless sigh.
'You shall not sigh in vain, mistress Dorothy,' he said, 'for anything I can give you. To one who loves inventions it is easy to explain them. I hoped you had a hankering that way when I saw you look so curiously at the cross-bow ere you discharged it.'
'Was it then charged, my lord?'
'Indeed, as it happened, it was. A great steel-headed arrow lay in the groove. I ought to have taken that away when I bent it. Some passing horseman may have carried it with him in the body of his plunging steed.'
'Oh, my lord!' cried Dorothy, aghast.
'Pray, do not be alarmed, cousin: I but jested. Had anything happened, we should have heard of it. It was not in the least likely. You will not be long in this house before you learn that we do not speak by the card here. We jest not a little. But in truth I was disappointed when I found your curiosity so easily allayed.'
'Indeed, my lord, it was not allayed, and is still unsatisfied. But I had no thought who it was offered me the knowledge I craved. Had I known, I should never have refused the lesson so courteously offered. But I was a stranger in the castle, and I thought-I feared I'
'You did even as prudence required, cousin Dorothy. A young maiden cannot be too chary of unbuckling her enchanted armour so long as the country is unknown to her. But it would be hard if she were to suffer for her modesty. You shall be welcome to my cave. I trust you will not find it as the cave of Trophonius to you. If I am not there-and it is not now as it has been, when you might have found me in it every day, and almost every hour of the day; but if I be not there, do not fear Caspar Kaltoff, who is a worthy man, and as my right hand to do the things my brain deviseth. I will speak to him of thee. He is full of trust and worthiness, and, although not of gentle blood, is sprung from a long race of artificers, the cloak of whose gathered skill seems to have fallen on him. He hath been in my service now for many years, but you will be the first lady, gentle cousin, who has ever in all that time wished us good speed in our endeavours. How few know,' he went on thoughtfully, after a pause, 'what a joy lies in making things obey thoughts! in calling out of the mind, as from the vasty-deep, and setting in visible presence before the bodily eye, that which till then had neither local habitation nor name! Some such marvels I have to show--for marvels I must call them, although it is my voice they have obeyed to come; and I never lose sight of the marvel even while amusing myself with the merest toy of my own invention.'
He paused, and Dorothy ventured to speak.
'I thank you, my lord, with all my heart. When have I leave to visit those marvels?'
'When you please. If I am not there, Caspar will be. If Caspar is not there, you will find the door open, for to enter that chamber without permission would be a breach of law such as not a soul in Raglan would dare be guilty of. And were it not so, there are few indeed in the place who would venture to set foot in it if I were absent, for it is not outside the castle walls only that I am looked upon as a magician. The armourer firmly believes that with a word uttered in my den there, I could make the weakest wall of the castle impregnable, but that it would be at too great a cost. If you come to-morrow morning you will find me almost certainly. But in case you should find neither of us--do not touch anything; be content with looking--for fear of mischance. Engines are as tickle to meddle with as incantations them selves.'
'If I know myself, you may trust me, my lord,' said Dorothy, to which he replied with a smile of confidence.
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