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- Margery, Volume 3. - 6/9 -

him how that the old Marchese and his nephews, malicious knaves, came to blows with us at Padua by reason of the old Marchese's young and fair lady, who held my gracious master so dear that all Padua talked thereof.

"Nevertheless it was an evil business, inasmuch as three of them fell on us in the darkness of night; and if the merciful Saints had not protected us with their special grace nobler and more honorable blood should have been shed than those rogues. Also we came to Paris in good heart; and safe and sound in body; and this is a city wherein life is far more ravishing than in Nuremberg.

"Whereas I have known full well that you, most illustrious Mistress Margery, have ever vouchsafed your gracious friendship to Mistress Ann Spiesz--and indeed I myself hold her in the highest respect, as a lady rich in all virtue--I would beseech her to put away from her heart all thought of my gracious master as soon as may be, and to strive no more to keep his troth, forasmuch as it can do no good: Better had she look for some other suitor who is more honest in his intent, that so she may not wholly waste her maiden days--which sweet Saint Katharine forbid! Yet, most worshipful Mistress Margery, I entreat you with due submission not to take this amiss in your beloved brother, nor to withdraw from him any share of your precious love, whereas my gracious master may rightly look higher for his future wife. And as touching his doings now in his unmarried state, of us the saying is true: Like master, like man. And whereas I, who am but a poor and simple serving man, have never been fain to set my heart on one only maid, no less is to be looked for in my gracious master, who is rich and of noble birth."

This epistle would of a certainty have moved me to laughter at any other time but, as things stood, the matter and manner of the low varlet's letter in daring to write thus of Ann, roused me to fury. And yet he was a brave fellow, and of rare faithfulness to his master; for when the Marchese's nephew had fallen upon Herdegen, he had wrenched the sword out of the young nobleman's hand at the peril of his own life and had thereafter modestly held his peace as to that brave deed. It was, in truth, hard not to betray the coming of this letter, even by a look; yet did I hide it; but when another letter was brought, not long after, all care and secrecy were vain.

Oh! that dreadful letter. I could not hide the matter of it; but I let pass her mother's wedding before I confessed to Ann what my brother had written to me.

That cruel letter lies before me now. It is longer than any he had written me heretofore, and I will here write it fair, for indeed I could not, an I would, copy the writing, so wild and reckless as it is.

"All must be at an end, Margery, betwixt Ann and me"--and those first words stung me like a whip-lash. "There. 'Tis written, and now you know it. I was never worthy of her, for I have sold my heart's love for money, as Judas sold the Lord.

"Not that my love or longing are dead. Even while I write I feel dragged to her; a thousand voices cry to me that there is but one Ann, and when a few weeks ago the young Sieur de Blonay made so bold as to vaunt of his lady and her rose-red as above all other ladies and colors, my sword compelled him to yield the place of honor to blue--for whose sake you know well.

"And nevertheless I must give her up. Although I fled from temptation, it pursued me, and when it fell upon me, after a short battle I was brought low. The craving for those joys of the world which she tried to teach me to scorn, is strong within me. I was born to sin; and now as matters stand they must remain. A wight such as I am, who shoots through life like a wild hawk, cannot pause nor think until a shaft has broken his wings. The bitter fate which bids me part from Ann has stricken me thus, and now I can only look back and into my own soul; and the fairer, the sweeter, the loftier is she whom I have lost, the darker and more vile, meseemeth, is all I discover in myself.

"Yet, or ever I cast behind me all that was pure and noble, righteous and truly blissful, I hold up the mirror to my own sinful face, and will bring, myself to show to you, my Margery, the hideous countenance I behold therein.

"I will not cloke nor spare myself in anything; and yet, at this hour, which finds me sober and at home, having quitted my fellows betimes this night, I verily believe that I might have done well, and not ill, and what was pleasing in the sight of God, and in yours, my Margery, and in the eyes of Ann and of all righteous folk, if only some other hand had had the steering of my life's bark.

"Margery, we are orphans; and there is nothing a man needs so much, in the years while he is still unripe and unsure of himself, as a master whom he must revere in fear or in love. And we--I--Margery, what was my grand-uncle to me?

"You and I again are of one blood and so near in age that, albeit one may counsel the other, it is scarce to be hoped that I should take your judgment, or you mine, without cavil.

"Then Cousin Maud! With all the mother's love she has ever shown us, all I did was right in her eyes; and herein doubtless lies the difference between a true mother, who brought us with travail into the world, and a loving foster-mother, who fears to turn our hearts from her by harshness; but the true mother punishes her children wherein she deems it good, inasmuch as she is sure of their love. My cousin's love was great indeed, but her strictness towards me was too small. Out of sheer love, when I went to the High School she kept my purse filled; then, as I grew older, our uncle did likewise, though for other reasons; and now that I have redenied Ann, to do his pleasure, I loathe myself. Nay, more and more since I am raised to such fortune as thousands may envy me; inasmuch as my granduncle purposes to make me his heir by form of law. Last night, when I came home with great gains from play in my pocket, I was nigh to put an end to the woes of this life....

"But have no fear, Margery. A light heart soon will bring to the top again what ruth, at this hour, is bearing to the deeps. Of what use is waiting? Am I then the first Junker who has made love to a sweet maid of low birth, only to forget her for a new lady love?

"Sooth to say, Margery, my confessor, to whom--albeit with bitter pains-- I am laying open every fold of my heart--yes, Margery, if Ann's cradle had been graced with a coat of arms matters would be otherwise. But to call a copper-smith father-in-law, and little Henneleinlein Madame Aunt! In church, to nod from the old seats of the Schoppers to all those common folk as my nearest kin, to meet the lute-player among my own people, teaching the lads and maids their music, and to greet him as dear grandfather, to see my brethren and sisters-in-law busy in the clerks' chambers or work-shops--all this I say is bitter to the taste; and yet more when the tempter on the other side shows the gaudy young gentleman the very joys dearest to his courtly spirit. And with what eloquence and good cheer has Father Ignatius set all this before mine eyes here in Paris, doubtless with honest intent; and he spoke to my heart soberly and to edification, setting forth all that the precepts of the Lord, and my old and noble family required of me.

"Much less than all this would have overruled so feeble a wight as I am. I promised Father Ignatius to give up Ann, and, on my home-coming, to submit in all things to my uncle and to agree with him as to what each should yield up and renounce to the other--as though it were a matter of merchandise in spices from the Levant, or silk kerchiefs from Florence; and thereupon the holy Friar gave me his benediction, as though my salvation were henceforth sure in this world and the next.

"I rode forth with him even to the gate, firm in the belief that I had thrown the winning number in life's game; but scarce had I turned my horse homeward when I wist that I had cast from me all the peace and joy of my soul.

"It is done. I have denied Ann--given her up forever--and whereas she must one day hear it, be it done at once. You, my poor Margery, I make my messenger. I have tried, in truth, to write to Ann, but it would not do. One thing you must say, and that is that, even when I have sinned most against her, I have never forgotten her; nay, that the memory of that happy time when she was fain to call herself my Laura moved me to ride forth to Treviso, where, in the chapel of the Franciscan Brethren, there may be seen a head of the true Laura done by the limner Simone di Martino, the friend of Petrarca, a right worthy work of art. Methought she drew me to her with voice and becks. And yet, and yet--woe, woe is me!

"My pen has had a long rest, for meseemed I saw first Petrarca's lady with her fair braids, and then Ann with her black hair, which shone with such lustrous, soft waves, and lay so nobly on the snow-white brow. Her eyes and mien are verily those of Laura; both alike pure and lofty. But here my full heart over-flows; it cannot forget how far Ann exceeds Laura in sweet woman's grace.

"Day is breaking, and I can but sigh forth to the morning: 'Lost, lost! I have lost the fairest and the best!'

"Then I sat long, sunk in thought, looking out of window, across the bare tree-tops in the garden, at the grey mist which seems as though it ended only at the edge of the world. It drips from the leafless boughs, and mine eyes--I need not hide it--will not be kept dry. It is as though the leaves from the tree of my life had all dropped on the ground--nay, as though my own guilty hand had torn them from the stem."

"I have but now come home from a right merry company! It is of a truth a merciful fashion which turns night into day. Yes, Margery, for one whose first desire is to forget many matters, this Paris is a place of delight. I have drunk deep of the wine-cup, but I would call any man villain who should say that I am drunk. Can I not write as well as ever another--and this I know, that if I sold myself it was not cheap. It has cost me my love, and whereas it was great the void is great to fill. Wherefore I say: 'Bring hither all that giveth joy, wine and love-making, torches and the giddy dame in velvet and silk, dice and gaming, and mad rides, the fresh greenwood and bloody frays!' Is this nothing? Is it even a trivial thing?

"How, when all is said and done, shall we answer the question as to which is the better lot: heavenly love, soaring on white swan's wings far above all that is common dust, as Ann was wont to sing of it, or earthly joys, bold and free, which we can know only with both feet on the clod?

"I have made choice and can never turn back. Long life to every pleasure, call it by what name you will! You have a gleeful, rich, and magnificent brother, little Margery; and albeit the simple lad of old, who chose to wife the daughter of a poor clerk, may have been dearer to you--as he was to my own heart--yet love him still! Of his love you are ever sure; remember him in your prayers; and as for that you have to say to Ann, say it in such wise that she shall not take it over much to heart. Show her how unworthy of her is this brother of yours, though in your secret soul you shall know that my guardian saint never had, nor ever shall have, any other face than hers.

"Now will I hasten to seal this letter and wake Eppelein that he may give it to the post-rider. I am weary of tearing up many sheets of paper, but if I were to read through in all soberness that I have written half

Margery, Volume 3. - 6/9

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