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- Margery, Volume 6. - 5/9 -
and we could go about the tasks of the hour with fresh spirit.
If now and again grief cast a darker shade over Ann, still the star of Hope shone with more comfort for her than for me and Cousin Maud; and it was but seldom that you might mark that she had any sorrow. Truly there were many matters besides her every-day duties, and her errands within and without the house to beguile her of her fears for her lost lover. First of all there came her stepfather's brother, his Eminence Cardinal Bernhardi--for to this dignity had his Holiness raised the Bishop--from Rome to Nuremberg, where he lodged in the house of his fathers. Now this high prelate was such a man as I never met the like of, and his goodly face, beardless indeed, but of a manly brown, with its piercing, great eyes, I weened was as a magic book, having the power to compel others, even against their will, to put forth all that was in them of grace and good gifts. Yet was he not grave nor gloomy, but of a happy cheer, and ready to have his jest with us maidens; only in his jests there would ever be a covert intent to arouse thought, and whensoever I quitted his company I deemed I had profited somewhat in my soul.
He likewise vouchsafed the honor of knowing him to the Magister; and whereas he brought tidings of certain Greek Manuscripts which had been newly brought into Italy, Master Peter came home as one drunk with wine, and could not forbear from boasting how he had been honored by having speech with such a pearl among Humanists.
My lord Cardinal was right well pleased to see his home once more; but what he loved best in it was Ann. Nay, if it had lain with him, he would have carried her to Rome with him. But for all that she was fain to look up to such a man with deep respect, and wait lovingly on his behests, yet would she not draw back from the duty she had taken upon her to care for her brothers and sisters, and chiefly for the deaf and dumb boy. And she deemed likewise that she was as a watchman at his post; it was at Nuremberg that all was planned for seeking Herdegen, and hither must the first tidings come that could be had of him. The old grand dame also was more than ever bound up in her, and so soon as my lord Cardinal was aware that it would greatly grieve his old mother to lose her he renounced his desire.
As for me, I was dwelling in a right happy life with Cousin Maud; never had I been nearer to her heart. So long as she conceived that her comforting could little remedy my woe, she had left me to myself; and as soon as I was fain to use my hands again, and sing a snatch as I went up and down the house, meseemed her old love bloomed forth with double strength. Meseemed I could but show her my thankfulness, and my ear and heart were at all times open when she was moved to talk of her best- beloved Herdegen, and reveal to me all the wondrous adventures he had gone through in her imagination. And this befell most evenings, from the hour when we unclothed till long after we had gone to rest; and I was fain to keep my eyes open while, for the twentieth time, she would expound to me her far-fetched visions: that the Mamelukes of Egypt, who were all slaves and whose Sultan was chosen from among themselves, had of a surety set Herdegen on the throne, seeing him to be the goodliest and noblest of them all. And perchance he would not have refused this honor if he might thereby turn them from their heathenness and make of them good Christians. Nay, nor was it hard for her to fancy Ann arrayed in silk and gems as a Sultana. And then, when I fell asleep in listening to these fancies, which she loved to paint in every detail, behold my dreams would be of Turks and heathen; and of bloody battles by land and sea.
No man may tell his dreams fasting; but as soon as I had eaten my first mouthful she would bid me tell her all, to the veriest trifle, and would solemnly seek the interpretation of every vision.
My lord Cardinal had departed from Nuremberg some long while, by reason that he was charged by his holiness the Pope with a mission which took him through Cologne and Flanders to England. Inasmuch as he was not suffered to have Ann herself in his company, he conceived the wish to possess her likeness in a picture; and he sent hither to that end a master of good fame, of the guild of painters in Venice. We owed this good limner thanks for many a pleasant hour. Sir Giacomo Bellini was a youth of right merry wit, knowing many Italian ditties, and who made good pastime for us while we sat before him; for I likewise must be limned, inasmuch as Cousin Maud would have it so, and the painter's eye was greatly pleased by my yellow hair.
Whereas he could speak never a word of German, it was our part to talk with him in Italian, and this exercise to me came not amiss. Also I could scarce have had a better master to teach me than Giacomo Bellini, who set himself forthwith to win my heart and turn my head; nay, and he might have done so, but that he confessed from the first that he had a fair young wife in Venice, albeit he was already craving for some new love.
Thus through him again I learned how light a touch is needed to overthrow a man's true faith; and when I minded me of Herdegen and Ann, and of this Giacomo--who was nevertheless a goodly and well-graced man--and his young wife, meseemed that the woman who might win the love of a highly-gifted soul must ofttimes pay for that great joy with much heaviness and heartache.
Howbeit, I mind me in right true love of the mirthful spirit and manifold sportiveness which marked our fellowship with the Italian limner; and after that I had once given him plainly and strongly to understand that the heart of a Nuremberg damsel was no light thing or plaything, and her very lips a sanctuary which her husband should one day find pure, all went well betwixt us.
The picture of Ann, the first he painted, showed her as Saint Cecelia hearkening to music which sounds from Heaven in her ears. Two sweet angel babes floated on thin clouds above her head, singing hymns to a mandoline and viol. Thus had my lord Cardinal commanded, and the work was so excellent that, if the Saint herself vouchsafed to look down on it out of Heaven, of a certainty it was pleasing in her eyes.
As to mine own presentment; at first I weened that I would be limned in my peach-colored brocade gown with silver dolphins thereon, by reason that I had worn that weed in the early morn after the dance, when Hans spoke his last loving farewell at the door of our house. But whereas one cold day I went into Master Giacomo's work-chamber in a red hood and a green cloak bordered with sable fur, he would thenceforth paint me in no other guise. At first he was fain to present me as going forth to church; then he deemed that he might not show forth my very look and seeming if I were limned with downcast head and eyes. Therefor he gave me the falcon on my hand which had erewhile been my lover's gift. My eyes were set on the distance as though I watched for a heron; thus I seemed in truth like one hunting--"chaste Diana," quoth the painter, minding him of the reproofs I had given him so often. But it would be a hard task to tell of all the ways whereby the painter would provoke me to reprove him. When the likeness was no more than half done, he painted his own merry face to the falcon on my wrist gazing up at me with silly languor. Thereupon, when he presently quitted us, I took the red chalk and wrote his wife's name on a clear place in front of the face and beneath it the image of a birch rod; and on the morrow he brought with him a right pleasant Sonnet, which I scarce had pardoned had he not offered it so humbly and read it in so sweet a voice. And, being plainly interpreted, it was as follows:
"Upon Olympus, where the gods do dwell Who with almighty will rule earth and heaven, Lo! I behold the chiefest of them all Jove, on his throne with Juno at his side. A noble wedded pair. In all the world The eye may vainly seek nor find their like. The nations to his sanctuary throng, And kings, struck dumb, cast down their golden crowns.
"Yet even these are not for ever one. The god flies from the goddess.--And a swan Does devoir now, the slave of Leda's charms.
"Thus I behold the beams of thy bright eye, And bid my home farewell,--I, hapless wight, Fly like the god, fair maid, to worship thee !"
Albeit I suffered him to recite these lines to the end I turned from him with a countenance of great wrath, and tore the paper whereon they were writ in two halves which I flung behind the stove. Nor did I put away my angry and offended mien until he had right humbly besought my forgiveness. Yet when I had granted it, and he presently quitted the chamber, I did, I confess, gather up the torn paper and bestow it in my girdle-poke. Nay, meseems that I had of intent rent it only in twain, to the end that I might the better join it again. Thus to this day it lieth in my chest, with other relics of the past; yet I verily believe that another Sonnet, which Sir Giacomo found on the morrow, laid on his easel, was not so treasured by him. It was thus:
"There was one Hans, and he was fain to try, Like to Olympian Jove, the magic arts Of witchcraft upon some well-favored maid. Bold the adventure, but the prize how sweet! 'Farewell, good wife,' quoth he, 'Or e'er the dawn Hath broke I must be forward on my way. Like Jupiter I will be blessed and bless With love; and in the image of a swan.'
"The magic spell hath changed him. With a wreath About his head he deems he lacketh nought Of what may best beguile a maiden's soul.
"Thus to fair Leda flies the hapless wight.-- With boisterous mirth the dame beholds the bird. 'A right fine goose! Thou'lt make a goodly roast.'"
Howbeit Giacomo would not leave this verse without reply; and to this day, if you look close into the picture, you may see a goose's head deep in shade among the shrubs in the back part of it, but clearly to be discerned.
Notwithstanding many such little quarrels we liked each other well, and I may here note that when, in the following year, which was the year of our Lord one thousand four hundred and twenty-six, a little son was born to him, since grown to be a right famous painter, known as Giambellini-- which is to say Giovanni, or Hans, Bellini, I, Margery Schopper, stood his sponsor at the font. Yea and I was ever a true godsib to him, and that painter might indeed thank my kith and kin when he was charged with a certain office in the Fondaco in Venice, which is worth some hundreds of ducats yearly to him, to this day.
Thus were the portraits ended, and when I behold my own looking from the wide frame with so mirthful and yet so longing a gaze, meseems that Giacomo must have read the book of my soul and have known right well how to present that he saw therein; at that time in truth I was a happy young creature, and the aching and longing which would now and again come over me, in part for him who was gone, and in part I wist not for what, were but the shadow which must ever fall where there is light. And verily I had good cause to be thankful and of good cheer; I was in health as sound
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