The Geste of Duke Jocelyn
Part 5 out of 5
babbling brook how it sigheth 'mid the willows, whispereth under reedy bank
and laugheth, rogue-like, in the shallows! Listen how it wooeth thee:
Though, lady, hard thy couch must be,
If thou should'st wakeful lie,
Here, from the dark, I'll sing to thee
A drowsy lullaby.
O lady fair--forget thy pride
Whiles thou within the greenwood bide.
And now suffer me to aid thee down.
She: Why wilt thou stay me in this evil place?
He (_patiently_): The wild is ill travelling in the dark, lady; there be
quagmires and perilous ways--wherefore here must we bide till dawn. Suffer
SHE (_breathlessly and shrinking from his touch_): But I fear not
quagmires--there be greater perils--more shameful and--and--'tis so dark,
so dark! 'Tis hateful place. Ride we till it be day--
He (_mockingly_): Perils, lady? Why certes there be perils--and perils.
Perils that creep and crawl, perils that go on four legs and perils two-
legged--e'en as I. But I, though two-legged, am but very fool of fools and
nothing perilous in blazing day or blackest night. So stint thy fears,
lady, for here bide we till dawn!
Herewith he caught her in sudden arms and lifted her to the ground; then,
dismounting, he set about watering and cherishing the wearied steed and
tethered him beside a dun stream that rippled beneath shadowy willows; and
so doing, fell a-singing on this wise:
"'Fair lady, thou 'rt lost!' quoth he,
Sing derry, derry down.
'And O, 'tis dark--'tis dark!' quoth she,
'And in the dark dire perils be,'
O, derry, derry down!
"Quoth he: 'Fair lady, stint thy fear,'
Sing derry, derry down.
'I, being Fool, will sit me here,
And, till the kindly sun appear,
Sing derry, derry down.
"'I'll make for thee, like foolish wight,
Hey, derry, derry down,
A song that shall out-last dark night,
And put thy foolish fears to flight
With derry, derry down.
"'For 'tis great shame thou shouldst fear so,
Hey, derry, derry down,
A peril that two-legged doth go,
Since he's but humble Fool, I trow,
With derry, derry down.'"
Thus sang he, a dim figure beside dim stream and, having secured the horse,
sat him down thereby and took forth his lute.
But Yolande, though he could not see, clenched white fists and, though he
could not hear, stamped slim foot at him.
"Joconde," quoth she, betwixt clenched teeth, "Joconde, I--scorn thee!"
"Alack!" he sighed. "Alack, and my lute hath taken sore scath of a
"Thou'rt hateful--hateful!" she cried. "Aye--hateful as thy hateful song,
so do I contemn thee henceforth!"
"Say'st thou so, lady, forsooth?" sighed he, busied with his lute. "Now
were I other than Fool, here should I judge was hope of winning thy love.
But being only Fool I, with aid of woe-begone lute, will sing thee merry
song to cheer thee of thy perilous fears--"
"Enough, ill Fool, I'll hear thee not!"
"So be it, dear lady! Then will we sit an list to the song of yon stream,
for streams and rivers, like the everlasting hills, are passing wise with
length of days--"
"And thou'rt a very Fool!" she cried angrily. "A fond Fool presumptuous in
"As how presumptuous, proud lady?" he questioned humbly.
"In that thou dreamest I--stoop to fear thee!"
"Aye, verily!" sighed he. "Alas, thou poor, solitary, foolish, fearful
maid, thou art sick with fear of me! So take now my dagger! Thus Fool
offenceless shall lie defenceless at thy mercy and, so lying, sleep until
joyous day shall banish thy so virginal fears!" Which saying, he tossed off
belt and dagger and setting them beside her, rolled his weather-worn cloak
about him, stretched himself beneath the dim willows and straightway
fell a-snoring. And after some while she questioned him in voice low and
"O Joconde, art truly sleeping?"
"Fair lady," he answered, "let these my so loud snores answer thee."
Up sprang Yolande and, coming beside him in the gloom, cast back his
girdle, speaking quick and passionate:
"Take back thy dagger lest I be tempted to smite it to the cruel, mocking
heart of thee!" Then turned she stately back and left him, but, being hid
from view, cast herself down full length upon the sward, her pride and
stateliness forgotten quite. Now Jocelyn, propped on uneasy elbow, peered
amid the gloom for sight of her and hearkened eagerly for sound of her; but
finding this vain, arose and, creeping stealthily, presently espied her
where she lay, face hidden in the dewy grass. Thus stood he chin in hand
disquieted and anxious-eyed and wist not what to do.
"Lady?" he questioned at last; but she stirred not nor spoke. "Yolande!"
he murmured, drawing nearer; but still she moved not, though his quick ear
caught a sound faint though very pitiful. "Ah, dost thou weep?" he cried.
Yolande sobbed again, whereupon down fell he beside her on his knees, "Dear
lady, why grievest thou?"
"O Joconde," she sighed, "I am indeed solitary--and fearful! And thou--thou
dost mock me!"
"Forgive me," he pleaded humbly, "and, since thou'rt solitary, here am I.
And, for thy fears, nought is here shall harm thee, here may'st thou sleep
"Stay, Joconde, the forest is haunted of wolves and--worse, 'tis said!"
"Then will I watch beside thee till the day. And now will I go cut bracken
for thy bed."
"Then will I aid thee." So she arose forthwith and, amid the fragrant
gloom, they laboured together side by side; and oft in the gloom her hand
touched his, and oft upon his cheek and brow and lip was the silken touch
of her wind-blown hair. Then beneath arching willows they made a bed,
high-piled of springy bracken and sweet grasses, whereon she sank nestling,
"O, 'tis sweet couch!" she sighed.
"Yet thou'lt be cold mayhap ere dawn," quoth he, "suffer me to set my cloak
"But how of thyself, Joconde?"
"I am a Fool well seasoned of wind and rain, heat and cold, lady, and 'tis
night of summer." So he covered her with his travel-stained cloak and,
sitting beneath a tree, fell to his watch. And oft she stirred amid the
fern, deep-sighing, and he, broad back against the tree, sighed oftener
"Art there, Joconde?" she questioned softly.
"'Tis very dark," sighed she, "and yet, methinks, 'tis sweet to lie thus
in the greenwood so hushed and still and the stars to watch like eyes of
"Why, 'tis night of summer, lady, a night soft and languorous and fragrant
of sleeping flowers. But how of grim winter, how of rain and wind and
lashing tempest--how think you?"
"That summer would come again, Joconde."
"Truly here is brave thought, lady."
"Hark, how still is the night, Joconde, and yet full of soft stir, a
sighing amid the leaves! 'Tis like the trees whispering one another. O,
'tis sweet night!"
"Soon to pass away, alas!" he sighed, whereupon she, stirring upon her
ferny couch, sighed also; thereafter fell they silent awhile hearkening to
the leafy stirrings all about them in the dark, and the slumberous murmur
of the stream that, ever and anon, brake into faint gurglings like a voice
that laughed, soft but roguish.
SHE: I pray thee talk to me.
HE: Whereof, lady?
HE: I am a Fool--
SHE: And why sit so mumchance?
HE: I think.
SHE: Of what?
SHE: And why dost sigh so deep and oft?
HE: I grieve for thee.
SHE: For me! And wherefore?
HE: Being lost with a Fool thou'rt desolate, sad and woeful.
SHE: Am I, Joconde? And how dost know all this?
HE: 'Tis so I do think, lady.
SHE: Then are thy thoughts folly indeed. If thou must sigh, sigh for
HE: Why so I do, lady, and therewith grieve for myself and thyself, myself
being Fool and thyself a dame of high degree, thus, betwixt whiles, I do
fear thee also.
SHE: Thou fear! Thou fear me forsooth! And wherefore fear a helpless maid?
HE: There is the reason--she is helpless!
SHE: Ah, there doth Fool speak like chivalrous knight.
HE: Or very fool--a fool that fain would win fair Dian from high heaven.
Alas, poor Fool, that, being fool, must needs look and sigh and sigh and
look and leave her to the winning of some young Endymion!
SHE (_dreamily_): Endymion was but lowly shepherd, yet was he loved!
HE: Endymion was fair youth comely of feature, lady. Now had he worn ass's
ears 'bove visage scarred--how then? On Ida's mount he had been sighing
forlorn and lonely yet, methinks. For maids' hearts are ever governed by
SHE: Art so wise in maids' hearts, Joconde?
HE: Wise am I in this: No man may ever know the heart of a woman--and woman
herself but seldom.
Now here was silence again wherein Yolande, smiling, viewed him a dim shape
in the gloom, and he leaned back to watch a star that twinkled through the
leafy canopy above.
SHE: Thou art Duke Jocelyn's Fool at court?
HE: I am Duke Jocelyn's fool here and there and everywhere, lady.
SHE: Yet have I heard Duke Jocelyn was a mighty man-at-arms and, though
youthful, sober-minded, full of cares of state and kept no Fool at court.
HE: Lady, his court is filled o' fools as is the way of other courts and
amongst these many fools first cometh the Duke himself--
SHE: How, and darest thou call this mighty Duke a fool?
HE: Often, lady!
SHE: And what like is he?
HE: Very like a man, being endowed of arms, legs, eyes, ears--of each two,
no more and no less, as is the vulgar custom.
SHE: But is he not of beauty high and noble, of god-like perfection far
beyond poor, common flesh and blood? 'Tis so the painter has limned his
face, 'tis so I dream him to my fancy.
HE: Lady, I am but a Fool, let the picture answer thee.
SHE: And he, this mighty Duke of god-like beauty doth woo me to his
HE (_bitterly_): With my tongue.
SHE: Why came he not in his own glorious person?
HE: Lady, though a Duke, he hath his moments of wisdom and argueth thus:
"I, though a Duke, am yet a man. Thus, should I as Duke woo her, she may
wed the Duke, loving not the man--"
SHE: And so he sent a Fool as his ambassador! And so do I scorn this
HE: Ha! Scorn him! My lady--O Yolande, what of me?
She: Thou, false to him and faithless to thy trust, didst woo me for
thyself which was ill in thee. But thou didst throw the terrible Red Gui
into my lily-pool which was brave in thee. Thou didst endure chains and a
prison undaunted which was noble in thee. Thou didst this night at peril of
thy life save me from shame, but thou didst bear me urgently here into the
wild, and in the wild here lie I beside thee, lost, yet warm and sleepy and
safe beneath thy cloak--and so--'tis very well--
HE: Safe, Yolande? Hath thy heart told thee this at last? But thou didst
SHE: Because to-night thou didst clasp me in cruel arms and spake me words
of love passionate and fierce and--and--
HE: Kissed thee, Yolande!
SHE: Many times--O cruel! And bore me hither and lost me in these dark
solitudes! Here was good cause for any maid to fear thee methinks.
Yet thou didst basely mock my fears with thy hateful song of "Derry down."
HE: Because thy fears, being unjust, hurt me, for ah, Yolande, my love for
thee is deep and true, and True-love is ever gentle and very humble.
SHE: Thus do I fear thee no more, Joconde!
HE: Because I am but lowly--a Fool beneath thy proud disdain?
SHE: Nay, Joconde. Because thou art indeed a very man. So now shall I sleep
secure since nought of evil may come nigh me whiles I lie in thy care.
Thus spake she softly 'mid the gloom, and turning upon her rustling couch
sighed and presently fell to slumber.
Now, sitting thus beside her as she slept, Jocelyn heard the stream ripple
in the shadows like one that laughed soft but very joyously and, as he
gazed up at the solitary star with eyes enraptured, this elfin laughter
found its echo in his heart.
* * * * *
A bird chirped drowsily from mazy thicket where sullen shadow thinned,
little by little, until behind leaf and twig was a glimmer of light that
waxed ever brighter. And presently amid this growing brightness was soft
stir and twitter, sleepy chirpings changed to notes of wistful sweetness, a
plaintive calling that was answered from afar.
Thus the birds awaking sounded pretty warnings summoning each to each for
that the day-spring was at hand, while ever the brightness changed to
radiance and radiance to an orient glory and up flamed the sun in majesty
and it was day. And now, from brake and thicket, from dewy mysteries
of green boskage burst forth the sweet, glad chorus of bird-song, full
throated, passionate of joy.
And Jocelyn, sitting broad back against a tree, felt his soul uplifted
thereby what time his eyes missed nothing of the beauties about him: the
rugged boles of mighty trees bedappled with sunny splendour, the
glittering dew that gemmed leaf and twig and fronded bracken, and the
shapely loveliness of her who slumbered couched beneath his worn cloak,
the gentle rise and fall of rounded bosom and the tress of hair that a
fugitive sunbeam kissed to ruddy gold. Thus sat Jocelyn regardful,
gladness in the heart of him, and a song of gladness bubbling to his lips.
Suddenly he saw her lashes quiver, her rosy lips parted to a smile and,
stirring in her slumber, she sighed and stretched shapely arms; so waked
she to a glory of sun and, starting to an elbow, gazed round, great-eyed,
until espying him, she smiled again.
"Good morrow, Joconde! Ne'er have I slept sweeter. But thou hast
out-watched dark night and art a-weary, so shalt sleep awhile--"
"Nay," he answered, "a plunge in the stream yonder and I shall be blithe
for the road--an we find one. And I do fear me thou'rt hungry, Yolande, and
I have nought to give thee--"
"And what of thyself, man? Verily, I read hunger in thy look and weariness
also, so, an thou may'st not eat, sleep thou shalt awhile here--in my
"Nay, Yolande, indeed--"
"Yea, but thou must indeed whiles I watch over thee. 'Tis a sweet bed--come
"And what wilt thou do?" he questioned.
"Much!" she answered, viewing her rumpled, gown with rueful eyes. "As thou
sayest, there is the pool yonder! So come, get thee to bed and--sleep!
Come, let me cover thee with thy cloak and gainsay me not; sleep thou must
So Duke Jocelyn stretched himself obediently upon the bed of fern and
suffered her to cover him with the cloak; but as she stooped above him
thus, he lifted the hem of her dress to reverent lips.
"My lady!" he murmured. "My dear lady!"
"Now close me thine eyes, wearied child!" she commanded. And, like a child,
in this also he obeyed her, albeit unwillingly by reason of her radiant
beauty, but hearing her beside him, was content, and thus presently fell to
When he awoke the sun was high and he lay awhile basking in this grateful
radiance and joying in the pervading quiet; but little by little, growing
uneasy by reason of this stillness, he started up to glance about him and
knew sudden dread--for the little glade was empty--Yolande had vanished;
moreover the horse was gone also.
Cold with an awful fear he got him to his feet and looked hither and yon,
but nowhere found any sign of violence or struggle. But like one distraught
he turned to seek her, her name upon his lips, then, checking voice and
movement, stood rigid, smitten by hateful doubt. For now it seemed to him
that her gentle looks and words had been but sweet deceits to blind him to
her purpose and now, so soon as she had lulled him to sleep, she had stolen
away, leaving him for the poor, piteous fool he was. And now his despair
was 'whelmed in sudden anger, and anger, little by little, changed to
grief. She was fled away and he a sorry fool and very desolate.
Full of these bitter thoughts he cast himself upon his face and, lying as
in a pit of gloom, knew a great bitterness.
Slowly, slowly, borne upon the gentle wind came a fragrance strange and
unexpected, a savour delectable of cooking meat that made him know himself
a man vastly hungry despite his grievous woe. But, lying within the black
gulf of bitterness, he stirred not until, of a sudden, he heard a voice,
rich and full and very sweet, upraised in joyous singing; and these the
"Rise, O laggard! See the sun,
To climb in glory hath begun:
The flowers have oped their pretty eyes,
The happy lark doth songful rise,
And merry birds in flowery brake,
Full-throated, joyous clamours make;
And I, indeed, that love it not,
Do sit alone and keel the pot,
Whiles thus I sing thee to entreat,
O sleepy laggard--come and eat!"
"Forsooth and art sleeping yet, Joconde?" the voice questioned. Duke
Jocelyn lifted woeful head and saw her standing tall and shapely amid
the leaves, fresh and sweet as the morn itself, with laughter within her
dream-soft eyes and laughter on her vivid lips and the sun bright in the
braided tresses of her hair wherein she had set wild flowers like jewels.
"Yolande!" he murmured, coming to his knees "Yolande--how glorious thou
"Nay," she laughed, yet flushing to the worship of his eyes, "and my habit
woefully torn of wicked bramble-thorns, and my hair ill-braided and all
"Ah, Yolande, I thought thee fled and I left to loneliness, and my pain was
"Then am I avenged thy mockery, Joconde, and thy song of 'Derry down.'
'Twas for this I stole away! But now, if thou 'rt hungry man, come this
ways." And she reached him her hand. So she brought him to a little dell
where burned a fire of sticks beneath a pot whence stole right savoury
"O most wonderful!" quoth he. "Whence came these goodly viands?"
"Where but from the wallet behind thy horse's saddle, Joconde?" Then down
sat they forthwith side by side and ate heartily and were very blithe
together; and oft-times their looks would meet and they would fall silent
awhile. At last, the meal ended, Jocelyn, turning from Yolande's beauty to
the beauty of the world around, spake soft-voiced:
"Yolande, were mine a selfish love, here, lost within these green
solitudes, would I keep thee for mine own--to serve and worship thee unto
my life's end. But, since I count thy happiness above my dearest desires,
now will I go saddle the horse and bear thee hence."
"Whither, Joconde, whither wilt thou bear me?"
"Back to the world," said he ruefully, "thy world of prideful luxury, to
"But I have no kindred, alas!" sighed she, stooping to caress a
daisy-flower that grew adjacent.
"Why, then, thy friends--"
"My friends be very few, Joconde, and Benedicta hath her husband."
"Yolande," said he, leaning nearer, "whither should I bear thee?"
"Nay," saith she, patting the daisy with gentle finger-tip, "go thou and
saddle thy horse, mayhap I shall know this anon. Go thou and saddle the
horse." So Jocelyn arose and having saddled and bridled the horse, back he
cometh to find Yolande on her knees beside the stream, and she, hearing
his step, bowed her head, hiding her face from him; now on the sward
beside her lay the picture shattered beyond repair.
"How," said Jocelyn, "hast broken the Duke's picture, lady!"
"Thou seest!" she answered.
"And must thou weep therefore?" said he a little bitterly. "Oh, be
comforted; 't was but a toy--soon will I get thee another."
"An thou bring me another, Joconde, that will I break also."
"Ha--thou didst break it--wilfully, then?"
"With this stone, Joconde."
"Wherefore, O wherefore?" he questioned eagerly.
"For that it was but painted toy, even as thou sayest!" she answered.
"Moreover, I--love not Duke Jocelyn."
"And't was for this thou didst break the picture?"
"Nay, 'twas because these painted features may never compare with the face
of him I love."
"And whom--whom dost thou love?" quoth he, in voice low and unsteady.
Speaking not, she pointed with slender finger down into the placid, stream.
Wondering, he bent to look and thus from the stilly water his mirrored
image looked back at him; now as he stooped so stooped she, and in this
watery mirror their glances met.
"Yolande?" he whispered. "O my lady, shall a Fool's fond dream come true,
or am I mad indeed? Thou in thy beauty and I--"
"Thou, Joconde," said she, fronting him with head proudly uplift, "to my
thought thou art man greater, nobler than any proud lord or mighty duke
soever. And thou hast loved and wooed as never man wooed, methinks. And
thou art so brave and strong and so very gentle and--thus it is--I do love
"But my--my motley habit, my--"
"Thy cap of Folly, Joconde, these garments pied thou hast dignified by thy
very manhood, so are they dearer to me than lordly tire or knightly armour.
And thy jingling bells--ah, Joconde, the jingle of thy bells hath waked
within my heart that which shall never die--long time my heart hath cried
for thee, and I, to my shame, heeded not the cry, wherefore here and now,
thus upon my knees, I do most humbly confess my love."
"Thy love, Yolande--for me? Then dost truly love me? Oh, here is marvel
beyond my understanding and belief."
"Why, Joconde, ah, why?"
"See!" he cried, flinging back his head. "Look now upon this blemished
face--here where the cruel sun may shew thee all my ugliness, every
scar--behold! How may one so beautiful as thou learn love for one so lowly
and with face thus hatefully marred? I have watched thee shrink from me ere
now! I mind how, beside the lily-pool within thy garden, thou didst view me
with eyes of horror! I do mind thy very words--the first that e'er I heard
'What thing art thou that 'neath thy hood doth show A visage that might
shame the gladsome day?'
Yolande, Yolande, this poor blemished face is nothing changed since then;
such as I was, such I am!"
"Alas, Joconde!" she cried, reaching out her hands in passionate appeal.
"My words were base, cruel--and hurt me now more, ah, much more, than e'er
they wounded thee. For I do love thee with love as deep, as true as is
thine own! Wilt not believe me?"
"Oh, that I might indeed!" he groaned. "But--thou'rt alone, far from thy
home and friends, thy wonted pride and state forgotten all--mayhap thou
dost pity me or mayhap 'tis thy gratitude in guise of love doth speak me
thus? But as thou art still thine own lovely self, so am I that same poor,
motley Fool whose hateful face--"
"Joconde," she cried, "hush thee--Oh, hush thee! Thy words are whips to
lash me!" and catching his hand she kissed it and cherished it 'gainst
tear-wet cheek. "Ah, Joconde," she sighed, "so wise and yet so foolish,
know'st thou not thy dear, scarred face is the face of him I love, for love
hath touched my eyes and I do see thee at last as thou truly art, a man
great of soul, tender and strong-hearted. So art thou a man, the only man,
my man. Oh, that I might but prove my love for thee, prove it to thee and
before all men, no matter how, so I might but banish thy cruel doubts for
ever. But now, for thy dear, scarred face--"
Her soft, round arms were about his neck; and drawing him to her lips she
kissed him, his scarred brow and cheek, his eyes, his lips grown dumb with
wondering joy. Thus, lip to lip and with arms entwined, knelt they beside
that slow-moving stream that whispered softly beneath the bank and gurgled
roguish laughter in the shallows.
A dog barked faintly in the distance, a frog croaked hoarsely from the
neighbouring sedge, but lost in the wonder of their love, they heeded only
the beating of their hearts.
"A-billing and a-cooing! A-cooing and a-billing, as I'm a tanner true!"
exclaimed a hoarse voice. Up started Jocelyn, fierce-eyed and with hand on
dagger-hilt, to behold a man with shock of red hair, a man squat and burly
who, leaning on bow-stave, peered at them across the stream.
"And is it Will the Tanner?" quoth Jocelyn, loosing his dagger.
"None else, friend Motley."
"Why then, God keep thee! And now go about thy business."
"Marry, Fool, I am about my business, the which is to find thee. By Saint
Nick, there's mighty hue and cry for thee up and down within the greenwood,
aye--marry is there, as I'm a tanner tried and true. So needs must thou
along wi' me."
"With thee, Tanner? And wherefore?"
"Why, I know not wherefore, Fool, but must along. Here's me and Lob and
the potent hag that is Mopsa the Witch, lain a-watching and a-watching ye
a-billing--nay, scowl not, friend Fool, on tanner trusty, tried and
true. For hark now, here's great stir, clamour and to-do within this
forest-country for thee, Fool, the which is strange, seeing thou art but a
motley fool. Howbeit there be many great lords and knights from beyond the
Southern March a-seeking of thee, Fool."
"Ha!" quoth Jocelyn, frowning. "Envoys from Brocelaunde!"
"Alas, Joconde, and seeking thee!" saith Yolande in troubled voice.
"Moreover," continued Will, "here's our Duke Pertinax and his lady Duchess
yearning for thee, here's Robin that is Sir Robert a-clamouring for thee
and all his goodly foresters, as myself, a-seeking thee."
"But't is I found thee, Sir Long-legged Fool, I--I!" croaked a voice, and
old Mopsa the Witch peered at them from a bush hard by.
"Verily, thou hast found us!" quoth Jocelyn ruefully. "And what now?"
"Oho!" cried the Witch, cracking her finger-bones. "Now go I hot-foot to
weave spells and enchantments, aha--oho! Spells that shall prove the false
from the true, the gold from the dross. Thou, Sir Fool, art doubting lover,
so art thou blind lover! I will resolve thee thy doubts, open thy eyes and
show thee great joy or bitter sorrow--oho! Thou, proud lady, hast stooped
to love a motley mountebank--nay, flash not thy bright eyes nor toss
haughty head at an old woman--but here is solitude with none to mock
thy lowly choice or cry thee shame to love a motley Fool, aha! And thou
would'st fain prove thy love True-love, says thou? Why, so thou
shalt--beyond all doubting now and for ever, aha--oho! Truest of true or
falsest of false. Beware. Farewell, and remember:
"Follow Folly and be wise,
In such folly wisdom lies,
Love's blind, they say; but Love hath eyes,
So follow Folly, follow.
Hither-ho, Lob-Lobkyn! Lend thine old granddam thine arm. Come, my pretty
bantling, sweet poppet--come and--away!" o spake old Mopsa the Witch, and
vanished into the green with Lobkyn, who turned to flourish his club in
cheery salutation ere he plunged into the underbrush. Then Jocelyn smiled
down on Yolande to find her pale and trembling, so would he have clasped
her to his heart, but a hand grasped him and, turning, he beheld the Tanner
at his elbow.
"Friend Fool," quoth he, "needs must I take thee to Robin that Sir Robert
is, e'en as he did command, so come now thy ways with trusty tanner tried."
"Off, Red-head!" saith Jocelyn, frowning a little. "Away now, lest this my
dagger bite thee." Back leapt Will into the stream whence he had come, and
there standing, clapped bugle to lip and winded it lustily, whereupon came
divers fellows running, bow in hand, who beset Jocelyn on every side.
"Now yield thee to Tanner, friend," quoth Will, knee-deep in the stream,
"for no mind have I to hurt thee. So away with thy dagger like gentle,
kindly Fool, and away with thee to Sir Robin."
Now hereupon, as Jocelyn frowned upon them, Yolande, standing a-tiptoe,
kissed his scarred cheek and clasped his dagger-hand in soft fingers.
"Come," she pleaded, "they be a-many, so yield me thy dagger and let us go
with them, beloved!" At the whispered word Jocelyn loosed the dagger
and, clasping her instead, kissed her full-lipped. Then turned he to his
"I'm with thee, Will, thou--tanner!" quoth he. "And now bring hither the
horse for my lady's going."
"Nay," answered Will, scratching red head, "Rob--Sir Robert spake nothing
of horse for thee, or lady."
"Nor will I ride, Joconde," she murmured happily, "rather will I trudge
beside thee, my hand in thine--thus!"
So, hand in hand, they went close-guarded by their captors yet heeding them
not at all, having eyes but for each other. And oft her cheek flushed rosy
beneath his look, and oft he thrilled to the warm, close pressure of her
fingers; and thus tramped they happy in their captivity.
The sun rose high and higher, but since for them their captors were not,
neither was fatigue; and, if the way was rough there was Jocelyn's ready
hand, while for him swamps and brooks were a joy since he might bear her
in his arms. Thus tramped they by shady dingle and sunny glade, through
marshy hollows and over laughing rills, until the men began to mutter
their discontent, in especial a swart, hairy wight, and Will, glancing up
at the sun, spake:
"Two hours, lads, judge I."
"Nigher three, Tanner, nigher three!" growled the chief mutterer.
"Why so much the better, Rafe, though two was the word. Howbeit we be come
far enow, I judge, and 'tis hot I judge, so hey for Robin--and a draught o'
"Art thou weary, my Yolande?"
"Nay, is not thy dear arm about me!"
"And--thou dost love me indeed?"
"Indeed, Joconde! Mine is a love that ever groweth--"
A horn's shrill challenge; a sound of voices, and below them opened a
great, green hollow, shady with trees beneath whose shade were huts of
wattle cunningly wrought, a brook that flowed sparkling, and beyond caves
hollowed in the steepy bank.
"How now, Tanner Will," questioned Jocelyn, "hast brought us to the
"Not so, good friend-Fool, not outlaws, foresters we of Duke Pertinax,
and yonder, look 'ee, cometh Rob--Sir Robert to greet ye!" And the Tanner
pointed where one came running, a man long of leg, long of arm and very
bright of eye, a goodly man clad in hood and jerkin of neat's leather as
aforetime, only now his bugle swung from baldrick of gold and silver and in
his hood was brooched a long scarlet feather.
"What brother!" cried he joyously. "By saint Nicholas,'tis sweet to see
thee again, thou lovely Fool!" And he clasped Jocelyn in brotherly embrace,
which done, he stood off and shook doleful head. "Alas, brother!" quoth he.
"Alas! my prisoner art thou this day, wherefor I grieve, and wherefor I
know not save that it is by my lady Benedicta's strict command and her I
must obey." And now, turning to Yolande, he bared his head, louting full
low. "Lady," quoth he, "by thy rare and so great beauty I do know thee for
Yolande the Fair, so do we of the wild give thee humble greeting. Here
may'st thou rest awhile ere we bring thee to Canalise."
"But, messire," answered Yolande, clasping Jocelyn's hand, "no mind have I
to go to Canalise."
"Then alack for me, fair lady, for needs must I carry thee there within the
hour along of my motley brother. Meanwhile here within yon bower thou
shalt find cushions to thy repose, and all things to thy comfort and
"O Sir Robert! O for a comb!" she sighed.
"Expectant it waiteth thee, lady, together with water cool, sweet-perfumed
essences, unguents and other nice, lady-like toys. Moreover, there be
mirrors two of Venice and in pretty coffer--" But Yolande had vanished.
Hereupon Robin led the way into a cool, arras-hung cave where was table set
out with divers comfortable things both eatable and drinkable.
Quoth Jocelyn, hunger and thirst appeased: "And now good Robin, what do
these envoys from Brocelaunde? Why am I thy prisoner and wherefore must I
"Ha!" saith Robin, cocking merry eye, "and thy name is Joconde, the which
is an excellent name, brother, and suiteth thee well, and yet--hum!
Howbeit, friend, remember Robin loved thee for the Fool he found thee,
that same Fool foolish enow to spare a rogue his life. Dost mind my Song
o' Rogues? A good song, methinks, tripping merrily o' the tongue:
"'I'll sing a song
Not over long,
A song o' roguery,
For I'm a rogue,
And thou'rt a rogue,
And so, in faith is he.'
I mind thy fierce, hawk-nosed gossip in rusty jack and ragged cloak, his
curses! Troth brother,'tis a world of change methinks, this same fierce,
cursing, hook-nose rogue a noble knight and to-day my lord Duke! I, that
was poor outlaw, knight-at-arms and lord warden, and thou--a motley Fool
still--and my prisoner. How say'st thou, brother?"
"Why I say, Robin, that my three questions wait thy answers!"
"Verily, brother, and for this reason. I am a knight and noble, and so
being have learned me policy, and my policy is, when unable to give answer
direct to question direct, to question myself direct thus directing
question to questions other or to talk of matters of interest universal, so
do I of thyself and myself speak. And talking of myself I have on myself,
of myself, of myself made a song, and these the words, hark 'ee:
"Now Rob that was Robin Sir Robert is hight
Though Rob oft did rob when outlaw,
Since outlaw now in law is dubbed a good knight,
Robin's robbing is done, Rob robbeth no more.
Fair words brother, I think, and yet a little sad. 'But,' says you in vasty
amaze, 'my very noble and right potent Sir Robert,' says you, 'if thou
art indeed noble knight, wherefore go ye devoid of mail, surcoat, cyclas,
crested helm, banderol, lance, shield and the like pomps and gauds?'
'Brother,' says I, 'habit is habit and habit sticketh habitual, and my
habit is to go habited as suiteth my habit, suiting habit o' body to habit
o' mind.' Thus I, though Sir Robert, am Robin still, and go in soft leather
'stead of chafing steel, and my rogues, loving Robin, love Sir Robert the
better therefor, as sayeth my song in fashion apt and pertinent:
"Since habit is habit, my habit hath been
To wear habit habitually comely--
Ha, there soundeth the mustering note, so must we away and I sing no
further, which is well, for 'comely' is an ill word to rhyme with. Howbeit
here must I, beginning my song o' Robin, of beginning must Rob make an end,
for duty calleth Sir Robert, so must Robin away."
Hereupon he clapped horn to lip at which shrill summons came archers and
pikemen ranked very orderly about a fair horse-litter. But Yolande coming
radiant from the bower and espying the litter, shook her head. Quoth she:
"An thou go afoot, Joconde, so will I."
The sun was low when they came before the walls of Canalise, and passing
beneath grim portcullis and through frowning gateway, with ring and tramp,
crossed the wide market square a-throng with jostling townsfolk, who
laughed and pointed, cheered and hooted, staring amain at Jocelyn in his
threadbare motley; but Yolande, fronting all eyes with proud head aloft,
drew nearer and held his hand in firmer clasp.
Thus they came at last to the great courtyard before the palace, bright
with the glitter of steel, where men-at-arms stood mustered. Here Robin
halted his company, whereon rose the silvery note of a clarion, and forth
paced the dignified Chief Herald, who spake him full-toned and sonorous:
"In the name of our potent Duke Pertinax and his gracious lady Benedicta, I
greet thee well, Sir Robert-a-Forest. Now whom bring ye here? Pronounce!"
"Dan Merriment, Sir Gravity," answered Robin, "a Fool valiant and wise, a
maker of songs, of quips and quiddities many and jocund, Joconde hight. Sir
Wisdom, Folly behold, himself here _in propria persona_."
The Chief Herald gestured haughtily with his wand whereupon forth stepped a
file of soldiers and surrounded Jocelyn.
"Ah, Joconde! What meaneth this?" said Yolande, in troubled voice.
"Indeed, my lady, I know not!" he answered. "But let not thy brave heart
"Ah, Joconde, I fear for thee--whither would they lead thee? Nay, sweet
heaven, they shall not take thee from me!"
"Fear not, beloved, though they part us awhile."
"Away with the Motley!" thundered the Chief Herald, flourishing his wand.
"Yolande--O my beloved, fear not--" But even as he spake, the pikemen
closed in, and Jocelyn was hustled away; so stood she trembling, hands
clasped and eyes wide and fearful, until tall motley figure and flaunting
cock's-comb were lost to her sight and the jingle of his bells had died
away; then, finding herself alone and all men's eyes upon her, she lifted
bowed head and stood white-cheeked and proudly patient, waiting for what
And presently was distant stir that, growing nearer, swelled to the ring
and clash of armour and the trampling of many hoofs; and presently through
the great gateway rode many knights sumptuously caparisoned, their shields
brave with gilded 'scutcheons, pennon and bannerole a-flutter above nodding
plumes, and over all the Red Raven banner of Brocelaunde. So rode they
two-and-two until the great courtyard blazed with flashing steel and
broidered surcoats. And now a trumpet blared, and forth before this
glorious array a pursuivant rode and halted to behold Pertinax, who stepped
forth of the great banqueting-hall leading his fair Duchess by the hand,
and behind them courtiers and ladies attendant.
Once again the trumpets rang, and lifting his hand, the pursuivant spake:
"My Lord Duke Pertinax, most gracious Duchess, Jocelyn the high and mighty
Lord Duke of Brocelaunde greeteth you in all love and amity, and hither
rideth to claim a fair lady to wife. Behold our Lord Duke Jocelyn!"
Loud and long the trumpets blew as into the courtyard rode a single
horseman; tall was he and bedight in plain black armour and white surcoat
whereon the Red Raven glowed; but his face was hid in vizored helm. So
rode he through his glorious array of knights, checking his fiery steed to
gentle gait with practised hand, while thus spake the pursuivant:
"Behold here Jocelyn, Duke of Brocelaunde, to claim this day in marriage
the Lady Yolande according to her word."
"Stay, my lords!" cried a sweet, clear voice, and forth before them all
stood Yolande herself, pale-cheeked but stately of bearing and very bright
"Be it known to all here that I, Yolande, have given neither pledge nor
troth unto Duke Jocelyn--"
Now here was silence sudden and profound that none dared break saving only
the haughty Chief Herald.
"How lady, how," quoth he, "no pledge, no troth, quotha--"
"Neither one nor other, messire, nor shall there ever be--"
"Here is madness, lady, madness--"
"Here is truth, messire, truth; I may not pledge my troth with Duke Jocelyn
since I have this day pledged myself unto Duke Jocelyn's jester--"
"Jester, lady, jester? Venus aid us--Cupid shield us! A jester, a Fool, a
motley mountebank, a--"
"Aye!" cried Yolande. "All this is he, my lords. Very humble and lowly--yet
do I love him! Oh, 'tis joy--'tis joy to thus confess my love--his cap and
bells and motley livery are fairer to me than velvet mantle or knightly
armour; he is but humble jester, a Fool for men's scorn or laughter, yet is
he a man, so do I love him and so am I his--unto the end. My lords, I have
no more to say save this--give me my jester--this man I love--and suffer us
to go forth hand in hand together, even as we came."
The Duchess Benedicta uttered a soft, glad cry, and seizing her husband's
arm, shook it for very joy. But now, as Yolande fronted them all, pale and
proudly defiant, was the ring of a mailed foot, and turning, she shrank
trembling to see Duke Jocelyn hasting toward her, his black armour
glinting, his embroidered surcoat fluttering, his long arms outstretched
to her; thus quick-striding he came but, even as she put out shaking hands
to stay him, he fell upon his knee before her.
"Most brave and noble lady--beloved Yolande," he cried, and lifted his
vizor. Now beholding the scarred face of him, the tender, smiling lips, the
adoration in his grey eyes, she trembled amain and, swaying to him, rested
her hands on his mailed shoulders.
"Joconde," she whispered, "ah, Joconde--what dream is this?"
"Nay, beloved, the dream is ended and findeth me here at thy feet. The
dream is past and we do wake at last, for thy motley Fool, thy Duke and
lover am I, yet lover most of all. And thou who in thy divine mercy stooped
to love the Fool, by that same love shalt thou lift Duke Jocelyn up to thee
and heaven at last. And Oh, methinks the memory of thy so great and noble
love shall be a memory fragrant everlastingly."
So speaking, Duke Jocelyn rose, and with her hand fast in his, looked from
her loveliness round about him, blithe of eye.
"My lords," cried he, "behold my well-beloved, brave-hearted lady. Nobles
of Brocelaunde, salute your Duchess Yolande."
Hereupon was shout on shout of joyous acclaim, lost all at once in the
sweet, glad clamour of bells pealing near and far; so, hand in hand, while
the air thrilled with this merry riot, they crossed the wide courtyard, and
she flushed 'neath the worship of his look and he thrilled to the close,
warm pressure of her fingers--thus walked they betwixt the ranks of
men-at-arms and glittering chivalry, yet saw them not.
But now Yolande was aware of Benedicta's arms about her and Benedicta's
voice in her ear.
"Dear my Yolande, so True-love hath found thee at last since thou wert
brave indeed and worthy. Come now and let me deck thee to thy bridal."
"Lord Duke," quoth Pertinax, "here methinks was notable, worthy wooing."
"Aha!" quoth Mopsa the Witch, crackling her knuckle-bones. "Here, my
children, is wooing that some fool shall strive to tell tale of some day,
mayhap; but such love is beyond words and not to be told. Thus by cunning
contrivement hath Mopsa the old Witch proved the true from the false, the
gold from the dross; thou, my lady, hast proved thy love indeed, and thou,
Lord Duke, may nevermore doubt such love. And now away and wed each other
to love's fulfilment--hark where the bells do summon ye."
And thus, as evening fell, they were wed within the great Minster of
Canalise, and thereafter came they to the banqueting-hall with retinue of
knights and nobles. Last of all strode Robin with his foresters, and as
they marched he sang a song he had learned of Jocelyn, and these the words:
"What is love? 'Tis this, I say,
Flower that springeth in a day,
Ne'er to die or fade away,
Since True-love dieth never.
"Though youth alas! too soon shall wane,
Though friend prove false and effort vain,
True-love all changeless shall remain
The same to-day and ever."
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