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the novel domnei


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Title:Domnei
Author:JamesBranchCabell
PostingDate:November15,2011[EBook#9663]ReleaseDate:January,2006
FirstPosted:October14,2003
Language:English
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Domnei
AComedyofWoman-Worship
By



JAMESBRANCHCABELL

1920

"Encorgentildomneipermortnopassa."
TO
SARAHREADMcADAMS
INGRATITUDEANDAFFECTION

"Thecomplicationofopinionsandideas,ofaffectionsandhabits,which
promptedthechevaliertodevotehimselftotheserviceofalady,andbywhich
hestrovetoprovetoherhislove,andtomerithersinreturn,wasexpressed,in
thelanguageoftheTroubadours,byasingleword,bytheworddomnei,a
derivationofdomna,whichmayberegardedasanalterationoftheLatin
domina,lady,mistress."
—C.C.FAURIEL,HistoryofProvencalPoetry.
CONTENTS
CHAPTER
APREFACE
CRITICALCOMMENT
THEARGUMENT


PARTONE—PERION
IHOWPERIONWASUNMASKED
IIHOWTHEVICOMTEWASVERYGAY
IIIHOWMELICENTWOOED
IVHOWTHEBISHOPAIDEDPERION
VHOWMELICENTWEDDED

PARTTWO—MELICENT
VIHOWMELICENTSOUGHTOVERSEA
VIIHOWPERIONWASFREED
VIIIHOWDEMETRIOSWASAMUSED
IXHOWTIMESPEDINHEATHENRY
XHOWDEMETRIOSWOOED

PARTTHREE—DEMETRIOS
XIHOWTIMESPEDWITHPERION
XIIHOWDEMETRIOSWASTAKEN


XIIIHOWTHEYPRAISEDMELICENT
XIVHOWPERIONBRAVEDTHEODORET.
XVHOWPERIONFOUGHT
XVIHOWDEMETRIOSMEDITATED.
XVIIHOWAMINSTRELCAME


XVIIIHOWTHEYCRIEDQUITS
XIXHOWFLAMBERGEWASLOST
XXHOWPERIONGOTAID

PARTFOUR—AHASUERUS
XXIHOWDEMETRIOSHELDHISCHATTEL
XXIIHOWMISERYHELDNACUMERA.
XXIIIHOWDEMETRIOSCRIEDFAREWELL
XXIVHOWORESTESRULED
XXVHOWWOMENTALKEDTOGETHER
XXVIHOWMENORDEREDMATTERS
XXVIIHOWAHASUERUSWASCANDID
XXVIIIHOWPERIONSAWMELICENT
XXIXHOWABARGAINWASCRIED
XXXHOWMELICENTCONQUERED
THEAFTERWORD
BIBLIOGRAPHY

APreface
By
JosephHergesheimer
Itwouldbeabsorbingtodiscoverthepresentfeminineattitudetowardthe


profoundestcomplimenteverpaidwomenbytheheartandmindofmenin
league—theworshippingdevotionconceivedbyPlatoandelevatedtoaliving
faithinmediaevalFrance.Throughthatrenaissanceofasublimatedpassion
domneiwasregardedasathroneofalabasterbythechosenfiguresofitsservice:
Melicent,atBellegarde,waitingforhermarriagewithKingTheodoret,held
closeanimageofPerionmadeofsubstancethattimewaspowerlesstodestroy;
andwhich,inalifeofsingularviolence,wherebloodhungscarletbeforemen's
eyeslikeatapestry,burnedinasilverflameuntroubledbythefateofherbody.
Itwas,toher,amagicthatkeptherinviolable,perpetually,inspiteofmarauding
fingers,aroseintheblanchedperfectionofitsearlyflowering.
Theclearestpossiblecaseforthatreligionwasthatittransmutedtheindividual
subjectofitsadorationintothedeathlesssplendorofaMadonnauniqueandyet
divisibleinamirageofearthlyloveliness.ItwasheavencometoAquitaine,to
theCourtsofLove,inshapesofvividfragrantbeauty,withdelectablehairlying
goldonwhitesamiteworkedinbordersofbluepetals.Itchosenotabstractions
foritsfaith,butthemostdesirableofallactual—yes,worldly—incentives:the
sister,itmightbe,ofCountEmmerickofPoictesme.And,approachingbeatitude
notsomuchthroughasymbolofagonyasbythefragilegraceofawoman,
raisingMelicenttothestars,itfused,morecompletelythaninanyother
aspiration,thespiritandtheflesh.
However,initscontact,itslovers'delight,itwasnomorethanaslowclasping
andunclaspingofthehands;thespiritandflesh,merged,becamespiritual;the
heightofstarswasnotafigment….Here,sincetheconceptionofdomneihasso
utterlyvanished,thebreakbetweentheagesimpassable,thesympathybornof
understandingisinterrupted.Hardlyawoman,to-day,wouldvalueasighthe
passionwhichturnedamansteadfastlyawaythathemightbewithherforever
beyondtheparchedforestofdeath.Nowsuchemotionisheldstrictlytothe
gains,theaccountability,oflife'simmediatespan;womenhavelefttheircloudy
magnificenceforafootingonearth;but—atleastinwarmgracefulyouth—their
dreamsarestillofaPeriondelaForêt.These,clear-eyed,theydisavow;yettheir
secretdesire,themostElysianofallhopes,toburnatoncewiththebodyandthe
soul,mockswhattheyfind.
Thatvision,dominatingMr.Cabell'spages,therecordofhisrevealedidealism,
bringsspeciallytoDomneiabeautyfinelyescapingthedustyconfusionofany
present.Itisabooklaidinapurity,aserenity,ofspaceabovethevapors,the
bigotryandengenderedspite,ofdogmaandcreed.Truetoyesterday,itwillbe


faithfulofto-morrow;for,intheevolutionofhumanity,notnecessarilytheturn
ofawheelupward,certainqualitieshaveremainedatthecenter,undisturbed.
And,ofthese,noneismorefixedthananabstractlove.
Differentinmenthaninwomen,itis,fortheformer,aninstinct,aneed,toserve
ratherthanbeserved:theirdesireisforashiningimagesuperior,atbest,toboth
lustandmaternity.Thisconsciousness,grownsodimthatitisscarcely
perceptible,yetstillalive,isnotextinguishedwithyouth,butlingershopelessof
satisfactionthroughtheincongruousyearsofmiddleage.Thereisneveraman,
giftedtoanydegreewithimagination,buteternallysearchesforanultimate
lovelinessnotdisappearinginthecircleofhisembrace—theinstinctively
Platonicgesturetowardtheonlyimmortalityconceivableintermsofecstasy.
Atruth,now,inverylowesteem!Withthesolidificationofsociety,ofproperty,
thebondoffamilyhasbeentremendouslyexalted,themerefactofparenthood
declaredthelastsanctity.Togetherwiththis,naturally,thepersistenterrantryof
men,sovulgarlymisunderstood,hasbecomeonlyareprehensibleparadox.The
entireshelfofJamesBranchCabell'sbooks,dedicatedtoanunquenchable
masculineidealism,has,aswell,aparadoxicalplaceinanageofmaterial
sentimentality.Comparedwiththenovelsofthemoment,Domneiisanisolated,
aheroicfragmentofavastlydeeperandhigherstructure.And,ofitsmany
aspects,itisnotimpossiblethatthehighest,risingoverevenitsheavenlyvision,
istherare,thesimple,fortitudeofitsstatement.
WhateverdissentthephilosophyofPerionandMelicentmaybreed,noonecan
failtoadmirethesteadycouragewithwhichitisupheld.Asidefromitsspecial
preoccupation,suchindependenceinthefaceofponderablethreat,such
acceptedisolation,hasararestabilityinaworldtreacherouswithmental
quicksandsandevasions.Thisisavalornotdrawnfrominsensibility,butfrom
thesharpestpossiblerecognitionofalltheevilandCyclopeanforcesin
existence,andadeliberateengagementofthemontheirownground.Nothing
more,inthatdirection,canbeaskedofMr.Cabell,ofanyone.Whileaboutthe
storyitself,thesoulofMelicent,theformandincidentalwriting,itisnolonger
necessarytospeak.
Thepageshavetherichsparkleofapastlikestainedglasscalledtolife:the
ConfraternityofSt.MédardpresentingtheirmasqueofHercules;theclaret
coloredwallsadornedwithgoldcinquefoilsofDemetrios'court;hispavilion
withporticoesofAndalusiancopper;Theodoret'scapital,Megaris,ruddywith


bonfires;thefreeportofNarentawithitssailsspreadforthelandofpagans;the
lichen-incrustedgladeintheForestofColumbiers;gardenswiththewalks
sprinkledwithcrocusandvermilionandpowderedmica…allareatoncereal
andbrightwithunreality,rayedwiththesplendorofanantiquitybuiltfromwebs
andfilmsofimaginedwonder.Thepastis,atitsmoment,thepresent,andthat
lostisvalueless.Distilledbytime,onlyanimperishableromanticconception
remains;avision,whereitissignificant,animatedbythefeelings,themenand
women,whichonly,atheart,arechangeless.
They,thesurchargedfiguresofDomnei,movevividlythroughtheirstone
galleriesandcloses,inprocession,and—afarmoredifficultaccomplishment—
alone.TheluteoftheBishopofMontors,playingasheridesinscarlet,sounds
itsProvençalrefrain;theoldmanTheodoret,aking,sitsshabbilybetweena
prie-dieuandthetarnishedhangingsofhisbed;Mélusine,withthepalefrosty
hairofachild,spinsthemelancholyofdepartedpassion;AhasuerustheJew
buysMelicentforahundredandtwominaeandentersherroompastmidnight
forhisactofabnegation.Andattheend,looking,perhaps,foramortalwoman,
Perionfinds,inafleshnotunscarredbyyears,therosebeyonddestruction,the
highsilverflameofimmortalhappiness.
Somuch,then,everythingintheinnerquestioningofbeingscondemnedtoa
glimpseofremoteperfection,asthoughtheskyhadopenedonacityofpure
bliss,transpiresinDomnei;whilethefactthatitislaidinPoictesmesharpensthe
thrustofitsillusion.Itisbythatmuchtheeasierofentry;itborders—ratherthan
ontheclamorofmills—onthereachesmenexplore,leaving'wearinessand
dejectionforfancy—ageographyforlonelysensibilitiesbetrayedbychanceinto
theblindtraps,theissuelessbarrens,ofexistence.
JOSEPHHERGESHEIMER.

CRITICALCOMMENT
AndNormanNicolasatheartémeant
(Pardie!)somesubtleoccupation
InmakingofhisTaleofMelicent,
ThatstubbornlydesirédPerion.
Whatperilsfortorollenupanddown,
Solongprocess,somanyaslycautel,


Fortoobtainasillydamosel!
—THOMASUPCLIFFE.

NicolasdeCaen,oneofthemosteminentoftheearlyFrenchwritersof
romance,wasbornatCaeninNormandyearlyinthe15thcentury,andwas
livingin1470.Littleisknownofhislife,apartfromthefactthataportionofhis
youthwasspentinEngland,wherehewasconnectedinsomeminorcapacity
withthehouseholdoftheQueenDowager,JoanofNavarre.Inlaterlife,from
thefactthattwoofhisworksarededicatedtoIsabellaofPortugal,thirdwifeto
PhiliptheGood,DukeofBurgundy,itisconjecturedthatNicolaswasattached
tothecourtofthatprince....NicolasdeCaenwasnotgreatlyesteemednor
highlypraisedbyhiscontemporaries,orbywritersofthecenturyfollowing,but
latterlyhasreceivedtherecognitionduetohisunusualqualitiesofinventionand
conductofnarrative,togetherwithhisconsiderableknowledgeofmenand
manners,andoccasionalremarkablemodernityofthought.Hisbooks,therefore,
apartfromtheinterestattachedtothemasspecimensofearlyFrenchromance,
andinspiteofthedifficultiesandcruditiesoftheunformedlanguageinwhich
theyarewritten,arestillreadable,andarerichininstructivedetailconcerning
theagethatgavethembirth....ManyromancesareattributedtoNicolasde
Caen.Moderncriticismhasselectedfouronlyasundoubtedlyhis.Theseare—
(1)LesAventuresd'AdhelmardeNointel,ametricalromance,plainlyofyouthful
composition,containingsomeseventhousandverses;(2)LeRoyAmaury,well
knowntoEnglishstudentsinWatson'sspiritedtranslation;(3)LeRomande
Lusignan,are-handlingoftheMelusinamyth,mostofwhichiswhollylost;(4)
LeDizaindesReines,acollectionofquasi-historicalnovellinointerspersedwith
lyrics.SixotherromancesareknowntohavebeenwrittenbyNicolas,butthese
haveperished;andheiscreditedwiththeauthorshipofLeCocuRouge,included
byHinsauf,andofseveralOvidiantranslationsorimitationsstillunpublished.
TheSatiresformerlyattributedtohimBülghasshowntobespurious
compositionsof17thcenturyorigin.
—E.NoelCodman,HandbookofLiteraryPioneers.
NicolasdeCaenestunreprésentantagréable,naïf,etexpressifdecetâgeque
nousaimonsànousreprésenterdeloincommel'âged'ordubonvieuxtemps…
NicolascroyaitàsonRoyetàsaDame,ilcroyaitsurtoutàsonDieu.Nicolas
sentaitquelemondeétaitseméàchaquepasd'obscuritésetd'embûches,etque


l'inconnuétaitpartout;partoutaussiétaitleprotecteurinvisibleetlesoutien;à
chaquesoufflequifrémissait,Nicolascroyaitlesentircommederrièrelerideau.
Lecielpar-dessusceNicolasdeCaenétaitouvert,peupléenchaquepointde
figuresvivantes,depatronsattentifsetmanifestes,d'uneinvocationdirecte.Le
plusintrépideguerrieralorsmarchaitdansunmélangehabitueldecrainteetde
confiance,commeuntoutpetitenfant.Acettevue,lesespritslesplusémancipés
d'aujourd'huinesauraients'empêcherdecrier,entempérantleursourireparle
respect:Sanctasimplicitas!
—PaulVerville,NoticesurlaviedeNicolasdeCaen.


THEARGUMENT
_"Ofhow,throughWoman-Worship,knavescompound
Withhonoure;Kingsrecknotoftheirdomaine;
ProudPontiffssigh;&War-menworld-renownd,
ToewinoneWoman,allthingselsedisdaine:
SinceMelicentdothinherselfecontayne
Allthisworld'sRichesthatmayfarrebefound.
"IfSaphyresyedesire,hereiesareplaine;
IfRubies,loe,hirlipsbeRubyessound;
IfPearles,hirteethbePearles,bothpure&round;
IfYvorie,herforeheadYvoryweene;
IfGold,herlockswithfinestGoldabound;
IfSilver,herfairehandshaveSilver'ssheen.
"Yetthatwhichfayrestis,butFewbeholde,
HerSouladorndwithvertuesmanifold."_
—SIRWILLIAMALLONBY.

THEROMANCEOFLUSIGNANOFTHATFORGOTTENMAKERIN
THEFRENCHTONGUE,MESSIRENICOLASDECAEN.HERE
BEGINSTHETALEWHICHTHEYOFPOICTESMENARRATE
CONCERNINGDAMEMELICENT,THATWASDAUGHTERTOTHE
GREATCOUNTMANUEL.


PARTONE
PERION
HowPerion,thatstalwartwasandgay,
Treadethwithsorrowonaholiday,
SinceMelicentanonmustwedaking:
Howinhishearthehathvainlove-longing,
Forwhichheputtethlifeinforfeiture,
Andwouldnolongerinsuchwiseendure;
ForwrithingPerioninVenus'fire
Soburneththathediethfordesire.

1.
HowPerionWasUnmasked
PerionafterwardrememberedthetwoweeksspentatBellegardeasinrecovery
fromillnessapersonmightremembersomelongfeverdreamwhichwasallof
anintolerableelvishbrightnessandofincessantlaughtereverywhere.They
madeadealofhiminCountEmmerick'spleasanthome:daybydaytheoutlaw
wasthrustintorelationsofmirthwithnoblemen,proudladies,andevenwitha
king;andwasallthewhilehalflightheadedthroughhissingularknowledgeasto
howprecariouslytheself-styledVicomtedePuysangenowbalancedhimself,as
itwere,uponagildedstepping-stonefrominfamytooblivion.


NowthatKingTheodorethadwithdrawnhissinisterpresence,youngPerion
spentsomesevenhoursofeverydayalone,toallintent,withDameMelicent.
Theremightbemerrypeoplewithinastone'sthrow,aboutthisrecreationor
another,butthesetwoseemedtowatchaloofly,asroyalpersonsdotheanticsof
theirhiredcomedians,withoutanycondescensionintoopeninterest.Theywere
together;andthejostleofearthlyhappeningsmighthope,atmost,toaffordthem
matterforincuriouscomment.
Theysat,asPerionthought,forthelasttimetogether,partofanaudiencebefore
whichtheConfraternityofSt.MédardwasenactingamasqueofTheBirthof
Hercules.TheBishopofMontorshadreturnedtoBellegardethateveningwith
hisbrother,CountGui,andthepleasure-lovingprelatehadbroughtthesemirthmakersinhistrain.Cladinscarlet,herodebeforethemplayinguponalute—
unclericalconductwhichshockedhispreciserbrotherandsurprisednobody.
InsuchcircumstancesPerionbegantospeakwithanoddpurpose,becausehis
reasonwasbedruggedbythebeautyandpurityofMelicent,andperhapsalittle
bytheslowandclutchingmusictowhoseprogressthechorusofThebanvirgins
wasdancing.Whenhehadmadeanendofharshwhispering,Melicentsatfora
whileinscrupulousappraisementoftherushes.Themusicwassosweetit
seemedtoPerionhemustgomadunlessshespokewithinthemoment.
ThenMelicentsaid:
"YoutellmeyouarenottheVicomtedePuysange.Youtellmeyouare,instead,
thelateKingHelmas'servitor,suspectedofhismurder.Youarethefellowthat
stoletheroyaljewels—theoutlawforwhomhalfChristendomissearching—"
ThusMelicentbegantospeakatlast;andstillhecouldnotinterceptthosehuge
andtendereyeswhosepurplemadethethoughtofheavencomprehensible.
Themanreplied:
"IamthatwidelyhoundedPerionoftheForest.Thetruevicomteisthewounded
rascaloverwhosedeliriumwemarvelledonlylastTuesday.Yes,atthedoorof
yourhomeIattackedhim,foughthim—hah,butfairly,madame!—andstolehis
brilliantgarmentsandwiththemhispapers.TheninmydesperatenecessityI
daredtomasquerade.ForIknowenoughaboutdancingtoestimatethattodance
uponairmustnecessarilyprovetoeverybodyadisgustingperformance,butpreeminentlyunpleasingtothemainactor.TwoweeksofsafetytilltheTranchemer


sailedIthereforevaluedataperhapspreposterousrate.To-night,asIhavesaid,
theshipliesatanchoroffManneville."
Melicentsaidanoddthing,asking,"Oh,canitbeyouarealessdespicable
personthanyouarestrivingtoappear!"
"Rather,IamamoreunmitigatedfoolthanevenIsuspected,sincewhenaffairs
wereinapromisingtrainIhaveelectedtoblurtout,ofallthings,thenakedand
distastefultruth.Proclaimitnow;andseethelateVicomtedePuysangelugged
outofthishallandafterappropriatetorturehangedwithinthemonth."Andwith
thatPerionlaughed.
Thereafterhewassilent.Asthemasquewent,Amphitryonhadnewlyreturned
fromwarfare,andwassingingunderAlcmena'swindowinthetermsofan
aubade,awaking-song."_Reiglorios,veraislumseclardatz—"Amphitryonhad
begun.DameMelicentheardhimthrough.
Andaftermanyages,asitseemedtoPerion,thesoftandbrilliantandexquisite
mouthwasprickedtomotion.
"Youhaveaffronted,byanincredibleimpostureandbeyondthereachofmercy,
everylistenerinthishall.Youhaveinjuredmemostdeeplyofallpersonshere.
Yetitistomealonethatyouconfess."
Perionleanedforward.Youaretounderstandthat,throughtheincurrent
necessitiesofeverycircumstance,eachofthemspokeinwhispers,evennow.It
wascurioustonotethecandidmirthoneitherside.Mercurywasmakinghis
adieuxtoAlcmena'swaiting-womaninthemiddleofajig.
"Butyou,"sneeredPerion,"aremercifulinallthings.RoguethatIam,Idareto
buildonthisnotoriousfact.Iamsnaredinahardgoldentrap,Icannotgeta
guidetoManneville,IcannotevenprocureahorsefromCountEmmerick's
stableswithoutarousingfatalsuspicions;andImustbeatMannevillebydawn
orelsebehanged.ThereforeIdarestakeallupononethrow;andyoumusteither
saveorhangmewithunwashedhands.AssurelyasGodreigns,myfuturerests
withyou.AndasIamperfectlyaware,youcouldnotlivecomfortablywitha
gnat'sdeathuponyourconscience.Eh,amInotaseasonedrascal?"
"Donotremindmenowthatyouarevile,"saidMelicent."Ah,no,notnow!"


"Lackey,impostor,andthief!"hesternlyanswered."Thereyouhavethe
catalogueofallmyrightfultitles.Andbesides,itpleasesme,forareasonI
cannotentirelyfathom,tobeunpardonablycandidandtoflingmydestinyinto
yourlap.To-night,asIhavesaid,theTranchemerliesoffManneville;keep
counsel,getmeahorseifyouwill,andto-morrowIamembarkedfordesperate
serviceundertheharriedKaiseroftheGreeks,andforthroat-cuttingsfrom
whichIamnotlikelyevertoreturn.Speak,andIhangbeforethemonthisup."
DameMelicentlookedathimnow,andwithinthemomentPerionwasrepaid,
andbountifully,foreveryfollyandmisdeedofhisentirelife.
"WhatharmhaveIeverdoneyou,MessiredelaForêt,thatyoushouldshame
meinthisfashion?Untilto-nightIwasnotunhappyinthebeliefIwaslovedby
you.Imaysaythatnowwithoutpaltering,sinceyouarenotthemanIthought
somedaytolove.Youarebuttherindofhim.Andyouwouldforcemetocheat
justice,tobecomeahuntedthief'saccomplice,orelsetomurderyou!"
"Itcomestothat,madame."
"ThenImusthelpyoupreserveyourlifebyanysorrystratagemsyoumay
devise.Ishallnothinderyou.IwillprocureyouaguidetoManneville.Iwill
evenforgiveyouallsaveoneoffence,sincedoubtlessheavenmadeyouthefoul
thingyouare."Thegirlwasinahotandsplendidrage."Foryouloveme.
Womenknow.Youloveme.You!"
"Undoubtedly,madame."
"Lookintomyface!andsaywhathorridwritofinfamyyoufanciedwas
apparentthere,thatmynailsmaydestroyit."
"Iamallbase,"heanswered,"andyetnotsoprofoundlybaseasyousuppose.
Nay,believeme,Ihadneverhopedtowinevensuchscornfulkindnessasyou
mightaccordyourlapdog.IhavebutdaredtopeepatheavenwhileImight,and
onlyaslostDivespeeped.IgnobleasIam,Ineverdreamedtosquireanangel
downtowardthemireandfilthwhichishenceforwardmyinevitablekennel."
"Themasqueisdone,"saidMelicent,"andyetyoutalk,andtalk,andtalk,and
mimictruthsocunningly—Well,Iwillsendsometrustypersontoyou.And
now,forGod'ssake!—nay,forthefiend'slovewhoisyourpatron!—letmenot
everseeyouagain,MessiredelaForêt."


2.
HowtheVicomteWasVeryGay
Therewasdancingafterwardandasumptuoussupper.TheVicomtedePuysange
wasgenerallyaccountedthateveningthemostexcellentofcompany.He
mingledaffablywiththerevellersandfoundaprosperousanswerforeveryjest
theybrokeupontheprojectedmarriageofDameMelicentandKingTheodoret;
andmeanwhilehuggedthereflectionthathalftherealmwashuntingPerionde
laForêtinthemorecustomaryhauntsofrascality.ThespringsofPerion's
turbulentmirthwerethatto-morroweverypersonintheroomwoulddiscover
howimpudentlyeverypersonhadbeentricked,andthatMelicentdeliberated
evennow,andcouldnotbutadmire,thehuntedoutlaw'sinsolence,however
muchsheloatheditsperpetrator;andoverthisthoughtinparticularPerion
laughedlikeamadman.
"Youareverygayto-night,MessiredePuysange,"saidtheBishopof
Montors.
Thisremarkableyoungman,itisnecessarytorepeat,hadreachedBellegarde
thatevening,comingfromBrunbelois.Itwashe(asyouhaveheard)whohad
arrangedthematchwithTheodoret.Thebishophimselflovedhiscousin
Melicent;but,nowthathewasinholyordersandpossessionofherhadbecome
impossible,hehadcannilyresolvedtoutiliseherbeauty,ashedideverything
else,towardhisownpreferment.
"Oh,sir,"repliedPerion,"youwhoaresofineapoetmustsurelyknowthatgay
rhymeswithto-dayaspatlyassorrowgoeswithto-morrow."
"Yetyourgaylaughter,MessiredePuysange,isafterallbutbreath:andbreath
also"—thebishop'ssharpeyesfixedPerion's—"hasahackneyedrhyme."
"Indeed,itisthegrimrhymethatroundsoffandsilencesallourrhyming,"
Perionassented."Imustlaugh,then,withoutrhymeorreason."
Stilltheyoungprelatetalkedratheroddly."But,"saidhe,"youhaveanexcellent
reason,nowthatyousupsoneartoheaven."AndhisglanceatMelicentdidnot
lackpith.


"No,no,Ihavequiteanotherreason,"Perionanswered;"itisthatto-morrowI
breakfastinhell."
"Well,theytellmethelandlordofthatplaceisusedtocatertoeachaccordingto
hismerits,"thebishop,shrugging,returned.
AndPerionthoughthowtruethiswaswhen,attheevening'send,hewasalone
inhisownroom.Hislifewastolerablysecure.HetrustedAhasuerustheJewto
seetoitthat,aboutdawn,oneoftheship'sboatswouldtouchatFomorBeach
nearManneville,accordingtotheiroldagreement.AboardtheTranchemerthe
FreeCompanionsawaitedtheircaptain;andthesavagelandtheywereboundfor
wasathoughtbeyondthereachofakingdom'slamentablecuriosityconcerning
thewhereaboutsofKingHelmas'treasure.TheworthlesslifeofPerionwassafe.
Forworthless,andfarlessthanworthless,lifeseemedtoPerionashethoughtof
Melicentandwaitedforhermessenger.Hethoughtofherbeautyandpurityand
illimitableloving-kindnesstowardeverypersonintheworldsaveonlyPerionof
theForest.Hethoughtofhowcleanshewasineverythoughtanddeed;ofthat,
aboveall,hethought,andheknewthathewouldneverseeheranymore.
"Oh,butpastanydoubting,"saidPerion,"thedevilcaterstoeachaccordingto
hismerits."

3.
HowMelicentWooed
ThenPerionknewthatvainregrethadturnedhisbrain,verycertainly,forit
seemedthedoorhadopenedandDameMelicentherselfhadcome,warily,into
thepanelledgloomyroom.ItseemedthatMelicentpausedintheconvulsive
brilliancyofthefirelight,andstayedthuswithvaguelytroubledeyeslikethose
ofachildnewlywakenedfromsleep.
AnditseemedalongwhilebeforeshetoldPerionveryquietlythatshehad
confessedalltoAyrartdeMontors,andhad,byreasonofdeMontors'lovefor
her,sogoadedandalluredtheoutcomeoftheirtalk—"ignobly,"asshesaid,—


thataclean-handedgentlemanwouldcomeatthreeo'clockforPeriondela
Forêt,andguideathieftowardunmeritedimpunity.Allthisshespokequite
levelly,asonereadsaloudfromabook;andthen,withasignalchangeofvoice,
Melicentsaid:"Yes,thatistrueenough.Yetwhy,inreality,doyouthinkIhave
inmyownpersoncometotellyouofit?"
"Madame,Imaynotguess.Hah,indeed,indeed,"Perioncried,becauseheknew
thetruthandwasunspeakablyafraid,"Idarenotguess!"
"Yousailto-morrowforthefightingoversea——"shebegan,buthersweet
voicetrailedanddiedintosilence.Heheardthecrepitationsofthefire,andeven
thehurriedbeatingsofhisownheart,asagainstaterribleandlovelyhushofall
createdlife."Thentakemewithyou."
Perionhadneveranyrecollectionofwhatheanswered.Indeed,heutteredno
communicativewords,butonlyfoolishbabblements.
"Oh,Idonotunderstand,"saidMelicent."Itisasthoughsomespellwerelaid
uponme.Lookyou,Ihavebeencleanlyreared,Ihaveneverwrongedany
personthatIknowof,andthroughoutmyquiet,shelteredlifeIhavelovedtruth
andhonourmostofall.Myjudgmentgrantsyoutobewhatyouareconfessedly.
Andthereisthatinmemoremasterfulandsurerthanmyjudgment,thatwhich
seemsomniscientandlightlyputsasideyourconfessingsasunimportant."
"Lackey,impostor,andthief!"youngPerionanswered."Thereyouhavethe
catalogueofallmyrightfultitlesfairlyearned."
"AndevenifIbelievedyou,IthinkIwouldnotcare!Isthatnotstrange?For
thenIshoulddespiseyou.Andeventhen,Ithink,Iwouldflingmyhonourat
yourfeet,asIdonow,andbutinpartwithloathing,Iwouldstillentreatyouto
makeofmeyourwife,yourservant,anythingthatpleasedyou....Oh,Ihad
thoughtthatwhenlovecameitwouldbesweet!"
Strangelyquiet,ineverysense,heanswered:
"Itisverysweet.Ihaveknownnohappiermomentinmylife.Foryoustand
withinarm'sreach,minetotouch,minetopossessanddowithasIelect.AndI
darenotliftafinger.Iamasamanthathaslainforalongwhileinadungeon
vainlyhungeringforthegladlightofday—who,beingfreedatlast,musthide
hiseyesfromthedearsunlighthedarenotlookuponasyet.Ho,Iampast


speechunworthyofyournotice!andIprayyounowspeakharshlywithme,
madame,forwhenyourpureeyesregardmekindly,andyourbrightanddelicate
lipshavecomethusneartomine,IamsogreatlytemptedandsohappythatI
fearlestheavengrowjealous!"
"Benottoomuchafraid—"shemurmured.
"Nay,shouldIthenbebold?andwithinthemomentwakeCountEmmerickto
saytohim,veryboldly,'Beausire,thethiefhalfChristendomishuntinghasthe
honourtorequestyoursister'shandinmarriage'?"
"Yousailto-morrowforthefightingoversea.Takemewithyou."
"Indeedthefeatwouldbeworthyofme.Foryouarealadytenderlynurtured
andusedtoeveryluxurytheageaffords.Therecomestowooyoupresentlyan
excellentandpotentmonarch,notallunworthyofyourlove,whowillpresently
sharewithyoumanyhappyandhonourableyears.Yonderisalawlessnaked
wildernesswhereIandmyfellowdesperadoeshopetocheatoffendedjustice
andtopreservethrice-forfeitedlivesinsavagery.Youbidmeaidyoutogointo
thiscountry,nevertoreturn!Madame,ifIobeyedyou,Satanwouldprotest
againstpollutionofhisagelessfiresbyanysoulsofilthy."
"Youtalkoflittlethings,whereasIthinkofgreatthings.Loveisnotsustained
bypalatablefoodalone,andisnotservedonlybythosepersonswhogoabout
theworldinsatin."
"Thentaketheshamefultruth.ItisundeniableIsworeIlovedyou,andwith
appropriategestures,too.But,dompnedex,madame!Iampastmasterinthese
speciousecstasies,forsomehowIhaverarelyseenthewomanwhohadnotsome
charmorothertocatchmyheartwith.Iconfessnowthatyoualonehavenever
quickenedit.Myonlypurposewasthroughhyperboletowheedleyououtofa
horse,andmeanwhiletohavemyrecreation,youhandsomejade!—andthatis
allyouevermeanttome.Isweartoyouthatisall,all,all!"sobbedPerion,forit
appearedthathemustdie."Ihaveamusedmyselfwithyou,Ihaveabominably
trickedyou—"
Melicentonlywaitedwithuntroubledeyeswhichseemedtoplumbhisheartand
toappraiseallwhichPerionhadeverthoughtorlongedforsincethedaythat
Perionwasborn;andshewasasbeautiful,itseemedtohim,astheuntroubled,
graciousangelsare,andmorecompassionate.


"Yes,"Perionsaid,"Iamtryingtolietoyou.AndevenatlyingIfail."
Shesaid,withawonderfulsmile:
"Assuredlytherewereneveranyotherpersonssomadaswe.ForImustdothe
wooing,asthoughyouwerethemaid,andallthewhileyourebuffmeandsuffer
sothatIfeartolookonyou.Mensayyouarenobetterthanahighwayman;you
confessyourselftobeathief:andIbelievenoneofyouraccusers.Periondela
Forêt,"saidMelicent,andballad-makershavenevershapedaphrasewherewith
totellyouofhervoice,"Iknowthatyouhavedabbledindishonournomore
oftenthananarchangelhaspilfereddryinglinenfromahedgerow.Idonot
guess,formyhourisuponme,andinevitablyIknow!andthereisnothingdares
tocomebetweenusnow."
"Nay,—ho,andevenweremattersasyousupposethem,withoutanywarrant,—
thereisatleastonesillystumblingknavethatdaresasmuch.Saithhe:'Whatis
themostpreciousthingintheworld?—Why,assuredly,DameMelicent's
welfare.Letmegetthekeepingofit,then.ForIhavebeenentrustedwithahost
ofcommonpricelessthings—withyouthandvigourandhonour,withaclean
conscienceandachild'sfaith,andsoon—andnopersonalivehassquandered
themmoregallantly.Soheartwardho!andtrustmenow,mytimorousyokefellow,towinandsquanderalsothechiefestjeweloftheworld.'Eh,thushe
chucklesandnudgesme,withwickedwhisperings.Indeed,madame,thisrascal
thatsharesequallyinmyleastfacultyisamostpitiful,ignoblerogue!andhehas
aforetimeekedoutourcommonlivelihoodbysuchpracticesasyourunsullied
imaginationcouldscarcelydepicture.UntilIknewyouIhadenduredhim.But
youhavemadeofhimahorror.Ahorror,ahorror!athingtoopitifulforhell!"
Perionturnedawayfromher,groaning.Heflunghimselfintoachair.
Hescreenedhiseyesasifbeforesomephysicalabomination.
Thegirlkneeledclosetohim,touchinghim.
"Mydear,mydear!thenslayformethisotherPerionoftheForest."
AndPerionlaughed,notverymirthfully.
"Itisthecommonusageofwomentoaskofmenthislittlelabour,whichisa
hardertaskthaneverHercules,thatmighty-muscledkingofheathenry,achieved.
Nay,I,forallmysinews,amanattestedweakling.ThecraftofothermenIdo


notfear,forIhaveencounterednoformidableenemysavemyself;butthatsame
midnightstabberunhorsedmelongago.Ihadwallowedinthemirecontentedly
enoughuntilyoucame….Ah,child,child!whyneededyoutotroubleme!for
to-nightIwanttobecleanasyouareclean,andthatImaynoteverbe.Iam
garrisonedwithdevils,Iamthebatteredplaythingofeveryvice,andIlackthe
strength,anditmaybe,eventhewill,toleavemymire.AlwaysIhavebetrayed
thestewardshipofmanandgodalikethatmybodymightescapeamomentary
discomfort!AndlovingyouasIdo,IcannotswearthatintheoutcomeIwould
notbetrayyoutoo,tothissameend!Icannotswear—Oh,nowletSatanlaugh,
yetnotunpitifully,sinceheandI,alone,knowallthereasonswhyImaynot
swear!Hah,MadameMelicent!"criedPerion,inhisgreatagony,"youofferme
thatgiftanemperormightnotacceptsaveinawedgratitude;andIrefuseit."
Gentlyheraisedhertoherfeet."Andnow,inGod'sname,go,madame,and
leavetheprodigalamonghishusks."
"Youareaverybraveandfoolishgentleman,"shesaid,"whochoosestofacehis
ownachievementswithoutanypaltering.Toeveryman,Ithink,thatmustbe
bitterwork;tothewomanwholoveshimitisimpossible."
Perioncouldnotseeherface,becausehelayproneatthefeetofMelicent,
sobbing,butwithoutanytears,andtastingverydeeplyofsuchgriefandvain
regretas,hehadthought,theyknowinhellalone;andevenaftershehadgone,
insilence,helayinthissamepostureforanexceedinglylongwhile.
Andafterheknewnothowlongawhile,Perionproppedhischinbetweenhis
handsand,stillsprawlingupontherushes,staredhardintothelittle,crackling
fire.HewasthinkingofaPeriondelaForêtthatoncehadbeen.Inhimmight
havebeenfoundafitmateforMelicenthadthisboynotdiedverylongago.
Itisnomorecheerfulthananyothermortuaryemployment,thisdisintermentof
thepersonyouhavebeen,andarenotanylonger;andsodidPerionfindhis
cataloguingofirrevocableoldfolliesandevasions.
ThenPerionaroseandlookedforpenandink.Itwasthefirstletterheever
wrotetoMelicent,and,asyouwillpresentlylearn,sheneversawit.
InsuchtermsPerionwrote:
"Madame—ItmaypleaseyoutorememberthatwhenDameMélusineandI
wereinterrogated,IfreelyconfessedtothemurderofKingHelmasandthetheft


ofmydeadmaster'sjewels.InthatIlied.Foritwasmymanifestdutytosavethe
womanwhom,asIthought,Iloved,anditwasapparentthattheguiltyperson
waseithersheorI.
"SheisnowatBrunbelois,where,asIhaveheard,thesplendourofherestateis
tolerablynotorious.Ihavenoteverheardshegaveathoughttome,hercat'spaw.Madame,whenIthinkofyouandthenofthatsleek,smilingwoman,Iam
appalledbymyownfolly.IamaghastbymylongblindnessasIwritethewords
whichnoonewillbelieve.TowhatavaildoIdenyacrimewhichevery
circumstanceimputedtomeandmyownconfessionhaspublicly
acknowledged?
"Butyou,Ithink,willbelieveme.Lookyou,madame,Ihavenothingtogainof
you.Ishallnoteverseeyouanymore.Igointoaperilousandaneternal
banishment;andintheimmediateneighbourhoodofdeathamanfindslittle
sustenanceforromance.Taketheworstofme:agentlemanIwasborn,andasa
wastrelIhavelived,andalwaysveryfoolishly;butwithoutdishonour.Ihave
nevertomyknowledge—andGodjudgemeasIspeakthetruth!—wrongedany
manorwomansavemyself.Mydear,believeme!believeme,inspiteofreason!
andunderstandthatmyadorationandmiseryandunworthinesswhenIthinkof
youaresuchasIcannotmeasure,andaffordmenojudiciousmomentwhereinto
fashionlies.ForIshallnotseeyouanymore.
"Ithankyou,madame,foryourall-unmeritedkindnesses,and,oh,Iprayyouto
believe!"

4.
HowtheBishopAidedPerion
Thenatthreeo'clock,asPerionsupposed,someonetappeduponthedoor.Perion
wentoutintothecorridor,whichwasnowunlighted,sothathehadtoholdtothe
cloakofAyrartdeMontorsastheyoungprelateguidedPerionthroughthe
complexitiesofunfamiliarhallsandstairwaysintoaninhospitablenight.There
werereadytwohorses,andpresentlythemenweremountedandaway.


OnceonlyPerionshiftedinthesaddletoglancebackatBellegarde,blackand
formlessagainstanemptysky;andhedarednotlookagain,forthethoughtof
herthatlayawakeintheMarshal'sTower,sonearathandasyet,waslikea
dagger.Withsetteethhefollowedinthewakeofhistaciturncompanion.The
bishopneverspokesavetogrowloutsomedirection.
ThustheycametoMannevilleand,skirtingthetown,cametoFomorBeach,a
narrowsandycoast.Itwasdarkinthisplaceandverystillsaveforthe
encroachmentofthetide.Yonderwerefourlittlelights,lazilyheavingwiththe
water'smotion,toshowthemwheretheTranchemerlayatanchor.Itdidnot
seemtoPerionthatanythingmattered.
"Itwillbenearingdawnbythis,"hesaid.
"Ay,"AyrartdeMontorssaid,verybriefly;andhistoneevincedhiswillingness
todispensewithfurtherconversation.PerionoftheForestwasanuncleanthing
whichthebishopmusttouchinhisnecessity,butcouldtouchwithloathingonly,
asathirstymantakesaflyoutofhisdrink.Perionconcededit,becausenothing
wouldevermatteranymore;andso,thehorsestethered,theysatuponthesand
inuttersilenceforthespaceofahalfhour.
Abirdcriedsomewhere,justonce,andwithastartPerionknewthenightwas
notquitesomurkyasithadbeen,forhecouldnowseeabrokenlineofwhite,
wherethetidecreptupandshatteredandebbed.Theninawhilealightsank
tipsilytothewater'slevelandpresentlywasbobbinginthedarkness,apartfrom
thoseotherlights,anditwasgrowinginsizeandbrilliancy.
SaidPerion,"Theyhavesentouttheboat."
"Ay,"thebishopanswered,asbefore.
AsortofmadnesscameuponPerion,anditseemedthathemustweep,because
everythingfelloutsoveryillinthisworld.
"MessiredeMontors,youhaveaidedme.Iwouldbegratefulifyoupermitted
it."
DeMontorsspokeatlast,sayingcrisply:
"Gratitude,Itakeit,formsnopartofthebargain.IamthekinsmanofDame


Melicent.Itmakesformyinterestandforthehonourofourhousethattheman
whoseroomsshevisitsatnightbegotoutofPoictesme—"
SaidPerion,"YouspeakinthisfashionofthemostlovelyladyGodhasmade—
ofherwhomtheworldadores!"
"Adores!"thebishopanswered,withalaugh;"andwhatpoorgullamItoadore
anattestedwanton?"Then,withasneer,hespokeofMelicent,andinsuchterms
asarenotbetteredbyrepetition.
Perionsaid:
"Iamthemostunhappymanalive,assurelyasyouarethemostungenerous.
For,lookyou,inmypresenceyouhavespokeninfamyofDameMelicent,
thoughknowingIaminyourdebtsodeeplythatIhavenottherighttoresent
anythingyoumayelecttosay.Youhavejustgivenmemylife;andarmouredby
thefire-newobligation,youblasphemeanangel,youcondescendtobuffeta
fetteredman—"
Butwiththathissluggishwitshadspiedanhonestwayoutoftheimbroglio.
Perionsaidthen,"Draw,messire!for,asGodlives,Imayyetrepurchase,atthis
eleventhhour,theprivilegeofdestroyingyou."
"Heyday!buthereisanoddevincementofgratitude!"deMontorsretorted;"and
thoughIamnotparticularlysqueamish,letmetellyou,myfinefellow,Idonot
ordinarilyfightwithlackeys."
"Norareyoufittodoso,messire.Believeme,thereisnotalackeyinthisrealm
—no,notacut-purse,noranypander—whowouldnotinmeetingyouupon
equalfootingdegradehimself.Foryouhaveslanderedthatwhichismostperfect
intheworld;yetlies,MessiredeMontors,haveshortlegs;andIdesignwithin
thehourtoinsurethecalumnyagainstanecho."
"Rogue,Ihavegivenyouyourverylifewithinthehour—"
"Thefactisundeniable.ThusImustflingthebountybacktoyou,sothatwe
sorryscoundrelsmaymeetasequals."Perionwheeledtowardtheboat,which
wasnowwithinthereachofwading."Whoisamongyou?Gaucelm,Roger,Jean
Britauz—"Hefoundthemanhesought."Ahasuerus,thecaptainthatwasto


haveaccompaniedtheFreeCompanionsoverseaisofanothermind.Icedemy
leadershiptoLandrydeBonnay.Youwillhavethekindnesstoinformhimofthe
unlooked-forchange,andtotenderyournewcaptaineveryappropriateregret
andthedyingfelicitationsofPeriondelaForêt."
Hebowedtowardthelandwardtwilight,wherethesandhillocksweretaking
form.
"MessiredeMontors,wemaynowresumeourvigil.Whenyondervesselsails
therewillbenoconceivablehappeningthatcankeepbreathwithinmybodytwo
weekslonger.Ishallbequitofeverydebttoyou.Youwillthenfightwithaman
alreadydeadifyousoelect;butotherwise—ifyouattempttofleethisplace,if
youdeclinetocrossswordswithalackey,withaconvictedthief,witha
suspectedmurderer,Iswearuponmymother'shonour!Iwilldemolishyou
withoutcompunction,asIwouldanyothervermin."
"Oh,brave,brave!"sneeredthebishop,"toflingawayyourlife,andperhaps
minetoo,foranidleword—"Butatthathefetchedasob."Howfoolishofyou!
andhowlikeyou!"hesaid,andPerionwonderedatthisprelate'svoice.
"Hey,gentlemen!"criedAyrartdeMontors,"amomentifyouplease!"He
splashedknee-deepintotheicywater,wadingtotheboat,wherehesnatchedthe
lanternfromtheJew'shandsandfetchedthislightashore.Hehelditaloft,so
thatPerionmightseehisface,andPerionperceivedthat,bysomewonderworking,thepersoninman'sattirewhoheldthislightaloftwasMelicent.Itwas
oddthatPerionalwaysrememberedafterwardmostclearlyofalltheloosened
wispofhairthewindtossedaboutherforehead.
"Lookwelluponme,Perion,"saidMelicent."Lookwell,ruinedgentleman!look
well,poorhuntedvagabond!andnotehowproudIam.Oh,inallthingsIam
veryproud!AlittleIexultinmyhighstationandinmywealth,and,yes,evenin
mybeauty,forIknowthatIambeautiful,butitisthechiefofallmyhonours
thatyouloveme—andsofoolishly!"
"Youdonotunderstand—!"criedPerion.
"RatherIunderstandatlastthatyouareinsoberverityalackey,animpostor,
andathief,evenasyousaid.Ay,alackeytoyourhonour!animposterthat
wouldendeavour—and,oh,soveryvainly!—toimpersonateanother'sbaseness!
andathiefthathasstolenanotherperson'spunishment!Iasknoquestions;


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