JEALOUSY is as the dark under world to the warm day of a woman’s love.
It is peopled with phantoms and with shadows—a land of credulity, of
whisperings, and of gloom.
Arletta, poor wench, was dwelling on this black sphere of her troubled
life. A child of the soil, quick in her passions, hot of blood, she had
had no schooling in the higher patience, or learned that world-wise
nonchalance that shrugs its bland shoulders at despair. Impulse was law
to her, the blind instincts of her body her counsellors, her hands her
ministers of justice. She loved Bertrand—loved him with the zeal of a
wild thing for its mate. She loved him because he was stronger than
other men, because his strength had made him her master. Many a night
she had lain awake, smiling over some bold trick of his, the plunder he
had taken, the devil-may-care courage dear to the heart of such a woman
as Arletta. She had never thought that she was holding him back from
nobler things, and that her hands were strangling the ambitions of his
manhood. Arletta would have been content to have him the most feared and
fearless swashbuckler in all the Breton lands, and she would have taken
pride in the rough triumphs of such a life.
Little wonder that she awakened with a start of dread when this
white-faced madame with the calm and quiet eyes came sweeping royally
across her path. It was as though some saint had stepped down out of a
painted window, touched Bertrand on the breast, and disenchanted him
with the light of love who had ridden over the moors and through the
woodlands at his side. Arletta understood all that Tiphaïne’s influence
portended. Her woman’s instinct tore out the truth of her own
dethronement. Bertrand would be the gentleman once more, ashamed of a
bed of bracken and of a poor quean who had no honor.
Hate found the door of the girl’s heart open, with jealousy beckoning
from within. She hated Tiphaïne—hated her with a reasonableness that
had its justification in the truth. Who had the silkier skin, the finer
clothes, the more sweeping grace, the longer hair? Even in the mere
physical rivalry the lady outshone the poor woman of the smithy and the
moors. But it was for her birth that Arletta hated Tiphaïne most of all,
and for the superiorities that went therewith—the grace, the presence,
the clear, quiet voice, the beauty of completeness, the habit of
command. Even hatred fed on its own humiliation, and jealousy confessed
with bitterness the justice of its cause.
Arletta’s dreads were quickly justified. The “free companions” were to
camp in the aspen wood, for madame was to be guarded till her father’s
banner should come dancing through the woods. Arletta herself was sent
to the kitchen to cook and scour with Barbe and Gwen. The women began to
jeer at her before her face, seeing how the wind blew, and that Messire
Bertrand du Guesclin had changed his coat. He served and carved at
madame’s table, acted as seneschal, took her commands, and saw them
As for the Black Death, it seemed to have spent its fury in the place,
for it laid no hands on Bertrand’s men. Perhaps their wild life saved
them, the sun and storm that had tanned and hardened them against
disease. There was work and enough for them in regarnishing the Aspen
Tower under Bertrand’s orders. He sent them hunting in Broceliande to
bring back food for Tiphaïne’s larder. To keep the rest busy he ordered
the building of a new gate from timber stored in one of the out-houses,
and the strengthening of the palisades closing the garden from the moat.
The men worked willingly, for Bertrand had given them all the plunder
they had taken from Hanotin. Not a sou would he touch; the days of his
thieving were at an end. Then there were the prisoners to be looked to
in the guard-room, wounded men to be cared for, bread to be baked,
strayed cattle to be sought out in the woods. A lord’s house in those
days was a little town within itself, fitted for every common craft,
supplying its own needs by the labor of its inmates’ hands.
Bertrand went about his duties with a shut mouth and a purposeful
reserve. Even his rough fellows felt that he had changed, for he no
longer laughed with them and joined in their jesting. Like a masker he
had thrown off his buffoon’s dress and taken to the habit that was his
by right. The men whispered together over Bertrand’s transfiguration,
but took no liberties in his presence. Messire Bertrand was still their
hero; his slaying of Hanotin was like to become an epic deed among them;
moreover, the generous squandering of his share of the plunder had made
his whims and moods respected.
As for Arletta, she went sullenly about her work, wincing at the sneers
she had from Gwen and Barbe, and hating to be stared at by the men.
Often she would creep away into some quiet corner and brood bitterly
over her lost power. Bertrand but rarely spoke to her, and then the
careful kindness of his words stung her more sharply than a whip. He was
no longer rough and tender by turns, and Arletta would have welcomed
blows only to feel his strong arms once more about her body. Bertrand
avoided her, kept his distance when there was no escape, and even spoke
to her of Ancenis, where her father was growing prosperous on forging
armor for the wars. How easy it all seemed to Messire Bertrand! It was a
man’s way, she imagined, to be able to forget everything in three days,
and to turn his back upon the past.
Tiphaïne and Bertrand seemed often together. They walked in the garden,
rode hunting in the woods or in the fields to give Tiphaïne’s hawks a
flutter. Bertrand served madame at her table in the hall, and slept
across the chapel door at night. Arletta exaggerated all these
happenings in her heart.
The fourth morning after the saving of the tower she saw Bertrand cross
the court as she stood in the kitchen entry half hidden by the door.
Bertrand was alone, and, slipping out, she followed him, driven to dare
his displeasure by the bitterness of neglect. Bertrand’s foot was on the
first step of the solar stairway when he heard the rustle of a woman’s
He turned, half angry, half ashamed, and stood looking down into her
white and passionate face.
“Why, Letta”—and he tried to smile—“what is it, wench?”
His coolness stung her. Why, Bertrand had loved her once—had told her
so with his own lips! Desperate in her dread, she flung out her arms and
clung about his neck.
“Lording, lording, why do you turn from me? Dear God, what have I done?”
She was panting, quivering, looking up into his face. Bertrand,
conscious of the straining arms about his neck and of the questioning
wildness of her eyes, stood helpless for a moment, betrayed by his own
“Gently, child, gently,” he said, trying to unfasten her hands, and
dreading lest Tiphaïne should hear them—“gently. What ails you? Come,
come, be a good wench!”
Arletta clung to him the more, quivering, and pleading with him in
passionate whispers. Bertrand began to lose patience.
He spoke hoarsely, forcing down her hands.
“Listen, Letta, I have words to speak to you.”
Repulsed, she sprang away, thrusting him back with her hands, her eyes
miserable yet full of fury.
“Yes, yes, I know—I’ll not bear it. You are ashamed of me; you hate me;
I see it clear enough.”
Bertrand tried to soothe her, holding out his hands.
“No, no,” and she thrust him off, “I am nothing—a mere drab. You hate
me; you would like to see me dead. Ah, yes, messire, I am no fool.
Madame is not as I am. She is a great lady. Ah—ah—how can she take you
She burst out weeping, covering her face with her arms, her passion
sinking into despair. Bertrand looked at her. What could he say? He felt
tongue-tied, helpless, and ashamed.
She stood sobbing, her arms before her face.
“Letta!” And he went near to her.
“No, don’t touch me, messire.”
“Come, be sensible—”
She flashed up again, her passion working through her misery like flames
through wet wood.
“No, no! Hold off, messire! I am a woman; I have my pride; I can give as
well as take.”
Bertrand said nothing.
“Yes, you would be rid of me, you would throw me away like an old shoe!”
She turned suddenly, threw up her arms, and ran unsteadily towards the
door. Bertrand sprang after her, and then halted. What was the use of
it? The wrench must come, the reckoning be paid. Perhaps the girl was
only trying her woman’s tricks on him. He strove to comfort himself with
the suspicion, and let her go, weak and wounded, like a winged bird.
Tiphaïne supped in the solar that night, Bertrand serving her, and old
Jehanot carrying the dishes from the kitchen. Two torches were burning,
one on either side of the great hooded chimney, and freshly cut rushes
were strewn upon the floor.
Tiphaïne was in a silent mood, engrossed in her own thoughts. By chance
she had overheard Arletta’s pleadings with Bertrand in the hall. Her
heart was sad in her for the girl’s sake, though she was but learning
the rough methods of the world.
Old Jehanot had gone to the kitchen with the empty dishes, and Bertrand
stood filling Tiphaïne’s glass with ypocrasse.
“Enough,” and she raised her hand.
He let the lid of the beaker fall, and moved towards the door, for
Jehanot had left it ajar, and the draught from the hall came in like a
winter wind. Bertrand’s hand was on the latch when he heard the rattling
of the curtain-rings along the bed-rails, as though some one had stood
hidden and bided their time to sweep the curtains back. Tiphaïne’s chair
was drawn up before the fire, and Bertrand, turning on his heel, saw
Arletta swoop towards her with one arm raised.
It was all done in the taking of a breath. Arletta had struck her blow,
and in her flurry snapped the knife-blade on the oak head-rail of the
chair. Bertrand, forgetting the past utterly in the moment’s wrath, took
Arletta by the throat and hurled her back against the bed.
She cowered before him, choking from the grip he had given her throat,
and hiding her face behind her arm. Bertrand stood over her, as though
tempted to strike again.
“No, not that!”
Tiphaïne, unhurt, her face pale, her eyes full of pity, came between
Bertrand and the girl.
“Be careful, the cat is mad!”
“You are too rough—and blind.”
Arletta still cowered against the bed, as though Bertrand’s hands had
throttled her last hope. The lust for revenge had flowed from her like
wine from a broken jar.
Tiphaïne bent over Arletta, waving Bertrand aside when he sought to
interfere. The significance of the scene had flashed suddenly before her
eyes, moving her not to anger but to a spasm of pity.
There was no need for her to question Arletta. The flare of passion had
died out of her, and she looked like a frightened child, ashamed and
Arletta writhed from her touch and hid her face.
“Come; the blow’s forgiven; you did not think. The wine-cup, Bertrand.”
He brought it her, a man whose conscience was crying within his heart.
“Drink some of the wine, child.”
But the girl only broke into bitter weeping and hid her face in the
coverlet of the bed. Tiphaïne stood looking at her, her lips quivering,
her eyes compassionate.
She turned to Bertrand, and gave the cup back into his hands.
“She is better alone, perhaps. Take one of the torches and light me to
Bertrand obeyed her without a word. The whole scene had been a
revelation to him, as though the last glimpse of Arletta crouching by
the bed had been a vision betraying his own shame. Carrying the torch,
he went before Tiphaïne into the chapel, feeling himself guilty of the
blow that had been aimed by Arletta at her heart.
Bertrand set the torch in one of the iron brackets on the wall. Tiphaïne
went to kneel at her prie-dieu, her chin upon her hands, her face lifted
towards the altar. She knelt there awhile, silent, motionless, while
Bertrand watched her, wondering what her woman’s mind would weave out of
She spoke at last.
“How long has the child been with you?”
“Two years; perhaps less. Her father was an armorer at Ancenis; she left
him when the French marched through. I did not take her from her home.
Besides, she is no longer a child.”
Bertrand’s face seemed furrowed with recollections, or as though he were
asking himself some question that he could not answer. Tiphaïne did not
“How a man stores judgments for himself! The girl cannot be left to a
life like this. I feel I have some duty by her. And yet I could swear
she would be ready to throw herself into the moat if I told her I would
send her home.”
“There is one other way, Bertrand.”
“How?” And his face appealed to her.
“She is a woman; she could be your wife.”
Bertrand’s jaw dropped.
“So you are too proud for that?”
He remained silent, staring at Tiphaïne, his hands opening and shutting,
his forehead a knot of wrinkles.
“It is not pride in me,” he said, at last.
“No. What could we hope for, she—and I? Would she be happy with me? No,
by Heaven, for we should hate each other in a week! What good could
there be in such a life, for us?—one long tavern brawl till we grew
more brutal and besotted, each dragging each deeper into the mire. How
could Letta, poor wench, help me to gain what I have sworn in my heart
to win? How could I give her all my homage in return? No, we should both
sink; perhaps—in the end—she would stab me—or I—her.”
He had spoken rapidly, almost with fierceness, feeling the inevitable
destiny beating within his heart. At the end he drew breath and leaned
against the wall, still watching Tiphaïne at the prie-dieu.
“Yes, you are right,” she said; “one cannot mend life with a
make-believe. And then—”
“There is her home at Ancenis.”
Tiphaïne thought a moment.
“Let me talk to her—alone. Perhaps she may listen.”
A FAINT cry came stealing through the silence of the place, like the
wail of a bird that passes on the night wind and is gone.
Tiphaïne heard it and stood listening, her eyes changing their intensity
of purpose for a shadowy and vague unrest. Bertrand was still standing
by the torch he had thrust into the iron bracket clamped to the wall.
The flare flung darkness and light alternate upon his face.
Tiphaïne started up from the prie-dieu, and, opening the chapel door,
No sounds came to them save the crackling and hissing of the wood upon
the fire. Tiphaïne passed in, looking into the dark corners of the solar
for a crouching figure or the white glimmer of a human face. The room
was empty; Arletta had disappeared.
Tiphaïne stood for a moment like one taken with a sudden spasm of the
heart. The broken knife-blade shone symbolically at her feet.
The cry came sharply from her, as though inspired by fear.
He followed her and looked round the room, not grasping the prophetic
instinct of her dread.
She stood silent again, her eyes fixed on Bertrand’s face.
“Quick! Search the tower! I am afraid for Arletta!”
Bertrand gave her one look, pushed past her without a word, took down
the torch, and went out into the gallery leading to the tower.
Tiphaïne’s foreboding had taken hold of his man’s heart. As he passed
down the gallery with the torch flaring above his head he looked out
from the narrow windows, and saw the moon rising huge and tawny over the
forest. The night had built an eerie background before Bertrand’s eyes.
He felt suddenly afraid, strong man that he was—afraid of what the dark
tower might hide within its walls.
Coming to the newel stairway, black as a well, he stood listening,
holding his breath. Before him was the door of the lesser solar. The
darkness and silence seemed to come close about his heart. He opened his
lips, and was startled by the harshness of his own voice.
Still no sound.
“Letta, Letta, where are you? Come, you are forgiven.”
He stood listening till the echoes had died down the gallery where the
moonlight streaked the floor. What was that! A sound as of weeping, a
number of sharp-drawn breaths, and then a short cry, given as in pain.
Bertrand started like a horse touched with the spur. He stumbled up the
stairway, for the sounds came from above, the torchlight reddening the
walls, the smoke driven down by the draught into his face.
A door barred his progress. He tore at the latch savagely, and felt
something heavy against the door as he forced it back and slipped into
the room. His foot touched a hand; the hand moved. A whispering moan
came up to him out of the dark.
Bertrand was down on his knees with the torch flaring on the floor
beside him. Behind the door, and half crushed between it and the wall,
lay Arletta, her head sunk upon one shoulder. There was blood on her
limp hands, blood soaking her bosom, the whiteness of death upon her
Bertrand, shocked to his heart’s depths, thrust his arms about her, and
drew her to him out of the dark. He was babbling foolishly, calling her
by name, bidding her take courage and forget his roughness. Arletta’s
head lay heavy on his shoulder. She stirred a little, sighed, and lifted
her hands. For a moment her lips moved, and her eyes looked into
“Letta, what have you done? My God—”
“Lording, I am dying.”
Bertrand burst out weeping, his man’s tears falling down upon her face.
Arletta shuddered. Her mouth was close to Bertrand’s cheek, and he felt
her warm blood soaking his surcoat.
“Lording, kiss me, forgive—”
He kissed her, his arms tightening about her body. She lifted her hand
jerkily, unsteadily, and felt his hair. Then with a long sigh her head
sank down, her mouth opened, and she was dead.
Bertrand knelt there holding her in his arms, stunned, incredulous, his
hot tears falling down upon her lifeless face. He spoke to her, touched
her lips, but she did not answer. It was thus that Tiphaïne found them,
death and life together, with the torch setting fire to the wood-work of
Tiphaïne trod out the flame, and, standing with the candle in her hands
she had taken from the chapel, looked down at Bertrand with Arletta
lying in his arms. Her pity and her awe were too deep for tears. She
turned to leave them, but paused before the door.
“Bertrand,” she said.
He groaned, kissed the dead face, and then laid Arletta gently upon the
floor. Still kneeling, he watched her, the truth—and the irrevocable
bitterness thereof—coming home to him slowly with a great sense of
“Don’t speak to me”—and he buried his face deep in his hands—“let me
bear it out alone.”
Tiphaïne passed out, leaving the candle burning in a sconce upon the
wall. She groped her way down to the moonlit gallery, and so to the
chapel, where she knelt before the altar, her face turned to the figure
upon the cross. But Bertrand watched all night beside Arletta’s body,
holding the hands that were cold in death.
THE dawn was streaming up when Bertrand came down the stairway from the
upper room in the tower and paused in the gallery leading to the solar.
A bitter watch had it been for Bertrand, a long vigil with the
relentless past condemning him with the thoughts of his own heart. He
had knelt there, stunned and awed, with Arletta’s blood dyeing the floor
and her white face shining on him from amid the dark wreathings of her
hair. There had been no horror in her death for him, only a great
revulsion of remorse, a moving of all his manhood. He had looked on the
dead face hating himself, haunted by memories—memories poignant as a
mother’s tears. How good the girl had been to him, even when he had been
rough and petulant! She had often gone hungry that he might eat. And now
he had killed her—killed her with his great blundering penitence that
had trampled on her love in its struggles to be free. He had blood on
his hands—the blood of the woman whose bosom had pillowed his head in
Bertrand stood in the gallery, miserable and cold, watching the dawn
come up over the thickets of Broceliande. There was no joy for him in
that splendor of gold, for the eyes of Arletta would open with the dawn
no more. Ah, God, what a brute he had been, what a self-righteous
coward! He had taken this woman’s heart, broken it, and thrown it back
to her in this awakening of his, of which he had been so proud. Bertrand
gripped the window-rail and stared at the moat. A glory of gold was
streaming over the forest, and the black water beneath him caught the
splendor and seemed glad.
The two women, Gwen and Barbe, were washing themselves in the water-butt
before the kitchen entry when Bertrand went down into the court. They
pulled their clothes up over their breasts on catching sight of him, and
stood giggling and looking at each other.
“Your servant, Messire Bertrand. Letta’s a proud woman again, I’m
They burst out laughing, cawing like a couple of crows.
“S-s-h, Gwen, be decent!”
“Why shouldn’t I have my jest with the captain—”
She stopped, open-mouthed, for Bertrand’s white face shocked the
insolence out of her. There was something more than fury on it,
something more terrible than pain. There was blood, too, on his surcoat.
The women shrank from him, holding their loose clothes, awed by the look
in Bertrand’s eyes.
“Out, you fools!”
He pointed to the tower gate, and followed them like some inexorable
spirit as they went before him like a couple of sheep. Guicheaux was
sleeping on a pile of straw outside the guard-room door. Bertrand shook
him, and pointed to Gwen and Barbe as the quipster sat up, rubbing his
“Turn them out!”
The women were ready enough to be deprived of Bertrand’s presence, and
they scampered across the bridge when Guicheaux swung the gate open. The
man watched them, then turned, and, looking curiously at Bertrand, put
his lips together as though tempted to whistle.
“Shut the gate.”
Guicheaux obeyed him, wondering what was to follow.
“Arletta is dead.”
“She stabbed herself. I am going to bury her. Keep the men out of the
He spoke curtly, fiercely, forcing out the words as though each one gave
him pain. Guicheaux’s face was a white patch in the shadow—the mouth a
black circle, the eyes two dots of light.
Bertrand looked as though he would have struck the man.
“Yes. The fault was mine. Arletta was jealous; she tried to stab madame,
and, when balked, stabbed herself instead.”
Guicheaux said nothing. He stood pulling his peaked beard and frowning
at the stones. The thing had shocked him, lewd-mouthed ruffian that he
was. Bertrand watched him a moment, and then, turning on his heel, went
to one of the out-houses where tools were kept.
The grass in the garden was crisped with fallen leaves and dusted with
dew that twinkled, thousand-eyed, under the sheen of the dawn. All the
pungent freshness of autumn was in the air. Bertrand chose his ground—a
clean stretch of turf close to the steam of a great apple-tree, and far
from the mounds the Black Death had built. He set to work with the look
of a man who feels his heart helped by physical effort. Sweat ran from
his forehead and his breath steamed up into the air, but he never paused
till the grave lay finished.
Thrusting the spade into the pile of earth, he went into the court and
climbed the tower stair to the room where Arletta lay dead. Bertrand
stood and looked at her awhile, dry eyed, moved to the depths, his mouth
twitching. Then he lifted her in his arms, feeling the solemn coldness
of her body striking to his heart, and carried her down the stair and
across the court into the garden. Very tenderly he laid her in the
grave, and, kneeling, set her hair in a circle about her face and
crossed her hands upon her bosom. Then he stood up and looked at her,
the sunlight touching her face, as she lay in her last resting-place,
her hands in the shadow that hid the blood-stains on her dress.
A foot-fall in the grass and a shadow stealing athwart the band of
sunlight brought Bertrand round upon his heel. Tiphaïne had crossed the
garden, her red gown sweeping the fallen leaves, her crucifix in her
hands, and a few half-faded flowers. Her eyes were full of the sadness
of deep thought.
“You have laid her there?”
He nodded, and stood twisting his hands together.
Tiphaïne went close to the grave and looked down at Arletta sleeping her
last sleep, with her black hair about her face. How quiet and unhurt she
looked, her jealousy dead with her, her hands folded upon her bosom!
Tiphaïne knelt down and began to pray, holding her crucifix over the
grave. The act brought Bertrand also to his knees by the pile of brown
earth he had thrown up out of the trench. He looked at dead Arletta and
then at Tiphaïne, whose hair shone like amber in the sun. He saw her
lips move, saw her take her breath in deeply, her eyes fixed on
Arletta’s face. Bertrand tried to pray also with the groping yet
passionate instincts of a soul still half in the dark. He strove after
the words that would not come, knowing full well what his heart desired.
Tiphaïne was looking at him across the grave. Her mouth was soft and
lovable, her eyes tremulous with pity. It was to be peace between them.
Bertrand’s remorse pleaded for mercy.
“Bertrand, the child is asleep; she will know no more pain.”
Bertrand hung his head and stared into the grave.
“I have killed her,” he said; “yes, there is no escaping it. She was
very good to me, poor wench, and I—I was often rough and selfish.”
He knelt there, gnawing his lip, twisting his hands into his surcoat,
and trying to keep the tears from coming to his eyes. Tiphaïne watched
him with a strange, sad smile. She was wondering whether Bertrand would
“One cannot change the past,” she said.
He flung up his head and looked her in the face.
“I have done with the old life. This child’s blood shall make a new man
“I mean it. Help me with your prayers.”
She held out her hands to him across the grave.
“There are brave men needed—yes, and you are brave enough. Take arms
for our Breton homes, Bertrand, and help to drive the English into the
They knelt, looking steadfastly into each other’s eyes, no pride between
them for the moment. It was then that a sudden thought came to Bertrand.
He drew his poniard, and, bending over the grave, cut off a lock of
Arletta’s hair. Reddening a little, he held it out to Tiphaïne, his eyes
pleading with her like the eyes of a dog.
“Here is the poor child’s token. Give me a strand of your hair to bind
with it. It is all I ask, and it will help me.”
She stood up without a word, let her hair fall from the net that held
it, a cloud of gold and bronze about her pale face and over her wine-red
dress. Taking Bertrand’s poniard, she cut off a lock and gave it him,
content that the threads of gold should be twined with dead Arletta’s
“Take it, Bertrand, and I will pray for you.”
Bertrand was binding the black and bronze together, smiling to himself
sadly, and thinking of Tiphaïne when she was a child.
“I shall not forget,” he said, simply.
“Nor I,” she answered, throwing the flowers and crucifix she had brought
into Arletta’s grave.
And so Tiphaïne left him, and Bertrand turned to end his work. He
covered Arletta with dead leaves, and threw in the few flowers he could
find in the garden. Then he thrust back the earth very gently into the
grave, growing ever sadder as the brown soil hid Arletta’s face from him
And that same noontide young Robin Raguenel came riding in with twenty
spears bristling at his back and English plunder on his pack-horses.
Broceliande had given back Tiphaïne her own at last, after weeks of
peril and despair. As for Bertrand, he took young Robin’s thanks in
silence, and told the truth rather than play the hypocrite. The lad’s
pleading could not hold him. Bertrand saw Tiphaïne alone no more, and,
marching his men out, plunged into the deeps of Broceliande.
ONE March day a man wrapped in a heavy riding-cloak with the hood turned
back over his shoulders sat looking out over the sea from the cliffs of
Cancale. Behind him a shaggy pony was cropping the grass, lifting its
head to gaze ever and again at its master, motionless against the gray
March sky. A northeast wind blustered over the cliffs, the sea, sullen
and venomous, running high about the islands off Cancale. The great
waves came swinging in to fly in white clouds of spray over the
glistening black rocks that came and went like huge sea-monsters
spouting in the water. Across the bay St. Michael’s glimmered beneath a
chance storm-beam of the sun, while the shores of Normandy were dim and
gray between sea and sky.
It was Bertrand, throned like some old Breton saint, with the waves
thundering on the rocks beneath him and the gulls wailing about the
cliffs. He sat there motionless, fronting the wind, his sword across his
knees, as though watching and waiting for some sail he knew would come.
The strong and ugly face might have caught the spirit of the granite
land. Rock, sea spume, and the storm wind everywhere; a few twisted
trees struggling in the grip of the wind. Bertrand, solemn, gray-eyed,
motionless, akin to the rocks that lay around.
Two months had passed since Bertrand had come to Gleaquim by the
northern sea, where his kinsfolk had kept Christmas in the old house
where the Du Guesclins had had their rise. He had disbanded his free
companions at Rennes, maugre their dismay and their unwillingness to
leave him. The men’s rough loyalty had touched Bertrand, and taught him
that even the saddest dogs could love their master. Guicheaux had even
cast himself at Bertrand’s feet, swearing that he would go with him to
the ends of the earth. It was with a husky voice that Bertrand had
answered them, bade them choose a new captain and fight for Blois. He
had left them bemoaning the obstinacy of his will, to discover, some
twenty miles from Rennes, that Guicheaux and Hopart were following on
his heels. Moved by their homage, he had taken them with him to
Plessis-Bertrand, in Hakims valley by the sea.
There had been no great joy in Bertrand’s home-coming. His father,
failing in years and health, had grown querulous and miserly, while Dame
Jeanne adored Olivier as foolishly as ever. Julienne and the other girls
were at a convent in Rennes. Two of the boys were lodged with their aunt
in the same town, and Gaheris had gone as a page into the Sieur de
Rohan’s household. There had been but a poor welcome for the prodigal,
who brought no spoil or honor with him—nothing but a solemn face and
two hungry followers. Sieur Robert had received him with no outburst of
pride. His mother pursed up her lips, and questioned him as to what he
had done with the money he had had to start him in the wars. Olivier
strutted and swaggered in his finer clothes, made love to his mother’s
serving-women, and sneered openly at his brother, asking him how many
ale-houses he had captured and how many millers’ ransoms he had won.
Even in the kitchen there were brawlings and discord, for Hopart and
Guicheaux drubbed Olivier’s men for lauding up their master and
belittling Bertrand’s courage.
As for the Champion of Rennes, he kept a tight mouth and a flinty face,
took all the trivial taunts without a word, feeling it good that life
should run roughly with him for a season. Vain, vaporing Olivier and
proud, cold-eyed Jeanne knew nothing of the deep workings of that quiet
man’s heart. He never spoke to them of the near past, and told them
nothing of what he had learned and suffered. They thought him sour,
surly, dull in the head. Thus, even in a home, kinsfolk are as strangers
and outlanders together, and the mother knows not the heart of the son.
A great change was working in Bertrand—one of those uprisings that
occur, perhaps, but once in the course of a strong man’s life. The
recklessness, the passionate abandonment of youth were past—likewise
the first peevish curses of disappointed manhood. Bertrand had learned
to humble himself, to look round him, and to think. He had grappled with
the truths and falsities of life, and searched out the flaws in his own
heart with that dogged devotedness that was part of his nature. No easy
and emotional religiosity inspired him, but rather the grim spirit of an
old Stoic, striving after the best for the nobleness thereof. Yet the
change was not without its tender tones. Almost unconsciously Bertrand
had set up Tiphaïne in his heart, while beside her, yet more in the
shadow, Arletta’s white and wistful face seemed to plead with him out of
the past. Those who had known him of old, saving Olivier and his mother,
wondered at the new gentleness, the air of patience, that had mellowed
the rough and violent boy whom they remembered.
Bertrand was much alone that winter. It was a season of rest for him, a
girding up of the loins, a tightening of the muscles of the heart.
Nearly every day, in rain and sunshine, he would ride down to the sea,
and sit there on the cliffs, with the ever-changing sky above him and
the ever-restless waters at his feet. To Bertrand there was something
bracing in this solitude and in the unbelittled magnificence of sea and
shore. It was in those lonely days that he learned to know the true
courage, that nobler quietude that smiles at defeat. And with the
humility that had come upon him a deep and solemn peace seemed poured
like divine wine into his mouth. The conviction grew in him that the
higher life was yet before his face. Even as the grand old Hebrews
trusted in the Eternal One with a faith that made them terrible, so
Bertrand believed, with all the simple instinctiveness of his soul, that
the powers above had work for him to do. The day would come for him,
when or how he knew not yet. He was content to rest and tarry for a
season, perfecting the self-mastery that was to make of him a man.
Bertrand mounted his rough pony and rode homeward that March day with
the sun going down amid a mass of burning clouds. His heart was tranquil
in him despite the wailing of the wind, the moaning of the trees, and
the bleak stretch of moorland and of waste. He saw the peasants
returning from their labor, and smiled at the sight. The patience of
these lowly tillers of the fields seemed to comfort him. He had begun to
think more of them of late than the mere pomp of chivalry and the
glamour of arms. They suffered, these brown-faced, round-backed
peasants, and Bertrand’s heart went out to them as he thought of their
hard lives and the heaviness they bore.
The servants were trooping into supper when Bertrand rode into the old
court-yard and saw the hall windows warm with torch-light. He stabled
his pony, fed the beast with his own hands, and washed at the laver in
the screens before going in to supper. Sieur Robert and his wife were
already at the high table, with Olivier, the young fop, lolling against
the wall. His lips curled as he saw Bertrand enter, for he hated his
brother, and feared him in his heart.
Bertrand went to serve and carve at the high table. He had taken the
task on him of late with that quiet thoroughness that made him what he
was. It was proper, he thought, for him to serve before those who had
begotten him, even though he had known no great kindness at their hands.
Olivier would sneer and smile at Bertrand’s newly inspired filial
courtesy. He was a selfish fool himself, and loathed stirring himself,
even for the mother who would have given him her head.
“Hallo there! those roast partridges look fat. Bring the dish, brother;
this north wind blows hunger into a man.”
Bertrand brought the dish without a word, and Olivier helped himself,
pleased with the honor of being waited on by his brother.
“Give us some Grenarde, Bertrand. Thanks. And the spice-plate. Ah,
madame, you keep to ypocrasse. Bertrand, my mother would drink
Olivier had long lorded it over both his parents with the easy insolence
of a favored son. Bertrand poured out a cup of ypocrasse for Dame
Jeanne, and, having carved for his father, and given him a tankard of
cider, sat down to eat in turn. Olivier, who was greedy despite his
daintiness, left Bertrand in peace awhile, only deigning to talk when he
had ended his hunger.
“Well, Brother Bertrand, how are the pigs to-day?”
This question had become a nightly witticism with Olivier since a
certain morning two weeks ago, when he had found his brother helping the
swineherd to drive his hogs.
Bertrand kept silence and went on with his supper. Olivier, after
staring at him, took a draught of wine, wiped his mouth, and called for
water and a napkin that he might wash. Bertrand rose and brought them
from the buffet below the great window.
“Thanks, good brother.”
The patronage would have set Bertrand’s face aflame not many months ago.
He left Olivier waving his white hands in the air, and carried the bowl
and napkin to his father, and then to Dame Jeanne, who thanked him with
a slight nod of the head.
“Mother, I am thinking of joining the Countess at Rennes this year.”
Olivier was forever on the point of sallying on imaginary quests, and
thrilling his mother’s heart with the threat of daring untold perils. He
had been to the wars but once in his life, when an English spear-thrust
had excused many months of unheroic idleness.
“They must miss you,” said Jeanne, with a jealous look.
Olivier spread his shoulders but did not see that Bertrand smiled.
“True,” he confessed, with divine self-unction; “I am a good man at my
arms. This cursed spear-wound still smarts a little and chafes under the
harness. How many men, mother, can you spare me in the spring?”
Jeanne du Guesclin considered the demand with the fondness of an
unwilling fool. Olivier’s vaporings never rang false in her maternal
ears. Like many a shrewd, cold-hearted woman, she was deceived pitifully
by the one thing that she loved.
“Wait till the summer, child,” she said.
“Child!” And Olivier stood upon his dignity and showed temper. “You are
blind, madame; you never see that I am a man. You women are made of
butter. We men are of sterner stuff.”
His mother’s meekness was wonderful in one so proud.
“Ah, Olivier, you have the soldier’s spirit! I must not try to curb your
The hero smoothed his diminutive peak of a beard, and deigned to suffer
her carefulness, like the inimitable peacock that he was.
“Honor is honor, madame. We men cannot sit at embroidery frames and make
simples. It is the nature of man that he should thirst for war.”
A sudden stir among the servants at the lower end of the hall drew
Bertrand’s attention from his brother’s boasting. His ear had caught the
sound of hoofs and the pealing of a trumpet before the court-yard gate.
The clattering of dishes and the babbling of tongues ceased in the great
hall, for Plessis-Bertrand was a lonely house and travellers rarely came
that way. Hopart and Guicheaux, taught caution by long, experienced
exposure to all manner of hazards, took down their swords from the wall
and went out into the court-yard, followed by some of Olivier’s men with
torches. Olivier scoffed at the free companions’ carefulness.
“Some dirty beggar,” he said, “or a couple of strolling friars. Hi,
Jacques, if they are players—and there be any wenches—show them in.”
Bertrand, who was wiser, and had no vanity to consider, saw that his
sword was loose in its sheath.
They could hear Guicheaux shouting and a voice answering him. Then came
the unbarring of the gate and the ring of hoofs upon the court-yard
stones. The men were shouting and cheering in the court. Hopart’s hairy
face appeared at the doorway of the hall. He so far forgot his manners
for the moment as to bawl at his master on the dais.
“Beaumanoir’s herald, Messire Jean de Xaintré. They are going to maul
the English at Mivoie’s Oak. The eagle must look to his claws!”
In came the servants, shouting and elbowing beneath a flare of torches,
old Jean, the butler, flourishing his staff and trying to keep order and
clear a passage. Hopart and Guicheaux were treading on the toes of
Olivier’s men, spreading their fingers and grinning from ear to ear.
Bertrand saw the flashing of a bassinet, the gay colors of a herald’s
jupon, the Sieur de Beaumanoir’s arms quartered with those of Brittany.
Some dozen men-at-arms followed in full harness, shouldering back the
cook-boys and scullions.
The herald, an esquire of the Marshal’s, Jean de Xaintré by name,
marched up the hall and saluted those at the high table.
“Greeting, madame and messires all; God’s grace be with you. I come from
the Sieur de Beaumanoir, Marshal of Brittany. Thirty champions are to
fight thirty English at the Oak of Mivoie on Passion Sunday. We need the
Sieur de Guesclin’s son with us.”
Dame Jeanne looked at Olivier and beckoned him forward.
“Here is your champion, herald,” she said. “Olivier, the Sieur de
Beaumanoir needs your sword.”
Jean de Xaintré stared at the lady and glanced, with a grim twinkle, at
Olivier, who looked as though he were not so ready to deserve his
“Your pardon, madame”—and Xaintré laughed—“Bertrand du Guesclin is our
man. Greeting, old friend; you have not forgotten Jean de Xaintré.”
Jeanne du Guesclin bit her lips.
“Madame, who but Bertrand, the best son you ever bore!”
Bertrand had risen and was standing with one hand on his father’s
shoulder, knowing that his chance had come at last. The hall, with its
crowd of faces, seemed blurred to him for the moment. Yet he saw Hopart
and Guicheaux squealing and flapping their caps in the faces of
“I am here, old comrade. Give me the Marshal’s orders.”
Jeanne, white and angry, glared at him, and put her arm about Olivier.
“To choose the clumsy fool!” she said.
Jean de Xaintré had drawn his sword, and was holding the hilt crosswise
“Swear, brother in arms, swear on the cross.”
“Ay, Jean, give me the oath.”
“Swear by Christ’s cross. The Oak of Mivoie on Josselin Moors, to fight
Bamborough and his English on Passion Sunday.”
Bertrand lifted his hand, crossed himself, and took the oath.
“Before God—and our Lord—I swear,” he said.
Xaintré thrust his sword back into its sheath.
“Bertrand du Guesclin will not fail.”
Sieur Robert, sleepy and querulous, sat staring about him, and looking
weakly at his wife. Jeanne du Guesclin had sunk back heavily in her
chair, and was still biting her lips, and looking bitterly at Bertrand.
Olivier had tossed down a cup of wine, and was braving it out as though
the whole matter were the choicest farce. Guicheaux and Hopart were
still stamping and shouting till Dame Jeanne started up in a blaze of
fury, and shouted to her men, who crowded by the door:
“Take the fools out and have them whipped!”
But Bertrand cowed his mother for the once, and swore that no one should
lay hands upon his men.
“Quiet, dogs,” he said, shaking his fist at them, “you have barked
enough; let us have peace.”
He sprang down from the dais and gripped Jean de Xaintré’s hands.
“Old friend, you have not forgotten me?”
“No, no. Come, give me wine. Here’s to you with all my heart.”
IT was seven in the morning on the day of his riding to join the Marshal
of Brittany at the Oak of Mivoie, and Bertrand stood warming himself
before the great hall fire. He was in full harness—harness that he had
burnished lovingly with his own hands, and the raised vizor of his
bassinet showed a calm face and the eyes of a man who listened. Bertrand
had broken fast alone in the hall, after keeping a vigil in the chapel
with his sword and shield before him on the altar steps. He was to ride
towards Dinan that day, for Xaintré had told him that Robin Raguenel had
been chosen among the thirty, and Bertrand rode to seek him at La
Bellière, and perhaps win a glimpse of Tiphaïne herself. His heart felt
full of joy that morning, the joy of a man to whom life offers stirring
Jean, the old butler, appeared at the door that closed the stairway
leading to the private rooms. He looked half timidly at Bertrand, a
tower of steel before the fire, and came forward slowly, coughing behind
“Well, Jean, how long will they keep me waiting? The days are short in
“Your servant, messire—”
“My master has bidden me carry you his good grace—and blessing—”
“What! My father is not out of bed?”
“He prays you to pardon him, messire. He feels the cold, and these raw
Bertrand silenced him with a gesture of the hand. His face had lost its
brightness for the moment, and there was a frown as of pain upon his
“Ah, of course, Jean, say no more. And madame?”
“Madame, messire, is at her devotions; she would not be disturbed. In an
Bertrand turned with a shrug of impatience, picked up his sword, and
buckled it on.
“My time is God’s time, Jean,” he said; “carry my respects to my father
and my mother—”
He winced over the words, frowning, and looking sorrowful about the
“Tell them I could not tarry. And my brother Olivier? Curling his pretty
“I will go and see, messire.”
“No, no; never trouble the sweet lad. It is a mere nothing, man, to the
parting of his hair. Good-bye, Jean; forget the mad tricks I played you
as a boy.”
He turned, took up his shield, and strode out from the hall, a sense of
forlornness chilling his ardor for the moment. Hopart and Guicheaux were
waiting for him in the court-yard, holding his horse and spear. Bertrand
had refused to take the men with him, preferring solitude, content with
his own thoughts. Guicheaux and Hopart ran up to him, still hoping that
he would change his purpose.
“Ah, lording, you will crack the English bassinets!”
“Good luck, good luck!”
“Take us, too, messire. We can live on rust and leather.”
Bertrand was glad even of their rude affection. He took out an old
brooch and a ring of silver from his shrunken purse, and thrust the
largesse into their hands.
“No, no, sirs, I ride alone. Keep these things, and think of Bertrand du
Guesclin if he comes not back again.”
They hung round him like a couple of great children, eager and devoted.
“Messire, courage, you are too tough for the English dogs.”
“Keep up your heart, captain, and give them the clean edge.”
They ran for a mile along the road beside him, holding his
stirrup-straps and looking up into his face. And theirs was the only
heartening Bertrand had when he rode out to fight for the Breton poor at
the Oak of Mivoie on Josselin Moors.
Bertrand’s courage warmed again as he mounted the moors and felt the
blue sky over him and the broad Breton lands before his face. He forgot
Olivier’s sneers and his mother’s coldness, and the way they had let him
go uncheered. The truth remained that Beaumanoir had chosen him, and
that the chance had come for which he had waited. That day, also, he
might see Tiphaïne again, give her the good news, and tell her of the
change that had been working in his manhood.
Bertrand was in fine fettle by the time he struck the windings of the
Rance, and saw the river flashing below the cliffs and glimmering amid
the green. He tossed his spear and sang as the towers of Dinan came in
view, the gray walls girding the little town, with the Ranee running in
the narrow meads below. All the thickets were purpling with the spring.
The bare aspens glittered, the clouds sailed white over the wind-swept
But Dinan had no call for Bertrand that March day. He rode on, still
singing, happy at heart, watching for the tall chimneys of the Vicomte’s
house, finding a quick, strange joy at the thought of seeing Tiphaïne
again. Bertrand was not a Provençal rhapsodist. He could not write love
songs to a woman’s lips, but look bravely into her face he could, and
crown her with the homage that only great hearts know.
Soon the turrets and carved chimneys rose up amid the trees, smoke
floating with the wind, the Vicomte’s banner slanting from its staff.
Bertrand rode up amid a swirl of March-blown leaves and blew his horn
before the gate. The servants who came out to him knew the eagle on his
shield, and Robin himself met Bertrand in the court.
“Messire du Guesclin, welcome indeed!” and he held out his hands to take
Bertrand’s spear and shield, his beaming face a greeting in itself.
“Xaintré told me you were chosen.”
“To be sure, he passed this way on the road to Concale. Mother of God,
but I am glad you are come! Tiphaïne is above, playing chess with my
Robin gave the spear and shield to one of the servants and embraced
Bertrand when he dismounted. There was something comforting to the lad
in having this strong man to bear him company.
“It will be a grim business, Bertrand. Croquart is to fight on
Bamborough’s side, and Knowles and Calverly. Pssh! but who is afraid of
the Flemish butcher? Come to my room; I will help you to disarm.”
He led Bertrand through the garden to his bedchamber joining the chapel,
chattering all the way, with a restless smile on his boyish face. There
was an exaggerated fervor in the lad’s gayety, and his eyes looked tired
as though he had not slept. Bertrand saw that his hands trembled as he
helped to unbuckle the harness, and that his mouth drooped when he was
“What a day for us, brother in arms!” he babbled, drawing out Bertrand’s
sword and feeling the edge thereof with his thumb. “Croquart is a
terrible fellow. But then Beaumanoir is as brave as a lion, and
Tinteniac a powerful smiter, and you, Bertrand, are as good a man at
your weapons as any.”
Bertrand looked hard at Robin, and forced a smile.
“We shall hold our own,” he said.
“You think so?” and the lad’s face brightened. “I have been running two
miles each morning to better my wind. Look at my new armor, yonder. It
is the cleverest German work. See the kneecaps, and the pallets to guard
the armpits. It will take a good sword, Bertrand, to pierce it, eh?”
He seemed so eager to be cheered, despite his vivacity, that Bertrand
felt troubled for the lad, and pitied him in his heart. He was wondering
why Beaumanoir had chosen young Raguenel. He was tall and strong enough,
but he had not the dogged look of a born fighter.
“You will do bravely enough, Robin,” he said. “Why, I have seen these
English beaten many a day. We Bretons are the better men.”
“Good, good indeed! Why, man, you are thirsting for Passion Sunday to
“Because we shall win,” said Bertrand, quietly, smiling at the lad and
eager to hearten him.
Bertrand had finished his disarming, and, having washed his face and
hands in Robin’s laver, stood for him to lead on to the Vicomte’s room.
He was troubled now that he was to meet Tiphaïne again, wondering how
she would greet him, and whether her father knew what had passed within
the Aspen Tower. He followed Robin through the oriel, stroking his chin
and bracing his manhood for the meeting.
Tiphaïne was seated before the solar window, with the chess-board
between her and the Vicomte. She rose up at once when Bertrand entered,
and held out her hands to him with a readiness that made him color.
“Messire, we meet again.”
To Bertrand her voice brought back a hundred memories that gave him
pain. He winced a little as he took her hand and felt her clear eyes
searching his face. It meant more to Bertrand to meet those eyes than an
enemy’s sword would cost him at Mivoie.
“God grant madame is well,” and he bowed to her clumsily and turned to
Stephen Raguenel, who had pushed back the chess-table and was rising
from his chair.
“Well met at last, Messire du Guesclin. I can thank you with my own lips
for the great debt we owe your sword.”
Bertrand guessed that Tiphaïne had saved his honor. He flashed a look at
her, and saw by the smile and the shake of the head she gave him that
the Vicomte knew nothing of the first spoiling of the Aspen Tower.
Bertrand blessed her, yet felt a hypocrite.
“If I have served you, sire, say no more of it.”
The Vicomte de Bellière, stately seigneur that he was, kissed Bertrand’s
cheek after the quaint fashion of those days.
“My house is your house, lad,” he said, “my servants your servants. I
hold myself your debtor.”
For Bertrand, La Bellière had a strange and saddened sense of peace that
night as he sat before the log fire and talked to the Vicomte of the
combat at the Oak of Mivoie. La Bellière contrasted with the memories of
his own home, for here they loved one another and knew no discords. The
solar, warm with the firelight, had something sacred and beautiful
within its walls. Bertrand felt the quiet dignity of the Raguenels’
life, the charm, the mellowness that made home home.
Tiphaïne sat opposite to him, her embroidery in her lap—a mass of green
and gold—her eyes shining in the firelight, her hair coiled above the
curve of her shapely neck. Her father’s chair was turned towards the
fire, and he could see both his children, for Robin stood leaning
against the chimney-hood, his face drawn and pinched when in repose.
It was pathetic the way the old man gloried in his son. He did not
grudge him to the Breton cause, but let his pride soar over the lad’s
honor. He told Bertrand the deeds of his own youth, beneficently
garrulous, and swore that Robin would outshine his father. His handsome
face mellowed as he sipped his wine and looked from one child to the
other. Bertrand, silent, yet very reverent, watched Tiphaïne’s hands,
too conscious all the while of Robin’s strained and jerky gayety. The
lad’s heart was not happy in him, of that Bertrand felt assured.
“Come, messire, you have not seen Robin fight as yet.”
Bertrand smiled, a little sadly, and shook his head.
“He had his christening when our Countess retook the castle of
Roche-D’Errien. You were one of the first in the breach, Robin, eh? Yes,
yes, and Beaumanoir heard of the spirit you showed in that tussle down
in the south, Ancenis—was it? What a head I have for names!”
Tiphaïne looked up from her work and gave her father the word.
“Aurai, to be sure, where that rogue Dagworth had his quittance from
Raoul de Cahours. Robin won his spurs there. You shall see how the lad
can fight, messire, at the Oak of Mivoie.”
Robin laughed, blushed, and frowned at the fire. Tiphaïne was looking at
him with almost a mother’s love in her eyes. Her brother’s restless
gayety had no sinister significance for her sister’s pride in him. It
was a solemn evening; Robin might be unnerved by the pathos of it, but
“Robin will play his part,” she said, quietly.
“God’s grace, of course, he shall! More wine, messire; let us drink to
brave Beaumanoir and to Brittany.”
Before the hour for sleep came round, Tiphaïne drew Bertrand aside
towards the window, and stood looking keenly in his face. His eyes were
happier than of old, and the sullen discontent had left him since
Arletta’s burying in the garden of the Aspen Tower.
“How is it with you?”
He looked at her frankly, yet with a saddened smile.
“I am learning my lesson—letter by letter,” he answered.
“I am glad of it. We are the firmer friends, and—”
She hesitated, with a troubled light shining in her eyes. Bertrand saw
her glance wistfully at Robin and her father.
“I stand to serve you.”
“Take care of Robin for us, Bertrand; it would kill my father to lose
the lad. And he is so young, though brave and strong enough. If—”
Bertrand reached for her hand and held it, his face transfigured as he
looked into her eyes.
“Trust me,” he said.
“I will stand by the lad, and take the blows from him even with my own
body. Tiphaïne, I have not forgotten.”
And Bertrand did not sleep that night with thinking of Tiphaïne and the
Oak of Mivoie.