Puslapio vaizdai


ale and all the things of the flesh. I saw between these ten finger-bones and give my fellow-students who had acclaimed my headsman some reason for his red ax." my gift of poesy, who had followed my The monk's mien was almost majestic. lead in thought, go back to their seign- “There is a way to escape," he said. iories, or to rich abbacies and chaplain- "An I find you worthy, I may take you ships, and since I was too honest to be a with me.” He paused, to add signifipriest, must I also be too honest to live? cantly, "Otherwise, I have only to wait So I set up a seigniorship of my own: I for dawn to escape alone." took toll of the toll-takers. But I have The sinister emphasis of these words taken nothing from poorer men; I have chilled Villon despite his suspicions that stolen only that I might live, and sing the the monk had some hidden motive for songs that God gave my soul. And so I wishing to frighten him. One takes fright say, if I am a thief, I am a thief in a at shadows in shadowland, at death's time of thieves, a thief in a land of thieves, counterfeit when death itself is nigh. So a better man than those honest fellows he studied the fellow in sore perplexity. who rob the helpless and torture the weak The eyes were stern, yet not unkind; the and hang the hungry man.”

forehead narrow, but high; the lips loose The Carthusian's chin was between his and thin, yet short of cruel, though the cupped palms, and his eyes were set upon many lines that seamed the face added the poet-disquieting eyes, steady of stare. craftiness and some sadness to its natural

“Go to, good man!” said Villon, rudely. secrecy. The poet knew something of "You do not alarm me by your looks. physiognomy, although he had his knowPerchance I am not in the right, but the ledge by no such name, nor, indeed, other world is in the wrong. What boots it for than instinctively, the tortuous ways into the bubble to attempt to go north when which he had lived having often given his the tide goes south? Lay my crimes at life no greater value than the good faith the door of law, or, rather, at the feet of those he must trust.

So he had early of the princes of church and state, great

learned to read a language that lying lips lords who have no need to rob and slay. could not gainsay. Let them show mercy and kindness, and Now he saw a man who had power and, the locks could be wrenched from all the better, a purpose. Whatever he said or jails, aye, and from men's hearts, too, and did, it was to some end worth discoverall the thieves in France could be lodged ing; possible friend or enemy only in so in this single Bastille of St. Antoine, the far as human clay could be kneaded into hangman and the headsman set to milking shapes that served that end-shapes that

I am to die. Be it so. Then I were no whimsies of idle or impulsive mowill soon be judged by the Sieur God. I ments, but parts of a system long pream glad, very glad, for I am aweary of the meditated. Villon was aware of the same judgments of man.”

curiosity as when he had lifted strange He ceased his speech and stared into the books, quaint or mystic in the designs of fire. The Carthusian was also silent, their binding. For the moment the literstudying him. Several times he essayed atus was uppermost in the poet, the fate to speak, but seemingly saw himself ill of a single human atom, even though the advised. So the silence endured until a atom was himself, seemed of less imporlive coal leaped and fell beside the poet, tance. He squatted down tailor-like on sizzling the straw, causing Villon's medi- the monk's side of the fire, so close that he tations to lapse as he stamped it out. His could watch his eyes. eyes again met the monk's and gave him "This Valois, this king with the mind the excuse he waited for.

of a merchant, this monarch without maj“Suppose you were not to die?” he sug- esty, this Louis who dresses like his own gested softly

burgesses and has a barber for confidant Villon's

eyes darkened, his hands trem- and a hangman for friend—” So had the bled.

monk begun when Villon interrupted. “Take care, good man,” he said fiercely, "I have no quarrel with him," the poet his fingers twitching. "If I find you have demurred. “He has started better than made sport of me to amuse your solitude, most, by freeing certain unfortunates in by God's splendor I 'll take your gullet the jails—”




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“Of which you were doubtless one,” accursed and heretical English, training said the monk, indifferently, almost indul- common men to the use of these new-fangently. “Endeavor rather to judge him gled harquebuses and fire-drakes, these

a man of France, not as a grateful guns and cannon which will break down thief, released only because of his foxing. even the military supremacy of knights and That he, the first of princes, covets the nobles. And these common people, who good-will even of thieves, is that not ill? outnumber noblesse as the sands of the sea To satisfy his lust for power, or, as he outnumber its rocks, will be the army of says, to give peace to France, he sets in the king, not feudal followers of vassals peril the power of holy church by imperil- and vavasors. He will forego all,” went ing the dread and fear of kings. He goes on the monk, excitedly, "his nobility, his slinking through the streets and into pub- princely blood, his debt to Burgundy, lic taverns like that heathen idolater which sheltered him when he was dauphin Harun-al-Rashid. Often he reveals him- and a fugitive, even his reverence to holy self as what he is, so that the common church and his own royal honor, if it people see no great potentate, but a fellow brings peace to France. Such is his igin shabby clothes like themselves.

noble contention. But before his poisonwith burgesses of the cities and encour- ous dragons' teeth bring up armies of vilages them to maintain what they presump- leins and vagabonds, the holy see may yet tuously call their rights, increasing his proclaim Philip of Burgundy a true and power by aiding their parliaments to deny lawful sovereign and no vassal to a traitor. their liege lords' divinely given powers. Then we shall see what Philip's rebelNot content with rousing rebellion against lious Flemings, fanned on by the Valois his own vavasors, he scruples not to do as to believe themselves another Swiss Conill where princes of the infallible pontiff federation, will say to that.” hold temporal power. Even the awful His voice had risen high, and as if in sovereignty of the holy father constrains answer, there sounded upon the farther naught of this man's craft and guile. wall what seemed to be a signal: a rapping Openly he discountenances violence, tak- as sharp and distinct as if done with a ing hands in friendly grasp that he plans sword-hilt against the stone. to cut off. And this is preserving peace “Yes,” said Villon, whose eyes had neito France!" The monk's voice rose high ther blinked nor shown expression since and scornful, and his eyes searched the the monk had begun to explain, “all these poet's, which gave no sign save interest in things are of vast import, no doubt, and his tale.

of great assistance to one desiring to 'scape “Nay, this coward king discredits war, headsman or hangman.” The other eyed mocks even the holy crusades as the hys- him earnestly, seeking to read the thought teric debauches of half-civilized savages, the words concealed; but the poet's exhalf of whom, says this blasphemer, pression still betokened only intelligent thought Our Lady was a Valkyr and St. interest. It seemed he had not heard the Michael Thor of the Thunder. But rapping out beyond at all. shame on me for repeating such sacrilege! “This much assistance," growled the His crafty conniving is accomplished Carthusian, annoyed at the poet's imperthrough agents of low degree, educated turbability. “To counter the efforts of sons of villeins, low-born scholars of the the Valois, other agents are needed in university, even, sorrow I must say it, Paris, men at once ambitious, unscrupusome of the ambitious haute noblesse, who lous, and with wit enough to ape a class should scorn such villainy. These agents, above them; of personable port and manby promising his secret aid, stir up revolt nerly bearing, and with sufficient Latinity in the seigniories, the baronies, the bish- to read messages and write them. Clothed oprics, the free cities, especially in the as one of the haute noblesse, your beard tributary dukedoms. Louis would cripple shaven and your locks trimmed, I perfirst the lords, then take from holy church ceive that you might pass undetected. all but spiritual sovereignty. Willingly None would know the former homeless he grants more power to the people's par- vagabond. Such service as you might renliaments; does he not control them? der would be far less perilous than your More, he follows the example of the thieving has been.”

He began to show signs of impatience. "You mean to go without me? The

“My own escape is at hazard,” he guide knows my voice; he will not lead added sharply. "My friends are ready for you." For answer Villon, smiling faintly, me to go hence; you heard their knocks on nodded at his heavy iron club. yon wall. . Will you go with me on such "You are a patriot, then?” asked the terms or stay and be hanged?"

other, his sneer returning. “To a land The stoicism of Villon's face, the stoni- that by your own words has given you ness of his stare, altered no whit.

only starvation and jail? You return to "Your friends. And you a prisoner in your haunts, once more to be hunted St. Antoine? They may be ready and down? Or to wander afar, exiled from then again ready, but how will that aid

your friends?” you? This is very solid masonry, many Villon shook his head, smiling. feet in thickness. Those window-slits are "To serve King Louis, monk. I have too narrow to give egress to a sizable eel.” found a way to gain his ear at last. I

"Man," said the monk, “a cause like have sent him petitions, not one, but ours has adherents in the court itself, many; but who was I that he should bewithin the very reach of the Valois. There stow his patronage upon me? He reare trap-doors and catacombs, subterra- leased me from Meung jail; that was nean ways and secret stairways, in every enough for a notorious scape-gallows. But fortress, in every castle. You doubt me?" now that I have a way to serve him, he he added stormily.

will listen fast enough: he is wise, that “How might a common man know such fox of the Valois, that leopard of France. secrets," asked Villon, smiling.

Men may call him what they will, but in Suspended from its rosary of black days to come it will seem he was one of beads a crucifix dangled below the Car- two sane persons in a nation of madmen, thusian's cord. With an angry look, he the other his servant Francis.” raised this heavy piece of iron and struck He louted low and rapped upon the the wall sharply four times. The former wall as he had heard the other do. Things signal was repeated from beyond. "At the being now distinguishable in the darkness, second four, lest there be some error, one he saw the middle of the cell rise like a of the stones of this cell will swing on an wraith from the sea, rise and fall, and the axis. We have only to drop a few feet light of the glowing coals revealed a shadand follow our guide. The passageway

A flagstone had turned and upleads to the cellars and into the catacombs. ended. The guide will conduct us to safety. “Now,” whispered Villon, soft-voiced Well?”

and soft-footed as any cat.

“Doff that "A single guide ?" asked Villon, as cowl and robe, Sir Priest, or this holy though he feared so perilous an under- cross will give you everlasting life more taking with no greater guard.

speedily than you hoped. Off with them, “Did your lordship expect an army?” and pray for the soul of the traitor below. sneered the monk.

He has no such alternative. And think But the sneer faded as Villon's eyes on this, Master Monk. A man may be a lighted up. A profound student of facial thief because he hungers and thirsts, he expression himself, the Carthusian shrank may kill that he may live; but, by my back, hand upraised; but with a single lustihead! he may not be a traitor unless bound the poet pinned him against the he is a dog. Carry that message to the wall, and, snapping the rosary, snatched badger of Burgundy from the men of the iron crucifix which then menaced its Paris. And tell him all true men of owner, an iron club in an enemy's hand. Paris serve the Valois, fox and leopard For enemy the poet was, if one might mayhap, but for all that the father of his judge from looks of fierce dislike.

people and a man after my own heart. "Speak low," he warned. "A single Come, no more delay!" he whispered even

A ” guide, you said, and in darkness?

Do not lower than before, and raised the heavy call out. His blood is enough without iron crucifix. adding yours."

Smiling strangely, the monk obeyed; But even in this extremity the Carthu- the cowl was lifted off his head, the robe sian preserved his calm.

uncorded from his waist. As both fell to

owy void.


the ground at Villon's feet, he saw a man sip," said Louis as Oliver approached. “I in garb most unclerical: doublet and hosen should have seen this fellow's first petition and a high-pointed hat where the monk- before he wasted six months in Master ish hood had been. And the doublet, Thibault's jail. Had we his services when though frayed and worn, had on the breast we were dauphin, he might have helped us thereof in tarnished silver threads the much when our rebellious Paris at first fleur-de-lis of France; while encircling refused us welcome. Had I not read the brim of the high-crowned hat were the poems our Cousin Charles sent us many leaden images, our Lady of Embrum prettily bound by his Fougère, Master to the fore. Vanished the sneer and the Villon might have languished there anon sour and sinister smile; came in their place and the kingdom lost him altogether. As a homely wink and a thin high laugh. The it nearly did to-night, had he proved eyes of the poet bulged like the buttons traitor. One with wits so keen were too on the jerkin of a greedy jester.

dangerous an enemy to have in our city, “Louis the Fox? Louis the Leopard ? Master Poet. It is not the foes without Why not Louis the Spider, Master Vil- that I fear. That is why I go about lon?" asked Louis the King.

with Oliver here and with Tristran and Villon took a backward step, one and drink at the taverns and watch and listen. yet another.

Louis sprang and gripped It ill beseems a king, they say. Let them him.

“ 'Ware the opening behind you!" he He put a hand within his doublet and warned, dragging the poet from the very took out a small book of black-letter. verge of the black void. “There is a drop “We have improved somewhat on Cousin of a hundred feet to the stones below." Charles," he said, opening it.

“His Still holding the poet's scruff, he snatched script was daintily limned enough, and the cross and struck the wall. The flag- many were its varicolored inks and a great stone fell into its place, and the poet to deal too much of gilt. But I prefer the his knees.

homelier way, the way of my Hussite "The king!” he murmured brokenly, heretic for whom I sent to Mainz, the his teeth chattering, a chill sweat on his 'prentice of Faust the printer. Printer brow, his body rough with goose-flesh, as sounds it strange to your ears, Master he realized the trap he had escaped so Villon? It shall sound loud in the ears nearlv.

of ignorance anon. See what this Gutenberg has wrought. Observe, Master

Poet, you have been honored beyond all Louis laughed again. It was a situation the men of France. It would have been to his taste. The cell-door opened, and my right to have taken your life, for I Oliver le Dain, barber in name, prime have given you immortality. Yours is the minister in fame, entered from the ad- first book to be printed in France.” joining chamber, where were the levers He gave into Villon's hand a volume that controlled the dread oubliette. A in vellum, open at its title-page. There slight frown clouded his face as he saw in bald black letters the poet's own name that the poet had survived the test ; for stood stark on the white page. Oliver feared to lose any of his power Twitching for a far different reason with his royal confidant, and this poet, than before, his fingers turned the pages, for all he was vagabond and starveling, he and he saw the ballads of his youth, those knew for a better man than himself, one of his “Little Testament," not only in the on whom the king's learning would not filaments and traceries of his own delicate be wasted. But he banished his look of French, but on each opposite page the discontent as he came out of the shadows Latin nuances of Charles of Orleans and of and into the circle of light, where the the king himself. A thrill of pride chilled king, looking very like the plain burgher his spine and burned his eyes. No longer of Paris he professed to be, sat chuckling was he Villon the vagabond, but one and eying Villon, who had by now re- whom no bishop or lord or king might gained his native confidence and had ven- scorn: Villon- the king had said it himtured on a wry smile.

self-the immortal. “I have a crow to pick with you, Gos- Eagerly he drew from his breast his


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