The Demoiselle d'Ys
by Robert W. Chambers
Mais je croy que je
Suis descendu on puiz
Tenebreux onquel disoit
Heraclytus estre Verité cachée.
There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, for
which I know not:
The way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent upon a rock;
the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a
The utter desolation of the scene began to have its effect; I sat down
to face the situation and, if possible, recall to mind some landmark
which might aid me in extricating myself from my present position. If
I could only find the ocean again all would be clear, for I knew one
could see the island of Groix from the cliffs.
I laid down my gun, and kneeling behind a rock lighted my pipe.
Then I looked at my watch. It was nearly four o'clock. I might have
wandered far from Kerselec since daybreak.
Standing the day before on the cliffs below Kerselec with Goulven,
looking out over the sombre moors among which I had now lost my way,
these downs had appeared to me level as a meadow, stretching to the
horizon, and although I knew how deceptive is distance, I could not
realize that what from Kerselec seemed to be mere grassy hollows were
great valleys covered with gorse and heather, and what looked like
scattered boulders were in reality enormous cliffs of granite.
"It's a bad place for a stranger," old Goulven had said; "you'd
better take a guide;" and I had replied, "I shall not lose myself."
Now I knew that I had lost myself, as I sat there smoking, with the
sea-wind blowing in my face. On every side stretched the moorland,
covered with flowering gorse and heath and granite boulders. There was
not a tree in sight, much less a house. After a while, I picked up the
gun, and turning my back on the sun tramped on again.
There was little use in following any of the brawling streams which
every now and then crossed my path, for, instead of flowing into the
sea, they ran inland to reedy pools in the hollows of the moors. I had
followed several, but they all led me to swamps or silent little ponds
from which the snipe rose peeping and wheeled away in an ecstasy of
fright. I began to feel fatigued, and the gun galled my shoulder in
spite of the double pads. The sun sank lower and lower, shining level
across yellow gorse and the moorland pools.
As I walked my own gigantic shadow led me on, seeming to lengthen
at every step. The gorse scraped against my leggings, crackled beneath
my feet, showering the brown earth with blossoms, and the brake bowed
and billowed along my path. From tufts of heath rabbits scurried away
through the bracken, and among the swamp grass I heard the wild duck's
Once a fox stole across my path, and again, as I stooped to drink
at a hurrying rill, a heron flapped heavily from the reeds beside me.
I turned to look at the sun. It seemed to touch the edges of the plain.
When at last I decided that it was useless to go on, and that I must
make up my mind to spend at least one night on the moors, I threw
myself down thoroughly fagged out.
The evening sunlight slanted warm across my body, but the sea-winds
began to rise, and I felt a chill strike through me from my wet
shooting-boots. High overhead gulls were wheeling and tossing like
bits of white paper; from some distant marsh a solitary curlew called.
Little by little the sun sank into the plain, and the zenith flushed
with the after-glow. I watched the sky change from palest gold to pink
and then to smouldering fire. Clouds of midges danced above me, and
high in the calm air a bat dipped and soared. My eyelids began to
droop. Then as I shook off the drowsiness a sudden crash among the
bracken roused me. I raised my eyes. A great bird hung quivering in
the air above my face. For an instant I stared, incapable of motion;
then something leaped past me in the ferns and the bird rose, wheeled,
and pitched headlong into the brake.
I was on my feet in an instant peering through the gorse. There
came the sound of a struggle from a bunch of heather close by, and
then all was quiet. I stepped forward, my gun poised, but when I came
to the heather the gun fell under my arm again, and I stood motionless
in silent astonishment. A dead hare lay on the ground, and on the hare
stood a magnificent falcon, one talon buried in the creature's neck,
the other planted firmly on its limp flank. But what astonished me,
was not the mere sight of a falcon sitting upon its prey. I had seen
that more than once. It was that the falcon was fitted with a sort of
leash about both talons, and from the leash hung a round bit of metal
like a sleigh-bell. The bird turned its fierce yellow eyes on me, and
then stooped and struck its curved beak into the quarry. At the same
instant hurried steps sounded among the heather, and a girl sprang
into the covert in front. Without a glance at me she walked up to the
falcon, and passing her gloved hand under its breast, raised it from
Then she deftly slipped a small hood over the bird's head, and
holding it out on her gauntlet, stooped and picked up the hare.
She passed a cord about the animal's legs and fastened the end of
the thong to her girdle. Then she started to retrace her steps through
the covert. As she passed me I raised my cap and she acknowledged my
presence with a scarcely perceptible inclination. I had been so
astonished, so lost in admiration of the scene before my eyes, that it
had not occurred to me that here was my salvation. But as she moved
away I recollected that unless I wanted to sleep on a windy moor that
night I had better recover my speech without delay. At my first word
she hesitated, and as I stepped before her I thought a look of fear
came into her beautiful eyes. But as I humbly explained my unpleasant
plight, her face flushed and she looked at me in wonder.
'Surely you did not come from Kerselec!" she repeated.
Her sweet voice had no trace of the Breton accent nor of any accent
which I knew, and yet there was something in it I seemed to have heard
before, something quaint and indefinable, like the theme of an old
I explained that I was an American, unacquainted with Finistère,
shooting there for my own amusement.
"An American," she repeated in the same quaint musical tones. "I
have never before seen an American."
For a moment she stood silent, then looking at me she said: "If you
should walk all night you could not reach Kerselec now, even if you
had a guide."
This was pleasant news.
"But," I began, "if I could only find a peasant's hut where I might
get something to eat, and shelter.".The falcon on her wrist fluttered
and shook its head. The girl smoothed its glossy back and glanced at
"Look around," she said gently. "Can you see the end of these
moors? Look, north, south, east, west. Can you see anything but
moorland and bracken?"
"No," I said.
"The moor is wild and desolate. It is easy to enter, but sometimes
they who enter never leave it. There are no peasants' huts here."
"Well," I said "if you will tell me in which direction Kerselec
lies, tomorrow it will take me no longer to go back than it has to
She looked at me again with an expression almost like pity.
"Ah," she said, "to come is easy and takes hours; to go is
different—and may take centuries."
I stared at her in amazement but decided that I had misunderstood
her. Then before I had time to speak she drew a whistle from her belt
and sounded it.
"Sit down and rest," she said to me; "you have come a long distance
and are tired.'
She gathered up her pleated skirts and motioning me to follow
picked her dainty way through the gorse to a flat rock among the
"They will be here directly," she said, and taking a seat at one
end of the rock invited me to sit down on the other edge. The
after-glow was beginning to fade in the sky and a single star twinkled
faintly through the rosy haze. A long wavering triangle of water-fowl
drifted southward over our heads and from the swamps around plover
"They are very beautiful—these moors," she said quietly.
"Beautiful, but cruel to strangers." I answered.
"Beautiful and cruel,' she repeated dreamily, "beautiful and
"Like a woman," I said stupidly.
"Oh," she cried with a little catch in her breath and looked at me.
Her dark eyes met mine and I thought she seemed angry or frightened.
"Like a woman," she repeated under her breath, "how cruel to say
so!" Then after a pause, as though speaking aloud to herself, "how
cruel for him to say that."
I don't know what sort of an apology I offered for my inane, though
harmless speech, but I know that she seemed so troubled about it that
I began to think I had said something very dreadful without knowing
it, and remembered with horror the pitfalls and snares which the
French language sets for foreigners. While I was trying to imagine
what I might have said, a sound of voices came across the moor and the
girl rose to her feet.
"No," she said, with a trace of a smile on her pale face, "I will
not accept your apologies, Monsieur, but I must prove you wrong and
that shall be my revenge. Look. Here come Hastur and Raoul."
Two men loomed up in the twilight. One had a sack across his
shoulders and the other carried a hoop before him as a waiter carries
a tray. The hoop was fastened with straps to his shoulders and around
the edge of the circler sat three hooded falcons fitted with tinkling
bells. The girl stepped up to the falconer, and with a quick turn of
her wrist transferred her falcon to the hoop where it quickly sidled
off and nestled among its mates who shook their hooded heads and
ruffled their feathers till the belled jesses tinkled again. The other
man stepped forward and bowing respectfully took up the hare and
dropped it into the game-sack.
"These are my piqueurs," said the girl turning to me with a gentle
dignity. "Raoul is a good fauconnier and I shall some day make him
grand veneur. Hastur is incomparable."
The two silent men saluted me respectfully.
"Did I not tell you, Monsieur, that I should prove you wrong?" she
continued. "This then is my revenge, that you do me the courtesy of
accepting food and shelter at my own house."
Before I could answer she spoke to the falconers who started
instantly across the heath, and with a gracious gesture to me she
followed. I don't know whether I made her understand how profoundly
grateful I felt, but she seemed pleased to listen, as we walked over
the dewy heather.
"Are you not very tired?" she asked.
I had clean forgotten my fatigue in her presence and I told her so.
"Don't you think your gallantry is a little old-fashioned," she
said; and when I looked confused and humbled, she added quietly, "Oh,
I like it, I like everything old-fashioned, and it is delightful to
hear you say such pretty things."
The moorland around us was very still now under its ghostly sheet
of mist. The plover had ceased their calling; the crickets and all the
little creatures of the fields were silent as we passed, yet it seemed
to me as if I could hear them beginning again far behind us. Well in
advance the two tall falconers strode across the heather and the faint
jingling of the hawk's bells came to our ears in distant murmuring
Suddenly a splendid hound dashed out of the mist in front, followed
by another and another until half a dozen or more were bounding and
leaping around the girl beside me. She caressed and quieted them with
her gloved hand, speaking to them in quaint terms which I remembered to
have seen in old French manuscripts.
Then the falcons on the circlet borne by the falconer ahead began
to beat their wings and scream, and from somewhere out of sight the
notes of a hunting-horn floated across the moor.
The hounds sprang away before us and vanished in the twilight, the
falcons flapped and squealed upon their perch and the girl taking up
the song of the horn began to hum. Clear and mellow her voice sounded
in the night air.
"Chasseur, chasseur, chassez encore, Quittez Rosette et Jeanneton,
Tonton, tonton, tontaine, tonton, Ou, pour, rabattre, dês l'aurore,
Que les Amours soient de planton, Tonton, tontaine, tonton."
As I listened to her lovely voice a gray mass which rapidly grew
more distinct loomed up in front, and the horn rang out joyously
through the tumult of the hounds and falcons. A torch glimmered at a
gate, a light streamed through an opening door, and we stepped upon a
wooden bridge which trembled under our feet and rose creaking and
straining behind us as we passed over the moat and into a small stone
court, walled on every side. From an open doorway a man came and
bending in salutation presented a cup to the girl beside me. She took
the cup and touched it with her lips, then lowering it turned to me
and said in a low voice, "I bid you welcome."
At that moment one of the falconers came with another cup, but
before handing it to me, presented it to the girl, who tasted it. The
falconer made a gesture to receive it, but she hesitated a moment and
then stepping forward offered me the cup with her own hands. I felt
this to be an act of extraordinary graciousness, but hardly knew what
was expected of me, and did not raise it to my lips at once. The girl
flushed crimson. I saw that I must act quickly.
"Mademoiselle," I faltered, "a stranger whom you have saved from
dangers he may never realize, empties this cup to the gentlest and
loveliest hostess of France."
'In His name," she murmured, crossing herself as I drained the cup.
Then stepping into the doorway she turned to me with a pretty gesture
and taking my hand in hers, led me into the house, saying again and
again: "You are very welcome, indeed you are welcome to the Château
I awoke next morning with the music of the horn in my ears, and
leaping out of the ancient bed, went to a curtained window where the
sunlight filtered through little deep-set panes. The horn ceased as I
looked into the court below.
A man who might have been brother to the two falconers of the night
before stood in the midst of a pack of hounds. A curved horn was
strapped over his back, and in his hand he held a long-lashed whip.
The dogs whined and yelped, dancing around him in anticipation; there
was the stamp of horses too in the walled yard.
"Mount!" cried a voice in Breton, and with a clatter of hoofs the
two falconers, with falcons upon their wrists, rode into the courtyard
among the hounds. Then I heard another voice which sent the blood
throbbing through my heart: "Piriou Louis, hunt the hounds well and
spare neither spur nor whip. Thou Raoul and thou Gaston, see that the
epervier does not prove himself niais, and if it be best in your
judgment, faites courtoisie à l'oiseau. Jardiner un oiseau like the mué
there on Hastur's wrist is not difficult, but thou, Raoul, mayest not
find it so simple to govern that hagard. Twice last week he foamed au
vif and lost the beccade although he is used to the leurre. The bird
acts like a stupid branchier. Paître un hagard n'est pas si facile."
Was I dreaming? The old language of falconry which I had read in
yellow manuscripts—the old forgotten French of the middle ages was
sounding in my ears while the hounds bayed and the hawk's bells
tinkled accompaniment to the stamping horses. She spoke again in the
sweet forgotten language:
"If you would rather attach the longe and leave thy hagard au bloc,
Raoul, I shall say nothing; for it were a pity to spoil so fair a
day's sport with an ill-trained sors. Essimer abaisser,—it is
possibly the best way. Ça lui donnera des reins. I was perhaps hasty
with the bird. It takes time to pass à la filière and the exercises
Then the falconer Raoul bowed in his stirrups and replied: 'If it
be the pleasure of Mademoiselle, I shall keep the hawk."
"It is my wish," she answered. "Falconry I know, but you have yet
to give me many a lesson in Autourserie, my poor Raoul. Sieur Piriou
The huntsman sprang into an archway and in an instant returned,
mounted upon a strong black horse, followed by a piqueur also mounted.
"Ah!" she cried joyously, "speed Glemarec René! speed! speed all!
Sound thy horn Sieur Piriou!"
The silvery music of the hunting-horn filled the courtyard, the
hounds sprang through the gateway and galloping hoof-beats plunged out
of the paved court; loud on the drawbridge, suddenly muffled, then
lost in the heather and bracken of the moors. Distant and more distant
sounded the horn, until it became so faint that the sudden carol of a
soaring lark drowned it in my ears. I heard the voice below responding
to some call from within the house.
"I do not regret the chase, I will go another time. Courtesy to the
stranger, Pelagie, remember!".And a feeble voice came quavering from
within the house, "Courtoisie."
I stripped, and rubbed myself from head to foot in the huge earthen
basin of icy water which stood upon the stone floor at the foot of my
bed. Then I looked about for my clothes. They were gone, but on a
settle near the door lay a heap of garments which I inspected with
As my clothes had vanished I was compelled to attire myself in the
costume which had evidently been placed there for me to wear while my
own clothes dried. Everything was there, cap, shoes, and hunting
doublet of silvery gray homespun; but the close-fitting costume and
seamless shoes belonged to another century, and I remembered the
strange costumes of the three falconers in the courtyard. I was sure
that it was not the modern dress of any portion of France or Brittany;
but not until I was dressed and stood before a mirror between the
windows did I realize that I was clothed much more like a young
huntsman of the middle ages than like a Breton of that day. I
hesitated and picked up the cap. Should I go down and present myself
in that strange guise?
There seemed to be no help for it, my own clothes were gone and
there was no bell in the ancient chamber to call a servant, so I
contented myself with removing a short hawk's feather from the cap,
and opening the door went downstairs.
By the fireplace in the large room at the foot of the stairs an old
Breton woman sat spinning with a distaff. She looked up at me when I
appeared, and smiling frankly, wished me health in the Breton
language, to which I laughingly replied in French. At the same moment
my hostess appeared and returned my salutation with a grace and
dignity that sent a thrill to my heart. Her lovely head with its dark
curly hair was crowned with a head-dress which set all doubts as to the
epoch of my own costume at rest. Her slender figure was exquisitely
set off in the homespun hunting-gown edged with silver, and on her
gauntlet-covered wrist she bore one of her petted hawks. With perfect
simplicity she took my hand and led me into the garden in the court,
and searing herself before a table invited me very sweetly to sit
beside her. Then she asked me in her soft quaint accent how I had
passed the night and whether I was very much inconvenienced by wearing
the clothes which old Pelagie had put there for me while I slept. I
looked at my own clothes and shoes, drying in the sun by the
garden-wall, and hated them. What horrors they were compared with the
graceful costume which I now wore! I told her this laughing, but she
agreed with me very seriously.
"We will throw them away," she said in a quiet voice. In my
astonishment I attempted to explain that I not only could not think of
accepting clothes from anybody, although for all I knew it might be
the custom of hospitality in that part of the country, but that I
should cut an impossible figure if I returned to France clothed as I
She laughed and tossed her pretty head, saying something in old
French which I did not understand, and the Pelagie trotted out with a
tray on which stood two bowls of milk, a loaf of white bread, fruit, a
platter of honeycomb, and a flagon of deep red wine. "You see I have
not yet broken my fast because I wished you to eat with me. But I am
very hungry." she smiled.
"I would rather die than forget one word of what you have said!" I
blurred out while my cheeks burned. "She will think me mad," I added
to myself, but she turned to me with sparking eyes.
"Ah!" she murmured. "Then Monsieur knows all that there is of
She crossed herself and broke bread—I sat and watched her white
hands, not daring to raise my eyes to hers.
"Will you not eat," she asked; "why do you look so troubled?"
Ah, why? I knew it now. I knew I would give my life to touch with
my lips those rosy palms I understood now that from the moment when I
looked into her dark eyes there on the moor last night I had loved
her. My great and sudden passion held me speechless.
"Are you ill at ease?" she asked again.
Then like a man who pronounces his own doom I answered in a low
voice: "Yes, I am ill at ease for love of you." And as she did not
stir nor answer, the same power moved my lips in spite of me and I
said, "I, who am unworthy of the lightest of your thoughts, I who abuse
hospitality and repay your gently courtesy with bold presumption, I
She leaned her head upon her hands, and answered softly, "I love
you. Your words are very dear to me. I love you."
"Then I shall win you."
"Win me," she replied.
But all the time I had been sitting silent, my face turned toward
her. She also silent, her sweet face resting on her upturned palm, sat
facing me, and as her eyes looked into mine, I knew that neither she
nor I had spoken human speech; but 1 knew that her soul had answered
mine, and I drew myself up feeling youth and joyous love coursing
through every vein. She, with a bright color in her lovely face,
seemed as one awakened from a dream, and her eyes sought mine with a
questioning glance which made me tremble with delight. We broke our
fast, speaking of ourselves. I told her my name and she told me hers,
the Demoiselle Jeanne d'Ys.
She spoke of her father and mother's death, and how the nineteen of
her years had been passed in the little fortified farm alone with her
nurse Pelagie. Glemarec Renè the piqueur, and the four falconers,
Raoul, Gaston, Hastur, and the Sieur Piriou Louis, who had served her
father. She had never been outside the moorland—never even had seen a
human soul before, except the falconers and Pelagie. She did not know
how she had heard of Kerselec; perhaps the falconers had spoken of it.
She knew the legends of Loup Garou and Jeanne la Flamme from her nurse
Pelagie. She embroidered and spun flax. Her hawks and hounds were her
only distraction. When she had met me there on the moor she had been
so frightened that she almost dropped at the sound of my voice. She
had, it was true, seen ships at sea from the cliffs, but as far as the
eye could reach the moors over which she galloped were destitute of
any sign of human life. There was a legend which old Pelagie told, how
anybody once lost in the unexplored moorland might never return,
because the moors were enchanted. She did not know whether it was true,
she never had thought about it until she met me. She did not know
whether the falconers had even been outside or whether they could go
if they would. The books in the house which Pelagie the nurse had
taught her to read were hundreds of years old.
All this she told me with a sweet seriousness seldom seen in any
one but children. My own name she found easy to pronounce and
insisted, because my first name was Philip, I must have French blood
in me. She did not seem curious to learn anything about the outside
world, and I thought perhaps she considered it had forfeited her
interest and respect from the stories of her nurse.
We were still sitting at the table and she was throwing grapes to
the small field birds which came fearlessly to our very feet.
I began to speak in a vague way of going, but she would not hear of
it, and before I knew it I had promised to stay a week and hunt with
hawk and hound in their company. I also obtained permission to come
again from Kerselec and visit her after my return.
"Why," she said innocently, "I do not know what I should do if you
never came back;" and I, knowing that I had no right to awaken her
with the sudden shock which the avowal of my own love would bring to
her, sat silent, hardly daring to breathe.
"You will come very often?" she asked.
"Very often," I said.
"Oh," she sighed, "I am very happy—come and see my hawks."
She rose and took my hand again with a childlike innocence of
possession, and we walked through the garden and fruit trees to a
grassy lawn which was bordered by a brook. Over the lawn were
scattered fifteen or twenty stumps of trees—partially imbedded in the
grass—and upon all of these except two sat falcons. They were
attached to the stumps by thongs which were in turn fastened with
steel rivets to their legs just above the talons. A little stream of
pure spring water flowed in a winding course within easy distance of
The birds set up a clamor when the girl appeared, but she went from
one to another caressing some, taking others for an instant upon her
wrist, or stooping to adjust their jesses.
"Are they not pretty?" she said. "See, here is a falcon-gentil. We
call it 'ignoble,' because it takes the quarry in direct chase. This
is a blue falcon. In falconry we call it 'noble' because it rises over
the quarry, and wheeling, drops upon it from above. This white bird is
a gerfalcon from the north. It is also 'noble!' Here is a merlin, and
this tiercelet is a falcon-heroner."
I asked her how she had learned the old language of falconry. She
did not remember, but thought her father must have taught it to her
when she was very young.
Then she led me away and showed me the young falcons still in the
nest. "They are termed niais in falconry," she explained. "A branchier
is the young bird which is just able to leave the nest and hop from
branch to branch. A young bird which has not yet moulted is called a
sors, and a mué is a hawk which has moulted in captivity. When we
catch a wild falcon which has changed its plumage we term it a hagard.
Raoul first taught me to dress a falcon. Shall I teach you how it is
She seated herself on the bank of the stream among the falcons and
I threw myself at her feet to listen.
Then the Demoiselle d'Ys held up one rosy-tipped finger and began
very gravely, "First one must catch the falcon."
"I am caught," I answered.
She laughed very prettily and told me my dressage would perhaps be
difficult as I was noble.
"I am already tamed," I replied; "jessed and belled."
She laughed, delighted. "Oh, my brave falcon; then you will return
at my call?"
"I am yours," I answered gravely.
She sat silent for a moment. Then the color heightened in her
cheeks and she held up her finger again saying, "Listen; I wish to
speak of falconry—"
"I listen, Countess Jeanne d'Ys."
But again she fell into the reverie, and her eyes seemed fixed on
something beyond the summer clouds.
"Philip," she said at last.
"Jeanne," I whispered.
"That is all,—that is what I wished," she sighed,—"Philip and
She held her hand toward me and I touched it with my lips.
"Win me," she said, but this time it was the body and soul which
spoke in unison.
After a while she began again: "Let us speak of falconry."
"Begin," I replied; "we have caught the falcon.".The Jeanne d'Ys
took my hand in both of hers and told me how with infinite patience the
young falcon was taught to perch upon the wrist, how little by little
it became used to belled jesses and the chaperon à cornette.
"They must first have a good appetite," she said; "then little by
little I reduce their nourishment which in falconry we call pât. When
after many nights passed au bloc as these birds are now, I prevail
upon the hagard to stay quietly on the wrist, then the bird is ready to
be taught to come for its food. I fix the pât to the end of a thong or
leurre, and teach the bird to come to me as soon as I begin to whirl
the cord in circles about my head. At first I drop the pât when the
falcon comes, and he eats the food on the ground. After a little he
will learn to seize the leurre in motion as I whirl it around my head,
or drag it over the ground. After this it is easy to teach the falcon
to strike at game, always remembering to 'faire courtoisie à l'oiseau,'
that is, to allow the bird to taste the quarry."
A squeal from one of the falcons interrupted her, and she arose to
adjust the longe which had become whipped about the bloc, but the bird
still flapped its wings and screamed.
"What is the matter?" she said; "Philip, can you see?"
I looked around and at first saw nothing to cause the commotion
which was now heightened by the screams and flapping of all the birds.
Then my eye fell upon the flat rock beside the stream from which the
girl had risen. A gray serpent was moving slowly across the surface of
the bowlder, and the eyes in its flat triangular head sparkled like
"A couleuvre," she said quietly.
"Is it harmless, is it nor?" I asked.
She pointed to the black V-shaped figure on the neck.
"It is certain death," she said; "it is a viper."
We watched the reptile moving slowly over the smooth rock to where
the sunlight fell in a broad warm patch.
I started forward to examine it, but she clung to arm crying,
"Don't, Philip, I am afraid."
"For you, Philip,—I love you."
Then I took her in my arms and kissed her on the lips, but all I
could say was: "Jeanne, Jeanne, Jeanne." And as she lay trembling on
my breast, something struck my foot in the grass below, but I did not
heed it. Then again something struck my ankle, and a sharp pain shot
through me. I looked into the sweet face of Jeanne d'Ys and kissed
her, and with all my strength lifted her in my arms and flung her from
me. Then bending, I tore the viper from my ankle and set my heel upon
its head. I remember feeling weak and numb,—I remember falling to the
ground. Through my slowly glazing eyes I saw Jeanne's white face
bending close to mine, and when the light in my eyes went out I still
felt her arms about my neck, and her soft cheek against my drawn lips.
* * *
When I opened my eyes, I looked around in terror. Jeanne was
gone. I saw the stream and the flat rock; I saw the crushed viper in
the grass beside me, but the hawks and blocs had disappeared. I sprang
to my feet. The garden, the fruit trees, the drawbridge and the walled
court were gone. I stared stupidly at a heap of crumbling ruins,
ivy-covered and gray, through which great trees had pushed their way.
I crept forward, dragging my numbed foot, and as I moved, a falcon
sailed from the tree-tops among the ruins, and soaring, mounting in
narrowing circles, faded and vanished in the clouds above.
"Jeanne. Jeanne," I cried, but my voice died on my lips, and I fell
on my knees among the weeds. And as God willed it, I, not knowing, had
fallen kneeling before a crumbling shrine carved in stone for our
Mother of Sorrows. I saw the sad face of the Virgin wrought in the cold
stone. I saw the cross and thorns at her feet, and beneath it I read:
"Pray for the soul of the
Demoiselle Jeanne d'Ys,
in her youth for love of
Phillip, a Stranger
But upon the icy slab lay a woman's glove still warm and fragrant.