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Grisly Grisell By Charlotte M. Yonge Characters: 5990

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02

Low at times and loud at times,

Changing like a poet's rhymes,

Rang the beautiful wild chimes,

From the belfry in the market

Of the ancient town of Bruges.

Longfellow, The Carillon.

No more was heard of the Duchess for some weeks. Leonard was absent with the Duke, who was engaged in that unhappy affair of Peroune and Liège, the romantic version of which may be read in Quentin Durward, and with which the present tale dares not to meddle, though it seemed to blast the life of Charles the Bold, all unknowing.

The Duchess Margaret was youthful enough to have a strong taste for effect, and it was after a long and vexatious delay that Grisell was suddenly summoned to her presence, to be escorted by Master Groot. There she sat, on her chair of state, with the high tapestried back and the square canopy, and in the throng of gentlemen around her Grisell at a glance recognised Sir Leonard, and likewise Cuthbert Ridley and Harry Featherstone, though of course it was not etiquette to exchange any greetings.

She knelt to kiss the Duchess's hand, and as she did so Margaret raised her, kissing her brow, and saying with a clear full voice, "I greet you, Lady Copeland, Baroness of Whitburn. Here is a letter from my brother, King Edward, calling on the Bishop of Durham, Count Palatine, to put you in possession of thy castle and lands, whoever may gainsay it."

That Leonard started with amazement and made a step forward Grisell was conscious, as she bent again to kiss the hand that gave the letter; but there was more to come, and Margaret continued-

"Also, to you, as to one who has the best right, I give this parchment, sealed and signed by my brother, the King, containing his full and free pardon to the good knight, Sir Leonard Copeland, and his restoration to all his honours and his manors. Take it, Lady of Whitburn. It was you, his true wife, who won it for him. It is you who should give it to him. Stand forth, Sir Leonard."

He did stand forth, faltering a little, as his first impulse had been to kneel to Grisell, then recollecting himself, to fall at the Duchess's feet in thanks.

"To her, to her," said the Duchess; but Grisell, as he turned, spoke, trying to clear her voice from a rising sob.

"Sir Leonard, wait, I pray. Her Highness hath not spoken all. I am well advised that the wedlock into which you were forced against your will was of no avail to bind us, as you in mind and will were contracted to the Lady Eleanor Audley."

Leonard opened his lips, but she waved him to silence. "True, I know that she was likewise constrained to wed; but she is a widow, and free to choose for herself. Therefore, either by the bishop, or it may be through our Holy Father the Pope, by mutual consent, shall the marriage at Whitburn be annulled and declared void, and I pray you to accept seisin thereof, while my lady, her Highness the Duchess Isabel, with the Lady Prioress, will accept me as a Grey Sister."

There was a murmur. Marg

aret utterly amazed would have sprung forward and exclaimed, but Leonard was beforehand with her.

"Never! never!" he cried, throwing himself on his knees and mastering his wife's hand. "Grisell, Grisell, dost think I could turn to the feather-pated, dull-souled, fickle-hearted thing I know now Eleanor of Audley to be, instead of you?"

There was a murmur of applause, led by the young Duchess herself, but Grisell tried still to withdraw her hand, and say in low broken tones, "Nay, nay; she is fair, I am loathly."

"What is her fair skin to me?" he cried; "to me, who have learnt to know, and love, and trust to you with a very different love from the boy's passion I felt for Eleanor in youth, and the cure whereof was the sight and words of the Lady Heringham! Grisell, Grisell, I was about to lay my very heart at your feet when the Duke's trumpet called me away, ere I guessed, fool that I was, that mine was the hand that left the scar that now I love, but which once I treated with a brute's or a boy's lightness. Oh! pardon me! Still less did I know that it was my own forsaken wife who saved my life, who tended my sickness, nay, as I verily believed, toiled for me and my bread through these long seven years, all in secret. Yea, and won my entire soul and deep devotion or ever I knew that it was to you alone that they were due. Grisell, Grisell," as she could not speak for tears. "Oh forgive! Pardon me! Turn not away to be a Grey Sister. I cannot do without you! Take me! Let me strive throughout my life to merit a little better all that you have done and suffered for one so unworthy!"

Grisell could not speak, but she turned towards him, and regardless of all spectators, she was for the first time clasped in her husband's arms, and the joyful tears of her friends high and low.

What more shall be told of that victory? Shall it be narrated how this wedlock was blest in the chapel, while all the lovely bells of Bruges rang out in rejoicing, how Mynheer Groot and Clemence rejoiced though they lost their guest, how Caxton gave them a choice specimen of his printing, how Ridley doffed his pilgrim's garb and came out as a squire of dames, how the farewells were sorrowfully exchanged with the Duchess, and how the Duke growled that from whichever party he took his stout English he was sure to lose them?

Then there was homage to King Edward paid not very willingly, and a progress northward. At York, Thora, looking worn and haggard, came and entreated forgiveness, declaring that she had little guessed what her talk was doing, and that Ralph made her believe whatever he chose! She had a hard life, treated like a slave by the burgesses, who despised the fisher maid. Oh that she could go back to serve her dear good lady!

There was a triumph at Whitburn to welcome the lady after the late reign of misrule, and so did the knight and dame govern their estates that for long years the time of 'Grisly Grisell' was remembered as Whitburn's golden age.

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