Page images
PDF
EPUB

mental sciences; and history, not, as formerly, the mere record of tyrannies and slaughters, which, by immortalizing the execrable actions of one age, perpetuates the ambition of committing them in every succeeding one, but as the archive of experiments, successful and unsuccessful, gradually accumulating towards the solution of the grand problem—how the advantages of government are to be secured with the least possible inconvenience to the governed. The celebrated apophthegm, that nations never profit by experience, becomes yearly more and more untrue. Political economy, at least, is found to have sound principles, founded in the moral and physical nature of man, which, however lost sight of in particular measures—however even temporarily controverted and borne down by clamour-have yet a stronger and stronger testimony borne to them in each succeeding generation, by which they must, sooner or later, prevail. The idea once conceived and verified, that great and noble ends are to be achieved, by which the condition of the whole human species shall be permanently bettered, by bringing into exercise a sufficient quantity of sober thoughts, and by a proper adaptation of means, is of itself sufficient to set us earnestly on reflecting what ends are truly great and noble, either in themselves, or as conducive to others of a still loftier character; because we are not now, as heretofore, hopeless of attaining them.

It is not now equally harmless and insignificant, whether we are right or wrong; since we are no longer supinely and helplessly carried down the stream of events, but feel ourselves capable of buffeting at least with its waves, and perhaps of riding triumphantly over them: for why should we despair that the reason which has enabled us to subdue all nature to our purposes, should (if permitted and assisted by the providence of God) achieve a far more difficult conquest; and ultimately find some means of enabling the collective wisdom of mankind to bear down those obstacles which individual short-sightedness, selfishness, and passion, oppose to all improvements, and by which the highest hopes are continually blighted, and the fairest prospects marred.

3.- THE PITEOUS DEATH OF THE SON OF GASTON DE FOIX.

FROISSART. [THERE are few who have not heard of JOHN FROISSART, the most graphic of the old chroniclers. He was born at Valenciennes, about 1337, and early in life was dedicated to the church. He was scarcely twenty years old when he began to write a history of the English wars in France, chiefly compiled from another chronicler. This history he brings down to the battle of Poitiers in 1356 ; after which period his Chronicle has all the value of contemporary observation. His opportunities as an observer were very great; he was in the confidence of many of the sovereigns and nobles of his time, and was especially attached to the court of Edward III., being secretary to Queen Philippa. He closed a life, compounded of travel and ease, of labour and luxury, of native honesty and courtly arts, about the beginning of the fifteenth century.. His description of the manner of life at the Count of Foix's house at Orthes, is one of the most picturesque of his passages; and a short extract may fitly introduce the quaint and touching story of the death of his son, which we give in Lord Berners' old translation : “ At midnight, when he came out of his chamber into the hall to supper, he had ever before him twelve torches burning, borne by twelve varlets, standing before his table all supper. They gave a great light, and the hall was ever full of knights and squires, and many other tables were dressed to sup who would. There was none should speak to him at his table but if he were called. His meat was lightly, wild fowl, the legs and wings only, and in the day he did eat and drink but little. He had great pleasure in harmony of instruments; he could do it right well himself: he would have songs sung before him. He would gladly see conceits and fantasies at his table, and when he had seen it, then he would send it to the other tables bravely; all this I considered and advised. And ere I came to his court I had been in many courts of kings, dukes, princes, counts, and great ladies; but I was never in none that so well liked me. Nor there was none more rejoiced in deeds of arms than the count did; there was seen in his hall, chamber, and court, knights and squires of honour going up and down, and talking of arms and of amours : all honour there was found, all manner of tidings of every realm and country there might be heard, for out of every country there was resort, for the valiantness of this count.”

Froissart describes his own intense curiosity to know “how Gaston, the count's son, died;" but no one would satisfy him. At last “80 much I'enquired, that an ancient squire, and a notable man, shewed the matter to me,” and began thus :-)

“ True it is,” quoth he, “that the Count of Foix and my Lady of Foix, his wife, agreeth not well together, nor have not done of a long season, and the discord between them was first moved by the King of Navarre, who was brother to the lady: for the King of Navarre pledged himself for the Duke Dalbret, whom the Count of Foix had in prison, for the sum of fifty thousand francs; and the Count of Foix, who knew that the King of Navarre was crafty and malicious, in the beginning would not trust him, wherewith the Countess of Foix had great displeasure and indignation against the count her husband, and said to him :

Sir, ye repute but small honour in the King of Navarre, my brother, when ye will not trust him for fifty thousand francs : though ye have no more of the Armagnacs, nor of the house of Dalbret, than ye have, it ought to suffice. And also, sir, ye

And also, sir, ye know well ye should assign out my dower, which amounteth to fifty thousand francs, which ye should put into the hands of my brother, the King of Navarre; wherefore, sir, ye cannot be evil paid.'

• Dame,' quoth he, ‘ye say truth; but if I thought that the King of Navarre would stop the payment for that cause, the Lord Dalbret should never have gone out of Orthes, and so I should have been paid to the last penny; and since ye desire it, I will do it; not for the love of you, but for the love of my

son.' “ So by these words, and by the King of Navarre's obligation, who became debtor to the Count of Foix, the Lord Dalbret was delivered quit, and became French, and was married in France to the sister of the Duke of Burbon, and paid at his ease to the King of Navarre the sum of fifty thousand francs for his ransom, for the which sum the king was bound to the Count of Foix; but he would not send it to the count.

" Then the Count of Foix said to his wife-Dame, ye must go into Navarre to the king your brother, and shew him how I am not well content with him, that he will not send me that he hath received of mine.'

“ The lady answered, how that she was ready to go at his commandment. And so she departed, and rode to Pampeluna to the king her

[ocr errors]

me.

666

brother, who received her with much joy. The lady did her message from point to point. Then the king answered— Fair lady, the sum of money

is

yours. The count should give it for your dower; it shall never go out of the realm of Navarre since I have it in possession.'

“• Ah, Sir,' quoth the lady, By this ye shall set great hate between the count, my husband, and you; and if ye hold your purpose, I dare not return again into the county of Foix, for my husband will slay

He will say I have deceived him.'

• I cannot tell,' quoth the king, 'what ye will do; either tarry or depart; but as for the money I will not depart from it; it pertaineth to me to keep it for you, but it shall never go out of Navarre.'

“The countess could have none other answer of the king her brother, and so she tarried still in Navarre, and durst not return again. The Count of Foix, when he saw the dealing of the King of Navarre, he began to hate his wife, and was evil content with her; howbeit she was in no fault, but that she had not returned again when she had done her message.

But she durst not, for she knew well the count, her husband, was cruel where he took displeasure. Thus the matter standeth.

“ The count's son, called Gaston, grew and waxed goodly, and was married to the daughter of the Count of Armagnac, a fair lady, sister to the count that now is, the Lord Bertrand of Armagnac; and, by the conjunction of that marriage, there should have been peace between Foix and Armagnac. The child was a fifteen or sixteen years

of

age, and resembled right well to his father. On a time he desired to go into Navarre to see his mother, and his uncle the King of Navarre; which was in an evil hour for him and for all this country. When he was come into Navarre, he had there good cheer, and tarried with his mother a certain space, and then took his leave; but for all that he could do, he could not get his mother out of Navarre, to have gone with him into Foix. For she demanded if the count had commanded him so to do, or no; and he answered, that when he departed the count spake nothing thereof. Therefore the lady durst not go thither, but so tarried still.

“ Then the child went to Pampeluna to take his leave of the king, his uncle. The king made him great cheer, and tarried him there a ten days, and gave to him great gifts, and to his men. Also the last gift that the king gave him was his death. I shall show

you

how. “When this gentleman should depart, the king drew him apart into his chamber, and gave him a little purse full of powder, which powder was such, that if any creature living did eat thereof, he should incontinent die without remedy. Then the king said, ' Gaston, fair nephew, ye

shall do as I shall shew to you. Ye see how the Count of Foix, your father, wrongfully hath your mother, my sister, in great hate; whereof I am sore displeased, and so ought ye to be; howbeit, to perform all the matter, and that your father should love again your mother, to that intent ye shall take a little of this powder and put it on some meat that your father may eat it; but beware that no man see you.

And as soon as he hath eaten it, he shall intend to nothing but to have again his wife, and so to love her ever after, which ye ought greatly to desire; and of this that I shew you let no man know, but keep it secret, or else ye lose all the deed.' The child, who thought all that the king said to him had been true, said, “Sir, it shall be done as ye have devised ;' and so he departed from Pampeluna, and returned to Orthes. The count, his father, made him good cheer, and demanded tidings of the King of Navarre, and what gifts he had given him; and the child shewed him how he had given him divers, and shewed him all except the purse with the powder.

“ Ofttimes this young Gaston and Juan, his bastard brother, lay together, for they loved each other like brethren, and were like arrayed and apparelled, for they were near of a greatness and of one age ; and it happened on a time, as their clothes lay together on their bed, Juan saw a purse at Gaston's coat, and said “ What thing is this that

ye

bear ever about you ?' Whereof Gaston had no joy, and said, “Juan, give me my coat, ye have nothing to do therewith :' and all that day after Gaston was pensive.

“ And it fortuned a three days after, as God would that the count should be saved, Gaston and his brother Juan fell out together, playing at tennis, and Gaston gave him a blow, and the child went into his father's chamber and wept. And the count as then had heard mass, and when the count saw him weep, he said, "Son Juan, what ailest thou ?' Sir,' quoth he, · Gaston hath beaten me, but he were more worthy to be beaten than me.' Why so ?' quoth the Count, and in

6

« PreviousContinue »