Page images
PDF
EPUB
[graphic]

JULY, 1875.

YOUNG LADIES.

Il.–Or Young Ladies in the Middle Ages.

NOT, if you please, of young ladies of middle age,

or middle-aged young ladies, but of those whose lines were cast in the times when semi-barbarity was merging into something like civilization, when feudalism was developing, and there was a dawn of the recognition of the proper position of women. Young ladies, daughters of knights and nobles, though not so free as they are now, were no longer quite the mere goods and chattels they had hitherto been considered. They enjoyed a certain amount of liberty and amusement, and, in the matter of marriage, for instance, if, of two suitors equally eligible, from the father's point of view, the young lady happened to prefer one, she was generally permitted to exercise her choice. But it was a time when the right of a noble or wealthy man to his house and lands depended very much upon his power to take care of it; there was very little law but that of the strong arm and the number of knights and serfs a proprietor could bring into the field. Family alliances and friendships consequently depended very much upon the amount of military strength involved in the association. If the marriage of a daughter was not likely to strengthen the family, or if it would give offence to a powerful neighbour who desired to make the beautiful lady his own, the union was so arranged as to please the father, and poor Blanche or Alice might cry her eyes out or break her heart for the handsome, loving, but poor or uninfluential swain, and might, if she pleased, go to a

nunnery (where there were, at the least, quite as many unhappy daughters as devotees), and pray in solitude for the happiness of the poor lover, who had no other resource but to go to the wars and get killed as soon as possible.

Not unfrequently, the young lady was virtually made the prize to which the victor at 2 tournament might aspire. It was not exactly stated that the Lady So-and-so would, by the express permission of her father and mother, be tilted for on a certain day; but the successful knight was generally a long way towards winning the young lady; and she, trained as she was to believe that skill and valour in the warlike encounter were the highest qualifications of manhood, was pretty well predisposed to regard him with especial favour. If a young man was born with restless, inquiring brains, or took kindly to a studious life, there was no chance of a wife; the church absorbed him, and celibacy was his fate. Of all the proud and dauntless warriors who figure in the showy annals of the half-dozen centuries of which the centre may be taken as the epoch of our Norman Conquest, very few indeed could write their names, or read a line of the missals which were supposed to embody their religious knowledge and faith. And if the lords were so ignorant, we may fairly suppose the ladies were equally unlearned, and that the beautiful dames and maidens had the faintest possible idea of literature and the arts. What a home, from our stand-point of thought, must the young lady of the Middle Ages have lived in. No refinement, no culture, no comfort, as we understand the word; very little cleanliness, or even decency. The knight of the Middle Ages was very strong, and, no doubt, very coarse; wonderfully courageous, so that when “cased in complete steel," mounted on a powerful horse, and armed with a spiked mace or huge battle-axe, he did tremendous execution among a crowd of wretched serfs and varlets, who had little armour or clothes, and only bill-hooks or homely weapons of that kind. When two knights met in the shock of arms, the heavier generally won by simply riding down the other, and more of those who were killed in battle died from suffocation, because their helmets were barred over their faces, than from actual wounds.

When the renowned warrior returned to his castle flushed with victory, elated, perhaps, because his generous king had given him the property of somebody else as a reward for serving him so well, there was great feasting and rejoicing, and the young ladies of the family were very gay and grand. They wore robes of rare tissues brought by Venetian merchants from the magnificent east; massive golden chains of rare workmanship, marvels of the skill of Arabic artists, hung from their necks, or twined among their yellow or jet-black locks. We fear that an inventory of other articles of the wardrobe would make modern young ladies stare aghast at the scarcity of what are now considered essentials.

The fair daughters of the house smiled bewitchingly at the knights who had done such doughty deeds abroad and at home, and were probably not unwilling to talk about them, perhaps slightly magnify their achievements, when a lady of noble lineage was the listener. Heiresses, as we may imagine, were much admired by the soldiers of fortune who followed the standards of victorious monarchs, for it was by no means an uncommon thing for the king to reward a useful adventurer by bestowing on him in matrimony the heiress to a large estate, the possession of which would make him a wealthy count or baron. It was rarely thought necessary to consult the lady's taste in this arrangement; if, indeed, she objected very much to the marriage, it was not always pressed, the great knight being content to take the estate and dispense with the lady, who was graciously permitted to take the vow of poverty in a convent, and tell her beads while her husband, that might have been, counted her gold.

The society of rough, illiterate warriors, the domicile in a castle destitute of every modern appliance of comfort, and resounding with the noise of martial exercises, the absence of refined means of recreation, were not highly calculated to develope what we consider the most attractive elements of the female character. But nature is very potent, and

we cannot doubt there were many sweet, modest maidens, many lively, quick-witted, spirited girls, among these young ladies of the Middle Ages. There were some, too, of masculine mould, who actually practised martial exercises, wore armour, and were no contemptible adversaries in an encounter. The Britomartes and Clorindas of the poets, the Amazonian but excellent wife of Count Robert of Paris, as depicted by Scott, had some foundation in fact. But such strong-armed beauties were exceptions, and we venture to say that the merry maidens generally found better occupation than donning warlike arms. There was abundance of out-of-door life. Cities were very small to what they are now, and the fields were green and the woodlands pleasant. Riding on horseback was, as now, one of the accomplishments of a young lady, and dancing was encouraged. At home the girls passed a great deal of their time with their mothers, for fathers were often away on warlike business or hunting excursions. Those were the times for the interminable tapestries wrought by fair fingers, of which the famous Bayeux Tapestry, representing the conquest of England by the Normans, and worked by the royal wife of the Conqueror and her ladies, is a specimen. Amusement was derived from wandering minstrels and jugglers, who sang ballads of love and adventure, and performed marvellous tricks with knives and balls. The ladies, too, sang, for fine voices and quick ears are the gifts of nature, but there was no instrumental music, and no reading, for the reason we have already hinted at, that reading was not a very common accomplishment. Wben the art was acquired, it was generally by the aid of some ecclesiastic, and was confined to a few books of devotional exercises.

Leechcraft, as medicine and surgery were then named, was practised by ladies, and there was often occasion enough for them to exhibit their skill in the healing art. Fighting and rough play gave surgery practice in the way of treating bruises and cuts ; broken limbs had to take care of themselves. If only one-tenth of the complicated potions and lotions we read of as being in use a thousand years ago were known to and made by the young ladies, as no doubt they were, they must have had plenty of work to do, and of a very queer

kind. It does not seem to us that young ladies of the present time need envy very much the young ladies of the Middle Ages. In that respect, as in many others, the “good old times" will not bear a very close examination. That, in spite of all surroundings, many of them were very good, affectionate, and generous, we well know, and certainly some were “beautiful exceedingly.” But they are less congenial with our modern ideas of what

young should be than some others with whom we hope to make acquaintance in future essays.

THE EDITOR.

ladies

HOLDEN WITH THE CORDS.

VIII.-THE WIND CHANGES.

G
OOD evening, Squire," said the stranger, in a deep

voice,-a voice that would have been gruff, but for the melodizing influences of the soft southern climate. “My name is Corlew—John Corlew, of Williston. I came to see if you would consent to take charge of a case of mine, which is to be called to-morrow."

"To-morrow!” repeated Bergan, in much surprise. " That is very short notice.”

“I know it. But it is of the greatest consequence to me that the case should be tried at this time, and not carried over to another term. It was in the hands of Squire Fielder, one of our Williston lawyers; but he was taken sick this afternoon,-fell down in court, some brain difficulty or other,—and is forbidden by the physicians to do a thing. So I inquired for a lawyer that hadn't got his hands full of business, and somebody mentioned you. I remembered your name; I happened to be North five years ago, and heard your Commencement speech, and knew what sort of a reputation you graduated with ; so I quickly made up my mind that you were the man for my need. I've brought all the papers, - Squire Fielder's notes and all,—he couldn't well do less than give them to me, under the circumstances. I understand matters pretty well myself, and we've got the night before us. If you'll undertake to master the case by ten o'clock tomorrow morning, I am willing to put it in your hands."

“I will do my best,” said Bergan, after a brief consideration.

Mr. Corlew immediately began to open and sort his papers ; Bergan brought writing materials, drew his chair to the opposite side of the table, and bent all the powers of his mind to the hard task before him. It was an action for ejectment, involving trial of title, and with the usual mixed and intricate character of such things; interwoven, too, with a pathetic story of misfortune. Bergan patiently examined and questioned; Mr. Corlew intelligently explained and answered. The investigation was scarce half concluded, when Bergan quietly pushed Mr. Fielder's notes aside.

"They do not help me," he explained, in answer to a glance from Mr. Corlew. "In my judgment, he has mistaken the point on which the case really hangs. At all events, I shall do better to manage it in my own way."

Midnight came and went on silent feet; the “ wee, sma' hours," sacred to love rather than law, hastened, one after another, to join their numerous kin in the misty vale of the Heretofore; the stars went out like spent lamps; the dim night-silence began to stir with vague

premonitions of light and sound; finally, grey dawn looked solemnly in through the window. Then Bergan lifted his head, and pushed back the hair from his brow,

“Now leave me," he said to his companion, with unwonted sombreness. “The rest must be done by myself. I will meet you at the court-house in good time.”

He made an almost imperceptible pause. Then looking Mr. Corlew full in the face, he said, in a tone half-assertive, half-questioning

"You wish to succeed in this suit?”

Mr. Corlew's eyes fell under his penetrating gaze. “Of course I do,” he answered, a little surlily. “What else-am I here for?"

Bergan seemed to muse for a monent. “Well,” said he, at length, in the tone of a man who recalls his thoughts from an episodical flight to the main subject, I think you may reasonably expect success, if your witnesses testify as is here set down. The law is clearly in your favour.”

“I am glad to hear it,” returned Mr. Corlew, heartily. Yet he looked slightly annoyed, none the less; and his “ Good morning,” as he went out, was a little stiff.

Bergan leaned back in his chair, folded his arms, and knitted his brow. He looked like a man assailed by some miserable doubt or suspicion, which yet he is halfinclined to regard as illegitimate.

“It is a necessity of my profession,” he muttered, at last; and, with a mighty effort, he tore himself free from the teasing phantom, and addressed himself anew to his work.

There is no need to burden these pages with the tedious formalities of a trial at law. Suffice it to say that Bergan conducted the case with an ease and ability that surprised his legal associates. They had looked for some nervousness, some hesitation, some solicitude, some awkwardness, in the manner of the young legal débutant ; they could detect nothing of the sort. He made his opening speech with consummate clearness and composure ;

and he examined and cross-examined witnesses, quoted authorities, took exceptions, and made points, with a quiet ease, and even, at times, with a touch of listlessness, that argued excellent training and profound knowledge.

Perhaps his quietude of manner was the more perfect, that a slight cloud hung on his brow, all through the two days of the trial, though his observers were too little

[ocr errors]

acquainted with the wonted expression of his face to approached him in relation to Bergan's character and discover it. Not till he rose to make his final speech habits. did the shadow lift. Then, indeed, the spectators noticed “As talented a fellow as ever lived,” he replied to one a change. He had spoken but a few sentences, when his inquirer, “and as deep a one. Ah! he knows well eyes kindled, his brow cleared, his voice gathered fulness what he's about! and melody, he forgot himself and his doubt in the glow “Sober ?” he answered another,— "certainly; as of an irresistible inspiration, in the glad exercise of a sober as an anchorite. I hope he will keep so." natural gift of oratory so wondrous, so unexpected, and “Mr. Arling is my neighbour and friend, as friendso potent, that court and spectators were alike taken by ship goes,” he said to another ; “I neither make, nor storm. Only in dim tradition had such a speech ever listen to, derogatory remarks about him. If you want been heard in that court-room,—so fuent, so animated, confirmation for your prejudice, go elsewhere. I am not so skilfully throwing an ideal grace around dry, bare in that line." legal facts, without dimming their outline or destroying Intentionally or not, Dr. Remy's cool cynicism rather their logical connection. People held their breath to damaged than helped Bergan's cause. listen, unwilling to lose one delicate shade of thought, one Nevertheless, the steadfast testimony of his upright fit, luminous expression. Two or three times the judge life remained, and could not be wholly ignored. The was forced to suppress outbursts of applause, in which, feeling was fast becoming general that the young man nevertheless, his pleased and interested face concurred; deserved somewhat better at the hands of the community and when Bergan took his seat, grey-headed lawyers than he had received. And the feeling would doubtless stretched their hands across the table in hearty con- have manifested itself in good time, and with due caution, gratulation.

if Bergan's unexampled success in the court-room had A verdict for his client was almost immediately ren- not fairly dazzled out of sight the last lingering shadow of dered. Then he stepped out into the crowd, to be met prejudice, and caused a popular reaction toward the other on all sides by extended hands and enthusiastic compli- extreme of enthusiastic admiration and approval—a rements. People that had always studiously avoided him, action all the stronger because spurred on by a larking now sought to catch his eye; gentlemen who had never sense of past injustice. vouchsafed him more than a stiff nod, now waited to give Moreover, the little, sleepy town, whose intellectual bim a friendly hand-grasp and a few congratulatory words. brilliants were few, and not of the first water, naturally One of the magnates of the neighbourhood publicly felt that it could not afford to ignore the fine talent which stamped him, as it were, with the seal of his high appro- had so suddenly blazed out in its midst, and which might bation, by engaging him for a few moments in conversa- be regarded as, in some sense, of its own creation. tion, and then parting from him with an intimation that “He really belongs to us, you know,” remarked one be might expect an early invitation to dinner.

townsman proudly to another. “He comes of the BerTurning away from the dog-day smile of this per- gans of Bergan Hall, on the mother's side, -good old sonage-late and sultry-Bergan encountered the meaning aristocratic stock. And he's an honour to it!" gaze of a pair of blear eyes.

And so, as had been said before, Bergan's exit from "Sudden change of weather,"remarked Dick Causton, the court-room was a scene of triumph that might easily dryly. “It never rains but it pours.' You are in a have turned an older head, and quickened the beating of beavy shower, Mr. Arling."

a chiller heart. And with unwonted consideration, Dick waited till But Bergan took it all quietly, gravely-almost inBergan had passed on, before he muttered, In picciol differently. The cloud had settled back upon his brow, tempo passa ogni gran pioggia,-a heavy shower is soon and never stirred for any compliment, or congratulation, over."

or friendliness. Most persons attributed it to wounded Dr. Remy came next. “I never sing in chorus," pride, not yet healed. In the midst of the ovation, they said he, shrugging his shoulders, and putting his hands believed that he kept a rankling remembrance of the behind him ; "I shall keep my compliments for a day of coldness and neglect which had preceded it. dearth. But what a weathercock is public opinion !" server only, a little clearer eyed than the rest, said to Yet the change was not altogether so sudden and

him :radical as it appeared. Bergan's upright, independent “ You look tired.” course of conduct, so quietly persisted in, through all “And well he may!" responded Mr. Corlew, standing these months, despite every discouragement, had at last by with a face of unalloyed satisfaction. “He never saw begun to tell upon the prejudices of the community. the case until the evening before last, and he has not slept Mrs. Lyte's warm advocacy and indignant protest, in her for two nights." small circle, had also had its weight. Probably both There was another, and a stronger, burst of admirawould have availed much earlier, but for the curiously tion, mingled with wonder ; but the complacent, satisfied infelicitous language in which Dr. Remy had all along tone of Mr. Corlew's voice only deepened the shadow on chosen to couch his responses to such persons as had Bergan's brow. Quickly extricating himself from both

One ob

« PreviousContinue »