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EARL ORME'S FAIRE WIFE.-"SHE PASSED FROM PICTURE TO PICTURE BEGGING, WITH THE TAMBOURINE OUTSTRETCHED
AS SHE HAD HELD IT FOR ALMS ON THE STREETS OF THE ITALIAN TOWN."SEE NEXT PAGE
Vol. XVIII., No. 2-11.
MY WASTED YOUTH. By E. R. CHAPMAN. “Que vous ai-je doric fait, O mes jeunes années 1
LET me alone ! I am weeping my wasted youth. I am weeping the days when the orchard was white and white As the driven snow, and I did not go, as I might, To let the blossoms fall and cover me o'er, And take the heart of the Spring to my own heart's core. 1 am weeping my wasted youth. Let me alone l
set me alone I I am weeping my wasted youth. I am weeping the starlight nights that I did not see, And the starlike eyes that never lit up for me, The moons that on rippling waters have glanced and shone, And the tender faces I have not looked upon. lam weeping my wasted youth Let me alone l
Let me alone l I am weeping my wasted youth. I am weeping the merry dances I could not tread, And the tears of happiness that I did not shed, The feverish joy, and dumb, delicious pain, And the lost, lost moments that will not come again. I am weeping my wasted youth. Let me alone l
Let me alone l I am weeping my wasted youth. I am praying for those who have seen their youth go by, With half its sweets untasted, unknown, as I, That God—forasmuch as He left the first bright page Of their life a blank—would send them love in their age. I am weeping my wasted youth. Let me alone !
EARL ORME'S FAIRE WIFE.
* DID not know that earth held such a face " The speaker paused and gazed. She at whom he gazed stood in the full flood of sunlight, bareheaded, ragged, shoeless—for she was a beggar—yet from crown to heel there was no flaw in that perfection. The rabble of Genoa-though among them there were some who turned—might press on, not comprehending the revelation before them ; but what poet, what artist— who that had knowledge of the beautiful—who that could worship alike the embodied beauty and the beautiful embodiment, could pass her by ? The vulgar gaze is caught by color—the artist demands loveliness of form. The sensualist asks for rounded outlines, the poet can tell what frame is beautiful. The frivolous seek only the eyes that lure without depth beneath; the thinker looks for Psyche, the soul. The beggar begged. One arm held out a “ambourine, with worn and battered edges, but grasped by a matchless though sun-embrowned hand. The naked feet were small—Greek art might have chiseled them. The ragged garments clung to outlines so perfect that their grace spoke. But ah! the face! Great eyes were the soul of it—eyes that would have been wild but for the purity of the soul that lit them. They would have seemed enormous, but for the de se shadows cast by the close lashes that, like reeds upon the margin of a crystal like, swept above and softened their lustre. The features had that symmetry which, though dream-faces possess it, and sculptors give it to their art
works, startle when seen in breathing being. Earl Orme, called by his friends “The Dreamer,” lingered still, mutely gazing at Catarina, the beggar. This was what he had sought for years, and never found—he was thirty now—and was still seeking. Beauty innocently unconscious of itself—prideless loveliness. He followed the beggar to her home. A month later the Italian town rang with the news, startling even in those olden days—and two of the earl's friends, to whom he told his secret, gave him a new name, that, though they may not have meant it so, was one of mockery. They called him “King Cophetua,” for the last heir of many proud nights and noble ladies had married the beggar-girl. + + + + + * Time sped. The earl had brought home his bride. Many marveled at her loveliness, but none knew from whence she came. Who would have recognized in the richly-clad “ladye,” as brightly jeweled as any at the King's court—the Eighth Henry held the throne—the girl that had asked alms in the streets of Genoa 2 Her superhuman beauty remained the same, though saddened ; but its lustre had grown starlike. A certain majesty marked her motion, but it was only that of melancholy, not of courtly grace; and her voice—merry once as the carol of the birdling—had grown plaintive ; her words few and slow. They were not happy, Earl Orme and “faire” Catarina. The nobleman who had married beauty had given no thought to its accompaniments—the street-beggar's ignorance, her strange and restless ways, the thousand things that betrayed her low origin. What did she know 2 How to imitate the songster of the forest trilling its wild song, how to dance the dances that the gypsies who sometimes wandered into Genoa had taught her, and how to speak those rude words by which the “people” express their untutored thought. This was all. Of noble aspilations, of the high aims of being, of the grand traditions of the family whose heir and last descendant had made this lovely ignoramus his wife—to the sad despite of one great lady, the daughter of another most noble house—of court ways and town manners she knew less than nothing. Lady Isobel had the wisdom of the serpent—Catarina, the innocence of the dove. The earl had summoned many masters to teach her languages, music other than that the birds made, and the slow pacings of the court dances; but, except a few words of French or German, a song or two, and a most comical caricature of the drawings laid before her, as well as a broad travestie of the court “mincing and prancing dances,” as she called them, she had acquired nothing. She would toy with a guitar, feed her ugly Barcelona monkey, chat with or playfully chide her maid, feed her swans, or gather flowers. But think—oh, no! Yes, she thought one thought; and when, like an angry cloud, it overcame her, the dark blue eyes would gather tears, the fair breast heave, and the lips—the childlike lips—quiver piteously. She saw that the earl's heart was turning from her Lady Isobel was fair. If not so beautiful—the countesses's mirror told her that she was not—as herself, yet— and there the mirror spoke again—what imperial grace
had “The daughter of a hundred earls!"
How queenly her gait—her tread With what an air she grasped her sweeping train The very pearls that held back her tresses of midnight blackness, which seemed to Catarina so much more beautiful than her own golden Iocks, were eloquent of the court—the very motion of her fan was haughty, and the turn of her head like that of the stately swans in the earl's gardens. Had not Lord Egbert said so 2 One cause of the coldness between Lord Egbert and his beautiful wife was a habit which, for the entire time of their wedded life, had been hers. At eleven every night he bond observed that she would leave her chamber, and for one hour absent herself. It had been in vain that he had endeavored to discover in what manner that time was passed. Certain it was that no inhabitant of the castle knew in what part of it that hour was spent, nor had Lord Egbert ever been able, at that time, to find his wife in the castle grounds. It may be imagined, too, with what perseverance he had tried to learn her secret, when, after three years, he still sought and had never yet fathomed it. At last, one night, just as the chapel-bell tolled eleven strokes, and the bats whirred thick against the panes, darkening the gothic arches as they clung to them—and for a moment even obscuring the silvery shimmer of the vague, pale moon—the earl saw Catarina, clad in her sweeping robes of velvet, pass with furtive step along the corridor. This done, she began to mount the stairs, and, still evidently deeming herself unobserved—for, though she paused to listen, shading her taper, which shook in its tall silver candlestick, she did not see the earl—she passed on, on to the picture-gallery, where hung, in their Imajesty of armor and gorgeous draperies, the whole array of her proud husband's haughty ancestors. At the door she paused. No sound, except the distant “tu-whit! tu-whoo !” of the owl, and the dolorous cicadas, ever complaining, broke the night's peacefulness. . Suddenly the earl remembered There was another, a secret, entrance to the portrait gallery—one known only to himself. Over it hung a curtain that in a hundred years had never been swept aside. He would seek that entrance, and from behind that curtain observe his wife As she entered one door Egbert slid back the bolt of another; and when her foot paused as she stood within the threshold, and she again, with startled eyes like the fawn's-for she deemed she had heard some faint sound— paused and listened, he parted the velvet folds of the rold-fringed curtain, just where its wealth of ‘broidery was heavy with the heraldic honors of his house—and Thidden safely, he gazed forth and saw Lady Catarina's every motion. She listened a moment longer, then the earl saw her pass to where a superb full-length portrait of her fair self was hung, representing her in the magnificent courtdress, heavy with many jewels, which she had worn when presented to the land's sovereign. She gazed at it a moment, raising the taper in her hand high above her head, displaying as she did so the statuesque beauty of her rounded arm. Then, upon the silence of the gallery, there broke a eigh, deep, tremulous, heart-broken, a shuddering sigh— as if from a weariness of spirit so great that life itself was a burden almost too heavy to be borne. Then, turning away, she passed to another part of the *allery, and slid aside a panel. “What could be hidden there 2" the earl asked himself. *How had she diseovered it 2" Again his eager eyes fixed themselves upon Catarina. She knelt. Then taking from the hidden partition in The wall a large bundle, she laid it upon the floor, first frantically pressing it to herbosom and kissing it. Then, unfastening a ribbon that bound it, she took out a faded
gown, a tarnished tambourine, a tattered shawl and a colored kerchief.
The earl's eyes blazed with anger.
Then she stood up, still thinking that no human eye dwelt upon her, and, loosening her rich hair from its golden ribbons, suffering to fall about her the superb vesture of her state—the garb of the earl’s “ladye"—she assumed—and she breathed fast as she did so, as the slave breathes who frees himself from his fetters—the beggar's garb, in which her beauty first brought Earl Orme to play—for so he now deemed he had done—the madman and the fool.
The earl had started with new anger as Catarina's rich garments rustled to her feet,
“Drowned gold and purple and royal rings,”
but his whole face flooded with indignant crimson, and his frame shook, as he watched his wife once more.
What saw he 2
She had taken from the floor where it lay the tarnished tambourine ; and, shaking it each time she paused, while she held her beautiful head to one side in arch entreaty, she passed from picture to picture of all the noble knights and courtly ladies in the grand train of Earl Orme's great ancestry, begging, with the tambourine outstretched as she had held it for alms in the streets of the Italian town, of one, of another, of each and all !
The secret was out at last ! The beggar was to the very core of her heart one of the “people”! The earl's wife was a beggar still !
CHAPTER II. IN a moment more the earl stood before his wife. He paused not to think of aught save his wounded dignity—of the degrading discovery he had made. Anger possessed him. It matters not in what furious words he upbraided the Lady Catarina; with what scorn he reproached her. It was the ending that did more than all to crush the 10ving if erring heart. “We part,” said the Earl Egbert, in conclusion. “You at your heart can never sympathize with me; your blood is not fit to mingle with mine in the veins of an heir to my house and its honors. At heart you are still the Beggar of Genoa I am the Earl of Orme I” Catarina made a gesture of entreaty. “But you shall not depart portionless,” added he ; “though I repudiate you, I still suffer you to retain all I have ever bestowed upon you. You can never know want while you retain the jewels and the gold with which it has been my pride to enrich you ; but, after this night we meet no more s” His wife stared wildly at her infuriated lord, as if failing to comprehend his words; and, as the fiat fell from his lips, she sank at his feet, and with a piteous cry extended her hands to grasp his arm and stay him. But in vain. Earl Egbert had descended the stairs, and in a moment mose the clang of his horse's feet rang through the courtyard, the drawbridge fell, and the baying of the dogs about the castle told that its lord had ridden away. Catarina uttered one wild, sobbing cry, and fell to the floor in a deadly swoon. It was no hard task to win of that monarch, so ready to avail himself of divorce, the permission to repudiate the beggar wife. One day, a month later, a letter came to the castle, borne by a court-page, and telling the Lady Catarina tha', the love “ruined at the root” was dead indeed. She was
“Had he but known,” she murmured, as the cruel missive fell from her hand, “thet beneath my heart there stirs his child But, no i that would avail me nothing. Did he not say to me that my blood is not fit to mingle with his own 2 My child would still be less his than that of the Beggar of Genoa I will do his will. I will depart. He shall see me no more | Never ! never again "
TEN years had flown by and during eight of these the Lady Isobel Shaftonsbury had held Catarina's place as wife to the Earl of Orme.
He could not complain now of lack of dignity, nor, sooth to say, of pride in his lady wife. A haughtier
Janet and Alice, her tiring-maids, who had taken pride Í woman than Isobel, Countess of Orme, never $rod even