''The Garden Of The King'' Short Story By Amelie Rives Chanler

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The Garden Of The King Short Story By Amelie Rives Chanler
  • Story Name : The Garden of the King
  • Author Name : Amelie Rives Chanler (1863–1945)
  • Author Country : United States
  • Published Year : 1907
  • Story Type : Short Story

Queen Alizonde leaned her head against her casement for so long that her ring-jewels became warm with her cheek.

The burgeoning May had taken her state that morning; the turquoise sky was her baudekin; her sceptre, a flower-de-luce.The sward was strewn with white and gold flowers, and the fair pool in the Queen's garden shivered with love.But Alizonde fixed her heavy gaze on them."Once upon a time," she reflected, "I was wont to love sweet flowers as if they were children, and to keep them close to me and fondle them, even until they withered in my girdle, and now what are they to me?"They were all one, as they were broidered on my kirtle."And thou, too, thou fair heaven," mused she, "for me, thou art but a painted screen—thou dost but shut me out from my desire, like a loftier roof—I am a-weary, a-weary," said Queen Alizonde. "I am weary of doing what is right."

And she thought of her father's kingdom and her dead maidenhood, till her heart wept within her like an ailing babe. "Oh, since thus I was to fare, loveless and lonely, a gemmed image, a queen sans queenhood, for what did they teach me of the seven arts? For whom shall I show forth my astronomy and philosophy, my rhetoric and music? They only make me feel more despondent, as there is no joy in my learning."Oh, if I were a little maid whose only possession was a white smock, I'd run across the world in love and find my love!"Alizonde moaned at her window, all mort, for she had sent her maidens a-maying, preferring solitude to their light chatter.Slow tears streamed down her cheeks, bright and bitter, and mixed with the gems on her breast."I'm tired," she said again."Oh, I am so weary of doing what is right."

'Twas then that the notes of a bugle floated up to her, clear and gay and soft, as if in response to her sighing.They appeared to be magical sounds, as she trembled as she heard them.

"What is this?" she asked. "What is this music that I seem to remember yet not to remember?" "Am I to be witless, too?" "Says poor Alizonde." Again they sounded, and again she trembled. They were lovely, loving sounds, clear as water, pure as air, gentle as May, and though gay, there was a sadness in them, a sadness that seemed to pluck at the sadness in Alizonde's own heart, crying: "Love me.""We are akin." "A spell has me," she said quietly."Now I almost remember where and when I first heard that music, long and long ago." But she folded her hands over her face and would not look out of her window. Then came that sweet sound a third time, and her hands lifted apart as if someone stronger had moved them, and she looked out and saw one riding through her garden.All in white was he who made a fair shine in the sun, and white was his horse beneath him, and white were the housings that swept the little flower-faces earthward. The knight's crest bore flames; on his white shield were a rose and a lily, with a flame between them. His sword hilt was of fair gold sewn with pearls, and pearled gold was his horse's bridle. But what fixed the eyes of Alizonde was that which hung about his neck—a lyre of gold and ivory.

"This is no troubadour only," thought she, "but a great knight also, and yet he bears a lyre about his neck." How can this be? "Nay, I am fast asleep," said Alizonde. "And the gold cage above, where the long peppers and frankincense burn, has given me this mad dream."

And thus, gazing down, she met the knight's eyes gazing up. "Now never was there one not beautiful so beautiful," thought Alizonde, and she left her eyes in his. Then suddenly he smiled upon her, and she, forgetting who she was and where she was, made a joyous opening of her arms and cried out, "Now do I remember where and when?" Even as she spoke, twilight gathered in her brain, and everything vanished; only they two remained smiling at each other.

Then on a sudden did Alizonde think of her estate and how she, the Queen, leaned at her window, smiling and being smiled upon by a strange man, so that her blood ran backward, leaving her white as samite, and she said, "Fair Sir and Knight, thou hast missed thy way and art in the Queen's garden."

Whereat he, still smiling, made an answer: "Nay, most Gentle and Fairest, I am in the Queen's garden, but I have not missed my way."

Alizonde, as beseemed her, set a frown upon her brow at this, but her heart sang. "Since thou knowst so well the Queen's garden, thou shouldst know the Queen," she said.

"Queen Alizonde," saith he, "I am Mervais, fils du Dovon, and come from thy father, King Hazyl."

Then Alizonde cried out with a great cry, and she put forth her locked hands toward him at full stretch, and she said: "Oh, what of my father?" Is he ill? Is he dead? Has his kingdom fallen? "Are you coming to take me back to him?" she asks."Oh, you've come to take me back?"And she shook from head to toe like a smitten lute cord, and it was a shame to look upon her.

"Be consoled!" says Mervais."All is well with thy father till this day, yet have I come to thee for his succor."

"To take me back to him?" she said.

But even as she was speaking, there was a blithe clamour of maidens' voices and the sound of running feet along the garden walks.

"Ride to the left into the Palace Court," Alizonde instructs."It's my maids returning from their maying.""Thou shalt be received as my father's messenger should be received."

"Nay, dear Queen," said he, "but only as the knight errant and troubadour, Mervais of Noland." "So must it be."

And, looking down at him, she knew it had to be that way.And she said:

"I will do as you say, though it is both strange and hard to do."

"My Queen and Dearest Alizonde," saith he, "thou hast trusted me." "I'm twice as thin now as I was before."

And he stripped him of his light helmet, and bowing low, he rode from her presence bareheaded, while she doffed her hood of valour and in like fashion watched him go.

Now King Guillonet le Noir was a black man indeed, both within and without, for he was given to dark moods and glooms, even like King Saul, and, like that monarch also, he greatly loved sweet music. None wondered, therefore, that he gave a fair welcome to Mervais, so-called the Trouvère, but all wondered with exceeding wonder that he made no more ado or questioning as to the strangeness of one who seemed both a great knight and a simple troubadour in one, but as for his knighthood:

"I am come to sing before King Guillonet the Dark and his Queen Alizonde the Fair, and for nothing else," he said.

"And sing thou, and nothing else, by my crown and the crown of my Queen," the King said.

So they brought him to the Great Hall, and the King, being seated on his throne with the courtiers assembled, sent word to the Queen.

Alizonde stepped softly, her pearl face set clearly between the dark gold of her hair and the pale gold of her gown, and her eyes were as the eyes of a little maid who has only just glimpsed love in all her seven years of wedded queenhood.Her maidens two and two followed her, dressed in green and white and broidered in apple flowers as the month progressed, while her dwarf damoiseau carried the queen's train.He was a strange and elf-struck thing, brought to Alizonde as a suitable gift by the Sieur Jauffroy de Gilsère, mighty knight and traveler, from the land of such witches, a witched folk subsisting solely on the perfume of various fruits.Anon came another damoiseau, bearing apples gilt on one side on a gold platter, with which the Queen was fond of regaling the shy mannikin and luring him to her side when hungry.

The silver trumpets sounded, the Queen took her place, and the Trouvere took his place.

He had refreshed him with a pleasant bath, from which his locks clung damply, and had donned a fair surcoat of silver cloth rimmed with miniver. He was young, slender, strong, and full of allure, with the Queen's smile flashing across his dark features.

Matheline, the first maid-in-waiting, nudged another.

"My faith!" she exclaimed, "it's the troubadour's very own god of love in person!"Mark you with his swarthy skin, high nose, and burnished silver teeth—though this is an unfair comparison.Did anyone take note of his charger?Was one side black and the other white? "One ear yellow, the other dappled?"

Here the Queen turned her flickering eyes upon her, and the maid ceased.

Then 'gan Mervais to sing, and the walls melted for those who listened, and they fared forth to other lands on that singing.He sang of warrior kings and mighty knights of Faery, and love and the lovely wounds of love, and valiant deeds of all countries and ages, until the King swayed upon his throne, and the courtiers bent their bodies to his singing like corn to the wind, and dames and demoiselles went red and pale on incaught breaths, but Alizonde sat straight and clear of face upon her throne.

Mervais abruptly stopped singing for six heartbeats, but there was no other sound to break his silence.Then he turned to face the Queen, bowing lowly to her, and said:

"Most gracious Queen and Lady, there is a lament that I may sing but once, and it is called "The Queen's Lament." Therefore, if it pleases your gracious Queenliness, I will now sing it unto you."

Alizonde kept sweet and steady eyes on him, and she said:

"I pray you, sing it, fair Lord."

Then said Mervais:

"This place is called the "Garden of the King," but it was built for a queen."And with that, he sang this line:

In the garden of the King
Blow the tears-sown lilies,
Flow the lilied streams of peace.
Through the meadows of release,
Nobody will tell the story of years.
in the garden of the King.

In the garden of the King
Burn the roses sown in pain,
Sacred fire flame on flame
The rose of pure desire blooms;
None shall see them fade again.
In the garden of the King

In the garden of the King
Row upon row of stately golden,
bends the fruit of foregone love?
that another may not be sad;
None shall weep for remembered woe.
in the garden of the King.

In the garden of the King
Mystery walks with his eyes open.
Twilight in her hood of stars
Every palace gate was left unlocked;
Love shall enter unassailed.
in the garden of the King.

Now while he was singing, Alizonde kept steadfast eyes upon him, but her soul withdrew from them, leaving them empty. And she seemed to herself to be there where he was singing and yet not be there; to be with him there and yet to be more wholly with him somewhere else.And she remembered, as it were, a myriad of lives, all separate and yet all together, as if they were glittering motes in one single sunbeam. And now she remembers things, and now she doesn't.Now all was clear and lovely, and now came the eclipse, and some sad hue of the mind wiped out all recollection. But above and beyond and through all beat, as it were, the very heart of love, and its beatings thrilled in music, and a song was woven through her being, and she seemed to see love like a great white flame, through which shone stars, beating upward from her own heart as if it were a banner of living light, and through its folds, shaken by her heart, she saw court and courtier, and the King her husband, like images in wrinkled water, but Mervais she saw like her own face in a glass—not her own, but fairer and more familiar, and more surely hers than was her own. And within herself, she cried out:

"Now do I remember!" For it was from the beginning and will have no ending, and it must be cherished with tears and with the heart's blood, which is fire. It cannot be slain or made alive by anyone, but it has existed since time immemorial, just as we do."Oh, fair and dear is the Lord God, who has shown me what is love!" cried Alizonde in her heart.

And a joy shook her to the point where she thought the earth itself was shaking.

"Oh, now," she cried within her breast, "I'm not tired of doing what is right."I am prepared for fire and tears, a long listless life or a short sweet death.I am no longer weary. "Pain will be sweet as honey now," cried Alizonde. But on a sudden, swift, and sharp note, another chord was struck, and these words, like falling stars, were within her brain:

I sing of the jewel in the rose,
the star by day.
Only then can it be possessed.
when given away!

"Oh, very soon hath it come upon me!" thought Alizonde, and she went stark from crown to shoe, so that it seemed she was in her straight gold gown like a sword in its sheath. And she had no idea how she got out of the hall, or when—nor when or how Mervais got him out of her presence, because the dread of those words was on her, and the great ruby stone, carved like a rose, that lay hidden in her breast, bit deep through bone and flesh into the heart within her heart, just as it had been the rose of pure desire in the King's garden in the past.

Now this is the secret of the dread of Alizonde and the last song of Mervais.

When her father, King Hazyl, gave her in marriage to Guillonet for state reasons and the welfare of two kingdoms, he also gave her his greatest treasure, the great ruby-stoned "Rose of Light," which is the mightiest talisman in all of Christendom and Heathennesse.For her protection in her dark and dreary fate, King Hazyl had given this to his daughter, and now, in some great peril, he would have it back again.

"And if my life has been so bitter with it, what will my life be like without it?"thought Alizonde, for she knew that the last song was a summons to resign it from her keeping, and that to receive it from her hands, Mervais had come to her husband's court.

Furthermore, there was danger to them both in this quest, because no one, not even King Guillonet, knew of the talisman's whereabouts, because for it to work potently, no one must know of its whereabouts except the giver, to whom it was given, and the messenger, if necessary, that went between these twain.And it must be done in secret, at night and beneath the open sky.

It now preoccupied Alizonde to consider how she could convey to Mervais her correct understanding of his words and her consent, as well as how they could meet appropriately.But having made an earnest prayer thereon, a good thought spoke to her, and she said, "I will do even as this my thought bids me do."

And that night, as they sat at meat, when the King sent Mervais his platter of spices to eat and his own goblet of vermeil to drink from, Queen Alizonde sent her damoiseau with a fair pomander from her own salver, having peeled it deftly with her own hands so that its coat remained on it as if whole."For," said she in her heart, "he has a great wit and will see that in this manner of paring the pomander there is a reason." And so it was, because he read her meaning as if her breasts were crystal and her thoughts were written in gold for him to read.And he said:

"If the Queen pleases, I will not eat this fair fruit, but keep it by me to remember that Alizonde the Fair once peeled an apple for me with her own hands."

And Alizonde says:

"It pleaseth me indeed, fair sir," she said, because she had placed a scrip between its coat and the pomander that read: "At midnight by the pool in my pleasure."

But she had to trust Matheline, her first maid-in-waiting, with a part of her secret, because Matheline slept in her chamber all the time, and they loved each other, and Alizonde trusted her saucy maid.She said nothing about the talisman, but she did tell her about the secret message from her father, King Hazyl, which she had to hear alone.

"Watch thou, dear Matheline, as o'er thine own honor: I will not tarry long," she concluded.

But no sooner had Matheline heard everything, she burst into tears, and she said:

"Great fear have I for thee, Queen and Lady, for last night I dreamt of a great bird with one wing sable and the other white, and he bore thy little crown of emeraudes in his beak, and tears fell from his eyes. "Who, pardie," quotes Matheline, "ever dreamed of a weeping bird that ill did not befall?"

Then Alizonde kissed and cosset her, saying:

"What are dreams?" There is no dream like the heavy dream of a queen's life. Be comforted, sweet child," she said as she walked out into her pleasure by her own stairwell.

The night was languid, and the sky was thickly crusted with stars. Alizonde saw them as little clusters of magic flowers set among the leaves of the long Allée, and when she was coming to the pool, looking down, she saw them again, so that she seemed to be standing in a wizard's globe of crystal set with gems.

"Oh, that I were fast asleep in my cool grave-bed," thought Alizonde. "And finally safe, having done the right thing."

And as she was so thinking, a voice said, "Alizonde!" and she looked up from the pool and saw Mervais before her. And her heart went straight to him like a homing bird to its nest, and she stayed silent, looking at him through tears.

"For he, too, must do what is right; otherwise, our love is no love," Alizonde reasoned.But he spoke, answering her thought, and he said:

"Alizonde, and dearest of all, this is the Queen's garden, but there is the garden of the King."

"Oh, my fair lord, and dearer than dearest!" said Alizonde. "Shall we twain fare together in the King's garden?"

"Even as of old, we have fared, often and often, past the point of counting," said Mervais.

And now her tears fell, bright and bitter, as they had fallen that morning, and wet the gems upon her breast.

"Oh!" she exclaims, "have I found thee only to lose thee?""I am but mortal, and thou seemest to me more than mortal, and I would kiss thee once, but yet must I do the thing that is right."

"Oh, Alizonde!" cried he, "in the garden of the King, thou shalt lie upon my heart, and I will kiss thee with the kiss of love and set the rose of pure desire in thy breast." I am mortal in comparison to thy mortality and immortal in comparison to thy immortality."And I would fain kiss you, too, Alizonde!"

The Queen then stated:

"This is a sweet pain." I am glad to bear it. "Hast thou also pain, and is it sweet to thee?"

"Great is my pain," said Mervais, "and glad am I to bear it."

"Fair and dear is God, who has shown me the meaning of love," Alizonde said, "and now thou must take the jewel."

Thereat he stepped toward her, and her cheek grew dusky in the starlight, for from her bosom, where it was hidden, he must take it and hide it in his own. And suddenly, sobs shook her, and she bent her face into the cup of her two hands.

"Woe, woe is me!" sobbed Alizonde the Queen, "for thou, my love, art the Virgin Knight; else, couldst thou not touch this jewel while I am seven years wedded to my loathing?"

"Oh, loveliest and purest, thy spirit has been ever virgin—what is the rest to me?" said Mervais."Think on the King's garden, wherein there is no weeping, nor pain of any kind, and where thou shalt be a little maid again."

"I will spend the years between thinking on how I may tell thee of my love," Alizonde replied, and she let her hands fall and drew aside the wimple from her breast, so that he could take the Rose of Light and hide it in his own.And he took it so well that he only touched the ruby stone that he withdrew, not her body.

Now, even as he placed it in his breast, hands came forth from the darkness and seized him and her, and a great laugh, thick as blood and full of evil, shook the air.

"Have I you, my pretty minstrel?" "Have I you, my coy Queen?" cried the King, and his teeth shone in the gloom like foam on a wave's lip in a black storm. "Thy Matheline is but a sleepy watcher, queen, and harlot," quoth the King.

On the next day, Guillonet the Black assembled his knights and barons and the high clergy, and to them in the public hall he related the matter, for he recked not of his shame in telling the shame that he deemed his, only of revenge, and that he named justice. So it was decreed that the Knight and Troubadour Mervais be brought to the King's Chapel and stripped of their knighthood there?And great was the gathering there of lords and ladies, of vassals, and of serfs. The Lord Bishop came as well, all booted and spurred, even to the holy place, with sword at side and hawk on fist, a grim black-avised seigneur who matched the King as flame does fire.

"I would have you there in person see to it, my Lord Bishop," the King said, "that your henchmen do their work well," and he bared his teeth at the high stage that had been raised in the chapel overnight, and his eye swam red.And he thought how it stood in fair view of the stone lattice in the loft, for behind this lattice was Alizonde, bound fast in place, and spikes set about her head so that she might turn it neither right nor left. And a scarf was thrust into her small and piteous mouth, and another was bound above it, so that she could make no outcry.

"For thou shalt see how thy knight is honoured by thy King, Queen Harlot," the King had said.

Then they led Mervais into the chapel, escorted by twelve knights in full regalia, and armed him once more with his fair arms, so that he shone forth resplendent, but his cheek bore no white streak, and his eyes were staid and cold.Mervais carried himself with great scorn and calmness.As soon as he placed them on the high dais, the thirty priests began to chant the funeral psalms, as if it had been the funeral of a high-ranking official.They removed Mervais' helmet at the end of the first psalm, saying:

"We take from you this defence of disloyal eyes."

And at the end of the second psalm, they took off his cuirass on the right side, saying:

"Thus do we take from you the protection of a corrupt heart."

And with the third psalm, they did the same with the cuirass on his left side, as if from a willing member.And as each piece of armour was cast to earth, the King of Arms and the heralds called aloud, "Behold the harness of a disloyal and recreant knight!"

When he was all disarmed, someone came in with a gold basin filled with water, and a herald holding it aloft demanded to know his name.And the pursuivants answered, "He is high, Mervais de Noland."

Then I answered the Chief King of Arms, saying:

"Not so, for he is a recreant, a false traitor, and has broken the laws of knighthood."

Then answered the chaplains together, in a solemn drone:

"Let us give him his rightful name."

Blared forth the trumpets then, as though demanding, "What shall be done with him?" And King Guillonet rose from his throne, and so horrid was his voice that even the Lord Bishop's fierce cheek jumped beneath the skin with the locking of his teeth.

"Let him be baptised aright in Satan's name, and afterward let him be drawn and quartered, and a quarter sent north, south, east, and west to the four corners of my kingdom, in warning and in justice!" And as he finished, he put his hand over his mouth because he was about to burst out laughing, and he cast a bleak eye up at the stone lattice, where was the Queen?Thereupon the heralds advanced to cast the water in the face of Mervais, but something in his look held them, and they did, but sprinkled it instead with their fingers, saying the while, "Henceforth thou shalt be called by thy right name, traitor."

Next, the King and the twelve knights donned sable garments in sign of mourning and thrust Mervais from the dais; but he was not buffeted to the altar by the assembled serfs, as was the custom, and therefore the King raged mightily within, for both gentlemen and varlets drew aside in silence and let Mervais pass between them, until he reached the coffin, wherein he was to lay him down as one who was dead to honor, while the burial service was chanted above him. And when he reached the coffin, he paused, looked up at the stone lattice, and cried with a clear voice:

"In the garden of the King!" then lay him down as on his bed, and so he stayed quietly smiling, with closed eyes, through all that gruesome and solemn work. But, unable to contain his rage any longer, the King went cat-foot up a secret stairway to where Alizonde leaned forward starkly against the lattice and cried,

"Thou, too, art dead!" smote her deep in the neck from behind with his dagger, and the hilt clicked on her slender neck bone. He also had no idea she was already dead when he smote her.And lo! On the morrow, when they came to deliver Mervais to the headsman, the place was empty of him and of his armor, and his horse also was gone from the King's stables, and that, too, despite a double guard. But none, not even the King, wept over the Rose of Light.

Now when Alizonde awoke, it seemed to her that she awoke within a dream, for the pale light of dreams was about her, and she lay couched on warm grass that gave forth a lovely smell, and a little wind sweet with flowers played over her, and there was a great joy all through her, both soul and body, so that she said, "I shall surely fall a-weeping because of this joy of mine, for it is too dear for laughter, and then will I awaken, and my sorrow will lay hold of me again." So she held the tears in her nether lids, looking upward, and lo! the heaven above her seemed fairer than any heaven that she had e'er beheld, in star-time or moon-time, or even in the time of dawn, even as the grass whereon she lay seemed sweeter than all other grass and softer to her limbs, so that she said:

"Yea, there ye are, dear stars, but lovelier and more loving than I e'er beheld ye, so that I must necessarily think that ye are but newly born of God, and that I, too, am newly born again into this glad body, and upon a new-born world."

Then, after a little space, still looking skyward, she reached out one hand timorously, as though fearful of awakening, and brought it back sweet with violets.

"Oh, dear flowers," said Alizonde, "are ye, too, but part of this fair dream?" "Oh, very real ye seem, to be but dream-stuff," Alizonde said, sitting up and gazing around her, still tense from fear of awakening.And now she saw through the blue twilight what seemed to be her maidens all in white, swaying softly in a dance, and rising, she went toward them, but when she was coming nearer, lo! they were lilies, very tall and gracious, and between their stems, as they bent back and forth in their light dance, she glimpsed the shine of mildly flowing water, and her heart sounded a sharp note within her, and she remembered the lily-streams of peace in the lay of the King's Garden. And turning quickly, her face came up against the face of a sweet rose, which seemed to be kissing her welcome, and she saw many other roses all around her, one burning like a soft-petalled flame high above the rest, and her heart panged sharp and sweet within her, and she remembered where burned the rose of pure desire.And anon, looking upward, she saw as if they were apples of gold set in emerald leaves, and she cried aloud, "The fruit of love foregone!" And, no longer affrayed for awakening, she turned herself around once more to look for the palace wherein love should enter unassailably, and there it was, fair as moonstone, with a soft light shining from within it like the light in her own heart, and she began to move toward it.

And as she went, she saw one coming from the palace gates as though to meet her, and while he was yet coming but far off, she knew it was Mervais, and she would have run to meet him, but it seemed that all her body grew soft like water, and she had no strength to move.

But when he came near her, very beautiful in glittering apparel with armour laid aside, she reached forth her clasped hands to him and said:

"Oh, my fair lord and love, is this the King's Garden?"

He then took her clasped hands in his own and smiled down at her.

"I am the King, dear Alizonde," said he, "and this is my garden."

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