"I especially remember the trip East. We went through the
In four other villages the chimes rang just as loud and merrily, and the women talked, and blessed her Grace and her young child, and casks of ale were broached, and oxen roasted, and work stopped, and dancers footed it upon the green.
"Surely the new-born thing comes here to happiness," 'twas said everywhere, "for never yet was woman loved as is his mother."
In her stately bed her Grace the duchess lay, with the face of the Mother Mary, and her man-child drinking from her breast. The duke walked softly up and down, so full of joy that he could not sit still. When he had entered first, it was his wife's self who had sate upright in her bed, and herself laid his son within his arms.
"None other shall lay him there," she said, "I have given him to you. He is a great child, but he has not taken from me my strength."
He was indeed a great child, even at his first hour, of limbs and countenance so noble that nurses and physicians regarded him amazed. He was the offspring of a great love, of noble bodies and great souls. Did such powers alone create human beings, the earth would be peopled with a race of giants.
Amid the veiled spring sunshine and the flower-scented silence, broken only by the twittering of birds nesting in the ivy, her Grace lay soft asleep, her son resting on her arm, when Anne stole to look at her and her child. Through the night she had knelt praying in her chamber, and now she knelt again. She kissed the new-born thing's curled rose-leaf hand and the lace frill of his mother's night-rail. She dared not further disturb them.
"Sure God forgives," she breathed--"for Christ's sake. He would not give this little tender thing a punishment to bear."
There was no punishment. The tender little creature grew as a blossom grows from bud to fairest bloom. His mother flowered as he, and spent her days in noble cherishing of him and tender care. Such motherhood and wifehood as were hers were as fair statues raised to Nature's self.