He stirs a booted heel and kicks a rolling coal. His spur clinks
on the hearth. Overhead, the rain hammers and chinks. She is so pure
and whole. Only because he has her soul will she resign herself to him,
for where the soul has gone, the body must be given as a sign. He takes her
by the divine right of the only lover. He has sworn to fight her lord,
and wed her after. Should he be overborne, she will die adoring him, forlorn,
shriven by her great love.
Above, the coronet winks in the darkness. Drip--hiss--fall the raindrops.
The arras blows out from the wall, and a door bangs in a far-off hall.
The candles swale. In the gale the moat below plunges and spatters.
Will the lady lose courage and not come?
The rain claps on a loosened rafter.
Is that laughter?
The room is filled with lisps and whispers. Something mutters.
One candle drowns and the other gutters. Is that the rain
which pads and patters, is it the wind through the winding entries
The state bed is very cold and he is alone. How far from the wall
the arras is blown!
Christ's Death! It is no storm which makes these little chuckling sounds.
By the Great Wounds of Holy Jesus, it is his dear lady, kissing and
clasping someone! Through the sobbing storm he hears her love take form
and flutter out in words. They prick into his ears and stun his desire,
which lies within him, hard and dead, like frozen fire. And the little noise
Drip--hiss--the rain drops.
He tears down the arras from before an inner chamber's bolted door.
The state bed shivers in the watery dawn. Drip--hiss--fall the raindrops.
For the storm never stops.
On the velvet coverlet lie two bodies, stripped and fair in the cold,
grey air. Drip--hiss--fall the blood-drops, for the bleeding never stops.
The bodies lie quietly. At each side of the bed, on the floor, is a head.
A man's on this side, a woman's on that, and the red blood oozes along
the rush mat.
A wisp of paper is twisted carefully into the strands of the dead man's hair.
It says, "My Lord: Your wife's paramour has paid with his life
for the high favour."
Through the lady's silver fillet is wound another paper. It reads,
"Most noble Lord: Your wife's misdeeds are as a double-stranded
necklace of beads. But I have engaged that, on your return,
she shall welcome you here. She will not spurn your love as before,
you have still the best part of her. Her blood was red, her body white,
they will both be here for your delight. The soul inside was a lump of dirt,
I have rid you of that with a spurt of my sword point. Good luck
to your pleasure. She will be quite complaisant, my friend, I wager."Download<<BackPagesMainNext>>