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HOME > Classical Novels > Love Among the Ruins > CHAPTER 15
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 Hardly had an hour passed, and Fra Balthasar was still the study he had made of Yeoland's face, when a company of spears flashed out by the northern ride into the clearing. At their head rode a in harness of steel, a splendid figure flashing in the eyes of the sun. On his shield he bore "a castle, argent, with ports voided of the field, on a field vert," the arms of the house of Gambrevault. His surcoat was diapered and green with three gold suns thereon. His baldric, a splendid of silk, his surcoat as with blood. His troop, men in half , rode under the Pavon Vert of the of Avalon.  
They thundered into the open stretch of grass with a clangorous of steel. Flavian, bare-headed, for his salade hung at his saddle-bow and he wore no camail, scanned the with a keen stare. Seeing Fra Balthasar seated under a tree, he turned his horse towards him, and smiled as the churchman put his tools aside and gave him a . The man made a fine figure; judged by the flesh, Balthasar might have stood for an Ambrose or a Leo.
" of heaven, how goes the work?"
"Sire, we Pericles."
"What have you there, a woman's head, some rare Madonna?"
Balthasar showed his white teeth.
"A pretty pastoral, messire. The study of a lady who had lost her way hunting, and my guidance this morning. A woman with the face and figure of a Dian."
"Ha, of the brush, let us see it."
Balthasar passed the parchment into the other's hand. Flavian stared at it, flushed to the temples, rapped out an ejaculation in Latin. His eyes the with the insatiable enthusiasm of a lover; words came hot off his tongue.
"Quick, man, quick, is this true to life?"
"As to ruby."
"None of your idealisations?"
"Messire, but an hour ago that girl was sitting her horse where your destrier now stands."
"And you this at her desire?"
"At my own, sire; it was courtesy for courtesy: I had shown her our handiwork here."
"You showed her this tower and ?"
"Certainly, sire."
"She seemed sad?"
", merry."
"This is romance!" He lifted the little picture at arm's length to the sun, kissed it, and put it in his . His face was radiant; he laughed as though some golden joy rang and in his heart.
"A hundred golden angels for this face!"
Fra Balthasar was in great measure mystified. The Lord of Avalon seemed an inflammable gentleman.
"Messire, you are ever generous."
"Man, man, you have caught the one woman in the world."
"The Madonna of the Pine Forest, the Madonna of Mercy; she whose kinsfolk were put to the sword by my men; even the daughter of Rual whose tower stands yonder."
The priest comprehended the whole in a moment. The dramatic of the adventure had made him echo Flavian's humour. He laughed and his shoulders.
"Romance, romance! By all the lovers who ever loved, by Tristan and the dark Iseult, by Launcelot and Guinivere, follow that picture."
"Which way went she?"
"By the southern ride, towards Gilderoy."
The man was in heroic humour; his sword flashed out and shook in the sun.
"By God, I'll see her face again, and yet again, though I burn in hell for it. Roland, Godamar, come, men, come, throw away your spears. Ride, ride, we chase the sunset. Life and desire!"
He sprang away on his great bay horse, a of youth--youth that flashed chivalry into the green of Spring. The sunlight webbed his hair with gold; his face glowed like a martyr's. Balthasar watched him with much , as he swept away with his thundering into the woods.
The friar settled to his work again, but it was fated that he was to have no peace that morning. He was painting in a background, a landscape, to a small Crucifixion. His hand was out of touch, however; the subject was not congenial. A pale face and a pair of dusky eyes had deepened a different stream of thought in the man. Themes hypersensuous held his allegiance; from catholic , he to his glorious paganism with an ever-broadening sense of satisfaction.
He was interrupted once more, and not unpleasantly, by a lady, with two armed servants at her back, riding in from the forest by the northern ride. The woman was clad in a cloak of damask red, and a jupon of dark green, broidered with azure work. Her , fallen back, showed her purple black hair bound up in a net of gold. Her large dark eyes flashed and smouldered under their long . She had high cheek-bones, a big nose, lips full as an over-ripe rose. She was big of body, to look upon, as an Eastern odalisque, a woman of great passions, great appetites.
Fra Balthasar tumbled his brushes and paints aside, and went to meet her as she rode over the grass. There was a smile on the man's lips, a flush upon his face, as he walked with a courtly and vanity. The woman caught sight of him and wheeled her horse in his direction. The autumn splendour of her cheeks told of hard riding, and her horse dropped from his black .
Fra Balthasar crossed himself with much .
"Good greeting, Madame Duessa," were his words, as he kept his eyes on the ground.
The woman scanned the glade with the spirit of a Boadicea.
"My Lord Flavian?"
"He has been here."
"But is here no longer."
"These buildings?"
"Are the Lord Flavian's."
"And you?"
"I am his architect."
"Morally, messire ?"
"Madame, I do not edificate souls."
The woman stared him over with a critical comprehensiveness.
The man half glanced at her.
"Look me in the face."
He gave a sigh, made a gesture with his hands, looked and over-ecstasied to the point of despair.
"Madame, there are thoughts beyond one's liberty."
"There are women, a woman, one dares not look upon. There are eyes, well--well, that are too bright. Pardon me, I would serve you."
She took a deep breath, held out her hand to him, a big, warm hand, soft and white. The man's lips burnt upon it. She touched his cheek and saw him colour.
"My Lord Flavian is not here."
"But has been. Where now?"
"Away hunting."
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