Flemish Legend Sir Halewyn by Charles de Coster Chapter 18

Of the damosels Magtelt and Anne-Mie, and of Schimmel the dapple-gray

While the Miserable was roaming the woods, Sir Roel de Heurne and the lady Gonde, his wife, richly clad, and wrapt round with deer-skins, which give particular warmth to the body, were sitting snugly on their coffers before their good fire of oaken logs, chatting together as old folk will.

But it was the Lady Gonde who spoke most, being the woman.

And she said:

“My good man, do you hear the storm raging furiously in the forest?”

“Yes,” answered Sir Roel.

And his lady said further:

“God has been kind to give us, against this great cold, such a fine castle so strongly built, such good clothes, and such a bright fire.”

“Yes,” answered the Sire.

“But above all,” said she, “he has shown us his divine grace by giving us such good and brave children.”

“True,” answered the Sire.

“For,” said she, “nowhere could you find a young man more valiant, courteous, gentle, and fitter to uphold our name than Toon, our son.”

“Yes,” said the Sire, “he has saved my life in battle.”

“But,” said his lady, “he has this fault, that he is so scant of words that we scarce know the tone of his voice.

He is well called the Silent.”
“There is better worth to a man,” said the Sire, “in a good sword than in a long tongue.”

“Here I see you, my lord,” said the lady, “pent up with your reflections, for sadness and gravity are the lot of old age, but I know well a certain maid who would smooth out your forehead and set you laughing.”

“’Tis possible,” said the Sire.

“Yes,” said she, “it is certainly possible, for when Magtelt our daughter comes into this room, I shall see my lord and husband turn happy at once.”

At these words Sir Roel nodded his head and smiled a little.

“Yes, yes,” said his lady, “for when Magtelt laughs, then laughs my old Roel; when she sings, then my old Roel grows thoughtful and nods his head happily, and if she passes by, he follows with smiling eyes each step of his little daughter.”

“True, Gonde,” said the Sire.

“Yes, yes,” said she, “for who is the well-being and joy of this house? ’Tis not I, who am old, and losing my teeth one by one; nor you either, my fellow in antiquity; nor the Silent either; nor Anne-Mie the private servant, who, though she is very sweet and healthy in her person, is something too quiet in her ways, and laughs only when she is set laughing. But she who makes our old age happy, she who is the nightingale in the house, she who is always coming and going, passing and repassing, flying hither and thither, singing and singing again, as happy as a peal of bells at Christmastide: ’tis our good daughter.”

“So it is,” said the Sire.

“Ah,” said his lady further, “it is a happy thing for us to have such a child, since both of us have already cold in our feet at all seasons. For without her we should pass our time in sadness, and from our old feet the cold would creep up to our hearts, and so we should be taken to our graves more quickly.”

“Yes, wife,” said the Sire.

“Ah,” said she, “another damosel would have wished for love-suitors, and to go to the court of My Lord to get a husband. But our little maid gives no thought to that, for hereabout she loves no one but ourselves, and her who goes everywhere with her, and is as a sister to her, Anne-Mie the private servant; but not without teasing her a little in order to make her laugh.”

“True,” said the Sire.

“Yes, yes,” said his lady, “and every one loves her, admires her, and respects her, pages, grooms, varlets, men-at-arms, private servants, serfs, and peasants, so joyous and merry is she, so brave and gentle is her bearing. There is no one, even down to Schimmel, the great war-horse, who does not follow her like a dog. Ah! When he sees her coming he whinnies joyously; and she alone must bring him his oats and corn; from none other will he take a grain. She treats him like a man, and often gives him a great draught of clauwaert, which he drinks up with relish. She makes herself understood to him by words, but she must never be cross with him, or he makes as if to weep, and looks at her with so sad a manner that she cannot withstand it and then calls him to her, saying: ‘Beautiful Schimmel, brave Schimmel,’ and other soft words; hearing which the good dapple-gray gets up and comes close to her to have more compliments. He suffers no one on his back but she, and when he is carrying her he is as proud as My Lord of Flanders at the head of his good barons and knights. So she has her sovereignty over every one, by joyousness, goodness, and fair speaking.”

“Yes,” said the Sire.

“Ah,” said his lady, “may the very good God watch over our little one, and may our old ears hear this fledgeling nightingale singing always.”

“Amen,” said the Sire.