« PrécédentContinuer »
velvet, and long, hanging sleeves lined with white satin ; her head-dress of blue velvet is nearly covered with precious stones, and her long veil is embroidered in gold. Lady Mexborough is exquisite in a fantastic Eastern dress; and the beautiful Lady Grahame of Netherby has copied the marriage dress of Anne Boleyn, and blazes with jewels; while Lady Blantyre, in black velvet and pearls, with a high coif of black velvet and a pearl crown, might have stepped out of the frame of a picture by Holbein.
If the maids-of-honour have been chosen for their supreme good looks, the lady archeresses, clad in Lincoln green, are also a bevy of beauty. It seems, indeed, as if so many fair women have never been gathered together before. The costumes, too, are so splendid : some are modelled on the lines of those worn in the days of Henry VIII. and Queen Elizabeth, but others are Jacobean ; and there are also some old French, Spanish, and Russian dresses. Some of these have cost no less than £2000, and the display of magnificent jewellery is wonderful.
And now they have reached the tilting-ground. The Queen of Beauty is led to her gilded throne by the Lord of the Tourney; the other ladies of high degree take up their positions in balcony and stand, and the joust begins. The trumpets blow, and on the words “ Laissez aller !” from the lips of the Knight Marshal, the Knight of the Swan and the Knight of the Golden Lion run their first tilt. Then Lord Eglinton appears as challenger in the next tilt, his noble bearing, the beauty of his charger, and his skill in its management drawing forth repeated shouts and acclamations from the multitude. His opponent, the Marquis of Waterford, also excites much admiration.
Twice out of the three rounds does the Lord of the Tourney break his lance on his opponent's shield; and then, amid deafening shouts, he rides to the balcony and pays his devoir to the Queen.
There were seven tilts that day. Then came the sword combat of the mêlée, in which eight of the knights engaged, and which must indeed have been a stirring scene. The eyes of thousands eagerly scanned the bearing of the combatants, who had difficulty to restrain their fiery steeds, till the heralds gave the signal. When the trumpets sounded, there was not a moment lost. The knights met at full gallop, and blows were given and exchanged across the barrier with right good will—indeed, before the mêlée was over, Lord Waterford and Lord Alford were fighting in deadly earnest, and had to be separated by the Knight Marshal. It was a wonderful sight; and, as they watched that “heady fight,” the minds of the spectators must have been carried back hundreds of years, to the times of the Crusaders and the days of chivalry, when they saw the glowing descriptions of the old chroniclers acted before their eyes. This mêlée ended the tournament; and then the Queen of Beauty crowned the victor with a wreath, while the Knight Marshal rode round the lists, proclaiming to the assembled multitudes the name of the successful champion.
Three hundred guests were feasted in the banqueting-hall that evening-a magnificent entertainment, at which, on services of gold and silver plate, were to be seen the viands of the days of chivalry—the swan, the peacock, the boar's head, the baron of beef. There were more than a thousand people present at the ball that followed, all attired in medieval, and for the most part beautiful, fancy dress. The hostyoung, handsome, and brilliant-received his guests in the costume of a knight of the fifteenth century. His short tunic of dark blue velvet was embroidered in gold with the Montgomerie arms and motto “Gardez-bien," and "powdered ” with gold fleur-de-lis; the sleeves were of cloth of gold; and the long boots, of blue and yellow kid, were also embroidered in gold. Under a dais, hung with cloth of gold which had been used at the Coronation of the Queen, and on a gilded throne, with pages on either hand, sat the Queen of Love and Beauty. Her train was of superb antique brocade; her “silken kirtle” was embroidered with silver, gold, and various colours; her vest was of white velvet, and a chaplet of flowers, from which hung a silver veil, crowned her beautiful head.
And so we leave those who fought and danced and held high revel fifty years ago. They have vanished for the most part into the land of shadows; and to those of them who are alive and remain that revival for a brief space of the golden days of chivalry must now seem like the dream of a dream.
WONDER how many of us who lived that wild, free life at Tinker's Creek-North Island, New Zealand-in the early days of the diggings, will now remember the incident which I am about to relate. Concerning that time, things both curious and sad could be told ; but the strangest story of them all, perhaps, is that of a passage in the life of a woman who was known to us as the “ Duchess.” Remember it! I wonder, rather, if there be one of us now living, scattered far and wide
as we must be, who has forgotten that shadow of an hour thrown across those glorious days.
It was August--winter time—and as the wild pigeon during that month feeds on the bright red fleshy berries of the miro tree-a diet which best fits it for the Stable—most of my spare time was spent in the Bush with my gun. I had left our quartz-crushing mill early one morning, and was deep in the sunless depths of a fern-tree gully, when I came unexpectedly upon Richard Duff-ordinarily called Dick-engaged in matutinal abiutions. The discovery that Dick did sometimes wash himself was surprising enough, but what followed was a distinct revelation. After rubbing his sandy hair until it stood straight out from his head, like a halo which one might imagine the Demon of Horror would wear, he drew a brand new comb from his pocket and pitted it in fierce combat with his tangled locks, surveying the result from time to time in the back of a sardine box.
A fortnight previously, in panning off the “wash-dirt” in the bed of a lonely creek, this good-looking ne'er-do-well had come upon a small "pocket” of nuggets, and straightway had gone off to Shortland, as affording wider scope for the purpose, to get rid of the proceeds of his lucky find without delay. Until I came thus upon him I did not know that he had returned.
“Halloo, Dick !” I cried, “what's in the wind ? ”
He turned slowly-in all his actions there was a solemn deliberation which was most refreshing or exasperating to watch, according to circumstances—and fixed his mild blue eyes upon me. By contrast with his face, red and glowing from his ablutions, they seemed almost colourless. After a pause of a few seconds he picked up the soap-:o which he was so great a stranger that he put it in his pocketand, languidly stepping from stone to stone, came to my side and seated himself upon the fallen trunk of a tree fern, green with maiden-hair and the glossy kidney fern. For a tiine he remained in abstracted contemplation of the gaps which he had made in the comb.
At length he looked up-in his eyes an expression of mingled melancholy and fun-said briefly, “ I'm spliced,” and fell to dragging out his hair as if it were directly responsible for the indiscretion.
“You're married, Dick?” cried I, in astonishment. “But this is very sudden, isn't it? By 'what drugs, charms, what conjurations, and what mighty magic,' won you this woman?”
“Drugs be damned !” he drawled: “I showed her the bank deposit slip."
The tapering trunk of a tree, which stood on the opposite bank of the creek, led my eye upward to where two yellow-fronted parrakeets were billing in the foliage.
“Do you like it?” I asked absently.
“Ye-es"-- he spoke with hesitation—“I like it.” Then, after a pause, he added, , adopting an explanatory tone: “But it ain't even-going” (I should explain that Dick had a fondness for horsey metaphors and allusions). “Sometimes we spins along in double harness in fine style-regular township trot; but”-here he became darkly confidential" there is other times, matey, when she gets her leg over the traces.”
I looked again at the