Dieu D'Amour - Edith Wharton. - E-Book

Dieu D'Amour E-Book

Edith Wharton

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'Dieu D'Amour' is a romance novel written by Edith Wharton. The story takes place in the castle of Dieu D'Amour, where the king of Cyprus still kept an obstinate and mournful state in the upper apartments of the palace, and his queen, in her chamber, counted her pearls, and sat in a window staring northward, dark and sumptuous among her slaves. Sometimes for days she did not speak; when she saw the king she merely burst out laughing. She thought only of her dresses and jewels—and of those for whom she adorned herself. Her tire-women had to drag out new robes every day from chests painted with saints and knights, or inlaid with crescents and traceries of mother-of-pearl.

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Edith Wharton.

Dieu D'Amour

 
EAN 8596547322672
DigiCat, 2022 Contact: [email protected]

Table of Contents

Cover
Titlepage
Text
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A CASTLE IN CYPRUS.

1.

One crept up the giddy stairways cut in the cliff-side, and through the passages of vaulted stone, holding one's breath; for at that hour the place was evil.

In the darker angles of the tunnel-like ascent, catamawfreys hung snout downward, nuzzling the dusk. People said they could sing like birds. Father Gregory, the oldest monk in the famous monastery of Belle Pais, below the castle of Dieu d'Amour, said that when he came out to Cyprus from France, years before, there was still at Belle Pais an aged father who had heard them. Others, however, asserted that when Saint Hilarion the Abbot, flying before the throngs of pilgrims who besieged his solitude in the Egyptian desert, had taken refuge in a cavern of the inaccessible peak of Dieu d'Amour, he had exorcised the creatures, and they had vanished in hissing and foul smoke, never to reappear till the coming of the present queen—who knows?

Certainly they were there now, as all who mounted at dusk to the king's castle had reason to know. You might cross yourself and invoke your guardian angel, and mutter litanies as hard as you liked; but even as you stole past the cavern of Saint Hilarion, where once there had been a chapel with tapers and relics, but now all was ruined and desecrate—even there, close to the arched entrance where countless pilgrims used to pray and kiss the threshold, Godfrey had seen the nuzzling creatures dangling and swinging. The castle of the Lusignan kings was not a wholesome place for the soul.

It was different at noonday. Then, from the sheer pinnacle on which it was poised like a bird, rich slopes fell away from the castle in a dappling of spring colours, wheat and wine and mulberry, rosy orchard and dark carob grove; and the wild peaks, as though driven by a ceaseless gale, blew eastward to Buffavento the impregnable, to Kantara, and the holy convent of Antiphonissa. Far below, on the blue sea, lay Kyrenia, the guardian fortress, compact in her walls, and the sea was a tossing of laughter all the way to the Caramanian coast, where the snows of the Taurus floated in absolute light. At that hour, as befitted its name, Dieu d'Amour, turreted, balconied, galleried to catch the sun, seemed made for delicate enchantments; and Godfrey, leaning on a trefoiled balcony over the abyss of light and sea, could joke with the squires and pages, and agree that the old stories must be true, and that, centuries before Saint Hilarion's coming, Venus, Queen of Cyprus, had built that towering pleasure-house, and reigned there in mirth and revelry with her son Prince Cupid. An old wives' tale, said the learned; yet hard to dispute, when the monks of Belle Pais still showed you, as the chief ornament of their cloister, the tomb of Queen Venus, heavy with marble wreaths. "And as for Prince Cupid," they would add with a wink, "if we can't show you his tomb as well, it's because he's still alive, and running about at his wicked work too fast to be caught."

True enough, no doubt! but at Dieu d'Amour the mirth and revelry were long over, and now the ruin and doom were manifest.

Not that the castle was all a ruin. Though the chapel of Saint Hilarion was befouled, and the saint's bones scattered to the winds, the king of Cyprus still kept an obstinate and mournful state in the upper apartments of the palace, and his queen, in her chamber, counted her pearls, and sat in a window staring northward, dark and sumptuous among her slaves. Sometimes for days she did not speak; when she saw the king she merely burst out laughing. She thought only of her dresses and jewels—and of those for whom she adorned herself. Her tire-women had to drag out new robes every day from chests painted with saints and knights, or inlaid with crescents and traceries of mother-of-pearl. Now and then, if the veils from Sidon or the velvets from Damascus were not instantly forthcoming, a slave-girl was beaten with rods and hurried off swooning to a dungeon; but another maid, if she bought a new kind of song-bird from a wandering pedlar, or coaxed a Compostella cockle-shell off a pilgrim's hat, might have an emerald tossed at her by her mistress's contemptuous hand. There were always merchants hanging about below, at Kyrenia, to profit by the royal whims; and it was said that to have audience of her majesty they had to pay the shrewd governor of the castle a heavy toll. But on most days the queen sat staring northward, hour by hour, and said nothing, and saw nothing; and the king played at chess with his knights, or taught a little dog to dance. To this was the ruler reduced who had been the last aspirant to the Christian crown of Jerusalem, had conquered Alexandria for a day, and stood in the train of princes when the Roman Emperor was crowned at Rheims.

2.

Near the top of the last stairway Godfrey plunged into a tunnel-like passage. At its end he groped for a low door of cedar-wood, and tapped on it three times. After a moment the bars shot back, and he caught a sweet waft of sandal and aloes, stooped his tall shoulder to creep in, and felt the Circassian girl's hand dragging him through obscurity and out into a vaulted room.