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skins of wild beasts, and had placed wreaths | nity animating her features, the rude band of young oak-leaves and evergreen ivy on their seemed to hesitate at first and keep aloof reshaggy heads; they were playing on the sbawm spectfully, feeding their eyes with the beautior sounding well-known street-airs on squeak- ful spectacle so "suddenly presented to them. ing pipes.
Even vulgar persons feel in such moments the The longer Alice stared at these strange majesty surrounding the head of an innocent forms, the faster returned her consciousness. maiden, as if with a protecting halo, and the powHer fear of the demons soon gave place to a er of true beauty is so great that it strikes even still greater anxiety. She perceived at once vulgar men like a revelation from above, and that she was in the midst of a merry, drunken silences all worldly desires. A murmur of apgang of so-called May-dancers, who were re- plause greeted the fair girl. turning from some rural festival, and into “By St. George," exclaimed one of the danwhose hands she had fallen alone and defence- cers, “there stands the fairy of Haywood less. A majority of the band consisted of Forest.” young peasant-lads who would treat a solitary “I will accost her," said another. young girl with little or no delicacy. Escape Beware! Do you not see that she holds was not to be thought of; hence, Alice sub- her magic wand in her hands ? If you irritate mitted to her fate, firmly resolved to ward off her, she will transform you into a donkey." all undue familiarities of the dancers by her de “And you into a sheep." termined bearing, and by mentioning her name “Let me manage it,” shouted a 'stout lad, and position.
who seemed to be the leader of the band. “I The band had surprised the fair sleeper shall speak a confidential word to the beauty under the trees and awakened her by their of the forest, and I will bet a rose-noble that deafening noise. Alice had jumped up in ter she will not bewitch me for it immediately. ror; with flushed cheeks, and her heart throb- You do not know how to speak to spirits and bing with anxiety, she awaited the result of sylphs." the dangerous adventure. She get wore the “Yes, Billy knows it,” cried the first speaker; wreath of forget-me-nots on her blond hair, “his grandmother was an old witch, and he which had become loosened during her slumber, learned it from her.” and was flowing in golden ringlets round her “And your grandmother is the devil's cousin. forehead and her white neck. Her slender, Attention now, and see how I am going to mansylph-like form was wrapped in a green hunt- age it.*
ing-dress, and a short silken mantilla of the The merry lad now advanced toward Alice
same color waved on her shoulders in the with all sorts of odd leaps and laughable bows. breeze. She had hastily picked up the riding. He was about twenty-four years old ; his form whip, the only weapon with which she could was short and wiry; two exceedingly shrewd defend herself. On the ground lay her barret- black eyes flashed in his keen face. His red cap with the waving plume, and her white nose indicated an intimate acquaintance with palfrey and the horse of her absent brother the bottle, and his full, fleshy cheeks, as well were grazing close by.
as his round paunch, showed that he was an Whether it was owing to the surpassing epicure of the lowest class. His low forehead beauty of the young girl, whose appearance and shaggy hair were covered with a green made a fairy-like impression upon the beholder, cap, which he wore on his ears, and on which or the expression of innocence and noble dig- | the long plume of a peacock was waving. The
short doublet which he wore was held together | whistle another tune so soon as you have heard by a broad leathern belt, in which hung a large my name, rank, and title ; for there stands besoup-ladle in place of a sword. His thick neck fore you no other than Comus, the god of fesand broad breast were covered with a very tive joy and mirth, whose rule is acknowledged short cloak, which was trimmed with lambs' by all England. Condescend, therefore, to tails instead of princely ermine, and set all over pledge me.” with diminutive bells, tinkling merrily at every At a beck which the man made to his comstep he made. In his hands he held a half- panions, another bottle was brought to him. emptied bottle and a brown staff, the top of He presented it to the girl. In order not to which was a fool's head, rudely carved' out of increase his anger, Alice resolved reluctantly the wood. This queer figure rested, moreover, to comply with his request, and, bowing slighton two crooked legs, loosely encased in wbite ly, she raised the bottle to her lips. stockings, covering only a part of his plump “ That is right,” said the extemporized god. hairy calves.
“I see that you are submissive, and I hope we This fellow now approached Alice, who was shall get along very well with each other. It by no means reassured at his sight. Distort was my intention long since to give up my ing his large mouth, which was dotted with bachelor life and marry a lady.of equal rank. white, pointed teeth, into a broad grin, he sa Your heavenly appearance has kindled the luted her with exaggerated and ludicrous polite- flame of love in my heart, and I feel that its
ardor is increasing every minute. Fair Glori"Most beautiful of all fairies,” he said to ana, most beautiful of fairies! give me your her, “pardon me if I take the liberty of ap- soft white hand, that we may form an everlastproaching you; but it would be wrong in me ing union. I place you on my throne. From not to render homage to so extraordinary a this hour you shall share my crown and be the beauty. Permit me, therefore, to drink first queen of the kingdom of fools.". your health out of this bottle, and then hand it Alice's situation became more and more to you, that you may do likewise.”
painful; she did not know what to reply, or So saying, he raised the bottle to his thick what course she ought to adopt under such cirlips and drank a long draught from it, after cumstances. After a brief reflection, she which he presented it to her. She pushed back deemed it best to join in the jolly tone of the his rude hand with a gesture of horror, so that dancers, and converse with them in the same the bottle fell to the ground and broke noisily strain. The fellow who had addressed her in pieces.
displayed, despite his rudeness and imperti“ Aha!” cried the fellow, angrily; "you are nence, uncommon wit and a jolly kindheartedproud, and refuse to drink with me.
ness which somewhat reassured her; and she know, my little sweetheart, my supercilious resolved to gain him by her complaisance, infairy princess, whom you have insulted? I am stead of irritating him by ill-advised defiance. at least as good as you, if not better. You be- Above all things, it was important her to hold in my person the king of all fools, the gain time, as she might momentarily look for prince of folly, the sovereign of all merry peo- the return of her absent brothers. All these ple, the king of jest. Just distend your lovely reasons induced her to adopt a conciliatory eyes, and however disdainfully you may turn manner, and turn the unpleasant adventure up your tiny nose, however contemptuously into a joke. She, therefore, replied as follows: you may curl your sweet cherry-lips, you will “Great and powerful Comus! your pro.
posals take me so much by surprise that I “ Come, bring me the throne,” commanded really feel embarrassed. Your power and the leader, whom the others willingly obeyed. rank are well known to me; for all England A few lads made a sort of chair of branches is aware that you are one of the most distin which they cut quickly from the trees. Alice guished gods. Your realm is certainly the was requested to seat herself on it. Before largest in the world, for fools will never be she was able to object or desist, strong arms wanting to it. The renown of your exploits lifted her up easily and softly. She sat on bas penetrated to my ears, and I have often the shoulders of her bearers, and had to subheard of you and the brilliant court which you mit to being carried by them in triumphant hold in various parts of this island, and par- procession. Her white palfrey was led after ticularly in Oakley Park. I bless my star, her, while the leader of the band mounted her therefore, for permitting me to see you and brother's horse and rode by her sidė. your peers face to face, and obtain the convic
The strange procession was headed by the tion that the fame of your courteous manners, masked musicians, who struck up a noisy gallantry, and wit, is by no means undeserved. march. Behind them followed a number of But as for your honorable proposals, I must masks dressed in the skins of wild beasts. confess that I consider myself unworthy to They formed, as it were, the body-guard, and share the throne of so powerful a ruler and to carried for this purpose large staves adorned live by the side of a god. I am no fairy, and with flowers and ribbons. Then came various least of all the famous Gloriana. My parents dancers in their gay costumes and covered all are only poor mortals, and I myself am a plain over with small bells ; they danced on both young girl, and by no means worthy to be sides, and performed all sorts of ludicrous come the consort of so powerful a spirit.” leaps. Alice was carried on the quickly-ex
“ Hold on,” cried the young fellow, with an temporized throne in their midst. The golden ecstatic grin. “Your words only serve to fan rays of the setting sun illuminated the sweet the flame of my love. · Whoever you may be, picture. Nothing more beautiful and graceful whether the fairy of this forest, or the daugh- could be traced by a painter's pencil. A mixter of a sooty charcoal-burner, your beauty ture of girlish anxiety and childlike archness and understanding have fascinated me so much brought a smile of confusion and hilarity to that I will never part with you. You shall be her sweet lips and rosy cheeks. The merry queen of the fools, and receive immediately spirits of jest and mirth played round her the homage of my lords and my other subjects. charming dimples and her finely-chiselled chin. Kneel down, you rogues, blackguards, and Her blond ringlets fell down on her green fools !
Shout with me: 'Long live our riding-dress, which chastely veiled her exquisQueen !'”
ite form. The wreath on her head imparted “Long live our queen! Long live the great a queenly appearance to her, and was suitable Comus !” roared the chorus of the merry to the part which had been forced upon her. lads.
A last vestige of embarrassment and anxiety At the same time the band struck up again remained in her eye, which she dropped, thus its noisy music. The drums rolled, the fifes adding to her beauty the still greater charm squeaked, and all expressed their assent to, of modesty and humility. and delight at, the selection which Comus had Gradually this anxiety wore off, and Alice made, by the most ludicrous leaps and deafen- regained her usual courage. Her merry spirit ing cheers.
even delighted to some extent in the unexpect.
ed adventure. She appeared to herself a queen travelling triumphantly through her
CHAPTER IV. realm, and receiving homage at the hands of her subjects. She yielded unwittingly to the fantastic charms of the place, and the whole At the same time two young men were wonderful scenery surrounding her. The wandering in a similar direction through Haydancers treated her with studied politeness, wood Forest. They were friends, nearly of and before long she had acquired more con- the same age, and had been tenderly attached fidence in them. These rude lads were as if to each other for many years. One of them, fascinated by the power of beauty, and the who was a little older than his companion, wild outbursts of their rough and unbridled presented a refined and aristocratic appearhumor assumed more and more the shape of Slender and tall, bis whole bearing injovial and even graceful witticisms. The stout dicated a certain firmness, and the distincarriers strutted about, evidently proud of guished manners which the sons of wealthy their fair burden; Comus, the god, rode slowly and aristocratic families assume so easily. His by her side, and devoted himself now to main- dress likewise betokened the wealth of his taining good order in the procession, now to family. His high forehead and carefully-curled amusing his intended consort. Even the wild- dark hair were covered with a plumed hat, est dancers tried to impart a chaster character which was adorned with a golden agraffe set to their somewhat indecent leaps. All with with brilliants. His dark, well-kept beard, out exception endeavored visibly to please which, after the fashion of that period, was their new queen, who manifested her gratitude perfumed with fragrant oil, surrounded his by pleasant glances and kind words.
blooming, bronzed cheeks. An air of careless Notwithstanding this favorable turn of her gayety played round his finely-chiselled mouth, adventure, Alice longed for the return of her and happiness and content beamed from his brothers, as the thought of what would be the dark eyes. His doublet, of costly Dutch velend of all this filled her with serious misgiv- vet, and the golden chain encircling his neck, ings. Dangers might threaten her every mo- completed the picture of a wealthy young noment, alone and unprotected as she was amidst bleman of that time. Fortune seemed to have this horde of lads flushed with wine, mirth, been less favorable to his younger companion, and licentiousness. Moreover, the procession the ụnusual neatness of whose burgher-like moved farther and farther away from the spot dress made up for the plainness of the stuff of where her brothers would look for her. Her which it was made. His shorter, and almost confusion therefore increased at every step; girlish form, moreover, presented a not very but she took care to conceal her embarrass- advantageous contrast with that of his finement from her companions. With ardent in- looking friend. But a glance at his noble patience she turned her eyes in the direction face, at his high, expansive forehead, and his in which she thought her brothers would ap- deep, unfathomable eyes, satisfied attentive proach, but not a trace was to be discerned observers at once that he was a man of extraorof them. She overcame her dejection, how dinary genius. Despite the delicacy of these ever, for she was still in hopes that she would features, which made him appear much younger speedily be extricated from her embarrassing than he really was, they indicated a rare ripeposition.
ness of the mind. The color of his cheeks, without being sickly, showed the traces of his
nocturnal studies and exhausting meditations. , to the forest and fields, and to the bustle of An indescribable charm played round his the world. Art, too, shielded him from such finely-chiselled lips, and an air of intellectual aberrations. Milton's father was an excellent beauty illuminated the whole expressive face, musician, and communicated to his son at ap in whose delicate yet sharp lineaments femi- early age a taste for harmonious beauty. nine gentleness was coupled with manly, ear Neither did young Milton neglect bodily ex. nest, and even stubborn firmness.
ercise, and the young savant was as well The two young wanderers were homeward skilled in the practice of arms and in horse bound from one of their usual excursions. manship as he was at home in his books and They were very fond of roaming during the manuscripts. Under such circumstances friends fine season hand-in-hand through the forests and distinguished patrons could not be wantand fields. They shortened the length of the ing to him. roads by conversations alike instructive and For the rest, that period was a decidedly entertaining. Already at the University of prosperous one for the poets and learned men Cambridge Edward King, the only son of a of England. Science and literature, which, distinguished government officer, had become after reawakening in the fifteenth century very fond of his younger friend Milton, whose from that lethargy in which they had been father was a lawyer. The two youths studied long sunk, spread from Greece and Italy together the treasures of classical antiquity, throughout Europe, found here an especially whose ardent admirers they were. The works fertile and susceptible soil. After terrible of the noble Greeks and Romans kindled in civil wars and struggles between the hostile their souls an ardent enthusiasm for all that is factions, England had at length found a durable great and beautiful. Especially young Milton peace. The nation's energy turned to the distinguished himself by the zeal and earnest ocean surrounding this much-favored islandness with which he yielded to the spirit of an- realm on all sides. The commerce of the tiquity and rendered himself familiar with it. country soon became very extensive, and the He had soon obtained a thorough knowledge treasures of the most remote countries poured of the writings of the greatest philosophers into the coffers of Great Britain. Important and poets of Athens and Rome, and mastered discoveries and territorial acquisitions in disthe difficulties of both languages so well that tant parts of the world added to the wealth he himself was able to write beautiful poetry and prosperity of the people. While haughty in them. But his indefatigable industry did Spain, owing to her gloomy intolerance and not content itself with this: profoundly im- indolence, was declining more and more, the pressed with the sublime beauties of the Bible, greatness and commerce of England, under the he devoted himself to the arduous study of sceptre of the sagacious and powerful Elizathe Hebrew language, and, after incessant beth, had been constantly on the increase. toils, he succeeded to his utmost joy in read. The more enlightened spirit of Protestantism ing and understanding “God's Word” in the fostered and promoted this grand development original.
of the country, and aroused the moral and A rare good fortune preserved him from the material energy of the people. The progress lamentable pedantry which so often clings to of commerce and prosperity had considerable
His lively imagination protected influence in awakening the desires of the peohim from confining himself to one-sided studies, ple for increased culture and education, Elizaand always led him back from his dusty study I beth herself was a lover and protectress of