Via Crucis

Francis Marion Crawford
Via Crucis

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Title: Via Crucis
Author: F. Marion Crawford
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A Romance of the Second Crusade

"So Gilbert first met the Queen"
"Perhaps that is one reason why I like you"
"Crosses! Give us Crosses!"
Beatrix and Gilbert

"He ... held, while earth and sky whirled with him"
The Knighting of Gilbert
"For a space Gilbert answered nothing"
The Way of the Cross
The sun was setting on the fifth day of May, in the year of our Lord's
grace eleven hundred and forty-five. In the little garden between the
outer wall of the manor and the moat of Stoke Regis Manor, a lady
slowly walked along the narrow path between high rose bushes trained
upon the masonry, and a low flower-bed, divided into many little
squares, planted alternately with flowers and sweet herbs on one side,
and bordered with budding violets on the other. From the line where
the flowers ended, spiked rushes grew in sharp disorder to the edge of
the deep green water in the moat. Beyond the water stretched the close-
cropped sward; then came great oak trees, shadowy still in their spring
foliage; and then, corn-land and meadow-land, in long, green waves of
rising tilth and pasture, as far as a man could see.
The sun was setting, and the level rays reddened the lady's golden hair,
and fired the softness of her clear blue eyes. She walked with a certain
easy undulation, in which there were both strength and grace; and
though she could barely have been called young, none would have
dared to say that she was past maturity. Features which had been coldly
perfect and hard in early youth, and which might grow sharp in old age,
were smoothed and rounded in the full fruit-time of life's summer. As
the gold deepened in the mellow air, and tinged the lady's hair and eyes,
it wrought in her face changes of which she knew nothing. The beauty
of a white marble statue suddenly changed to burnished gold might be
beauty still, but of different expression and meaning. There is always
something devilish in the too great profusion of precious
metal--something that suggests greed, spoil, gain, and all that he lives
for who strives for wealth; and sometimes, by the mere absence of gold
or silver, there is dignity, simplicity, even solemnity.

Above the setting sun, tens of thousands of little clouds, as light and
fleecy as swan's-down, some dazzling bright, some rosy-coloured,
some, far to eastward, already purple, streamed across the pale sky in
the mystic figure of a vast wing, as if some great archangel hovered
below the horizon, pointing one jewelled pinion to the firmament, the
other down and unseen in his low flight. Just above the feathery oak
trees, behind which the sun had dipped, long streamers of red and
yellow and more imperial purple shot out to right and left. Above the
moat's broad water, the quick dark May-flies chased one another, in
dashes of straight lines, through the rosy haze, and as the sinking sun
shot a last farewell glance between the oak trees on the knoll, the lady
stood still and turned her smooth features to the light. There was
curiosity in her look, expectation, and some anxiety, but there was no
longing. A month, had passed since Raymond Warde had ridden away
with his half- dozen squires and servants to
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