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Imaginary portraits, p.10

Imaginary Portraits, page 10


Imaginary Portraits

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the hand of the Lady Ariane.

  The goodly young man arrived, and, duly arrayed, was received into hisstall at vespers, the bishop assisting. It was then that the peopleheard the music of the organ, rolling over them for the first time,with various feelings of delight. But the performer on and author ofthe instrument was forgotten in his work, and there was nore-instatement of the former favourite. The religious ceremony wasfollowed by a civic festival, in which Auxerre welcomed its futurelord. The festival was to end at nightfall with a somewhat rudepopular pageant, in which the person of Winter would be huntedblindfold through the streets. It was the sequel [76] to that earlierstage-play of the Return from the East in which Denys had been thecentral figure. The old forgotten player saw his part before him, and,as if mechanically, fell again into the chief place, monk's dress andall. It might restore his popularity: who could tell? Hastily hedonned the ashen-grey mantle, the rough haircloth about the throat, andwent through the preliminary matter. And it happened that a point ofthe haircloth scratched his lip deeply, with a long trickling of bloodupon the chin. It was as if the sight of blood transported thespectators with a kind of mad rage, and suddenly revealed to them thetruth. The pretended hunting of the unholy creature became a real one,which brought out, in rapid increase, men's evil passions. The soul ofDenys was already at rest, as his body, now borne along in front of thecrowd, was tossed hither and thither, torn at last limb from limb. Themen stuck little shreds of his flesh, or, failing that, of his tornraiment, into their caps; the women lending their long hairpins for thepurpose. The monk Hermes sought in vain next day for any remains ofthe body of his friend. Only, at nightfall, the heart of Denys wasbrought to him by a stranger, still entire. It must long since havemouldered into dust under the stone, marked with a cross, where heburied it in a dark corner of the cathedral aisle.

  So the figure in the stained glass explained [77] itself. To me, Denysseemed to have been a real resident at Auxerre. On days of a certainatmosphere, when the trace of the Middle Age comes out, like old marksin the stones in rainy weather, I seemed actually to have seen thetortured figure there--to have met Denys l'Auxerrois in the streets.

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