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LAINE. Didst thou note her face? hath she beauty?

SIMON (shaking his fist at the window as he goes up the steps to the loft). Beauty! beauty! beauty!

LAINE (weeping upon JOAN's shoulder). Oh, alack-the-day!

JOAN. Hush! weep not!

LAINE. Mother, the Lord of Mirlemont doth forget how many ill-looking maids are within his township, or he would not shame them in this fashion. Oh, but none so ill-looking as I! none so ill-looking as I!

JOAN. The lord Philip! he cares naught so that he may feast his eyes on what is fair and delicate. Malison on him!

LAINE. Nay, mother, it can only be that he wishes to pleasure the townsfolk by this show of beauty.

JOAN. Why, prithee!

LAINE. Because — how long is't agone?— once, while I was drawing water at the well, I heard two old wives whisper that the lord Philip loves this eastern lady that dwells in the castle.

JOAN. Yea, and the gossips now declare that he wearies of her sorely. But thou'rt a child, and a poor innocent; give no ear to their rede, one way or another.

LAINE. Yet I would I could become a little brown moth to-day, for an hour, that I might flutter about the steps of the town-hall and gain a close peep at the lord Philip and the lady Saida.

JOAN. Foolish wench!

LAINE. Nay, not at her then, but at him. In sooth he is very gallant-looking.

JOAN. A sluggard, a dreamer; with a soft tongue, a heavy eye, and an idle sword. Gallant-looking! Where was our gallant when John the Fearless assembled the brave lords of Flanders about his standard at St. Omer? Why, snug within the castle of Mirlemont, listening to his olive-skinned dame singing to her lute, or watching her as she danced, waving her veils, in the sunlight upon the terrace. Where is he now when the Lord of Pieruels and the rebel-rats from Liege are laying waste the land and driving forth the good Prince Bishop like kine to the marsh? Why, dallying in our market-place, crowning with a wreath of blossom, and clasping with a girdle of virgin silver, the prettiest maid that simpers under his glances!

SIMON (descending the steps, carrying a pitcher). Hey, wife, what is all this coil?

JOAN (closing and barring the shutters). I am but chiding the child for being so deject over this mummery in the market-place.

SIMON (to LAINE). Come, girl, after all, Heaven's gate will not open more readily to cherry cheeks than to thy white face.

LAINE (wistfully). Yea, father, but one has to die first to prove it. Meanwhile, a maid must needs be beautiful, or 'tis but dreary waiting.

SIMON. Waiting is waiting, girl, for comely or crooked.

LAINE. Nay, love maketh the waiting easier.

SIMON. Love!

LAINE. So I have bethought me. And on earth the crooked and unsightly may not hope to be loved; therefore the waiting is irksome.

JOAN (approaching her). Gramercy! do we not love thee?

LAINE (embracing them). Truly. I am ungrateful.

SIMON (to JOAN). Come, wife. (At the open door, to LAINE.) Fasten up the door, and open to none but us.

SIMON and JOAN depart. LAINE secures the door. The room is now in darkness save
for the shaft of light coming from the opening to the loft.

LAINE. Ungrateful; in sooth, that am I. (Standing before the shrine.) And yet —

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