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The Bridals Of Ysselmonde
by [?]

When the Grand Duke Ferdinand of Carinthia travelled in state to wed the Princess Sophia of Ysselmonde, he did so by land, and for two reasons; the first being that this was the shortest way, and the second that he possessed no ships. These, at any rate, were the reasons alleged by his Chancellor, to whom he left all arrangements. For himself, he took very little interest in the marriage beyond inquiring the age of his bride. “Six years,” was the answer, and this seemed to him very young, for he had already passed his tenth birthday.

The Pope, however, had contrived and blessed the match; so Ferdinand raised no serious objection, but in due course came to Ysselmonde with his bodyguard of the famous Green Carinthian Archers, and two hundred halberdiers and twelve waggons–four to carry his wardrobe, and the remaining eight piled with wedding presents. On the way, while Ferdinand looked for birds’ nests, the Chancellor sang the praises of the Princess Sophia, who (he declared) was more beautiful than the day. “But you have never seen her,” objected Ferdinand. “No, your Highness, and that is why I contented myself with a purely conventional phrase;” and the Chancellor, who practised finesse in his odd moments, began to talk of the sea, the sight of which awaited them at Ysselmonde. “And what is the sea like?” “Well, your Highness, the sea is somewhat difficult to describe, for in fact there is nothing to compare with it.” “You have seen it, I suppose?” “Sire, I have done more; for once, while serving as Ambassador at Venice, I had the honour to be upset in it.”

With such converse they beguiled the road until they reached Ysselmonde, and found the sea completely hidden by flags and triumphal arches. And there, after three days’ feasting, the little Grand Duke and the still smaller Princess were married in the Cathedral by the Cardinal Archbishop, and the Pope’s legate handed them his master’s blessing in a morocco-covered case, and as they drove back to the Palace the Dutchmen waved their hats and shouted “Boo-mp!” but the Carinthian Archers cried “Talassio!” which not only sounded better, but proved (when they obligingly explained what it meant) that the ancestors of the Grand Duke of Carinthia had lived in Rome long before any Pope.

On reaching the Palace the bride and bridegroom were taken to a gilded drawing-room, and there left to talk together, while the guests filled up the time before the banquet by admiring the presents and calculating their cost. Ferdinand said, “Well, that’s over;” and the Princess said, “Yes,”–for this was their first opportunity of conversing alone.

“You’re a great deal better than I expected,” said Ferdinand reassuringly. Indeed, in her straight dress sewn with seed-pearls and her coif of Dutch lace surmounted with a little crown of diamonds, the Princess looked quite beautiful; and he in his white satin suit, crossed with the blue ribbon of St. John Nepomuc, was the handsomest boy she had ever seen. “Besides,” he added, “my Chancellor says you are hereditary High Admiral of the Ocean–it’s in the marriage settlement; and that would make up for a lot. Where is it?”

“The Ocean?” She felt very shy still. “I have never seen it, but I believe it’s somewhere at the bottom of the garden.”

“Suppose we go and have a look at it?” She was about to say that she must ask leave of her governess, but he looked so masterful and independent that she hadn’t the courage. It gave her quite a thrill as he took her hand and led her out through the low window to the great stone terrace. They passed down the terrace steps into a garden ablaze with tulip beds in geometrical patterns; at the foot ran a yew hedge, and beyond it, in a side-walk, they came upon a scullion boy chasing a sulphur-yellow butterfly. The Grand Duke forgot his fine manners, and dropped his bride’s hand to join in the chase; but the boy no sooner caught sight of him than he fled with a cry of dismay and popped into an arbour. There, a minute later, the bride and bridegroom found him stooping over a churn and stirring with might and main.