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The tiniest weed that blooms in fallow ground
Arms all its children for the battle-field.
In myriad warriors weapon'd cap-a-pie
Swarm forth upon the land. The bursting pods
Their elfin shrapnel scatter far and wide.
Aerial scouts on downy pinions flit,
And awns prick lancet-wise, and clutching burs
Grapple the fleeces of the wandering sheep,
Invade the farm-lands and possess the soil.
The curse of Eden falling on the flowers
Drove them to self-defense and made the world
One vast weed-garden. Yes more dreadful still,
Buried within the heart of many a plant
Lie deadly drops of poisonous essences,
Nightshade, and spearwort, aconite and poppy.
That slay more swift and sure than tempered steel.
The least of little folk, or soon or late,
May by such hidden terrors rule the great.
The least of little folk, unseen, unknown,
May find that saving strength is theirs alone.
THE LOZENGES OF GIOVANNI
HOW A MILANESE BAKER-BOY AND A PADUAN PHYSICIAN KEPT POISON OUT OF THE KING'S DISH
ANULPH the troubadour was riding along a lonely
moorland trail, singing softly to himself. In so poor
a neighborhood there was little fear of robbers, and
the Barbury horse which he had under him could outrun
most other horses. The light-stepping hoofs made
little noise upon the springy turf, and as the song
ended he heard some one sobbing behind a group of
stunted bushes. He halted and listened. The sound
"Hola! little friend, wait a moment!"
There was no answer. Somehow he did not like to leave
the mystery unsolved. There must be a child in
trouble, but what child could there be in this wild
place, and neither Norman nor Saxon? I t was not far
enough to the West to be Welsh borderland, and it was
too far south to be near either Scotland or the
Danelaw. He spoke in Provencal, and the fugitive
halted at the sound of the soft southern o's and a's;
then he spoke in the Lombard dialect of Milan. A boy
 ventured out of the thicket and stood staring at him.
Ranulph flung himself off his horse and held out his
"Come here, little comrade, and tell me who you are,
and why you are all alone here."
The boy's eyes grew wider in his elvish face and his
hands opened and shut nervously as he answered in
"I am no one, and I have no home. Take me not to
"There is no thought of a prison, my lad, but I cannot
waith here. Come, ride with me, and I will take you to
a kind woman who will take care of you."
The boy hesitated, but at last loneliness conquered
timidity and distrust, and he came. The troubadour
swung him up to the front of the saddle and they rode
on through the gathering dusk. Forgetting his terror
as he heard the familiar sound of his native tongue,
the boy told his story readily enough. His name was
Giovanni Bergamotto, but he had been born in Milan, in
the year that Barbarossa crossed the Alps. The first
thing that he could really remember was his mother
crying over her father and two brothers, who had been
killed in the siege. He remembered many days when
there was nothing to eat in the house. When Milan was
taken he was old enough to walk at his mother's side as
the people were driven out and the city destroyed so
that no one should ever live there again. His father
had been killed when the Emperor hung a siege-tower all
over with hostages and captives to be shot at by their
own people within the walls. He remembered his
grandfather lifting him up to see when the Carocchio
was brought out, and the great crucifix above the globe
was lowered to do homage to the Emperor. He
remembered seeing the Imperial
 banner unfurled
from the top of the Cathedral. These things, his
grandfather told him, no Milanese should ever forget.
He and his mother had wandered about from one city
to another until his mother died, two or three years
later. He had worked for a pastry cook who beat him
and starved him. At last he had run away and stolen
his passage on a ship bound for England. They had
beaten him when they found him, but kept him to help
the cook. When he landed at a southern port on the
English coast, he had found himself in a land of cold
mist, where no sun shone, no fruit grew, and no one
knew his language. He had turned at first naturally to
the towns, for he was a city boy and craved the
companionship of the crowd. But when he said that he
was a Lombard they seemed to be angry. Perhaps there
was some dreadful mistake, and he was in a land where
the Ghibellines, the friends of the Emperoe, were the
When at last he faltered out this question his new
friendgave a compassionate little laugh and patted his
"No, little one, there is no fear of that. This is
England, and the English King rules all the people. We
have neither Guelf nor Ghibelline. A red rose here—is
just a rose," he added as he saw Giovanni's questioning
look at the crimson rose in his cap. Red roses were
the flower of the Guelf party in North Italian cities,
as the white rose was the badge of the Ghibellines who
favored the Imperial party; and the cities were divided
between the two and fiercely partisan.
"The Lombards in London," Ramulph went on, "are often
money-lenders, and this the people hate. That is why
 black hair and eyes and thy Lombard tongue
made them suspect thee, little comrade."
Giovanni gave a long sigh of relief and fell silent,
and when he was lifted off the horse at the door of
Dame Lavender he had to be shaken awake to eat his
supper. Then he was put to bed in a corner of the
attic under the thatched roof, and the fragrance of
well-known herbs and flowers came stealing into his
dreams on the silent wind of the night.
Language is not needed when a boy finds himself in the
home of a born mother. All the same, Giovanni felt
still more as is he must have waked up in heaven when
he found sitting by the hearth a kind, grave old man
who was himself an Italian, and to whom the tragedy of
the downfall of Milan was known. Tomaso the physician
told Dame Lavender all about it while Giovanni was
helping Mary sort herbs in the still-room. Mary had
learned a little of the physician's language and knew
what he liked, and partly by signs, partly in hobbling
Italian, they arrived at a plan for making a vegetable
soup and cooking a chicken for dinner in a way that
Giovanni knew. As the fragrance of the simmering broth
came in at the door Tomaso sniffed it, smiled and went
to see what the little waif was about. Standing in the
doorway he watched Giovanni slicing garlic and nodded
to himself. Men had died of a swift dagger-thrust in a
by-street of Lombardy because they cut an onion or ate
an orange in the enemy's fashion. By such small signs
were Guelf and Ghibelline known.
"My boy," said the old physician, when dinner was over
and Giovanni, pleased beyond measure at the compliments
 his cooking, was awaiting further orders,
"do you know that Milan is going to be rebuilt?"
The Milanese boy's pinched white face lighted with
incredulous rapture. "Rebuilt?" he stammered.
"Some day," said Tomaso. "The people of four Lombard
cities met in secret and made that vow not three years
after the Emperor gained his victory. They have built
a city at the joining of two rivers, and it Alexandria
after the Pope whom he drove out of Rome. He still has
his own governors in the cities that he conquered, but
the League is gaining every month. Milan will be once
more the Queen of the Midland—perhaps before very long.
But it is a secret."
"They many kill me," Giovanni stammered, "but I will
not tell. I will never tell."
Tomaso smiled. "I knew that, my son," he said. "That
is why I spoke of this to you. You may talk freely to
me or to Ranulph the troubadour, but to no one else
unless we give you leave. You must be patient, wise
and industrious, and fit yourself to be a true citizen
of the Commune. For the present, you must be a good
subject of the English King, and learn the language."
Giovanni hid the precious secret in his heart during
the months that followed, and learned both English and
French with a rapidity that astonished Dame Lavender.
He had a wisdom in herbs and flowers, too, that was
almost uncanny. In the kitchen-gardens of the great
houses where he had been a scullion, there were many
plants used for perfumes, flavorings or coloring
fluids, which were quite unknown to the English cook.
He was useful to Dame Lavender both in the garden and
the still-room. He knew how to make
vari-  ous delicious cakes as well, and how to combine spices and
honey and syrups most cunningly, for he had seen
pastry-cooks and confectioners preparing state
banquets, and he never forgot anything he had seen.
The castle which crowned the hill in the midst of the
small town where Dame Lavender lived had lately been
set in order for the use of a very great lady—a lady
not young, but accustomed to luxury and good living—and
all the resources of Dame Lavender's garden had been
taxed to provide perfumes, ointments and fresh
rose-leaves, for the linen-presses and to be strewn
about the floors. Mary and her mother had all that
they could do in serving Queen Eleanor.
The Queen was not always easy to please. In her youth
she had traveled with Crusaders and known the strange
cities of the East; she had escaped once from a castle
by night, in a boat, to free herself from a
too-persistent suitor. She was not one of the meek
ladies who spent their days in needlework, and as for
spinning and weaving, she had asked scornfully if they
would have her weave herself a hair shirt like a
hermit. Mary Lavender was not, of course, a maid of
honor, but she found that the Queen seemed rather to
like having her about.
"I wish I had you secret, Marie of the Flowers," said
graceful Philippa, one weary day. "Tell me what you
do, that our Lady the Queen likes so well,"
Mary smiled in her frank, fearless way. "It may be,"
she answered, "That it is the fragrance of the flowers.
She desires now to embroider red roses for a cushion,
and I have to ask Master Tomaso how to dye the thread."
The embroidering of red roses became popular at once,
 soon there was a new trouble. The Queen
began to find fault with her food
"This cook flavors all his dishes alike," she said
pettishly. "He thinks that colored toys of pastry and
isinglass feed a man's stomach. When the King comes
here—although he never knows what is set before him,
that is true,—I would like well to have a fit meal for
his gentlemen. Tell this Beppo that if he cannot cook
plain toothsome dishes I will send for a farmer's wench
from Longley Farm."
This was the first that had been heard of the King's
intended visit, and great was the excitement in the
kitchen. Ranulph dismounted at the door of Dame
Lavender's cottage and asked for Giovanni. Beppo the
cook had been calling for more help, and the local
labor market furnished nothing that suited him. Would
Giovanni come? He would do anything for Ranulph and
"That is settled, then," laughed Ranulph. "I shall not
have to scour the country for a scullion with hands
about him instead of hoofs or horns."
In his fourteen years of poverty the little Italian had
learned to hold his tongue and keep his eyes open.
Beppo was glad enough to have a helper who did not have
to be told anything twice, and in the hurry-scurry of
the preparations Giovanni made himself useful beyond
belief. The cakes, however, did not suit the Queen.
Mary came looking for Giovanni in the kitchen-garden.
"Vanni," she said, "will you make some of your lozenges
for the banquet? Beppo says you may. I think that
perhaps his cakes are not simple enough, and I know
that the Kink likes plain fare."
 Giovanni turned rather white. "Very well
Mistress Mary," he answered.
Giovanni's lozenges were not candies, although they
were diamond-shaped like the lozenges that are named
after them. They were cakes made after the recipe
still used in some Italian bakeries. He pounded six
almonds; then he weighed eight eggs and put enough
pounded sugar in the opposite scale to balance them;
then he took out the eggs and weighed an equal amount
of flour, and of butter. He melted the butter in a
little silver saucepan. The eggs were not beaten,
because egg-beaters had not been invented; they were
strained through a sieve from a height into a bowl, and
thus mixed with air. Two of the eggs were added to the
pounded almonds, and then the whole was mixed with a
wooden spoon in a wooden bowl. The paste was spread on
a thin copper plate and baked in an oven built into the
stone wall and heated by a fireplace underneath. While
still warm the cake was cut into diamond-shaped pieces,
called lozenges after the carved stone memorial tablets
in cathedrals. The Queen approved them, and said that
she would have those cakes and none other for the
banquet, but with a little more spice. Beppo, who had
paid the sweetmeats a grudging compliment, produced
some ground spice from his private stores and told
Giovanni to use that.
"Vanni," said Mary laughing as she passed through the
kitchen on the morning of the great day, "do you always
scour your dishes as carefully as this?" The boy
looked up from the copper plate which he was polishing.
Mary thought he looked rather somber for a cook who had
just been promoted to the office of baker to the King.
 "Things cannot be too clean," he said briefly.
"Mistress Mary, will you ask Master Tomaso for some of
the spice that he gave to your mother, for me?"
Mary's blue eyes opened. Surely a court cook like Beppo
ought to have all the spice needed for a simple cake
like this. However, she brought Giovanni a packet of
the fragrant stuff an hour later, and found Beppo
fuming because the work was delayed. The basked of
selected eggs had been broken, the melted butter had
been spilled, and the cakes were not yet ready for the
oven. Giovanni silently and deftly finished beating
his pastry, added the spice, rolled out the dough,
began the baking. When the cakes came out of the oven,
done to a turn, and with a most alluring smell, he
stood over them as they cooled and packed them
carefully with his own hands into a basket. Mary
Lavender came through the kitchen just as the last
layer was put in.
"Those are beautiful cakes, Vanni," she said kindly.
"I am sure they are fit for the King. Did you use the
spice I gave you?"
Giovanni's heart gave a thump. He had not reckoned on
the fact that simple Mary had grown up where there was
not need of hiding a plain truth, and now Beppo would
know. The cook turned on him.
"What? What?" he cried. "You did not use my spices?
You take them and do not use them?"
Mary began to feel frightened. The cook's black eyes
were flashing and his mustache bristling with
excitement, until he looked like the cross cat on the
border of the Queen's book of fables. But Giovanni was
standing his ground.
"I used good spice," he said firmly. "Try and see."
 He held out one of the cakes to Beppo, who dashed
it furiously to the ground.
"Where are my spices?" he shrieked. "You meant to
steal them?" He dashed at the lad and seized him as if
to search for the spices. Giovanni shook in his grasp
like a rat in the jaws of a terrier, but he did not
"I sent that packet of spice to Master Tomaso an hour
ago," he gasped defiantly, "asking him if it was
wholesome to use in the kitchen—and here he is now."
At sight of the old physician standing calm as a judge
in the doorway, Beppo bolted through the other door,
seized a horse that stood in the courtyard and was gone
before the astonished servants got their breath.
"What is all this?" inquired Tomaso. "I came to warn
that man that the packet of spice which you sent is
poison. Where did you get it?"
"The cook bought it of a peddler and gave it to Vanni,"
answered Mary, scared but truthful. "You all heard him
say that he did," she added to the bystanders. "He
told Vanni to use it in these cakes, but Vanni used the
spice you gave us."
"I have seen that peddler before," gasped Giovanni.
"He tried to bribe me to take the Queen a letter and a
packed, and I would not. I put some of the spice in
honey, and the flies that ate if it died. Then I sent
it to you."
"It was a subtle device," said Tomaso slowly. "The
spice would disguise the flavor. Every one knew that
Giovanni was to make the cakes, and that the Queen will
not come to the banquet. When it is served do you send
each sauce to me for testing. We will have no poison
in the King's dish."
 The plot as Tomaso guessed had not been born of
jealousy of a cook, but of subtler brains beyond the
seas. The Queen might well have been held responsible
if the poison had worked. But when she heard of it she
"I have not been loyal," she flung out, in tearful
defiance, "but I would not have done that—never that!"