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Boys of the Ages by  Laura Woolsey Lord Scales


 

 

CHRISTOLPHE AND THE GOLDEN FLEECE

THE FLEMISH WEAVER

[89] The Place du Bourg in Bruges was crowded with people. From the walls of the houses hung gay-colored tapestries and bright banners, and from the windows ladies in their strange, horned headdresses looked down and over the heads of the crowd to an altar standing in front of the Town Hall. All the people of the city were on the streets,—nobles in their gorgeous velvet cloaks, members of the trade guilds, the weavers, butchers and metal-workers in high caps, friars in their rough robes, the sisterhood of the Béguines in their stiff white bonnets, poor peasants and work people in their tunics,—the poor and the rich all were eagerly straining to see.

The crowds jostled and frightened Jeanne and her little son, who were trying to reach a place where they could peep through. It was hard work, for Jeanne was frail and her little boy was lame. "Canst thou see here, little son?" she stopped and asked. "If I could but lift thee! For surely thou must see, when we have toiled so hard to come." She looked down longingly at the little fellow, who clung with one hand to [90] her skirt while with the other he held tight to his crutch. "And thou shalt see," she hugged him close to her. "Thou shalt see. The holy relic has worked miracles before, they say, miracles harder than to cure thee. When the priest comes and lifts it, I will hold thee up, Christolphe. Somehow, somehow, my poor body, thou must be good for that!" The little boy smiled up at her, and patiently they waited for the great moment to come.

This was the day of the Procession of the Holy Blood in Bruges. On this day in May, as for a hundred years before, a procession had formed and was escorting through the streets of Bruges its chief treasure,—the drops of the Holy Blood. This was the Holy Blood of our Lord which Count Dierick and his chaplain had brought from Palestine three hundred years before. For in reward for his good services as a Crusader the Patriarch of Jerusalem had given him in a little tube some of the water with which Joseph of Arimathea had washed the body of our Lord and which had in it some of his blood, as all believed. It had been placed in the Chapel of the Holy Blood, and once a year it was brought out and carried in a beautiful shrine through the streets of the city to the Place du Bourg, where, at an altar, it was lifted up by the priest in the sight of all the people.


[Illustration]

THE GIVING OF THE ROSES

This tapestry woven in the middle of the fifteenth century shows some of the costumes of the time,—the high, horned headdresses of the ladies and the sausage-shaped hats of the men. (Photograph furnished by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)


Today, as so many times before, the people were waiting anxiously for that great moment. At last sounds of music were heard,—the solemn chanting [91] of litanies and singing of hymns as the procession came in view. Priests were in front, nuns in their long veils and burghers in rich dressed followed, and behind them groups, or living pictures, from the holy time gone by. There were John and James and Peter and others of the Apostles, King Herod and his court, and, best of all, Mary and Joseph and the babe in the manger.

"Ah, if thou couldst but see the Christ Child," Jeanne whispered to her son, "and his blessed mother, too. Ah, but Mary is sweet this year, sweeter to look on than I ever saw her." Behind all this pageant came the bishops and priests, and acolytes with their incense pots sweetening the air, and in their midst the Sacred Shrine containing the Holy Blood. They came to the altar, and the priest stood above the crowd and raised high the tube with the sacred blood so that all might see. Then Jeanne with a great effort caught up her boy in her arms. "Look!" she said. "Look well and say thy prayer." Then as everyone bowed low she dropped him back in his place and knelt down beside him; and all kept solemn silence while the holy relic was returned to its place in the chapel close by.

But when all was over and the crowd began to move, Jeanne did not stir. Christolphe pulled at her skirt, but she stayed on her knees with her head sunk forward. Someone came up beside him, and he felt an arm about him; and the kind face of Sister Lisette [93] framed in the wide bonnet of the Béguines looked into his. "Come with me," she said. "Thy mother is ill, and here comes Sister Margot to care for her. But thou and I will go to my house in the Béguinage, and soon there will be good hot soup for thee and me." Christolphe went with her and there he stayed. It was not for one night only but for many nights and years, for with the passing of the Holy Blood his tired mother had died and passed on to her place of rest.


[Illustration]

THE BÉGUINAGE in BRUGES

The buildings at the back of the picture are the church and houses of the Béguines, or Sisters


But Sister Lisette was glad to give him a home in her neat little whitewashed cottage in the quiet inclosure of the Béguinage, and he was happy, as far as a motherless boy can be. For Christolphe was not cured [94] of his lameness, whether because he had not looked long enough on the relic or whether because for some reason it was not a day of miracle-working.

Yet he, with his one bad leg, could walk as fast as other boys with two good ones, and his hands were cleverer and his head was busier than most with inventions and dreams. The good sisters, sitting in the sun at their lace-making or walking to and from their church, found their lives less tranquil than they had been: some strange contrivance known only to a boy lay in their path, or across their green lawn echoed the shouts of children. But Sister Lisette was content. Her garden grew twice as well since Christolphe's fingers helped to pull at the weeds, and on cold winter nights when she came back from visiting her sick the fire on her hearth was burning brightly, and a little boy lay curled up before it building up the coals a city of dreams. This was Christolphe's favorite hour and place, especially when he came in cold and disappointed from watching the skaters. Skating was one of the things he could not do, though he greatly longed to glide and whirl like the others and make the beautiful, sweeping motions lovely as the flight of a bird.

He was always a little unhappy after such afternoons of watching by the Minnewater, but one day he heard something which sent him to the fire to think. One of the bigger girls had asked another why she did not try the Wishing Bridge. And she explained that beyond the Minnewater there was a little bridge and if you [95] went there just at midnight and made a wish, alone, they said you wish came true. "Go try it tonight," she coaxed the other girl, "do, and see if Jan's heart won't come back and be true to thee." So Christolphe lay before the fire questioning whether it were only wishes about hearts, or whether wishes about legs would probably come true, too. It seemed worth the trying. He said nothing, but that night he did not go to sleep as usual, and when he heard the bells ring half past eleven, he slipped into his clothes and stole out. The night was dark and bitter cold and terrifyingly still. He almost hoped that the girl would be there, too, even though she spoiled his wish, for it was shivery work to be alone near the black water at such an hour. He crept along softly, as if the least sound might startle a hobgoblin or a demon. But no one was at the bridge, nothing was anywhere but blackness and cold and stillness. He waited. Suddenly there was a loud clangor, and he jumped in terror. But it was only the familiar deep, sweet tones from the Great Belfry, sounding at this hour strange and wild. Ten, eleven, twelve,—the Belfry chimes were telling him that his moment of midnight was come. Quickly he made his wish: "I want to run like other boys. Please give me a new leg." Then he ran back faster than most boys could hope to do, and he did not stop shaking until long after he was safely back in bed. Sister Lisette never knew about it, and he never told anyone, but waited, wondering how long it took the magic to work.


[Illustration]

WINTER

This is a tapestry woven in Flanders three hundred years ago and shows the people skating in the moat of a castle. (From a tapestry lent to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)


[97] But Sister Lisette did discover that he had a cold, and watching the skaters was therefore forbidden, so he had to find some other occupation. By good luck he found one much better. He was straying down the street when through an open door he saw a sight that held him open-mouthed and wide-eyed. On a huge sort of frame was stretched a picture, and even while he watched, the picture grew, as a man's hands went back and forth weaving with bright-colored threads. Already there were the tops of two trees and something gold hanging and a fearful creature's head,—a dragon with a long, red tongue. The old weaver looked up from his task and saw Christolphe's crutch and glowing face. "Come in an' thou wilt," he said. "I reckon thy life isn't overfull of pleasures, is it? Come in, lad, if thou wilt be still and not trouble us while we work." Christolphe went in and looked and looked. The room was full of looms with men at work, but it was the old weaver's tapestry that held him. Only after a long time did he dare to breathe aloud, "What is it?"

"What! Dost not know the Golden Fleece?" the old weaver exclaimed. "And thou a boy of Bruges! Not to know the Golden Fleece when he sees it! Why, it was here but round the corner that Duke Philip founded his Order of the Knights,—the Knights of the Golden Fleece. I well remember the day,—the day when he and Isabella of Portugal were married. Dost not know the Knights? Thou must have seen one."

[98] Christolphe shook his head. "What does he look like?" he asked.

"He looks like a very splendid gentleman, to be sure," said the weaver, "and thou knowest him from all others by his long red coat and his cap with a long tail to it, and because around his neck he wears a collar,—a chain of steel links and firestones and hanging from it a lamb of gold."

"I did not know," said Christolphe. "Are there really golden lambs?"

"Tut, tut!" the old weaver shook his head. "He does not even know the story of Jason and the Golden Fleece. Why, lad, where dost thou live?"

"In the Béguinage with Sister Lisette."

"Ah, so, so. I see, I see. Well, dost see here," he pointed to his loom, "a fleece of gold and a dragon? And soon my fingers will weave Jason—Jason who came over land and over sea, and did all sorts of deeds thou shouldst hear about, until at last he carried off the Golden Fleece. But Medea helped him, she who was the enchantress and knew all the secret ways to protect him against the dragon."

"Oh, tell me please," begged Christolphe.

"Nay, I am no story-teller,—except with my fingers," the old man said, and he threaded on his bobbin a gleaming thread of gold. Yet he told, bit by bit, enough about Jason and the quest for the Golden Fleece so that Christolphe had the story. Then his mind was full of questions.


[Illustration]

PHILIP, DUKE OF BURGUNDY

The Duke is dressed in the costume of the Order of the Golden Fleece,—crimson gown, cloak, cap and collar with golden lamb


[100] "And is it from Jason's Golden Fleece that Duke Philip has named his Knights?" he asked.

"So thinks the lord for whom I weave this tapestry," the weaver replied. "But some say it is from Gideon's fleece they got their name."

"Gideon's fleece! Tell me that! Who was Gideon?" begged Christolphe all in one breath, for he was hearing more stories today than he had even known existed outside of his own head.

But the old weaver had had enough stories enough for one afternoon. "Go ask the priest," he said. "Gideon is his story, for Gideon was a man of God. However, Jason suits me well enough, and I would I had his Golden Fleece."

"Where is it now?" Christolphe demanded eagerly.

"I said but now, I would I knew." The old man took his shears and cut off the knotted ends of his threads. "Perhaps some day some young hero like thee will find it." He winked slyly at Christolphe. "I'm old,—no more adventures for me."

"But Duke Philip's Knights,—do they not go to seek the Golden Fleece?"

"Nay, they get their gold an easier way,—by fleecing the burghers and the poor of Bruges," and at that, the weaver put back his head and laughed and laughed at his own joke. But after that, when Christolphe tried to question him about the fleece, he said, "I know not where it is, and there's an end to it." And he refused to talk any more.

[101] Before the fire that night, Christolphe went over and over again in his mind the wonderful tapestry and the wonderful story. He thought about it until a new wish and a new plan formed in his mind. Again he stayed awake in the dark of his room, and again just before midnight he slipped out to the Wishing Bridge. This time it did not seem so black and awful, for he was fortified by the dreams of a would-be hero, and when the sweet chimes rang out the midnight hour, he spoke bravely. "Please, I want to change my wish. I want, instead, to go to find the Golden Fleece."

The next day, and the next, and all that followed found Christolphe in the weaver's shop watching his story grow. Sometimes the old weaver talked with him, and little by little told him about the making of the tapestry from its very beginning. He told him how it began with the sheep: the sheep was shorn of its fleece, and then the wool was cleaned and carded, and the thread was spun, fine and strong, and then it was dipped into the dyes, the wonderful dyes of blue and rose and emerald and pearl, until at last the bright skeins of wool came to the weaver's hand. He had a picture, made perhaps by some great painter, and when he had put that in place behind his loom he began to weave all the figures—everything just as it was in the picture. Christolphe saw how it was done: saw how the old weaver threaded his bobbin with a thread of red or blue or gold and then went in and out, in and out, of the long threads stretched between the rollers; [102] saw how, when he had woven back and forth over and over again, he took a heavy wooden comb and pressed the rows tightly together so that they were firm and solid. It looked at once so easy and yet, as the perfect forms took shape, so hard! Christolphe watched until he had his lesson by heart.

Then he came home and made himself a miniature loom with two pieces of board at the top and bottom, like the big loom of the weaver; he begged threads from the Sisters and even scraps from the shop; he stretched the warp threads and traced on them in outline a pair of trees and a hanging fleece, and then he himself started in to weave. He worked day after day. No one could have guessed a little fellow would have such patience. He worked until one day it was done, and he went and thrust his work into his old friend's hands.

"What, what!" said the weaver. "Thou didst this? Why, this—for a little lad! Here's the tree, and here's the fleece, I swear. What, what! Keep on, my lad, keep on. Thou art on thy way to the Golden Fleece, the real Golden Fleece of Flanders, made of the finest wool and threads of gold and men's sure hands. Go on, my son, and some day when thou art old enough, come back or, better still, go to more-famed weavers than I am, and they will gladly take thee for an apprentice. But keep at it now, and some day, mark my words, thou wilt see that thou hast won the real Golden Fleece."


[Illustration]

A CASTLE IN THE COUNTRY

This charming scene is from a Book of Hours, made in the fifteenth century and pictures life in the country at that time


[104] The old weaver was apt to speak in riddles and Christolphe often did not understand him. But this time he thought he understood: he seemed to be urging him to find the Golden Fleece, and then he could become a great weaver afterwards. It was just what he himself wanted. He wanted to adventure forth beyond the city walls and see what he might find. Out there someone might know where the fleece was and help him. He dreamt about it before the fire and laid his plans, and one day he was ready. He left word for Sister Lisette not to worry—the old weaver knew why he had gone, and he would be back soon. Then he set out, his crutch in hand, a bundle with his new woven tapestry slung on his back, and around his neck something new which he had made,—a collar made of bits of leather and wool and hanging from it a wooden lamb gilded to look as if it were gold. This was a Knight of the Golden Fleece going out on his quest.

Early in the morning as the market people were streaming into the city he slipped out between the big watchtowers of the Porte de Gand, and was on the open road when the birds began to sing. It was beautiful. He had never seen the open country like this: the peasants with their rude wooden plows, the windmills, the canals with bright-colored boats tied at anchor, the fresh green fields and grazing cattle, and the soft feathery trees. It was all a procession of delights. He did not mind going slowly because of his crutch. Someone overtook him, and a friar in a long [105] gray dress and sandaled feet stopped and spoke. "Since we are traveling the same road," he said, "shall we not go on together?" It was pleasant to have such friendly company, and Christolphe soon told the friar his name, and the man was good enough not to ask his business, but he saw the strange chain about the boy's neck and began to guess its meaning. "Ah, the chain of the Order of the Golden Fleece! Thou art then a knight, a knight on a pilgrimage journey perhaps?" He spoke kindly and with a twinkle in his eyes, for though he was a friar and old, he had once been a boy himself and had not entirely forgotten. "Tell me, then, about it. Perhaps I can aid thee, for I myself have taken many a pilgrimage. Up and down this land I've wandered in the service of my Order."

Christolphe hesitated, but as he looked into the gentle, wise face of the friar he wondered if perhaps here was the very man he had hoped for,—the man who knew the way to the Golden Fleece. "Could you—could you—tell me what became of Jason's Golden Fleece and where to go to find it?" he quavered.

"Jason's Golden Fleece! Nay, it is not Jason's fleece thou seekest," the friar hastily contradicted him. "It was not from that the Order of the Golden Fleece took its name. God forbid," his tones were stern, "God forbid that Duke Philip should pattern his knights after an infidel and a man who broke his faith like Jason. Nay, it is from Gideon's fleece that thy Order is named."

[106] "Gideon? Not Jason, but Gideon?" Christolphe was surprised. Yet he remembered that the weaver too had spoken of Gideon. "Tell me then, please, about him."

"Dost not know the story of Gideon? Listen, then, for this is a better tale than thine of Jason." The friar told a story well, better than the old weaver. "Gideon," he said, "was a mighty man of battle, a leader of his people, but before he went to fight his enemies he wished to know that God was with him and would prosper him. So he spoke to God, saying, 'I will put a fleece on the threshing-floor; if there be dew on the fleece and it be dry upon all the ground, then shall I know that thou art with me.' And so it was. In the morning he wrung much dew from the fleece while all the ground was dry. But even so Gideon asked yet one more sign: he asked that the Lord on the next night leave the fleece dry and let the dew fall upon the ground around it. And it fell so the second time, even as he asked. Then Gideon understood that he was the chosen of the Lord, and he did many mighty deeds. And it is in memory of him, be sure, that Duke Philip has set apart his Order of the Golden Fleece, his Knights who have pledged themselves to defend the faith and do valiant deeds."

Christolphe had listened eagerly, but plainly he was disappointed. After a moment he objected timidly. "Only you see that fleece was not gold, was it? And it is the Golden Fleece."

[107] "Not golden? Who knows? Who knows?" the friar replied quickly. "In worth it was indeed more than gold, for it was the sign of the favor of God."

But again Christolphe had his question ready. "But what became of Gideon's fleece?" he asked. "Can anyone find it?" Then his face brightened. "Duke Dierick and the Crusaders in the Holy Land, did they see it? Did they bring it back like the Holy Blood? Where do you go to find it now?"

The good friar looked from the boy's glowing face to his crutch and twisted leg. "Nay, the way to win Gideon's fleece is not to go on a quest as Jason did. The fleece of Gideon comes to him who does some worthy deed."

Christolphe thought this over. The worthiest of worthy deeds did not seem as interesting to him just then as an adventure into the world, and he was determined not to turn tamely back. The friar, who was bound for Tournai and the monastery of St. Martin, knew it was a long walk, but he let Christolphe go on with him. However, he took pains to send word back to Sister Lisette, and when they reached the monastery, where he himself was to stay for only a few days, he told the monks Christolphe's whole story. The monks were very kind to Christolphe, but he was troubled, wondering what to do about his quest. Which was the true story? Was it Jason's Golden Fleece or Gideon's? Must he go on a long journey to find it, or must he do some worthy deed?

[108] One day it happened that as he and Brother Norbert, his favorite of the brothers, were in the town together they passed the shop of Robert Dary and Jean de l'Ortye, two famous tapestry-weavers of the time, and Christolphe stopped like one entranced. Even he could recognize the wonder and beauty of their work, beyond anything he had ever seen in Bruges. He would not stir. "Why, look at the boy!" said Brother Norbert. "Art spellbound? What is this to thee?"

And Christolphe answered, "Some day I am to be a weaver, a master weaver, after I have—after—" he stopped, for he was thinking of the Golden Fleece.

Brother Norbert understood. "After thou hast shown thyself worthy?" he said. "Is that what thou art thinking? I know thy desire. The friar has told me. Stay then with us and let us teach thee. I swear thou art as likely to find the Golden Fleece here as anywhere. And all things are easier to him who is well taught. Then when thou art old enough thou canst decide the matter for thyself."

"I know that I must be a weaver," Christolphe answered, "that is sure. The old weaver said it. But the Golden Fleece—I wish I knew!"

"Thou wilt know when thou hast studied and canst read the books," said Brother Norbert gently. "Stay with us, then."

That evening Christolphe showed Brother Norbert his own little weaving which he had brought all the way strapped on his back. Norbert showed it to the other [109] brothers,—and all nodded their heads in surprised approval. "But let Robert Dary and Jean de l'Ortye see that!" they exclaimed. And so it came about that these two master weavers not only saw his work but agreed willingly that when the boy was three or four years older he should enter their shop to become their apprentice and learn his trade. It was a great opportunity, as Christolphe realized even before the monks told him so; and when, after consulting with Sister Lisette, they arranged of their own accord that he was in the meantime to stay with them and have an education, he was very glad. It was not the quest of the Golden Fleece he had planned, but he trusted Brother Norbert and hoped and waited.

Life with the monks, in the gardens, in the refectory, in the chapel, in the scriptorium with the beautiful parchment books which he was learning to read,—all was delightful. And at every chance he slipped away and watched Robert Dary and Jean de l'Ortye at work. The years went fast, and he was soon fourteen and was duly apprenticed to work for three years in the famous shop. He had not forgotten the Golden Fleece, but as Brother Norbert had foretold, he now understood better about it. He knew that he could not find it by going on a pilgrimage, that he could no more hope to reach it than the beautiful cities he used to build in the coals at Sister Lisette's. But he did not give it up. Now it stood for his dream, the great thing he yet hoped to do or be some day.


[Illustration]

FLOWER TAPESTRY OF THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY

Evidently the tapestry weavers knew and loved their flowers, for each varierty is carefully pictured. (Photograph furnished by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)


[110] The work at the shop went well: he learned fast and worked hard and loved it, and in spite of his lameness more than kept up with the other boys. Everything seemed to favor him, when one day the master called all the men of the shop together and told them that a catastrophe had taken place: a large supply of costly gold threads to be used in one of the tapestries had disappeared,—had been stolen, as they believed. Who was guilty? It was of immense value and must be found. All eyes were turned [111] on the four apprentices and especially on Christolphe and another named Gherard, who were newcomers in the shop. "We give you all until tomorrow morning," said the masters. "Let the gold be returned then, and no questions will be asked. But if it come not back, then the innocent will be punished with the thief. For the guilt of one, all will suffer. Punishment will go alike to all unless the thief confess his sin."

It was an uncomfortable day. Christolphe felt cold, doubting eyes on him, and he heard Gherard whispering with the other apprentices, "His Golden Fleece! So, so! He has gotten it, then, at last." For these lads, like many in Tournai, had heard the story of the Golden Fleece. Christolphe could not work for very misery. He was wondering what the punishment would be and whether in the morning they would all be discharged from the shop, and so his great chance would be gone.

On his way home he stopped in the Cathedral and fell on his knees before an altar to pray. Everywhere it was dark except for a few flickering specks of light from the candles at the shrines. But as he passed out, he saw at the other side of the altar another boy praying, and in the light of a newly placed candle recognized Gherard. He half stopped, surprised to see Gherard there, and then something bright caught his eye. In the flicker of the candle it glittered,—a thread of gold winding its way from beneath Gherard's tunic to the floor. And Christolphe saw that even as he fingered [112] his beads Gherard held his left arm pressed close to his side. As if aware of someone near him, Gherard turned, while Christolphe slipped off and was lost in the dark shadows. But he waited; and when Gherard came out of the church door, he was there watching for him. Quick as a flash, he struck Gherard a hard blow on his left elbow. Something fell,—a ball that glittered even in the bad light of the late twilight. Gherard understood, and with his right arm struck back and rained blow after blow on Christolphe. Christolphe defended himself as best he could, but he was trying all the time to hold fast with his crutch and foot to the gold threads that had fallen, and he, lame and alone, stood no chance against a fighter like Gherard. But the passers-by began to gather. Hands caught hold of Gherard and threw him back. "A great, strong boy against a lame one!" they cried. "For shame!"

Christolphe seized his chance, stooped and picked up the golden ball, tucked it under his smock, shook himself free of the friendly crowd and got away.

That night he slept little. His many bruises hurt too much, but still more he was worried about the morning. How to get the gold back? Would anyone see? Would they think it was he who had stolen it? Should he then tell on Gherard? Would Gherard come back and say that he, Christolphe, had been the thief? The word of one against the other, what would be the end of it? He got up before the sun was risen and went through the deserted streets to the shop. [113] No one was there, but the door had been left open. He slipped the gold threads into the chest where they belonged, and came away. Only the boy whose business it was to sweep out the shop had seen him.

When all the others came to work, a few hours later, Gherard was not among them. Still Christolphe was anxious, not knowing what to expect. Then the master went to the chest, picked up the golden threads and called out, "See, the gold! Safe and in its place. Has anyone ought to say?" No one spoke, for Christolphe had made up his mind to tell nothing against Gherard, no matter what it cost, since he was not there to speak for himself. But his face grew whiter and whiter, and he kept his eyes on the floor. He heard the master's steps coming nearer, and he steadied himself, for he was shaking. Then he felt a hand on his shoulder, and the master was speaking: "News travels fast, my boy. We have heard of thy fight at the Cathedral door, and of how Gherard dealt thee blows until thou wast nearly overcome. Already we had suspected who was the thief, and now, since Gherard is gone and the gold is here, we understand what caused thy fight. Therefore, let us all give honor where honor is due. Men, to Christolphe we owe the good faith of the shop."

It is not often that a boy is as happy as Christolphe was that day. The favor of the masters and the good will of his fellows warmed him like sunshine after a cold night. He had done a brave thing and had saved the day for everyone.

[114] And not long afterwards he had his reward in the best way possible. For Duke Philip had intrusted to Robert Dary and Jean de l'Ortye the making of one of the most important tapestries ever given to any shop to weave,—a tapestry to celebrate the founding of the Order of the Golden Fleece and to decorate its meetings. It was to be in fourteen scenes, made of finest threads of wool with threads of gold and silver, and the subject was Gideon and the Golden Fleece. When the pictures for it came from Bauduin de Bailleul, the famous designer of Arras, and the looms were set up and the work began, Christolphe alone of all the apprentices was chosen to work on the tapestries with the older weavers. "For the honesty of his heart and the skill of his hands is he chosen," the master had declared.

It took four years to weave the tapestries. Before they were done, Christolphe had finished his apprenticeship and had been acclaimed a master weaver, worthy of the famous shop. And before they were done he had made a great discovery and had unriddled the riddle of the old weaver of Bruges when he said, "the real Golden Fleece of Flanders, made from finest wool and threads of gold and men's sure hands." The real Golden Fleece of Flanders, what was it but the tapestries woven in her cities which went through all the world and brought her wealth and fame and honor? The Golden Fleece of ancient days was hardly more prized than were the wonderful weavings of Flanders in Christolphe's time. Kings and princes of all lands [115] sent to Flanders for these precious pictures. And so, as Christolphe wove the story of Gideon for Duke Philip, he liked to call it his Golden Fleece; and as he recalled the words of the old friar, "The fleece of Gideon comes to him who does a worthy deed," again he liked to believe that in his own experience he had proved it true. He had done his best for the good faith of the shop, and he had been given a great chance. He was now, not perhaps the Knight of the Golden Fleece that he used to dream about, but something that satisfied him better still,—a master weaver of the Golden Fleece of Flanders.


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