Gerold crossed the room to stand where she had indicated, and she brought him one sheet after another. Despite having heard Eschiva was gifted, Gerold was both surprised and enchanted. Eschiva’s figures were lively, lifelike, and often whimsical with unexpected gestures, poses, or details. In one scene portraying Queen Melisende and King Fulk, although the principals looked suitably dignified and regal, a cat with an arched back stood hissing beside the queen at an equally hostile dog beside the king. In an image representing a church council, tiny mice in monks’ robes were scattered about standing upright and gesturing just like speakers. In another scene showing the Patriarch in the dungeon of Apulia, the crows in the windows brought cherries for the prisoner.
As Eschiva turned to get another sample, his eyes fell on the pages she had shoved aside to make room for the ones she was showing him. The top page was covered with images of a wolf and a lamb lying down together. Although the motif was the same, the poses varied greatly. In one, the lamb slept peacefully while the wolf licked her head. In another, the lamb looked up at the wolf adoringly, while the wolf frowned at the viewer fiercely. In a third, the wolf had laid his head on the back of the lamb who turned her head to whisper—or was it kiss?—his ear.
“What are these?” Gerold asked Eschiva when she returned, indicating the sheet with the wolves and lambs.
Eschiva flushed at once and shook her head. “They’re just sketches. Sometimes when I can’t think of what to draw, I just doodle.”
“But they are exceptional. Very different from the usual treatment of the theme. ‘And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little boy will lead them. Isaiah 11:6’,” Gerold quoted. “It was always one of my favorite texts,” he added with a smile.
Encouraged, Eschiva admitted, “you know that Sir Philip de Novare has written a version of the Roman de Renard where the wolf Yzengrim is the Lord of Beirut and all his sons are referred to as the wolflings?”
Gerold laughed. “No, I had not heard that, but perhaps while I am here we can invite Sir Philip to come and recite from it! I’m sure it is amusing. But these images surely illustrate the Bible, not Sir Philip’s political satire?”
Eschiva shrugged awkwardly. “They’re nothing really. Just,” she shrugged, “sketches.” When Gerold continued to look at her skeptically, she admitted: “They express the way my lord Balian makes me feel—protected and loved. I know he cannot save me from all evil, but I know he would rather die trying than let harm befall me if he could help it.”
The answer surprised Gerold and he looked more intently at a blushing Eschiva. “Then this marriage is to your liking? Or should I say, you have found unexpected joy in it?”
“Unexpected?” Eschiva sounded surprised, but then she nodded. “Yes, unexpected in that I did not know any joy could be so great, but I gave my heart to Sir Balian a long time ago, when he gave me shelter from the Emperor’s wrath. Do you see this image? The eagle is the Emperor and the wolf puts himself between the eagle and the lamb.”
“I had no idea. When did you feel threatened by the Emperor?”
Before Eschiva could answer, Sir Balian himself came up behind them remarking, “You must have Eschiva show you the image of the Archbishop of Tyre and King Baldwin.” Gerold jumped at the unexpected intrusion. He turned around so fast that he saw Sir Balian slip his hand around his wife’s waist and brush his lips to the side of her face. It was an intimate gesture, one not meant for strangers, let alone churchmen.
In answer to his words, Eschiva was dismissing the suggestion with, “Oh, that’s not finished. I’m not sure—”
“It’s beautiful,” Sir Balian insisted with pride. “Where is it, Eschiva?”
Reluctantly, she left his side and crossed the room to retrieve a parchment already filled with text. This was the final document she was working on. When she put it down before Gerold, he understood why Sir Balian liked it so much: with very few lines she had captured on the face of the Archbishop of Tyre a look of profound concern and sadness as he recognized the young King of Jerusalem had leprosy. The image made Gerold’s heart twist in sympathy.
“And you must see the siege of Montreal,” Sir Balian persisted. Eschiva dutifully fetched this image which was, as yet, only a sketch on paper. Here Saladin sat on a half-rearing horse, his sword raised over his head in anger, while on the walls of the castle, men, women, children, and even dogs hurled objects down on him. The sense of desperation was palpable in the frantic actions of the defenders. Gerold nodded. “Your wife has a great gift, Sir Balian. My lady, you are one of God’s chosen for He does not give talent like this lightly.”
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