The Betrothed, by Walter Scott

Chapter the Twenty-First.

Oh! then I see Queen Mab has been with you.

ROMEO AND JULIET.

The subject on which the mind has last been engaged at night is apt to occupy our thoughts even during slumber, when Imagination, uncorrected by the organs of sense, weaves her own fantastic web out of whatever ideas rise at random in the sleeper. It is not surprising, therefore, that De Lacy in his dreams had some confused idea of being identified with the unlucky Mark of Cornwall; and that he awakened from such unpleasant visions with a brow more clouded than when he was preparing for his couch on the evening before. He was silent, and seemed lost in thought, while his squire assisted at his levee with the respect now only paid to sovereigns. “Guarine,” at length he said, “know you the stout Fleming, who was said to have borne him so well at the siege of the Garde Doloureuse? — a tall, big, brawny man.”

“Surely, my lord,” answered his squire; “I know Wilkin Flammock — I saw him but yesterday.”

“Indeed!” replied the Constable —“Here, meanest thou? — In this city of Gloucester?”

“Assuredly, my good lord. He came hither partly about his merchandise, partly, I think, to see his daughter Rose, who is in attendance on the gracious young Lady Eveline.”

“He is a stout soldier, is he not?”

“Like most of his kind — a rampart to a castle, but rubbish in the field,” said the Norman squire.

“Faithful, also, is he not?” continued the Constable.

“Faithful as most Flemings, while you can pay for their faith,” replied Guarine, wondering a little at the unusual interest taken in one whom he esteemed a being of an inferior order; when, after some farther inquiries, the Constable ordered the Fleming’s attendance to be presently commanded.

Other business of the morning now occurred, (for his speedy departure required many arrangements to be hastily adopted,) when, as the Constable was giving audience to several officers of his troops, the bulky figure of Wilkin Flammock was seen at the entrance of the pavilion, in jerkin of white cloth, and having only a knife by his side.

“Leave the tent, my masters,” said De Lacy, “but continue in attendance in the neighbourhood; for here comes one I must speak to in private.” The officers withdrew, and the Constable and Fleming were left alone. “You are Wilkin Mammock, who fought well against the Welsh at the Garde Doloureuse?”

“I did my best, my lord,” answered Wilkin —“I was bound to it by my bargain; and I hope ever to act like a man of credit.”

“Methinks” said the Constable, “that you, so stout of limb, and, as I hear, so bold in spirit, might look a little higher than this weaving trade of thine.”

“No one is reluctant to mend his station, my lord,” said Wilkin; “yet I am so far from complaining of mine, that I would willingly consent it should never be better, on condition I could be assured it were never worse.”

“Nay, but, Flammock,” said the Constable, “I mean higher things for you than your modesty apprehends — I mean to leave thee in a charge of great trust.”

“Let it concern bales of drapery, my lord, and no one will perform it better,” said the Fleming.

“Away! thou art too lowly minded,” said the Constable. “What think’st thou of being dubbed knight, as thy valour well deserves, and left as Chattelain of the Garde Doloureuse?”

“For the knighthood, my lord, I should crave your forgiveness; for it would sit on me like a gilded helmet on a hog. For any charge, whether of castle or cottage, I trust I might discharge it as well as another.”

“I fear me thy rank must be in some way mended,” said the Constable, surveying the unmilitary dress of the figure before him; “it is at present too mean to befit the protector and guardian of a young lady of high birth and rank.”

“I the guardian of a young lady of birth and rank!” said Flammock, his light large eyes turning larger, lighter, and rounder as he spoke.

“Even thou,” said the Constable. “The Lady Eveline proposes to take up her residence in her castle of the Garde Doloureuse. I have been casting about to whom I may intrust the keeping of her person as well as of the stronghold. Were I to choose some knight of name, as I have many in my household, he would be setting about to do deeds of vassalage upon the Welsh, and engaging himself in turmoils, which would render the safety of the castle precarious; or he would be absent on feats of chivalry, tournaments, and hunting parties; or he would, perchance, have shows of that light nature under the walls, or even within the courts of the castle, turning the secluded and quiet abode, which becomes the situation of the Lady Eveline, into the misrule of a dissolute revel. — Thee I can confide in-thou wilt fight when it is requisite, yet wilt not provoke danger for the sake of danger itself — thy birth, thy habits, will lead thee to avoid those gaieties, which, however fascinating to others, cannot but be distasteful to thee — thy management will be as regular, as I will take care that it shall be honourable; and thy relation to her favourite, Rose, will render thy guardianship more agreeable to the Lady Eveline, than, perchance, one of her own rank — And, to speak to thee a language which, thy nation readily comprehends, the reward, Fleming, for the regular discharge of this most weighty trust, shall be beyond thy most flattering hope.”

The Fleming had listened to the first part of this discourse with an expression of surprise, which gradually gave way to one of deep and anxious reflection. He gazed fixedly on the earth for a minute after the Constable had ceased speaking, and then raising up his eyes suddenly, said, “It is needless to seek for round-about excuses. This cannot be your earnest, my lord — but if it is, the scheme is naught.”

“How and wherefore?” asked the Constable, with displeased surprise.

“Another man may grasp at your bounty,” continued Wilkin, “and leave you to take chance of the value you were to receive for it; but I am a downright dealer, I will not take payment for service I cannot render.”

“But I demand, once more, wherefore thou canst not, or rather wilt not, accept this trust?” said the Constable. “Surely, if I am willing to confer such confidence, it is well thy part to answer it.”

“True, my lord,” said the Fleming; “but methinks the noble Lord de Lacy should feel, and the wise Lord de Lacy should foresee, that a Flemish weaver is no fitting guardian for his plighted bride. Think her shut up in yonder solitary castle, under such respectable protection, and reflect how long the place will be solitary in this land of love and of adventure! We shall have minstrels singing ballads by the threave under our windows, and such twangling of harps as would be enough to frighten our walls from their foundations, as clerks say happened to those of Jericho — We shall have as many knights-errant around us as ever had Charlemagne, or King Arthur. Mercy on me! A less matter than a fine and noble recluse immured — so will they term it — in a tower, under the guardianship of an old Flemish weaver, would bring half the chivalry in England round us, to break lances, vow vows, display love-liveries, and I know not what follies besides. — Think you such gallants, with the blood flying through their veins like quicksilver, would much mind my bidding them begone?”

“Draw bolts, up with the drawbridge, drop portcullis,” said the Constable, with a constrained smile.

“And thinks your lordship such gallants would mind these impediments? such are the very essence of the adventures which they come to seek. — The Knight of the Swan would swim through the moat — he of the Eagle would fly over the wails — he of the Thunderbolt would burst open the gates.”

“Ply crossbow and mangonel,” said de Lacy.

“And be besieged in form,” said the Fleming, “like the Castle of Tintadgel in the old hangings, all for the love of fair lady? — And then those gay dames and demoiselles, who go upon adventure from castle to castle, from tournament to tournament, with bare bosoms, flaunting plumes, poniards at their sides, and javelins in their hands, chattering like magpies, and fluttering like jays, and, ever and anon, cooing like doves — how am I to exclude such from the Lady Eveline’s privacy?”

“By keeping doors shut, I tell thee,” answered the Constable, still in the same tone of forced jocularity; “a wooden bar will be thy warrant.”

“Ay, but,” answered Flammock, “if the Flemish weaver say shut, when the Norman young lady says open, think which has best chance of being obeyed. At a word, my lord, for the matter of guardianship, and such like, I wash my hands of it — I would not undertake to be guardian to the chaste Susannah, though she lived in an enchanted castle, which no living thing could approach.”

“Thou holdest the language and thoughts,” said De Lacy, “of a vulgar debauchee, who laughs at female constancy, because he has lived only with the most worthless of the sex. Yet thou shouldst know the contrary, having, as I know, a most virtuous daughter —”

“Whose mother was not less so,” said Wilkin, breaking in upon the Constable’s speech with somewhat more emotion than he usually displayed, “But law, my lord, gave me authority to govern and direct my wife, as both law and nature give me power and charge over my daughter. That which I can govern, I can be answerable for; but how to discharge me so well of a delegated trust, is another question. — Stay at home, my good lord,” continued the honest Fleming, observing that his speech made some impression upon De Lacy; “let a fool’s advice for once be of avail to change a wise man’s purpose, taken, let me say, in no wise hour. Remain in your own land, rule your own vassals, and protect your own bride. You only can claim her cheerful love and ready obedience; and sure I am, that, without pretending to guess what she may do if separated from you, she will, under your own eye, do the duty of a faithful and a loving spouse.”

“And the Holy Sepulchre?” said the Constable, with a sigh, his heart confessing the wisdom of the advice, which circumstances prevented him from following.

“Let those who lost the Holy Sepulchre regain it, my lord,” replied Flammock. “If those Latins and Greeks, as they call them, are no better men than I have heard, it signifies very little whether they or the heathen have the country that has cost Europe so much blood and treasure.” “In good faith,” said the Constable, “there is sense in what thou say’st; but I caution thee to repeat it not, lest thou be taken for a heretic or a Jew. For me, my word and oath are pledged beyond retreat, and I have only to consider whom I may best name for that important station, which thy caution has — not without some shadow of reason — induced thee to decline.”

“There is no man to whom your lordship can so naturally or honourably transfer such a charge,” said Wilkin Flammock, “as to the kinsman near to you, and possessed of your trust; yet much better would it be were there no such trust to be reposed in any one.”

“If,” said the Constable, “by my near kinsman, you mean Randal de Lacy, I care not if I tell you, that I consider him as totally worthless, and undeserving of honourable confidence.”

“Nay, I mean another,” said Flammock, “nearer to you by blood, and, unless I greatly mistake, much nigher also in affection — I had in mind your lordship’s nephew, Damian de Lacy.”

The Constable started as if a wasp had stung him; but instantly replied, with forced composure, “Damian was to have gone in my stead to Palestine — it now seems I must go in his; for, since this last illness, the leeches have totally changed their minds, and consider that warmth of the climate as dangerous, which they formerly decided to be salutary. But our learned doctors, like our learned priests, must ever be in the right, change their counsels as they may; and we poor laymen still in the wrong. I can, it is true, rely on Damian with the utmost confidence; but he is young, Flammock — very young — and in that particular, resembles but too nearly the party who might be otherwise committed to his charge.”

“Then once more, my lord,” said the plain-spoken Fleming, “remain at home, and be yourself the protector of what is naturally so dear to you.”

“Once more, I repeat, that I cannot,” answered the Constable. “The step which I have adopted as a great duty, may perhaps be a great error — I only know that it is irretrievable.”

“Trust your nephew, then, my lord,” replied Wilkin —“he is honest and true; and it is better trusting young lions than old wolves. He may err, perhaps, but it will not be from premeditated treachery.”

“Thou art right, Flammock,” said the Constable; “and perhaps I ought to wish I had sooner asked thy counsel, blunt as it is. But let what has passed be a secret betwixt us; and bethink thee of something that may advantage thee more than the privilege of speaking about my affairs.”

“That account will be easily settled, my lord,” replied Flammock; “for my object was to ask your lordship’s favour to obtain certain extensions of our privileges, in yonder wild corner where we Flemings have made our retreat.”

“Thou shalt have them, so they be not exorbitant,” said the Constable. And the honest Fleming, among whose good qualities scrupulous delicacy was not the foremost, hastened to detail, with great minuteness, the particulars of his request or petition, long pursued in vain, but to which this interview was the means of insuring success.

The Constable, eager to execute the resolution which he had formed, hastened to the lodging of Damian de Lacy, and to the no small astonishment of his nephew, intimated to him his change of destination; alleging his own hurried departure, Damian’s late and present illness, together with the necessary protection to be afforded to the Lady Eveline, as reasons why his nephew must needs remain behind him — to represent him during his absence — to protect the family rights, and assert the family honour of the house of De Lacy — above all, to act as the guardian of the young and beautiful bride, whom his uncle and patron had been in some measure compelled to abandon for a time.

Damian yet occupied his bed while the Constable communicated this change of purpose. Perhaps he might think the circumstance fortunate, that in this position he could conceal from his uncle’s observation the various emotions which he could not help feeling; while the Constable, with the eagerness of one who is desirous of hastily finishing what he has to say on an unpleasant subject, hurried over an account of the arrangements which he had made, in order that his nephew might have the means of discharging, with sufficient effect, the important trust committed to him.

The youth listened as to a voice in a dream, which he had not the power of interrupting, though there was something within him which whispered there would be both prudence and integrity in remonstrating against his uncle’s alteration of plan. Something he accordingly attempted to say, when the Constable at length paused; but it was too feebly spoken to shake a resolution fully though hastily adopted and explicitly announced, by one not in the use to speak before his purpose was fixed, or to alter it when it was declared.

The remonstrance of Damian, besides, if it could be termed such, was spoken in terms too contradictory to be intelligible. In one moment he professed his regret for the laurels which he had hoped to gather in Palestine, and implored his uncle not to alter his purpose, but permit him to attend his banner thither; and in the next sentence, he professed his readiness to defend the safety of Lady Eveline with the last drop of his blood. De Lacy saw nothing inconsistent in these feelings, though they were for the moment contradictory to each other. It was natural, he thought, that a young knight should be desirous to win honour — natural also that he should willingly assume a charge so honourable and important as that with which he proposed to invest him; and therefore he thought that it was no wonder that, assuming his new office willingly, the young man should yet feel regret at losing the prospect of honourable adventure, which he must abandon. He therefore only smiled in reply to the broken expostulations of his nephew; and, having confirmed his former arrangement, left the young man to reflect at leisure on his change of destination, while he himself, in a second visit to the Benedictine Abbey, communicated the purpose which he had adopted, to the Abbess, and to his bride-elect.

The displeasure of the former lady was in no measure abated by this communication; in which, indeed, she affected to take very little interest. She pleaded her religious duties, and her want of knowledge of secular affairs, if she should chance to mistake the usages of the world; yet she had always, she said, understood, that the guardians of the young and beautiful of her own sex were chosen from the more mature of the other.

“Your own unkindness, lady,” answered the Constable, “leaves me no better choice than I have made. Since the Lady Eveline’s nearest friends deny her the privilege of their roof, on account of the claim with which she has honoured me, I, on my side, were worse than ungrateful did I not secure for her the protection of my nearest male heir. Damian is young, but he is true and honourable; nor does the chivalry of England afford me a better choice.”

Eveline seemed surprised, and even struck with consternation, at the resolution which her bridegroom thus suddenly announced; and perhaps it was fortunate that the remark of the Lady Abbess made the answer of the Constable necessary, and prevented him from observing that her colour shifted more than once from pale to deep red. Rose, who was not excluded from the conference, drew close up to her mistress; and, by affecting to adjust her veil, while in secret she strongly pressed her hand, gave her time and encouragement to compose her mind for a reply. It was brief and decisive, and announced with a firmness which showed that the uncertainty of the moment had passed away or been suppressed. “In case of danger,” she said, “she would not fail to apply to Damian de Lacy to come to her aid, as he had once done before; but she did not apprehend any danger at present, within her own secure castle of the Garde Doloureuse, where it was her purpose to dwell, attended only by her own household. She was resolved,” she continued, “in consideration of her peculiar condition, to observe the strictest retirement, which she expected would not be violated even by the noble young knight who was to act as her guardian, unless some apprehension for her safety made his visit unavoidable.”

The Abbess acquiesced, though coldly, in a proposal, which her ideas of decorum recommended; and preparations were hastily made for the Lady Eveline’s return to the castle of her father. Two interviews which intervened before her leaving the convent, were in their nature painful. The first was when Damian was formally presented to her by his uncle, as the delegate to whom he had committed the charge of his own property, and, which was much dearer to him, as he affirmed, the protection of her person and interest.

Eveline scarce trusted herself with one glance; but that single look comprehended and reported to her the ravage which disease, aided by secret grief, had made on the manly form and handsome countenance of the youth before her. She received his salutation in a manner as embarrassed as that in which it was made; and, to his hesitating proffer of service, answered, that she trusted only to be obliged to him for his good-will during the interval of his uncle’s absence.

Her parting with the Constable was the next trial which she was to undergo. It was not without emotion, although she preserved her modest composure, and De Lacy his calm gravity of deportment. His voice faltered, however, when he came to announce, “that it were unjust she should be bound by the engagement which she had been graciously contented to abide under. Three years he had assigned for its term; to which space the Arch-bishop Baldwin had consented to shorten the period of his absence. If I appear not when these are elapsed,” he said, “let the Lady Eveline conclude that the grave holds De Lacy, and seek out for her mate some happier man. She cannot find one more grateful, though there are many who better deserve her.”

On these terms they parted; and the Constable, speedily afterwards embarking, ploughed the narrow seas for the shores of Flanders, where he proposed to unite his forces with the Count of that rich and warlike country, who had lately taken the Cross, and to proceed by the route which should be found most practicable on their destination for the Holy Land. The broad pennon, with the arms of the Lacys, streamed forward with a favourable wind from the prow of the vessel, as if pointing to the quarter of the horizon where its renown was to be augmented; and, considering the fame of the leader, and the excellence of the soldiers who followed him, a more gallant band, in proportion to their numbers, never went to avenge on the Saracens the evils endured by the Latins of Palestine.

Meanwhile Eveline, after a cold parting with the Abbess, whose offended dignity had not yet forgiven the slight regard which she had paid to her opinion, resumed her journey homeward to her paternal castle, where her household was to be arranged in a manner suggested by the Constable, and approved of by herself.

The same preparations were made for her accommodation at every halting place which she had experienced upon her journey to Gloucester, and, as before, the purveyor was invisible, although she could be at little loss to guess his name. Yet it appeared as if the character of these preparations was in some degree altered. All the realities of convenience and accommodation, with the most perfect assurances of safety, accompanied her every where on the route; but they were no longer mingled with that display of tender gallantry and taste, which marked that the attentions were paid to a young and beautiful female. The clearest fountain-head, and the most shady grove, were no longer selected for the noontide repast; but the house of some franklin, or a small abbey, afforded the necessary hospitality. All seemed to be ordered with the most severe attention to rank and decorum — it seemed as if a nun of some strict order, rather than a young maiden of high quality and a rich inheritance, had been journeying through the land, and Eveline, though pleased with the delicacy which seemed thus to respect her unprotected and peculiar condition, would sometimes think it unnecessary, that, by so many indirect hints, it should be forced on her recollection.

She thought it strange also, that Damian, to whose care she had been so solemnly committed, did not even pay his respects to her on the road. Something there was which whispered to her, that close and frequent intercourse might be unbecoming — even dangerous; but surely the ordinary duties of a knight and gentleman enjoined him some personal communication with the maiden under his escort, were it only to ask if her accommodations had been made to her satisfaction, or if she had any special wish which was ungratified. The only intercourse, however, which took place betwixt them, was through means of Amelot, Damian de Lacy’s youthful page, who came at morning and evening to receive Eveline’s commands concerning their route, and the hours of journey and repose.

These formalities rendered the solitude of Eveline’s return less endurable; and had it not been for the society of Rose, she would have found herself under an intolerably irksome degree of constraint. She even hazarded to her attendant some remarks upon the singularity of De Lacy’s conduct, who, authorized as he was by his situation, seemed yet as much afraid to approach her as if she had been a basilisk.

Rose let the first observation of this nature pass as if it had been unheard; but when her mistress made a second remark to the same purpose, she answered, with the truth and freedom of her character, though perhaps with less of her usual prudence, “Damian de Lacy judges well, noble lady. He to whom the safe keeping of a royal treasure is intrusted, should not indulge himself too often by gazing upon it.”

Eveline blushed, wrapt herself closer in her veil, nor did she again during their journey mention the name of Damian de Lacy.

When the gray turrets of the Garde Doloureuse greeted her sight on the evening of the second day, and she once more beheld her father’s banner floating from its highest watch-tower in honour of her approach, her sensations were mingled with pain; but, upon the whole, she looked towards that ancient home as a place of refuge, where she might indulge the new train of thoughts which circumstances had opened to her, amid the same scenes which had sheltered her infancy and childhood.

She pressed forward her palfrey, to reach the ancient portal as soon as possible, bowed hastily to the well-known faces which showed themselves on all sides, but spoke to no one, until, dismounting at the chapel door, she had penetrated to the crypt, in which was preserved the miraculous painting. There, prostrate on the ground, she implored the guidance and protection of the Holy Virgin through those intricacies in which she had involved herself, by the fulfilment of the vow which she had made in her anguish before the same shrine. If the prayer was misdirected, its purport was virtuous and sincere; nor are we disposed to doubt that it attained that Heaven towards which it was devoutly addressed.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 22:29