Julia. —— Gentle sir,
You are our captive — but we’ll use you so,
That you shall think your prison joys may match
Whate’er your liberty hath known of pleasure.
No, fairest, we have trifled here too long;
And, lingering to see your roses blossom,
I’ve let my laurels wither.
Arrayed in garments of a mourning colour, and of a fashion more matronly than perhaps altogether befitted her youth — plain to an extremity, and devoid of all ornament, save her rosary — Eveline now performed the duty of waiting upon her wounded deliverer; a duty which the etiquette of the time not only permitted, but peremptorily enjoined. She was attended by Rose and Dame Gillian. Margery, whose element was a sick-chamber, had been already despatched to that of the young knight, to attend to whatever his condition might require.
Eveline entered the room with a light step, as if unwilling to disturb the patient. She paused at the door, and cast her eyes around her. It had been her father’s chamber; nor had she entered it since his violent death. Around the walls hung a part of his armour and weapons, with hawking gloves, hunting-poles, and other instruments of silvan sport. These relics brought as it were in living form before her the stately presence of old Sir Raymond. “Frown not, my father,”— her lips formed the words, though her voice did not utter them —“Frown not — Eveline will never be unworthy of thee.”
Father Aldrovand, and Amelot, the page of Damian, were seated by the bedside. They rose as Lady Eveline entered; and the first, who meddled a little with the healing art, said to Eveline “that the knight had slumbered for some time, and was now about to awake.”
Amelot at the same time came forward, and in a hasty and low voice, begged that the chamber might be kept quiet, and the spectators requested to retire. “My lord,” he said, “ever since his illness at Gloucester, is apt to speak something wildly as he awakes from sleep, and will be displeased with me should I permit any one to be near him.”
Eveline accordingly caused her women and the monk to retire into the anteroom, while she herself remained standing by the door-communication which connected the apartments, and heard Damian mention her name as he turned himself painfully on his couch. “Is she safe and unharmed?” was his first question, and it was asked with an eagerness which intimated how far it preceded all other considerations. When Amelot replied in the affirmative, he sighed, as one whose bosom is relieved from some weighty load, and in a less animated voice, asked of the page where they were. “This apartment,” he said, “with its furniture, are all strange to me.”
“My dear master,” said Amelot, “you are at present too weak to ask questions and receive explanations.”
“Be I where I will,” said Damian, as if recovering his recollection, “I am not in the place where my duty calls me. Tell my trumpets to sound to horse — to horse, and let Ralph Genvil carry my banner. To horse — to horse! we have not a moment to lose!”
The wounded knight made some effort to rise, which, in his state of weakness, Amelot was easily able to frustrate. “Thou art right,” he said, as he sunk back into his reclining posture —“thou art right — I am weak — but why should strength remain when honour is lost?” The unhappy young man covered his face with his hands, and groaned in agony, which seemed more that of the mind than of the body. Lady Eveline approached his bedside with unassured steps, fearing she knew not what, yet earnest to testify the interest she felt in the distresses of the sufferer. Damian looked up and beheld her, and again hid his face with his hands.
“What means this strange passion, Sir Knight?” said Eveline, with a voice which, at first weak and trembling, gradually obtained steadiness and composure. “Ought it to grieve you so much, sworn as you are to the duties of chivalry, that Heaven hath twice made you its instrument to save the unfortunate Eveline Berenger?”
“Oh no, no!” he exclaimed with rapidity; “since you are saved, all is well — but time presses — it is necessary I should presently depart — no-where ought I now to tarry — least of all, within this castle — Once more, Amelot, let them get to horse!”
“Nay, my good lord.” said the damsel, “this must not be. As your ward, I cannot let my guardian part thus suddenly — as a physician, I cannot allow my patient to destroy himself — It is impossible that you can brook the saddle.”
“A litter — a bier — a cart, to drag forth the dishonoured knight and traitor — all were too good for me — a coffin were best of all! — But see, Amelot, that it be framed like that of the meanest churl — no spurs displayed on the pall — no shield with the ancient coat of the De Lacys — no helmet with their knightly crest must deck the hearse of him whose name is dishonoured!”
“Is his brain unsettled?” said Eveline, looking with terror from the wounded man to his attendant; “or is there some dreadful mystery in these broken words? — If so, speak it forth; and if it may be amended by life or goods, my deliverer will sustain no wrong.”
Amelot regarded her with a dejected and melancholy air, shook his head, and looked down on his master with a countenance which seemed to express, that the questions which she asked could not be prudently answered in Sir Damian’s presence. The Lady Eveline, observing this gesture, stepped back into the outer apartment, and made Amelot a sign to follow her. He obeyed, after a glance at his master, who remained in the same disconsolate posture as formerly, with his hands crossed over his eyes, like one who wished to exclude the light, and all which the light made visible.
When Amelot was in the wardrobe, Eveline, making signs to her attendants to keep at such distance as the room permitted, questioned him closely on the cause of his master’s desperate expression of terror and remorse. “Thou knowest,” she said, “that I am bound to succour thy lord, if I may, both from gratitude, as one whom he hath served to the peril of his life — and also from kinsmanship. Tell me, therefore, in what case he stands, that I may help him if I can — that is,” she added, her pale cheeks deeply colouring, “if the cause of the distress be fitting for me to hear.”
The page bowed low, yet showed such embarrassment when he began to speak, as produced a corresponding degree of confusion in the Lady Eveline, who, nevertheless, urged him as before “to speak without scruple or delay — so that the tenor of his discourse was fitting for her ears.”
“Believe me, noble lady,” said Amelot, “your commands had been instantly obeyed, but that I fear my master’s displeasure if I talk of his affairs without his warrant; nevertheless, on your command, whom I know he honours above all earthly beings, I will speak thus far, that if his life be safe from the wounds he has received, his honour and worship may be in great danger, if it please not Heaven to send a remedy.”
“Speak on,” said Eveline; “and be assured you will do Sir Damian de Lacy no prejudice by the confidence you may rest in me.”
“I well believe it, lady,” said the page. “Know, then, if it be not already known to you, that the clowns and rabble, who have taken arms against the nobles in the west, pretend to be favoured in their insurrection, not only by Randal Lacy, but by my master, Sir Damian.”
“They lie that dare charge him with such foul treason to his own blood, as well as to his sovereign!” replied Eveline.
“Well do I believe they lie,” said Amelot; “but this hinders not their falsehoods from being believed by those who know him less inwardly. More than one runaway from our troop have joined this rabblement, and that gives some credit to the scandal. And then they say — they say — that — in short, that my master longs to possess the lands in his proper right which he occupies as his uncle’s administrator; and that if the old Constable — I crave your pardon, madam — should return from Palestine, he should find it difficult to obtain possession of his own again.”
“The sordid wretches judge of others by their own base minds, and conceive those temptations too powerful for men of worth, which they are themselves conscious they would be unable to resist. But are the insurgents then so insolent and so powerful? We have heard of their violences, but only as if it had been some popular tumult.”
“We had notice last night that they have drawn together in great force, and besieged or blockaded Wild Wenlock, with his men-at-arms, in a village about ten miles hence. He hath sent to my master, as his kinsman and companion-at-arms, to come to his assistance. We were on horseback this morning to march to the rescue — when —”
He paused, and seemed unwilling to proceed. Eveline caught at the word. “When you heard of my danger?” she said. “I would ye had rather heard of my death!”
“Surely, noble lady,” said the page, with his eyes fixed on the ground, “nothing but so strong a cause could have made my master halt his troop, and carry the better part of them to the Welsh mountains, when his countryman’s distress, and the commands of the King’s Lieutenant, so peremptorily demanded his presence elsewhere.”
“I knew it,” she said —“I knew I was born to be his destruction! yet methinks this is worse than I dreamed of, when the worst was in my thoughts. I feared to occasion his death, not his loss of fame. For God’s sake, young Amelot, do what thou canst, and that without loss of time! Get thee straightway to horse, and join to thy own men as many as thou canst gather of mine — Go — ride, my brave youth — show thy master’s banner, and let them see that his forces and his heart are with them, though his person be absent. Haste, haste, for the time is precious.”
“But the safety of this castle — But your own safety?” said the page. “God knows how willingly I would do aught to save his fame! But I know my master’s mood; and were you to suffer by my leaving the Garde Doloureuse, even although I were to save him lands, life, and honour, by my doing so, I should be more like to taste of his dagger, than of his thanks or bounty.”
“Go, nevertheless, dear Amelot,” said she; “gather what force thou canst make, and begone.”
“You spur a willing horse, madam,” said the page, springing to his feet; “and in the condition of my master, I see nothing better than that his banner should be displayed against these churls.”
“To arms, then,” said Eveline, hastily; “to arms, and win thy spurs. Bring me assurance that thy master’s honour is safe, and I will myself buckle them on thy heels. Here — take this blessed rosary — bind it on thy crest, and be the thought of the Virgin of the Garde Doloureuse, that never failed a votary, strong with thee in the hour of conflict.”
She had scarcely ended, ere Amelot flew from her presence, and summoning together such horse as he could assemble, both of his master’s, and of those belonging to the castle, there were soon forty cavaliers mounted in the court-yard.
But although the page was thus far readily obeyed, yet when the soldiers heard they were to go forth on a dangerous expedition, with no more experienced general than a youth of fifteen, they showed a decided reluctance to move from the castle. The old soldiers of De Lacy said, Damian himself was almost too youthful to command them, and had no right to delegate his authority to a mere boy; while the followers of Berenger said, their mistress might be satisfied with her deliverance of the morning, without trying farther dangerous conclusions by diminishing the garrison of her castle —“The times,” they said, “were stormy, and it was wisest to keep a stone roof over their heads.”
The more the soldiers communicated their ideas and apprehensions to each other, the stronger their disinclination to the undertaking became; and when Amelot, who, page-like, had gone to see that his own horse was accoutred and brought forth, returned to the castle-yard, he found them standing confusedly together, some mounted, some on foot, all men speaking loud, and all in a state of disorder. Ralph Genvil, a veteran whose face had been seamed with many a scar, and who had long followed the trade of a soldier of fortune, stood apart from the rest, holding his horse’s bridle in one hand, and in the other the banner-spear, around which the banner of De Lacy was still folded.
“What means this, Genvil?” said the page, angrily. “Why do you not mount your horse and display the banner? and what occasions all this confusion?”
“Truly, Sir Page,” said Genvil, composedly, “I am not in my saddle, because I have some regard for this old silken rag, which I have borne to honour in my time, and I will not willingly carry it where men are unwilling to follow and defend it.”
“No march — no sally — no lifting of banner today” cried the soldiers, by way of burden to the banner-man’s discourse. “How now, cowards! do you mutiny?” said Amelot, laying his hand upon his sword.
“Menace not me, Sir Boy,” said Genvil; “nor shake your sword my way. I tell thee, Amelot, were my weapon to cross with yours, never flail sent abroad more chaff than I would make splinters of your hatched and gilded toasting-iron. Look you, there are gray-bearded men here that care not to be led about on any boy’s humour. For me, I stand little upon that; and I care not whether one boy or another commands me. But I am the Lacy’s man for the time; and I am not sure that, in marching to the aid of this Wild Wenlock, we shall do an errand the Lacy will thank us for. Why led he us not thither in the morning when we were commanded off into the mountains?”
“You well know the cause,” said the page.
“Yes, we do know the cause; or, if we do not, we can guess it,” answered the banner-man, with a horse laugh, which was echoed by several of his companions.
“I will cram the calumny down thy false throat, Genvil!” said the page; and, drawing his sword, threw himself headlong on the banner-man, without considering their great difference of strength.
Genvil was contented to foil his attack by one, and, as it seemed, a slight movement of his gigantic arm, with which he forced the page aside, parrying, at the same time, his blow with the standard-spear.
There was another loud laugh, and Amelot, feeling all his efforts baffled, threw his sword from him, and weeping in pride and indignation, hastened back to tell the Lady Eveline of his bad success. “All,” he said, “is lost — the cowardly villains have mutinied, and will not move; and the blame of their sloth and faintheartedness will be laid on my dear master.”
“That shall never be,” said Eveline, “should I die to prevent it. — Follow me, Amelot.”
She hastily threw a scarlet scarf over her dark garments, and hastened down to the court-yard, followed by Gillian, assuming, as she went, various attitudes and actions expressing astonishment and pity, and by Rose, carefully suppressing all appearance of — the feelings which she really entertained.
Eveline entered the castle-court, with the kindling eye and glowing brow which her ancestors were wont to bear in danger and extremity, when their soul was arming to meet the storm, and displayed in their mien and looks high command and contempt of danger. She seemed at the moment taller than her usual size; and it was with a voice distinct and clearly heard, though not exceeding the delicacy of feminine tone, that the mutineers heard her address them. “How is this, my masters?” she said; and as she spoke, the bulky forms of the armed soldiers seemed to draw closer together, as if to escape her individual censure. It was like a group of heavy water-fowl, when they close to avoid the stoop of the slight and beautiful merlin, dreading the superiority of its nature and breeding over their own inert physical strength. —“How now?” again she demanded of them; “is it a time, think ye, to mutiny, when your lord is absent, and his nephew and lieutenant lies stretched on a bed of sickness? — Is it thus you keep your oaths? — Thus ye merit your leader’s bounty? — Shame on ye, craven hounds, that quail and give back the instant you lose sight of the huntsman!”
There was a pause — the soldiers looked on each other, and then again on Eveline, as if ashamed alike to hold out in their mutiny, or to return to their usual discipline.
“I see how it is, my brave friends — ye lack a leader here; but stay not for that — I will guide you myself, and, woman as I am, there need not a man of you fear disgrace where a Berenger commands. — Trap my palfrey with a steel saddle,” she said, “and that instantly.” She snatched from the ground the page’s light head-piece, and threw it over her hair, caught up his drawn sword, and went on. “Here I promise you my countenance and guidance — this gentleman,” she pointed to Genvil, “shall supply my lack of military skill. He looks like a man that hath seen many a day of battle, and can well teach a young leader her devoir.”
“Certes,” said the old soldier, smiling in spite of himself, and shaking his head at the same time, “many a battle have I seen, but never under such a commander.”
“Nevertheless,” said Eveline, seeing how the eyes of the rest turned on Genvil, “you do not — cannot — will not — refuse to follow me? You do not as a soldier, for my weak voice supplies your captain’s orders — you cannot as a gentleman, for a lady, a forlorn and distressed female, asks you a boon — you will not as an Englishman, for your country requires your sword, and your comrades are in danger. Unfurl your banner, then, and march.”
“I would do so, upon my soul, fair lady,” answered Genvil, as if preparing to unfold the banner —“And Amelot might lead us well enough, with advantage of some lessons from me, But I wot not whether you are sending us on the right road.”
“Surely, surely,” said Eveline, earnestly, “it must be the right road which conducts you to the relief of Wenlock and his followers, besieged by the insurgent boors.”
“I know not,” said Genvil, still hesitating. “Our leader here, Sir Damian de Lacy, protects the commons — men say he befriends them — and I know he quarrelled with Wild Wenlock once for some petty wrong he did to the miller’s wife at Twyford. We should be finely off, when our fiery young leader is on foot again, if he should find we had been fighting against the side he favoured.”
“Assure yourself,” said the maiden, anxiously, “the more he would protect the commons against oppression, the more he would put them down when oppressing others. Mount and ride — save Wenlock and his men — there is life and death in every moment. I will warrant, with my life and lands, that whatsoever you do will be held good service to De Lacy. Come, then, follow me.”
“None surely can know Sir Damian’s purpose better than you, fair damsel,” answered Genvil; “nay, for that matter, you can make him change as ye list — And so I will march with the men, and we will aid Wenlock, if it is yet time, as I trust it may; for he is a rugged wolf, and when he turns to bay, will cost the boors blood enough ere they sound a mort. But do you remain within the castle, fair lady, and trust to Amelot and me. — Come, Sir Page, assume the command, since so it must be; though, by my faith, it is pity to take the headpiece from that pretty head, and the sword from that pretty hand — By Saint George! to see them there is a credit to the soldier’s profession.”
The Lady accordingly surrendered the weapons to Amelot, exhorting him in few words to forget the offence he had received, and do his devoir manfully. Meanwhile Genvil slowly unrolled the pennon — then shook it abroad, and without putting his foot in the stirrup, aided himself a little with resting on the spear, and threw himself into the saddle, heavily armed as he was. “We are ready now, an it like your juvenility,” said he to Amelot; and then, while the page was putting the band into order, he whispered to his nearest comrade, “Methinks, instead of this old swallow’s tail, [Footnote: The pennon of a Knight was, in shape, a long streamer, and forked like a swallow’s tail: the banner of a Banneret was square, and was formed into the other by cutting the ends from the pennon. It was thus the ceremony was performed on the pennon of John Chandos, by the Black Prince, before the battle of Nejara.] we should muster rarely under a broidered petticoat — a furbelowed petticoat has no fellow in my mind. — Look you, Stephen Pontoys — I can forgive Damian now for forgetting his uncle and his own credit, about this wench; for, by my faith, she is one I could have doated to death upon par amours.Ah! evil luck be the women’s portion! — they govern us at every turn, Stephen,” and at every age. When they are young, they bribe us with fair looks, and sugared words, sweet kisses and love tokens; and when they are of middle age, they work us to their will by presents and courtesies, red wine and red gold; and when they are old, we are fain to run their errands to get out of sight of their old leathern visages. Well, old De Lacy should have staid at home and watched his falcon. But it is all one to us, Stephen, and we may make some vantage today, for these boors have plundered more than one castle.”
“Ay, ay,” answered Pontoys, “the boor to the booty, and the banner-man to the boor, a right pithy proverb. But, prithee, canst thou say why his pageship leads us not forward yet?”
“Pshaw!” answered Genvil, “the shake I gave him has addled his brains — or perchance he has not swallowed all his tears yet; sloth it is not, for ’tis a forward cockeril for his years, wherever honour is to be won. — See, they now begin to move. — Well, it is a singular thing this gentle blood, Stephen; for here is a child whom I but now baffled like a schoolboy, must lead us gray beards where we may get our heads broken, and that at the command of a light lady.”
“I warrant Sir Damian is secretary to my pretty lady,” answered Stephen Pontoys, “as this springald Amelot is to Sir Damian; and so we poor men must obey and keep our mouths shut.”
“But our eyes open, Stephen Pontoys — forget not that.”
They were by this time out of the gates of the castle, and upon the road leading to the village, in which, as they understood by the intelligence of the morning, Wenlock was besieged or blockaded by a greatly superior number of the insurgent commons. Amelot rode at the head of the troop, still embarrassed at the affront which he had received in presence of the soldiers, and lost in meditating how he was to eke out that deficiency of experience, which on former occasions had been supplied by the counsels of the banner-man, with whom he was ashamed to seek a reconciliation. But Genvil was not of a nature absolutely sullen, though a habitual grumbler. He rode up to the page, and having made his obeisance, respectfully asked him whether it were not well that some one or two of their number pricked forward upon good horses to learn how it stood with Wenlock, and whether they should be able to come up in time to his assistance.
“Methinks, banner-man,” answered Amelot, “you should take the ruling of the troop, since you know so fittingly what should be done. You may be the fitter to command, because — But I will not upbraid you.”
“Because I know so ill how to obey,” replied Genvil; “that is what you would say; and, by my faith, I cannot deny but there may be some truth in it. But is it not peevish in thee to let a fair expedition be unwisely conducted, because of a foolish word or a sudden action? — Come, let it be peace with us.”
“With all my heart,” answered Amelot; “and I will send out an advanced party upon the adventure, as thou hast advised me.”
“Let it be old Stephen Pontoys and two of the Chester spears — he is as wily as an old fox, and neither hope nor fear will draw him a hairbreadth farther than judgment warrants.”
Amelot eagerly embraced the hint, and, at his command, Pontoys and two lances started forward to reconnoitre the road before them, and inquire into the condition of those whom they were advancing to succour. “And now that we are on the old terms, Sir Page,” said the banner-man, “tell me, if thou canst, doth not yonder fair lady love our handsome knight par amours?”
“It is a false calumny,” said Amelot, indignantly; “betrothed as she is to his uncle, I am convinced she would rather die than have such a thought, and so would our master. I have noted this heretical belief in thee before now, Genvil, and I have prayed thee to check it. You know the thing cannot be, for you know they have scarce ever met.”
“How should I know that,” said Genvil, “or thou either? Watch them ever so close — much water slides past the mill that Hob Miller never wots of. They do correspond; that, at least, thou canst not deny?”
“I do deny it,” said Amelot, “as I deny all that can touch their honour.”
“Then how, in Heaven’s name, comes he by such perfect knowledge of her motions, as he has displayed no longer since than the morning?”
“How should I tell?” answered the page; “there be such things, surely, as saints and good angels, and if there be one on earth deserves their protection, it is Dame Eveline Berenger.”
“Well said, Master Counsel-keeper,” replied Genvil, laughing; “but that will hardly pass on an old trooper. — Saint and angels, quotha? most saint-like doings, I warrant you.”
The page was about to continue his angry vindication, when Stephen Pontoys and his followers returned upon the spur. “Wenlock holds out bravely,” he exclaimed, “though he is felly girded in with these boors. The large crossbows are doing good service; and I little doubt his making his place good till we come up, if it please you to ride something sharply. They have assailed the barriers, and were close up to them even now, but were driven back with small success.”
The party were now put in as rapid motion as might consist with order, and soon reached the top of a small eminence, beneath which lay the village where Wenlock was making his defence. The air rung with the cries and shouts of the insurgents, who, numerous as bees, and possessed of that dogged spirit of courage so peculiar to the English, thronged like ants to the barriers, and endeavoured to break down the palisades, or to climb over them, in despite of the showers of stones and arrows from within, by which they suffered great loss, as well as by the swords and battle-axes of the men-at-arms, whenever they came to hand-blows.
“We are in time, we are in time,” said Amelot, dropping the reins of his bridle, and joyfully clapping his hands; “shake thy banner abroad, Genvil — give Wenlock and his fellows a fair view of it. — Comrades, halt — breathe your horses for a moment. — Hark hither, Genvil — If we descend by yonder broad pathway into the meadow where the cattle are —” “Bravo, my young falcon” replied Genvil, whose love of battle, like that of the war-horse of Job, kindled at the sight of the spears, and at the sound of the trumpet; “we shall have then an easy field for a charge on yonder knaves.”
“What a thick black cloud the villains make” said Amelot; “but we will let daylight through it with our lances — See, Genvil, the defenders hoist a signal to show they have seen us.”
“A signal to us?” exclaimed Genvil. “By Heaven, it is a white flag — a signal of surrender!”
“Surrender! they cannot dream of it, when we are advancing to their succour,” replied Amelot; when two or three melancholy notes from the trumpets of the besieged, with a thundering and tumultuous acclamation from the besiegers, rendered the fact indisputable.
“Down goes Wenlock’s pennon,” said Genvil, “and the churls enter the barricades on all points. — Here has been cowardice or treachery — What is to be done?”
“Advance on them,” said Amelot, “retake the place, and deliver the prisoners.”
“Advance, indeed!” answered the banner-man —“Not a horse’s length by my counsel — we should have every nail in our corslets counted with arrow-shot, before we got down the hill in the face of such a multitude and the place to storm afterwards — it were mere insanity.”
“Yet come a little forward along with me,” said the page; “perhaps we may find some path by which we could descend unperceived.”
Accordingly they rode forward a little way to reconnoitre the face of the hill, the page still urging the possibility of descending it unperceived amid the confusion, when Genvil answered impatiently, “Unperceived!-you are already perceived — here comes a fellow, pricking towards us as fast as his beast may trot.”
As he spoke, the rider came up to them. He was a short, thick-set peasant, in an ordinary frieze jacket and hose, with a blue cap on his head, which he had been scarcely able to pull over a shock head of red hair, that seemed in arms to repel the covering. The man’s hands were bloody, and he carried at his saddlebow a linen bag, which was also stained with blood. “Ye be of Damian de Lacy’s company, be ye not?” said this rude messenger; and, when they answered in the affirmative, he proceeded with the same blunt courtesy, “Hob Miller of Twyford commends him to Damian de Lacy, and knowing his purpose to amend disorders in the commonwealth, Hob Miller sends him toll of the grist which he has grinded;” and with that he took from the bag a human head, and tendered it to Amelot.
“It is Wenlock’s head,” said Genvil —“how his eyes stare!”
“They will stare after no more wenches now,” said the boor —“I have cured him of caterwauling.”
“Thou!” said Amelot, stepping back in disgust and indignation.
“Yes, I myself,” replied the peasant; “I am Grand Justiciary of the Commons, for lack of a better.”
“Grand hangman, thou wouldst say,” replied Genvil.
“Call it what thou list,” replied the peasant. “Truly, it behoves men in state to give good example. I’ll bid no man do that I am not ready to do myself. It is as easy to hang a man, as to say hang him; we will have no splitting of offices in this new world, which is happily set up in old England.”
“Wretch!” said Amelot, “take back thy bloody token to them that sent thee! Hadst thou not come upon assurance, I had pinned thee to the earth with my lance — But, be assured, your cruelty shall be fearfully avenged. — Come, Genvil, let us to our men; there is no farther use in abiding here.”
The fellow, who had expected a very different reception, stood staring after them for a few moments, then replaced his bloody trophy in the wallet, and rode back to those who sent him.
“This comes of meddling with men’s amourettes,” said Genvil; “Sir Damian would needs brawl with Wenlock about his dealings with this miller’s daughter, and you see they account him a favourer of their enterprise; it will be well if others do not take up the same opinion. — I wish we were rid of the trouble which such suspicions may bring upon us — ay, were it at the price of my best horse — I am like to lose him at any rate with the day’s hard service, and I would it were the worst it is to cost us.”
The party returned, wearied and discomforted, to the castle of the Garde Doloureuse, and not without losing several of their number by the way, some straggling owing to the weariness of their horses, and others taking the opportunity of desertion, in order to join the bands of insurgents and plunderers, who had now gathered together in different quarters, and were augmented by recruits from the dissolute soldiery.
Amelot, on his return to the castle, found that the state of his master was still very precarious, and that the Lady Eveline, though much exhausted, had not yet retired to rest, but was awaiting his return with impatience. He was introduced to her accordingly, and, with a heavy heart, mentioned the ineffectual event of his expedition.
“Now the saints have pity upon us!” said the Lady Eveline; “for it seems as if a plague or pest attached to me, and extended itself to all who interest themselves in my welfare. From the moment they do so, their very virtues become snares to them; and what would, in every other case, recommend them to honour, is turned to destruction to the friends of Eveline Berenger.”
“Fear not, fair lady,” said Amelot; “there are still men enough in my master’s camp to put down these disturbers of the public peace. I will but abide to receive his instructions, and will hence tomorrow, and draw out a force to restore quiet in this part of the country.”
“Alas! you know not yet the worst of it,” replied Eveline. “Since you went hence, we have received certain notice, that when the soldiers at Sir Damian’s camp heard of the accident which he this morning met with, already discontented with the inactive life which they had of late led, and dispirited by the hurts and reported death of their leader, they have altogether broken up and dispersed their forces. Yet be of good courage, Amelot,” she said; “this house is strong enough to bear out a worse tempest than any that is likely to be poured on it; and if all men desert your master in wounds and affliction, it becomes yet more the part of Eveline Berenger to shelter and protect her deliverer.”
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00