Let our proud trumpet shako their castle wall,
Menacing death and ruin.
The evil news with which the last chapter concluded were necessarily told to Damian de Lacy, as the person whom they chiefly concerned; and Lady Eveline herself undertook the task of communicating them, mingling what she said with tears, and again interrupting those tears to suggest topics of hope and comfort, which carried no consolation to her own bosom.
The wounded knight continued with his face turned towards her, listening to the disastrous tidings, as one who was not otherwise affected by them, than as they regarded her who told the story. When she had done speaking, he continued as in a reverie, with his eyes so intently fixed upon her, that she rose up, with the purpose of withdrawing from looks by which she felt herself embarrassed. He hastened to speak, that he might prevent her departure. “All that you have said, fair lady,” he replied, “had been enough, if told by another, to have broken my heart; for it tells me that the power and honour of my house, so solemnly committed to my charge, have been blasted in my misfortunes. But when I look upon you, and hear your voice, I forget every thing, saving that you have been rescued, and are here in honour and safety. Let me therefore pray of your goodness that I may be removed from the castle which holds you, and sent elsewhere. I am in no shape worthy of your farther care, since I have no longer the swords of others at my disposal, and am totally unable for the present to draw my own.”
“And if you are generous enough to think of me in your own misfortunes, noble knight,” answered Eveline, “can you suppose that I forget wherefore, and in whose rescue, these wounds were incurred? No, Damian, speak not of removal — while there is a turret of the Garde Doloureuse standing, within that turret shall you find shelter and protection. Such, I am well assured, would be the pleasure of your uncle, were he here in person.”
It seemed as if a sudden pang of his wound had seized upon Damian; for, repeating the words “My. uncle!” he writhed himself round, and averted his face from Eveline; then again composing himself, replied, “Alas! knew my uncle how ill I have obeyed his precepts, instead of sheltering me within this house, he would command me to be flung from the battlements!”
“Fear not his displeasure,” said Eveline, again preparing to withdraw; “but endeavour, by the composure of your spirit, to aid the healing of your wounds; when, I doubt not, you will be able again to establish good order in the Constable’s jurisdiction, long before his return.”
She coloured as she pronounced the last words, and hastily left the apartment. When she was in her own chamber, she dismissed her other attendants and retained Rose. “What dost thou think of these things, my wise maiden and monitress?” said she.
“I would,” replied Rose, “either that this young knight had never entered this castle — or that, being here, he could presently leave it — or, that he could honourably remain here for ever.”
“What dost thou mean by remaining here for ever?” said Eveline sharply and hastily. “Let me answer that question with another — How long has the Constable of Chester been absent from England?”
“Three years come Saint Clement’s day,” said Eveline; “and what of that?”
“Nay, nothing; but ——”
“But what? — I command you to speak out.”
“A few weeks will place your hand at your own disposal.”
“And think you, Rose,” said Eveline, rising with dignity, “that there are no bonds save those which are drawn by the scribe’s pen? — We know little of the Constable’s adventures; but we know enough to show that his towering hopes have fallen, and his sword and courage proved too weak to change the fortunes of the Sultan Saladin. Suppose him returning some brief time hence, as we have seen so many crusaders regain their homes, poor and broken in health — suppose that he finds his lands laid waste, and his followers dispersed, by the consequence of their late misfortunes, how would it sound should he also find that his betrothed bride had wedded and endowed with her substance the nephew whom he most trusted? — Dost thou think such an engagement is like a Lombard’s mortgage, which must be redeemed on the very day, else forfeiture is sure to be awarded?”
“I cannot tell, madam,” replied Rose; “but they that keep their covenant to the letter, are, in my country, held bound to no more.”
“That is a Flemish fashion, Rose,” said her mistress; “but the honour of a Norman is not satisfied with an observance so limited. What! wouldst thou have my honour, my affections, my duty, all that is most valuable to a woman, depend on the same progress of the kalendar which an usurer watches for the purpose of seizing on a forfeited pledge? — Am I such a mere commodity, that I must belong to one man if he claims me before Michaelmas, to another if he comes afterwards? — No, Rose; I did not thus interpret my engagement, sanctioned as it was by the special providence of Our Lady of the Garde Doloureuse.”
“It is a feeling worthy of you, my dearest lady,” answered the attendant; “yet you are so young — so beset with perils — so much exposed to calumny — that I, at least, looking forward to the time when you may have a legal companion and protector, see it as an extrication from much doubt and danger.” “Do not think of it, Rose,” answered Eveline; “do not liken your mistress to those provident dames, who, while one husband yet lives, though in old age or weak health, are prudently engaged in plotting for another.”
“Enough, my dearest lady,” said Rose; ——“yet not so. Permit me one word more. Since you are determined not to avail yourself of your freedom, even when the fatal period of your engagement is expired, why suffer this young man to share our solitude? — He is surely well enough to be removed to some other place of security. Let us resume our former sequestered mode of life, until Providence send us some better or more certain prospects.”
Eveline sighed — looked down — then looking upwards, once more had opened her lips to express her willingness to enforce so reasonable an arrangement, but for Damian’s recent wounds, and the distracted state of the country, when she was interrupted by the shrill sound of trumpets, blown before the gate of the castle; and Raoul, with anxiety on his brow, came limping to inform his lady, that a knight, attended by a pursuivant-at-arms, in the royal livery, with a strong guard, was in front of the castle, and demanded admittance in the name of the King.
Eveline paused a moment ere she replied, “Not even to the King’s order shall the castle of my ancestors be opened, until we are well assured of the person by whom, and the purpose for which, it is demanded. We will ourself to the gate, and learn the meaning of this summons — My veil, Rose; and call my women. — Again that trumpet sounds! Alas! it rings like a signal to death and ruin.”
The prophetic apprehensions of Eveline were not false; for scarce had she reached the door of the apartment, when she was met by the page Amelot, in a state of such disordered apprehension as an eleve of chivalry was scarce on any occasion permitted to display. “Lady, noble lady,” he said, hastily bending his knee to Eveline, “save my dearest master! — You, and you alone, can save him at this extremity.”
“I!” said Eveline, in astonishment —“I save him? — And from what danger? — God knows how willingly!”
There she stopped short, as if afraid to trust herself with expressing what rose to her lips.
“Guy Monthermer, lady, is at the gate, with a pursuivant and the royal banner. The hereditary enemy of the House of Lacy, thus accompanied, comes hither for no good — the extent of the evil I know not, but for evil he comes. My master slew his nephew at the field of Malpas, and therefore”—— He was here interrupted by another flourish of trumpets, which rung, as if in shrill impatience, through the vaults of the ancient fortress.
The Lady Eveline hasted to the gate, and found that the wardens, and others who attended there, were looking on each other with doubtful and alarmed countenances, which they turned upon her at her arrival, as if to seek from, their mistress the comfort and the courage which they could not communicate to each other. Without the gate, mounted, and in complete armour, was an elderly and stately knight, whose raised visor and beaver depressed, showed a beard already grizzled. Beside him appeared the pursuivant on horseback, the royal arms embroidered on his heraldic dress of office, and all the importance of offended consequence on his countenance, which was shaded by his barret-cap and triple plume. They were attended by a body of about fifty soldiers, arranged under the guidon of England.
When the Lady Eveline appeared at the barrier, the knight, after a slight reverence, which seemed more informal courtesy than in kindness, demanded if he saw the daughter of Raymond Berenger. “And is it,” he continued, when he had received an answer in the affirmative, “before the castle of that approved and favoured servant of the House of Anjou, that King Henry’s trumpets have thrice sounded, without obtaining an entrance for those who are honoured with their Sovereign’s command?”
“My condition,” answered Eveline, “must excuse my caution. I am a lone maiden, residing in a frontier fortress. I may admit no one without inquiring his purpose, and being assured that his entrance consists with the safety of the place, and mine own honour.”
“Since you are so punctilious, lady,” replied Monthermer, “know, that in the present distracted state of the country, it is his Grace the King’s pleasure to place within your walls a body of men-at-arms, sufficient to guard this important castle, both from the insurgent peasants, who burn and slay, and from the Welsh, who, it must be expected, will, according to their wont in time of disturbance, make incursions on the frontiers. Undo your gates, then, Lady of Berenger, and suffer his Grace’s forces to enter the castle.”
“Sir Knight,” answered the lady, “this castle, like every other fortress in England, is the King’s by law; but by law also I am the keeper and defender of it; and it is the tenure by which my ancestors held these lands. I have men enough to maintain the Garde Doloureuse in my time, as my father, and my grandfather before him, defended it in theirs. The King is gracious to send me succours, but I need not the aid of hirelings; neither do I think it safe to admit such into my castle, who may, in this lawless time, make themselves master of it for other than its lawful mistress.”
“Lady,” replied the old warrior, “his Grace is not ignorant of the motives which produce a contumacy like this. It is not any apprehension for the royal forces which influences you, a royal vassal, in this refractory conduct. I might proceed upon your refusal to proclaim you a traitor to the Crown, but the King remembers the services of your father. Know, then, we are not ignorant that Damian de Lacy, accused of instigating and heading this insurrection, and of deserting his duty in the field, and abandoning a noble comrade to the swords of the brutal peasants, has found shelter under this roof, with little credit to your loyalty as vassal, or your conduct as a high-born maiden. Deliver him up to us, and I will draw off these men-at-arms, and dispense, though I may scarce answer doing so, with the occupation of the castle.”
“Guy de Monthermer,” answered Eveline, “he that throws a stain on my name, speaks falsely and unworthily; as for Damian de Lacy, he knows how to defend his own fame. This only let me say, that, while he takes his abode in the castle of the betrothed of his kinsman, she delivers him to no one, least of all to his well-known feudal enemy — Drop the portcullis, wardens, and let it not be raised without my special order.”
The portcullis, as she spoke, fell rattling and clanging to the ground, and Monthermer, in baffled spite, remained excluded from the castle. “Un-worthy lady”— he began in passion, then, checking himself, said calmly to the pursuivant, “Ye are witness that she hath admitted that the traitor is within that castle — ye are witness that, lawfully summoned, this Eveline Berenger refuses to deliver him up. Do your duty, Sir Pursuivant, as is usual in such cases.”
The pursuivant then advanced and proclaimed, in the formal and fatal phrase befitting the occasion, that Eveline Berenger, lawfully summoned, refusing to admit the King’s forces into her castle, and to deliver up the body of a false traitor, called Damian de Lacy, had herself incurred the penalty of high treason, and had involved within the same doom all who aided, abetted, or maintained her in holding out the said castle against their allegiance to Henry of Anjou. The trumpets, so soon as the voice of the herald had ceased, confirmed the doom he had pronounced, by a long and ominous peal, startling from their nests the owl and the raven, who replied to it by their ill-boding screams.
The defenders of the castle looked on each other with blank and dejected countenances, while Monthermer, raising aloft his lance, exclaimed, as he turned his horse from the castle gate, “When I next approach the Garde Doloureuse, it will be not merely to intimate, but to execute, the mandate of my Sovereign.”
As Eveline stood pensively to behold the retreat of Monthermer and his associates, and to consider what was to be done in this emergency, she heard one of the Flemings, in a low tone, ask an Englishman, who stood beside him, what was the meaning of a traitor.
“One who betrayeth a trust reposed — a betrayer,” said the interpreter. The phrase which he used recalled to Eveline’s memory her boding vision or dream. “Alas!” she said, “the vengeance of the fiend is about to be accomplished. Widow’d wife and wedded maid — these epithets have long been mine. Betrothed! — wo’s me! it is the key-stone of my destiny. Betrayer I am now denounced, though, thank God, I am clear from the guilt! It only follows that I should be betrayed, and the evil prophecy will be fulfilled to the very letter.” fir?
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00