Part 5 out of 5
sent her away."
"Whither has she gone?" Sir Rudolph demanded, half-mad with passion.
"That I decline to say," the lady abbess replied. "She is in good hands;
and when King Richard returns his ward shall be delivered to him at
"Will you take oath upon the Bible that she is not within these walls?"
Sir Rudolph exclaimed.
"My word is sufficient," the lady abbess replied calmly. "But should it
be necessary, I should be ready to swear upon the relics that she is not
A few hours later Sir Rudolph, attended by his own party and by one
hundred of Sir Charles Everest's mercenaries, returned to his castle.
Three days afterward, as Cuthbert was sitting at a rude but hearty meal
in the forest, surrounded by Cnut and his followers, a hind entered
breathless. Cuthbert at once recognized him as one of the servitors of
"What is it?" he exclaimed, leaping to his feet.
"Terrible news, Master Cuthbert, terrible news!" exclaimed the man. "The
wicked earl came down this morning, with fifty of his men, set fire to
the house, and all its buildings and stacks, and has carried off the
lady, your mother, a prisoner to the castle, on a charge, as he said, of
A cry of fury broke from Cnut and his men.
"The false traitor shall bitterly regret this outrage," Cuthbert
He had in the first excitement seized his arms, and his followers
snatched up their bows, as if for instant warfare. A few moments'
reflection, however, showed to Cuthbert the impossibility of his
attacking a fortress like Evesham, garrisoned by a strong body of
well-armed men, with only the archers of the forest, without implements
necessary for such an assault.
"Send at once, Cnut," he said, "and call in all the band. We cannot take
the castle; but we will carry fire and sword round its walls. We will
cut off all communication from within or from without. If attacked by
large forces, we will retire upon the wood, returning to our posts
without the walls as soon as the force is withdrawn. These heavily armed
men can move but slowly, while we can run at full speed. There cannot be
more than some twenty horsemen in the castle; and methinks with our
arrows and pikes we can drive these back if they attempt to fall upon
Cnut at once sent off swift-footed messengers to carry out Cuthbert's
orders, and on the following day the whole of the band were again
assembled in the woods. Just as Cuthbert was setting them in motion a
distant blast of a horn was heard.
"It is," Cuthbert exclaimed, "the note calling for a parley. Do you,
Cnut, go forward, and see what is demanded. It is probably a messenger
from Sir Rudolph."
After half an hour's absence Cnut returned, bringing with him a
pursuivant or herald. The latter advanced at once toward Cuthbert, who,
now in his full knightly armor, was evidently the leader of the party.
"I bear to you, Sir Cuthbert, falsely calling yourself Earl of Evesham,
a message from Sir Rudolph. He bids me tell you that the traitress, Dame
Editha, your mother, is in his hands, and that she has been found guilty
of aiding and abetting you in your war against Prince John, the regent
of this kingdom. For that offense she has been condemned to die."
Here he was interrupted by a cry of rage which broke from the assembled
foresters. Continuing unmoved, he said:
"Sir Rudolph, being unwilling to take the life of a woman, however
justly forfeited by the law, commands me to say that if you will deliver
yourself up to him by to-morrow at twelve the Dame Editha shall be
allowed to go free. But that if by the time the dial points to noon you
have not delivered yourself up, he will hang her over the battlements of
Cuthbert was very pale, and he waved his hand to restrain the fury which
animated the outlaws.
"This man," he said to them, "is a herald, and, as such, is protected by
all the laws of chivalry. Whatsoever his message, it is none of his. He
is merely the mouthpiece of him who sent him." Then, turning to the
herald, he said, "Tell the false knight, your master, on my part, that
he is a foul ruffian, perjured to all the vows of knighthood; that this
act of visiting upon a woman the enmity he bears her son will bring upon
him the execration of all men; and that the offer which he makes me is
as foul and villainous as himself. Nevertheless, knowing his character,
and believing that he is capable of keeping his word, tell him that by
to-morrow at noon I will be there; that the lady, my mother, is to leave
the castle gates as I enter them; and that though by his foul device he
may encompass my death, yet that the curse of every good man will light
upon him, that he will be shunned as the dog he is, and that assuredly
Heaven will not suffer that deeds so foul should bring with them the
prize he seeks to gain."
The herald bowed, and, escorted by two archers to the edge of the
forest, returned to Evesham Castle.
After his departure an animated council took place. Cnut and the
outlaws, burning with indignation, were ready to attempt anything. They
would, had Cuthbert given the word, have attacked the castle that very
night. But Cuthbert pointed out the absolute impossibility of their
carrying so strong a place by such an assault, unprovided with engines
for battering down the gates. He said that surprise would be impossible,
as the knight would be sure to take every precaution against it; and
that in the event of such an attack being attempted, he would possibly
carry his threat into execution, and murder Dame Editha before their
eyes. Cnut was like a madman, so transported with fury was he; and the
archers were also beside themselves. Cuthbert alone retained his
calmness. Retiring apart from the others, he paced slowly backward and
forward among the trees, deliberating upon the best course to be
pursued. The archers gathered round the fire and passed the night in
long and angry talk, each man agreeing that in the event of their
beloved leader being sacrificed by Sir Rudolph, they would one and all
give their lives to avenge him by slaying the oppressor whensoever he
ventured beyond the castle gates.
After a time, Cuthbert called Cnut to him, and the two talked long and
earnestly. Cnut returned to his comrades with a face less despairing
than that he had before worn, and sent off at once a messenger with all
speed to a franklin near the forest to borrow a stout rope some fifty
feet in length, and without telling his comrades what the plans of Sir
Cuthbert were, bade them cheer up, for that desperate as the position
was, all hope was not yet lost.
"Sir Cuthbert," he said, "has been in grievous straits before now, and
has gone through them. Sir Rudolph does not know the nature of the man
with whom he has to deal, and we may trick him yet."
At eleven o'clock the next day from the walls of Evesham Castle a body
of archers one hundred and fifty strong were seen advancing in solid
"Think you, Sir Rudolph," one of his friends, Sir Hubert of Gloucester,
said to him, "that these varlets think of attacking the castle?"
"They might as well think of scaling heaven," Sir Rudolph said. "Evesham
could resist a month's siege by a force well equipped for the purpose;
and were it not that good men are wanted for the king's service, and
that these villains shoot straight and hard, I would open the gates of
the castle and launch our force against them. We are two to one as
strong as they, and our knights and mounted men-at-arms could alone
scatter that rabble."
Conspicuous upon the battlements a gallows had been erected.
The archers stopped at a distance of a few hundred yards from the
castle, and Sir Cuthbert advanced alone to the edge of the moat.
"Sir Rudolph of Eresby, false knight and perjured gentleman," he shouted
in a loud voice, "I, Sir Cuthbert of Evesham, do denounce you as
foresworn and dishonored, and do challenge you to meet me here before
the castle in sight of your men and mine, and decide our quarrel as
Heaven may judge with sword and battle-ax."
Sir Rudolph leaned over the battlements, and said: "It is too late,
varlet. I condescended to challenge you before, and you refused. You
cannot now claim what you then feared to accept. The sun on the dial
approaches noon, and unless you surrender yourself before it reaches the
mark, I will keep my word, and the traitress, your mother, shall swing
from that beam."
Making a sign to two men-at-arms, these brought forward Dame Editha and
so placed her on the battlements that she could be seen from below. Dame
Editha was still a very fair woman, although nigh forty years had rolled
over her head. No sign of fear appeared upon her face, and in a firm
voice she cried to her son:
"Cuthbert, I beg--nay, I order you to retire. If this unknightly lord
venture to carry out his foul threats against me, let him do so. England
will ring with the dastardly deed, and he will never dare show his face
again where Englishmen congregate. Let him do his worst. I am prepared
A murmur rose from the knights and men-at-arms standing round Sir
Rudolph. Several of his companions had from the first, wild and
reckless as they were, protested against Sir Rudolph's course, and it
was only upon his solemn assurance that he intended but to frighten Sir
Cuthbert into surrender, and had no intention of carrying his threats
against the lady into effect, that they had consented to take part in
the transaction. Even now, at the fearless words of the Saxon lady
several of them hesitated, and Sir Hubert of Gloucester stepped forward
to Sir Rudolph.
"Sir knight," he said, "you know that I am your true comrade and the
faithful servant of Prince John. Yet in faith would I not that my name
should be mixed up in so foul a deed. I repent me that I have for a
moment consented to it. But the shame shall not hang upon the escutcheon
of Hubert of Gloucester that he stood still when such foul means were
tried. I pray you, by our long friendship, and for the sake of your own
honor as a knight, to desist from this endeavor. If this lady be guilty,
as she well may be of aiding her son in his assaults upon the soldiers
of Prince John, then let her be tried, and doubtless the court will
confiscate her estates. But let her son be told that her life is in no
danger, and that he is free to go, being assured that harm will not come
"And if I refuse to consent to allow my enemy, who is now almost within
my hand, to escape," Sir Rudolph said, "what then?"
"Then," said the knight, "I and my following will at once leave your
walls, and will clear ourselves to the brave young knight yonder of all
hand in this foul business."
A murmur of agreement from several of those standing round showed that
their sentiments were in accordance with those of Sir Hubert.
"I refuse," said Rudolph passionately. "Go, if you will. I am master of
my actions, and of this castle."
Without a word, Sir Hubert and two others of the knights present turned,
and briefly ordering their men-at-arms to follow them, descended the
staircase to the courtyard below. Their horses were brought out, the men
fell into rank, and the gates of the castle were thrown open.
"Stand to arms!" Sir Cuthbert shouted to the archers. "They are going to
attempt a sortie." And hastily he retired to the main body of his men.
THE FALSE AND PERJURED KNIGHT.
As the band of knights and their retainers issued from the gate a
trumpeter blew a parley, and the three knights advanced alone toward the
group of archers.
"Sir Cuthbert de Lance," Sir Hubert said, "in the name of myself and my
two friends here we ask your pardon for having so far taken part in this
foul action. We did so believing only that Sir Rudolph intended the
capture of your lady mother as a threat. Now that we see he was in
earnest, we wash our hands of the business; and could we in any way
atone for our conduct in having joined him, we would gladly do so
consistently only with our allegiance to the prince regent."
Cuthbert bowed courteously.
"Thanks for your words, Sir Hubert. I had always heard yourself and the
knights here spoken of as brave and gallant gentlemen, whose sole fault
was that they chose to take part with a rebel prince rather than with
the King of England. I rejoice that you have cleared your name of so
foul a blot as this would have placed upon it, and I acknowledge that
your conduct now is knightly and courteous. But I can no more parley.
The sun is within a few minutes of twelve, and I must surrender, to meet
such fate as may befall me."
So saying, with a bow he left them, and again advanced to the castle
"Sir Rudolph," he shouted, "the hour is at hand. I call upon you to
deliver, outside the gate, the lady, my mother. Whether she wills it or
not, I call upon you to place her beyond the gate, and I give you my
knightly word that as she leaves it I enter it."
Dame Editha would then have attempted resistance; but she saw that it
would be useless. With a pale face she descended the steps, accompanied
by the men-at-arms. She knew that any entreaty to Sir Rudolph would be
vain, and with the courage of her race she mentally vowed to devote the
rest of her life to vengeance for her son.
As the gate opened and she was thrust forth, for a moment she found
herself in the arms of her son.
"Courage, mother!" he whispered; "all may yet be well."
Cnut was waiting a few paces behind, and offering his hand to Dame
Editha, he led her to the group of archers, while Cuthbert, alone,
crossed the drawbridge and entered the portal, the heavy portcullis
falling after him.
Cnut, immediately ordering four of his men to escort Dame Editha to the
wood with all speed, advanced with his men toward the walls. All had
strung their bows and placed their arrows on the ground in front of them
in readiness for instant use. Cnut himself, with two others carrying the
rope, advanced to the edge of the moat. None observed their doings, for
all within the castle were intent upon the proceedings there.
In the courtyard Sir Rudolph had taken his post, with the captain of the
mercenaries beside him, and the men-at-arms drawn up in order. He smiled
sardonically as Cuthbert entered.
"So, at last," he said, "this farce is drawing to an end. You are in my
power, and for the means which I have taken to capture you, I will
account to the prince. You are a traitor to him; you have attacked and
slaughtered many of my friends; you are an outlaw defying the law; and
for each of these offenses your head is forfeited."
"I deny," Cuthbert said, standing before him, "your right to be my
judge. By my peers only can I be tried. As a knight of England and as
rightful lord of this castle, I demand to be brought before a jury of my
"I care nothing for rights or for juries," said Sir Rudolph. "I have the
royal order for your execution, and that order I shall put into effect,
although all the knights and barons in England objected."
Cuthbert looked round to observe the exact position in which he was
standing. He knew, of course, every foot of the castle, and saw that but
a short distance behind a single row of armed men was the staircase
leading to the battlements.
"False and perjured knight," he said, taking a step forward, "I may die;
but I would rather a thousand deaths than such a life as yours will be
when this deed is known in England. But I am not yet dead. For myself, I
could pardon you; but for the outrage to my mother--" and with a sudden
movement he struck Sir Rudolph in the face with all his strength with
his mailed hand.
With the blood gushing from his nostrils, the knight fell backward, and
Sir Cuthbert, with a bound, before the assembly could recover from their
astonishment at the deed, burst through the line of men-at-arms, and
sprang up the narrow staircase. A score of men-at-arms started in
pursuit; but Sir Cuthbert gained the battlements first, and without a
moment's hesitation sprang upon them and plunged forward, falling into
the moat fifty feet below. Here he would have perished miserably, for in
his heavy armor he was of course unable to swim a stroke, and his
weight took him at once into the mud of the moat. At its margin,
however, Cnut stood awaiting him, with one end of the rope in his hand.
In an instant he plunged in, and diving to the bottom grasped Cuthbert
by the body, and twisted the rope round him. The two archers on the bank
at once hauled upon it, and in a minute Sir Cuthbert was dragged to the
By this time a crowd of men-at-arms appeared upon the battlements. But
as they did so the archers opened a storm of arrows upon them, and
quickly compelled them to find shelter. Carried by Cnut and the men with
him--for he was insensible--Sir Cuthbert was quickly conveyed to the
center of the outlaws, and these at once in a compact body began their
retreat to the wood. Cuthbert quickly recovered consciousness, and was
soon able to walk. As he did so the gates of the castle were thrown
open, and a crowd of men-at-arms, consisting of the retainers of the
castle and the mercenaries of Prince John, sallied forth. So soon as
Cuthbert was able to move the archers started at a brisk run, several of
them carrying Cuthbert's casque and sword, and others assisting him to
hurry along. The rear ranks turned as they ran and discharged flights of
arrows at the enemy, who, more heavily armed and weighted, gained but
slowly upon them.
Had not Sir Rudolph been stunned by the blow dealt him by Cuthbert he
would himself have headed the pursuit, and in that case the foresters
would have had to fight hard to make their retreat to their fastness.
The officer in command of the mercenaries, however, had no great stomach
for the matter. Men were hard to get, and Prince John would not have
been pleased to hear that a number of the men whom he had brought with
such expense from foreign parts had been killed in a petty fray.
Therefore after following for a short time he called them off, and the
archers fell back into the forest.
Here they found Dame Editha, and for three days she abode among them,
living in a small hut in the center of the forest. Then she left, to
take up her abode until the troubles were past with some kin who lived
in the south of Gloucestershire.
Although the lady abbess had assured Cuthbert that the retreat of Lady
Margaret was not likely to be found out, he himself, knowing how great a
stake Sir Rudolph had in the matter, was still far from being easy. It
would not be difficult for the latter to learn through his agents that
the lady superior of the little convent near Hereford was of kin to her
of St. Anne's, and, close as a convent is, yet the gossiping of the
servants who go to market was certain to let out an affair so important
as the arrival of a young lady to reside under the charge of the
superior. Cuthbert was not mistaken as to the acuteness of his enemy.
The relationship between the two lady superiors was no secret, and after
having searched all the farmhouses and granges near the forest, and
being convinced that the lady abbess would have sent her charge rather
to a religious house than to that of a franklin, Sir Rudolph sought
which of those within the circuit of a few miles would be likely to be
the one selected. It was not long before he was enabled to fix upon that
near Hereford, and spies going to the spot soon found out from the
country people that it was a matter of talk that a young lady of rank
had been admitted by the superior. Sir Rudolph hesitated whether to go
himself at the head of a strong body of men and openly to take her, or
to employ some sort of device. It was not that he himself feared the
anathema of the church; but he knew Prince John to be weak and
vacillating, at one time ready to defy the thunder of the pope, the next
cringing before the spiritual authority. He therefore determined to
employ some of his men to burst into the convent and carry off the
heiress, arranging that he himself, with some of his men-at-arms, should
come upon them in the road, and make a feigned rescue of her, so that,
if the lady superior laid her complaint before the pope's legate he
could deny that he had any hand in the matter, and could even take
credit for having rescued her from the men who had profaned the convent.
That his story would be believed mattered but little. It would be
impossible to prove its falsity, and this was all that he cared for.
This course was followed out. Late one evening the lady superior was
alarmed by a violent knocking at the door. In reply to questions asked
through the grill, the answer was given, "We are men of the forest, and
we are come to carry the Lady Margaret of Evesham off to a secure
hiding-place. The Lord of Evesham has discovered her whereabouts, and
will be here shortly, and we would fain remove her before he arrives."
"From whom have you warrant?" the lady superior said. "I surrender her
to no one, save to the lady abbess of St. Anne's. But if you have a
written warrant from Sir Cuthbert, the rightful Lord of Evesham, I will
lay the matter before the Lady Margaret, and will act as it may seem fit
"We have no time for parleying," a rough voice said. "Throw open the
gate at once, or we will break it down."
"Ye be no outlaws," the lady superior said, "for the outlaws are men who
fear God and respect the church. Were ye what ye say, ye would be
provided with the warrants that I mention. I warn you, therefore, that
if you use force, you will be excommunicated, and placed under the ban
of the church."
The only answer was a thundering assault upon the gate, which soon
yielded to the blows. The sisters and novices ran shrieking through the
corridors at this rude uproar. The lady superior, however, stood calmly
awaiting the giving way of the gate.
"Where is the Lady Margaret?" the leader of the party, who were dressed
in rough garb, and had the seeming of a band of outlaws, demanded.
"I will say nothing," she said, "nor do I own that she is here."
"We will soon take means to find out," the man exclaimed. "Unless in
five minutes she is delivered to us, we will burn your place to the
The lady abbess was insensible to the threat; but the men rushing in,
seized some sisters, who, terrified out of their wits by this irruption,
at once gave the information demanded, and the men made their way to the
cell where the Lady Margaret slept.
The girl had at once risen when the tumult commenced, doubting not in
her mind that this was another attempt upon the part of her enemy to
carry her off. When, therefore, she heard heavy footsteps approaching
along the gallery--having already hastily attired herself--she opened
the door and presented herself.
"If you seek the Lady Margaret of Evesham," she said calmly, "I am she.
Do not harm any of the sisters here. I am in your power, and will go
with you at once. But I beseech you add not to your other sins that of
violence against holy women."
The men, abashed by the calm dignity of this young girl, abstained from
laying hands upon her, but merely motioned to her to accompany them.
Upon their way they met the man who appeared to be their leader, and he,
well pleased that the affair was over, led the way to the courtyard.
"Farewell, my child," the abbess exclaimed. "God will deliver you from
the power of these wicked men. Trust in Him, and keep up your courage.
Wickedness will not be permitted to triumph upon the earth; and be
assured that the matter shall be brought to the ears of the pope's
legate, and of Prince John himself."
She could say no more, for the men, closing round the weeping girl,
hurried her out from the convent. A litter awaited them without, and in
this the young lady was placed, and, borne upon the shoulders of four
stout men, she started at a fast pace, surrounded closely by the rest of
It was a dark night, and the girl could not see the direction in which
she was being taken; but she judged from the turn taken upon leaving the
convent that it was toward Evesham. They had proceeded some miles, when
a trampling of horses was heard, and a body of armed men rode up. For a
moment Lady Margaret's heart gave a leap, for she thought that she had
been rescued by her friends. There was a loud and angry altercation, a
clashing of swords, and a sound of shouting and cries outside the
litter. Then it was placed roughly on the ground, and she heard the
sound of the footsteps of her first captors hurrying away. Then the
horsemen closed round the litter, and the leader dismounted.
"I am happy indeed, Lady Margaret," he said, approaching the litter, "to
have been able to save you from the power of these villains.
Fortunately, word came to me that the outlaws in the forest were about
to carry you off, and that they would not hesitate even to desecrate the
walls of the convent. Assembling my men-at-arms, I at once rode to your
rescue, and am doubly happy to have saved you, first, as a gentleman,
secondly, as being the man to whom our gracious prince has assigned you
as a wife. I am Sir Rudolph, Earl of Evesham."
As from the first the girl had been convinced that she had fallen into
the power of her lawless suitor, this came upon her as no surprise.
"Whether your story is true, Sir Rudolph," she said, "or not, God knows,
and I, a poor weak girl, will not pretend to venture to say. It is
between you and your conscience. If, as you say, you have saved me from
the power of the outlaws, I demand that, as a knight and a gentleman,
you return with me at once to the convent from which I was taken by
"I cannot do that," Sir Rudolph said. "Fortune has placed you in my
hands, and has enabled me to carry out the commands of the prince.
Therefore, though I would fain yield to your wishes and so earn your
good-will, which above all things I wish to obtain, yet my duty toward
the prince commands me to utilize the advantage which fate has thrown in
"You must do as you will, Sir Rudolph," the girl said with dignity. "I
believe not your tale. You sought before, in person, to carry me off,
but failed, and you have now employed other means to do so. The tale of
your conduct to Dame Editha has reached my ears, and I hold you a
foresworn knight and a dishonored man, and as such I would rather die
than become your wife, although as yet I am but a child, and have no
need to talk of weddings for years to come."
"We need not parley here," the knight said coldly. "We shall have plenty
of time when at my castle."
The litter was now lifted, placed between two horses, and proceeded
rapidly on its journey. Although the hope was but faint, yet until the
gates of the castle closed upon them the Lady Margaret still hoped that
rescue might reach her. But the secret had been too well kept, and it
was not until the following day that the man who had been placed in a
cottage near the convent arrived in all haste in the forest, to say that
it was only in the morning that he had learned that the convent had been
broken open by men disguised as archers, and the Lady Margaret carried
Four days elapsed before Sir Rudolph presented himself before the girl
he had captured. So fearfully was his face bruised and disfigured by the
blow from the mailed hand of Cuthbert three weeks before, that he did
not wish to appear before her under such unfavorable circumstances, and
the captive passed the day gazing from her casement in one of the rooms
in the upper part of the keep, toward the forest whence she hoped rescue
Within the forest hot discussions were going on as to the best course to
pursue. An open attack was out of the question, especially as upon the
day following the arrival there of Lady Margaret three hundred more
mercenaries had marched in from Worcester, so that the garrison was now
raised to five hundred men.
"Is there no way," Cnut exclaimed furiously, "by which we might creep
into this den, since we cannot burst into it openly?"
"There is a way from the castle," Cuthbert said, "for my dear lord told
me of it one day when we were riding together in the Holy Land. He said
then that it might be that he should never return, and that it were well
that I should know of the existence of this passage, which few besides
the earl himself knew of. It is approached by a very heavy slab of stone
in the great hall. This is bolted down, and as it stands under the great
table passes unnoticed, and appears part of the ordinary floor. He told
me the method in which, by touching a spring, the bolts were withdrawn
and the stone could be raised. Thence a passage a quarter of a mile
long leads to the little chapel standing in the hollow, and which, being
hidden among the trees, would be unobserved by any party besieging the
castle. This of course was contrived in order that the garrison, or any
messenger thereof, might make an exit in case of siege."
"But if we could escape," Cnut asked, "why not enter by this way?"
"The stone is of immense weight and strength," Cuthbert replied, "and
could not be loosed from below save with great labor and noise. There
are, moreover, several massive doors in the passage, all of which are
secured by heavy bolts within. It is therefore out of the question that
we could enter the castle by that way. But were we once in, we could
easily carry off the lady through this passage."
The large force which Sir Rudolph had collected was not intended merely
for the defense of the castle, for the knight considered that with his
own garrison he could hold it against a force tenfold that which his
rival could collect. But he was determined if possible to crush out the
outlaws of the forest, for he felt that so long as this formidable body
remained under an enterprising leader like Sir Cuthbert, he would never
be safe for a moment, and would be a prisoner in his own castle.
Cuthbert had foreseen that the attack was likely to be made, and had
strengthened his band to the utmost. He felt, however, that against so
large a force of regularly armed men, although he might oppose a stout
resistance and kill many, yet that in the end he must be conquered.
Cnut, however, suggested to him a happy idea, which he eagerly grasped.
"It would be a rare sport," Cnut said, "when this armed force comes out
to attack us, if we could turn the tables by slipping in, and taking
"The very thing," Cuthbert exclaimed. "It is likely that he will use the
greater portion of his forces, and that he will not keep above fifty or
sixty men, at the outside, in the castle. When they sally out we will at
first oppose a stout resistance to them in the wood, gradually falling
back. Then, at a given signal, all save twenty men shall retire hastily,
and sweeping round make for the castle. Their absence will not be
noticed, for in this thick wood it is difficult to tell whether twenty
men or two hundred are opposing you among the bushes; and the twenty who
remain must shoot thick and fast to make believe that their numbers are
great, retiring sometimes, and leading the enemy on into the heart of
"But supposing, Sir Cuthbert, that they should have closed the gates and
lifted the drawbridge? We could not gain entrance by storming, even if
only twenty men held the walls, until long after the main body would
Cuthbert thought for some time, and then said, "Cnut, you shall
undertake this enterprise. You shall fill a cart high with faggots, and
in it shall conceal a dozen of your best men. You, dressed as a serf,
shall drive the oxen, and when you reach the castle shall say, in answer
to the hail of the sentry, that you are bringing in the tribute of wood
of your master the franklin of Hopeburn. They will then lower the
drawbridge and open the gates; and when you have crossed the bridge and
are under the portcullis, spring out suddenly, cut loose the oxen so
that they will not draw the cart further in, cut the chains of the
drawbridge so that it cannot be drawn off, and hold the gate for a
minute or two until we arrive."
"The plan is capital," Cnut exclaimed. "We will do the proud Norman yet.
How he will storm when he finds us masters of his castle! What then
will you do, Sir Cuthbert?"
"We can hold the castle for weeks," Cuthbert said, "and every day is in
our favor. If we find ourselves forced to yield to superior numbers, we
can at last retire through the passage I have spoken of, and must then
scatter and each shift for himself until these bad days be past."
THE SIEGE OF EVESHAM CASTLE.
Upon the day before starting out to head the expedition against the
outlaws, Sir Rudolph sent word to the Lady Margaret that she must
prepare to become his wife at the end of the week. He had provided two
tiring maids for her by ordering two of the franklins to send in their
daughters for that purpose, and these mingled their tears with
Margaret's at the situation in which they were placed. She replied
firmly to the messenger of the knight that no power on earth could
oblige her to marry him. He might drive her to the altar; but though he
killed her there, her lips should refuse to say the words which would
The following morning, early, the castle rang with the din of
preparation. The great portion of the mercenaries were encamped in tents
outside the walls, for, spacious as it was, Evesham could hardly contain
four hundred men in addition to its usual garrison. The men-at-arms were
provided with heavy axes to cut their way through the bushes. Some
carried bundles of straw, to fire the wood should it be found
practicable to do so; and as it was now summer and the wind was blowing
high, Sir Rudolph hoped that the dry grass and bushes would catch, and
would do more even than his men-at-arms in clearing the forest of those
whom he designated the villains infesting it. They had, too, with them
several fierce dogs trained to hunting the deer, and these, the knight
hoped, would do good service in tracking the outlaws. He and the knights
and the men-at-arms with him were all dismounted, for he felt that
horses would in the forest be an incumbrance, and he was determined
himself to lead the way to the men-at-arms.
When they reached the forest they were saluted by a shower of arrows;
but as all were clad in mail, these at a distance effected but little
harm. As they came closer, however, the clothyard arrows began to pierce
the coarse and ill-made armor of the foot soldiers, although the finer
armor of the knights kept out the shafts which struck against it. Sir
Rudolph and his knights leading the way, they entered the forest and
gradually pressed their invisible foe backward through the trees. The
dogs did good service, going on ahead and attacking the archers; but,
one by one, they were soon shot, and the assailants left to their own
devices. Several attempts were made to fire the wood. But these failed,
the fire burning but a short time and then dying out of itself. In
addition to the fighting men, Sir Rudolph had impressed into the service
all the serfs of his domain, and these, armed with axes, were directed
to cut down the trees as the force proceeded, Sir Rudolph declaring that
he would not cease until he had leveled the whole forest, though it
might take him months to do so.
The assailants gained ground steadily, the resistance being less severe
than Sir Rudolph had anticipated. Several small huts and clearings in
the forest which had been used by the outlaws, and round which small
crops had been planted, were destroyed, and all seemed to promise well
for the success of the enterprise.
It was about two hours after they had left the castle, when a heavy cart
filled with fagots was seen approaching its gates. The garrison, who had
not the least fear of any attack, paid no attention to it until it
reached the edge of the moat. Then the warder, seeing that it contained
fagots, lowered the drawbridge without question, raised the portcullis,
and opened the gates.
"From whom do you bring this wood?" he asked as the man driving the oxen
began to cross the bridge.
"From the franklin of Hopeburn."
"It is well," said the warder, "for he is in arrear now, and should have
sent in the firewood two months since. Take it to the woodhouse at the
other end of the court."
The heavy wagon crossed the drawbridge, but as it was entering the gate
it came suddenly to a stop. With a blow of his ox goad Cnut leveled the
warder to the ground, and cutting the cords of the bullocks, drove them
into the yard ahead. As he did so the pile of fagots fell asunder, and
twelve men armed with bow and pike leaped out. The men-at-arms standing
near, lounging in the courtyard, gave a shout of alarm, and the
garrison, surprised at this sudden cry, ran to their arms. At first they
were completely panic-stricken. But seeing after a time how small was
the number of their assailants, they took heart and advanced against
them. The passage was narrow, and the twelve men formed a wall across
it. Six of them with their pikes advanced, the other six with bent bows
standing behind them and delivering their arrows between their heads.
The garrison fought stoutly, and although losing many, were pressing the
little band backward. In vain the assistant-warder tried to lower the
portcullis, or to close the gates. The former fell on to the top of the
wagon, and was there retained. The gates also were barred by the
obstacle. The chains of the drawbridge had at once been cut. Cnut
encouraged his followers by his shouts, and armed with a heavy ax, did
good service upon the assailants. But four of his party had fallen, and
the rest were giving way, when a shout was heard, and over the
drawbridge poured Cuthbert and one hundred and fifty of the outlaws of
the forest. Struck with terror at this attack, the garrison drew back,
and the foresters poured into the yard. For a few minutes there was a
fierce fight; but the defenders of the castle, disheartened and taken by
surprise, were either cut down or, throwing down their arms, cried for
Ten minutes after the wagon had crossed the drawbridge the castle was
safely in possession of Sir Cuthbert. The bridge was raised, the wagon
removed, the portcullis lowered, and to the external eye all remained as
Cuthbert at once made his way to the chamber where the Lady Margaret was
confined, and her joy at her deliverance was great indeed. So unlimited
was her faith in Sir Cuthbert that she had never lost confidence; and
although it did not seem possible that in the face of such disparity of
numbers he could rescue her from the power of Sir Rudolph, yet she had
not given up hope. The joy of the farmers' daughters who had been
carried off to act as her attendants was little inferior to her own; for
once in the power of this reckless baron, the girls had small hopes of
ever being allowed to return again to their parents.
The flag of Sir Rudolph was thrown down from the keep, and that of the
late earl hoisted in its stead; for Cuthbert himself, although he had
assumed the cognizance which King Richard had granted him, had not yet
any flag or pennon emblazoned with it.
No words can portray the stupefaction and rage of Sir Rudolph when a man
who had managed to slip unobserved from the castle at the time of its
capture bore the news to him in the forest. All opposition there had
ceased, and the whole of the troops were engaged in aiding the peasants
in cutting wide roads through the trees across the forest, so as to make
it penetrable by horsemen in every direction. It was supposed that the
outlaws had gradually stolen away through the thickets and taken to the
open country, intending to scatter to their homes, or other distant
hiding-places; and the news that they had by a ruse captured the castle
came as a thunder-clap.
Sir Rudolph's first impulse was to call his men together and to march
toward the castle. The drawbridge was up and the walls bristled with
armed men. It was useless to attempt a parley; still more useless to
think of attacking the stronghold without the proper machines and
appliances. Foaming with rage, Sir Rudolph took possession of a cottage
near, camped his men around and prepared for a siege.
There were among the mercenaries many men accustomed to the use of
engines of war. Many, too, had aided in making them; and these were at
once set to work to construct the various machines in use at that time.
Before the invention of gunpowder, castles such as those of the English
barons were able to defy any attack by an armed force for a long period.
Their walls were so thick that even the balistas, casting huge stones,
were unable to breach them except after a very long time. The moats
which surrounded them were wide and deep, and any attempt at storming by
ladders was therefore extremely difficult; and these buildings were
consequently more often captured by famine than by other means. Of
provisions, as Sir Rudolph knew, there was a considerable supply at
present in the castle, for he had collected a large number of bullocks
in order to feed the strong body who had been added to the garrison. The
granaries, too, were well stored; and with a groan Sir Rudolph thought
of the rich stores of French wines which he had collected in his
After much deliberation with the knights with him and the captain of the
mercenaries, it was agreed in the first instance to attempt to attack
the place by filling up a portion of the moat and ascending by scaling
ladders. Huge screens of wood were made, and these were placed on
wagons; the wagons themselves were filled with bags of earth, and a
large number of men getting beneath them shoved the ponderous machines
forward to the edge of the moat. The bags of stones and earth were then
thrown in, and the wagons pushed backward to obtain a fresh supply. This
operation was of course an exceedingly slow one, a whole day being
occupied with each trip of the wagons. They were not unmolested in their
advance, for, from the walls, mangonels and other machines hurled great
stones down upon the wooden screens, succeeding sometimes, in spite of
their thickness, in crashing through them, killing many of the men
beneath. The experiment was also tried of throwing balls of Greek fire
down upon the wood; but as this was green and freshly felled it would
not take fire, but the flames dropping through, with much boiling pitch
and other materials, did grievously burn and scald the soldiers working
below it. Upon both sides every device was tried. The crossbowmen among
the mercenaries kept up a fire upon the walls to hinder the defenders
from interfering with the operations, while the archers above shot
steadily, and killed many of those who ventured within range of their
After ten days' labor a portion of the moat some twenty yards in length
was filled with bags of earth, and all was ready for the assault. The
besiegers had prepared great numbers of strong ladders, and these were
brought up under shelter of the screens. Then, all being ready, the
trumpets sounded for the assault, and the troops moved forward in a
close body, covering themselves with their shields so that no man's head
or body was visible, each protecting the one before him with his shield
held over him. Thus the body presented the appearance of a great
scale-covered animal. In many respects, indeed, the warfare of those
days was changed in no way from that of the time of the Romans. In the
twelve hundred years which had elapsed between the siege of Jerusalem
and the days of the Crusades there had been but little change in arms or
armor, and the operations which Titus undertook for the reduction of the
Jewish stronghold differed but little from those which a Norman baron
employed in besieging his neighbor's castle.
Within Evesham Castle all was contentment and merriment during these
days. The garrison had no fear whatever of being unable to repel the
assault when it should be delivered. Huge stones had been collected in
numbers on the walls, caldrons of pitch, beneath which fires kept
simmering, stood there in readiness. Long poles with hooks with which to
seize the ladders and cut them down were laid there; and all that
precaution and science could do was prepared.
Cuthbert passed much of the day, when not required upon the walls,
chatting with the Lady Margaret, who, attended by her maidens, sat
working in her bower. She had learned to read from the good nuns of the
convent--an accomplishment which was by no means general, even among the
daughters of nobles; but books were rare, and Evesham boasted but few
manuscripts. Here Margaret learned in full all the details of Cuthbert's
adventures since leaving England, and the fondness with which as a child
she had regarded the lad grew gradually into the affection of a woman.
The courage of the garrison was high, for although they believed that
sooner or later the castle might be carried by the besiegers, they had
already been told by Cnut that there was a means of egress unknown to
the besiegers, and that when the time came they would be able to escape
unharmed. This, while it in no way detracted from their determination to
defend the castle to the last, yet rendered their task a far lighter and
more agreeable one than it would have been had they seen the gallows
standing before them as the end of the siege.
As the testudo, as it was called in those days, advanced toward the
castle, the machines upon the walls--catapults, mangonels and
arbalasts--poured forth showers of stones and darts upon it, breaking up
the array of shields and killing many; and as these openings were made,
the archers, seizing their time, poured in volleys of arrows. The
mercenaries, however, accustomed to war, advanced steadily, and made
good their footing beneath the castle wall, and proceeded to rear their
ladders. Here, although free from the action of the machines, they were
exposed to the hand missiles, which were scarcely less destructive. In
good order, and with firmness, however, they reared the ladders, and
mounted to the assault, covering themselves as well as they could with
their shields. In vain, however, did they mount. The defenders poured
down showers of boiling pitch and oil, which penetrated the crevices of
their armor and caused intolerable torment. Great stones were toppled
over from the battlements upon them; and sometimes the ladders, seized
by the poles with hooks, were cast backward, with all upon them, on the
throng below. For half an hour, encouraged by the shouts of Sir Rudolph
and their leaders, the soldiers strove gallantly; but were at last
compelled to draw off, having lost nigh one hundred men, without one
gaining a footing upon the walls.
That evening another council of war was held without. Already some large
machines for which Sir Rudolph had sent had arrived. In anticipation of
the possibility of failure, two castles upon wheels had been prepared,
and between these a huge beam with an iron head was hung. This was upon
the following day pushed forward on the newly-formed ground across the
moat. Upon the upper part of each tower were armed men who worked
machines casting sheaves of arrows and other missiles. Below were those
who worked the ram. To each side of the beam were attached numerous
cords, and with these it was swung backward and forward, giving heavy
blows each stroke upon the wall. The machines for casting stones, which
had arrived, were also brought in play, and day and night these
thundered against the walls; while the ram repeated its ceaseless blows
upon the same spot, until the stone crumbled before it.
Very valiantly did the garrison oppose themselves to these efforts. But
each day showed the progress made by the besiegers. Their forces had
been increased, Prince John having ordered his captain at Gloucester to
send another one hundred men to the assistance of Sir Rudolph. Other
towers had now been prepared. These were larger than the first, and
overtopped the castle walls. From the upper story were drawbridges, so
formed as to drop from the structures upon the walls, and thus enable
the besiegers to rush upon them. The process was facilitated by the fact
that the battlements had been shot away by the great stones, and there
was a clear space on which the drawbridges could fall. The attack was
made with great vigor; but for a long time the besieged maintained their
post, and drove back the assailants as they poured out across the
drawbridges on to the wall. At last Cuthbert saw that the forces opposed
to him were too numerous to be resisted, and gave orders to his men to
fall back upon the inner keep.
Making one rush, and clearing the wall of those who had gained a
footing, the garrison fell back hastily, and were safely within the
massive keep before the enemy had mustered in sufficient numbers upon
the wall to interfere with them. The drawbridge was now lowered, and the
whole of the assailants gained footing within the castle. They were
still far from having achieved a victory. The walls of the keep were
massive and strong, and its top far higher than the walls, so that from
above a storm of arrows poured down upon all who ventured to show
themselves. The keep had no windows low enough down for access to be
gained; and those on the floors above were so narrow, and protected by
bars, that it seemed by scaling the walls alone could an entry be
effected. This was far too desperate an enterprise to be attempted, for
the keep rose eighty feet above the courtyard. It was upon the door,
solid and studded with iron, that the attempt had to be made.
Several efforts were made by Sir Rudolph, who fought with a bravery
worthy of a better cause, to assault and batter down the door. Protected
by wooden shields from the rain of missiles from above, he and his
knights hacked at the door with their battle-axes. But in vain. It had
been strengthened by beams behind, and by stones piled up against it.
Then fire was tried. Fagots were collected in the forest, and brought;
and a huge pile having been heaped against the door, it was lighted. "We
could doubtless prolong the siege for some days, Lady Margaret," said
Cuthbert, "but the castle is ours; and we wish not, when the time comes
that we shall again be masters of it, that it should be a mere heap of
ruins. Methinks we have done enough. With but small losses on our side,
we have killed great numbers of the enemy, and have held them at bay for
a month. Therefore, I think that to-night it will be well for us to
leave the place."
Lady Margaret was rejoiced at the news that the time for escape had
come, for the perpetual clash of war, the rattling of arrows, the
ponderous thud of heavy stones caused a din very alarming to a young
girl; and although the room in which she sat, looking into the inner
court of the castle, was not exposed to missiles, she trembled at the
thought that brave men were being killed, and that at any moment a shot
might strike Cuthbert, and so leave her without a friend or protector.
Content with having destroyed the door, the assailants made no further
effort that evening, but prepared in the morning to attack it, pull down
the stones filled behind it, and force their way into the keep. There
was, with the exception of the main entrance, but one means of exit, a
small postern door behind the castle, and throughout the siege a strong
body of troops had been posted here, to prevent the garrison making a
sortie. Feeling secure therefore that upon the following day his enemies
would fall into his power, Sir Rudolph retired to rest.
An hour before midnight the garrison assembled in the hall. The table
was removed, and Cuthbert having pressed the spring, which was at a
distance from the stone and could not be discovered without a knowledge
of its existence, the stone turned aside by means of a counterpoise, and
a flight of steps was seen. Torches had been prepared. Cnut and a chosen
band went first; Cuthbert followed, with Lady Margaret and her
attendants; and the rest of the archers brought up the rear, a trusty
man being left in charge at last with orders to swing back the stone
into its place, having first hauled the table over the spot, so that
their means of escape should be unknown.
The passage was long and dreary, the walls were damp with wet, and the
massive doors so swollen by moisture that it was with the greatest
difficulty they could be opened. At last, however, they emerged into
the little friary in the wood. It was deserted, the priest who usually
dwelt there having fled when the siege began. The stone which there, as
in the castle, concealed the exit, was carefully closed, and the party
then emerged into the open air. Here Cuthbert bade adieu to his
comrades. Cnut had very anxiously begged to be allowed to accompany him
and share his fortunes, and Cuthbert had promised him that if at any
time he should again take up arms in England, he would summon him to his
side, but that at present as he knew not whither his steps would be
turned, it would be better that he should be unattended. The archers had
all agreed to scatter far and wide through the country, many of them
proceeding to Nottingham and joining the bands in the forest of
Cuthbert himself had determined to make his way to the castle of his
friend, Sir Baldwin, and to leave the Lady Margaret in his charge. Cnut
hurried on at full speed to the house of a franklin, some three miles
distant. Here horses were obtained and saddled, and dresses prepared;
and when Cuthbert with Lady Margaret arrived there, no time was lost.
Dressed as a yeoman, with the Lady Margaret as his sister, he mounted a
horse, with her behind him on a pillion. The other damsels also mounted,
as it would not have been safe for them to remain near Evesham. They
therefore purposed taking refuge in a convent near Gloucester for the
present. Bidding a hearty adieu to Cnut, and with thanks to the franklin
who had aided them, they set forward on their journey. By morning they
had reached the convent, and here the two girls were left, and Cuthbert
continued his journey. He left his charge at a convent a day's ride
distant from the castle of Sir Baldwin, as he wished to consult the
knight first as to the best way of her entering the castle without
exciting talk or suspicion.
Sir Baldwin received him with joy. He had heard something of his doings,
and the news of the siege of Evesham had been noised abroad. He told him
that he was in communication with many other barons, and that ere long
they hoped to rise against the tyranny of Prince John, but that at
present they were powerless, as many, hoping that King Richard would
return ere long, shrank from involving the country in a civil war. When
Cuthbert told him that the daughter of his old friend was at a convent
but a day's ride distant, and that he sought protection for her, Sir
Baldwin instantly offered her hospitality.
"I will," he said, "send my good wife to fetch her. Some here know your
presence, and it would be better therefore that she did not arrive for
some days, as her coming will then seem to be unconnected with yourself.
My wife and I will, a week hence, give out that we are going to fetch a
cousin of my wife's to stay here with her; and when we return no
suspicion will be excited that she is other than she seems. Should it be
otherwise, I need not say that Sir Baldwin of Bethune will defend his
castle against any of the minions of Prince John. But I have no fear
that her presence here will be discovered. What think you of doing in
"I am thinking," Cuthbert said, "of going east. No news has been
obtained of our lord the king save that he is a prisoner in the hands of
the emperor; but where confined, or how, we know not. It is my intent to
travel to the Tyrol, and to trace his steps from the time that he was
captured. Then, when I obtain knowledge of the place where he is kept, I
will return, and consult upon the best steps to be taken. My presence in
England is now useless. Did the barons raise the standard of King
Richard against the prince, I should at once return and join them. But
without land or vassals, I can do nothing here, and shall be indeed like
a hunted hare, for I know that the false earl will move heaven and earth
to capture me."
Sir Baldwin approved of the resolution; but recommended Cuthbert to take
every precaution not to fall himself into the hands of the emperor;
"for," he said, "if we cannot discover the prison of King Richard, I
fear that it would be hopeless indeed ever to attempt to find that in
which a simple knight is confined."
IN SEARCH OF THE KING.
The following day, with many thanks, Cuthbert started from the castle,
and in the first place visited the convent, and told Lady Margaret that
she would be fetched in a few days by Sir Baldwin and his wife. He took
a tender adieu of her, not without many forebodings and tears upon her
part; but promising blithely that he would return and lead her back in
triumph to her castle, he bade adieu and rode for London.
He had attired himself as a merchant, and took up his abode at a
hostelry near Cheapside. Here he remained quietly for some days, and,
mixing among the people, learned that in London as elsewhere the
rapacity of Prince John had rendered him hateful to the people, and that
they would gladly embrace any opportunity of freeing themselves from his
yoke. He was preparing to leave for France, when the news came to him
that Prince John had summoned all the barons faithful to him to meet him
near London, and had recalled all his mercenaries from different parts
of the country, and was gathering a large army; also, that the barons
faithful to King Richard, alarmed by the prospect, had raised the royal
standard, and that true men were hurrying to their support. This
entirely destroyed the plans that he had formed. Taking horse again, and
avoiding the main road, by which he might meet the hostile barons on
their way to London, he journeyed down to Nottingham. Thence riding
boldly into the forest, he sought the outlaws, and was not long ere he
found them. At his request he was at once taken before their leader, a
man of great renown both for courage and bowmanship, one Robin Hood.
This bold outlaw had long held at defiance the sheriff of Nottingham,
and had routed him and all bodies of troops who had been sent against
him. With him Cuthbert found many of his own men; and upon hearing that
the royal standard had been raised, Robin Hood at once agreed to march
with all his men to join the royal force. Messengers were dispatched to
summon the rest of the forest band from their hiding-places, and a week
later Cuthbert, accompanied by Robin Hood and three hundred archers, set
out for the rendezvous. When they arrived there they found that Sir
Baldwin had already joined with his retainers, and was by him most
warmly received, and introduced to the other barons in the camp, by whom
Cuthbert was welcomed as a brother. The news that Prince John's army was
approaching was brought in a fortnight after Cuthbert had joined the
camp, and the army in good order moved out to meet the enemy.
The forces were about equal. The battle began by a discharge of arrows;
but Robin Hood and his men shot so true and fast that they greatly
discomfited the enemy; and King John's mercenaries having but little
stomach for the fight, and knowing how unpopular they were in England,
and that if defeated small mercy was likely to be shown to them, refused
to advance against the ranks of the loyal barons, and falling back
declined to join in the fray. Seeing their numbers so weakened by this
defection, the barons on the prince's side hesitated, and surrounding
the prince advised him to make terms with the barons while there was yet
time. Prince John saw that the present was not a favorable time for him,
and concealing his fury under a mask of courtesy, he at once acceded to
the advice of his followers, and dispatched a messenger to the barons
with an inquiry as to what they wanted of him. A council was held, and
it was determined to demand the dismissal of the mercenaries and their
dispatch back to their own country; also that John would govern only as
his brother's representative; that the laws of the country should be
respected; that no taxes should be raised without the assent of the
barons; that all men who had taken up arms against his authority should
be held free; and that the barons on Prince John's side should return
peaceably home and disband their forces. Seeing, under the
circumstances, that there was no way before him but to yield to these
demands, Prince John accepted the terms. The mercenaries were ordered to
march direct to London, and orders were given that ships should be at
once prepared to take them across to Normandy, and the barons marched
for their homes.
Satisfied, now that the mercenaries were gone, that they could
henceforth hold their ground against Prince John, the royal barons also
broke up their forces. Robin Hood with his foresters returned to
Sherwood; and Cuthbert, bidding adieu to Sir Baldwin, rode back to
London, determined to carry out the plan which he had formed. He was the
more strengthened in this resolution, inasmuch as in the royal camp he
had met a friend from whom he parted last in the Holy Land. This was
Blondel, the minstrel of King Richard, whose songs and joyous music had
often lightened the evening after days of fighting and toil in
Palestine. To him Cuthbert confided his intention, and the minstrel
instantly offered to accompany him.
"I shall," he said, "be of assistance to you. Minstrels are like
heralds. They are of no nationality, and can pass free where a
man-at-arms would be closely watched and hindered. Moreover, it may be
that I might aid you greatly in discovering the prison of the king. So
great is the secrecy with which this has been surrounded that I question
if any inquiries you could make would enable you to trace him. My voice,
however, can penetrate into places where we cannot enter. I will take
with me my lute, and as we journey I will sing outside the walls of each
prison we come to one of the songs which I sang in Palestine. King
Richard is himself a singer and knows my songs as well as myself. If I
sing a verse of some song which I wrote there and which, therefore,
would be known only to him, if he hears it he may follow with the next
verse, and so enable us to know of his hiding-place."
Cuthbert at once saw the advantages which such companionship would bring
him, and joyfully accepted the minstrel's offer, agreeing himself to go
as serving man to Blondel. The latter accompanied him to London. Here
their preparations were soon made, and taking ship in a merchantman
bound for the Netherlands, they started without delay upon their
The minstrels and troubadours were at that time a privileged race in
Europe, belonging generally to the south of France, although produced in
all lands. They traveled over Europe singing the lays which they
themselves had composed, and were treated with all honor at the castles
where they chose to alight. It would have been considered as foul a deed
to use discourtesy to a minstrel as to insult a herald. Their persons
were, indeed, regarded as sacred, and the knights and barons strove to
gain their good-will by hospitality and presents, as a large proportion
of their ballads related to deeds of war; and while they would write
lays in honor of those who courteously entertained them, they did not
hesitate to heap obloquy upon those who received them discourteously,
holding them up to the gibes and scoffs of their fellows. In no way,
therefore, would success be so likely to attend the mission of those who
set out to discover the hiding-place of King Richard as under the guise
of a minstrel and his attendant. No questions would be asked them; they
could halt where they would, in castle or town, secure of hospitality
and welcome. Blondel was himself a native of the south of France,
singing his songs in the soft language of Languedoc. Cuthbert's Norman
French would pass muster anywhere as being that of a native of France;
and although when dressed as a servitor attention might be attracted by
his bearing, his youth might render it probable that he was of noble
family, but that he had entered the service of the minstrel in order to
qualify himself some day for following that career. He carried a long
staff, a short sword, and at his back the lute or small harp played upon
by the troubadour. Blondel's attire was rich, and suitable to a person
of high rank.
They crossed to the Scheldt, and thence traveled by the right bank of
the Rhine as far as Mannheim, sometimes journeying by boat, sometimes on
foot. They were also hospitably entertained, and were considered to more
than repay their hosts by the songs which Blondel sang.
At Mannheim they purchased two horses, and then struck east for Vienna.
The journey was not without danger, for a large portion of this part of
Europe was under no settled government, each petty baron living in his
own castle, and holding but slight allegiance to any feudal lord, making
war upon his neighbor on his own account, levying blackmail from
travelers, and perpetually at variance with the burghers of the towns.
The hills were covered with immense forests, which stretched for many
leagues in all directions, and these were infested by wolves, bears, and
The latter, however, although men without pity or religion, yet held the
troubadours in high esteem, and the travelers without fear entered the
gloomy shades of the forest.
They had not gone far when their way was barred by a number of armed
"I am a minstrel," Blondel said; "and as such doubt not that your
courtesy will be extended to me."
"Of a surety," the leader said; "the gay science is as much loved and
respected in the greenwood as in the castle; and moreover, the purses of
those who follow it are too light to offer any temptation to us. We
would pray you, however, to accompany us to our leader, who will
mightily rejoice to see you, for he loves music, and will gladly be your
host so long as you will stay with him."
Blondel, without objection, turned his horse's head and accompanied the
men, followed by Cuthbert. After half an hour's traveling they came to a
building which had formerly been a shrine, but which was now converted
to the robbers' headquarters. The robber chief, on hearing from his
followers the news that a minstrel had arrived, came forward to meet
him, and courteously bade him welcome.
"I am Sir Adelbert, of Rotherheim," he said, "although you see me in so
poor a plight. My castle and lands have been taken by my neighbor, with
whom for generations my family have been at feud. I was in the Holy Land
with the emperor, and on my return found that the baron had taken the
opportunity of my absence, storming my castle and seizing my lands. In
vain I petitioned the emperor to dispossess this traitorous baron of my
lands, which by all the laws of Christendom should have been respected
during my absence. The emperor did indeed send a letter to the baron to
deliver them up to me; but his power here is but nominal, and the baron
contemptuously threw the royal proclamation into the fire and told the
messenger that what he had taken by the sword he would hold by the
sword; and the emperor having weightier matters on hand than to set
troops in motion to redress the grievances of a simple knight, gave the
matter no further thought. I have therefore been driven to the forest,
where I live as best I may with my followers, most of whom were
retainers upon my estate, and some my comrades in the Holy Land. I make
war upon the rich and powerful, and beyond that do harm to no man. But,
methinks," he continued, "I know your face, gentle sir."
"It may well be so, Sir Adelbert," the minstrel said, "for I too was in
the Holy Land. I followed the train of King Richard, and mayhap at some
of the entertainments given by him you have seen my face. My name is
"I remember now," the knight said. "It was at Acre that I first saw you,
and if I remember rightly you can wield the sword as well as the lute."
"One cannot always be playing and singing," Blondel said, "and in lack
of amusement I was forced to do my best against the infidel, who indeed
would have but little respected my art had I fallen into his hands. The
followers of the prophet hold minstrels but in slight reverence."
"What is the news of King Richard?" the knight said. "I have heard that
he was lost on the voyage homeward."
"It is not so," Blondel said. "He landed safely on the coast, and was
journeying north with a view of joining his sister at the court of
Saxony, when he was foully seized and imprisoned by the Archduke John."
"That were gross shame indeed," the knight said, "and black treachery on
the part of Duke John. And where is the noble king imprisoned?"
"That," said Blondel, "no man knows. On my journey hither I have
gathered that the emperor claimed him from the hand of the archduke, and
that he is imprisoned in one of the royal fortresses, but which I know
not. And indeed, sir knight, since you are well disposed toward him, I
may tell you that the purport of my journey is to discover if I can the
place of his confinement. He was a kind and noble master, and however
long my search may be, I will yet obtain news of him."
The knight warmly applauded the troubadour's resolution, and was turning
to lead him into his abode, when his eye fell upon Cuthbert.
"Methinks I know the face of your attendant as well as your own; though
where I can have seen him I know not. Was he with you in the Holy Land?"
"Yes," Blondel said, "the youth was also there; and doubtless you may
have noticed him, for he is indeed of distinguished and of good family."
"Then let him share our repast," the knight said, "if it seems good to
you. In these woods there is no rank, and I myself have long dropped my
knightly title, and shall not reassume it until I can pay off my score
to the Baron of Rotherheim, and take my place again in my castle."
The minstrel and Cuthbert were soon seated at the table with the knight
and one or two of his principal companions. A huge venison pasty formed
the staple of the repast, but hares and other small game were also upon
the table. Nor was the generous wine of the country wanting.
The knight had several times glanced at Cuthbert, and at last exclaimed,
"I have it now. This is no attendant, sir minstrel, but that valiant
young knight who so often rode near King Richard in battle. He is, as I
guess, your companion in this quest; is it not so?"
"It is," Cuthbert replied frankly. "I am, like yourself, a disinherited
knight, and my history resembles yours. Upon my return to England I
found another in possession of the land and titles that belonged to the
noble I followed, and which King Richard bestowed upon me. The Earl of
Evesham was doubtless known to you, and before his death King Richard,
at his request, bestowed upon me as his adopted son--although but a
distant connection--his title and lands and the hand of his daughter.
Prince John, who now rules in England, had however granted these things
to one of his favorites, and he having taken possession of the land and
title, though not, happily, of the lady, closed his door somewhat
roughly in my face. I found means, however, to make my mark upon him;
but as our quarrel could not be fought out to the end, and as the false
knight had the aid of Prince John, I am forced for awhile to postpone
our settlement, and meeting my good friend the minstrel, agreed to join
him in his enterprise to discover our lord the king."
The knight warmly grasped Cuthbert's hand.
"I am glad," he said, "to meet so true and valiant a knight. I have
often wondered at the valor with which you, although so young, bore
yourself; and there were tales afloat of strange adventures which you
had undergone in captivity for a time among the infidels."
At Sir Adelbert's request Cuthbert related the story of his adventures
among the Saracens; and then Blondel, tuning his lute, sang several
canzonets which he had composed in the Holy Land, of feats of arms and
"How far are you," Cuthbert asked presently, when Blondel laid his lute
aside, "from the estates which were wrongfully wrested from you?"
"But twenty leagues," the knight said. "My castle was on the Rhine,
between Coblentz and Mannheim."
"Does the baron know that you are so near?" Cuthbert asked.
"Methinks that he does not," the knight replied, "but that he deems me
to have gone to the court of the emperor to seek for redress--which, he
guesses, I shall certainly fail to obtain."
"How many men have you with you?" Cuthbert asked.
"Fifty men, all good and true," the knight said.
"Has it never entered your thoughts to attempt a surprise upon his
castle?" Cuthbert said.
The knight was silent for a minute.
"At times," he said at length, "thoughts of so doing have occurred to
me; but the castle is strong, and a surprise would be difficult indeed."
"If the baron is lulled in security at present," Cuthbert said, "and
deems you afar off, the watch is likely to be relaxed, and with a sudden
onslaught you might surely obtain possession. Blondel and myself are not
pressed for time, and the delay of a few days can make but little
difference. If, therefore, you think we could be of assistance to you in
such an attempt, my sword, and I am sure that of my friend, would be at
The knight sat for some time in silence.
"Thanks, generous knight," he said at last, "I am sorely tempted to
avail myself of your offer; but I fear that the enterprise is hopeless.
The aid, however, of your arm and knowledge of war would greatly add to
my chances, and if it pleases you we will ride to-morrow to a point
where we can obtain a sight of the baron's castle. When you see it you
shall judge yourself how far such an enterprise as you propose is
"Is your own castle intact?" Cuthbert asked.
"The walls are standing," he said; "but a breach has been made in them,
and at present it is wholly deserted."
"Do you think," Cuthbert asked, "that if you succeeded in surprising and
defeating the garrison of the castle that you could then regain your
own, and hold it against your enemy?"
"I think that I could," Sir Adelbert said. "The baron's domains are but
little larger than my own. Many of my retainers still live upon the
estate, and would, I am sure, gladly join me, if I were to raise my
flag. The baron, too, is hated by his neighbors, and could I inflict a
crushing blow upon him, methinks it would be so long a time before he
could assemble a force, that I might regain my castle and put it in an
attitude of defense before he could take the field against me."
"If," Cuthbert said, "we could surprise the castle, it might well be
that the baron would fall into your hands, and in that case you might be
able to make your own terms with him. How strong a force is he likely to
have in his castle?"
"Some fifty or sixty men," the knight replied; "for with such a force he
could hold the castle against an attack of ten times their number, and
he could in twelve hours call in his retainers, and raise the garrison
to three hundred or four hundred men."
Blondel warmly assented to Cuthbert's scheme, and it was settled that at
daybreak they should start to view the Castle of Rotherheim. At early
dawn they were in the saddle, and the three rode all day, until toward
sunset they stood on the crest of a hill looking down into the valley of
The present aspect of that valley affords but a slight idea of its
beauty in those days. The slopes are now clad with vineyards, which,
although picturesque in idea, are really, to look at from a distance, no
better than so many turnip fields. The vines are planted in rows and
trained to short sticks, and as these rows follow the declivities of the
hillside, they are run in all directions, and the whole mountain side,
from the river far up, is cut up into little patches of green lines. In
those days the mountains were clad with forests, which descended nearly
to the riverside. Here and there, upon craggy points, were situate the
fortalices of the barons. Little villages nestled in the woods, or stood
by the river bank, and a fairer scene could not be witnessed in Europe.
"That is Rotherheim," the knight said, pointing to a fortress standing
on a crag, which rose high above the woods around it; "and that," he
said, pointing to another some four miles away, similarly placed, "is my
Cuthbert examined closely the fortress of Rotherheim. It was a large
building, with towers at the angles, and seemed to rise almost abruptly
from the edge of the rock. Inside rose the gables and round turrets of
the dwelling-place of the baron, and the only access was by a steep
winding path on the riverside.
"It is indeed a strong place," Cuthbert said, "and difficult to take by
surprise. A watch no doubt is always kept over the entrance, and there
we can hope for no success. The only plan will be to scale the wall by
means of a ladder; but how the ladder is to be got to so great a height,
I own at present passes my comprehension." After much thought, Cuthbert
went on, "It might, methinks, be practicable for an archer to approach
the walls, and to shoot an arrow over the angle of the castle so that it
would pass inside the turret there, and fall in the forest beyond. If to
this arrow were attached a light cord, it could be gained by one on the
other side, and a stronger cord hauled over. To this could be attached a
rope ladder, and so this could be raised to the top of the wall. If a
sentinel were anywhere near he might hear the rope pulled across the
battlements; but if, as we may hope, a watch is kept only over the
entrance, the operation might be performed without attracting notice."
The knight was delighted with the project, which seemed perfectly
feasible, and it was agreed that the attempt should be made.
"It will need," Sir Adelbert said, "an archer with a strong arm indeed
to shoot an arrow with a cord attached to it, however light, over the
corner of the castle."
"Methinks," Cuthbert said, "that I can do that, for as a lad I was used
to the strong bows of my country. The first thing, however, will be to
obtain such a bow; but doubtless one can be purchased in one of the
towns, which, if not so strong as those to which I was accustomed, will
at any rate suffice for us."
The party bivouacked in the woods for the night, for the horses had
already done a very long journey, and needed rest before starting back
for the Black Forest. At daybreak, however, they started, and at
nightfall rejoined their band. These were delighted when they heard the
scheme that had been set on foot, and all avowed their eagerness to join
in the attempt to restore their lord to his rights.
Two days later they set out, having already procured from the nearest
town a strong bow, some arrows, a very light rope, and a stronger one
from a portion of which they manufactured a rope ladder capable of
reaching from the top of the wall to the rock below. The journey this
time occupied two days, as the men on foot were unable to march at the
pace at which the mounted party had traversed the ground. The evening
of the second day, however, saw them in sight of the castle. By
Cuthbert's advice, Sir Adelbert determined to give them twenty-four
hours of rest, in order that they might have their full strength for
undertaking the task before them. During the day Cuthbert, guided by the
knight, made his way through the woods to the foot of the rocks on which
the castle stood. They were extremely steep, but could be mounted by
active men if unopposed from above. Cuthbert measured the height with
his eye from the top of the castle wall to the place which he selected
as most fitting from which to shoot the arrow, and announced to the
knight that he thought there would be no difficulty in discharging an
arrow over the angle.
At nightfall the whole party made their way silently through the woods.
Three men were sent round to the side of the castle opposite that from
which Cuthbert was to shoot. The length of light string was carefully
coiled on the ground, so as to unwind with the greatest facility, and so
offer as little resistance to the flight of the arrow as might be. Then,
all being in readiness, Cuthbert attached the end to an arrow, and
drawing the bow to its full compass, let fly the arrow. All held their
breath; but no sound followed the discharge. They were sure, therefore,
that the arrow had not struck the wall, but that it must have passed
clear over it. Half an hour elapsed before they felt that the cord was
pulled, and knew that the men upon the other side had succeeded in
finding the arrow and string attached. The stronger cord was now
fastened to that which the arrow had carried, and this gradually
disappeared in the darkness. A party now stole up the rock, and posted
themselves at the foot of the castle wall. They took with them the coil
of rope-ladder and the end of the rope. At length the rope tightened,
and to the end they attached the ladder. This again ascended until the
end only remained upon the ground, and they knew that it must have
reached the top of the wall. They now held fast, and knew that those on
the other side, following the instructions given them, would have
fastened the rope to a tree upon the opposite side. They were now joined
by the rest of the party, and Sir Adelbert leading the way, and followed
by Cuthbert and Blondel, began cautiously to ascend the rope ladder.
All this time no sound from the castle proclaimed that their intention
was suspected, or that any alarm had been given, and in silence they
gained the top of the wall. Here they remained quiet until the whole
band were gathered there, and then made their way along until they
reached the stairs leading to the courtyard. These they descended, and
then, raising his war-cry, Sir Adelbert sprang upon the men who, round a
fire, were sitting by the gate. These were cut down before they could
leap to their feet, and the party then rushed at the entrance to the
dwelling-house. The retainers of the castle, aroused by the sudden din,
rushed from their sleeping places, but taken completely by surprise,
were unable to offer any resistance whatever to the strong force which
had, as if by magic, taken possession of the castle. The surprise was
complete, and with scarce a blow struck they found themselves in
possession. The baron himself was seized as he rose from his bed, and
his rage at finding himself in the power of his enemy was so great as
for some time to render him speechless. Sir Adelbert briefly dictated to
him the conditions upon which only he should desist from using his power
to hang him over his own gate. The baron was instantly to issue orders
to all his own retainers and tenantry to lend their aid to those of Sir
Adelbert in putting the castle of the latter into a state of defense and
mending the breach which existed. A sum of money, equal to the revenues
of which he had possessed himself, was to be paid at once, and the
knight was to retain possession of Rotherheim and of the baron's person
until these conditions were all faithfully carried out. The baron had no
resource but to assent to these terms, and upon the following day
Cuthbert and Blondel departed upon their way, overwhelmed with thanks by
Sir Adelbert, and confident that he would now be able to regain and hold
the possession of his estate.
KING RICHARD'S RETURN TO ENGLAND.
Journeying onward, Blondel and his companion stopped at many castles,
and were everywhere hospitably entertained. Arriving at Vienna they
lingered for some time, hoping there to be able to obtain some
information of the whereabouts of King Richard. Blondel in his songs
artfully introduced allusions to the captive monarch and to the mourning
of all Christendom at the imprisonment of its champion. These allusions
were always well received, and he found that the great bulk of the
nobles of the empire were indignant and ashamed at the conduct of the
emperor in imprisoning his illustrious rival. The secret of his prison
place, however, appeared to have been so well kept that no information
whatever was obtainable.
"We must carry out our original plan," he said at length, "and journey
into the Tyrol. In one of the fortresses there he is most likely to be
Leaving the capital they wandered up into the mountains for weeks,
visiting one castle after another. It was no easy matter in all cases to
get so near to these prisons as to give a hope that their voice might be
heard within, or an answer received without. More than once crossbow
bolts were shot at them from the walls when they did not obey the
sentinel's challenge and move further away. Generally, however, it was
in the daytime that they sang. Wandering carelessly up, they would sit
down within earshot of the castle, open their wallets, and take out
provisions from their store, and then, having eaten and drunk, Blondel
would produce his lute and sing, as if for his own pleasure. It needed,
however, four visits to each castle before they could be sure that the
captive was not there; for the song had to be sung on each side.
Sometimes they would cheat themselves with the thought that they heard
an answering voice; but it was not until the end of the fourth week,
when singing outside the castle of Diernstein, that a full rich voice,
when Blondel ceased, sang out the second stanza of the poem. With
difficulty Blondel and Cuthbert restrained themselves from an
extravagant exhibition of joy. They knew, however, that men on the
prison wall were watching them as they sat singing, and Blondel, with a
final strain taken from a ballad of a knight who, having discovered the
hiding-place of his lady love, prepared to free her from her oppressors,
shouldered his lute, and they started on their homeward journey.
There was no delay now. At times they sang indeed at castles; but only
when their store was exhausted, for upon these occasions Blondel would
be presented with a handsome goblet or other solid token of the owner's
approval, and the sale of this at the next city would take them far on
their way. They thought it better not to pass through France, as Philip,
they knew, was on the watch to prevent any news of King Richard reaching
England. They therefore again passed through Brabant, and so by ship to
Hearing that Longchamp, Bishop of Ely, one of Richard's vicegerents, was
over in Normandy, and rightly deeming him the most earnest of his
adherents, they at once recrossed the sea, and found the warlike prelate
at Rouen. Greatly delighted was he at hearing that Richard's
hiding-place had been discovered. He at once sent across the news to
England, and ordered it to be published far and wide, and himself
announced it to the barons of Normandy. Then with a gorgeous retinue,
including Cuthbert and Blondel, he started for Vienna, and arriving
there demanded an interview with the emperor.
The news that it was now certain that Richard was imprisoned in a castle
of the emperor had already spread through Europe, and the bishop had
been received everywhere with tokens of sympathy; and so great was the
feeling shown by the counts and barons of the empire that the Emperor
Henry felt that he could no longer refuse to treat for the surrender of
his captive. Therefore he granted the interview which Longchamp
demanded. The English envoy was received by the emperor surrounded by
his nobles. The prelate advanced with great dignity.
"I come," he said, "in the name of the people of England to demand the
restoration of King Richard, most unjustly and unknightly detained a
prisoner in his passage through your dominions."
"King Richard was my foe," the emperor said, "open and secret, and I was
justified in detaining one who is alike my enemy and a scourge to Europe
as a prisoner, when fortune threw him in my hands. I am, however,
willing to put him to a ransom, and will upon the payment of one hundred
and fifty thousand marks allow him to go free."
"I deny your right to detain him or to put him to ransom," the bishop
said. "But as you have the power, so my denial is useless. England is
poor, impoverished with war and by the efforts which she made in the
service of our holy religion. Nevertheless, poor as she is, she will
raise the sum you demand. There is not an Englishman who will not
furnish all he can afford for the rescue of our king. But once again, in
the presence of your nobles, I denounce your conduct as base and
The emperor could with difficulty restrain his passion; but the sight of
the somber visages of his nobles showed that they shared in no slight
degree the feelings which the English envoy had so boldly announced.
"Before, however," the emperor said, "I surrender King Richard, he must
be tried by my peers of many and various crimes of which he is accused.
Should he be found guilty of these, no gold can purchase his release.
Should he, however, be acquitted, then as my word is given so shall it
"Although," the prelate said, "I deny your right to try our king, and
believe that he himself will refuse to accept your jurisdiction, yet I
fear not the result if our lord be left in the hands of the nobles of
the empire and not in yours. I can trust their honor and courtesy."
And turning upon his heel, without another word he quitted the
An hour later the bishop and his following took horse and rode with all
speed to the north coast, and thence sailed for England. The news of the
amount of ransom filled the people with consternation; but preparations
were at once made for collecting the sum demanded. Queen Eleanor was
unceasing in her efforts to raise the money for the release of her
favorite son. The nobles contributed their jewels and silver; the people
gave contributions of goods, for money was so scarce in England that few
had the wherewithal to pay in coin. Prince John placed every obstacle in
the way of the collection; but the barons had since their successful
stand obtained the upper hand, and it was by intrigue only that he could
hinder the collection.
In the meantime, popular opinion throughout Europe was strong upon the
side of King Richard. The pope himself wrote to the emperor on his
behalf. The barons of the empire were indignant at the shame placed upon
their country; and the emperor, although he would fain have thrown
further delays in the way, was obliged at last to order the first step
to be taken.
A solemn diet was ordered to assemble at Worms. Here were collected all
the nobles of the empire, and before them King Richard was brought. It
was a grand assembly. Upon a raised throne on the dais sat the emperor
himself, and beside him and near him were the great feudatories of the
empire, and along the sides of the walls were ranged in long rows the
lesser barons. When the doors were opened and King Richard entered, the
whole assembly, save the emperor, rose in respect to the captive
monarch. Although pale from his long confinement, the proud air of
Richard was in no way abated, and the eyes that had flashed so
fearlessly upon the Saracens looked as sternly down the long lines of
the barons of Germany. Of splendid stature and physique, King Richard
was unquestionably the finest man of his time. He was handsome, with a
frank face, but with a fierce and passionate eye. He wore his mustache
with a short beard and closely-cut whisker. His short curly hair was
cropped closely to his head, upon which he wore a velvet cap with gold
coronet, while a scarlet robe lined with fur fell over his coat of mail,
for the emperor had deemed it imprudent to excite the feeling of the
assembly in favor of the prisoner by depriving him of the symbols of his
King Richard strode to the place prepared for him, and then turning to
the assembly he said, in a voice which rang through the hall:
"Counts and lords of the Empire of Germany, I, Richard, King of
England, do deny your right to try me. I am a king, and can only be
tried by my peers and by the pope, who is the head of Christendom. I
might refuse to plead, refuse to take any part in this assembly, and
appeal to the pope, who alone has power to punish kings. But I will
waive my rights. I rely upon the honor and probity of the barons of
Germany. I have done no man wrong, and would appear as fearlessly before
an assembly of peasants as before a gathering of barons. Such faults as
I may have, and none are without them, are not such as those with which
I am charged. I have slain many men in anger, but none by treachery.
When Richard of England strikes he strikes in the light of day. He
leaves poison and treachery to his enemies, and I hurl back with
indignation and scorn in the teeth of him who makes them the charges
brought against me."
So saying King Richard took his seat amid a murmur of applause from the
The trial then commenced. The accusations against Richard were of many
kinds. Chief among them was the murder of Conrad of Montferat; but there
were charges of having brought the Crusade to naught by thwarting the
general plans, by his arrogance in refusing to be bound by the decision
of the other leaders, and by having made a peace contrary to the
interests of the Crusaders. The list was a long one; but the evidence
produced was pitiably weak. Beyond the breath of suspicion, no word of
real evidence connecting him with the murder of Conrad of Montferat was
adduced, and the other charges were supported by no better evidence.
Many of the German barons who had been at the Crusades themselves came
forward to testify to the falsity of these charges, and the fact that
Richard had himself placed Conrad of Montferat upon the throne, and had
no possible interest in his death, was alone more than sufficient to
nullify the vague rumors brought against him. Richard himself in a few a
scornful words disposed of this accusation. The accusation that he,
Richard of England, would stoop to poison a man whom he could have
crushed in an instant was too absurd to be seriously treated.
"I am sure," the king said, "that not one person here believes this idle
tale. That I did not always agree with the other leaders is true; but I
call upon every one here to say whether, had they listened to me and
followed my advice, the Crusade would not have had another ending. Even
after Philip of France had withdrawn; even after I had been deserted by
John of Austria, I led the troops of the Crusaders from every danger and
every difficulty to within sight of the walls of Jerusalem. Had I been
supported with zeal, the holy city would have been ours; but the apathy,
the folly, and the weakness of the leaders brought ruin upon the army.
They thought not of conquering Jerusalem, but of thwarting me; and I
retort upon them the charge of having sacrificed the success of the
Crusade. As to the terms of peace, how were they made? I, with some
fifty knights and one thousand followers, alone remained in the Holy
Land. Who else, I ask, so circumstanced, could have obtained any terms
whatever from Saladin? It was the weight of my arm alone which saved
Jaffa and Acre, and the line of seacoast, to the Cross. And had I
followed the example set me by him of Austria and the Frenchman, not one
foot of the Holy Land would now remain in Christian hands."
The trial was soon over, and without a single dissentient the King of
England was acquitted of all the charges brought against him. But the
money was not yet raised, and King Richard was taken back into the
heart of Germany. At length, by prodigious exertions, half the amount
claimed was collected, and upon the solicitations of the pope and of the
counts of his own empire, the emperor consented to release Richard upon
receipt of this sum, and his royal promise that the remainder should be
Not as yet, however, were the intrigues at an end. Prince John and King
Philip alike implored the emperor to retain his captive, and offered to
him a larger sum than the ransom if he would still hold him in his
hands. Popular opinion, was, however, too strong. When the news of these
negotiations became bruited abroad the counts of the empire, filled with
indignation, protested against this shame and dishonor being brought
upon the country. The pope threatened him with excommunication; and at
last the emperor, feeling that he would risk his throne did he further
insist, was forced to open the prison gates and let the king free.
Cuthbert, Blondel, and a few other trusty friends were at hand, and
their joy at receiving their long-lost sovereign was indeed intense.
Horses had been provided in readiness, and without a moment's delay the
king started, for even at the last moment it was feared that the emperor
might change his mind. This indeed was the case. The king had not
started many hours, when the arrival of fresh messengers from Philip and
John induced the emperor once more to change his intentions, and a body
of men were sent in pursuit of the king. The latter fortunately made no
stay on the way, but changing horses frequently--for everywhere he was
received with honor and attention--he pushed forward for the coast of
the North Sea, and arrived there two or three hours only before his
oppressors. Fortunately it was night, and taking a boat he embarked
without a moment's delay; and when the emissaries of the emperor arrived
the boat was already out of sight, and in the darkness pursuit was
On landing at Dover, the first to present himself before him was Prince
John, who, in the most abject terms besought pardon for the injuries he
had inflicted. King Richard waved him contemptuously aside.
"Go," he said, "and may I forget your injuries as speedily as you will
forget my pardon."
Then taking horse, he rode on to London, where he was received with the
most lively acclamation by his subjects.
The first step of King Richard was to dispossess all the minions of John
from the castles and lands which had been taken from his faithful
adherents. Some of these resisted; but their fortresses were speedily
stormed. Sir Rudolph was not one of these. Immediately the news of King
Richard's arrival in England reached him, feeling that all was now lost,
he rode to the seacoast, took ship, and passed into France, and
Cuthbert, on his arrival at Evesham, found himself undisputed lord of
the place. He found that the hiding-place of his mother had not been
discovered, and, after a short delay to put matters in train, he,
attended by a gallant retinue, rode into Wiltshire to the castle of Sir
Baldwin of Bethune. Here he found the Lady Margaret safe and sound, and
mightily pleased to see him. She was now seventeen, and offered no
objections whatever to the commands of King Richard that she should at
once bestow her hand upon the Earl of Evesham. By the king's order, the
wedding took place at London, the king himself bestowing the bride upon
his faithful follower, whom we may now leave to the enjoyment of the
fortune and wife he had so valiantly won.