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The Lances Of Lynwood by Charlotte M. Yonge

Part 2 out of 4

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for yourself, what shall you do with this sick Squire?"

"What can I do, save to give the best attendance I may?"

"Nay, I am not the man to gainsay it. 'Tis no more than you ought.
And yet--" He surveyed the young Knight's slender form and slightly
moulded limbs, his cheeks pale with watching and the oppressive heat
of the night, and the heavy appearance of the eyelids that shaded
his dark blue thoughtful eyes. "Is your health good, young man?"

"As good as that of other men," said Eustace.

"Men!" said Sir Richard; "boys, you mean! But be a man, since you
will, only take as good care of yourself as consists with duty. I
had rather have you safe than a dozen of these black-visaged Gascons."

Eustace further waited to mention to Sir Richard his untoward encounter
with Sir John Chandos, and to beg him to explain it to the old Baron.

"I will," said Sir Richard; "and don't take old Chandos's uncourtliness
too much to heart, young Eustace. He means you no ill. Do your duty,
and he will own it in time."

Eustace thanked the old Knight, and with spirits somewhat cheered,
returned to his tent, there to devote himself to the service of
his sick Squire. The report that the fever was in his tent made
most persons willing to avoid him, and he met little interruption
in his cares. Of Leonard, all that he heard was from a man-at-
arms, who made his appearance in his tent to demand Master Ashton's
arms, horse, and other property, he having entered the service of
Sir William Felton; and Eustace was too much engaged with his own
cares to make further inquiry after him.

For a day or two Gaston d'Aubricour's fever ran very high, and just
when its violence was beginning to diminish, a fresh access was
occasioned by the journey from Burgos to Valladolid, whither he was
carried in a litter, when the army, by Pedro's desire, marched thither
to await his promised subsidy. The unwholesome climate was of most
pernicious effect to the whole of the English army, and in especial
to the Black Prince, who there laid the foundation of the disorder
which destroyed his health. Week after week passed on, each adding
heat to the summer, and increasing the long roll of sick and dying in
the camp, while Gaston still lay, languid and feeble by day, and
fevered by night; there were other patients among the men-at-arms,
requiring scarcely less care; and the young Knight himself, though,
owing to his temperate habits, he had escaped the prevailing sickness,
was looking thin and careworn with the numerous troubles and anxieties
that were pressing on him.

Still he had actually lost not one of his men, and after the first
week or two, began to have more confidence in himself, and to feel
his place as their commander more than he would have done had Gaston
been able to assist him. At last his trusty Squire began slowly to
recover, though nightly returns of fever still kept him very weak.

"The Pyrenean breezes would make me another man," said he, one evening,
when Eustace had helped him to the front of the tent, where he might
enjoy the coolness which began to succeed the sultry heat of the day.

"I hear," said Eustace, "that we are to return as soon as the Prince
can be moved. He is weary of waiting till this dog of a Spaniard
will perform his contract."

"By my faith," said d'Aubricour, "I believe the butcherly rogue means
to cancel his debts by the death of all his creditors. I would give
my share of the pay, were it twenty times more, for one gust of the
mountain air of my own hills."

"Which way lies your home, Gaston?" asked Eustace. "Near the pass by
which we crossed?"

"No; more to the west. My home, call you it? You would marvel to
see what it is now. A shattered, fire-scathed keep; the wolf's den in
earnest, it may be. It is all that is left of the Castle d'Albricorte."

How?" exclaimed Eustace. "What brought this desolation?"

"Heard you never my story?" said Gaston. "Mayhap not. You are
fresh in the camp, and it is no recent news, nor do men question
much whence their comrades come. Well, Albricorte was always a
noted house for courage, and my father, Baron Beranger, not a whit
behind his ancestors. He called himself a liegeman of England,
because England was farthest off, and least likely to give him any
trouble, and made war with all his neighbours in his own fashion.
Rare was the prey that the old Black Wolf of the Pyrenees was wont
to bring up to his lair, and right merry were the feastings there.
Well I do remember how my father and brothers used to sound their
horns as a token that they did not come empty-handed, and then,
panting up the steep path, would come a rich merchant, whose ransom
filled our purses half a year after, or a Knight, whose glittering
armour made him a double prize, or--"

"What! you were actually--"

"Freebooters, after the fashion of our own Quatre fils Aymon,"
answered Gaston, composedly. "Yes, Beranger d'Albricorte was the
terror of all around, and little was the chance that aught would
pursue him to his den. So there I grew up, as well beseemed the
cub of such a wolf, racing through the old halls at my will."

"Your mother?" asked Eustace.

"Ah! poor lady! I remember her not. She died when I was a babe,
and all I know of her was from an old hag, the only woman in the
Castle, to whom the charge of me was left. My mother was a noble
Navarrese damsel whom my father saw at a tourney, seized, and bore
away as she was returning from the festival. Poor lady! our grim
Castle must have been a sad exchange from her green valleys--and
the more, that they say she was soon to have wedded the Lord of
Montagudo, the victor of that tourney. The Montagudos had us in
bitter feud ever after, and my father always looked like a
thunderstorm if their name was spoken. They say she used to
wander on the old battlements like a ghost, ever growing thinner
and whiter, and scarce seemed to joy even in her babes, but would
only weep over them. That angered the Black Wolf, and there were
chidings which made matters little better, till at last the poor
lady pined away, and died while I was still an infant."

"A sad tale," said Eustace.

"Ay! I used to weep at it, when the old crone who nursed me would
tell it over as I sat by her side in the evening. See, here is
holy relic that my mother wore round her neck, and my nurse hung
round mine. It has never been parted from me. So I grew up to the
years of pagehood, which came early with me, and forth I went on my
first foray with the rest of them. But as we rode joyously home
with our prey before us, a band of full a hundred and fifty men-at-
arms set on us in the forest. Our brave thirty--down they went on
all side. I remember the tumult, the heavy mace uplifted, and my
father's shield thrust over me. I can well-nigh hear his voice
saying, 'Flinch not, Gaston, my brave wolf-cub!' But then came a
fall, man and horse together, and I went down stunned, and knew no
more till a voice over me said, 'That whelp is stirring--another
sword-thrust!' But another replied, 'He bears the features of
Alienor, I cannot slay him'"

"It was your mother's lover?"

"Montagudo? Even so; and I was about to beg for mercy, but, at my
first movement, the other fellow's sword struck me back senseless
once more, and when I recovered my wits, all was still, and the
moonlight showed me where I was. And a fair scene to waken to!
A score of dark shapes hung on the trees--our trusty men-at-arms
--and my own head was resting on my dead father's breast. Us they
had spared from hanging--our gentle blood did us that service; but
my father and my three brethren all were stone dead. The Count de
Bearn had sworn to put an end to the ravages of the Black Wolf,
and, joining with the Montagudos, had done the work, like traitor
villains as they were."

"And yourself, Gaston?"

"I was not so badly wounded but that I could soon rise to my feet
--but where should I go? I turned towards the Castle, but the
Bearnese had been there before me, and I saw flames bursting
from every window. I was weak and wounded, and sank down,
bleeding and bewailing, till my senses left me; and I should have
died, but for two Benedictines journeying for the service of their
Convent. The good brethren were in fear for their bags in going
through the Black Wolf's country, but they had pity on me; they
brought me to myself, and when they had heard my tale, they
turned aside to give Christian burial to my father and brothers.
They were holy men, those monks, and, for their sakes, I have
spared the cowl ever since. They tended me nearly as well as
you have done, and brought me to their Convent, where they would
fain have made a monk of me, but the wolf was too strong in me,
and, ere a month was passed, I had been so refractory a pupil,
that they were right glad to open the Convent gates. I walked
forth to seek my fortune, without a denier, with nothing but the
sword I had taken from my father's hand, and borne with me, much
against the good men's will. I meant to seek service with any
one who would avenge me on the Count de Bearn. One night I slept
on the hill-side, one day I fasted, the next I fell in with Sir
Perduccas d'Albret's troop. I had seen him in my father's company.
He heard my tale, saw me a strong, spirited lad, and knew a
d'Aubricour would be no discredit to his free lances. So he took
me as his page, and thence--but the tale would be long--I became
what you see me."

"And you have never seen your own Castle again?"

"But once. D'Albret laughed when I called on him to revenge me
on the Count de Bearn, and bade me bide my time till I met him in
battle. As to my heritage, there was no hope for that. Once, when
I had just broken with Sir Nele Loring, and left his troop, and
times were hard with me, I took my horse and rode to Albricorte,
but there was nought but the bare mountain, and the walls black
with fire. There was, indeed, a wretched shepherd and his wife,
who trembled and looked dismayed when they found that one of the
Albricortes still lived; but I could get nothing from them, unless
I had taken a sheep before me on the saddle; so I rode off again
to seek some fresh service, and, by good hap, lit on Sir Reginald
just as old Harwood was dead. All I have from my father is my
name, my shield, and an arm that I trust has disgraced neither."

"No, indeed. Yours is a strange history, Gaston; such as we dream
not of in our peaceful land. Homeless, friendless, I know not how
you can be thus gay spirited?"

"A light heart finds its way through the world the easiest," said
Gaston, smiling. "I have nothing to lose, and no sorrows to waste
time on. But are you not going forth this cool evening, Sir
Eustace? you spoke of seeking fresh tidings of the Prince."

Eustace accordingly walked forth, attended by his yeoman, John Ingram;
but all he could learn was, that Edward had sent a remonstrance to the
King of Castile on the delay of the subsidy.

CHAPTER VII

As Eustace was returning, his attention was caught by repeated groans,
which proceeded from a wretched little hovel almost level with the
earth. "Hark!" said he to Ingram, a tall stout man-at-arms from the
Lynwood estate. "Didst thou not hear a groaning?"

"Some of the Castilians, Sir. To think that the brutes should be
content to live in holes not fit for swine!"

"But methought it was an English tongue. Listen, John!"

And in truth English ejaculations mingled with the moans: "To St.
Joseph of Glastonbury, a shrine of silver! Blessed Lady of Taunton,
a silver candlestick! Oh! St. Dunstan!"

Eustace doubted no longer; and stooping down and entering the hut,
he beheld, as well as the darkness would allow him, Leonard Ashton
himself, stretched on some mouldy rushes, and so much altered, that
he could scarcely have been recognized as the sturdy, ruddy youth
who had quitted the Lances of Lynwood but five weeks before.

"Eustace! Eustace!" he exclaimed, as the face of his late companion
appeared. "Can it be you? Have the saints sent you to my succour?"

"It is I, myself, Leonard," replied Eustace; "and I hope to aid you.
How is it--"

"Let me feel your hand, that I may be sure you are flesh and blood,"
cried Ashton, raising himself and grasping Eustace's hand between his
own, which burnt like fire; then, lowering his voice to a whisper of
horror, "She is a witch!"

"Who?" asked Eustace, making the sign of the cross.

Leonard pointed to a kind of partition which crossed the hut, beyond
which Eustace could perceive an old hag-like woman, bending over a
cauldron which was placed on the fire. Having made this effort, he
sank back, hiding his face with his cloak, and trembling in every
limb. A thrill of dismay passed over the Knight, and the giant,
John Ingram, stood shaking like an aspen, pale as death, and crossing
himself perpetually. "Oh, take me from this place, Eustace,"
repeated Leonard, "or I am a dead man, both body and soul!"

"But how came you here, Leonard?"

"I fell sick some three days since, and--and, fearing infection, Sir
William Felton bade me be carried from his lodgings; the robbers,
his men-at-arms, stripped me of all I possessed, and brought me to
this dog-hole, to the care of this old hag. Oh, Eustace, I have
heard her mutter prayers backwards; and last night--oh! last night!
at the dead hour, there came in a procession--of that I would take
my oath--seven black cats, each holding a torch with a blue flame,
and danced around me, till one laid his paw upon my breast, and
grew and grew, with its flaming eyes fixed on me, till it was as
big as an ox, and the weight was intolerable, the while her spells
were over me, and I could not open my lips to say so much as an Ave
Mary. At last, the cold dew broke out on my brow, and I should have
been dead in another instant, when I contrived to make the sign of
the Cross, whereat they all whirled wildly round, and I fell--oh!
I fell miles and miles downwards, till at last I found myself, at
morning's light, with the hateful old witch casting water in my
face. Oh, Eustace, take me away!"

Such were the times, that Eustace Lynwood, with all his cool sense
and mental cultivation, believed implicitly poor Leonard's delirious
fancy--black cats and all; and the glances he cast at the poor old
Spaniard were scarcely less full of terror and abhorrence, as he
promised Leonard, whom he now regarded only in the light of his old
comrade, that he should, without loss of time, be conveyed to his
own tent.

"But go not--leave me not," implored Leonard, clinging fast to him,
almost like a child to its nurse, with a hand which was now cold
as marble.

"No; I will remain," said Eustace; "and you, Ingram, hasten to bring
four of the men with the litter in which Master d'Aubricour came from
Burgos. Hasten I tell you."

"Ingram, with his eyes dilated with horror, appeared but too anxious
to quit this den, yet lingered. "I leave you not here, Sir Knight."

"Thanks, thanks, John," replied the youth; "but remain I must, and
will. As a Christian man, I defy the foul fiend and all his
followers!"

John departed. Never was Leonard so inclined to rejoice in his
friend's clerkly education, or in his knighthood, which was then
so much regarded as a holy thing, that the presence of one whose
entrance into the order was so recent was deemed a protection.
The old woman, a kind-hearted creature in the main, though,
certainly forbidding-looking in her poverty and ugliness, was
rejoiced to see her patient visited by a friend. She came towards
them, addressing Eustace with what he took for a spell, though,
had he understood Spanish he would have found it a fine flowing
compliment. Leonard shrank closer to him, pressed his hand
faster, and he, again crossing himself, gave utterance to a charm.
Spanish, especially old Castilian, had likeness enough to Latin
for the poor old woman to recognize its purport; she poured out
a voluble vindication, which the two young men believed to be an
attempt at further bewitching them. Eustace, finding his Latin
rather the worse for wear, had recourse to all the strange rhymes,
or exorcisms, English, French, or Latin, with which his memory
supplied him. Thanks to these, the sorceress was kept at bay,
and the spirits of his terrified companion were sustained till
the arrival of all the Lances of Lynwood, headed by Gaston
himself, upon his mule, in the utmost anxiety for his Knight,
looking as gaunt and spectral as the phantoms they dreaded. He
blessed the saints when Eustace came forth safe and sound, and
smiled and shook his head with an arch look when Leonard was
carried out; but his never-failing good-nature prevented him
from saying a word which might savour of reproach when he saw
to what a condition the poor youth was reduced. As four stout
men-at-arms took up the litter, the old woman, coming forth to
her threshold, uttered something which his knowledge of the
Romanesque tongues of Southern France enabled him to interpret
into a vindication of her character, and a request for a reward
for her care of the sick Englishman.

"Throw her a gold piece, Sir Eustace, or she may cast at you an
evil eye. There, you old hag," he added in the Provencal patois,
"take that, and thank your stars that 'tis not with a fire that
your tender care, as you call it, is requited."

The men-at-arms meditated ducking the witch after their own English
fashion, but it was growing late and dark, and the Knight gave strict
orders that they should keep together in their progress to their own
tents. Here Leonard was deposited on the couch which Gaston insisted
on giving up to him; but his change of residence appeared to be of
little advantage, for the camp was scarce quiet for the night, before
he shrieked out that the black cats were there. Neither Eustace nor
Gaston could see them, but that was only a proof that they were not
under the power of the enchantment, and John Ingram was quite sure
that he had not only seen the sparkle of their fiery eyes, but felt
the scratch of their talons, which struck him to the ground, with his
foot caught in the rope of the tent, while he was walking about with
his eyes shut.

The scratch was actually on his face the next morning, and he set out
at the head of half the Lances of Lynwood to find the poor old woman,
and visit her with condign punishment; but she was not forthcoming,
and they were obliged to content themselves with burning her house,
assisted by a host of idlers. In the meantime, Sir Eustace had called
in the aid of the clergy: the chaplains of the camp came in procession,
sprinkled the patient's bed with holy water, and uttered an exorcism,
but without availing to prevent a third visit from the enemy. After
this, however, Leonard's fever began to abate, and he ceased to be
haunted.

He had been very ill; and, thoroughly alarmed, he thought himself
dying, and bitterly did he repent of the headstrong insubordination
and jealously which had lead him to quit his best and only friend.
He had not, indeed, the refinement of feeling which would have made
Eustace's generosity his greatest reproach; he clung to him as his
support, and received his attentions almost as a right; but still he
was sensible that he had acted like a fool, and that such friendship
was not to be thrown away; and when he began to recover he showed
himself subdued, to a certain degree grateful, and decidedly less
sullen and more amenable to authority.

In the meantime, the Prince of Wales found himself sufficiently
recovered to undertake to return to Aquitaine, and, weary of the
treacherous delays and flagrant crimes of his ally, he resolved
to quit this fatal land of Castile.

There was a general cry of joy throughout the camp when orders were
given that the tents should be struck and the army begin its march
in the early coolness of the next morning; and, without further
adventure, the Black Prince led his weakened and reduced forces
over the Pyrenees back into France. Here they were again dispersed,
as the war was at an end; and the young Sir Eustace Lynwood received
high commendation from the Prince, and even from Chandos himself,
for being able to show his brother's band as complete in numbers
and discipline as on the day when it was given into his charge.

"This," as Chandos said, "was a service which really showed him
worthy of his spurs, if he would but continue the good course."

The peace with France, however, prevented the Prince from being
desirous of keeping up the Lances of Lynwood, and he therefore
offered to take their young leader into his own troop of Knights,
who were maintained at his own table, and formed a part of his
state; and so distinguished was this body, that no higher favour
could have been offered. Edward likewise paid to Sir Eustace a
considerable sum as the purchase of his illustrious captive, and
this, together with the ransoms of the two other prisoners, enabled
him to reward the faithful men-at-arms, some of whom took service
with other Knights, and others returned to England. Leonard Ashton
having no pleasant reminiscences of his first campaign, and having
been stripped of all his property by his chosen associates, was
desirous of returning to his father; and Eustace, after restoring
his equipments to something befitting an Esquire of property, and
liberally supplying him with the expenses of his journey, bade
him an affectionate farewell, and saw him depart, not without
satisfaction at no longer feeling himself accountable for his
conduct.

"There he goes," said Gaston, "and I should like to hear the tales
he will amaze the good Somersetshire folk with. I trow he will
make them believe that he took Du Guesclin himself, and that the
Prince knighted you by mistake."

"His tale of the witches will be something monstrous," said Eustace;
"but still, methinks he is much the better for his expedition: far
less crabbed in temper, and less clownish in manners."

"Ay," said Gaston, "if he were never to be under any other guidance
than yours, I think the tough ash-bough might be moulded into
something less unshapely. You have a calmness and a temper such as
he cannot withstand, nor I understand. 'Tis not want of spirit, but
it is that you never seem to take or see what is meant for affront.
I should think it tameness in any other."

"Well, poor fellow, I wish he may prosper," said Eustace. "But now,
Gaston, to our own affairs. Let us see what remains of the gold."

"Ah! your bounty to our friend there has drawn deeply on our purse,"
said Gaston.

"It shall not be the worse for you, Gaston, for I had set aside these
thirty golden crowns for you before I broke upon my own store. It is
not such a recompense as Reginald or I myself would have wished after
such loving and faithful service; but gold may never recompense truth."

"As for recompense," said Gaston, "I should be by a long score the
debtor if we came to that. If it had not been for Sir Reginald, I
should be by this time a reckless freebooter, without a hope in this
world or the next; if it had not been for you, these bones of mine
would long since have been picked by my cousins, the Spanish wolves.
But let the gold tarry in your keeping: it were better King Edward's
good crowns should not be, after all else that has been, in my hands."

"But, Gaston, you will need fitting out for the service of Sir
William Beauchamp."

"What! What mean you, Sir Eustace?" cried Gaston. "What have I
done that you should dismiss me from your followers?"

"Nay, kind Gaston, it were shame that so finished a Squire should be
bound down by my poverty to be the sole follower of a banner which
will never again be displayed at the head of such a band as the
Lances of Lynwood."

"No, Sir Eustace, I leave you not. Recall your brother's words, 'Go
not back to old ways and comrades,' quoth he; and if you cast me off,
what else is left for me? for having once served a banneret, no other
shall have my service. Where else should I find one who would care
a feather whether I am dead or alive? So there it ends--put up your
pieces, or rather, give me one wherewith to purvey a new bridle for
Brigliador, for the present is far from worthy of his name."

Accordingly, the Gascon Squire still remained attached to Eustace's
service, while the trusty Englishman, John Ingram, performed the
more menial offices. Time sped away at the court of Bordeaux; the
gallant Du Guesclin was restored to liberty, after twice paying
away his ransom for the deliverance of his less renowned brethren
in captivity, and Enrique of Trastamare, returning to Castile, was
once more crowned by the inhabitants. His brother Pedro, attempting
to assassinate him, fell by his hand, and all the consequences of
the English expedition were undone--all, save the wasting disease
that preyed on England's heir, and the desolation at the orphaned
hearth of Lynwood Keep.

CHAPTER VIII

Two years had passed since the fight of Navaretta, when Sir Eustace
Lynwood received, by the hands of a Knight newly arrived from England,
a letter from Father Cyril, praying him to return home as soon as
possible, since his sister-in-law, Dame Eleanor, was very sick, and
desired to see him upon matters on which more could not be disclosed
by letter.

Easily obtaining permission to leave Bordeaux, he travelled safely
through France, and crossing from Brittany, at length found himself
once more in Somersetshire. It was late, and fast growing dark,
when he rode through Bruton; but, eager to arrive, he pushed on,
though twilight had fast faded into night, and heavy clouds, laden
with brief but violent showers, were drifting across the face of
the moon. On they rode, in silence, save for Gaston's execrations
of the English climate, and the plashing of the horses' feet in the
miry tracks, along which, in many places, the water was rushing in
torrents.

At length they were descending the long low hill, or rather
undulation, leading to the wooded vale of Lynwood, and the bright
lights of the Keep began to gleam like stars in the darkness--stars
indeed to the eager eyes of the young Knight, who gazed upon them
long and affectionately, as he felt himself once more at home. "I
wonder," said he, "to see the light strongest towards the east end
of the Castle! I knew not that the altar lights in the chapel could
be seen so far!" Then riding on more quickly, and approaching more
nearly, he soon lost sight of them behind the walls, and descending
the last little rising ground, the lofty mass of building rose huge
and black before him.

He wound his bugle and rode towards the gate, but at the moment he
expected to cross the drawbridge, Ferragus suddenly backed, and he
perceived that it was raised. "This is some strange chance!" said
he, renewing the summons, but in vain, for the echoes of the
surrounding woods were the only reply. "Ralph must indeed be deaf!"
said he.

"Let him be stone deaf," said Gaston; "he is not the sole inhabitant
of the Castle. Try them again, Sir Eustace."

"Hark!--methought I heard the opening of the hall door!" said Eustace.
"No! What can have befallen them?"

"My teeth are chattering with cold," said Gaston, "and the horses
will be ruined with standing still in the driving rain. Cannot we
betake ourselves to the village hostel, and in the morning reproach
them with their churlishness?"

"I must be certified that there is nothing amiss," said Sir Eustace,
springing from his saddle; "I can cross the moat on one of the
supports of the bridge."

"Have with you then, Sir Knight," said Gaston, also leaping to the
ground, while Eustace cautiously advanced along the narrow frame of
wood on which the drawbridge had rested, slippery with the wet, and
rendered still more perilous by the darkness. Gaston followed,
balancing himself with some difficulty, and at last they safely
reached the other side. Eustace tried the heavy gates, but found
them fastened on the inside with a ponderous wooden bar. "Most
strange!" muttered he; "yet come on, Gaston, I can find an entrance,
unless old Ralph be more on the alert than I expect."

Creeping along between the walls and the moat, till they had reached
the opposite side of the Keep, Eustace stopped at a low doorway; a
slight click was heard, as of a latch yielding to his hand, the door
opened, and he led the way up a stone staircase in the thickness of
the wall, warning his follower now and then of a broken step. After
a long steep ascent, Gaston heard another door open, and though still
in total darkness, perceived that they had gained a wider space.
"The passage from the hall to the chapel," whispered the Knight, and
feeling by the wall, they crept along, until a buzz of voices reached
their ears, and light gleamed beneath a heavy dark curtain which
closed the passage. Pausing for an instant, they heard a voice
tremulous with fear and eagerness: "It was himself! tall plume,
bright armour! the very crosslet on his breast could be seen in the
moonlight! Oh! it was Sir Reginald himself, and the wild young
French Squire that fell with him in Spain!"

There was a suppressed exclamation of horror, and a sound of
crowding together, and at that moment, Eustace, drawing aside the
curtain, advanced into the light, and was greeted by a frightful
shriek, which made him at first repent of having alarmed his sister,
but the next glance showed him that her place was empty, and a
thrill of dismay made him stand speechless and motionless, as he
perceived that the curtain he grasped was black, and the hall
completely hung with the same colour.

The servants remained huddled in terror round the hearth, and the
pause was first broken by a fair-faced boy, who, breaking from the
trembling circle, came forward, and in a quivering tone said, "Sir,
are you my father's spirit?"

Gaston's laugh came strangely on the scene, but Eustace, bending
down, and holding out his hand, said, "I am your uncle Eustace,
Arthur. Where is your mother?"

Arthur, with a wild cry of joy, sprung to his neck, and hid his face
on his shoulder; and at the same moment old Ralph, with uplifted
hands, cried, "Blessing on the Saints that my young Lord is safe,
and that mine eyes have seen you once again."

"But where, oh! where is my sister?" again demanded Eustace, as his
eye met that of Father Cyril, who, summoned by the screams of the
servants, had just entered the hall.

"My son," replied the good Father, solemnly, "your sister is where
the wicked may trouble her no more. It is three days now since she
departed from this world of sorrow."

"Oh, had she but lived to see this day," said Ralph Penrose, "her
cares would have been over!"

"Her prayers are answered," said Father Cyril. "Come with me, my
son Eustace, if you would take a last look of her who loved and
trusted you so well."

Eustace followed him to the chamber where the Lady Eleanor Lynwood
lay extended on her bed. Her features were pinched and sharpened,
and bore traces of her long, wasting sufferings, but they still
looked lovely, though awful in their perfect calmness. Eustace
knelt and recited the accustomed prayers, and then stood gazing on
the serene face, with a full heart, and gathering tears in his eyes,
for he had loved the gentle Eleanor with the trusting affection of
a younger brother. He thought of that joyous time, the first
brilliant day of his lonely childhood, when the gay bridal cavalcade
came sweeping down the hill, and he, half in pleasure, half in
shyness, was led forth by his mother to greet the fair young bride
of his brother. How had she brightened the dull old Keep, and given,
as it were, a new existence to himself, a dreamy, solitary boy--how
patiently and affectionately had she tended his mother, and how
pleasant were the long evenings when she had unwearily listened to
his beloved romances, and his visions of surpassing achievements of
his own! No wonder that he wept for her as a brother would weep for
an elder sister.

Father Cyril, well pleased to perceive that the kindly tenderness of
his heart was still untouched by his intercourse with the world, let
him gaze on for some time in silence, then laying his hand on his arm
said, "She is in peace. Mourn not that her sorrows are at an end,
her tears wiped away, but prepare to fulfil her last wishes, those
prayers in answer to which, as I fully believe, the Saints have sent
you at
the very moment of greatest need."

"Her last wishes?" said Eustace. "They shall be fulfilled to the
utmost as long as I have life or breath! Oh! had I but come in
time to hear them from herself, and give her my own pledge."

"Grieve not that her trust was not brought down to aught of earth,"
said Father Cyril. "She trusted in Heaven, and died in the sure
belief that her child would be guarded; and lo, his protector is
come, if, as I well believe, my son Eustace, you are not changed
from the boy who bade us farewell three years ago."

"If I am changed, it is not in my love for home, and for all who
dwell there," said Eustace, "or rather, I love them better than
before. Little did I dream what a meeting awaited me!" Again
there was a long pause, which Eustace at length broke by saying,
"What is the need you spoke of? What danger do you fear?"

"This is no scene for dwelling on the evil deeds of wicked men
otherwise than to pray for them," said the Priest; "but return
with me to the hall, and you shall hear."

Eustace lingered a few moments longer, before, heaving a deep sigh
he returned to the hall, where he found Gaston and Ingram, just come
in from attending to the horses, and Ralph hurrying the servants in
setting out an ample meal for the travellers.

"My good old friend," said Eustace, holding out his hand as he
entered, "I have not greeted you aright. You must throw the blame
on the tidings that took from me all other thought, Ralph; for never
was there face which I was more rejoiced to see.

"It was the blame of our own reception of you, Sir Eustace," said
old Penrose. "I could tear my hair to think that you should have
met with no better welcome than barred gates and owlet shrieks;
but did you but know how wildly your bugle-blast rose upon our
ear, while we sat over the fire well-nigh distraught with sorrow,
you would not marvel that we deemed that the spirit of our good
Knight might be borne upon the moaning wind."

"Yet," said Arthur, "I knew the note, and would have gone to the
turret window, but that Mistress Cicely held me fast; and when
they sent Jocelyn to look, the cowardly knave brought back the
tale which you broke short."

"Boast not, Master Arthur," said Gaston; "you believed in our
ghostship as fully as any of them."

"But met us manfully," said Eustace. "But why all these precautions?
Why the drawbridge raised? That could scarce be against a ghost."

"Alas! Sir Eustace, there are bodily foes abroad!" said Ralph. "By
your leave, Master d'Aubricour," as Gaston was about to assist his
Knight in unfastening his armour, "none shall lay a hand near Sir
Eustace but myself on this first night of his return; thanks be to
St. Dunstan that he has come!" Eustace stood patiently for several
minutes while the old man fumbled with his armour, and presently
came the exclamation, "A plague on these new-fangled clasps which
a man cannot undo for his life! 'Twas this low corselet that was
the death of good Sir Reginald. I always said that no good would
come of these fashions!"

In process of time, Eustace was disencumbered of his heavy armour;
but when he stood before him in his plain dress of chamois leather,
old Ralph shook his head, disappointed that he had not attained the
height or the breadth of the stalwart figures of his father and
brother, but was still slight and delicate looking. The golden
spurs and the sword of Du Guesclin, however, rejoiced the old man's
heart, and touching them almost reverentially, he placed the large
arm-chair at the head of the table, and began eagerly to invite him
to eat.

Eustace was too sorrowful and too anxious to be inclined for food,
and long before his followers had finished their meal, he turned
from the table, and asked for an account of what had befallen in
his absence; for there was at that time no more idea of privacy in
conversation than such as was afforded by the comparative seclusion
of the party round the hearth, consisting of the Knight, his arm
around his little nephew, who was leaning fondly against him; of
Father Cyril, of Gaston, and old Ralph, in his wonted nook, his
elbow on his knee, and his chin on his hand, feasting his eyes with
the features of his beloved pupil. In answer to the query, "Who is
the enemy you fear?" there was but one answer, given in different
tones, "The Lord de Clarenham!"

"Ha!" cried Eustace, "it was justly then that your father, Arthur,
bade me beware of him when he committed you to my charge on the
battle-field of Navaretta."

"Did he so?" exclaimed Father Cyril. "Did he commit the boy to your
guardianship? Formally and before witnesses?"

"I can testify to it, good Father," said Gaston. "Ay! and you, Ingram,
must have been within hearing--to say nothing of Du Guesclin."

"And Leonard Ashton," said Ingram.

"It is well," said Father Cyril; "he will be here to-morrow to be
confronted with Clarenham. It is the personal wardship that is of
chief importance, and dwelt most on my Lady's mind."

"Clarenham lays claim then to the guardianship?" asked Eustace.

Father Cyril proceeded with a narrative, the substance of which was
as follows:--Simon de Clarenham, as has been mentioned, had obtained
from King Edward, in the days of the power of Isabel and Mortimer, a
grant of the manor of Lynwood, but on the fall of the wicked Queen,
the rightful owner had been reinstated, without, however, any formal
revocation of the unjust grant. Knowing it would cost but a word of
Sir Reginald to obtain its recall, both Simon and Fulk de Clarenham
had done their best to make him forget its existence; but no sooner
did the news of his death reach England, than Fulk began to take an
ungenerous advantage of the weakness of his heir. He sent a summons
for the dues paid by vassals to their Lord on a new succession, and
on Eleanor's indignant refusal, followed it up by a further claim to
the wardship of the person of Arthur himself, both in right of his
alleged feudal superiority, and as the next of kin who was of full
age. Again was his demand refused, and shortly after Lady Lynwood's
alarms were brought to a height by an attempt on his part to waylay
her son and carry him off by force, whilst riding in the neighbourhood
of the Castle. The plot had failed, by the fidelity of the villagers
of Lynwood, but the shock to the lady had increased the progress of
the decay of her health, already undermined by grief. She never
again trusted her son beyond the Castle walls; she trembled whenever
he was out of her sight, and many an hour did she spend kneeling
before the altar in the chapel. On her brother-in-law, Sir Eustace,
her chief hope was fixed; on him she depended for bringing Arthur's
case before the King, and, above all, for protecting him from the
attacks of the enemy of his family, rendered so much more dangerous
by his relationship. She did not believe that actual violence to
Arthur's person was intended, but Fulk's house had of late become
such an abode of misrule, that his mother and sister had been
obliged to leave it for a Convent, and the tales of the lawlessness
which there prevailed were such that she would have dreaded nothing
more for her son than a residence there, even if Fulk had no interest
in oppressing him.

That Eustace should return to take charge of his nephew before her
death was her chief earthly wish, and when she found herself rapidly
sinking, and the hope of its fulfilment lessening, she obtained a
promise from Father Cyril that he would conduct the boy to the Abbey
of Glastonbury, and there obtain from the Abbot protection for him
until his uncle should return, or the machinations of Fulk be
defeated by an appeal to the King.

This was accordingly Father Cyril's intention. It was unavoidable
that Fulk, the near kinsman of the deceased, should be present at
the funeral, but Father Cyril had intended to keep Arthur within
the sanctuary of the chapel until he could depart under the care
of twelve monks of Glastonbury, who were coming in the stead of
the Abbot--he being, unfortunately, indisposed. Sir Philip Ashton
had likewise been invited, in the hope that his presence might prove
a check upon Clarenham.

CHAPTER IX

With the first dawn of morning, the chapel bell began to toll, and
was replied to by the deeper sound of the bell of the parish church.
Soon the court began to be filled with the neighbouring villagers,
with beggars, palmers, mendicant friars of all orders, pressing to
the buttery-hatch, where they received the dole of bread, meat, and
ale, from the hands of the pantler, under the direction of the almoner
of Glastonbury, who requested their prayers for the soul of the noble
Sir Reginald Lynwood, and Dame Eleanor of Clarenham, his wife. The
peasantry of Lynwood, and the beggars, whose rounds brought them
regularly to the Keep of Lynwood, and who had often experienced the
bounty of the departed lady, replied with tears and blessings. There
were not wanting the usual though incongruous accompaniments of such
a scene--the jugglers and mountebanks, who were playing their tricks
in one corner.

Within the hall, all was in sad, sober, and solemn array, contrasting
with the motley concourse in the court. Little Arthur, dressed in
black, stood by the side of his uncle, to receive the greetings of
his yeoman vassals, as they came in, one by one, with clownish
courtesy, but hearty respect and affection, and great satisfaction
at the unexpected appearance of the young Knight.

Next came in long file, mounted on their sleek mules, the twelve
monks of Glastonbury, whom the Knight and his nephew reverently
received at the door, and conducted across the hall to the chapel,
where the parish Priest, Father Cyril, and some of the neighbouring
clergy had been chanting psalms since morning light. On the way Sir
Eustace held some conference with the chief, Brother Michael, who
had come prepared to assist in conveying Arthur, if possible, to
Glastonbury, but was very glad to find that the Knight was able to
take upon himself the charge of his nephew, without embroiling the
Abbey with so formidable an enemy as Lord de Clarenham.

The next arrival was Sir Philip Ashton and his son, who could hardly
believe their eyes when Eustace met them. Leonard's manner was at
first cordial; but presently, apparently checked by some sudden
recollection, he drew back, and stood in sheepish embarrassment,
fumbling with his dagger, while Sir Philip was lavishing compliments
on Eustace, who was rejoiced when the sound of horses made it
necessary to go and meet Lord de Clarenham at the door. Arthur
looked up in Sir Fulk's face, with a look in which curiosity and
defiance were expressed; while Fulk, on his side, was ready to
grind his teeth with vexation at the unexpected sight of the only
man who could interfere with his projects. Then he glanced at his
own numerous and well-appointed retinue, compared them with the
small number of the Lynwood vassals, and with another look at his
adversary's youthful and gentle appearance, he became reassured,
and returned his salutations with haughty ceremony.

The whole company moved in solemn procession towards the chapel,
where the mass and requiem were chanted, and the corpse of the Lady
Eleanor, inclosed in a stone coffin, was lowered to its resting-
place, in the vault of her husband's ancestors.

It was past noon when the banquet was spread in the hall; a higher
table on the dais for the retainers and yeomanry, the latter of whom
were armed with dagger, short sword, or quarter-staff.

Sir Philip Ashton and Brother Michael were chiefly at the expense of
the conversation, Eustace meanwhile doing the honours with grave
courtesy, taking care to keep his nephew by his side. There was
no one who did not feel as if on the eve of a storm; but all was
grave and decorous; and at length Brother Michael and the monks of
Glastonbury, rejoicing that they, at least, had escaped a turmoil,
took their leave, mounted their mules, and rode off, in all
correctness of civility toward the house of Lynwood, which, as
Eustace could not help feeling, they thus left to fight its own
battles.

"It waxes late," said Lord de Clarenham, rising; "bring out the
horses, Miles; and you, my young kinsman, Arthur, you are to be my
guest from henceforth. Come, therefore, prepare for the journey."

Arthur held fast by the hand of his uncle, who replied, "I thank you
in my nephew's name for your intended hospitality, but I purpose at
once to conduct him to Bordeaux, to be enrolled among the Prince's
pages."

"Conduct him to Bordeaux, said the Knight?" answered Sir Fulk with
a sneer; "to Bordeaux forsooth! It is well for you, my fair young
cousin, that I have other claims to you, since, were you once out
of England, I can well guess who would return to claim the lands
of Lynwood."

"What claim have you to his wardship, Sir Fulk?" asked Eustace,
coldly, disdaining to take notice of the latter part of this speech.

"As his feudal superior, and his nearest relation of full age,"
replied Clarenham.

"There are many here who can prove that it is twenty-one years past,
since I was born on the feast of St. Eustace," replied the young
Knight. "The house of Lynwood owns no master beneath the King of
England, and the wardship of my nephew was committed to me by both
his parents. Here is a witness of the truth of my words. Holy
Father, the parchment!"

Father Cyril spread a thick roll, with heavy seals, purporting to be
the last will and testament of Dame Eleanor Lynwood, bequeathing the
wardship and marriage of her son to her beloved brother, Sir Eustace
Lynwood, Knight Banneret, and, in his absence, to the Lord Abbot of
Glastonbury, and Cyril Langton, Clerk.

"It is nought," said Clarenham, pushing it from him; "the Lady
of Lynwood had no right to make a will in this manner, since she
unlawfully detained her son from me, his sole guardian."

"The force of the will may be decided by the King's justices," said
Eustace; "but my rights are not founded on it alone. My brother,
Sir Reginald, with his last words, committed his son to my charge."

"What proof do you bring, Sir Eustace?" said Fulk. "I question not
your word, but something more is needed in points of law, and you
can scarcely expect the world to believe that Sir Reginald would
commit his only child to the guardianship of one so young, and the
next heir."

"I am here to prove it, my Lord," said Gaston, eagerly. "'To your
care I commit him, Eustace,' said Sir Reginald, as he lay with his
head on his brother's breast; and methought he also added, 'Beware
of Clarenham.' Was it not so, friend Leonard?"

Leonard's reply was not readily forthcoming. His father was
whispering in his ear, whilst he knit his brow, shuffled with his
feet, and shrugged his shoulder disrespectfully in his father's
face.

"Speak, Master Ashton," said Clarenham, in a cold incredulous tone,
and bending on father and son glances which were well understood.
"To your testimony, respectable and uninterested, credit must be
added."

"What mean you by that, Sir Fulk de Clarenham?" cried Gaston; "for
what do you take me and my word?"

"Certain tales of you and your companions, Sir Squire," answered
Clarenham, "do not dispose me to take a Gascon's word for more than
it is worth."

"This passes!" cried Gaston, striking his fist on the table; "you
venture it because you are not of my degree! Here, ye craven
Squires, will not one of you take up my glove, when I cast back
in his teeth your master's foul slander of an honourable Esquire?"

"Touch it not, I command you," said Clarenham, "unless Master
d'Aubricour will maintain that he never heard of a certain one-
eyed Basque, and never rode on a free-booting foray with the robber
Knight, Perduccas d'Albret."

"What of that?" fiercely cried Gaston.

"Quite enough, Sir Squire," said Fulk, coolly.

Gaston was about to break into a tempest of rage, when Eustace's
calm voice and gesture checked him.

"Sir Fulk," said Eustace, "were you at Bordeaux, you would know that
no man's word can be esteemed more sacred, or his character more high,
than that of Gaston d'Aubricour."

"But in the meantime," said Clarenham, "we must be content to take
that, as well as much besides, on your own assertion, Sir Eustace.
Once more, Master Leonard Ashton, let me hear your testimony, as to
the dying words of Sir Reginald Lynwood. I am content to abide by
them."

"Come, Leonard," said his father, who had been whispering with him
all this time, "speak up; you may be grieved to disappoint a once-
friendly companion, but you could not help the defect of your ears."

"Sir Philip, I pray you not to prompt your son," said Eustace.
"Stand forth, Leonard, on your honour. Did you or did you not
hear the words of my brother, as he lay on the bank of the Zadorra?"

Leonard half rose, as if to come towards him, but his father held
him fast; he looked down, and muttered, "Ay, truly, I heard Sir
Reginald say somewhat."

"Tell it out, then."

"He thanked the Prince for knighting you--he prayed him to have
charge of his wife and child--he bade Gaston not to return to evil
courses," said Leonard, bringing out his sentences at intervals.

"And afterwards," said Eustace sternly--"when the Prince was gone?
On your honour, Leonard."

Leonard almost writhed himself beneath the eyes that Eustace kept
steadily fixed on him. "Somewhat--somewhat he might have said of
knightly training for his son--but--but what do I know?" he added,
as his father pressed hard on his foot; "it was all in your ear,
for as he lay on your breast, his voice grew so faint, that I could
hear little through my helmet."

"Nay, Master Ashton," said John Ingram, pressing forward, "if I
remember right, you had thrown off your helmet, saying it was as
hot as a copper cauldron; and besides, our good Knight, when he
said those words touching Master Arthur, raised himself up
somewhat, and spoke out louder, as if that we might all hear and
bear witness."

"No witness beyond your own train, Sir Eustace?" said Clarenham.

"None," said Eustace, "excepting one whose word even you will scarcely
dare to dispute, Sir Bertrand du Guesclin."

"I dispute no man's word, Sir Eustace," said Fulk; "I only say that
until the claim which you allege be proved in the King's Court, I am
the lawful guardian of the lands and person of the heir of Lynwood.
The Lord Chancellor Wykeham may weigh the credit to be attached to
the witness of this highly respectable Esquire, or this long-eared
man-at-arms, or may send beyond seas for the testimony of Du Guesclin:
in the meantime, I assume my office. Come here, boy."

"I will not come to you, Lord Fulk," said Arthur; "or when I do, it
shall be sword in hand to ask for an account for the tears you have
made my sweet mother shed."

"Bred up in the same folly!" said Fulk. "Once more, Sir Eustace,
will you yield him to me, or must I use force?"

"I have vowed before his mother's corpse to shield him from you,"
returned Eustace.

"Think of the consequences, Sir Eustace," said Sir Philip Ashton,
coming up to him. "Remember the unrepealed grant to the Clarenhams.
The Lynwood manor may be at any moment resumed, to which, failing
your nephew, you are heir. You will ruin him and yourself."

"It is his person, not his lands, that I am bound to guard," said
Eustace. "Let him do his worst; my nephew had better be a landless
man, than one such as Fulk would make him."

"Think," continued Sir Philip, "of the disadvantages to your cause
of provoking a fray at such a time. Hold your hand, and yield the
boy, at least till the cause come before the Chancellor."

"Never," said Eustace. "His parents have trusted him to me, and
I will fulfil my promise. The scandal of the fray be on him who
occasions it."

"Recollect, my Lord," said Ashton, turning to Fulk, "that this may
be misrepresented. These young warriors are hot and fiery, and this
young Knight, they say, has succeeded to all his brother's favour
with the Prince."

"I will not be bearded by a boy," returned Clarenham, thrusting him
aside. "Hark you, Sir Eustace. You have been raised to a height
which has turned your head, your eyes have been dazzled by the
gilding of your spurs, and you have fancied yourself a man; but in
your own county and your own family, airs are not to be borne. We
rate you at what you are worth, and are not to be imposed on by idle
tales which the boastful young men of the Prince's court frame of
each other. Give up these pretensions, depart in peace to your
fellows at Bordeaux, and we will forget your insolent interference."

"Never, while I live," replied Eustace. "Vassals of Lynwood, guard
your young Lord."

"Vassals of Lynwood," said Fulk, will you see your young Lord carried
off to perish in some unknown region, and yourselves left a prey to
an adventurer and freebooter?"

"For that matter, my Lord," said an old farmer, "if all tales be true,
Master Arthur is like to learn less harm with Sir Eustace than in your
jolly household--I for one will stand by our good Lord's brother to
the last. What say you, comrades?"

"Hurrah for the Lances of Lynwood!" shouted John Ingram, and the cry
was taken up by many a gruff honest voice, till the hall rang again,
and the opposing shout of "a Clarenham, a Clarenham!" was raised by
the retainers of the Baron. Eustace, at the same moment, raised his
nephew in his arms, and lifted him up into the embrasure of one of
the high windows. Sir Philip Ashton still hung upon Clarenham,
pleading in broken sentences which were lost in the uproar: "Hold!
Hold! my Lord. Nay, nay, think but"--(here he was thrust roughly
aside by Fulk)--"Sir Eustace, do but hear--it will be a matter for
the council--in the name of the King--for the love of Heaven--Leonard,
son Leonard! for Heaven's sake what have you to do with the matter?
Down with that sword, and follow me! Dost not hear, froward boy?
Our names will be called in question! Leonard, on your duty--Ha!
have a care! there!"

These last words were broken short, as Gaston, rushing forwards to
his master's side, overthrew the table, which carried Sir Philip with
it in the fall, and he lay prostrate under the boards, a stumbling-
block to a stream of eager combatants, who one after another dashed
against him, fell, and either rose again, or remained kicking and
struggling with each other.

After several minutes' confused fighting, the tumult cleared away,
as it were, leaving the principals on each side opposite to each
other, and as the fortune of the day rested on their conflict, all
became gradually fixed in attention, resting upon their weapons, in
readiness at any moment to renew their own portion of the combat.

Fulk, tall and robust, had far more the appearance of strength than
his slenderly-made antagonist, but three years in the school of
chivalry had not been wasted by Eustace, and the sword of Du Guesclin
was in a hand well accustomed to its use. Old Ralph was uttering
under his breath ecstatic exclamations: "Ha! Well struck! A rare
foil--a perfect hit--Have a care--Ah! there comes my old blow--That
is right--Old Sir Henry's master-stroke-- There--one of your new
French backstrokes--but it told--Oh! have a care--The Saints guard--
Ay--There--Follow it up! Hurrah for Lynwood!" as Fulk tottered,
slipped, sank on one knee, and receiving a severe blow on the head
with the back of the sword, measured his length on the ground.

"Hurrah for Lynwood!" re-echoed through the hall, but Eustace cut
short the clamour at once, by saying, "Peace, my friends, and thanks!
Sir Fulk de Clarenham," he added, as his fallen foe moved, and began
to raise himself, "you have received a lesson, by which I hope you
will profit. Leave the house, whose mourning you have insulted, and
thank your relationship that I forbear to bring this outrage to the
notice of the King."

While Eustace spoke, Fulk had, by the assistance of two of his
retainers, recovered his feet; but though unwounded, he was so
dizzied with the blow as to be passive in their hands, and to
allow himself to be led into the court, and placed on his horse.
Before riding out of the gates, he turned round, and clenching
his fist, glanced malignantly at Eustace, and muttered, "You shall
aby it."

Another shout of "Down with the false Clarenham! Hurrah for the
Lances of Lynwood, and the brave young Knight!" was raised in the
court by the peasantry, among whom Fulk was so much hated, that not
even regard for their future welfare could prevent them from indulging
in this triumph. Probably, too, they expected the satisfaction of
drinking the health of the victor, for there were many disappointed
countenances when he spoke from the steps of the porch:--"Thanks for
your good-will, my friends. Fare ye well, depart in peace, and
remember your young Lord." Then turning to the parish Priest, he
added, in a low voice, "See that they leave the Castle as soon as
possible. The gates must be secured as soon as may be."

He turned back into the hall, and at the door was met by little
Arthur, who caught hold of his hand, exclaiming, "So you have
won me, and shall keep me forever, Uncle Eustace; but come in,
for here is poor old Sir Philip, who was thrown down under the
table in the scuffle, bemoaning himself most lamentably."

"Sir Philip hurt?" said Eustace, who, vexed as he was by Sir Philip's
behaviour, preserved a certain neighbourly hereditary respect for
him; "I trust not seriously," and he advanced towards the arm-chair,
where Sir Philip Ashton was sitting, attended by Father Cyril and a
man-at-arms, and groaning and complaining of his bruises, while at
the same time he ordered the horses to be brought out as speedily as
possible.

"Surely," said Eustace, "you should not be in such haste, Sir Philip.
I grieve that you should have met with this mishap. But you had
better remain here, and try what rest will do for you."

"Remain here!" said Sir Philip, almost shuddering. "Nay, nay, my
young Sir, I would not have you to remain here, nor any of us, for
longer space than the saddling of a horse. Alas! alas! my young
friend, I grieve for you. I loved your father well.--Look from the
window, Leonard. Are the horses led forth?"

"But why this haste?" asked Sir Eustace. "You are heavily bruised--
best let Father Cyril look to your hurts."

"Thanks, Sir Eustace; but--Ah! my back!--but I would not remain under
this roof for more than you could give me. I should but endanger
myself without benefiting you. Alas! alas! that I should have fallen
upon such a fray! I am sorry for you, my brave youth!"

"I thank you, Sir Philip, but I know not what I have done to deserve
your concern."

"Hot blood! wilful blood!" said Sir Philip, shaking his head. "Are
the horses come? Here! your hand, Leonard, help me to rise--Ah! ah!
not so fast--Oh! I shall never get over it! There--mind you, I did
all to prevent this unhappy business--I am clear of it! Fare you
well, Sir Eustace--take an old man's advice, give up the boy, and
leave the country before worse comes of it."

"What is likely to come of it?" said Eustace; "Clarenham made an
uncalled-for, unjust, shameless attempt to seize the person of
my ward. I repelled him by force of arms, and I think he would
scarce like to call the attention of justice to his own share in
the matter."

"Ah! well, you speak boldly, but before you have reached my years,
you will have learnt what it is to have for your foe the most mighty
man of the county--nay, of the court; for your foe, Lord de Clarenham,
is in close friendship with the Earl of Pembroke. Beware, my young
friend, beware!"

When the hall was clear of guests, a council was held between the
Knight, the Priest, and the two Esquires. Its result was, that
Arthur's person, as the most important point, should be secured,
by his uncle carrying him at once to the Prince's protection at
Bordeaux; but it was only with difficulty that Eustace was
prevailed on to fly, as he said, from his accusers. The good
Father had to say, with a smile, that after all there was as much
need for patience and submission under the helm as under the cowl,
before Eustace at length consented. Cyril meanwhile was to lay the
case before the Chancellor, William of Wykeham, and Eustace gave him
letters to the Duke of Lancaster and to Sir Richard Ferrars, in the
hopes of their recommending his suit.

Eustace then received from the hands of the Priest a bag of gold
coins, his portion as a younger son, part of which he gave to be
distributed in alms, part he still confided to Father Cyril's
keeping, and the rest he was to take away for present needs--and
they parted for the last night of his brief stay at Lynwood Keep.

CHAPTER X

In the early morning, Sir Eustace and his few followers were in
their saddles, little Arthur riding between his uncle and Gaston.
The chief part of the day was spent on the journey. They dined, to
Arthur's glee, on provisions they had brought with them, seated on
a green bank near a stream, and at evening found themselves at the
door of a large hostel, its open porch covered by a vine.

The host and his attendants ran out at first to meet them with
alacrity, but, on seeing them, appeared disappointed. And as the
Knight, dismounting, ordered supper and bed, the host replied that
he could indeed engage to find food, and to accommodate their
steeds, but that the whole of the inn had been secured on behalf
of two noble ladies and their train, who were each moment expected.

"Be it so," said Eustace; "a truss of hay beside our horses, or a
settle by the fire, is all we need. Here is a taste already of a
warrior's life for you, Arthur."

The boy was delighted, certain that to sleep beside his pony was far
more delightful, as well as more manly, than to rest in his bed, like
a lady at home.

As this was arranged, a sound of horses' feet approached, and a
band of men-at-arms rode up to the door. Arthur started and
seized his uncle's hand as he recognized the Clarenham colours
and badge, uttering an exclamation of dismay. "Never fear,
Arthur," said Eustace, "they come from the way opposite to ours.
It is not pursuit. See, it is an escort--there are ladies among
them."

"Four!" said Arthur. "Uncle, that tall dame in black must be the
Lady Muriel. And surely the white veil tied with rose-colour
belongs to kind Cousin Agnes."

"True! These are no Clarenhams to guard against," said Eustace to
his Squire, who looked ready for action. "Lady Muriel, the step-
mother of the Baron and his sister, is my godmother, and, by birth,
a Lynwood."

Then stepping forward, he assisted the elder lady to dismount; she
returned his courtesy by a slight inclination, as to a stranger,
but her companion, who had lightly sprung to the ground, no sooner
perceived him than she exclaimed, "Eustace!" then laying her hand
on Lady Muriel's arm, "Mother, it is Sir Eustace Lynwood."

"Ha! my gallant godson!" said the Baroness, greeting him cordially.
"Well met, brave youth! No wonder in that knightly figure I did not
know my kinswoman's little page. How does my gentle niece, Eleanor?"

"Alack! then you have not heard the tidings?" said Eustace.

"We heard long since she was sick with grief," said Lady Muriel, much
alarmed. "What mean you? Is she worse? You weep--surely she still
lives!"

"Ah! honoured dame, we come even now from laying her in her grave.
Here is her orphan boy."

Young Agnes could not restrain a cry of grief and horror, and trying
to repress her weeping till it should be without so many witnesses,
Lady Muriel and her bower-woman led her to their apartments in the
inn. Eustace was greatly affected by her grief. She had often
accompanied her step-mother on visits to Lynwood Keep in the peaceful
days of their childhood; she had loved no sport better than to sit
listening to his romantic discourses of chivalry, and had found in
the shy, delicate, dreamy boy, something congenial to her own quiet
nature; and, in short, when Eustace indulged in a vision, Agnes was
ever the lady of it, the pale slight Agnes, with no beauty save her
large soft brown eyes, that seemed to follow and take in every fancy
or thought of his. Agnes was looked down on,--her father thought she
would do him little honour,--her brother cared not for her; save for
her step-mother she would have met with little fostering attention,
and when Eustace saw her set aside and disregarded, his heart had
bounded with the thought that when he should lay his trophies at her
feet, Agnes would be honoured for his sake. But Eustace's honours
had been barren, and he could only look back with a sad heart to the
fancies of his youth, when he had deemed Knight-errantry might win
the lady of his love.

Eleanor had been one of the few who had known and loved the damsel
of Clarenham, and had encouraged her to lay aside her timidity.
Agnes wept for her as a sister, and still could hardly restrain
her sobs, when Eustace and his nephew were invited to the presence
of the ladies to narrate their melancholy tale.

Many tears were shed, and caresses lavished upon the orphan. The
ladies asked his destination, and on hearing that he was to be
taken to the Prince's court at Bordeaux, Agnes said, "We, too, are
bound to the Prince's court. I am to journey thither with Fulk.
Were it not better for Arthur to travel with us? Most carefully
would we guard him. It would spare him many a hardship, for which
he is scarce old enough; and his company would be a solace, almost
a protection to me. My pretty playfellow, will you be my travelling
companion?"

"I would go with you, Cousin Agnes, for you are kind and gentle, and
I love you well; but a brave Knight's son must learn to rough it;
and besides, I would not go with Sir Fulk, your brother, for he is
a false and cruel Knight, who persecuted my blessed mother to the
very death."

"Can this be? O speak, Eustace!" said Agnes. "What means the boy?
Hath Fulk shown himself other than a loving kinsman?"

The Baroness, who understood her step-son's character better than
did his young sister, and who was informed of the old enmity between
the two houses, felt considerable anxiety as to what they were now
to hear; when Eustace, beginning, "Ah, Lady, I grieve twice in the
day to sadden your heart; yet since so much has been said, it were
best to relate the whole truth," proceeded to tell what had passed
respecting the wardship of young Arthur. Agnes's eyes filled with
burning tears of indignation. "O dear Lady Mother!" cried she, "take
me back to our Convent! How can I meet my brother! How conceal my
anger and my shame!"

"This is far worse than even I feared," said Lady Muriel. "I knew
Fulk to be unscrupulous and grasping, but I did not think him capable
of such foul oppression. For you, my sweet Agnes--would that I could
prevail on him to leave you in the safe arms of the cloister-- but,
alas! I have no right to detain you from a brother's guardianship."

"I dreaded this journey much before," said Agnes; "but now, even my
trust in Fulk is gone; I shall see round me no one in whom to place
confidence. Alas! alas!"

"Nay, fair Agnes," said Eustace, "he will surely be a kind brother
to thee--he cannot be otherwise."

"How love and trust when there is no esteem? Oh, Mother, Mother!
this is loneliness indeed! In that strange, courtly throng, who
will protect and shelter me?"

"There is an Arm--" began the Baroness.

"Yes, noble Lady, there is one arm," eagerly exclaimed Eustace, "that
would only deem itself too much honoured if it could be raised in your
service."

"I spoke of no arm of flesh," said Lady Muriel, reprovingly--and
Eustace hung his head abashed. "I spake of the Guardian who will
never be wanting to the orphan."

There was a silence, first broken by Eustace. "One thing there is,
that I would fain ask of your goodness," said he: "many a false tale,
many a foul slander, will be spoken of me, and many may give heed to
them; but let that be as it will, they shall not render my heart
heavy while I can still believe that you give no ear to them."

"Sir Eustace," said the Lady of Clarenham, "I have known you from
childhood, and it would go hard with me to believe aught dishonourable
of the pupil of Sir Reginald and of Eleanor."

"Yes, Sir Eustace," added Agnes, "it would break my heart to distrust
you; for then I must needs believe that faith, truth, and honour had
left the world."

"And now," said Lady Muriel, who thought the conversation had been
sufficiently tender to fulfil all the requirements of the connection
of families, and of their old companionship, "now, Agnes, we must
take leave of our kind kinsman, since, doubtless, he will desire to
renew his journey early to-morrow."

Eustace took the hint, and bent his knee to kiss the hands which
were extended to him by the two ladies; then left the room, feeling,
among all the clouds which darkened his path, one clear bright ray
to warm and gladden his heart. Agnes trusted his truth, Agnes would
be at Bordeaux,--he might see her, and she would hear of his deeds.

Agnes, while she wept over her kinswoman's death and her brother's
faults, rejoiced in having met her old playfellow, and found him as
noble a Knight as her fancy had often pictured him; and in the
meanwhile, the good old Lady Muriel sighed to herself, and shook
her head at the thought of the sorrows which an attachment would
surely cause to these two young creatures.

It was early in the morning that Eustace summoned his nephew from
the couch which one of the Clarenham retainers had yielded him, and,
mounting their horses, they renewed their journey towards the coast.

Without further adventure, the Lances of Lynwood, as Arthur still
chose to call their little party, safely arrived at Rennes, the
capital of Brittany, where Jean de Montford held his court. Here
they met the tidings that Charles V. had summoned the Prince of
Wales to appear at his court, to answer an appeal made against
him to the sovereign by the vassals of the Duchy of Aquitaine.
Edward's answer was, that he would appear indeed, but that it
should be in full armour, with ten thousand Knights and Squires
at his back; and the war had already been renewed.

The intelligence added to Eustace's desire to be at Bordeaux, but
he could not venture through the enemy's country without exposing
himself to death or captivity; and even within the confines of
Brittany itself, Duke John, though bound by gratitude and affection
to the alliance of the King, who had won for him his ducal coronet,
was unable to control the enmity which his subjects bore to the
English, and assured the Knight that a safe-conduct from him would
only occasion his being robbed and murdered in secret, instead of
being taken a prisoner in fair fight and put to ransom.

If Eustace had been alone with his staunch followers, he would have
trusted to their good swords and swift steeds; but to place Arthur
in such perils would be but to justify Fulk's accusations; and there
was no alternative but to accept the offer made to him by Jean de
Montford, for the sake of his Duchess, a daughter of Edward III., to
remain a guest at his court until the arrival of a sufficient party
of English Knights, who were sure to be attracted by the news of
the war.

No less than two months was he obliged to wait, during which both
he and Gaston chafed grievously under their forced captivity; but
at length he learnt that a band of Free Companions had arrived at
Rennes, on their way to offer their service to the Prince of Wales;
accordingly he set forth, and after some interval found himself once
more in the domains of the house of Plantagenet.

It was late in the evening when he rode through the gates of Bordeaux,
and sought the abode of the good old Gascon merchant, where he had
always lodged. He met with a ready welcome, and inquiring into the
most recent news of the town, learnt that the Prince was considered
to be slightly improved in health; but that no word was spoken of
the army taking the field, and the war was chiefly carried on by the
siege of Castles. He asked for Sir John Chandos, and was told that
high words had passed between him and the Prince respecting a hearth-
tax, and that since he had returned to his government, and seldom
or never appeared at the council board. It was the Earl of Pembroke
who was all-powerful there. And here the old Gascon wandered into
lamentable complaints of the aforesaid hearth-tax, from which Eustace
could scarcely recall him to answer whether the English Baron de
Clarenham had arrived at Bordeaux. He had come, and with as splendid
a train as ever was beheld, and was in high favour at court.

This was no pleasing intelligence, but Eustace determined to go the
next day to present his nephew to the Prince immediately after the
noontide meal, when it was the wont of the Plantagenet Princes to
throw their halls open to their subjects.

Accordingly, leading Arthur by the hand, and attended by Gaston, he
made his appearance in the hall just as the banquet was concluded,
but ere the Knights had dispersed. Many well-known faces were there,
but as he advanced up the space between the two long tables, he was
amazed at meeting scarce one friendly glance of recognition; some
looked unwilling to seem to know him, and returned his salutation
with distant coldness; others gazed at the window, or were intent on
their wine, and of these was Leonard Ashton, whom to his surprise he
saw seated among the Knights.

Thus he passed on until he had nearly reached the dais where dined
the Prince and the personages of the most exalted rank. Here he
paused as his anxious gaze fell upon the Prince, and marked his
countenance and mien--alas! how changed! He sat in his richly-
carved chair, wrapped in a velvet mantle, which, even on that
bright day of a southern spring, he drew closer round him with a
shuddering chilliness. His elbow rested on the arm of his chair,
and his wasted cheek leant on his hand--the long thin fingers of
which showed white and transparent as a lady's; his eyes were bent
on the ground, and a look of suffering or of moody thought hung over
the whole of that face, once full of free and open cheerfulness.
Tears filled Eustace's eyes as he beheld that wreck of manhood and
thought of that bright day of hope and gladness when his brother
had presented him to the Prince.

As he hesitated to advance, the Prince, raising his eyes, encountered
that earnest and sorrowful gaze, but only responding by a stern glance
of displeasure. Eustace, however, stepped forward, and bending one
knee, said, "My Lord, I come to report myself as returned to your
service, and at the same time to crave for my nephew the protection
you were graciously pleased to promise him."

"It is well, Sir Eustace Lynwood," said Edward, coldly, and with a
movement of his head, as if to dismiss him from his presence; "and
you, boy, come hither," he added as Arthur, seeing his uncle rise
and retreat a few steps, was following his example. "I loved your
father well," he said, laying his hand on the boy's bright wavy hair,
"and you shall find in me a steady friend as long as you prove
yourself not unworthy of the name you bear."

In spite of the awe with which Arthur felt his head pressed by
that royal hand, in spite of his reverence for the hero and the
Prince, he raised his eyes and looked upon the face of the Prince
with an earnest, pleading, almost upbraiding gaze, as if, child as
he was, he deprecated the favour, which so evidently marked the
slight shown to his uncle. But the Prince did not heed him, and
rising from his chair, said, "Thine arm, Clarenham. Let us to the
Princess, and present her new page. Follow me, boy."

With a wistful look at his uncle, standing alone on the step of
the dais, Arthur reluctantly followed the Prince as, leaning on
Clarenham's arm, he left the hall, and, crossing a gallery, entered
a large apartment. At one end was a canopy embroidered with the
arms and badges of the heir of England, and beneath it were two
chairs of state, one of which was occupied by Joan Plantagenet,
Princess of Wales, once the Fair Maid of Kent, and though now long
past her youth, still showing traces of beauty befitting the lady
for whom her royal cousin had displayed such love and constancy.

As her husband entered, she rose, and looking anxiously at him, while
she came forward to meet him, inquired whether he felt fatigued. "No,
my fair dame," replied the Prince, "I came but to present you your new
page; the young cousin, respecting whose safety my Lord de Clarenham
hath been so much in anxiety."

"Then it is his uncle who hath brought him?" asked Joan.

"Yes," replied Edward, "he himself brought him to the hall, and even
had the presumption to claim the protection for him that I pledged to
his father, when I deemed far otherwise of this young Eustace."

"What account does he give of the length of time that he has spent
on the road?" asked the Princess.

"Ay, there is the strangest part of the tale," said Fulk Clarenham,
with a sneer, "since he left the poor simple men at Lynwood
believing that he was coming at full speed to seek my Lord the
Prince's protection for the child, a convenient excuse for eluding
the inquiries of justice into his brawls at the funeral, as well
as for the rents which he carried off with him; but somewhat
inconsistent when it is not for five months that he makes his
appearance at Bordeaux, and then in the society of a band of
_routiers_."

"It shall be inquired into," said the Prince.

"Nay, nay, my Lord," said Fulk, "may I pray you of your royal goodness
to press the matter no further. He is still young, and it were a pity
to cast dishonour on a name which has hitherto been honourable. Since
my young cousin is safe, I would desire no more, save to guard him
from his future machinations. For his brother's sake, my Lord, I
would plead with you."

"Little did I think such things of him," said the Prince, "when I
laid knighthood on his shoulder in the battle-field of Navaretta;
yet I remember even then old Chandos chid me for over-hastiness.
Poor old Chandos, he has a rough tongue, but a true heart!"

"And, under favour, I would say," answered Clarenham, "that it
might have been those early-won honours that turned the head of
such a mere youth, so entirely without guidance, or rather, with
the guidance of that dissolute Squire, who, I grieve to observe,
still haunts his footsteps. Knighthood, with nought to maintain
it, is, in truth, a snare."

"Well, I am weary of the subject," said the Prince, leaning back in
his chair. "The boy is safe, and, as you say, Fulk, that is all
that is of importance. Call hither the troubadour that was in the
hall at noon. I would have your opinion of his lay," he added,
turning to his wife.

The indignation may be imagined with which Arthur listened to this
conversation, as he stood on the spot to which Edward had signed to
him to advance, when he presented him to the Princess. He longed
ardently to break in with an angry refutation of the slanders cast
on his uncle, but he was too well trained in the rules of chivalry,
to say nothing of the awful respect with which he regarded the
Prince, to attempt to utter a word, and he could only edge himself
as far away as was possible from Clarenham, and cast at him glances
of angry reproach.

His uneasy movements were interpreted as signs of fatigue and
impatience of restraint by one of the ladies, who was sitting at no
great distance, a very beautiful and graceful maiden, the Lady Maude
Holland, daughter to the Princess of Wales, by her first marriage;
and she kindly held out her hand to him, saying, "Come hither, my
pretty page. You have not learnt to stand stiff and straight, like
one of the supporters of a coat-of-arms. Come hither, and let me
lead you to company better suited to your years."

Arthur came willingly, as there was no more to hear about his uncle;
and besides, it was away from the hateful Clarenham. She led him
across the hall to a tall arched doorway, opening upon a wide and
beautiful garden, filled with the plants and shrubs of the south of
France, and sloping gently down to the broad expanse of the blue
waves of the Garonne. She looked round on all sides, and seeing no
one, made a few steps forward on the greensward, then called aloud,
"Thomas!" no answer, "Edward! Harry of Lancaster!" but still her
clear silvery voice was unheeded, until a servant came from some
other part of the building, and, bowing, awaited her orders. "Where
are Lord Edward and the rest?" she asked.

"Gone forth," the servant believed, "to ride on the open space near
St. Ursula's Convent."

"None left at home?"

"None, noble Lady."

"None," repeated Lady Maude, "save the little Lord Richard, whose
baby company your pageship would hardly esteem. You must try to
endure the quietness of the lady's chamber, unless you would wish
to be at once introduced to the grave master of the Damoiseaux."

At this moment Arthur's eye fell upon a lady who had just emerged
from a long shady alley, up which she had been slowly walking, and
the bright look of recognition which lighted up his face, was so
different from the shy and constrained expression he had hitherto
worn, that Lady Maude remarked it, and following his gaze, said,
"Lady Agnes de Clarenham? Ah yes, she is of kin to you. Let us
go meet her." Then, as they approached, she said, "Here, Agnes, I
have brought you a young cousin of yours, whom the Prince has just
conducted into my mother's chamber, where he bore so rueful a
countenance that I grew pitiful enough to come forth on a bootless
errand after his fellow Damoiseaux, who, it seems, are all out riding.
So I shall even leave him to you, for there is a troubadour in the
hall, whose lay I greatly long to hear."

Away tripped Lady Maude, well pleased to be free from the burthen her
good-nature had imposed on her.

"Arthur," exclaimed Agnes, "what joy to see you! Is your uncle here?"

"Yes," said Arthur, "but oh, Cousin Agnes! if you had been by to hear
the foul slanders which Sir Fulk has been telling the Prince--oh,
Agnes! you would disown him for your brother."

"Arthur," said Agnes, with a voice almost of anguish, "how could he
--why did he tarry so long on the road?"

"How could we come on when the Duke of Brittany himself said it was
certain death or captivity? We were forced to wait for an escort.
And now, Agnes, think of your brother saying that Uncle Eustace
carried off the rents of Lynwood, when every man in the Castle
could swear it was only the money Father Cyril had in keeping for
his inheritance."

"Alas!" said Agnes.

"And the Prince will believe it--the Prince looks coldly on him
already, and my uncle loves the Prince like his own life. Oh, he
will be ready to die with grief! Agnes! Agnes! what is to be
done? But you don't believe it!" he proceeded, seeing that she
was weeping bitterly. "You do not believe it--you promised you
never would! Oh say you do not believe it!"

"I do not, Arthur; I never believed half they said of him; but oh,
that long delay was a sore trial to my confidence, and cruelly
confirmed their tales."

"And think of Fulk, too, hindering the Prince from inquiring, because
he says he would spare my uncle for my father's sake, when the truth
is, he only fears that the blackness of his own designs should be
seen! And Gaston, too, he slandered. Oh, Agnes! Agnes! that there
should be such wickedness, and we able to do nought!"

"Nought but weep and pray!" said Agnes. "And yet I can bear it
better now that you are here. Your presence refutes the worst
accusation, and removes a heavy weight from my mind."

"You distrust him too! I cannot love you if you do."

"Never, never! I only feared some evil had befallen you, and
grieved to see the use made of your absence. Your coming should
make my heart light again."

"Shall I often see you, Cousin Agnes? for there is none else in this
wide Castle that I shall care for."

"Oh yes, Arthur, there are full twenty pages little older than
yourself--Lord Thomas Holland, the Prince's stepson, brother to
the lady that led you to me; little Piers de Greilly, nephew to
the Captal de Buch; young Lord Henry of Lancaster; and the little
Prince Edward himself. You will have no lack of merry playmates."

"Ah, but to whom can I talk of my blessed mother and of Uncle Eustace,
and of Lynwood Keep, and poor old Blanc Etoile, that I promised Ralph
I would bear in mind?"

"Well, Arthur," said Agnes, cheerfully, "it is the pages' duty to wait
on the ladies in hall and bower, and the ladies' office to teach them
all courtly manners, and hear them read and say the Credo and Ave.
You shall be my own especial page and servant. Is it agreed?"

"Oh yes," said the boy. "I wonder if the master of the Damoiseaux
is as strict as that lady said, and I wonder when I shall see Uncle
Eustace again."

CHAPTER XI

If Arthur Lynwood felt desolate when he left his uncle's side, it
was not otherwise with Sir Eustace as he lost sight of the child,
who had so long been his charge, and who repaid his anxiety with
such confiding affection. The coveted fame, favour, and distinction
seemed likewise to have deserted him. The Prince's coldness hung
heavily on him, and as he cast his eyes along the ranks of familiar
faces, not one friendly look cheered him. His greetings were returned
with coldness, and a grave haughty courtesy was the sole welcome.
Chafed and mortified, he made a sign to Gaston, and they were soon
in the street once more.

"Coward clown!" burst forth Gaston at once. "Would that I could
send all his grinning teeth down the false throat of him!"

"Whose? What mean you?"

"Whose but that sulky recreant, Ashton? He has done well to obtain
knighthood, or I would beat him within an inch of his life with my
halbert, and if he dared challenge me, slay him as I would a carrion
crown! He a Knight! Thanks to his acres and to Lord Pembroke!"

"Patience, patience, Gaston--I have not yet heard of what he
accuses me."

"No! he has learnt policy--he saith it not openly! He would deny
it, as did his Esquire when I taxed him with it! Would that you
could not tell a letter! Sir Eustace, of your favour let me burn
every one of your vile books."

"My innocent friends! Nay, nay, Gaston--they are too knightly to
merit such measure. Then it is the old accusation of witchcraft,
I suppose. So I was in league with the Castilian witch and her
cats, was I?"

"Ay; and her broom-stick or her cats wafted you to Lynwood, where
you suddenly stood in the midst of the mourners, borne into the
hall on a howling blast! How I got there, I am sorry to say, the
craven declared not, lest I should give him the lie at once!"

"But surely, such a tale is too absurd and vulgar to deceive our
noble Prince."

"Oh, there is another version for his ears. This is only for the
lower sort, who might not have thought the worse of you for
kidnapping your nephew, vowing his mother should remain unburied
till he was in your hands, and carrying off all his rents."

"That is Clarenham's slander."

"Yes."

"And credited by the Prince? Oh! little did I think the hand which
laid knighthood on my shoulder should repent the boon that it gave!"
exclaimed Eustace, with a burst of sorrow rather than anger.

"Do you not challenge the traitor at once?"

"I trow not, unless he speaks the charge to my face. Father Cyril
declared that any outbreak on my part would damage our cause in the
eyes of the Chancellor; we must bide our time. Since Arthur is
safe, I will bear my own burden. I am guiltless in this matter,
and I trust that the blessing of Heaven on my deeds shall restore
a name, obscured, but not tarnished."

The resolution to forbear was tested, for time passed on without
vindicating him. With such art had the toils of his enemies been
spread, that no opening was left him for demanding an explanation.
The calumnies could only be brought home to the lowest retainers of
Clarenham and Ashton, and the only result of the zealous refutation
by the followers of Sir Eustace was a brawl between John Ingram and
a yeoman of Clarenham's, ending in their spending a week in the
custody of the Provost Marshal.

Had there been any tournament or like sport at Bordeaux, Eustace
could have asserted his place, and challenged the attention of
the court; but the state of the Prince's health prevented such
spectacles; nor had he any opportunity of acquiring honour by his
deeds in arms. No army took the field on either side, and the war
was chiefly carried on by expeditions for the siege or relief of
frontier castles; and here his unusual rank as Knight Banneret
stood in his way, since it was contrary to etiquette for him to put
himself under the command of a Knight Bachelor. He was condemned
therefore to a weary life of inaction, the more galling, because
his poverty made it necessary to seek maintenance as formerly at
the Prince's table, where he was daily reminded, by the altered
demeanour of his acquaintance, of the unjust suspicions beneath
which he laboured. He had hoped that a dismissal from his post
in the Prince's band would give him the much-desired opportunity
of claiming a hearing, but he was permitted to receive his pay and
allowance as usual, and seemed completely overlooked. It was
well that Gaston's gay temper could not easily be saddened by
their circumstances, and his high spirits and constant attachment
often cheered his Knight in their lonely evenings. Eustace had
more than once striven to persuade him to forsake his failing
fortunes; but to this the faithful Squire would never consent,
vowing that he was as deeply implicated in all their accusations
as Sir Eustace himself; and who would wish to engage a fellow-
servant of the black cats! There were two others whom Eustace
would fain believe still confided in his truth and honour, his
nephew Arthur, and Lady Agnes de Clarenham; but he never saw them,
and often his heart sank at the thought of the impression that the
universal belief might make on the minds of both. And to add to
his depression, a rumour prevailed throughout Bordeaux that the
Baron of Clarenham had promised his sister's hand to Sir Leonard
Ashton.

Nearly a year had passed since Eustace had left England, and his
situation continued unchanged. Perhaps the Prince regarded him
with additional displeasure, since news had arrived that Sir
Richard Ferrars had made application to the Duke of Lancaster to
interest the King in the cause of the guardianship; for there was,
at this time, a strong jealousy, in the mind of the Prince, of the
mighty power and influence of John of Gaunt, which he already feared
might be used to the disadvantage of his young sons.

The cause was, at length, decided, and a letter from good Father
Cyril conveyed to Eustace the intelligence that the Chancellor,
William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester, having given due weight
to Sir Reginald's dying words and Lady Lynwood's testament, had
pronounced Sir Eustace Lynwood the sole guardian of the person and
estate of his nephew, and authorized all the arrangements he had
made on his departure.

Affairs altogether began to wear a brighter aspect. The first
indignation against Sir Eustace had subsided, and he was treated,
in general, with indifference rather than marked scorn. The
gallant old Chandos was again on better terms with the Prince,
and, coming to Bordeaux, made two or three expeditions, in which
Eustace volunteered to join, and gained some favourable, though
slight, notice from the old Knight. Fulk Clarenham, too, having
received from the Prince the government of Perigord, was seldom
at court, and no active enemy appeared to be at work against him.

Agnes de Clarenham, always retiring and pensive, and seldom sought
out by those who admired gayer damsels, was sitting apart in the
embrasure of a window, whence, through an opening in the trees of
the garden, she could catch a distant glimpse of the blue waters
of the river where it joined the sea, which separated her from her
native land, and from her who had ever been as a mother to her. She
was so lost in thought, that she scarce heard a step approaching,
till the unwelcome sound of "Fair greeting to you, Lady Agnes"
caused her to look up and behold the still more unwelcome form of
Sir Leonard Ashton. To escape from him was the first idea, for his
clownish manners, always unpleasant to her, had become doubly so,
since he had presumed upon her brother's favour to offer to her
addresses from which she saw no escape; and with a brief reply of
"Thanks for your courtesy, Sir Knight," she was about to rise and
mingle with the rest of the party, when he proceeded, bluntly,
"Lady Agnes, will you do me a favour?"

"I know of no favour in my power," said she.

"Nay," he said, "it is easily done, and it is as much to your brother
as to myself. It is a letter which, methinks, Fulk would not have
read out of the family, of which I may call myself one," and he gave
a sort of smirk at Agnes;--"but he writes so crabbedly, that I, for
one, cannot read two lines,--and I would not willingly give it to a
clerk, who might be less secret. So methought, as 'twas the Baron's
affair, I would even bring it here, and profit by your Convent-
breeding, Lady Agnes."

Agnes took the letter, and began to read:--

"For the hand of the Right Noble and Worshipful Knight, Sir
Leonard Ashton, at the court of my Lord the Prince of Wales,
these:--

"Fair Sir, and brother-in-arms--I hereby do you to wit, that the
affair whereof we spoke goes well. Both my Lord of Pembroke,
and Sir John Chandos, readily undertook to move the Prince to
grant the Banneret you wot of the government of the Castle, and
as he hath never forgotten the love he once bore to his brother,
he will the more easily be persuaded. Of the garrison we are
sure, and all that is now needful is, that the one-eyed Squire,
whereof you spoke to me, should receive warning before he
arrives at the Castle.

"Tell him to choose his time, and manage matters so that there
may be no putting to ransom. He will understand my meaning.
"Greeting you well, therefore,
"Fulk, Baron of Clarenham."

"What means this?" exclaimed Agnes, as a tissue of treachery opened
before her eyes.

"Ay, that you may say," said Leonard, his slow brain only fixed upon
Fulk's involved sentences, and utterly unconscious of the horror
expressed in her tone. "How is a man to understand what he would
have me to do? Send to Le Borgne Basque at Chateau Norbelle? Is
that it? Read it to me once again, Lady, for the love of the Saints.
What am I to tell Le Borgne Basque? No putting to ransom, doth he
say? He might be secure enough for that matter--Eustace Lynwood is
little like to ransom himself."

"But what mean you?" said Agnes, eagerly hoping that she had done
her brother injustice in her first horrible thought. "Sir Eustace
Lynwood, if you spake of him, is no prisoner, but is here at Bordeaux."

"He shall not long be so," said Leonard. "Heard you not this very
noon that the Prince bestows on him the government of Chateau Norbelle
on the marches of Gascony? Well, that is the matter treated of in
this letter. Let me see, let me see, how was it to be? Yes, that
is it! It is Le Borgne Basque who is Seneschal. Ay, true, that I
know,--and 'twas he who was to admit Clisson's men."

"Admit Clisson's men!"

"Ay--'tis one of those Castles built by the old Paladin, Renaud de
Montauban, that Eustace used to talk about. I ween he did not
know of this trick that will be played on himself--and all of them
have, they say, certain secret passages leading through the vaults
into the Castle. Le Borgne Basque knows them all, for he has served
much in those parts, and Fulk placed him as Seneschal for the very
purpose."

"For the purpose of admitting Clisson's men? Do I understand you
right, Sir Knight, or do my ears play me false?"

"Yes, I speak right. Do you not see, Lady Agnes, it is the only way
to free your house of this stumbling-block--this beggarly upstart
Eustace--who, as long as he lives, will never acknowledge Fulk's
rights, and would bring up his nephew to the same pride."

"And is it possible, Sir Leonard, that brother of mine, and belted
Knight, should devise so foul a scheme of treachery! Oh, unsay it
again! Let me believe it was my own folly that conjured up so
monstrous a thought!"

"Ay, that is the way with women," said Leonard; "they never look at
the sense of the matter. Why, this Eustace, what terms should be
kept with him, who has dealings with the Evil One? and--"

"I will neither hear a noble Knight maligned, nor suffer him to be
betrayed," interrupted Agnes. "I have listened to you too long,
Sir Leonard Ashton, and will stain my ears no longer. I thank you,
however, for having given me such warning as to enable me to traverse
them."

"What will you do?" asked Leonard, with a look of impotent anger.

"Appeal instantly to the Prince. Tell him the use that is made of
his Castles, and the falsehoods told him of his most true-hearted
Knight!" and Agnes, with glancing eyes, was already rising for the
purpose, forgetting, in her eager indignation, all that must follow,
when Leonard, muttering "What madness possessed me to tell her!"
stood full before her, saying, gloomily, "Do so, Lady, if you
choose to ruin your brother!" The timid girl stood appalled, as
the horrible consequences of such an accusation arose before her.

That same day Eustace was summoned to the Prince's presence.

"Sir Eustace Lynwood," said Edward, gravely, "I hear you have served
the King well beneath the banner of Sir John Chandos. Your friends
have wrought with me to give you occasion to prove yourself worthy
of your spurs, and I have determined to confer on you the government
of my Chateau of Norbelle, on the frontier of Gascony, trusting to
find you a true and faithful governor and Castellane."

"I trust, my Lord, that you have never had occasion to deem less
honourably of me," said Eustace; and his clear open eye and brow
courted rather than shunned the keen look of scrutiny that the
Prince fixed upon him. His heart leapt at the hope that the time
for inquiry was come, but the Prince in another moment sank his
eyes again, with more, however, of the weary impatience of illness
than of actual displeasure, and merely replied, "Kneel down, then,
Sir Knight, and take the oaths of fidelity."

Eustace obeyed, hardly able to suppress a sigh at the disappointment
of his hopes.

"You will receive the necessary orders and supplies from Sir John
Chandos, and from the Treasurer," said Edward, in a tone that
intimated the conclusion of the conference; and Eustace quitted
his presence, scarce knowing whether to be rejoiced or dissatisfied.

The former, Gaston certainly was. "I have often been heartily weary
of garrison duty," said he, "but never can I be more weary of aught,
than of being looked upon askance by half the men I meet. And we
may sometimes hear the lark sing too, as well as the mouse squeak,
Sir Eustace. I know every pass of my native county, and the herds
of Languedoc shall pay toll to us."

Sir John Chandos, as Constable of Aquitaine, gave him the requisite
orders and information. The fortifications, he said, were in good
condition, and the garrison already numerous; but a sum of money
was allotted to him in order to increase their numbers as much as
he should deem advisable, since it was not improbable that he might
have to sustain a siege, as Oliver de Clisson was threatening that
part of the frontier. Four days were allowed for his preparations,
after which he was to depart for his government.

Eustace was well pleased with all that he heard, and returned to
his lodging, where, in the evening twilight, he was deeply engaged
in consultation with Gaston, on the number of followers to be raised,
when a light step was heard hastily approaching, and Arthur, darting
into the room, flung himself on his neck, exclaiming, "Uncle! uncle!
go not to this Castle!"

"Arthur, what brings you here? What means this? No foolish frolic,
no escape from punishment, I trust?" said Eustace, holding him at
some little distance, and fixing his eyes on him intently.

"No, uncle, no! On the word of a true Knight's son," said the boy,
stammering, in his eagerness, "believe me, trust me, dear uncle--

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